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Accuser of Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Meets Deadline to Agree to Testify before Senate Judiciary Committee; Report Claims Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein Considered Invoking 25th Amendment to Remove President Trump from Office; Flooding Continues in North Carolina in Wake of Hurricane Florence. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 22, 2018 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:22] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We're just 30 minutes now away from the latest deadline set for Christine Blasey Ford. She is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual 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 can share their story. If Ford's attorneys don't respond by 2:30 p.m. this afternoon eastern time with the terms for her testimony today, the committee says it will vote Monday on Kavanaugh's nomination.

All of this as we're learning about a shakeup on the Senate judiciary staff. Garrett Ventry, a name you haven't known until this point, a communications advisor for the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley, 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 the allegations.

CNN's Sara Westwood joins us now from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. So help us understand why this is particularly sensitive and significant.

SARA WESTWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, this is significant because Garrett Ventry had emerged as a relatively visible spokesperson for the Senate Judiciary Committee at a time when the committee is in the difficult position of trying to navigate the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh while also working to confirm him. Ventry was accused of sexually harassing a female employee when he worked at the North Carolina state legislature. Those are allegations were first reported by NBC News that CNN hasn't independently confirmed. But Ventry said that he resigned last night in order to avoid becoming a distraction for the Judiciary Committee as the committee is already in a very complicated process regarding some alleged sexual misconduct, and Ventry was only a temporary staffer on the committee. He was on leave from his job at a conservative public relations firm that's also working to promote the Kavanaugh nomination. That firm has said it did not know about the allegations against Ventry until yesterday as well, Fred. WHITFIELD: Meanwhile all that taking place while the deadline is

looming for Kavanaugh's accuser to respond in just 30 minutes from now. That's the latest deadline set. And what are you hearing?

WESTWOOD: Well, Fred, just moments from now we will learn whether we'll be hearing from Christine Blasey Ford this week in a public hearing or whether on Monday we'll have a new Supreme Court justice, because Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans have now drawn a red line, saying that although they set a deadline at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, extended it to 10:00 p.m. last night, and then finally set a final deadline of today at 2:30 p.m., they're no longer going to be waiting around for the conditions from Christine Blasey Ford's legal team. Ford's legal team had said that they wanted senators, not outside counsel, to be questioning Ford to avoid looking it look too much like a trial. They said that they wanted Ford to testify second and have the last word. They wanted Kavanaugh to go first. And they said the initial proposed hearing on Monday was a nonstarter. They wanted that hearing to be moved to Thursday. Republicans came back yesterday with a counteroffer saying Wednesday was their preferred date for a hearing. They would like to have outside counsel come in and be able to question Christine Blasey Ford. So there's been a lot of back and forth and we just don't know whether we will be seeing a hearing this week, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much, Sara. I appreciate it.

Let's talk more about this. Joining me right now CNN political analyst Patrick Healy, CNN president historian Tim Naftali, and our CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vouge. Good to see you all. Ariane, you first. Like 26 minutes to go until this latest deadline now. No word yet from the Ford team, from Grassley, the committee team. So what happens if this deadline passes?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, you're right. The clock is ticking here. And senator Grassley said, look, I'm trying to accommodate you, but if you don't come back to me, I will schedule a vote on Monday. That's what he said so far. It's really striking, Fred, to see the anger between the two sides in the last few volleys back and forth here. Ford's lawyers say we're not asking for too much, and Grassley says we're really being accommodating.

And the sticking points, first of all, Ford's lawyer said no way to a hearing on Monday. And then they said, look, we think other people should be subpoenaed. We think we do not want another outside counsel. And we think Kavanaugh should go first and our client should go second. And Grassley came back and said I'll move the hearing to Wednesday if you agree, but we're not subpoenaing other people, and that we reserve the right, if we want to, to hire a female counsel. Keep in mind, Fred, this committee, the Republicans, there are no women. It's all men.

And so -- and they really feel like this is also out of also fairness to Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh wants to be able to come forward. She has already given her story to "The Washington Post," and that's where they are, and we'll hear I guess in 30 minutes if there's been a movement. WHITFIELD: And Patrick, I've heard from a lot of people who say

Grassley, the committee, is coming across in a rather insensitive manner, and now you've got this allegation of a sexual harassment of a Garrett Ventry, who was the communications adviser to Senator Grassley who has now stepped down because he doesn't want to call more attention to it. And this really is very interesting timing for all of this, and the word "insensitive" is becoming more and more pronounced.

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Fred. For a lot of women and men in the real world, this looks like the Senate sort of setting arbitrary deadlines. And the question for a lot of people is why 2:30 p.m. on a Saturday? Why does it have to be Monday instead of Wednesday? The reality of this is that for regular people watching this, including a lot of voters, they don't get why it seems like there are politics being played with this. If someone is making one of the most major decisions in her life to come forward, she will become a household name. Her image will be everywhere on video and photos. Why does something have to happen at 2:30 on a Saturday?

That's the sort of context for this, Fred, that I think both sides are being mindful of. The Republicans are very worried about being seen as bullying, and for a lot of, again, regular people, it sort of is confusing why folks in Washington are sort of insisting on how this needs to play out point by point by point.

WHITFIELD: Even Senator Collins said she thought it was appalling to hear the president in his latest comments as it pertains to if things were so bad, then why didn't she report it years ago? Why didn't her loving parents report it years ago? There's a confluence of comments and the urgency of this event which has a lot of people very critical about how this is being played out, how insensitive or harsh it seems.

HEALY: That's really right, Fredricka. I think for a lot of regular people who might experience a trauma in their lives, having Washington sort of second guess them and say, well, if this was really so bad you would have done it differently, it just feels absurd. Is this what we look for our political leaders to do, to tell us about how we deal with trauma in our lives? It just doesn't -- it just doesn't work.

WHITFIELD: Tim, this is not looking good for a lot of people here.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENT HISTORIAN: This isn't looking good for our country, let alone for individuals. The very fact that a U.S. citizen can request from Congress the opportunity for the FBI to investigate her story, and she is not going to get what she's requested, is very troubling.

I think part -- Patrick's point is very well taken. All of these deadlines are arbitrary. There is no reason that this vote on this particular nominee needs to happen this week. There's a political calculus, I know. There's a schedule, I know.

WHITFIELD: The whole October 1 deadline.

NAFTALI: But this disappointment is forever. It's for the life of the justice. There is no reason President Trump will be president for -- he should serve out his term, certainly. He'll be president for four years, at least. So the deadlines are all arbitrary. The pressure that's being created by the committee leadership, that's the Republicans, is arbitrary. And the -- and Christine Blasey Ford has requested that there be an investigation. And that has been dismissed arbitrarily.

So I think it's bad for the country because this individual, this citizen is asking for her government to treat her serious allegation seriously. And instead she's being played politically. And that's unfortunate. Very unfortunate.

[14:10:06] WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there for you. I want to have you all back. Tim, Patrick Ariane, thanks so much.

Coming up, the president saying that there is a, quote, stench inside his own Justice Department and vows to get rid of it after reports that Depute Rod Rosenstein considered recording conversations with the president and even talked about having the president removed from office.

Plus, hurricane Florence moved on but the aftermath is still being felt in the Carolinas. Residents bracing for more flooding after record breaking rainfall pushes rivers to the brink. We'll take you there live, next.


WHITFIELD: All right, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is doubling down, issuing a second denial that he suggested wearing a wire to secretly record President Trump.

[14:15:00] Rosenstein was spotted at the White House last night hours after "The New York Times" first reported that last year he also discussed recruiting cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. And now the "Washington Post" is reporting President Trump asked aides yesterday if he should fire Rosenstein yesterday.

Joining me right now is CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett and political analyst Ryan Lizza. Good to see you both. So Laura, you first. These are some interesting leaks.

LAURA GARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, to see the least, Fred. I was at the Justice Department when this broke yesterday, and the news was just staggering. They detail memos, contemporaneous notes from the former deputy director of the FBI talking about Rosenstein mulling over secretly wearing a wire to record the president and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

And Justice officials yesterday did everything they could to try to contain the damage, but yesterday, late yesterday Rosenstein was forced to issue a second statement saying 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." But I have to tell you, Fred, sources gave us somewhat divergent and

conflicting accounts. One person who was in the room told me he was certainly being sarcastic and had no intention of recording the president. But either way you split it here, these revelations could further jeopardize how the president is looking at Rosenstein right now as this Russia investigation of course is so important and looms large for this administration.

WHITFIELD: Right. And Ryan, while Rosenstein is denying the report, one has to think about the motivation behind leaking this kind of information, leaking these memos or these notes and going with this.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And -- well, two things. One, "The New York Times" is very strenuously standing by its reporting. And as "The Times" I think noted in a statement, if you read Rosenstein's statement carefully, it doesn't necessarily fully contradict what "The Times" reported. He uses the word "pursued" taping the president. I think everyone agrees that at the very least he said this. Some people are saying it was sarcastic. "The Times" is saying their sources are saying it was serious. He's not denying that he said it.

And I have to say, I really -- "The Times" reporters who are covering the story are very highly regarded, and they pursued this story for months. And so I tend to trust their reporting. It's just -- I can't think of another case where someone at that level of the administration was so worried about the actions of the president that they would even raise this possibility. The last time anyone was thinking about taping the president in this way was when Ken Starr was trying to get Monica Lewinsky to wear a wire in that criminal investigation.

But that along with flirting with the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment, the fact that he viewed the president as such a threat that that would be talked about is just staggering.

WHITFIELD: And Laura, these comments coming in meetings and that Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe were involved in, but then you also talk about sources you have, people who also may have been there, may have heard sarcasm. But what is the relationship if there has been one between Rosenstein and McCabe to try to understand whose understanding to believe here?

JARRETT: I think it's important to reach back into time. This is May of 2016, James Comey has just been fired, and I talked to folks yesterday who depict this sort of chaotic, frenetic time at the Justice Department. And there is deep, deep mistrust on both sides. Andy McCabe is pressuring Rosenstein all the time to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because he thinks he has a conflict given his role in the firing of James Comey. He's pressuring him all the time.

Meanwhile Rod is pressing back on McCabe and is trying to get him kicked off the Russia time according to sources I spoke to yesterday. And so there's all this mistrust at the same time as these conversations are taking place. But the bottom line is McCabe documented them in contemporaneous notes, and another person documented them as well, Lisa Page. So you now have two people who have said in the room, this is what happened. And so now it's a credibility fight between McCabe and Rosenstein, both of which the president has had quite a bit to say about, none of which is positive.

WHITFIELD: And we've heard a lot about the efficacy of these kind of contemporaneous notes, James Comey's as well. Ryan Lizza, Laura Jarrett, thanks to both of you, appreciate it.

JARRETT: Thanks, Fred.

LIZZA: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Coming up, widespread flooding in the Carolinas from hurricane Florence is threatening homes and lives, and now toxic coal ash could be spilling in waterways because of a dam breach in North Carolina.

[14:20:04] We'll take you there live next.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The death toll is rising in the wake of hurricane Florence. So far 44 people have died. And now flooding in the Carolinas is also sparking some serious environmental concerns. Dam breaches at power plants in North and South Carolina have some worried about coal ash spilling into nearby rivers.

CNN correspondent Kaylee Hartung and Nick Valencia are in the Carolinas. Let me being with Kaylee in Wilmington, North Carolina. So environmentalist there say ash is likely spilling into the Cape Fear River, but Duke Energy is downplaying that claim. So what's the story?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Fred, it's too early for anybody to be saying with certainty that coal ash has gotten into the Cape Fear River. Duke Energy says that yesterday as soon as that dam to the cooling lake was breached, they began taking water samples. The results from those samples are expected to be returned later this evening, and then this situation will be much clearer.

But at this time, they say that the two coal ash basins, those basins are in good condition, they say, and those dams are intact. They say there is no visible sign of any coal ash getting into that cooling lake where the dam breached.

All that being said, while the situation still very uncertain here, Duke Energy shared with us that what has gotten into the river at this point, some other byproducts of coal combustion. They're called cenospheres. These are tiny, lightweight hallow beads made of aluminum and silica. And they say in their experience those beads have no environmental impact, at least none that could possibly compare to the damage that coal ash could do if it were to get in this riverway.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kaylee. And Nick, where you are in South Carolina, what are the biggest concerns?

NICK VALENCIA: Well, just like what Kaylee is dealing with there in Wilmington, they're still dealing with a lot of the aftermath. That water, though, is starting to recede. Here we are. I'm showing you a neighborhood where the the flooding just keeps going up inch by inch, hour by hour, Fredricka. It is already two feet higher than it was yesterday and that seems to be sort of the norm here. Every day that we've been here the water has gone up two feet. At most, it was going up three inches per hour.

We're in a neighborhood where President Trump visited earlier this week. And you remember the flash flooding immediately after hurricane Florence made landfall inundated this neighborhood, but not as bad as what we're seeing right now. The flash flooding did recede, but now it's back. And we've been hearing all week from officials warning residents it's only going to get worse. In fact, we talked to one of those resident here who is in that home. She just bought that home about two weeks ago, and she's dealing with all of this now.


ERIN HILL, CONWAY RESIDENT: I've walked over here every day to check on it and just to see where it's at because I'm really -- there's nothing to do but wait and see if more water is going to come. I'm devastated. We just bought the house. This was our big dream move. We went from 700 square feet, and we moved up to 2,700 square feet, and now we can't even live in it.


VALENCIA: Fortunately, though, for Erin, she did get flood insurance. And that's remarkable if only because this isn't in a floodplain technically, Fred. So a lot of people here, a lot of residents, they haven't gotten that flood insurance.

This gentleman right here, we showed up here at about 6:00 a.m. this morning, and we saw him and his father trying to get what little they had inside out. And I said what are you going to do? He said I'm fixing to lose the home. And that's just sort of the resolve people have here, shrugging their shoulders, knowing that it's only going to get worse. It's expected to crest Monday into Tuesday at 22 feet. We're at 19 feet. Last check our producer checking the National Weather Service, it's going up two feet per day here, Fredricka, and it's just coming up faster and faster as we stand here.

WHITFIELD: Heart breaking situations. Thank you so much, both Kaylee and nick. I appreciate it.

All right, fast approaching. In fact, just two minutes away now, the Republicans 2:30 p.m. eastern deadline is nearly here. And we're waiting word from Senator Chuck Grassley or Christine Blasey Ford. She is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual 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. Both sides can share their story in those potential testimonies. Grassley gave Ford's attorney until 2:30 p.m. this afternoon to respond to the hearing conditions. No word yet if the deadline will be met, now just one minute away. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. This breaking news. Christine Blasey Ford accepts the request to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week coming. The exact terms and the timing are uncertain as Ford's attorney asked to continue negotiations today with committee staff.

Let's bring back now Patrick Healy and Tim Naftali. So we don't know about the conditions, but we do know now that the offer has been accepted. And so Patrick, what we understood the offer to be is that Christine Blasey Ford would testify come Wednesday, and we understood that the committee was also proposing it would just be her testimony up against Kavanaugh, Brett Kavanaugh, the nominee for the Supreme Court's testimony. No other witnesses. We know that her camp wanted other witnesses and wanted, perhaps, the testimony to come a little bit later, and then there was the order of it.

So Patrick, in your view, how significant, how important is it that Ford's team has accepted, as far as we know, an offer?

HEALY: It's very significant, because what Chris Blasey Ford is saying to not just the committee but to the American people is I want to testify. This is my intent. I'm going to make this work. We're figuring out the details, but I want to testify.

[14:35:06] And why that is important is because now for the Senate Republicans, anything that derails her testifying is going to look like it was arguing over logistical or arbitrary or, frankly, political details in terms of who gets to testify when or who is asking the questions. She's basically standing now on -- she's taking a clear stand and position, and it makes the other side risk just looking political if this doesn't somehow come together.

WHITFIELD: And Tim, this is still a very delicate situation, because we are talking about sexual abuse allegations. We're talking about a Supreme Court nominee who would take, if confirmed on the bench, for the rest of his life. Could be another 30 years or so. We're talking about a woman who at the time was a 15-year-old girl who alleges to have been traumatized, and it has taken many decades in which to come to terms to even share that story.

NAFTALI: Well, this is -- I mean, this is going to be a very difficult hearing. For any human being, this will be very difficult. And it is incumbent upon the senators of both parties to handle this with great delicacy both for Christine Blasey Ford and the accused, the judge. Judge Kavanaugh is innocent until proven otherwise. It's going to be very tough, and it's going to be very hard to watch, and it's important that it happened. I said I felt that the deadline today was quite arbitrary, but it's a good thing that Dr. Blasey and her attorney and the Senate are reaching some kind of compromise.

But it's going to be a very, very tough hearing for everyone, but it's and it's also a test, I believe, of how we have or have not changed since 1991, since the Anita Hill testimony.

WHITFIELD: Right. So many comparisons are being made. CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue is also with us now. So Ariane, while we don't know the details of what's being constructed, we do know her attorney is saying there are details that have yet to be worked out. Nevertheless, this is extremely unusual. It is very difficult. And there is great anticipation in this week ahead.

DE VOGUE: You're absolutely right. And what she said here is that there will be hearings. And she expresses some disappointment with some of the conditions. This attorney said in this statement, although many aspects of the proposal are fundamentally inconsistent with the committee's promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her -- into the allegations, we are hopeful that we can reach an agreement on the details.

And then she asked for another call this afternoon. And keep in mind Senator Grassley said look, we'll have a hearing. He had said Wednesday, but he had some sticking points. And some of his sticking points were that he reserved the right to have an outside counsel come in if he wanted to. Keep in mind, there are no men on the Republican side of this committee. And he also said there would be no other witnesses that could be subpoenaed. So it sounds like she's saying, yes, there will be a hearing. We're accepting the committee's request to provide her firsthand knowledge, but can we have a phone call? So now the ball is back in Senator Grassley's court right now.

WHITFIELD: Yes. No Republican women, four Democratic women. But to you point, Tim, still very different makeup from 1991, but lots of comparisons still being made. In 1991 no women, period. Now you have four women, but Democrats. Still lots of comparisons about how this is being handled today. Sara Westwood is in New Jersey, White House reporter. Give us a response if any coming from President Trump and his camp.

WESTWOOD: Nothing yet from the White House so far, Fred, on the latest development in the negotiations with Christine Blasey Ford's camp. But keep in mind President Trump has shown a long evolution in the weeks since Ford came forward with these allegations. At first, he stuck to the Republican line of giving Ford the opportunity to testify, treating her with respect, saying she should be heard, and continuing to praise the integrity of Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee.

[14:00:00] But over the course of the week President Trump has gotten closer and closer to going on offense against Christine Blasey Ford. That started Thursday evening in Las Vegas during that interview with FOX News where President Trump first started questioning why Ford didn't go to the authorities 36 years ago when this alleged assault took place. On Twitter Friday morning he continued to go after Ford, continued to question her motives and the timing of why she's coming forward now, and also slamming Senate Democrats for sitting on the allegations since July when they first received it.

So we don't know if President Trump is going to continue to approach Professor Ford with the caution that he showed earlier in the week or if he's going to remain on the attack as we get closer to what looks like will be a public hearing later this week, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks, Sara.

We also want to bring into this conversation now, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, and criminal defense attorney Richard Herman. Glad you could all be with us. Avery, you first. How do you classify this? Is this considered a small victory toward hearing the stories, or is this still a very tenuous situation as we hear the Ford camp still trying to work out details?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHT ATTORNEY: Yes. I'm troubled with it, Fredricka. The fact is there should be an FBI investigation prior to the testimony. People are not talking about the reality that in the prior hearing with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, the FBI did an investigation. It only took three days. That's it. Three days. That's it.

And secondly, there's been no discussion about standards. The fact is there are no standards when it comes to these kinds of proceedings, Fredricka. And we don't know what the conditions are. We will soon learn what they are. But I must say that it is premature to set this hearing. I'm glad there's going to be a hearing. There was a real question about that. But there are a lot of conditions that still remain unknown, and frankly, I think it is premature to go forward.

WHITFIELD: So, Richard, do you see it as a disservice that there might be testimony without an FBI investigation similar to that of the Anita Hill accusations with the Clarence Thomas hearing?

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, Fred, because someone has to alert the president when he stands up and says that the FBI does not investigate potential Supreme Court justices that the "I" in FBI means "Investigation." So once we get over that and Grassley realizes that also, then we know they do the investigation.

But they haven't done it. They will not do it, Fred. This whole thing is an absolute farce. It's a kangaroo court. It's absurd. It's a blemish on the history of the United States what's going to take place this week, because it's just like in the movie "Goodfellas" when DeNiro goes to the phone booth and say the Joe Pesci get made, and the guy says to him, he's gone and there's nothing you can do about it. There's nothing the Democrats can do about this. It's a train. It's a runaway freight train. And if 36 years ago she was sexually assaulted, that's very sad, Fred, but she's had a lot of opportunity during these 36 years to go to a district attorney and presented her case, and she still can do that even after this. And I'm hoping maybe she will do that.

But she's going to get nothing out of this hearing, Fred, and the Republicans in the committee, for them, they're yawning and they're bored with this because as soon as they can, they're going to vote in Kavanaugh and there's nothing anybody can do about it.

WHITFIELD: I want to follow up with that in a moment. But first, Ariane, you have some new reporting. What can you share with us? DE VOGUE: One thing that's interesting. If you look at it, this looks like there's a new lawyer on board working with Ford, and that's Michael Bromwich. He's the former inspector general of the FBI but he's also representing Andrew McCabe. That's the other story. That's the Russia investigation. So it's very interesting to see they've chosen now to bring in a new lawyer.

HERMAN: A little late.

WHITFIELD: Might that promote a conflict of interest or questions about that?

DE VOGUE: I don't see a conflict of interest, but what it really shows is that they are recognizing that this hearing is going to go forward. They want his muscle. He's not -- they wanted the FBI to get involved, and Grassley said that it would not get involved. And here they've brought on this new big player.

WHITFIELD: Avery, how do you see that?

FRIEDMAN: I think it's good. We don't know, frankly, what the Senate judiciary is going to do. Remember, one of the battles is whether or not, and it was a demand by counsel for Dr. Ford, and that is, look, no lawyers representing the senators. Let the senators ask the question. I still think, and we don't know, I still think the white Republican male senators are going to say bring in a female attorney. That's still in the offing. So this really is going to be a battle between the lawyers.

WHITFIELD: Would that be problematic to you, an outside counsel?

FRIEDMAN: I think it would, yes.

[14:45:00] WHITFIELD: So Richard, just to follow up really quick. You mentioned you see this as a farce. Is it because it would be he said/she said without an FBI investigation? And at the same time, you also said she should have gone to authorities long ago and there were many opportunities, and doesn't that go to the center of how difficult it is when people are victimized, allegedly victimized like this, how reticent, how difficult it is to go to authorities, to go to anyone. And you're talking about at the time a 15-year-old girl.

HERMAN: Yes, Fred. And I know -- and I've read studies how when sexual assaults take place in women, and especially young women, they repress it for years and years. But it's 36 years now, Fred, and she's gone for therapy, and she's had opportunities to go make her case to a district attorney. So the optics right now look so bad. But it doesn't mean she doesn't have a case, and maybe she does have a case. But the tribalism, Fred, is so strong that this is an absolute farce this week. They can bring on Daniel Webster. They can bring on anybody they want. It's too late. It's over.

WHITFIELD: Tim, in that "Washington Post" article today, her husband talked about the visceral response she had once she saw that Brett Kavanaugh's name was on the list, and that helped her express that she wanted to go to another country if it turns out that he became Supreme Court justice. And that precipitated this letter of anonymity that she sent to Feinstein. What are your thoughts on this, the sequence?

NAFTALI: My thoughts on this are that we shouldn't be judging the veracity of her allegation based on how many years it took her to share it. I don't see how that is dispositive at all.

HERMAN: That's not what I said.

NAFTALI: I'm not debating you, sir. I'm responding to Fred's --

HERMAN: This is not criminal proceeding. This is not a criminal trial. You're wrong. This is not a criminal trial.

NAFTALI: I haven't -- excuse me. I haven't made my point, and then you can tell me I'm wrong. It's possible. I make mistakes. I was going to say that the court of public opinion is the court to which both Judge Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford will be speaking. And indeed, this is not a trial. I'm not a lawyer, but I know enough to know it's not a trial. And it's a court of public opinion.

And I believe this is a test of the way this country has changed since 1991, because if you find public opinion turning against Judge Kavanaugh as a result of the credibility, let us say, of Christine Blasey Ford, he will not be confirmed. That's not to say that Donald Trump won't get another confirmation, but it just seems to me that the court that is a very important this week thereby court of public opinion, and this is a test of how we've changed, if we have, since 1991.

WHITFIELD: And Patrick, there's not a trial, but if there's outside trial instead of senators asking questions, does it not send a message that it does become a trial, or trial like?

HEALY: Right, it's taking it to a different place. Normally the Senate Judiciary Committee members would be asking the questions. So it sort of takes this into a realm of it feels like sort of a lawyer grilling her on specifics. And in some ways it just -- it feels as if the men, again, the men on the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Republican side are trying to reach to optics or politics with this. It's their duty to be asking the questions, I believe.

WHITFIELD: All right, and quickly, Richard, really quick, I heard you say no.

HERMAN: No, Fred, it's not a criminal trial. The time for that -- she can still do that, and she probably should do that if she feels this strong about it.

WHITFIELD: OK, leave it right there. Patrick Healy, Tim Naftali, Ariane De Vogue, Richard Herman, Avery Friedman, thanks to all of you, really appreciate it. We'll be right back.


[14:53:33] WHITFIELD: Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'll see you tomorrow, Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. News continues right now with Ana Cabrera. But first, here's this week's Turning Points.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I was younger, for women of color, swim was a taboo. At the age of 19, I was told that I had Retinitis pigmentosa. I don't see anything. Before I started to swim, I had depression, no motivation. I have high blood pressure and diabetes. I was 319 pounds. A doctor told me I was going to die, so I start swimming. I was petrified. It wasn't as bad as I thought, and I asked my coach, could I do it again. I lost over 100 pounds. I have won over 275 medals at the local and state level at the senior Olympic games.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For anyone who starts at this age, where Vivian is right now incredible. It's just that constant drive that she has, and she keeps pushing herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My hope is to get every child in the Riverside area that don't know how to swim where they can learn how to survive without drowning. We're here for a purpose, to encourage one another.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with me. Our breaking news right now on CNN, the woman who says Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her will testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. Christine Blasey Ford was given a deadline of this afternoon to definitively say yes or no. Her answer -- yes. But there are still some details to be worked out.