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Trump Reportedly Suggests Building Sahara Desert Wall; Foiled Passenger Jet Theft; Kavanaugh Accuser May Testify. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: However, there are so many other details that are out being negotiated right now. It sort of reopens the door to those -- to those conversations between Capitol Hill and Professor Ford.

Also breaking right now, the senator overseeing this hearing, the judiciary chair, Chuck Grassley, is now dealing with protests and arrests happening outside of his office.

So let's go up to Capitol Hill and CNN congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty.

And, Sunlen, let's just start on the breaking news, because I have got this letter from Ford's attorney to Capitol Hill saying she wishes to testify, as long as they guarantee her -- her safety.


This is a significant development and a significant development, I should add, the fact that they are continuing to communicate, the attorneys for Ford and the chairman of the committee.

Now, this is a letter that was sent from Dr. Ford's attorney to the Senate Judiciary chairman, saying that she is prepared to potentially testify next week. As you note, though, they said Monday will not work for them, essentially.

But they say: "She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety."

They also go on in this letter, notably, Brooke, to again say that their strong preference would be to have an FBI investigation first, but they did not stipulate that that was required for her to testify. And that's an important point here.

So the big question, of course, is, what, of course, are those fair terms that they outlined? And that really is important, because that's where the devil is in the details now and where, honestly, this could either come together or fail and fall apart again.

And we have seen them over the last 48 hours, through attorneys and through aides, really grappling, what are those fair terms? Will there be outside witnesses? Where will this happen? Will this happen on Capitol Hill? Will this potentially happen out in California, where she lives? So a lot of details still need to be worked out.

It certainly increases the pressure on Chairman Grassley's staff to respond. He has really made pains to show that he is trying to pull her in and trying to have her testify. And he's said, I have laid out four options, in private, in public, out in California, here on Capitol Hill.

So I think the ball now is in his court and his team's court to figure out what is fair. Of course, this will likely go through many more iterations before it potentially gets settled, but, again, that she is potentially prepared to testify next week. She does not Monday to happen.

We will see if there is wiggle from the chairman to potentially move this testimony.

BALDWIN: Sunlen, thank you so much for the reporting.

Let's have a broader conversation and analysis. Dana Bash is up with us. She covered Capitol Hill for years and years. I can imagine she knows what may be happening behind the scenes. She's our chief political correspondent. Ron Klain knows as well. He was chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

So great to have both of you on, as this news is breaking.

And, Dana, just starting with you, listen, we're all getting this at the same time. We're trying to parse together what this may mean, right? This may mean a yes on her part if her safety is ensured. Her address is blasted out there. She's been receiving death threats.

We know she's called for this FBI investigation. Does it sound to you like they're willing to perhaps put that aside?


BALDWIN: The investigation. Yes. Yes.

BASH: Oh, yes, it does. Of course it does.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

BASH: I read it exactly that way. This, to me, looks like somebody who is saying, please get me to yes. I want to do this.

Maybe not -- maybe want is the wrong way to say it, because clearly this is -- if it happens, is going to be about the most traumatic thing since...

BALDWIN: That's ever happened to her.

BASH: That's ever happened to her. But this is written in a way to tell the Judiciary Committee, we're going to do this. We want to do this. Please help us get to yes. There's no question. Now, whether or not Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary chairman says, I'm

going to stick with Monday, and if you're not going to do Monday, forget it, again, this is written in a way to put him in a position that he can't really say that, that he has to negotiate back with her. If he just sticks to his deadline, it's going to make him look bad. And this is the strategy, it seems to me.


Ron, what is your read on this and what do you think is happening up on Capitol Hill behind the scenes?

RON KLAIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I agree with Dana. It really puts it really back in Chairman Grassley's court.

I mean, Dr. Ford is saying, she's prepared to testify. She's even prepared to testify next week. So, it takes the idea of indefinite delay off the table and puts a concrete timeline on it. She's backing off her request that the FBI do it first.

She still thinks that's the best thing. I think all the experts think it's the best thing, but she's says, I'm willing to testify even if that is not met. All she's really looking for is a fair hearing and her personal safety.

I think those will be hard things for Chairman Grassley to say no to. And if they try to jam and say, look, it's Monday or the highway, I think they're going to take a big hit on this. If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, he is going to be serving on the Supreme Court until 2050.

The idea that you would wait a couple of days to hold this hearing, that seems like a very reasonable request on Dr. Ford's part.


BALDWIN: What about the notion -- let's play this out as if though she will be testifying next week.

And my question is, we heard this from Senator Susan Collins earlier in the week, saying, hey, let's have lawyers do the questioning and the cross-examining. I have heard other lawyers to me, have lawyers who are sensitive to sexual harassment.

BASH: Ron Klain says that.


BALDWIN: Ron Klain. That's why we're talking to you. That's why I'm coming to you.

KLAIN: I appreciate that.

BALDWIN: Ron Klain says that.

And I'm wondering -- because I know that's not unprecedented. Do you think that that could be feasible here? KLAIN: Well, I think it's not only feasible. I think it's advisable.

Look, it's happened before in other kinds of hearings.

During the Watergate hearings, this happened. During the Iran-Contra hearings, this happened. It did not happen during the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, and it was a mistake that it didn't happen.

Senators -- some senators are good questioners, some aren't. That's not really the point. The point is, you really need questioners who are not looking to score political points, but are looking to get to the truth, who understand how sexual assault cases are built, who understand how to deal with witnesses in this kind of sensitive matter.

And having just one Republican lawmaker, one Democratic lawyer ask the questions is the best way to have a professional, organized, fact- finding hearing, and not a political sideshow.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: I find it hard to imagine, though, that the senators won't at least want to ask some questions following, which is exactly, as you mentioned, Brooke, what Senator Susan Collins suggested, have a lawyer on each side, representing each side of the story start, but then finish with the senators.

It's hard for me to imagine -- and Ron not only has seen this movie before, he's lived this movie before, so I defer to you, Ron.

But knowing senators the way you do, just saying, you know what, we're just going to say, the floor is yours, lawyers, and not do their job in asking questions, what do you think?


KLAIN: Dana, I agree. At some point in time, the senators have a role to play. But it would be great if the bulk of the questioning were done by not just lawyers, but people who are really experts in this kind of matter, people who understand how to deal with a witness who has been through what Dr. Ford says she's been through, and how to do it in a professional and reasonable matter.

In 1991, the senators did it. And, look, I mean, I worked for the committee, but I have to say, it was kind of a fiasco. It was -- one of the all-time great "SNL" sketches was the one parodying the senators' questioning Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. It was...

BALDWIN: I mean, you cannot have a repeat of that.

KLAIN: You cannot have a repeat of that, although potentially we will. And that's a tragedy if that happens.

BALDWIN: What about the notion of having -- you know, she's wanted this outside investigation, this FBI investigation. She's also wanted to have other witnesses testify, Ron. KLAIN: Yes.

BALDWIN: Is that advisable?

KLAIN: It's not only advisable. It seems to me absolutely essential.


BALDWIN: Would they agree to that, though?

KLAIN: Well, they should agree to it, Brooke, because, look, during the Thomas-Hill hearings, 22 witnesses testified, not just Thomas and Hill, but 20 other witnesses who had information about the two of them, their backgrounds and their experiences together, the times they saw them.

And here we know there's at least one other people in this room when this assault allegedly happened. There are other people both Kavanaugh and Ford may have talked to. If you don't hear from the witnesses, you are not having a hearing. If you aren't hearing from the people who have the information, you're not seeking the truth.

So the idea of excluding people with relevant information seems more like a railroad than a hearing to me.

BALDWIN: The other piece of this, as I mentioned this outside investigation, right, this is what Professor Ford has wanted, Dana.

And we were looking back from the Anita Hill days, from '91. Then Senator Grassley, who is now obviously the chairman of the committee, he said this at the time. Roll it.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: A rule like this should ensure once and for all that even an 11th hour charge like yours has been fully considered.


BALDWIN: Fast-forward to today.

BASH: Yes.

BALDWIN: Mighty similar.

BASH: Yes.

BALDWIN: Why is it different this time?

BASH: Well, the moment. There are a lot of reasons, but the moment is different. We are in the MeToo era.

And having a male panel, having male or female panel, frankly, either ignore somebody who is saying that she wants to come forward and talk, or to do it in a way that even remotely looks like, as Ron says, a railroad, is a lot more dicey.

And what is interesting is that, back then, he was a more junior, a junior Republican, but it was still a Republican nominee. Democrats ran the committee, but it was a Republican nominee. It's also a reminder of how different the atmosphere is.

It is so ridiculously partisan now. Grassley, who's now the chairman, didn't even want to delay the vote, which was supposed to happen today, but was forced to do that because of Republicans like Susan Collins, like Lisa Murkowski, even Lindsey Graham and others saying, no, we have to at least wait and see if she wants to come forward.


So the times are different in terms of women, but also, unfortunately, in terms of partisanship.

BALDWIN: And, lastly, Ron, you brought up that "SNL" sketch, right? And we were -- Anita Hill wrote that op-ed this week, and she closed by talking about the phrase, they just don't get it, right, alluding to all of the men up on that committee and dealing with her questioning and the sexual -- the allegations of sexual harassment.

I'm curious, in 2018, do you think they get it now?

KLAIN: Well, I hope they do. I hope they would.

Look, one thing that has changed since 1991, in 1991, the Judiciary Committee was all male. And, you know, one difference this time, is that...

BALDWIN: Four women.

KLAIN: ... while, unfortunately, on the Republican side, they're still all male, of the 10 Democrats, three are women.

And the senior Democrat on that committee, Dianne Feinstein, was elected for the first time in 1992 as a reaction to what happened to Anita Hill. So kind of history's coming full circle here, with Dianne Feinstein, one of those winners in that so-called year of the women, now the most senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

BALDWIN: Twenty-eight women the year later, the year of the woman in '92, right, who would really run citing their frustration over what had happened with Anita Hill. My, oh, my, when he wake up November 7 with all the women on the ballot, I will be curious to see what happens.

Ron Klain, Dana Bash, thank you both very much for catching the breaking news with me.

KLAIN: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Appreciate it.

Coming up next in other news: A student pilot has been arrested after hopping a fence at a Florida airport and actually boarding a passenger jet. So we will talk about security concerns raised by that incident.

Plus, President Trump reportedly is trying to export his border wall idea. Have you heard this one? Telling Spain it should build a wall across the entire Sahara Desert to keep out migrants. We will do a little geography coming up.

And later, the Trump administration admits it cannot find nearly 1,500 undocumented children. CNN has exclusive information, new information on how these cases are currently being handled.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: How about this security scare at the Orlando Melbourne Airport this morning?

A student pilot has been arrested, charged with trying to steal a plane in the middle of the night, after allegedly jumping a fence and boarding an empty passenger jet that was apparently undergoing maintenance. Two maintenance workers saw him, stopped him, after one of them apparently saw a shadow and knew something was up.

CNN's Victor Blackwell is in Melbourne, Florida. Also with us, David Soucie.

But, Victor, first to you. How did he pull this off?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, really bizarre here.

And the airport officials are pointing out that he did not pull it off, that he did not get control of this plane and did not make it into the cockpit, although he made it into or on to the flight deck.

We learned just moments ago this 22-year-old's name, Nishal Sankat, that coming from Orlando Melbourne International Airport officials with permission from the FBI, who are now involved with this story.

Let me take you back to the beginning -- 2:00 a.m. today, we're told that this man pulled his car up to the terminal here at the airport, left it running, and then hopped the fence, and ran for that American Airlines Airbus A-321 over my shoulder.

And as you said, there were two maintenance workers, but not passengers, on board the plane. They saw the shadow, asked the man for his badge. He couldn't show one. Then he ran for that flight deck. They tackled him and took him to a hangar about 200 yards away.

Somewhere, when they called airport police, he made it out of the hangar and ran back for the airplane, but they tackled him again, detained him until he was arrested.

We know now that the airport police, Melbourne Police Department, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force are all involved, and he's now facing three state charges, violation of a visa, criminal trespassing, criminal theft of an aircraft.

But they're, of course, trying to answer the question of what was he trying to do? Officials say there was some sort of planning here, but they don't know what the plan was. Was this terror or was this what we saw about three -- six weeks ago, I should say?

This was in Washington state, when a man took a joyride that ended with a suicide there at SeaTac. So those questions are being hopefully answered right now. And we're expecting a photo of this man in the next few hours.

BALDWIN: Victor, thank you.

And, David, Victor's right. He didn't fully pull it off, whatever he was planning on doing, but he -- you know, he pulled it off, in the sense that he jumped a fence and got inside, you know, this passenger plane.

And I think of everything we all go through at the airport, the bag, the liquid, the whole deal, and this can happen? Like, this is concerning.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Yes, it is very concerning. I understand what the airport's trying to say. There's many tiers of security, many tiers of safety.

And the second and third tier worked great. The first tier did not. And that's something that's going to have to be examined at this airport. That should not be able to happen. There should not be an access point where someone can simply jump over the fence.

BALDWIN: But, as Victor mentions, you know, the guy in Seattle who, you know, stole a plane and obviously crashed it and killed himself, but the fact that he was able to do that, we were having this exact same conversation a handful of weeks ago, and now this. What does this tell you about airport security vigilance?

SOUCIE: I think vigilance is the right word. It's an atrophy of vigilance. It's the fact that people think they're safe. The safer you feel, the less you do for safety.

So until things are exposed in these kind of events, people don't react to it. Security is very reactive. It doesn't actually move forward for many reasons, whether it's funding or whether it's the -- like you said, the atrophy of vigilance.


People don't move forward and do thing precautionarily. They do things after the fact. And that's what we're faced with here. The good thing about this, these two events happening, they can't ignore it. Now they have to do something about it.

The difference in the Seattle incident, however, was that that particular person had access, he had a level two security badge, so he could be on the tarmac, he could be out there on the ramp and get on to the airport. This is much different. This exposes a much more vulnerable area and it should not have happened.

It should not be available to this man to just jump the fence.

BALDWIN: They're investigating, as Victor pointed out, the motive, TBD.

Victor Blackwell and David Soucie, gentlemen, thank you so, so much on that.

Coming up next: President Trump makes a suggestion to leaders of Spain that they should build their own wall along the entire Sahara Desert to keep migrants out. We will break down the many issues with said proposal.



BALDWIN: President Trump has a brand-new border wall controversy. Only, this one involves the desert in Africa.

Spain's foreign minister says Trump told him he should build a border wall across the entire Sahara Desert to thwart Europe's migrant crisis. The White House is disputing the account.

But let's go to Chris Cillizza, author of "The Point With Chris Cillizza."

And, Chris Cillizza, my first question, I have been to Morocco, and that's just one stretch, right, of all of the Sahara. I'm just curious if the president realizes how big it is.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: OK, so here is your daily geography lesson, Brooke.

Here we go. The Sahara Desert, as you can see here, basically covers most well -- it covers east-west the breadth of North Central Africa, roughly 3,000 miles from east to west. OK, now, how long is the border wall, you ask? Remember, Donald Trump said the border wall, as proposed, would be -- can't be longer than what he's proposing. Yes, it can be.

It's about 1,000 miles longer. You know, this is less than 2,000 miles total. But that's far from the only problem with this idea. Let's go to the next screen, because I want to show you something else.

OK. So, we're talking about the U.S. border wall. We're talking about us and our neighbors to the south, Mexico. Two countries, OK. First of all, here's Spain, OK? As you will notice, the Sahara is not in Spain. In fact, it's not on the Spanish continent. It's kind of hard to make a wall when it's not -- you don't own it.

Speaking of owning it, it crosses or touches a dozen countries, none of which are Spain, by the way. But it crosses a dozen countries. The logistics of doing something like that, even if Spain was one of those dozen countries, would be pretty stuff.

BALDWIN: Trying to keep a straight face listening to you and your geography lesson. You are, indeed, correct, sir. That would be a mighty large wall.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Speaking of walls, the president also brought up the U.S.- Mexico border wall this week, talking about how he had found inspiration when he was in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11. What's the connection?

CILLIZZA: Yes, so let's quickly read his quote, Brooke.

This is in the same interview where he talked with Hill TV about a lot of different things, including Jeff Sessions. "They built this gorgeous wall where the plane went down in Pennsylvania at Shanksville, and I was there, I made the speech. And it's sort of a beautiful -- what they did is incredible. They have a series of walls. I'm saying it's, like, perfect. So, so we are pushing very hard."

OK, he's talking about a speech he gave. He was up in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which is where that plane on September 11, 2001, crashed after the passengers revolted. It was allegedly headed the toward the U.S. Capitol Building. He was there. He gave a speech.

As you can see, the monument has a number of walls to it to honor the victims of that plane. That, I guess, inspired Donald Trump to push harder on the wall.

But I will remember you that Senate Republicans are not and House Republicans do not want wall funding anywhere near a conversation about keeping the government open, keeping it funded. Donald Trump sort of flicks at that from time to time.

In his mind, these things are connected. I still remain very skeptical you're going to see Congress at any time in the near future provide any significant money beyond what they have already provided for funding the wall.

And I will make a really strong prediction here, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Hit me.

CILLIZZA: Mexico ain't paying for it.

BALDWIN: Ding, ding, ding. I think you're right. I think you're...


CILLIZZA: Every once in a while.

BALDWIN: By the way, you can get more than Chris Cillizza on TV just talking to everyone. You can get more from our resident geography professor here. Go to Chris Cillizza, you're the best. Thank you very much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, thank you.

BALDWIN: Back to our breaking news here.

Christine Blasey Ford saying she is prepared to testify next week about her allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, but that the caveat is if the senators offer terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. We have reaction from the White House.

Also ahead, exclusive new reporting from CNN on the ongoing immigration crisis. We have learned the Trump administration has arrested dozens of adults who have come forward to care for migrant children. We have those details, the numbers, next.