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Supreme Turmoil - GOP Sets 2:30 PM ET Deadline for Ford to Negotiate Hearing Terms; Trump Unleashes on Kavanaugh's Accuser after Days of Restraint; Trump Presidency - Trump Vows to Rid DOJ, FBI of "Lingering Stench;" Sources: Deputy AG Rosenstein Discussed 25th Amendment and Secretly Regarding Trump after Comey Firing in 2017; Texas Senate Race between Cruz, O'Rourke Heats Up; President Trump to Hold a Rally for Cruz in October; Pompeo to Iran: U.S. Will Take "Direct Action" For Any Attack; Changing Their Communities By Learning to Code; "Parts Unknown" on CNN Tomorrow At 9 P.M. ET. Aired 12-1p EDT

Aired September 22, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right, hello again everyone. Thanks so much for joining the Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We're just hours away now from the latest deadline set for Christine Blasey Ford. She is accusing U. S. Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sex well and physical assault back when they were in high school. Ford and Republicans are locked in a tense back-and-forth as they attempt to hammer out details for a possible hearing next week where both sides could share their story. If Ford's attorneys do not respond by 2:30 p.m. this afternoon with terms for her testimony the Committee said it will vote Monday on Kavanaugh's nomination.

Tensions are high, Ford's husband in a tell-all interview to "The Washington Post" says his wife moved to California to reinvent her life but it wasn't far enough and when Kavanaugh's name was mentioned for the U. S. Supreme Court, he recalls and I'm quoting now, the husband of Ms. Ford, she was like, "I can't deal with this. If he becomes the nominee then I'm moving to another country. I cannot live in this country if he's in the Supreme Court." "She wanted out."

CNN's Boris Sanchez joins us now from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, not far from where the president is this weekend, so where do things stand right now in terms of negotiations from the White House point of view?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there Freddie. President Trump is yet to weigh in on this latest deadline, the third in just a 24-hour time period. We learned about this new deadline from Senator Chuck Grassley on Twitter last night, he tweeted out, what read like an apology to Brett Kavanaugh saying that he's usually not this indecisive.

As you know, Fred initially, the deadline was 5:00 p.m. yesterday, then it was 10 p.m., now it's 2:30 today and Christine Blasey Ford's attorneys believe that Chuck Grassley should be apologizing to her. They put out a statement saying that, all of these fake deadlines, these arbitrary deadlines are making her life very difficult. Here's the exact wording from Debra Katz, Christine Blasey Ford's Attorney, she writes, quote, "The position of aggressive and artificial deadlines regarding the date and conditions of any hearing has created tremendous and unwarranted anxiety and stress on Dr. Ford. Your cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor who has been doing her best to cooperate with the Committee is completely inappropriate."

Just goes to show how far these sides are on the issues as far as Christine Blasey Ford's testimony and the conditions for them.

Just one thing to point out is specifically when any testimony may take place. Republicans wanted her to testify as early as Monday. Her attorneys are saying, she can testify no earlier than Thursday.

The other question is who is going to be asking her questions during her potential testimony. Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have outlined that they would like an outside counsel to direct questions toward her, something that her attorneys do not like. Sources indicate that they would prefer that senators themselves ask questions of her.

The other big question mark here is who will go first, senate Republicans have asked that Christine Blasey Ford testify before Brett Kavanaugh. Her attorneys want it the other way around, they want their client to have the last word.

As to where President Trump stands on this, he was at a rally in Springfield, Missouri last night and he made clear what his desired outcome would be. Listen to this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: A Senator, good guy, said to me the other day, it was very interesting president, we were talking about frankly Judge Kavanaugh. And I said, "We have to fight for him, not worry about the other side," and by the way women are for that more than anybody would understand.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Now Fred shortly after these allegations from Christine Blasey Ford came forward CNN got reporting from inside the White House that aides were worried that President Trump may wade into this argument and question her credibility. He put that off for several days until yesterday when he questioned whether she would've come forward, when these allegations took place, some 30-odd years ago. The president has not wade in again yet on these 2:30 p.m. deadline today. The clock is ticking, we'll see what the president says Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

Alright let's talk about this, joining me right now CNN's Supreme Court Reporter, Ariane de Vogue; Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, Larry Sabato; and CNN Legal Analyst Renato Mariotti. Good to see all. Alright so Renato you first, you know, Ford and her lawyer say this is bullying and this 2:30 p.m. deadline for today you know, is arbitrary. Is this adding more undue pressure and stress to this alleged victim?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST RENATO MARIOTTI: Well I will tell you, in my experience and I had many, many cases in which I interviewed victims, many times I had to prepare them for trial. I had times where victims were crying and had trouble just getting themselves together to sit with me and FBI agents for an interview.

I would never treat somebody this way. I would never be trying to push them. I -- Larry can explain better than I can the political implications but it seems to me that the elections 45 days off, you can wait a day or two or three for this lady, give her the time to get herself together and prepare and have her statement ready to go. I don't understand why they're trying to push things along in this manner. It's -- it's the sort of thing that would get me fired when I was a prosecutor.

WHITFIELD: And Ariane, Senator Grassley is saying you know, two different things. He saying let's move on and then you know, I want to listen to her. He's also threatening to hold you know, Kavanaugh's confirmation vote on Monday if Ford doesn't respond to -- today's deadline so you know, what's the message that's being sent here?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well Fred, the exchanges between Ford's lawyers and the Committee are really very angry and Grassley feels like he's being accommodating. He feels like Ford has already told her story, once to "The Washington Post" and he feels like he's being accommodating.

Whereas Ford's lawyers are saying you know, we're not asking for that much. They said early in the week, the Monday deadline was a deal breaker, they came up with conditions and they wanted Kavanaugh to go first, and they -- and they recognized that there is one interesting issue here Fred, and that is the Republican side of that committee has no women and so they -- what they want to say, "look, no outside counsel."

Grassley came back and said, "I will be accommodating. I will move this to Wednesday but Kavanaugh has a right to respond," so that won't go and they said that, "we have a right to call a female lawyer."

WHITFIELD: Yes.

DE VOGUE: So really, we've seen -- it's getting sort of increasingly bitter back and forth...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

DE VOGUE: ... and the clock is ticking. This is coming up soon and we're talking about next week.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And so Larry, you know, Ariane underscored that there are no women on the Republican side of the Senate Judiciary Committee, there are four Democratic women but then you know, you talk about the potential outcome that this might have on Republicans as a whole and the midterm elections in terms of how this is being handled, not just during testimony if it even happens but right now, people are watching you know, to see you know, how compassionate or lack thereof you know, this process is.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR POLITICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Yes. This is an explosive subject for the midterms Fred whichever way it goes but I think the dangers are much greater for Republicans. The elections are only about six weeks away, 45, 46, days away which is a very short period of time.

This is clearly going to continue for at least a little while and maybe longer. If Dr. Ford is not heard from at all, I think that will have a very serious impact on the Republicans. They need to try and accommodate her in ways with which she is comfortable and which also gives the public a reasonable way to evaluate what she's saying.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

SABATO: Everybody knows and we're seeing Fred, this is very important, it's women who are powering the Democratic Party in an election where they have a good chance to take back at least the House of Representatives. What do you think will happen if Dr. Ford gets no opportunity to testify and the judge Kavanaugh is confirmed?

I think that the anger level will go up and anger equals a kind of enthusiasm which equals heavier voting.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And one also has to wonder you know, Renato, say Kavanaugh is confirmed regardless of whether we hear from Ford you know, or not, what is the reception likely to be on the bench among other Supreme Court justices who have just watched this play out, who have either heard both sides or potentially they will not have heard from both sides during the confirmation process?

MARIOTTI: Well the Court has dealt with difficult challenges before obviously, many of us remember the Bush versus Gore decision for example, and the Court tried to come together.

Judge Kavanaugh is very much and I would say an insider in terms of the legal elite and where they are concerned. He's somebody who is very well known to...

WHITFIELD: As an appellant judge...

MARIOTTI: ... the legal community...

WHITFIELD: ... (inaudible).

MARIOTTI: ... and I think judge...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MARIOTTI: ... I -- yes, exactly, right.

What I would say though is this could continue to drag on and if she's not heard, she could potentially go to Montgomery County, Maryland, and press charges and this could drag on for some time.

So I really hope for the good of the country and for the good of the Supreme Court that this is taken care of and it gets cleared one way or the other, it gets sort of heard and she gets her views and hers -- her testimony aired out in a -- in an appropriate manner before Judge Kavanaugh has an up or down vote.

I think it will be bad for the country to have this continue to linger on and him get confirmed in a way that does not answer these questions.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And then Ariane, you know, Senator Whitehouse you know, telling CNN that if Democrats do win back the House or even the Senate, they will investigate this sexual assault allegation regardless of the outcome of testimony or not, you know, kind of in keeping with what Renato was saying, would it be Montgomery County Police that would you know, pursue this and if that is to happen, if there is an ensuing investigation, how significant -- how potentially disruptive would it be if he is indeed on the bench, would it be for this U. S. Supreme Court?

Ariane DE VOGUE: You're right Fred. So that's what Senator Whitehouse is signaling.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

DE VOGUE: He's saying the cloud will continue. And on the one hand, we're talking about a lifetime appointment, no age limit, subject to impeachment and there's only been really one but no conviction so on the one hand there's that but on the other hand what he saying is, this will continue.

On the side though of Kavanaugh, he has said from the beginning that he wants to come forward and tell his story so he really wants to get out from under the cloud. He wants to be able to say, "look, ask me questions." He's been very open about that...

WHITFIELD: Did you miss...

DE VOGUE: ... (inaudible)...

WHITFIELD: ... that opportunity however? Was -- didn't he have that opportunity...

DE VOGUE: Well...

WHITFIELD: ... already?

DE VOGUE: ... well my sources tell me that when she first came forward, his first inclination was to say, "let's have a hearing," and then on the Hill, they said, "well, let's -- let's -- let us deal with this a little bit." And then they decided in part because of some Republicans, "Yes, she has to be heard." And so they came to agree but all along Kavanaugh's position here was, "I'd like to answer questions."

And don't forget Fred, he has already talked under oath with the Senate Committee...

WHITFIELD: Right.

de Vogue: ... the Senate side but that's not the Democrats, so it's only the Republicans.

WHITFIELD: Right. Saying that it absolutely did not happen. That was his point of view. That was...

DE VOGUE: Right.

WHITFIELD: ... his testimony.

All right Ariane de Vogue, Larry Sabato, and Renato Mariotti, thanks so much.

Coming up, the president saying that there is a quote, "Stench inside his own Justice Department," particularly the FBI and vows to get rid of it after reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein considered recording conversations with the president and even talked about having the president removed from office but who exactly can invoke the 25th Amendment and what does that mean. We'll walk through it all, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, President Trump signaling an overhaul of the Justice Department following reports that his Deputy Attorney General discussed removing him from the Oval Office.

Rod Rosenstein is denying "The New York Times" report that in the days after James Comey was fired as FBI Director, he talked about secretly recording President Trump. Rosenstein also reportedly talked about recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Here's what the president said about the FBI at a rally in Missouri, hours after the report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have great people in the Department of Justice. We have great people, these are people I really believe you take a poll, I've got to be at 95 percent but you had some real bad ones you're seeing what's happened at the FBI. They're all gone. They're all gone. They're all gone.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: But there is a lingering stench and we're going to get rid of that too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN Justice Reporter Laura Jarrett is in Washington, so Laura there are reports that the president has thought about firing Rosenstein, has talked about it even but then has hesitated? LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right Fred. According to "The Washington Post", the president consulted with his aides, they're trying to put him off but he was mulling it over but the staggering use of these memos, detailing Rosenstein secretly talking about putting a wire on to record the president and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, just simply rocked the Justice Department yesterday as officials try to figure out what they could do to contain the damage.

Rosenstein forced to issue a second statement late last night saying in part the following, "I never pursued or authorized recording the president and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the president is absolutely false."

Now in addition to Rosenstein's denials, one person who was actually in the room for the wiretap comment said, "you know, what he was being sarcastic. There was no situation where this would ever be carried out," but "The New York Times" is reporting, other officials thought he was serious and, in any event, we know that these proposals did not actually come to fruition but these revelations could still further jeopardize Rosenstein's delicate standing in the president's eyes as is Russia investigation looms so very large for this administration Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Laura Jarrett, still more to potentially come.

JARRETT: For sure.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

JARRETT: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right, Senator Ted Cruz's race against challenger Beto O'Rourke is heating up but can Democrats actually flip this seat in deep-red Texas and did a testy debate between the candidates move the needle at all? We'll discuss straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: In the deep-red state of Texas, a battle is raging over Senator Ted Cruz's seat and last night in a fiery debate Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke traded barbs with Cruz over Trump, immigration, and who was the most Texan. Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPUBLICAN BETO O'ROURKE, (D) SENATE TEXAS CANDIDATE: So what did you...

SEN. TED CRUX, (R) TEXAS: (inaudible)...

O'ROURKE: ... Say?

CRUZ: (inaudible) I'm not going to repeat the slander...

O'ROURKE: You're not going to repeat what you did say?

CRUZ: ... and mischaracterization.

ED LAVANDERA, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT FOR CNN U.S. BASED IN THE DALLAS BUREAU: A Texas Senate debate isn't the kind of political moment that generates a great deal of intrigue but 2018 in Texas is different. Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O'Rourke wasted no time scraping (ph) it over who is more Texan.

REPUBLICAN BETO O'ROURKE, (D) SENATE TEXAS CANDIDATE: Only one of us has been to each county in Texas and would have an idea of what Texas values and interests are.

(APPLAUSE)

O'ROURKE: Within months of being sworn to service, your Senator Ted Cruz, was not in Texas, he was in Iowa.

SEN. TED CRUX, (R) TEXAS: Congressman O'Rourke doesn't seem to understand that representing Texas is not doing a photo-op in each county in Texas with reporters in toe...

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: ... but it's actually standing up and fighting for the people of Texas.

O'ROURKE: Thank you so much.

(APPLAUSE)

LAVANDERA: El Paso Congressman, Beto O'Rourke has the political world wondering, if he can topple the Republican Senator, Ted Cruz.

O'Rourke has embraced a progressive agenda, universal healthcare, education reform, granting so-called dreamers citizenship status, as well as criminal justice reform, and legalizing marijuana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'ROURKE: God bless Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: Cruz is on a mission to paint O'Rourke as a dangerous leftist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: Ready, one, two, three.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: And is fully embracing President Trump, a strong economy, and increased border security. Even in this debate escaping the shadow of Trump was impossible. Cruz was asked if he had lost his dignity by praising the president after Trump insulted his father and wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: I've got a responsibility which is to fight for every person here and every person in the state and so I have worked hand-in-hand with the president on substance and we have delivered remarkable victories.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'ROURKE: Listen, if the president attacked you personally, your wife, your father, how you respond is your business. But...

CRUZ: Thank you.

O'ROURKE: ... when the president attacks our institutions, this country allows a foreign power to invade our democracy, that is our business. We need a U. S. senator who will stand up to this president...

CRUZ: But you do (inaudible)...

O'ROURKE: ... (inaudible)...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: Some polls have shown O'Rourke within striking distance of Cruz however the latest poll released this week from Quinnipiac, shows Cruz with a nine-point lead. On the Campaign trail Cruz has been sounding the alarm that this race is indeed closer than most would expect in this red state.

The first debate ended with a hint of perhaps what's to come in the final weeks of the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: Bernie Sanders believes in what he's fighting for. He believes in socialism. Now I think what he's fighting for doesn't work but I think you are absolutely sincere like Bernie, that you believe in, in expanding government and higher taxes and I commend you for fighting for what you believe in.

O'ROURKE: True to form.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: The question is, will the Texas Senate race play out true to form, where the history of Democrats trying to unseat a Republican in Texas has ended in unceremonious climax.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk more about this.

With me right now Political Commentator Ben Ferguson, and Democratic Strategist, Mustafa Tameez, and again Larry Sabato, back with us, the Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. All right, hello everyone.

All right Larry, your first. You know, the polls have been all over the place but a few of the recent polls show a very tight race. Texas is a Republican strong hold, do you think O'Rourke really has a pretty good chance of perhaps pulling this off, you know, a real upset on the horizon?

SABATO: Is it competitive? Yes.

Is it probable that O'Rourke will win? No.

I look at the polling averages, don't look at any individual poll. The polling averages have Cruz up 5 or 6 points but Fred what's significant here is, this is actually a competitive race between a Democrat and a...

WHITFIELD: Right.

SABATO: ... Republican in Texas. You know, when the last one was? Almost 50 years ago, in 1970 between George HWB Bush, the future president and Lloyd Benson, the future Treasury Secretary. Benson beat Bush, that's the last time. All the other senate races in Texas have been incredibly predictable until this one.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And some polls show just a point you know, between the two here?

SABATO: Yes. They do. In fact, my Center for Politics working with Reuters and IPSOS polling had a poll out this past week that actually had O'Rourke up 2 points but that's why I tell people, look at polling averages, everything's in the margin of error, look at the average. And the average has Cruz up.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So Ben, a Texan you know, President Trump you know, is planning to come to your state to hold a rally you know, for Cruz, October. How is this going to look and how will it be received? Because you know, they were fierce competitors on the campaign trail you know...

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.

WHITFIELD: ... vying for a president and now they're chummy?

FERGUSON: Yes. Look, they bury the hatchet. They moved on. They had a very tough battle. I endorsed Cruz during the primary but they have buried the hatchet. I have a good relationship with the president as well, it doesn't mean that we didn't have our differences on certain issues.

This is normal politics, when you have people that fight it out in a primary, and afterwards they get along. And the president has a very good working relationship with Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz said he wanted the president to come down to Texas and would love for him to campaign with him which is going to happen.

And look Ted Cruz is a guy that is willing to take a lot of heat from people politically and move on and work together. That's one of the reasons why he is dynamic, it's why a lot of people in the state like him.

[12:30:00]

I'll give full credit to the Democrats in Texas, they're very inspired. Robert Francis is a smart guy, he decided to change his name to Beto so people would think that he was somehow fighting on different issues.

I mean it's impressive how he's been a chameleon and change himself from a guy whose name we didn't even know was -- you know, it's Robert Francis. I mean people in Texas know him as Robert Francis, they don't know him as Beto the Science Gov, and there's a lot of people going "who is Beto, where did this guy come from," and it's worked out really well for him.

WHITFIELD: And it's worked out pretty good.

So Mustafa, is it as simple as, you know, burying the hatchet and, you know -- and now, you know, Trump and Cruz can perhaps cruise right on back into the U.S. Senate? Or is there something really going on here that Beto is now, you know, a fierce competitor and really stands a potential chance?

MUSTAFA TAMEEZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, I'll start with what Congressman O'Rourke said last night, true to form. Beto O'Rourke has had his name Beto since childhood and there's pictures of him wearing t-shirts calling him Beto so to tell him that he's changed his name is just not true.

And then in terms Senator Cruz, Ben's right, this is like traditional politics, right. You say all sorts of things about each other and then you come back together. And Senator Cruz is a politician where Beto O'Rourke is a true leader who can really lead the state and inspire not just the people of Texas but around the country to get involved.

Look at his fund-raising. He has raised more money than any other senator running for the Senate seat. Online --

FERGUSON: And a lot of it out of state?

TAMEEZ: -- no PAC money.

FERGUSON: A lot of it out of state.

TAMEEZ: Beto O'Rourke is the future of Texas and is the future of this country. WHITFIELD: And so Larry, you know, is Cruz's defeat on the presidential campaign trail, you know, largely explaining why this is such a tight race?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: That's one reason, Fred. We've actually seen this over the years at a number of cases. When senators run for president and lose, they've in a way flown too close to the sun. And the wax melts and they head down to earth and they're not as impressive as they once were.

So I think that's one reason why Cruz is weak. But Cruz has lots of enemies. And that's true in the U.S. Senate. It's true out of the U.S. Senate.

WHITFIELD: Ben?

FERGUSON: Look, I think Ted Cruz, one of the main things about him is, he has been very smart to stay close to home and talk to his constituents. He understands that jobs is the number one thing that Texans were concerned about, and border security was number two. Those are two issues that he is very close to the president on, and that's one of the reasons why Donald Trump is also very popular in Texas.

I mean, at the end of the day, you have Ted Cruz, who's in a race with Democrats who went all in, and again, I give them a lot of credit. They have done a very good job in this campaign of getting out the vote. I think it's a midterm election year. There's a lot of Democrats that don't like this president and it's a battle.

But at the end of the day, Ted Cruz is loved by many, many people in Texas. That's the reason why I think he's going to win this five, six, seven points up, eight points maybe. Texas is just not California, and Beto is a guy that wants to turn into California. Or I should say Robert Francis is the guy that wants to turn this into California, and Texans, they're not about this.

I mean, this is a guy that's anti-gun for goodness sakes in Texas. I mean, I don't know how you think you can win a statewide seat being anti-gun and anti-border security. I -- but I was shocked that he came out that hardcore on those issues but he did.

WHITFIELD: OK, so Mustafa, as a Democratic strategist, let's stick with, you know, Beto O'Rourke that name because I think we're going to confuse a whole lot of people.

You know, what's -- even if he loses, do you see -- and if it's a close, you know, lose, do you see this as a real big gain, nonetheless?

TAMEEZ: Look, Texas is not a red state, it's not a blue state, it's a non-voting state. In 2014 election, only 28, 29 percent of Texans actually voted. So if O'Rourke as he's inspiring people across the state to come out, not just in the suburbs of Dallas and Houston but across the state in smaller markets where he's visited all the counties of 254 counties of Texas, if those Democrats, those independent voters come out and send a message to the president of the United States and everyone else that our country's too important to say the form of just, you know, saying things about your opponent that aren't true. And even if this conversation, we had multiple times that things have been said that are not true.

Truth matters --

FERGUSON: Give me one.

TAMEEZ: -- and Beto O'Rourke is somebody who's inspiring young people, inspiring women across the state of Texas. He's even the standard as you see in his rallies and he's going to be the next senator (INAUDIBLE).

FERGUSON: -- give me one thing I said that wasn't true. Give me one policy thing. Is he anti-gun? Yes.

Is he in favor of having open borders? Yes. Is he against ICE agents? Yes. So give me an example of what I said that was not true in this conversation about Ted Cruz and Beto.

You don't have one.

WHITFIELD: Mustafa, are you there?

FERGUSON: I'm done.

WHITFIELD: OK, we're going to leave it there. Ben, Mustafa, Larry, good to see you all of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

[12:35:03] WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, Rod Rosenstein is denying he considered recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment in the days after James Comey was fired as FBI director. The report raising questions now about how the 25th Amendment would be invoked. We'll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. President Trump is vowing to eradicate a, quote, a lingering stench, unquote at the Justice Department. His promise coming just hours after we learned Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in the days after James Comey's 2017 firing discussed wearing a wire to record conversations with the president.

[12:40:07] CNN sources also say Rosenstein talks about recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Rosenstein has denied the reports.

For more on the 25th Amendment and how it works, we turn to CNN Politics Digital Director Zachary Wolf in Washington. Good to see you.

Good to see you. ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know, I guess the first thing we need to say is that this is supremely unlikely because it would require a Republican president's entire handpicked cabinet and then most of the Republican Congress to essentially turn against him. The 25th Amendment was put in place in the wake of the Kennedy assassination and it mostly has to do with presidential succession. If a president dies, if he becomes incapacitated, that's really what it's supposed to be about.

You know, there are other ways to get rid of presidents that people don't like. They're called elections first and then in extreme cases, for wrongdoing, there's impeachment. This really wasn't meant to get rid of a president that people disagree with.

And that's why it's kind of a complicated process to actually go through. Like I said, the entire cabinet or a majority of the cabinet and the vice president have to certify essentially that they think the president is unfit to be in office. They have to, then, tell Congress about it. The president can disagree with them. And then they have to do it again within four days, and then Congress has 21 days to vote.

Now, let's think about this. It keeps coming up for some reason. Steve Bannon we know was obsessed with it for a time according to some reports. And then in that anonymous op-ed, they discussed how the 25th Amendment was discussed by some cabinet officials and now Rod Rosenstein. So we have to kind of keep coming back to it.

But just the mountain that you'd have to climb for this to happen if you can imagine, you know, Pence, who's never said a bad thing about Trump, essentially saying he was unfit to be in office, and then sending that to the entire Congress where a super majority, 67, more than a filibuster proof majority, would have to agree and essentially kick Trump out in order for Pence to take hold. So it keeps coming back but it just seems so unlikely.

WHITFIELD: Yes. This underscores a collective body not necessarily in private.

All right, Zachary Wolf, thanks so much.

WOLF: Thank you

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, we're following developments from Washington where the clock is ticking towards the deadline set by Senate Republicans for Brett Kavanaugh's accuser to respond to their counteroffer on her potential testimony. We'll have a live report.

And as tensions escalate between the U.S. and Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashing out again at his predecessor John Kerry. Hear what he's saying next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:47:20] WHITFIELD: Iranian President Rouhani is going on the attack against President Trump, comparing him to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Iran state television quotes Rouhani as saying, quote, Trump will fail in the economic and psychological war, end quote, against Iran, just as Hussein failed in his eight-year war against the Islamic republic.

Rouhani also refuted the idea that Iran interferes in the affairs of other countries in the region. Rouhani's message followed President Trump's own comments on Iran last night at his rally in Missouri.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, when I took over and before I took over, everybody said Iran will take over the entire Middle East. Now Iran wants to survive, OK?

But you know what, I hope we get a long with them great. But it's not easy for them. And, frankly, it's not easy for others until we get treated with the respect that we deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All of this comes ahead of next week's United Nations Security Council meeting on Iran which President Trump will chair. And as the president prepares to head to the U.N., Secretary Of State Pompeo is issuing a stark warning that Iran will be held directly responsible for any attacks on U.S. interests, even if the attacks come from Iran's proxies.

Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott sat down with Mike Pompeo for a one-on-one interview. She joins me now. So Elise, you know, how hard-line was Pompeo's message?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Really, among the hardest I've heard him, Fred. You know, this follows the attack on two U.S. facilities in Iraq just this month by Iranian-backed militias. And there's a real concern by the administration that the Iranians are opening up a new front in Iraq not only to attack the U.S. but attack Israel bringing in sophisticated weaponry. So he spoke about that and he also had a very stark warning for secretary of state -- former Secretary of State John Kerry, who he said is advising with meetings with the Iranians the U.S. archenemy how to undermine the current administration. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Iran has been confronting the world as the world's largest state sponsor of terror for quite some time. They have armed militias, the Lebanese Hezbollah and Kata'ib Hezbollah and militias in Iraq. They're arming the Houthis in Yemen, launching missiles into the Gulf States.

The United States has begun to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran to prevent them from doing this. That's our mission. And it is true, Elise, we have told the Islamic Republic of Iran that using a proxy force to attack an American interest will not prevent us from responding against the prime actor. [12:50:10] That is, we will not let Iran get away with using a proxy force to attack an American interest. Iran will be held accountable for those incidents.

LABOTT: Even militarily?

POMPEO: They're going to be held accountable. If they're responsible for the arming and training of these militias, we're going to go to the source.

LABOTT: And you criticized Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretary Kerry, for his meetings with Iran, saying he needs to get off the stage. But can you tell me how is this jeopardizing your efforts now?

POMPEO: No American, and in particular, no former secretary of state should be actively seeking to undermine the foreign policy of the United States of America. You know, frankly, this was Secretary Kerry's problem, he always refused to treat our enemies like enemies.

And here he is today as the former secretary of state telling our adversaries, the world's largest state sponsor of terror, people who are conducting assassination attempts in European, just wait out this administration. Giving foreign policy advice directly contrary to what President Trump is trying to achieve on behalf of America.

LABOTT: Is it working?

POMPEO: Every American, especially former secretary of states, should be advocating for America's foreign policy. It's that straight forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: Well, former Secretary Kerry was talking to the Iranians about staying in the Iran deal and waiting out the Trump administration because we know President Trump pulled out. But basically the Trump administration now, Fred, is trying to deal with Iran not just on the nuclear front but really making a push to get Iran everywhere, around the world. Not only economically but this week Secretary of State Pompeo will be meeting with the Iranian Diaspora. Him and National Security Adviser John Bolton will be making major speeches as you said. President Trump will be chairing that meeting.

It will be about North Korea as well but primarily Iran. And this is all part of an administration push to rally the world to counter Iran everywhere it is, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Elise Labott, thanks so much.

Coming up, the clock is ticking closer to the deadline set by Senate Republicans for Brett Kavanaugh's accuser Christine Blasey Ford to decide whether she'll testify to lawmakers. Will the president's attacks against her hurt Republican resolve? We'll discuss. And the city of Lagos is known as Nigeria's Silicon Valley. It's a sector dominated by men. Something one successful computer programmer is determined to change by helping her country's most disadvantaged girls fill that gender gap. Meet this week's CNN hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABISOYE AJAYI-AKINFOLARIN: When I went to Makoko for the first time, I was surprised to see the living condition of human beings. Most girls are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. Many of them are not thinking education. They plan for the future.

I believe girls should be given opportunities.

What can we take (INAUDIBLE).

What you can't see, you can't aspire to. They need to be shown another life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: For more, including how one 17-year-old girl is using technology to solve a problem in her community, go to cnnheroes.com.

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[12:58:07] WHITFIELD: CNN's W. Kamau Bell had the trip of a lifetime with Anthony Bourdain in, my birth country of Kenya. Here is a preview of "Parts Unknown."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, "PARTS UNKNOWN": Nairobi means cool water in Maasai. It's the capital of Kenya with 6.5 million people living in the metro area. It grew up around a British railroad depot during the colonial area. Halfway between other British areas in Uganda and the coastal port of Mumbasa.

I will admit food here just frankly unlovely scents of been here, done that. It's not a good look for me I know but there's a mischievous curiosity tack away in some poisonous part of my brain it's dying to see how Kamau handles the hit, the spice, the crowds, the overwhelming rush of a whole new world because that's what it is first time. This ain't Berkeley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Wow, what a magical place and how bittersweet on this journey. The final episodes of "Parts Unknown" airing tomorrow, 9 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

All right, hello again, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with breaking news. We're learning about a shake-up on the Senate judiciary staff. Garrett Ventry, a communications adviser has resigned amid reports that he was fired from a previous job in part for a sexual harassment allegation against him as NBC first reported. Ventry denies that allegation against him however, stepped down so as not to be a distraction.

CNN's Sarah Westwood joining us now from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. All of this taking place while this confirmation hearing is still going on involving a nominee who has now facing sexual --