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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sets Deadline for Christine Blasey Ford About Testifying Monday; Trump Hits Las Vegas Rally Amid Kavanaugh Fallout; Interview with Senator Jeanne Shaheen; Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:03] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. We are one day away, that's 24 hours right to the minute, from the now or never deadline set by the Senate Judiciary Committee for Christine Blasey Ford. The panel wants formal notice by 10:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow whether Ford intends to show up Monday for a hearing into her claims that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s when she and Kavanaugh were teenagers.

Of course Republicans have given the option of doing that in public or in private, or possibly meeting with staff closer to her home in California.

HARLOW: That's right. She is a research psychologist in California. Grassley's team has said, look, we'll do this there, we'll do it here, but it has to be done by this deadline.


HARLOW: That has been set by him and the other Republicans. What she apparently cannot do is get the FBI investigation that her lawyers are insisting on or delay the process beyond Monday.

Let's go to Capitol Hill where the sentiment, Sunlen Serfaty, who joins us, seems to be turning a little bit or a lot, really. I mean, if you listen to the words of Lindsey Graham or Senator Corker or Senator Flake, what are you hearing?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. And those voices for many key Republicans are so important, as essentially this turns into a waiting game at this moment. As you noted, from now until tomorrow, 24 hours, that Dr. Ford has to make her intentions known to the Senate Judiciary Committee whether she intends to show up on Monday or not. She's supposed to submit a prepared statement, a biography.

Those making it clear whether -- to the committee whether she shows up or not. Chairman Grassley laying down that very firm marker in a letter yesterday where he flatly rejected calls to delay this hearing. He flatly rejected calls for there to be an FBI investigation before she potentially testifies. He said in this letter sent to Senate Democrats last night, he says, quote, "The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee. Nor is it tasked with investigating a matter simply because the committee deems it is important. The Constitution assigns the Senate and only the Senate with the task of advising the president on his nominee and consenting to the nomination if the circumstances merit."

So there he's making the case that he believes the Senate, not the FBI, should investigate her claims here. So a lot to happen in the next 24 hours, and certainly big decisions before this potential high- stakes testimony on Monday.

SCIUTTO: No question. High stakes all around. Sunlen Serfaty, thanks very much.

So far President Trump's playbook has looked something like this. Show empathy towards Kavanaugh, but at the same time support Dr. Ford's right to be heard. But tonight he is hosting a rally in Las Vegas.

HARLOW: Yes. We're going to see what his strategy is there. Is he going to change his tune at all? We'll see.

Let's go to the White House. Abby Phillip has a bit of a preview for us.

I mean, look, these are the rallies where he thrives. We know they make him feel good. He goes off script almost every time. What are you hearing about what we should expect tonight?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Poppy and Jim. You know, President Trump has been singing from the same song book as congressional Republicans for days now. In something of a surprise to people around the president and people watching this administration, he's typically much more off script, frankly, on some of these issues but he has been pressing Christine Blasey Ford to testify. He has avoided criticizing her publicly.

He has tried to bolster his nominee, supporting his right to give his side of the story, but has been very careful in walking that line. Now, tonight, he's going to have that campaign rally in Las Vegas. And as you pointed out, President Trump has typically been at his most -- his most free at these rallies. This is his opportunity for him to speak to his supporters. And we will be looking to see what more he has to say about this tense situation.

He has criticized Democrats for trying to railroad his nominee. And the question really is, how far is he going to go when he's in that kind of setting. Now today, at the White House, this is going to be more of what we've seen from the last few days. Brett Kavanaugh has arrived here at the White House for the fourth straight day in a row, likely doing prep again for what might be his testimony on Monday. But we'll see how far -- you know, how far President Trump is willing to go later today -- Poppy and Jim.

HARLOW: OK. All right, Abby. Thanks for the reporting. Again, Judge Kavanaugh is behind Abby. He just entered the White

House about half an hour ago for this prep in case this hearing does happen.

Let's bring in Amy Parnes and Jeff Mason.

Jeff, let me begin with you. You know, as you live and breathe all of this, and I'm just wondering if you think that the analysis that we're hearing more and more of, that it seems like the more hesitation that comes from Miss Ford and her legal team in terms of testifying on Monday, the more and more they say no, no, no, that's too fast, et cetera, the more emboldened it makes Republicans. I mean, you've heard a marked change in tone from Senator Corker, from Senator Flake.

[10:05:04] Lindsey Graham spoke this morning in "The Washington Post," you know, saying this is a drive-by shooting for Kavanaugh. Let her be heard, but we've got to get this done. How do you see it?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, I think you're absolutely right, Poppy. And you see that with the senators, the key senators that you just mentioned. Also Senator Susan Collins encouraging Dr. Ford to come and testify. So I think it has given Republicans sort of the momentum back on this nomination. And Senator Grassley has been very clear that that deadline is tomorrow and that they intend to proceed next week.

So it really all does hinge right now on her decision whether or not to come to Washington or to testify in California as they have offered her the chance to do. But in any case, for her to weigh in about the allegations that she has made against this potential Supreme Court justice.

SCIUTTO: Amy, to be fair, Republicans did move back the timeline a bit. They moved it back -- they wanted to vote today, in fact, in committee. But the fact is, the timeline is political here, right? I mean, they want to get a vote in before the October 1st start of the term for the Supreme Court. They certainly want to get it in before that majority in the Senate is at risk.



PARNES: And they definitely want to avoid that. So the sooner the better for them. And the fact of the matter is the White House isn't even considering anyone else, which I think is a tell tale sign of what's happening. They are, you know, full speed ahead going forward, thinking that this guy is their guy. They are not planning for a backup or an alternative. So I think they -- my sources at the White House tell me that they're OK with how things are right now.

HARLOW: Are they betting on the fact -- and we heard Grassley say this yesterday, you know, he thinks that she's going to show. He does. He thinks she's going to show.

SCIUTTO: He hopes. He hopes.

HARLOW: He hopes, and he talked about her past language as being an indication that -- you know, I don't know.

SCIUTTO: Senator Kennedy told us that as well.

HARLOW: That's a good point. Her team has not flat-out denied Grassley's invitation but they have said we think this has to happen first. Do you think that Ford and her -- Miss Ford and her team could really let a hearing take place Monday and just hear from Kavanaugh?

PARNES: I don't think so. I think that she's come as far as she has. It's now a security concern for her, it's all of these things, but she wants now to be heard, I think. I think it's just a matter of how she does it. I think both sides feel at this moment that she needs to be heard. It would be kind of a disservice at this point that she even does it in private. So I think they are pushing for her to be heard.

SCIUTTO: Jeff Mason, the political risks here, despite certainly the motivation, there's a lot to be gained from pushing this through. This is going to set the court's tone for many years, many decades perhaps to come. But politically, Republicans already have a problem in the midterms with women. With women. And you have seen that in a lot of provisional elections in the last several months.

Is there a concern from folks in the White House you speak to, from other Republicans, that even with getting that seat, assuming that they do, that they will pay a political price for this in the midterms with women voters?

MASON: Well, I think that concern is reflected in how sort of gently the Republicans or at least some Republicans are trying to treat this, including the top Republican, President Donald Trump, as Abby said earlier, and quite rightly, the president has shown uncharacteristic restraint about this. He has not been tweeting about it. He did not -- has not been speaking about it at length with reporters.

It will be interesting to see if he goes off script tonight as he often does at rallies. But yes, I think, Jim, to your question, there is a concerted effort on the part of Republicans both at the White House and on the Hill to treat this in a way that is respectful and gentle while also being sure that they get what they want, which is a speedy confirmation and a way to push this process forward.


HARLOW: And Jeff, to that point, I mean, "The New York Times" editorial board this morning, the headline, says a lot. I mean, everyone deserves better than this Senate spectacle. That's the headline there. And I think few would disagree, but is it asking too much for partisan committees as opposed to say the equally divided Ethics Committee, for example, to seek the truth above all else, right? In something like, as Jim notes, is a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land where you will shape the future of this country, replacing Kennedy in that swing seat for decades? MASON: Yes. I mean, the stakes are incredibly high. And you outline

that well. And the fact that this is an appointment that will be a lifetime one and that will, if he's confirmed, shift the court in a more conservative way, in a more permanent way for some time, is hanging over this entire hearing. This entire process. Both for the Republicans and the Democrats. And that, of course, leads to the inevitable politics that are always going to be part of something like this. And you're seeing that play out both in the discussions about timing but also the discussions about this issue of sexual misconduct.

[10:10:02] SCIUTTO: Yes. And with issues coming before this court of enormous importance to women, "Roe v. Wade" being one of them, and earlier in the hearing, Kavanaugh's positions on those issues were central to the discussions.

HARLOW: Thank you all.

SCIUTTO: Yes, thank you.

HARLOW: Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Facts first. The president's attorney Jay Sekulow claims without evidence, we should note, that an interview with the president was deliberately edited to mislead, to misrepresent Trump's motivation for firing former FBI director James Comey. We're going to tell you the facts of the situation.

HARLOW: Right, the truth next on that.

Also, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will donate $10 million to women's advocacy groups after an intense investigation looked at 20 years of the franchise's history and found some incredibly disturbing things. One of the lawyers who led that investigation will join us to talk about it.


[10:15:15] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. President Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow, claims that NBC edited Lester Holt's interview with the president last year. This, you may remember, is where Mr. Trump said that he was thinking of the Russia investigation when he fired FBI director James Comey.

Important to remember here that Special Counsel Bob Mueller's team has been looking into whether Trump's firing of Comey amounted to possible obstruction of justice. And those comments in that interview are material to that investigation.

Last night on CNN, Jay Sekulow argued, however, that there was a longer version of Trump's sit-down with Holt where the president said he realized that firing Comey might not shorten the Russia probe. Have a listen to his claim.


JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: We think the entire transcript without question supports the president realized it when he fired James Comey it might actually extend this investigation. And he said that on the tape.


SCIUTTO: Now Sekulow offered no evidence to back up this claim. Let's fact check what he is saying. And as a reminder here, here is what Trump said on tape. You might have seen it many times before in that May 17 interview as it aired on NBC.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.


SCIUTTO: Now NBC also released a full transcript of the interview and we read through it. We looked at the comments last night. And he said, "As far regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won."

We continue to reach out to his legal team. To figure out exactly what the basis is of Jay Sekulow's claim there.

HARLOW: What they're pointing to.


HARLOW: Where the evidence is for that claim on the tapes.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. Because it's quite a claim to make. And we do know that that is part of Robert Mueller's at least the evidence he's been considering --

HARLOW: Well, the obstruction angle of the investigation.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. Exactly.

HARLOW: All right. Jim, thank you so much.

Also, a headline here. President Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn will be sentenced on December 18th for lying to FBI investigators. Flynn originally made false statements when he was asked about the conversations that he had with Russia's ambassador. He has pleaded guilty to lying to the authorities about that and has been cooperating with Mueller's investigation.

And Jim, this is significant, right, for a reason you pointed out this morning. SCIUTTO: That's right. It would seem to indicate that Robert Mueller

no longer needs Michael Flynn's cooperation or that in the time since, because remember when he was charged, he was charged so many months ago, delaying the sentencing because part of his agreement was to cooperate in this investigation.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: And if they're moving forward on this, it would seem that he has gained all he can from that cooperation.

HARLOW: And they have been pushing off that sentencing for months.

SCIUTTO: Exactly. Something they had to justify. Yes.

HARLOW: Yes. All right.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, the woman accusing Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault has been given now less than 24 hours to decide if she will testify, whether in public or in private. Democrats want her story heard and want to know why Republicans are in such a hurry.


[10:23:17] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is opening up his checkbook. This after an independent probe revealed decades, that's right, decades of workplace misconduct and harassment within the organization. This included touching, forcibly kissing a female employee by a former team president.

HARLOW: After the investigation's findings were released, Cuban announced he's donating $10 million to women's groups within the sports industry, and also to programs to end domestic violence.

We're going to dig into this. And joining us shortly is going to be one of the attorneys who led this investigation into 20 years, and she's going to explain exactly what they found and what's going to change.

SCIUTTO: There's a lot to dig into here. Plus there's also the security breach at an airport outside Orlando. A man jumped the fence. He tried to board a commercial jet. Details on the two maintenance workers who stopped him, called police, might have averted something very serious here.


[10:28:50] HARLOW: All right, welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York along with Jim Sciutto. And senator -- Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley has now set a deadline for Christine Blasey Ford's legal team to respond to their request that she publicly testify about her sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

SCIUTTO: Here with us to discuss is Democratic senator from New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen. She's a member of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committee.

Senator Shaheen, thanks very much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So let me ask you this. You of course is a member --

SHAHEEN: Good morning.

SCIUTTO: Good morning. You, of course, as a member of the Senate, you're going to have a vote as soon as next week on this Supreme Court nomination. Senator Grassley has set this 10:00 deadline tomorrow for Ford to respond to requests to testify, either in public or in private, by Monday. Is that a fair deadline?

SHAHEEN: Well, I hope Christine Ford does come and testify. I think it's important for the public to hear her story. I understand why she's reluctant to do that because she's already been the subject of death threats and sadly we see that this is an example of why sexual assault is so hard to get our arms around because the victims are blamed often, and they're not believed, and that's why they're reluctant to come forward.

This is an artificial timeline that has been set by Senator Grassley but it's an indication that the fix has been in --