Return to Transcripts main page


CNN: GOP Counteroffer to Ford Calls for Wednesday Hearing; Biden to Senate: Threat Ford With Respect; Ultimate Battleground: Colorado's 6th District; Cruz, O'Rourke Face Off in First Texas Senate Debate. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 21, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- the whole goal here at least initially in saying it should be someone independent of the senators because there are all men on the Republican side and they understand the optics of that are delicate to see the least.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Delicate is a very kind way of putting it. I mean, it's not only that they're all men, it's that even some Republican strategists have told me in the past couple of days that these are people who don't always have the best track record for sensitivity with dealing with these kinds of issues. And you could see a hearing like this, particularly Democrats will be trying to go with Republicans into creating a viral moment where it just shows a tone deafness when it comes to, you know, the air we're living in.

And this is not Anita Hill. This is Me Too missile that was plumped -- that landed squarely in the middle of Congress. And it's an extremely delicate -- it's a extremely delicate topic, it's a topic that's really, you know, hit a touch stone in American cultural life right now. And it's also happening what, less than 50 days which our count now before the midterms.

BASH: Forty-six.

LERER: Forty-six. Forty-six. So, it's a delicate topic at a delicate time and they are trying to abdicate a little bit what I think probably is their responsibility by having someone outside come in.

BASH: And I just want to read this to you. We just got this into CNN. A source close to Christine Blasey Ford said she will talk to the FBI today in San Francisco about death threats against her. The investigation is not looking into the allegations regarding Kavanaugh, just the threats that she has received.

I mean, that is an -- a backdrop and a reality that we cannot forget. That one of the terms that she had to put in here which is really horrible that she had to do this, is her safety. And this is an example of how bad it is.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It speaks to the emotion and the intensity of this moment. She is saying she is getting threats. I think you guys reported others have as well that Judge Kavanaugh's wife has received some very, you know, vicious e- mails. So the emotions are running so high.

And I think to Lisa's point about how it's not Anita Hill anymore, it isn't and everything is so informed by it. Everyone is so -- I think all these lawmakers --

BASH: There are parallels.

LUCEY: And there are still people who on the committee who were there in 1991. So -- and there still are no Republican women on the Judiciary Committee. So they are very mindful of what that created and what it looks like in this moment.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: So this is actual she wanted some extra time, right? She said, you know, she was afraid to go home, she kind of had to keep her family safe and she wanted some extra time, they give her the deadline of Monday. And they seem to be negotiating that and getting close.

But this is a really rough image for Republicans. Eleven Republican men on that committee, no women led by two octogenarians and Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch. The Democrats are going to have four women including prosecutors, Kamala Harris is going to be one of them. Amy Klobuchar is going to be one of them.

You know, Republicans want to look forward to this and you add to the fact that Mitch McConnell is essentially saying something that could certainly be viewed as prejudging the outcome of this when he says he's going to be on the Supreme Court, don't get rattled, we're going to run this through.

BASH: And then you have the president today on Twitter questioning her credibility.

LERER: And I think you make a really good point. Right. There are really good political reasons for both parties to want this woman to testify but in the end it comes down to her. Like, you know, her life is already probably pretty unrecognizable and it's going to look nothing -- her life will never be the same if she takes the stand. And that is a serious decision that she has to make.

BASH: And I just got a text making a suggestion to -- something to post and so I'll post it here. Whether or not there is a woman who would be the woman that Republicans would pick as their independent lawyer to question? And would they have trouble finding that woman?

LERER: (INAUDIBLE) split in the party. Like you've seen some conservative women come out on a different side of this than some of the men in the party. So it is a really good question. I'm not sure I know the answer. Maybe these guys have something.

KAPUR: Yes. I mean, they don't have names. My understanding is they weren't that far along in the process so it's more that they had agreed that this was something they look forward -- I'm not -- there are lot of talented female lawyers who are Republicans that Republicans would want to get.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are. There are lot of them.

KAPUR: The most important caveat that I've heard repeatedly is it's not just go find a female lawyer and bring her up. They specifically want to find somebody who has experience in sexual assault cases and sexual assault issues, understands the questions they're asking and why they're asking those questions and what they're trying to get out of them.

And in that sense, I get the optics. Obviously, that's a very clear and apparent issue that's going on here. But finding somebody who knows what they're asking about and knows the questions to ask and understands the sensitivity of the questions that they're asking I think is an important thing.

BASH: Manu, weigh in from the Hill. I know you probably had time to do your Manu tricks and reports with eyes in the back of your head and all the things that you do to get information.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the one thing that they are still deciding on who will be that outside counsel to question. I was told by a source just before coming on air that they were looking -- that there are several names that they're still looking at.

[12:35:06] There of course women outside counsels that they want to bring in but some men too. But of course they're leaning (INAUDIBLE) looking into bringing female outside counsel. But that clearly seems to be something that they really, really want to do. So we'll see how much the Ford camp ultimately -- whether they accept this or not because the Republicans recognize just how bad the optics could be with 11 men asking questions in what would be a very contentious hearing.

So, that is going to be one of the big questions for the Democrats and the Ford camp for the rest of the day here.

BASH: Absolutely. And I was told that even if they do agree upon somebody who is independent and not a senator that you should not rule out senators actually doing the job and asking the questions as we normally see.

Everybody stand by. We talked about Anita Hill and the fact that people are still shuddering from the way she was approached and she was questioned all those years ago. Joe Biden, the former vice president was one of those senators on the committee. A very important senator on this committee. He weighed in on the tumultuous week ahead and about what happened, sharing lessons that he learned from the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. Stay with us.


[12:40:55:] BASH: Topping the political radar today, President Trump is now suggesting that some of those Russia investigation documents he just ordered declassified would have to remain under wraps for a while. He tweeted that while the declassification process is moving right along, some key U.S. allies have expressed concerns which could complicate things and he said some Justice Department officials worry releasing un-redacted documents may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. The president called for the declassification earlier this week presumably to expose alleged bias against him in the Russia investigation.

And former Vice President Joe Biden who served for more than four decades in the U.S. Senate has some advice for senators ahead of Brett Kavanaugh's accuser's testimony. He spoke this morning on NBC.


JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope that they understand what courage it takes for someone to come forward and relive what they believe happened to them. And let them be treated with respect. Ask tough questions, ask substantive questions. Where were you, what said -- who said what, et cetera. But don't go after the -- not the character assassination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like you get it now versus back in '91.

BIDEN: Well, I think I got it in '91. I don't think it --well, people have their own opinion. That's why I wrote the Violence Against Women Act.


BASH: Biden is referring there to the 1991 Senate grilling of Clarence Thomas's accuser, Anita Hill after which Biden who presided over the hearing was widely criticized. Anita Hill says Biden still owes her an apology.

Up next, I'll take you the ultimate 2018 battleground where the lessons of 2016 are looming large.


[12:46:55] BASH: We are just 46 days from the midterm elections and the question obviously is will Democrats take over Congress especially the House in November? Well, Colorado's sixth congressional district is the ultimate battleground so we paid a visit there earlier this week.


BASH (voice-over): A visit with the Chinese community. A Hispanic church.

(Foreign Language)

BASH (voice-over): An Ethiopian celebration.

(Foreign Language)

BASH (voice-over): All in one afternoon. The break neck pace, being there for his district is Republican Congressman Mike Coffman's calling card.

REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: I'm not your Republican congressman. I'm your congressman. And I just want them to see me and they do now not as a partisan player.

BASH (voice-over): Coffman defied the odds before. In 2016, he won by eight points despite Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump here by nine.

(on camera) This suburban Colorado district has been a battleground for years, one Democrat have lost. And they say if they can win this year, it's a good indicator they can take back the House.

(Voice-over) The Democrat --

JASON CROW (D), COLORADO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a career politician. I have been spending my life trying to get elected.

BASH (voice-over): -- combat veteran and first time politician Jason Crow is running a classic 2018 race learned from 2016 lessons.

CROW: Now is a defining struggle for our democracy and the defining election of our lifetimes.

BASH (voice-over): Won against Washington even his own party leaders.

(on camera) If you're elected, no way, no how you will not vote for Nancy Pelosi either as speaker or if Democrats don't take majority as Democratic leader?

CROW: That's right. I will not vote for Nancy Pelosi.

BASH (voice-over): Who says this year's game changer is President Trump.

(on camera) For four cycles, Democrats have been trying to topple Mike Coffman. What makes you think you're the one who's going to turn this district blue?

CROW: We live in a very different world than we live in just two years ago. Donald Trump is president of the United States.

BASH (voice-over): Many in this immigrant-rich district are worried about Trump policies. Many suburbanites here disgusted by Trump's tone. Crow's strategy is hardly subtle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Coffman voting with Trump 96 percent of the time.

BASH (on camera): You are hanging Donald Trump around Mike Coffman's neck like an albatross.

CROW: Well, he needs to be accountable for breaking a promise to the people of this district.

BASH (on camera): How much of (INAUDIBLE) on you here? CROW: Well, it doesn't now. It's less about his policies and it's about his tone. You know, college-educated men and women just really are offended by his tone.

BASH (on camera): Maybe more than any other race this year, it is all about independents here. They outnumber both Democrats and Republicans in this district.

(on camera) You're not affiliated?


BASH (on camera): Not a Democrat, not a Republican.

M. BRACKNEY: Not anymore.

JOHN BRACKNEY, INDEPENDENT VOTER, COLORADO'S 6TH DISTRICT: And we both came unaffiliated a couple years ago.

BASH (voice-over): John and Meredith Brackney were Republicans, they're now independents. They left the party because of Trump.

BASH (on camera): Is this a protest vote?

M. BRACKNEY: Kind of. Yes. Yes. I mean, there are some Democrats that I actually like and there are some Republicans that I like, but I'm pretty much voting all blue.

[12:50:05] BASH (on camera): He is leaning Republican, knows and likes Coffman but --

J. BRACKNEY: My disappointment against in the president is so significant that I want to vote all the way down the ticket against Republicans.

BASH (on camera): And you might do that?

J. BRACKNEY: It's conceivable.

BASH (voice-over): Coffman says his best chance is deep ties to active large ethnic communities like Ethiopians who praise him for helping fight human rights abuses back home.

DEACON YOSEPH TAFARI, EXILED ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX HOLY SYNOD: I know the Ethiopian community, you have sought your allegiance to Congressman Coffman.

BASH (voice-over): The former marine says he does 500 push-ups a day to keep up his stamina.

(on camera) Drop and give me 20.

COFFMAN: Yes, here we go.

BASH (on camera): Is anybody counting? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am.



BASH (voice-over): Tireless drive which this year may not be enough.


BASH: Mattingly, you're ready for your push-ups?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, you said you were going first. And then if you got to a 100 then I could participate.

BASH: We've a lot more to talk about.

Up next, Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke are facing off in their very first debate in Texas. Could it decide a surprisingly tight race there?


[12:55:53] BASH: And this is just in to CNN. We reported earlier this hour from sources on the Republican side that the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee had a conference call and they decided that their offer on this hearing with Brett Kavanaugh's accuser would be next week on Wednesday, two witnesses only. First, it would be Christine Blasey Ford following Brett Kavanaugh with an outside counsel. An independent lawyer, somebody who's not a senator to at least start the questioning while we are now hearing Democratic concerns over that proposal, particularly Senate Democratic aides tells CNN's Manu Raju, quote, outside counsel does not vote on Kavanaugh, senators do. Republicans need to do their jobs and not hide.

We're going to have a lot more on that coming up as this develops.

Meanwhile, a showdown in Dallas is happening tonight. Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic representative Beto O'Rourke are facing off on the debate stage for the very first time. A recent polling showing a very, very tight race. Energized Democrats are sparking GOP fears of an upset in deep red Texas.

But a new Quinnipiac poll this week found Cruz pulling ahead among likely voters by a comfortable nine points. Fifty-four to 45 percent. Of those likely voters, 93 percent say their minds are made up about whom to vote for with just seven percent saying they might still change their minds between now and Election Day.

Now with three debates scheduled, the question is, can the Democrat, O'Rourke, win over voters and regain the momentum or will Cruz put this race to bed once and for all.

This is such a fascinating race for so many reasons. Namely, this is not supposed to be a race. The person who wins the Republican primary in Texas is supposed to have smooth sailing to Election Day for the general election and that's not happening now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's remarkably close.

BASH: Not expecting the discovery.

LUCEY: I think one of the things we've heard some grumbles from Republicans privately about, you know, how he didn't take it as seriously as perhaps he should have earlier on. Obviously they are now. But the debates definitely give O'Rourke an opportunity to, you know, create a viral moment.

BASH: And, you know, we can say until we are blue in the face, candidates matter. But in this case it is about the candidate mattering on the Democratic side. Beto O'Rourke has been somebody who has kind of been the darling of the Democrats this year. He has raised so much money. He's out raised Ted Cruz to the tune of $23.6 million for O'Rourke, $13.2 million for Ted Cruz. Outside spending on both sides is overwhelming.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And let's get some straight. Ted Cruz can raise money. If you look back at the president's campaign, if you look back at his past Senate campaigns, he does not struggle raising money. And so the margin has been stunning.

I will say the most interesting element about having a debate is Ted Cruz is pretty good at debates. He's got a history of them here. And if you don't think he's not loaded up with the tack lines whether related to barbecue or skateboarding or any other thing, you're going to be mistaken. But I think it's going to be a fascinating contrast to finally see them together on stage having a real debate.

BASH: And the last time there was a Democratic senator from Texas, 1988, Lloyd Bentsen.

Right. Exactly right. And if O'Rourke is able to pull this off which, you know, a lot of people are still skeptical that he will, he will be a national star immediately. And that will have implications -- could have implications for the 2020 presidential race.

KAPUR: One quick point on where Democrats are sweating this a little bit. O'Rourke is, you know, pretty well neck and neck in the polls. They believe he has a shot at this but his number among Hispanic at the Quinnipiac poll you talked about, he's only at 54 percent. The Democratic operative (INAUDIBLE) say he needs to get the number way up well into the 60s if not higher if he really wants a shot at Ted Cruz.

BASH: All right, everybody, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you, Phil, being my reporting partner in crime as always.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it is fun.

BASH: It's really fun.

Thank you so much for joining us on the INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here Sunday at 8 a.m. Eastern. Wolf starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington. Thanks very much --