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Kavanaugh Controversy Examined; New York Times Story on Rod Rosenstein; Michael Mukasey Interviewed; Hurricane Maria Aftermath in Puerto Rico Documentary to Air. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 21, 2018 - 22:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. Let's keep going now because Don is off. That means we've got a bonus second hour of CUOMO PRIME TIME.

And we begin with breaking news. Christine Ford's legal team responding just moments ago. We read the letter to you live.

The proposal by Senate Republicans that she testify by Wednesday or else, they say we can't decide yet. We need one additional day. Will they give it to her?

In that letter, they blast Republicans, accusing them of bullying Ford into making a decision by 10:00 p.m. tonight. We're waiting for Republicans to respond to the request by Ford's attorneys.

Also tonight, president Trump making what appears to be a veiled threat to fire Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. Why? Rosenstein is in reporting today, supposedly thinking about wiring -- wiretapping, recording the president, using the 25th Amendment to remove him.

Is that true? Rosenstein says it isn't, but will it give the president the cover he needed to get rid of him?

And one year after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, two CNN colleagues have been on the front lines and are here with a new look at the daily struggle to return to normal. Remember, the president called his administration's response there an unsung success.

This is a busy Friday. Let's get after it.


CUOMO: All right. We have a response, but it's not a decision. Dr. Ford says she will not comply with tonight's 10:00 p.m. deadline regarding whether or not she'll testify in front of the Senate judiciary committee next Wednesday.

In a letter we just read last hour, her lawyer writes that she be given an additional day to make her decision. She had been spending time with the FBI today talking about death threats against her family. There's not enough time for them to get together with her and go through the possibilities of taking on what could be a life- changing event for her. So what happens now? Are they going to go ahead and have their vote

on Monday to confirm Judge Kavanaugh? Is that the best thing for him? Or will they give Professor Ford one more day?

All right. Let's check in with our man on the story, CNN's congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.

I did not see a response asking for another day as likely, but there it is. What's your gut on whether they get it?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, what I can tell you right now, Chris, is the Judiciary Committee Republicans have received the e-mail, have received the letter, but they don't have a response yet. It's unclear how they're going to respond.

What we do know is this. Debra Katz, the lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford, is essentially calling the chairman of the committee's bluff. Obviously, you laid out in great detail both their letter and where Republicans have been on this, saying that the 10:00 p.m. deadline, there needs to be not just a response, an agreement for testimony, or else they would go ahead and vote on Monday.

And to take you behind the scenes a little bit, Chris, I can tell you that there has been immense frustration on the Republican side of things over the course of the last couple of days. They feel like they've been accommodating. They feel like the conversation with Debra Katz, Christine Blasey Ford's lawyer, last night, was a positive conversation that was eventually going to lead to a hearing. What they hadn't gotten until just now was a response.

Now, as Debra Katz laid out in detail, there were good reasons according to Christine Blasey Ford's legal time why a response didn't come in detail, why they need an extra day. But that, for a lot of Republicans on the committee who were partaking in a conference call behind closed doors earlier today, is not a good enough answer. So that leads us to the question of will they actually go forward with a scheduled vote on Monday even though Debra Katz only asked for one day?

Is it an open question, and it is one that I think you know better than anybody the stakes here are enormous. The pressures from outside, from both parties, from activist groups, from grassroots are immense. And what they decide to do will not just affect this nomination or this issue, which obviously is extraordinarily sensitive and has brought so many ideas, thoughts, policy proposals to the table over the course of the last couple of months into play, but also more broadly for the U.S. Senate, for nominations going forward.

I think everybody is cognizant of everything that's at play right now. What people aren't sure about is what the final decision is going to be. The ramifications are enormous here, but I do think in talking to Republicans throughout the course of the last couple of days, they have been ready to move forward. I don't think anybody has made any secret of that.

And for Chairman Chuck Grassley to lay out the letter that he did earlier today to set the deadline and to make clear to Christine Blasey Ford's lawyers that he was ready to go on this, to back down from that, I think, would be a bit of a surprise. That said, as you noted, Chris, they asked for one more day. Given the stakes, given the issue matter, given everything else that's involved, it would seem possible that they could get one more day.

The real question now for judiciary committee Republicans who are reviewing the letter right now, reviewing their next steps, is which way do they want to go. It's going to be fascinating to see. And as I noted, the repercussions for those decisions that are made, they will go on long beyond whether Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed or not in the next couple of weeks.

CUOMO: True. Well, let me know if you get word, all right? We'll get right back to you. Thanks, Phil. Appreciate it. Phil Mattingly.

So, what should happen next?

"Cuomo's Court" is in session with Jeffrey Toobin and Jim Schultz.

One more day, Jim. Do you give it to the doctor?

JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: I think I do. I think I'd give her one more day if I'm sitting in the chairman's seat at this point in time.

Look, they've been doing everything they can to make this accommodating so that she can come in and testify, which is what she asked to do. And that's very, very important to note here.

And I also want to know how unfortunate it was that it got leaked to the public, which kind of thrust this all into the public limelight to begin with. I was glad to hear you say in your last segment, Chris, that Senator Feinstein may have some culpability there. We don't know, but she may have some culpability there. I'm glad you acknowledged that.

But I think at this point in time, given the fact it's not going to change whether or not the time frame for testimony, the time frame for a vote, I think giving an extra day isn't too much to ask, and it's something that we do as lawyers on a regular basis, give the other side a courtesy in order to make a decision --

CUOMO: Right.

SCHULTZ: -- as you're entering into negotiations. This is not something that's uncommon.

CUOMO: Jeffrey, the timing is about punishing the Democrats, that this was delay and they don't want to give them any more time. The stuff that's really onerous for Ford are the conditions.

It's basically, you go it alone. You're getting a he said/she said and that's it. You're getting no investigation, you get no other witnesses. It's your word against his.

Do you take that deal?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think she has to. But the thing that is so unbelievably outrageous about what the Republicans are doing is that the fight is about Wednesday or Thursday.

CUOMO: Right.

TOOBIN: She wants Thursday. They want Wednesday. And Brett Kavanaugh is going to be on the Supreme Court for 35 years because they won't give her another 24 hours. That is so surreal and bizarre and outrageous that I -- you know, even if contemporary politics, I find that hard to believe.

But that's the way it appears to be heading. Chuck Grassley is saying, I said Wednesday. You said Thursday. Too bad. Kavanaugh gets on the Supreme Court.

I mean, it's unbelievable.


CUOMO: This is a calculus I don't get, Jim. Fold this to whatever you think in there. I get there's a lot of attention on ford and whether this is sensitive or not to where she's coming from, whether this is fair enough. And I give a lot of faith and credit to that perspective.

However, if I'm Judge Kavanaugh, I do not like this. I did nothing wrong. I wasn't even there, and it feels like they're railroading her. They're kind of trying to slip me through.

I don't want that perception. I say let them investigate. I say bring on witnesses.

Go ahead, Jim.

SCHULTZ: Look, Judge Kavanaugh has said that he'd show up in an hour.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHULTZ: Judge Kavanaugh said he'd show up in an hour and testify and be ready to testify. He is ready to defend himself. He is ready to clear his name.

That is what he has said, and he's been unequivocal on that from day one.

TOOBIN: Nonsense.

SCHULTZ: So to that end --

CUOMO: Jeffrey says nonsense.

TOOBIN: He's been unequivocal on that from day --

CUOMO: He has been unequivocal in saying he didn't do it. What's unequivocal, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: What's unequivocal is that he hasn't called for an investigation. He has only said, I'll show up. Has he said, bring in the witnesses, show -- do a real investigation? There is no judicial or legislative body --

SCHULTZ: Jeffrey, you understand the process. This is within the control of the Senate, Jeffrey, and you know that. This is --

TOOBIN: Right.

SCHULTZ: This is an Article 1 issue. This is not an Article 2 issue. The power of the legislative branch to confirm a nominee.

They go through the process. It's their process. They make the decision.


CUOMO: Right. But it's the president's nominee. Not only is it his call to call on the FBI, but if you think -- if you don't think that he called Chuck Grassley and said, listen, let me tell you how I want this to go. This is my guy.

SCHULTZ: I disagree with you on that, Chris.

CUOMO: Excuse me?

SCHULTZ: I disagree with you on the calling in the FBI, that it's incumbent on the White House to do that.


SCHULTZ: In this instance, again, it's with the Senate.

CUOMO: Right, but the Senate can't do it.

SCHULTZ: They can ask the White House to do that.

CUOMO: Right. They can ask the White House to do it.

SCHULTZ: That has not happened to do that. They have not asked the White House to do that to date.

CUOMO: I know.

SCHULTZ: The Senate investigates people and incidents every day. The Senate has lawyers that handle these matters every day.


TOOBIN: Come on. The Judiciary Committee -- let me talk for a second. The Judiciary Committee staff under Chuck Grassley has one goal and one goal only, which is to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.

It's not to investigate the facts. They're not interested in the facts. If they were interested in the facts, they would bring in witnesses under oath and ask them.

The supposed investigators here are the most fierce partisans in the whole enterprise. That's why you should have the FBI who are not partisans.

Brett Kavanaugh doesn't want an investigation. He wants to get confirmed. That's why he's offering to testify in this kangaroo court.


SCHULTZ: Jeffrey, who's been beating on the FBI drum here? It's been Democratic operatives that have been beating the drum for the FBI. And why have they been doing that? It's political gamesmanship.

Let's not say that -- let's argue that there's not political gamesmanship across the board here. It's happening. It's happening on the Democratic side, and it's happening -- it's happening often, and it's happening, and the stakes are incredibly high.

TOOBIN: That's true.

SCHULTZ: And to say that they're not trying to game the system by asking for the FBI to get involved in this, to delay, delay, delay someone who has been through six rounds of background checks, who is currently sitting on the bench, is a revered lawyer, is somewhat ludicrous to say that the Democrats don't have an interest in getting the FBI involved in order to delay.

TOOBIN: We are talking about one day's delay. We are talking about one day's delay.

SCHULTZ: I hear you on the delay.

TOOBIN: Let me talk for a second. Don't interrupt me.

We are talking about one-day delay where a political party -- the Republican Party kept a seat on the Supreme Court open for a year when Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland. But this nominee is going to get confirmed because Chuck Grassley won't give an extra day, won't hold the hearing Thursday instead of Wednesday. You tell me that's fair.

SCHULTZ: Well, hold on. They've asked -- now asked for an extra day to make a determination. Let's see what they come -- let's see what the Senate comes back with. I think the Senate's probably going to come back and give them that day, but we'll see. None of us know that at this point in time.


CUOMO: I have one last point for you guys to talk about.

You know, we talk about how this is supposed to be a fair confirmation process, supposed to be about vetting, advise and consent, and I'm saying that sarcastically because I don't believe it in this one and really everyone one since Bork really. But this idea of judicial independence was so important, right, especially this time around with Kavanaugh, I can't say anything.

Yet the man has been holed up in the White House for days working on his testimony, figuring out how to deal with this allegation, gathering women around him who can help him with the White House's advice. How can he not be beholden to the White House after all this, Jim? If they get him through this and he gets on the court, how are we supposed to believe that he's impartial when he has been literally living with them for days trying to find a way through this morass?

SCHULTZ: Chris, you don't think Ruth Bader Ginsburg went through prep --

CUOMO: Not like this.

SCHULTZ: -- in the executive office building when she was confirmed?

CUOMO: This is existential.

SCHULTZ: You don't think that Kagan went through the same --

CUOMO: No, I don't.

SCHULTZ: -- prep when she was confirmed?

You're absolutely wrong about that, Chris. No doubt about it.

CUOMO: Not like this.

SCHULTZ: Whenever there's a judicial confirmation, a Supreme Court judicial nomination, that person is prepped.


CUOMO: I'm not saying they're not prepped. I'm saying not like this, not this kind of intimacy.

SCHULTZ: -- in a war room setting.

CUOMO: Not this kind of intimacy.

SCHULTZ: What do you mean the intimacy? What, that they have lawyers in the room helping them prep for a hearing? That happens all the time.

I'm a lawyer. I go into court. I'm going to prep my witnesses. This is no different.

CUOMO: All right.

Jim, thank you very much. Jeffrey Toobin, I appreciate you being with me both on a Friday night.

Up next, new reporting out of the White House on the pressure that they put on Rod Rosenstein to issue a new statement. We have that for you next.


CUOMO: All right. We just got new information about deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein.

A report is out saying that he was out to secretly record and try to remove President Trump. He denied that report, but the White House did not like the denial.

So, CNN's Kaitlan Collins is in Springfield, Missouri, where the president just spoke. So what did they do about it?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course at that first statement you saw there at the end of it, Rod Rosenstein said, I'm not going to comment further on this matter. And then, Chris, he commented further on this matter, putting out a second statement tonight where he said, quote, I never pursued or authorized recording the president, and any suggestion that I've ever advocated for the removal of the president is absolutely false.

So, there are a lot of questions about why Rod Rosenstein put out that second statement if he said he wasn't going to comment further, and now, Chris, we've learned why. That's because the deputy attorney general made a trip over to the White House today, a pretty brief trip this evening. He met with several officials who consulted with him, telling him he needed to put out a firmer statement than that first statement denying that he had any conversations about wearing a wire to go meet with the president or any conversations about forcibly removing the president from office.

So, clearly, we know this is a president, Chris, who pays close attention to denials when it comes to stories like this. He's done it in the past with that anonymous op-ed. He paid attention to every official who denied writing it. Rod Rosenstein learned from them. He clearly has paid attention to that. That is why he's putting out that second statement tonight.

CUOMO: Right.

COLLINS: And we did hear that thinly veiled threat from President Trump tonight here during that rally where he said there is a stench at the Justice Department, but told the crowd here, this arena full of his supporters, not to worry about it because they were going to get rid of it.

CUOMO: So the question is what does it mean? It can suggest that Rosenstein wants to keep his job. What does it mean about the president's interest in taking his job? If the White House pushed up on him for a firmer denial, that seems to suggest they're trying to make it all OK.

What's your read?

COLLINS: That would seem to suggest that, but a lot of that might have to do with the fact that we are so close to the midterms, and there's already been so much upheaval surrounding the West Wing even just this week alone that aides know that if the president fires the deputy attorney general at a time like this, it could cause even more chaos for them.

But, of course, this is a president who changes his mind a lot. And though six months or so ago he was openly floating the idea of firing Rod Rosenstein, even when he didn't have such a solid reasoning as it would seem that this "New York Times" reporting which has been confirmed by several other outlets, including CNN, would give him, you never know quite with this president. You have to look at what his allies and outside advisers are saying because we've got certain people like Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Pirro, those people saying he should fire him immediately.

But then we have other people like Congressman Matt Gaetz, a favorite of the president, who often flies with him on Air Force One, and is at the White House, essentially saying that he doesn't believe "The New York Times" reporting and he's not going to believe it unless there's hard evidence that Rod Rosenstein made these comments.

So the question, of course, is the president going to listen to them, or is he going to do what he alluded to tonight at that rally and actually fire Rod Rosenstein?

CUOMO: Well, that would cause chaos, then again tonight he didn't hesitate to say that women want him to defend Kavanaugh and not the other side, which I guess would include Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Ford.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you for doing a late work for us. Appreciate it.

All right. Trump's vow to get rid of the Justice Department's lingering stench, I think is what Kaitlan called it, came hours after news broke on the number two at the DOJ. So, is Rosenstein the lingering stench? Is it only a matter of time before he goes? Should the Republicans give Judge Kavanaugh's accuser one more day?

Tom Fitton is the perfect man to discuss, next, the head of Judicial Watch.


CUOMO: Tonight, Rod Rosenstein, Bob Mueller's boss, is still employed, but there is no guarantee it stays that way after today's explosive reporting in "The New York Times" and confirmed by CNN sources.

Joining us now is Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch.

So, Tom, do you think Rosenstein survives? He has now denied the report twice.

TOM FITTON, PRESIDENT, JUDICIAL WATCH: Oh, I don't know. The president could fire him at any day. He could fire Sessions at any day. I don't think this story is going to result necessarily in his

immediate firing, no. But it adds to the lack of trust that the president has for top officials of the Justice Department because of reports like this that suggest that, in the case of Mr. Rosenstein, they don't like him. They wanted to see him removed from office. They are angry at him.

And, you know, it looks like maybe Mr. Rosenstein, based on this report in "The New York Times," appointed Mueller because he was ticked about being brought into the Comey firing issue and the Mueller investigation is a result of his personal anger as opposed to any lawful reason for an appointment.

CUOMO: You know, the one thing that does seem odd about it is as a man who as sophisticated about the law as Rod Rosenstein, and I don't think there's any argument that he is, would look at the 25th Amendment as a reasonable path on moving of a president of the United States. It's almost impossible to make something like that happen.

FITTON: What's more astonishing is that there was a discussion between him, as reported --

CUOMO: Right.

FITTON: -- and top officials at the FBI about it.

CUOMO: If it happened, right? Now, look, we have to see the McCabe memo, right, because it does seem to be suggested in some of the reporting that they got some of this from the memo. We don't know if that stuff about the 25th Amendment or about maybe recording and whether or not it's a joke -- we don't know. But there are some different layers.

FITTON: Mr. Rosenstein's first statement didn't deny it happened. He said he didn't pursue it, or the language was that I don't think he should be removed under the 25th Amendment. It didn't say that it wasn't discussed, and even this latest statement doesn't suggest that maybe it hadn't come up.

It clearly came up and, you know, I think to take a step back, looking at who leaked this potentially, it looks to me like the FBI is concerned that it's going to come out that people like Andrew McCabe wanted to get the president. So they're trying to put the focus on Mr. Rosenstein because this material is going to come out eventually.

But, again, it goes back to the Mueller investigation. This is where the Mueller investigation was brewed from, and it shows you that its underpinnings, frankly, are one of politics and antipathy to the president as opposed to, as I point out, a rule of law approach that was required out of the Justice Department handling something so sensitive.

CUOMO: Well, look, you and I can go back and forth about whether or not the decision to appoint Mueller was a lawful one. I've heard this argument that, you know, they didn't articulate a criminal precedent in order to pick -- there is no requirement for that. You can investigate something where there's a reasonable suspicion that it's necessary.

I went through all the case law and all that stuff, but that's a pretty subtle discussion. The politics of what motivated it, why ignore the president getting rid of Comey? If you're going to look for a "but for" factor here, but for him moving on Comey the way he did, why would Rosenstein have ever done this?

FITTON: Based on this discussion, it looks like getting rid of Comey was a pretext as opposed to a reason. That they were upset about the president long before Comey was removed, and the president has every right to fire any FBI director or other Justice Department official. And the idea that the Justice Department and the FBI are going to start investigating the president for firing an agency head that they presumably had reported to is just absurdity.

I just don't think that investigation should be allowed to continue anymore, and it should be shut down. And it's this sort of craziness that highlights the reason why the whole thing never should have begun in the first place, and they should cut their losses and end it.

CUOMO: Well, the theory of the case is he felt that it couldn't be investigated in house because the president was obviously determined to interfere, and he had to get some insulation, give it to somebody where it would be less likely.

FITTON: But he's supervising the very investigation, again further confirmed by "The New York Times," that the investigation into the very issue he was instrumental in advancing, the firing of Comey. And the man responsible in part for his firing by writing a memo and endorsing it is supervising the investigation into the reasons of his firing.

You know, this is why the president's upset with the Justice Department, rightly so.

CUOMO: I don't know if that's why he's upset with it, but it could be part of it. Let me ask you something --

FITTON: He's expressed those very reasons.

CUOMO: I'm saying it's one part of it.

FITTON: He has many other reasons to be upset as well. Right.

CUOMO: Yes, I think he has numerous reasons that he expresses, that's my point.

Do you give Professor Ford one more day to decide whether or not to testify next week?

FITTON: Oh, I don't think they can. I would just presume politically she has up until Monday to respond. Up until the moment of the vote, she could respond.

I never thought there should be a public hearing about this. It should have been handled through private investigations and private committee hearings. But she has a choice whether to participate practically speaking up until Monday, whether or not Senator Grassley specifically authorizes it.

This is all brinksmanship going on now, but she can respond tomorrow practically speaking if she wants to testify on Wednesday as opposed to Thursday or Monday, or whatever the day is.

CUOMO: If you're Brett Kavanaugh, don't you want whatever witnesses she says she has brought up because your position is this never happened. It may have happened to her, but it wasn't me. I wasn't even where she said she was. So bring on whoever she wants because nobody is going to place me at that party because I wasn't there.

And I want this to be completely clear. I want no speculation that anybody was insulating me from any kind of truth. And if I get on that court, I get on with a clean conscience and a clean legacy.

FITTON: Well, that's assuming you've got fair-minded people questioning both sides. And it's pretty clear that his Democratic opponents don't believe what he says. Any hearing is not going to change that.

And if I'm Brett Kavanaugh, I don't want a show trial that is going to destroy my reputation in the eyes of many Americans without good reason.

CUOMO: But how do they decide on a he said/she said, Tom? If they're both credible, how do you decide?

FITTON: You do it in a private hearing and let them debate what they found out in a public forum if they so choose when they go to vote. If I were -- if anyone were listening to me, I would have told them to have the FBI go interview both witnesses, at least Kavanaugh and his accuser quickly, and then if anyone else needed to be interviewed, that could have been done quickly. And then they could have discussed it with the committee in private and then moved it along.

And I think that's still a possibility, but they've got to get the vote done. To have a witness come in at this late date and allow that whole process to be gamed by opponents of Kavanaugh in a dishonest way I think could blow up the confirmation process for decades to come.

CUOMO: I think the only check on that would be all the senators have to vote ultimately when it gets oust committee, and this is going to be something they're going to want to hear and know about themselves. But absent that, you're certainly more progressive than what we're getting out of the committee right now.

FITTON: Well, there are three senators or four senators in the Republican caucus who are going to want more information, and it's fair they get more information.

CUOMO: Right.

FITTON: The question is -- I attended the Kavanaugh hearing for at least a little bit. It was a nightmare, Chris. I mean that screaming is very much mitigated by the television

cameras. It's violent. It's disruptive, and I don't think anyone should have to go through that, especially given the circus atmosphere that's beginning here, either the witness against Mr. Kavanaugh or Mr. Kavanaugh himself.

CUOMO: Well, look, we'll grab some tea sandwiches and tea sometime, and we'll have a long discussion about why I think the entire confirmation process is a sham with both parties on both sides every time since Bork. We'll take that up in private.

Tom Fitton, appreciate your take.

FITTON: You're welcome, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. We're awaiting a response right now about what we were just talking about. What will the Republican senators say to Christine Ford's attorneys? They requested an additional day to make a decision. Will the senators give it to her?

Former Attorney General Mike Mukasey is here next.


CUOMO: All right. We were on deadline watch in this bizarre situation where the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee had given a 10:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time deadline for Professor Christine Ford to respond to their suggestions about what happens next week.

Take the offer or leave it. Instead, the lawyer put out a letter for Christine ford saying we need one more day. Will they give it to her? This is all happening in the context of this "New York Times" story about Rod Rosenstein having it out for the president.

We have the perfect guest for you. Once again, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey is here.

Thank you for being with me on a Friday night.


CUOMO: All right. One cataclysm at a time. Let's start with the urgency of what to do with Kavanaugh and Ford. Do you give Professor Ford one more day to decide what to do next week?

MUKASEY: Yes. I don't think it costs anybody anything. I think -- or it's a minor climb-down for the chairman. But it's a minor climb- down, not a major one, and give her another day.

CUOMO: If you want the projected reality --

MUKASEY: To make up her mind, that is.

CUOMO: Understood. If you want the projected reality to be, we care about the truth of this. We want to do this well, saying no other witnesses, and there will be no other investigation, it's just going to be he said/she said, and then we'll decide. Do you think it projects that reality?

MUKASEY: Which reality?

CUOMO: That they want this to be as good a job as they can do.

MUKASEY: Yes. It is as good a job as they can do because if you start -- the only other witness is the other -- is judge who was there, right?


CUOMO: It's possible. There are people she said was there, you know?

MUKASEY: There are?

CUOMO: Yes. We had this discussion a little bit the other night.

MUKASEY: Yes, we did. I haven't heard that.

CUOMO: She names other people as having been at that party.

MUKASEY: At the party.

CUOMO: Yes, where this happened.

MUKASEY: But not --

CUOMO: And there are friends that she reportedly spoke to about it. You can bring other people in, A.G., if you wanted to.

MUKASEY: You can go down a lot of rabbit holes -- you can go down a lot of rabbit holes with Judge who wrote a book talking about what a degenerate life he led and how he was always drunk and so on and so forth. And so, if he says it didn't happen, everybody is going to say, well, the guy was, you know, was obviously had half a load --

CUOMO: How do you know he's telling the truth?

MUKASEY: You figure out the likelihood of their story based on what they say. And the question is how do you figure out the truth? The question is whether she wants the truth. And the request --

CUOMO: What do you think she wants?

MUKASEY: Theater.

CUOMO: Why? Why would you draw this that way?

MUKASEY: Because of at least two requests that she made. One was a statement that she wants the senators to ask the question, not a lawyer now, there's only one reason to have the senators ask the question. That is because they're a bunch of old white guys like me, right, who are going to look domineering and cruel, whereas a lawyer might ask questions in a calmer, more direct way and in a more trained way.

You go back to the Watergate hearings. The principal questions were asked not by the senators who performed, but by Sam Dash, the lawyer for the committee. Have somebody like that.

CUOMO: So her concern is that's a hired gun. They're going to be a pro who has come in, set up to disadvantage her and make it harder on her.

MUKASEY: Somebody who knows how to ask questions.

CUOMO: Well, senators know how to ask questions, don't they?

MUKASEY: No. No. Have you watched? They know how to make speeches. They know how to preen.

Do they know how to ask questions? No.

CUOMO: Well, it's supposed to be their constitutional duty. That's what this is all about, right?

MUKASEY: Their constitutional duty is supposed to be to decide. That's what they're there to do, to decide.

How the questions get asked, it seems to me, ought to be for somebody who really knows how to ask questions, and that's a lawyer.

And the second request that she made that I think is a lot worse is the one that says that he goes first, and then I testify, which is inherently ridiculous. I mean, what she's saying is, you defend against my story, and then I'll tell it. That really is the 13th chime on the grandfather clock.

CUOMO: Which makes you question the other 12.

MUKASEY: Correct.

CUOMO: I get the metaphor.

My question is, well, let's try to get in where they're coming from, Katz and the people who are helping her figure this out. They have to be thinking, this is all against you. They do not want you there. They do not like that you exist. They are against you, the people in power.

And, remember, they're not coming here with equal empowerment. Not only is Kavanaugh the darling that they're trying to usher through -- fair enough. It's his confirmation process.

But this is something who is dealing with something that she says was a seminal and scarring event on her, that she doesn't want to talk about. She's not comfortable doing it, let alone on this kind of stage with all these people who seem to be coming from the exact perspective that victims fear most. People who are looking to disbelieve her.

MUKASEY: Although the first domino was toppled by her when she went to the ranking member of that committee.

CUOMO: Anonymously.

MUKASEY: The only way --

CUOMO: There's that look. What does that look mean, Mukasey?

MUKASEY: What that look means is anonymously at first, but she supposedly, as described by her friends, a methodical thinker. She has to have known that the only way to have an effect in what she was saying was for the facts to come out. And the only way for the facts to come out was to have them come out through her.

CUOMO: So we'll see if she gets the extra day and what she decides. Hopefully, I'll have you back next week to help us figure out whatever happens.

Rosenstein, do you believe his denial of "The New York Times" story?

MUKASEY: I haven't seen the precise words. I think it is conceivable that he said it in jest. I wouldn't take it seriously at all.

CUOMO: Would someone as sophisticated as he think that you could actually use the 25th Amendment?

MUKASEY: No. And in point of fact, if you go through what the 25th Amendment says --

CUOMO: And I have.

MUKASEY: -- and I have too.

CUOMO: I know you have.

MUKASEY: It's a lot easier, in fact, to impeach the president.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: Because to impeach the president, all you need is a majority in the House of Representatives and then two-thirds of the Senate.

CUOMO: You need two-thirds of both on this kind of situation.

MUKASEY: Not only that, you have to start out the vice president.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: And a majority of the cabinet.

CUOMO: Right, unless the president does it himself.

MUKASEY: But that paragraph doesn't apply. I think we can agree.

CUOMO: Agreed.

MUKASEY: Here, what you do is you start out with the vice president and a majority of the cabinet. They send a notice to Congress that says the president can't perform his duties.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: He's incompetent. He's incapable of performing his duties.

The president then gets 21 days to respond, and presumably his response is, oh, no, I'm perfectly competent, sound as a dollar. I can perform my duties.

Then you've got to go back and do it again. You've got to get the vice president, the majority of the cabinet to repeat it again. And then it goes to Congress.

CUOMO: Right.

MUKASEY: For a hearing in which you need two-thirds of the Congress.

CUOMO: Not happening.

MUKASEY: I'll say.

CUOMO: Do you think they get rid of Rosenstein?

MUKASEY: And Rosenstein knows. I mean --

CUOMO: Right. So the new theory is that this "New York Times" report -- this is a theory. This is a theory from our friends on the far right. That "The New York Times" set this up to trick Trump into getting rid of Rosenstein and triggering an impeachment process.

MUKASEY: Not beyond the realm of possibility.

CUOMO: Really?

MUKASEY: Look, I don't know whether "The New York Times" set it up or whether McCabe set it up or whether it just sort of happened. But in any event, I think the president would be a fool to fall for it.

CUOMO: So Rosenstein should stay?

Michael Mukasey, so should you. Thank you so much.

MUKASEY: Thank you very much for having me.

CUOMO: For lending us your brain on a Friday night. I'll be seeing you next week, I hope.

MUKASEY: Thanks.

CUOMO: All right?

All right. There is a new CNN investigation tonight into the massive government failures in Hurricane Maria. You know the story about the death toll. It was grossly underestimated. But our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico say the tragedy isn't over, which is actually part of the tragedy, and that more lives are being lost. Leyla Santiago and Bill Weir are here with a preview of the "Storm of

Controversy." That's next.


CUOMO: It's been one year now since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. Nearly 3,000 are dead. The island is still struggling. The president though called his administration's response an unsung success.

So, tonight, CNN is taking a closer look at the response and recovery in a new documentary called "Storm of Controversy." Here's a peek.


BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of the primary missions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparedness. But a federal review has revealed that their supply warehouses were empty. Every tarp and cot that had been sent to the Virgin Islands for Irma. FEMA had only a handful of satellite phones and less than 100 generators on a blacked out island in need of thousands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're out of food. We're running out of food and water.


CUOMO: Leyla Santiago and Bill Weir join us now. They've been on the ground following this crisis every step of the way. It's a job that will to be done because it's not even close to over down there.

Bad before. Worse during. Worst after.

What is the big point for you, Bill, in terms of what you'll learn when you see this documentary?

WEIR: I think it's one of those tests that unfortunately we talked about after the election when things started to go to the polls in this country in terms of where you stood. What happens when a third of the country believes only the president, the other third believes only the press and there's there middle trying to figure out which one is right?

We couldn't agree the size and scope of the tragedy. You know, as we talked about it. We are down there waving and saying, this is big, this is Haiti big, this is, you know, Banda Aceh tsunami big. There's 3 million people here.

But it didn't really sink in until weeks later. To be fair, you can't drive to Puerto Rico to help out the way you could in Florida and Texas after that storm, but there was no comparison in terms of the urgency of the response when the president sat down there next to the governor and said yes, you know, it's not like Katrina. That was a real storm. This is something else.

That set a tone that set up these dominos of long slow motion disaster, right?

CUOMO: They seem to be casualties of an otherism that we're dealing here also. How long did it take people to figure out that Puerto Rico is actually part of America and that those people are Americans?

WEIR: Exactly.

CUOMO: It seemed that gave comfort to some of Trump's supporters and rationalizing it early on.

It's a dirty island. They don't know what they're doing. Their economy, they're broke. Their infrastructure is terrible almost like they deserve this.

How did that resonate with the people there?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I spoke to a woman in Old San Juan that sort of really laid it out. She said it's not that -- because I asked everybody, do you feel like a U.S. citizen even after Maria? And this woman said to me, you know what, it's not that they didn't treat us like a U.S. citizen. It's that we weren't even treated like humans.

That was so powerful to me that it's beyond what your birth certificate says that they felt nobody even cared. Still feel forgotten. It's been a year.

WEIR: In fact, when Leyla and John Sutter, one of CNN's investigative reporters, they sued the Puerto Rican government for access to death records so you could see exactly who was dying and what were the causes and they discovered this outbreak of a waterborne illness that comes when you drink, you know, farm wastewater which people had no choice in there for a month afterwards. John Sutter said he took this to an epidemiologist and said they would have been better if it was a foreign country because then the U.N. would have stepped in, other foreign countries would have stepped in and the response might have been more robust.

CUOMO: You know what? People move on, you have the next tragedy. And you guys are doing the work that demands to be done in the moment. People cannot forget because we will repeat the same mistakes the next time if people don't learn this time and the Trump administration is calling it an unsung success.

Bill Weir, thank you. Leyla Santiago, thank you and both of your teams.

This is a one-hour special. You have to watch it if you say that you care. It's called "Storm of Controversy," and it airs in just a few minutes at 11:00 p.m. Eastern right here obviously on CNN.

All right. That's it for us tonight. Before I go, I have a little announcement for you. On Monday, I'll be on the radio because I have face (ph) for it. It's called "Gets Let's Get After It," and it debuts on SiriusXM satellite radio Monday, every weekday noon to 2:00 because I don't have enough to do -- Channel 124. Now, remember, what really matters is the CNN special "Storm of

Controversy: What Really Happened in Puerto Rico" is next.