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Trump Suggests U.S. Allies are Concerned About Releasing Russia Docs; Trump Questions Why Kavanaugh's Accuser Didn't Call the FBI 36 Years Ago; Michael Cohen's Attorney Reportedly Says Cohen is Giving Information to Mueller's Team. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 21, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: -- assignment this morning. The attorney for Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford says that she will testify, only just not on Monday. Right now Ford's lawyers laying out their terms their client wants before she tells her story to senators, and we are learning right now that two nonstarters on Ford's demands for Senate GOP, one, subpoenaing judge or other witnesses. The Senate does not take subpoena requests from witnesses, I'm told.

And, two, her demand that Kavanaugh testify first and her second. My understanding from Senate GOP staffers is that Ford should testify first to give Kavanaugh the opportunity to respond. Ford claiming that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. Kavanaugh vehemently denying that accusation.

The president showing a fair amount of restraint in recent days including last night -- except last night when talking about Ford.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why didn't somebody call the FBI 36 years ago? I mean, you could also say, when did this all happen? What's going on?


SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Ariane de Vogue. A lot of major developments here, Ariane.

So there was a call last night, Ford's attorneys and Senate staffers to lay out what she's looking for. I imagine begin something of a negotiation. What did we learn first of all from her side?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, right. The negotiations are now on. They had this call. And then afterwards, CNN obtained this e-mail that she sent afterwards to sort of lay it out. And the one deal breaker is she's not prepared to testify on Monday. And in this e-mail she explained why. She says it's simply not possible for her to prepare. At the same time, she needs to take the appropriate security precautions in the face of the avalanche of threats that she's been receiving. So that's why Monday is out of the question. But she did say some

things are on the table to be negotiated. First of all, she wants to talk about the safety of her client, safety of Ford. She wants to say that Ford should not be questioned by an outside lawyer. It's got to be the senators on the committee.

SCIUTTO: Because there have been some discussion of the GOP senators who happened to all be all white men.

DE VOGUE: Right.

SCIUTTO: Of bringing in a female attorney to do the questioning.

DE VOGUE: Exactly. And she wants it done like the rest of the hearing was done and she doesn't want the outside counsel. She said that she thinks that Kavanaugh should go first and not second, and that might be a sticking point.

SCIUTTO: Which, to be fair, is the way trials -- and this is not a trial, but the way that they work because it gives the accused a chance to respond to their accuser. Is that right?

DE VOGUE: Right.


DE VOGUE: And that's going to be a sticking point. And then she also, as you said, she thinks there should be more witnesses. For instance, Mark Judge, the guy who was allegedly in the room should be subpoenaed. That's what she's putting forward. That's what she wants to talk to them about. And then also she wants some clarification. What are the procedures going to be? How many rounds might there be of questioning? What's the scope?


DE VOGUE: And then lastly think about, she doesn't want Kavanaugh in the same room at the same time as her client. And so those are --


DE VOGUE: That's what they're talking about.

SCIUTTO: So that's Ford's side here, her attorney. So I have spoke to a senior GOP staffer just a few moments ago who said that their two nonstarters, one, this idea of subpoenaing Mark Judge or other witnesses. The staffer makes a point that, listen, we don't take subpoena requests from witnesses. That's just not done. And then on the issue of her testifying second.

DE VOGUE: Right.

SCIUTTO: They call that a nonstarter as well. What's interesting is on the date, though, it seems that that's still in discussion, which would seem to indicate some flexibility on the part of Republicans about Monday. DE VOGUE: Absolutely about Monday. But they are very concerned about

the timing of this. Kavanaugh wanted to get out right away and tell his story. They did not want this to go on too long. So maybe not Monday, but they're going to be talking about it soon after.

SCIUTTO: And there's a political calendar to keep in mind as always on this.

Ariane de Vogue, thanks very much.

The president tweeting about Brett Kavanaugh just moments ago. Abby Phillip has more from the White House.

We heard his comments, Abby, last night during the rally. What did he have to say on Twitter just now?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim. Well, President Trump seems to be pivoting a little bit in how he is dealing with this issue. He is tweeting this morning and criticizing his political allies for the attack on Kavanaugh. He said, "Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a fine man with an impeccable reputation who is under assault by radical left-wing politicians who don't want to know the answers. They just want to destroy and delay. Facts don't matter. I go through this with them every single day in D.C."

Now this comes after President Trump spent much of the week trying conspicuously to avoid attacking Kavanaugh's accuser. And he's still doing a similar thing in this tweet, but is now pivoting towards the Democrats, accusing them of launching a political attack on his nominee.

And there is also a new interesting development happening both among White House staffers and among allies of Kavanaugh. This new potential theory that there might be a case of mistaken identity and why Ford is accusing Kavanaugh.

[09:05:07] So I think we're seeing a little bit of a change here in how the White House has positioned themselves on this issue. They are being a little bit more strongly focused on questioning the motivations of the accuser and perhaps the motivation of Democrats who support her in this endeavor to testify under her own terms next week -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Certainly sounds less restrained. Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Molly Ball, she's CNN political analyst, chief political correspondent Dana Bash and Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst.

Dana, if I can begin with you, looking at the president's tweets there also his comments at the rally last night raising these questions, saying, well, why didn't she go to the FBI all these years ago, sounds like -- either running out of patience perhaps or a change in strategy? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Both. Both. Running

out of patience so there is a change in strategy. I noticed in that tweet that Abby just showed us that the president sent out this morning. He did not repeat that why didn't she come out 36 years ago. And the focus was and is now on the Democrats, which is more of a political terra firma for the president.

I mean, that comment that he made about why didn't she come out 36 years ago, that is going to have every woman who has even known somebody, never mind had an experience where they have been afraid or for, you know, umpteen reasons didn't come out real time say, really, you really don't get it, Mr. President.


BASH: When it comes to the Democrats, that's something that men and women, because of their political persuasion, can understand which is why that seemed to be the focus this morning. If he repeats what he said to Sean Hannity last night, that's going to be a problem. There's no question. I'm hearing that from Republicans.

SCIUTTO: Now the other, Molly Ball, somewhat alarming attack, not so veiled attack, frankly, on Ford is this trope that's being distributed now that perhaps she has a case of mistaken identity. I don't want to go on into too much detail because I just don't like repeating what is such a flimsy thing. I'm only bringing it up because Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to the president, brought it up with my colleague Chris Cuomo last night. Let's have a listen.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Is it possible that they're both right? Is it possible that something terrible happened to her?


CONWAY: As she describes it -- excuse me.

CUOMO: I agreed with you.

CONWAY: And that Judge Kavanaugh was not there. That he wasn't involved.

CUOMO: I just agreed with you.

CONWAY: Is that possible?

CUOMO: That is possible.


SCIUTTO: Now that actually is -- this clip there is a question, but part of this is coming from a conservative who tweeted out this idea that maybe it was this other guy in high school that they looked like. Now when that gets repeated by advisers to the president, that becomes a more serious attack, does it not?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I agree. It is irresponsible for people to be repeating what is completely unverified, there is no evidence for this. It's essentially a product of the rumor mill and it's an attempt to sow doubt based on nothing. Right? If there is evidence I'm -- you know, all this week we've been wondering if there is going to be more evidence to come out, you know, her calling for an FBI investigation, appearing to believe that there could be evidence out there that would substantiate her claim. His allies hoping that there could be evidence out there that would help to exonerate him. So far there has not been any new information and so to continue to speculate about, frankly, imaginary scenarios is just trying to, I think, cast doubt.

SCIUTTO: Not to mention on Twitter to accuse someone else of --

BALL: To actually name the person.


BALL: I mean, there is no evidence it's the case.

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey Toobin, let's talk a little bit about now what is essentially a negotiation between Ford and the Senate GOP. They had a phone call last night. They're communicating now. That's progress. She laid out some demands here. Can't do Monday. Want to speak second after Kavanaugh. Want to call witnesses.

Now I've spoken to folks on the Judiciary Committee who said a couple of those are not going to do. She -- you know, you've got to hear from her first, give him a chance to respond, et cetera.

Looking at this, do you see the two sides coming together so that we're going to see this testimony next week?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I do. I think this is dramatically different from the perspectives we heard just a few days ago, particularly from Miss Ford's side that -- you know, that the disagreements between the two sides seem well within the range that people can settle. I think the Judiciary Committee having kept a seat open for a year instead of giving Merrick Garland a vote could hardly be in the position of saying, well, we'll do it Monday, but Thursday is out of the question. I mean, I think a delay of a few days is certainly within the realm of possibility.

[09:10:02] But I do think the committee, for better or worse, is not going to call other witnesses and I think that is going to be a non- negotiable demand on the part of the committee. But in terms of how the questioning works, who's present in the room, who goes first, I mean, those strike me as points that the two sides can settle one way or the other.


TOOBIN: And it really does look at this point like we will hear testimony from Miss Ford next week at some point. SCIUTTO: Dana, you of course speak to a number of lawmakers on the

Hill and you're in touch with the president's lawyers, et cetera. Folks in the White House. What is your read of where they stand on this now? Do you, as Jeffrey Toobin see it.

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: That they're going to come to an agreement next week? And we're going to see, what is a remarkable prospect of seeing a woman sit before the Senate under oath and make this -- share this account.

BASH: Right. I agree with Jeffrey for sure that it looks much more likely that there is going to be testimony. The e-mail that the -- that Miss Ford's attorney sent to the committee yesterday was clearly intended to get to yes and the fact that this Judiciary Committee has been receptive means that it's very likely that they're going to get there and makes it even harder for the Republicans on the committee to say no at this point.


BASH: But let's just fast forward to that point. And I keep kind of bringing this up because when we get to that point, if we get to that point, you have one person saying one thing, presumably if they're assuming that Brett Kavanaugh is not going to change his story, and emphatically denying it, and we're still going to be in a place where it's he said-she said and it's going to be up to these senators to decide whom they believe.


BASH: And it's going to be very, very tough.

SCIUTTO: That, Molly, is a fantastic point. That, Molly, still puts senators in a difficult position there because if you hear two credible people, right, make two contradictory accounts, what do senators do, right? I mean, you have -- you're not in their head, but it's going to be tough. This idea that, yes, they come to agreement and she testifies, everything is settled. No, the bigger question, frankly, is what you do after the testimony.

BALL: Well, but that's why you have the testimony.


BALL: Because we don't know what they're going to say. We don't know how they're going to respond to a host of unanswered questions for both of them about the alleged incident in question. And so that's why this -- these senators feel that this testimony ought to take place. It's not just who looks credible, right, who sounds credible by some amorphous standard. It does somebody get caught in a lie? Does somebody say something that is or is not believable based on something concrete?

And so, you know, we can't fast forward to after the testimony before the testimony has actually occurred because that means something. It does matter to have people actually come forward and answer questions.

SCIUTTO: OK. All right. We're going to have to leave it there for now.

Jeffrey Toobin, I know you're coming back. Thanks, Molly and Dana.

Coming up, looking ahead, a stark reversal. The president suggesting that key allies might have a problem with him declassifying a slew of Russia documents. Will he now hold some of those documents back?

Plus, hours of interviews. The attorney for the president's former so-called fixer, Michael Cohen, says that his client provided critical information to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. What this means for the investigation and for the president.

And we're just weeks before the midterms and Google says that the personal G-mail accounts of senators have been targeted by foreign government hackers. We'll have the latest.


[09:15:00] JIM SCIUTTO, HOST, NEWSROOM: Welcome back. A possible concession by President Trump just four days after telling the Department of Justice to immediately declassify information related to the Russia investigation. The president now says that he's hearing from worried U.S. allies and suggests that he may reconsider.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're moving along, we're working along. We're also dealing with foreign countries that do have a problem. I must tell you, I got called today from two very good allies saying, please, can we talk? So it's not as simple as all that. And we do have to respect their wishes, but it will all come out.


SCIUTTO: We'll have to see what that means from the president, respecting their wishes. Let's discuss with Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, he's a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: Good morning, thank you.

SCIUTTO: So you heard the president there, we know that the domestic Intelligence community was uncomfortable with a broad release of these documents. They have been demanding some retractions.

Now, we know that U.S. allies uncomfortable. When you heard the president there say, listen, I'm hearing them, you know, we'll see what's going to happen, is that a concession in your view? Do you consider that a good sign?

QUIGLEY: I see it as a good sign, I don't know if the president makes concessions. Let me begin by saying, as a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, a full review of the Carter Page application for a FISA warrant would let people know that they did absolutely nothing wrong.

And, in fact, the FBI and the Department of Justice would have been negligent, not pursuing the warrant on Carter Page to further investigate the possibility, the very real possibility that he was becoming an agent of a foreign power.

But the president has disregarded the warnings, previous warnings by our Intel community and DOJ that revealing these sources and methods is dangerous to those sources and the entire process and would hinder national security. The fact that our allies telling the president that this is a concern wakes the president up is indeed surprising.

[09:20:00] Because if it endangers U.S. security and it's always America first for the president, why would the fact that our allies are concerned -- bring about these concerns.

So, look, I'm happy that he's considering this, I think the damage has been done to a certain extent. I think that what the public should take from this in addition is we are all in this together. We share critical information with our allies, our allies share info that keeps us safe and vice versa.

They recognize the dangers here, hopefully, we're listening.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and to be clear, the president has not said he's going to release none of the documents, just that perhaps he's going to make some redactions or changes to accommodate just as he does -- just as the U.S. Intelligence community is demanding.

I wonder if you're concerned that the president's intention here is to release materials selectively to undermine an investigation in which he is involved and his allies are involved.

QUIGLEY: Well, that's exactly what he's doing because it's exactly what he's done. The first chapter in the president's mission here has always been to distract the American public from an investigation that hurts him legally and politically.

If we recall, it began with the wild accusation that President Obama was wiretapping Trump Tower.


QUIGLEY: And then there were allegations of spying in the trump campaign which were ridiculous and unfounded. Then there is the infamous Nunes memo which was called "Reckless and Dangerous" in its release of classified information by the Department of Justice and the Intel community.

That memo was put together with the White House. So it's clear that the president's intention was to be less concerned about national security and more concerned with an investigation which is getting closer and closer to the Oval Office. SCIUTTO: Let me ask you now about a different topic. Of course, a

major topic of the day which is the testimony of Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, current negotiations underway, strong possibility now next week. The president at his rally last night in Las Vegas raised something that is effectively questioning the credibility and even the motivations of Ford.

He asked why didn't someone call the FBI 36 years ago? What's your reaction to that comment?

QUIGLEY: You know, I think it's hard for the president or anyone else on the outside of this incident to understand people's motivations. We have learned a long time ago that a lot of people who are victims of such assaults suppress this information or for a variety of reasons don't come forward. I have no idea.

And it's not for me to judge. The fact of the matter, though, is that this is an extremely serious allegation and the FBI vets these applications. I think it's in -- this is important for the FBI to allow -- be allowed to investigate this situation as well as the testimony to go forward.

We know that these justices wield incredible power. The most important decisions of our lifetime now seem to be decided in 5 to 4 decisions, right? The fact that one person was elected president of the United States over another one. The fact that this one justice can make the decision on whether or not a law is found unconstitutional.

There's too much at stake. Let the investigation go forward, let the testimony go forward.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. Let's say that the testimony does go forward next week under conditions acceptable to both sides if perhaps both sides don't get everything they want. Still at that point, senators will then have to vote -- likely hearing contradictory accounts of what happened those 36 years ago.

If you, if Democrats in the house are not satisfied with what they see and Kavanaugh -- it goes forward and he is confirmed, would you consider a congressional investigation of Kavanaugh in the next term, presumably this would be if Democrats retake the house. Would you investigate a sitting --

QUIGLEY: Well --

SCIUTTO: Justice if you're not satisfied?

QUIGLEY: Look, it really depends on a whole variety of things. Not the least of which is if the FBI is allowed to complete their investigation, I think on this and any other investigation that goes forward, including the Russia investigation as part offer that.

The investigation as to whether the GS -- what role the GSA and the White House played and the decision on the FBI building, and clearly this investigation. I think at that time we decide what gaps are there, what needs to be done? I don't want the American public to think our job is to go in there in a manner in which the Republicans did their investigations, we would go forward.

[09:25:00] We're going to do the right thing, we're going to investigate what needs to be investigated and we're going to do it the right way.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Mike Quigley, thanks very much for taking the time.

QUIGLEY: Any time, thank you much.

SCIUTTO: Well, as we were just speaking there, the president has tweeted again and maybe fair to say gloves are off as far as Dr. Ford is concerned. I'm going to read the tweet in full, he said the following -- he tweeted the following: "I have no doubt that if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities by either her or her loving parents.

I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time and place!" Exclamation point. We have Jeffrey Toobin back now. Jeffrey, the president showing some restraint, even it seems reveling in the reviews of the restraint he's shown.

But now, I mean, that's a broad side on Ford.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is, and let's just keep in mind that this woman was -- this woman. This girl was 15 years old at the time of this alleged incident. So what he's saying is this 15-year- old girl should have made this report.

I mean, the fact that he is assuming that that is what any normal person would have done shows a complete lack of understanding about how these events are experienced by young women. The fact that there is a tremendous amount of shame, uncertainty, fear about reporting incidents like this, especially by someone as young as 15.

You know, this just shows that they are going to go after her and attack her and attack her behavior and her motives and her behavior in the same way they went after Anita Hill, that this is getting closer and closer to what happened in 1991.

SCIUTTO: We have Abby Phillip at the White House as well. Abby, a marked change in tact from the president, a remarkable one here. What happened?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, a change that was foreshadowed last night when he appeared at a rally and spoke with "Fox News'" Sean Hannity and questioned why the FBI wasn't alerted to this 36 years ago.

Jim, this is exactly what the White House has been dreading for days now. They have been surprised, according to our sources, by the president's restraint up until this point. But now he's doing exactly what they had hoped that he wouldn't do by suggesting that perhaps as Jeffrey just mentioned, a 15-year-old girl should have gone to the FBI about something that happened to her at a party that according to her, she never told anybody about for a long time until she was in counseling.

So I think the president here is opening the door to a new kind of attack on this accuser that questions her motivations for coming forward, that perhaps suggests that maybe the -- that she's lying, that the incident doesn't happen. Up until --


PHILLIP: This point, the president was saying he wants to hear her side of the story, that he wants to hear what she has to say. He's not saying that anymore, and I think that's a big difference, and frankly, it's one that the White House hoped he wouldn't go there and just left this up to the Senate to kind of adjudicate the claims that were put out there -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Right, and this is what you sadly see so often, which is attacking the accuser in cases such as this. Abby Phillip, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.

Critical information -- Michael Cohen's attorney reportedly says that the president's former fixer just sat down for hours with Robert Mueller's team. What does he know? And what this means for the probe and the president.