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Christine Blasey Ford Agreed To Speak Before The Senate Judiciary Committee; Rosenstein & McCabe's Relationship Amid Comey Firing Chaos; Some GOP Women Side With Kavanaugh Doubt Accuser; Trump Doubts Kavanaugh Accuser Asks For Police Report; Texas Senate Debate Got Red Hot; Unlicensed Daycare Stabbings May Be Linked To "Birth Tourism". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 22, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Today, on a deadline, she agreed to speak before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We just learned that her day will tentatively be Thursday.

Our Supreme Court reporter, Ariane De Vogue, is with us. Also with us, White House reporter Sarah Westwood with brand-new reaction from the Trump administration.

Ariane, first, fill us in on this new breaking news.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right Ana, this has been going back and forth all day but we just learned there is a tentative agreement to have the hearing on Thursday.

Now, sources for Ford, they still have some questions. And there is going to be another conference call tomorrow. Their questions are, they believe that the senators should be the ones asking the questions at this hearing. And as you recall, there is only males on the Republican side of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley and others have suggested they may have outside counsel, and that concerns Ford.

And they think, Ford's side still thinks that other people should be subpoenaed. For instance, Mark Judge. He was one of the men who was allegedly at the party. So that's where they are. But they did talk just a few minutes ago and they came up with a tentative agreement for a hearing on Thursday. And then they said let's talk tomorrow about these other conditions. So in a way, now it's in senator Grassley's court.

Again, he has said his sticking points have always been he wants a hearing relatively quickly. He had said Wednesday but now it sounds like Thursday might be OK. But he has held firm. He said no other witnesses besides Brett Kavanaugh and besides Christine Blasey Ford. And he says, look, if we reserve the right, if we want to bring in our own counsel, we will. So that's where things are right now, Ana.

CABRERA: All right.

Sarah, also in the past few minutes a new response from the White House? SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Ana. The

White House is now officially responding to Christine Blasey Ford's decision to accept that offer to testify next week, after senior aides signaled frustrations with the prospect of more delays, a White House spokesperson had this to say about the latest step and talks between the senate judiciary committee and Ford.

Brett Kavanaugh has been clear from the beginning. He categorically and unequivocally denies this allegation and is eager to testify publicly to defend his integrity and clear his good name. On Monday, Brett Kavanaugh met with committee counsels to answer questions subject to criminal penalties and offered to testify publicly Tuesday morning.

Then she goes on to say, since then we have heard about different dates, conditions, and ever-changing schedules. But today we appear no closer to a fair hearing. But one thing has remained consistent, Brett Kavanaugh remains ready, willing, and eager to testify as soon as possible.

Now the White House and some Republicans had initially expressed skepticism that Ford's response meant they were any closer to having this issue be resolved, and judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley had hoped to hold a confirmation vote at one point as soon as Monday. But sources telling Manu Raju and Ariane De Vogue here that they did reach that tentative agreement to do a hearing on Thursday, and that news about tentative agreement by the way, emerged just minutes after the White House released that statement saying that the senate Judiciary Committee appeared no closer to a hearing. This is dragging it out from the White House's perspective, but it's granting Ford's request that she would be allowed more time to prepare before she appears before the Judiciary Committee -- Ana.

CABRERA: Again, now a tentative date set for Thursday, knowing there is more details to be hammered out, which is expected to happen tomorrow.

Ariane and Sarah, thank you both.

Joining us now, former Democratic senator from California, Barbara Boxer. She is the host of the podcast "Fight Back." And back in 1991, she was part of a group of female lawmakers who marched across the capital plaza to demand that her own party give Anita Hill a fair hearing.

Senator, good to have you with us.


CABRERA: Has this entire week felt like history repeating itself to you?

BOXER: Very much so. And in so many ways, because what we are seeing, besides the whole issue of who is right, who is wrong, we are seeing a groundswell of women across this nation come forward with their stories. That's exactly what happened all those years ago, 27 years ago, when women kept sexual harassment in the workplace quiet.

Now we are looking at women who is explaining why they didn't come forward so many years ago, how ashamed they felt, how guilty they felt, how they felt no one would believe them. And it's a moment. It's a moment in time. And I'm very glad that the country is going to meet Dr. Ford.

CABRERA: Within just the last hour, as we just reported, we learned Ford will speak at a hearing on Thursday. So the date is set. But we are not sure yet or for sure if it will be public. Would you encourage her to speak publicly?

BOXER: I just feel she should do what makes her comfortable. But I think at some point it's important that the public see her. It doesn't have to necessarily be there. But it ought to be in a place where she feels comfortable to tell her story, because this wasn't her point. She came forward out of civic responsibility, because someone who she said attempted to rape her is poised to go to the highest court in the land, where he is going to rule on women's rights.

And what we know, if you just read judge Kavanaugh's dissent in the case of an immigrant who was 17 years old and went through all the hoops in Texas and he tried to stop her from exercising her right to choose, the way he talks about her is chilling. And so it's really -- there's so many dimensions to this.

But Ana, I wanted to say, after so many years in the United States Senate where I was chairman or ranking member on subcommittees and full committees, I want to say, I have never seen a process like this. I have never seen a situation where the Republicans or the Democrats were not reaching out to the other party to work with the witnesses together, to accommodate the witnesses. And it's really rather stunning. And I would say if my colleagues on the Republican side are too afraid to show their face and question this individual who deserves their attention and respect, it shows that they really don't know how to do their job.

And we shouldn't be paying them to do their job if they can't be there. There has never been a situation where there was outside counsel or other people questioning someone related to a Supreme Court hearing.

[20:06:49] CABRERA: Now, when you look back at the Clarence Thomas hearings, Republicans were slammed for how they cross-examined Hill, while Democrats like Joe Biden were also blamed for not taking her seriously enough. And Biden has a talked about that recently. Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My biggest regret was, I didn't know how I could shut you off if you were a senator and you were attacking Anita Hill's character. Under the senate rules, I can't (INAUDIBLE) down and say you can't asked that question, although I tried. And so, what happened was, she got victimized again during the process. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: How would you advise Democrats to handle the Ford hearing if she does testify publicly?

BOXER: Well, I would say to all of my colleagues, number one, have the courage and the guts to do your own questioning and treat this person with total respect. Don't harangue her, don't harass her, give her the time she needs to express herself.

This is a situation where someone has kept inside their heart, inside their mind, a moment in time where they thought, she thought she might even die, when he put his hand over her mouth, didn't allow her to scream for help. And it was a miracle that she got away.

And let me just say this. I have read everything about this account. I have talked to Ana Eshoo, who is her congresswoman, who sat with the doctor for an hour-and-a-half. She is very believable.

So when you are facing someone like that who has finally had the courage, and she did tell a marriage counselor and her husband about it several years ago, but she is come forward. Treat her with dignity, treat her with respect. Treat her the way you would want to be treated or you want your daughter to be treated.

CABRERA: You talked about how this process and the way senators had handled it is unlike anything you have experienced before.


CABRERA: What do you make of how Democrats have handled it so far, the fact that Feinstein, your senator there in California, did not alert her colleagues on the committee to the allegations when she learned about them? I know you are close to her. Could she have handled this better?

BOXER: Let me just tell you something. When you are a United States senator or a congressperson, and a constituent comes to you and shares something they have never shared, and says to you on the phone or in a letter, I please need you to respect my privacy. I'm afraid. That's your job. That's what Dianne did. And then when it was leaked out, she immediately sent it to the FBI. She immediately showed it to her colleagues. So no, that was the paramount thing. You don't run off and use your constituents to make political points. You don't do that.

CABRERA: Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway says Ford deserves to be heard but she also implied in her more recent statements that because no other women have come forward with accusations against Kavanaugh, especially since this news got out, Ford's allegations may be suspect. Listen.


[20:10:08] KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: You see a pattern and a practice. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which is what?

CONWAY: Well, that there are many -- there are many women who say that they have been wronged by the same man. Harvey Weinstein, Les Moonves, you know, others. I don't need to name names. I'm just saying that when one woman comes forward, others come forward. That's what's happened in most of these cases. And I know it's not for lack of trying that people are trying to prove the same here and have not.


CABRERA: Senator Boxer, how do you respond to that?

BOXER: Here's how we respond to it. A, we don't know if there are other people out there who might be afraid to come forward. We don't know this. We may find out there are. We may never find out. But guess what? If you try to rape somebody, only one person in your life, you are called a rapist or an attempted rapist.

This is a person who is up for the highest court in the land. If in fact he did this once, he should not be on the court. And if there's doubt about it, there are so many fine men and women out there who would love to be on the court.

I just feel everything is upside down and inside out. We don't want a Supreme Court justice with a cloud over his head. We don't want to worry when there's a case about equal rights, that we have someone sitting there who has shown anger toward women. By the way, there are a lot of threads out there about him, when he was at Yale. I don't even want to repeat some of the things I have read, because that's why we need an independent look by the FBI. That's also unprecedented.

They certainly did that when Anita Hill came out with her comments. And that's what you do. I put up so many judges and recommended them to both Republican and Democratic Presidents, OK? I served with both. The FBI went back and investigated. If something popped up in the course of their investigation, they would go all the way back to childhood.


BOXER: So I'm telling you, there are threads out there about secret societies he belonged to, what these societies were called. There are lots of other things. His friend who was supposedly in the room, Mr. Judge I believe, Mark Judge, wrote about someone named "O'Kavanaugh" who was drunk and throwing up and the kind of parties that went on.

CABRERA: Now presumably these are all things that could be asked of Kavanaugh, could be asked of Professor Ford about the time and what was going on at the time and about more of their personal lives.


CABRERA: During this hearing that we expect now to happen on Thursday. Again, coming back to where we started in this segment and that 1991 hearing that you were part of that time with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, we know how that ended after the hearings and after the investigation played out in that case. Fast forward to today, the "Me Too" movement, this era of women coming forward and being believed. Will this end differently?

BOXER: Well, look. We don't know how it's going to go. We don't know how it's going to end. But I would say this. When you look at the Republican side of that committee, and they have had 27 years to add one woman to their side, they have not done so.

On the Democratic side, there are four women out of ten. On the Republican side, no women out of 11. And you already had hatch saying some terrible things that she's mixed up, that he doesn't believe her. You already had Grassley making some comments. It's not good. And I think what the public is going to see, I really believe this, is a very big difference on where the parties have gone.

When I started out in politics, both parties supported women's rights, and the right to choose, and equal pay. Even the E.R.A. And over the years, we have seen these parties go in opposite directions, and we've seen more women go to the house and Senate, who are Democrats.

Let me just say this. I think we are going to see a huge wave of women in November, regardless of all of this. If you put together the "Me Too" movement, this whole situation, the largest women's march in history. Something's in the air. And I don't think it's partisan. I think it's this. I think women are going to vote for people who want true equality and respect and dignity shown toward women. I really do.

[20:15:04] CABRERA: Senator Barbara Boxer, thank you very much. We really appreciate your perspective.

BOXER: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: So what are the possible outcomes for Kavanaugh at this point? Is there a scenario where the White House needs to make a backup plan? A Presidential historian joins us live.

Also --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This guy is an altar boy, you know, a scout. Because one woman made an allegation, sorry, I don't buy it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But in the grand scheme of things, my goodness, there was no intercourse. There was maybe a touch. Can we -- really? Thirty-six years later she is still stuck on that?


CABRERA: Why a group of Republican women CNN talked to are standing by Brett Kavanaugh.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[20:19:52] CABRERA: The breaking news this hour, CNN now confirms lawyers for judge Brett Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Ford, and staffers for the Judiciary Committee have just worked out a tentative agreement, one that means Ford is now set to testify on Thursday at Kavanaugh's newly reopened confirmation hearing.

This comes after three deadlines passed in just the last 36 hours. But as we now wait for more details, we want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. With us to do just that, CNN Presidential historian Tim Naftali, and David Kaplan who interviewed justices and their law clerks for his book, "the Most Dangerous Branch."

Tim, if Christine Ford testifies on Thursday and perhaps damages Kavanaugh's credibility or at the very least just appears credible herself, is there a backup plan behind the scenes, is the White House calling other potential nominees, should they be?

[20:20:46] TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, Ana, that's a very important question. On Thursday, as it appears likely now it will be Thursday, there won't be a trial. It won't be a trial. There's not going to be somebody found guilty or innocent, unless the judge, judge Kavanaugh, should declare himself guilty. So since there won't be a verdict, it's going to be up to the American people. And the court of public opinion is the most important court. And the American people and their representatives are going to decide whether Professor Christine Blasey Ford is credible.

If she's credible in the minds of most Americans and most importantly, in the minds of the people, many people in Nebraska and in Arizona, then that puts enormous pressure on two members of the Republican majority, Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake. They are not fans of Donald Trump's. They are solid, true blue Republican conservatives. And they will have to ask themselves whether they in good conscience can vote for someone against whom there is a credible allegation of sexual assault. It may come down to the decisions of only a handful of people.


NAFTALI: If they should decide that they cannot endorse judge Kavanaugh, then we'll have the situation we had in 1991, when Clarence Thomas' nomination was passed to the full Senate without a recommendation from the Judiciary Committee. Then it will be the question of whether Senator Collins and senator Murkowski will join senators Flake and Sasse. And if they do, then Kavanaugh will not be confirmed. That is a possible outcome.

CABRERA: David, let me ask you, because I know you have had conversations at length with the current Supreme Court justices. Do you have any insight into how they are viewing all this right now?

DAVID KAPLAN, AUTHOR, THE MOST DANGEROUS BRANCH: Well, they hate seeing the court put in the political maelstrom. They can't stand this. It's inconsistent with what they think is the role of the court. And they don't like confirmation hearings, the circus that confirmation hearings have become to begin with. They certainly can't stand this. And surely for Clarence Thomas, who hasn't gotten over his hearings almost 30 years ago, this has to reopen old wounds.

Now, you asked before, are they looking at other candidates. If you were Ray Kethledge and Tom Hardiman and perhaps Amy Coney Barrett, who are the runners of last time, I wouldn't be making vacation plans, you have to know that the White House is actively thinking about them. And you, of course, not going to put in any calls until Kavanaugh's nomination is dead.

But they have to keep that in mind because of course nobody knows what public opinion is going to look like. Nobody is going to know what key senators look like. It all comes down to her credibility. And to a lesser extent, what he says. But he doesn't have much to say up there because so far his narrative has been, I barely know who this person was. I wasn't there. And I didn't do it. There's not a whole lot else to ask him.

CABRERA: Do you think the "Me Too" movement has influenced what the Supreme Court justices themselves think? How to you think they would feel about having two members serving on the court who have been accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment?

They live in a marble temple, of course, but they are not gods. And they understand what goes on in society. When Alex Kozinksi, a judge of federal appeals court out in California last year was accused of sexual harassment and ultimately was forced to resign, the chief justice John Roberts appointed a commission, a committee to look into how federal judges ought to better deal with sexual harassment claims from their law clerks.

So they are aware of what goes on. And surely they recognize that times have changed in 30 years. But they won't say anything publicly. Once Kavanaugh or someone else is seated, they move on. They live up there at the court for decades at a time, and they have to get along. So even Clarence Thomas who had those rough hearings 30 years ago, once he was on the court, people got along.

[20:25:23] CABRERA: Tim, I want to look at a couple of worst case scenarios for Republicans if Kavanaugh isn't confirmed. One, Kavanaugh fails, Republicans scramble to find a backup before the midterms. History is not on their side necessarily getting a confirmation in time. And two, Kavanaugh, his nomination fails or maybe he chooses to withdraw, and Democrats win the Senate. They are mindful of how Merrick Garland's nomination was blocked in the Obama era. Could we actually see this seat stay vacant until 20?

NAFTALI: Well, that question is the reason why Mitch McConnell committed a grave error, not only was it a constitutional assault, because he deprived the President of the United States of his constitutional right to have an appointment to the Supreme Court heard and judged. But he also laid down a marker. He basically said to Democrats, do this to me, do it to the Republicans, please, because that's -- and then what I fear is a cycle of revenge.

Yes, of course the Democrats could sit on a nomination. It wouldn't be healthy. It's not a good thing. We shouldn't do that. We should restore respect to the presidency. But that could happen. And it would be in many -- in the eyes of many Americans, a fair retribution for the mistreatment of President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland.

KAPLAN: If I could add, I think it's entirely possible that if Kavanaugh went down to defeat, say by October 1st, that still leaves three months before early January. And even if the Democrats took back the Senate, I would not put it past McConnell and the Trump White House to try to get a less controversial nominee approved by early January. This Senate will still be in control and can still confirm. Some might regard it as cynical but if public opinion didn't turn dramatically, that outcome wouldn't surprise me at all.

CABRERA: We shall see, gentlemen. Thank you both.

KAPLAN: And internally, they're thinking about it that way already.

CABRERA: All right. David Kaplan, Tim Naftali, really appreciate it. Good conversations guys, thanks.

It is an extraordinary headline, even for this White House. Sources say deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein discussed wearing a wire to record conversations with President Trump. And recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th amendment. So now will Trump fire Rosenstein?

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[20:30:25] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Silence from the White House, more than 24 hours after bombshell reporting about the man overseeing the Russia probe. Deputy attorney general rod Rosenstein. Sources tell CNN that in the days after FBI director James Comey was fired, Rosenstein talked of wearing a wire to record the president, having others do so, or even trying to build support for using the 25th Amendment to force President Trump from office. The New York Times broke the story. CNN has matched much of it.

Now, the extraordinary comments are reportedly captured in memos written by Andrew McCabe who briefly led the FBI after Comey was fired. Sources say those memos are now in the hands of Robert Mueller's team. Rosenstein has issued not one but two statements of denial.

Last night he insisted, quote, 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.

Laura Jarrett is working this story for us. Laura, there's some chatter this weekend about whether Rosenstein was actually joking when he allegedly made these comments. Was this sarcasm?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It depends who you talk to, Ana. So I talked to, at least, one person in the room who said to me, look, I've known him for a long time. It was clearly sarcasm. He clearly had no intention on actually wearing a wire to tape the president, and that kind of thing would have required follow-up and I would have known about it, that didn't happen.

But there are other sources who are adamant that this was quite serious and that this was not a laughing matter. And I think part of the divergence that you're seeing come out playing here is the fact that McCabe and Rosenstein do not know each other very well.

When a lot of these conversations are taking place, it's May of 2017, it's chaos. After James Comey has just been fired, there's this eight-day stretch between the time Comey is fired and the special counsel is appointed. And so there's a lot going on in this time that might have been easily misunderstood, Ana.

CABRERA: So these comments come at these meetings now between Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe at the time, as you point out, they don't know each other very well, there's a lot of tumultuous tension in Washington after Comey was fired.

JARRETT: To say the least.

CABRERA: What was that relationship like between the two? What were they like?

JARRETT: Well, you know, after talking to a variety of different sources, what you see here is partially the fact that the FBI leadership at the time is really devoted to Comey. And so when he is fired without any -- with great surprise and drama by the president in early May, McCabe is angry about that. And he's also pressing the deputy attorney general to recuse himself from the investigation because of Rosenstein's role in the firing of Comey.

[20:35:12] We all remember that he wrote this interesting sort of memo laying out the case for why Comey had flouted DOJ protocols in the handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and that's get used as the initial pretext for why Comey has to go. That later, of course, all falls apart when the president mentions Russia.

But in those initial days, Rosenstein was held up as the reason that Comey had to go. And I think that you see this picture emerging of McCabe being very distressful of the deputy attorney general. And so when he makes certain comments, McCabe then writes them down, Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Laura Jarrett in Washington for us, thank you for your reporting.

And we now have a tentative date. Sources telling CNN, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford say she could appear in front of Congress Thursday.

Up next, CNN talks to a group of Republican women who are standing by Brett Kavanaugh. You're live in the CNN newsroom.


[20:40:30] CABRERA: Sources confirming to CNN within the past hour that lawyers for Kavanaugh's accuser have tentatively agreed on a hearing on Thursday for Christine Blasey Ford to -- testimony, excuse me, against Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Now, President Trump has joined the campaign to discredit her, tweeting, "If Ford really was sexually assaulted and the attack was as bad as she claims, why was there no police report? Why didn't her "loving parents" report the crime to police?"

At the very least, this is an ill-informed question being raised by the most powerful man in the world, the man who himself has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women.

Here are the facts. One in five women will be raped at some point in their lives. When it comes to the broader context of sexual assault, the number is even greater. One in three women will experience that. In most rape cases, eight out of ten to be exact, the victim knows his or her attacker.

And when it comes to actually reporting the crime, the numbers are not good. Sixty-three percent of sexual assaults, more than half, are not reported to police. On the chance they are reported, 99 percent of perpetrators go completely unpunished. They walk free.

Again, 99 percent. False reporting, on the other hand, rarely happens, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Just two to 10 percent of women aren't telling the truth when they come forward with claims of sexual assault.

So, why are there so many women and men who don't report it when they are victims of sex crimes? The president doesn't seem to understand why Kavanaugh's accuser waited so long. And some Republican women don't either.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A show of hands. How many of you believe Judge Kavanaugh when he says this didn't happen?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe him too.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can we believe the word of a woman of something that happened 36 years ago when this guy has an impeccable reputation? Nobody that has spoken, it will not him, everyone that speaks about and this guy is an altar boy, a scout. Because one woman made an allegation, sorry, I don't buy it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But in the grand scheme of things, my goodness, there was no intercourse. There was maybe a touch. Can we -- really? Thirty-six years later, she's still stuck on that? How'd it happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, we're talking about a 15-year-old girl, which I respect. I'm a woman, I respect. We're talking about a 17- year-old boy in high school with his testosterone running high. Tell me what boy hasn't done this in high school? Please. I would like to know.


CABRERA: So based on my own reporting and interviews with law enforcement, victim's advocates, researchers, and survivors themselves, I can tell you, why don't they come forward, oftentimes, they're afraid. Afraid of being blamed. Afraid of not being believed, just like you saw there. Afraid of retaliation. Afraid of having to relive the assault.

Sometimes it's because they're ashamed. They feel guilty. Maybe if they hadn't gotten in that car, maybe if they hadn't gone into a room alone with a man. Sometimes they're struggling just to accept what happened. They think if they don't talk about it, if they don't admit it, maybe they'll forget about it.

Sometimes it's simply a question of whether it's worth it. Is it worth having your integrity and character called into question when 99 percent of perpetrators go free? And when headlines will still highlight your attacker's achievements. When a judge may ask, why you simply didn't close your legs or simply give your attacker a pass. What about when a man caught on tape bragging about sexual assault still becomes president? This is why women don't speak up.

[20:45:27] One last note. In the time it has taken me just to read this, two more Americans have been sexually assaulted. It happens every 98 seconds according to the National Sexual Assault Hotline. The hotline number, for those who need help, is right there on your screen.

Still to come, the Texas race for Senate is tight. So who came out on top after last night's debate between Ted Cruz and his Democratic opponent Beto O'Rourke? Both came out fighting. I'll have an in- depth look, next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[20:50:31] CABRERA: President Trump trying to drum up excitement for the 2018 elections, told a Missouri crowd last night that the upcoming midterms are a referendum on him and his agenda.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A poll came out, they said everybody's going out in 2020 because they want to vote for you. They want to vote for the president. But they're not maybe coming out in 2018. Get out in 2018 because you're voting for me in 2018. You're voting for me.


CABRERA: In Texas where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by nine points, the 2018 battle between Republican Senator Ted Cruz and the Democrat Beto O'Rourke could go down to the wires. Sparks flew in their debate last night.

CNN's Ed Lavandera was there.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I'm not going to repeat the slander.

REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS: You're not going to say what you did, Ted?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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 scrapping it out over who is more Texan.

O'ROURKE: Only one of us has been to each county in Texas and would have an idea of what Texas values and interests are. Within months of being sworn to service your senator, Ted Cruz, was not in Texas, he was in Iowa?

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

O'ROURKE: Thank you so much.

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 health care, educational reform, granting so-called Dreamers citizenship status, as well as criminal justice reform and legalizing marijuana.

CRUZ: God bless, Texas.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready, one, two, three.

LAVANDERA: And just 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.

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

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

CRUZ: Thank you. O'ROURKE: But 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.

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 if 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.

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.

CRUZ: True to form.

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 have ended in unceremonious flames?

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


CABRERA: Up next, an attack on an unlicensed day care. Infants stabbed. Now, police revealing to CNN this center may be linked to so-called birth tourism from Asia. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[20:55:57] CABRERA: An update tonight on a shocking attack on infants at an unlicensed day care in New York. A law enforcement official briefed on this case tells CNN the center is suspected of being a place where some women from Asia go to give birth to secure citizenship for their babies, and for themselves eventually in many cases.

Three babies were among five people stabbed on Friday by an employee who then tried to kill herself. According to police, the babies range in age from just three days to one month old. Nine babies, along with some of their parents were in that center during the attack.

It is a slow-moving natural disaster, still unfolding in the southeast. More than a week after Hurricane Florence made landfall, the waters are continuing to rise in the Carolinas. And a new threat has emerged. Coal ash, the waste from industrial plants that contain arsenic, lead and mercury. Environmentalists fear coal ash is entering the Cape Fear River after a dam breached and a Duke Energy plant in Wilmington, North Carolina. Now Duke Energy says the coal ash has not yet entered the river. Don't forget, the final episodes of "PARTS UNKNOWN" starts tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. And ahead of that premiere tonight, an Anthony Bourdain "Parts Unknown" marathon is next. Thanks for being with. I'm Ana --