Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Anita Ford Talks What Blasey Ford's Life Will Look Like Following Kavanaugh Accusations; Protests Outside Grassley's Senate Office Arrested; Blasey Ford Will Testify but with Conditions. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And as Ford weighs this difficult decision, there's only one person who truly knows what her life may look like afterward, Anita Hill. Years after Anita Hill testified that she was actually harassed by then-nominee, Clarence Thomas, she wrote this in a 1998 memoir. Quoting her, "I am no longer an anonymous, private individual. My name, having become synonymous with sexual harassment. To my supporters, I represent the courage to come forward and disclose a painful truth. To my detractors, I represent the debasement of a public forum. At best, a pawn, at worst, a perjurer. I knew on October 11th, 1991, that the experience would remain with me forever. I did not know that it would live with me."

So joining me, Eleanor McManus, a former CNN producer who is now the co-founder of a strategic communications in crisis management firm. She shared her own story about sexual harassment in the workplace on CNN.com. Also with me, CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro and Andre Bauer, both of whom are Republican.

So welcome to all of you.

And, Eleanor, I really wanted to begin with you and your story, which you shared on the opinion page of CNN.com. And you know, you know how difficult it is, firsthand, in coming forward, especially when the person you're accusing is a powerful public figure. So can you just talk to me about the emotions you grappled with in coming forward and perhaps there' they're similar to what Professor Ford is dealing with.

ELEANOR MCMANUS, CO-FOUNDER, TRIDENT DMG & FORMER CNN PRODUCER: Yes. We must recognize, in everything that happened today and happened a year ago and has happened even 27 years ago with Anita Hill, the cost to women to come forward to expose powerful men. It's never easy to do that. You have to deal with retaliation and there's a lot of backlash that comes out. So it's really hard to come forward, because there's so much you have to deal with. So it was really difficult for me. And the reason I came forward, because I saw this keep happening over and over and over again to many other women. And I wanted to make it stop. The only way to make it stop was to speak out.

BALDWIN: It's so powerful that you're sharing it on national television. And I want to loop back with you on what may come from this story with Professor Ford. But, Ana Navarro, you look at your party, the Republican Party, they already have a woman problem. You look at this president, he has a woman problem, and you now have these Republican men, members of your own party, who are saying essentially to this professor, we want to hear you out, but the clock is ticking and you have until Monday.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And it's under our terms and we're not going to give you an FBI investigation. Look, sadly, the Republican Party doesn't have much political capital right now, when it comes to women. When it comes to women's issues. And this can only make it worse. I think that we are heading to a point where there's going to be no FBI investigation and I think that's tragic, both for Professor Ford and for Judge Kavanaugh. We are going to have a situation here without an FBI investigation where one of two things is going to happen. Either a man who sexually assaulted a woman when he was a drunken teenager 35 years ago is going to sit in the highest court of the land, an unimpeachable office, with no term limits, with no accountable accountability to voters, or a man who did not do this is going to sit on that court with the taint of suspicion above him. With a dark cloud of doubt above him, and with a large swath of this country believing that he got away with it. Either scenario is very bad, which is why I think it behooves those who support Kavanaugh, it behooves Kavanaugh, his family, his friends, for them to request an FBI investigation, so this can be flushed out as much as possible. Even though it's quite possible that even an investigation would not reveal anything that is black or white, but at least it would go to that next step.

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

Andre, this is from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, quote, "They have had tons of time to do this." They, being the Democrats here and then the Ford camp. "This has been a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh. I'll listen to the lady, but we're going to bring this to a close."

I mean, you have a stepdaughter. How would you feel if this is how she was treated?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It definitely concerns me. And I think, you know, clearly, it is a difficult situation. But just a couple of quick thoughts. And it does seem that politics played a factor in this. Senator Feinstein had this information and she met with Judge Kavanaugh and not one time did she confront him with this information. So if, in fact, she had this information, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

[14:35:12] BALDWIN: Well, she was asked not to. Let's remember, Professor Ford did not want to come forward and she was respecting her wishes.

BAUER: And I would bring that point up, as a well. Professor Ford on numerous occasions, Judge Kavanaugh has appeared before the Senate for confirmation at different levels upon the beach, and this issue never came up. And it's very clouded, her memory or anyone else's memory of this. So I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, like so many people, not just Republicans, everybody. I hate to make it more partisan. But everybody wants to give her the benefit of the doubt and they say, look, come before Congress. We'll come to you. Let's get the facts.

BALDWIN: Right.

BAUER: And so I think that there's no problem in garnering those facts. We're getting a whole lot of accusation, but very little facts. And it's concerning when you're on the threshold of nominating or confirming a Supreme Court justice who's been before the Senate many times, that this has been around for decades and this has never been brought up. We've never seen any other pattern whatsoever from Judge Kavanaugh. Not another accuser, no pattern that would illustrate any type of this behavior whatsoever.

BALDWIN: Right.

BAUER: So, I tread lightly on saying, hey, let's immediately stop everything, because one person, who we know, isn't very active in politics, brings this up now.

BALDWIN: No, these are the options.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMANUS: Brooke, this is not about sexual harassment --

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: But if it was one time when he was 17 years old and drunk 35 years ago, do you think that's disqualifying?

MCMANUS: Look, here's the issue --

(CROSTALK)

BAUER: Well --

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Hold on, let's have an answer.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: I'm asking Andre, and I would like to have his answer.

BALDWIN: For a Supreme Court justice.

NAVARRO: If at 17 years of age and drunk he sexually assaulted this woman, is it disqualifying to sit on the Supreme Court?

BAUER: It is definitely a question. But Ana, my understanding, and I could be wrong, my understanding is he never sexually assaulted her. My understanding is her accusation is, he made an attempt to grab a garment she was wearing and pull it off of her -- (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: She had her full bathing suit on, she had clothes over, this is according to her, and she feels as though, with a hand on her mouth, she felt that her life was at stake, she felt that she was sexually harassed. He was too drunk, according to her, you know, thank goodness, to do anything more. But, you know, she says it was physical and sexual harassment, her words.

MCMANUS: Can I just say one thing?

BAUER: And sexual harassment is not about --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Go ahead.

MCMANUS: Sexual harassment -- thank you -- sexual harassment and assault is not a partisan issue. She clearly brought this up, 30 years later, because this is a man who's going to be at the highest level of the Supreme Court. He's going to be there. And to be on the Supreme Court justice, you need to have good judgment and good character. So she clearly thought that this is someone that she should bring it up for that reason.

BALDWIN: Do you think, Eleanor, same question to you. If he was a 17-year-old kid and, again, if her accusations are true, and you believe her side of the story, should that be disqualifying? All of these decades later, after he's proven himself as this family man and this judge and gone through six FBI background checks, came out clean, should that be a disqualifying factor?

MCMANUS: Look, I think -- I stand behind her. I think what she did was incredibly brave. She has a lot more to risk than anybody. She came out. She told her story, and she's going to be victimized and demonized because of this. She's going -- what's going to happen to her is going to happen to Anita Hill. This was 27 years ago, what's happened to Anita Hill and we've seen that nothing has changed. There's been no progress, because what's happening to her is what's happened to Anita Hill and she's going to be really demonized and victimized and she's a victim. She's going to be victimized again. What happened to her back then is going to happen to her again in front of the media. And that's not fair. So I stand behind her, as a victim, as someone who's been brave enough to speak out and tell her story, because it's going to get a lot worse, unfortunately, for her.

NAVARRO: And let's also remember, you know, that she spoke out 30 years later, but we are in a completely different era today. We are in a different era probably since the last 12 months. We are in the midst of this "Me Too" movement, where so many women who had been silent for years and decades have found the courage not to remain silent, because they thought they had change, and that there was going to be more support and more solidarity with the victim than with the accuser, which used to be the case.

And, Brooke, let me just say, for me, it is disqualifying. If he did it, it is disqualifying. And it is a big "if." And I have friends who tell me, look, he was 17, he was drunk, we can't judge people by one act of what happened when they were drunk and teenagers. The problem is that it is for the highest court of the land --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Lifetime appointment.

NAVARRO: -- an unimpeachable office, for life. With no other accountable. There are no do-overs.

I heard a former Senator, Republican Senator, Nancy Kasselbaum, on CNN a couple of days ago, on "NEW DAY," talk about how she regretted her vote for Clarence Thomas, not because of the sexual assault or harassment issue with Anita Hill, but because now she thinks he didn't have the intellect and judicial precedent. But here's a problem, there are no mulligans, there are no do-overs. You get one shot at this apple.

[14:40:24] BALDWIN: This is it.

NAVARRO: So I don't understand what's the big deal about pushing it back a week and having an FBI investigation, both for Kavanaugh and Professor Ford.

BALDWIN: That's not looking likely from everything we're hearing.

And I could continue this conversation with the three of you for another 10 minutes. I'm out of time.

I appreciate each and every one of you.

And again, that deadline, soft deadline, it sounds like, from Chairman Grassley is, she needs to let them know by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Ana, Eleanor, and Andre, thank you all so much.

MCMANUS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: I appreciate the conversation.

Moments ago, protests erupted outside of Chairman Grassley's office over all of this. A number of protesters, you see there, getting arrested. We'll take you live to Capitol Hill, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:45:10] BALDWIN: A lot of protests up on Capitol Hill, specifically outside the office of the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Let's go to Sunlen Serfaty. She and her crew were outside his office

as a number of people were getting arrested.

Sunlen, what happened?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. A number of people did get arrested, likely over a few dozen. I was down there, and you see these pictures now that happened just a few minutes ago of a large group of protesters that were arrested outside Chairman Grassley's office. Now, they went specifically to his office today to call for him to delay the hearing that is, as of now, still scheduled for Monday, and to put simply, they don't want Kavanaugh on the bench. So they have been protesting him for that.

Notably, though, the protesters who I should say, spent a considerable amount of the day up here on Capitol Hill, they've hit key Senate offices, Senator offices of Senator Collins, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, those specific Senators that could be swing votes here if and when this comes to a Senate vote. So they marched into those offices today, about two dozen earlier today got arrested in Bob Corker's office, Senator Corker's office. So they marched into the office and really punctuated all of this debate, whether Professor Ford will testify or not, punctuated it with human emotion. A lot of the protesters today were survivors of sexual assault and many of them in those offices told those stories, many of them with tears streaming down their eyes. So really trying to bring a human face to a lot of the things that we're talking about up here, when we're talking about these allegations, against Kavanaugh. Certainly, they're trying to delay the vote, trying to delay him sitting on the bench. But at the end of the day, Brooke, probably about a few dozen protesters will have been arrested.

BALDWIN: Got it.

Sunlen, thank you very much.

We have some breaking news now. And the breaking news involves Christine Blasey Ford, the question, will she testify on Monday. Here's what I've got from the "New York Times." She has told the Senate Judiciary Committee that, quote, "She would be prepared to testify next week, as long as Senators offer," quote, "terms that are fair and which ensure her safety."

Let's go straight to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, do you read this as a "yes?"

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a significant development. It's the first time we are hearing from her camp that she is willing to answer questions from Senators in sworn testimony. What they have said in these TV appearances earlier this week, by saying that she would be prepared to testify next week, as long as Senators offer terms that are fair and which ensure her safety.

Now, this is the catch here, Brooke. They say that according to the lawyer for Dr. -- professor Christine Blasey Ford, that testifying Monday, which is the time that the Republicans have set, saying, you have to come Monday or we're going to move on, they say in this e-mail that it is not possible to testify on Monday and the committee's insistence that it occur then is, quote, "arbitrary." So they are -- they don't want to sit down on Monday. But they're prepared to do it next week. So, the lawyer also said that it is still their preference, to have a full FBI investigation, before any sort of hearing. And of course, we know Republicans, President Trump, have said that is not going to happen. So they seem to at least have backed away a little bit from what they have demanded on that aspect of it.

But, the attorney, Debra Katz, also said that they want to set up a phone call with Republican and Democratic staff on the committee, as soon as today, to discuss this going forward, which is the first time they've had a conversation with the staff about this. The Republicans have been complaining that they have not been able to get in touch with the attorneys, who have not been returning their phone calls and e-mails.

So, the highlights here, she's prepared to testify, next week. She's willing to have this conversation, the attorneys are, with these Democratic staff, but not Monday.

BALDWIN: Got it.

RAJU: So what will the Republicans do? That is going to be the big question now, here on Capitol Hill -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: OK. Let me just stay with you. It's a matter of maybe a little bit of wiggle room, on behalf of the Republicans, if she is willing to testify, as long as they ensure her safety. And as you point out, she's been wanting this outside investigation to happen. So is your reading of this that she's willing to testify, if they don't do this full investigation, just at some point next week, "A." And "B," is she willing to come to Washington, or would this be in private?

RAJU: That, I don't think, is entirely clear, the private versus public part.

BALDWIN: Got it.

RAJU: Because in "The Times" report, it doesn't have the full e-mail. They're paraphrasing it. So it's not entirely clear from what I am reading in this brief synopsis of it. It doesn't say if it should be public or private. And of course, that's the big question. Because it does say that they're willing to, quote, "discuss the conditions." So that is, perhaps, code for let's figure out if this is private, public, California, Washington, exactly how.

But, she is prepared to testify, at least tell the Senators her story. Will the world see it? Will it be private? Will it be confidential. Will the Senators do the questioning? Will someone else do the questioning? Still unclear. But, the door is not shut for testimony. We'll see if the Republicans agree to some wiggle room here after their demands to have her come before them on Monday. [14:50:36] BALDWIN: OK. Manu, thank you.

I've just been, as we've been talking, I've been handed this letter that I presume, this is from Debra Katz, who is the attorney for Professor Ford, presumed sending it to some folks up on Capitol Hill. Let me just read you part of this.

And Gloria Borger, I want to bring you into this conversation.

So this is this e-mail from the lawyer, "I would like to set up a call with you later today to discuss the conditions under which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford would be prepared to testify next week. She's been receiving death threats, which have been reported to the FBI. She's been forced out of her home." Her family is forced out of the home.

It says this, Gloria, "She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety."

Again, this is what Manu is alluding to. They're saying Monday is a no-go. They feel like that date is arbitrary. "Dr. Ford wants to let you know that she appreciates the various options that Mr. Grassley has put forth. Her strong preferences continue to be for the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow for a full investigation prior to her testimony."

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BALDWIN: How do you read that?

BORGER: Look, what they're trying to do is get this jump-started all over again. I think that they realize that once her name was out there, that something had to happen. And letting this just hang out there wasn't doing the Democrats any good, either. It wasn't doing their client any good. And we've obtained a copy of the e-mail that the "New York Times" first obtained. And it seems to me, you know, that they don't want to do it Monday, but maybe they'll do it next week some time. It doesn't specify who would be questioning her, how it would be done, where it would be done. It's very clear that this is, that this is a person who is very nervous about her safety and the safety of her family. And she still wants a full investigation before she testifies. They say it's her strong preference, but it seems to me they're not demanding it.

BALDWIN: That's how I read that, too.

BORGER: And they're not saying that she won't appear, unless. They're saying that's her preference. So that -- I think that provides a lot of wiggle room there for these folks to get together and decide what is the proper way to do this. Whether she would be questioned by the committee, whether she would be questioned by lawyers. You know, we just don't know, but what this does is it gets the conversation going again.

BALDWIN: Opens the door.

BORGER: It was stopped.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: It was stopped. It was stopped. And I think that they realized, the Democrats realized, and her attorneys realized that, you know, Grassley had been out there saying, we're willing to do a whole bunch of things. And that that warranted a response. And they're saying, OK, OK, we're willing to sit down, but we've got to get some things straight first.

BALDWIN: So, it sounds like it could be a go.

BORGER: Yes.

BALDWIN: It sounds like this is the beginning of that conversation, to make it a go.

BORGER: Yes.

BALDWIN: And what do you think is happening? Describe the, you know, behind closed doors, up on Capitol Hill, I don't know, the scramble. Is that even the appropriate word for the phone calls that are now being made to make this thing happen, at some point next week?

BORGER: Well, yes, I think Manu's probably reporting that right now.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: Look, I think -- I think that everybody is trying to bend over backwards to make sure that this doesn't become Anita Hill redux. And that this is the conversation that makes the Republicans happy, that makes -- that makes this -- her happy. That makes Professor Ford as comfortable as she can possibly be, in an already terrifying situation. Because it is terrifying for her. And, so I think this is just the beginning of this conversation. Maybe it won't even be on Capitol Hill. Who knows?

BALDWIN: Right, could be behind closed doors.

BORGER: We don't know anything other than the fact that the attorneys and the staff are now starting to talk to each other about what the appropriate venue would be and what the appropriate way to approach this would be, which I think is clearly a good development.

[14:54:47] BALDWIN: Right. Seems to be.

Gloria Borger, thank you so much for jumping in on the breaking news.

Again, if you're just joining us, it sounds like Christine Blasey Ford is agreeing, or would be prepared to testify next week, as long as, according to this e-mail, Senators offer her terms that are fair and which ensure her safety.

So much more on that breaking story, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[14:59:40] BALDWIN: Here we are with the breaking news on CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

The woman accusing President Trump's Supreme Court nominee of physical and sexual assault may, indeed, testify next week. But, an attorney for Christine Blasey Ford says it will not be Monday, the day the Senate Judiciary Committee had scheduled for a hearing and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the president's nominee, set to be there. However, there are so many other details that are out being negotiated right now, sort of re-opens the door to those conversations between Capitol Hill and Professor Ford.

Also breaking right now, the Senator --