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Kavanaugh Accuser Agrees to Tell Her Story This Week; Rosenstein: I Never Pursued or Authorized Recording Trump. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired September 23, 2018 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:14] DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Questions over Kavanaugh's confirmation. His accuser says she's ready to testify. Republican leaders say they aren't worried.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court. Keep the faith. Don't get rattled by all of this.

BASH: Plus, after a shocking report on Rod Rosenstein, the president says changes could be coming at the Justice Department.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a lingering stench and we're going to get rid of that, too.

BASH: And a Texas-sized showdown. Beto and Ted face off.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Just now Congressman O'Rourke repeated things he knows aren't true.

REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS: This is why people don't like Washington, D.C. You just said something I did not say and attributed it to me.

CRUZ: What did you not say?

BASH: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.


BASH: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash, in today for John King.

To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your day with us.

Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school has tentatively agreed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Notice the careful wording of the president -- excuse me, the message that Ford's attorney sent to the committee on Saturday. Dr. Ford accepts the committee's request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh's sexual misconduct next week.

What is still unclear is who will do the questioning. Both parties have arranged to pick up negotiations today and the anticipation is already building.

On the "Drudge Report", simple summation of the reality senators will face. He says, she says, Thursday.

Kavanaugh adamantly denies the allegation and says he want the opportunity to publicly defend himself. He's getting help from the president, who insists Kavanaugh is an ideal pick.


TRUMP: He was born -- you talk about central casting. He was born -- they were saying it ten years ago about him. He was born for the U.S. Supreme Court. He was born for it.

It's going to happen. 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.


BASH: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared at a major conservative conference on Friday and his message to the base was don't worry.


MCCONNELL: In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court. So, my friends, keep the faith. Don't get rattled by all of this. We're going to plow right through it and do our job.


BASH: And just last night, CNN learned the name of a fourth person that was identified as being at the party. Long-time Ford friend Leland Ingham Keyser says she has no memory of it. Her lawyer, Howard Walsh, released a statement to CNN and to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying, saying simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with or without, Dr. Ford.

Now, "The Washington Post" conducted the brief interview with Keyser, where she added that she believes Dr. Ford's account.

And with us to share their reporting and their insights, Michael Bender from "The Wall Street Journal", "TIME's" Molly Ball, Rachael Bade from "Politico", and CNN's Manu Raju.

Good morning, one and all. Great to have you here.

I want to start by digging a little bit more into that fourth witness, alleged witness who was allegedly at that party all those years ago, first with a White House statement responding to it.

One week ago, Dr. Christine Ford claimed she was at a house party attended by four others. Since then all four of these individuals have provided statement to the Judiciary Committee denying any knowledge of the incident or even having attended such a party. I want to show you what Ford's lawyer, Debra Katz, said again about this fourth person.

It is also unremarkable that Ms. Keyser does not remember attending a specific gathering 30 years ago, at which nothing of consequence ever happened to her. Dr. Ford, of course, will never forget this gathering because of what happened to her there.

So, there is an attempt to try to get more than a -- as Matt Drudge said, he said/she said, on Thursday, by getting corroborating witness, and it seems as though they have failed, which again I think both of these statements have good points. The White House saying, OK, no one can corroborate and Professor Ford's lawyer saying, of course, who would remember a party 30 years ago when nothing happened?

[08:05:11] And it's a reminder that it's going to be these two statements and these two explanations of what did or didn't happen that is going to have to rule the day.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, that's right. And that's one of the sticking points of this hearing on Thursday. They've tentatively agreed to it, but there are still a few points that have to be ironed out. One of which is whether or not there will be any outside witnesses and the White House has long believed here that time is on their side, that the pressure, as far as timing goes, is on Dr. Ford, the longer she delays this, the more it will cast doubt on her account of what happened 30 years ago. And if this doesn't happen on Thursday, for some reason she would pull out, the White House believes that that would play into their hands as well.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And there's a reason for not wanting outside witnesses. Republicans are adamant against having outside witnesses. Right now, the witnesses have made those statements that they don't remember it or deny it happened but if they were questioned by senators or potentially outside counsel, perhaps there may be some wiggle room, there made some -- they may shed some light about the character of Brett Kavanaugh, about what was happening at that time that could open up to a whole slew of questions about Brett Kavanaugh that witnesses may shed some light about his past, and that is exactly what Republicans and the White House do not want.

So, it would be surprising if they ultimately agreed to outside witnesses. Because that is one thing that Republicans are saying will not happen. So, ultimately, it will come down to a he said/she said and senators are going to have to judge his credibility because of that.

BASH: And we remember -- although it was only two days ago. It seems like in dog years, these days, seems like a long time ago. The president finally sent a tweet that was maybe more in keeping with the kind of reaction he has to these kinds of things as opposed to the restraint he had for the whole week. And that is being very aggressive.

Here is what he said on Friday. I have no doubt that if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have immediately -- been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time and place. The radical left lawyers want the FBI to get involved now.

Why didn't someone call the FBI 36 years ago?

So, our Phil Mattingly is now reporting that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, called the president on Friday and said, please don't do that. It's not helpful.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Yes, there's a reason that Republicans spent all week, both relieved and nervous by the president's restraint. And then when he finally broke that restraint, this is exactly what they were trying to avoid. Exactly what they were trying to avoid -- you know, first of all, just bringing Trump into this.

Having him once again call a woman a liar, who has come forward with an allegation, and just really pressing that button in a year when women were already so galvanized, so up in arms, a nomination that women were already quite mobilized about, to remind women of the way these situations play out and an outpouring of why victims don't come forward.

So, all it did was serve to unbury this issue and really create even more of a public debate about that.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: What the president said also sort of ignores the reality of sexual assault. I mean, often, women do not talk about what happened to them for years. Sometimes there's a feeling of shame, especially decades ago when women didn't have the sort of empowerment that they do now with the #MeToo movement.

So, you know, saying -- for the president to say why didn't she file an FBI report that night? That's not reality from back then either. So, obviously, Republicans can't be seen as attacking her. And I think they are trying to make sure while, of course, supporting Kavanaugh that they're careful what they say about her.

Specifically, they're asking to bring in, you know, a lawyer to question her when she is appearing this Thursday. They don't want to be the one, 11 Republican men, questioning a woman when she was assaulted. So, I think that just speaks to how careful they need to be.

BASH: Meanwhile, all week, Brett Kavanaugh was at the White House, preparing for this moment, this incredible make or break moment. And "The Washington Post" has some interesting reporting this morning about what they call the murder boards when a witness goes and practices, some potential questions that he or she is going to get.

Kavanaugh grew frustrated when it came to questions that dug into his private life, particularly his drinking habits and his sexual proclivities, according to three people familiar with the preparations, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

[08:10:05] He declined to answer some questions altogether saying they were too personal, these people said.

I mean, he's going to get personal questions unfortunately for everybody. That's where this is right now.

BENDER: Yes, what the White House is saying is that those were -- that was actually the game plan, that they were trying to push Kavanaugh's buttons as much as possible, in order for him to get frustrated in the privacy of --

BASH: Right.

BENDER: The would-be privacy of the White House.

BASH: But saying, I'm sorry, that's too personal, I'm not going to answer, do you think that's the way to go? I mean, I'm not asking for you, but that's the way he is going to go.

BENDER: I think that's what they were trying to do. They want him to be able to get that out now and be able to come up with an answer for when that question would inevitably come up, whether it's from other attorney or Democratic senators on that committee.

RAJU: I mean, that's why this hearing is going to be such a -- so difficult for Kavanaugh to navigate and why Republicans in the White House are so worried about this hearing taking place. Yesterday, the White House came out, raising significant concerns about -- they believe the discussions on the hearing about it going well. They have criticized Ford's camp for dragging their feet on this.

They said that's -- you know, time for Kavanaugh to be able to tell his story. But the reality is that they are very concerned about how this could play out because of things like this. These personal questions, her testimony -- and it will be difficult, you know, if she's a credible witness it will be difficult for some Republican senators, a handful of them, to ultimately vote yes. And that is the ultimate fear here. And where does it go from there afterwards if he goes down?

BASH: It's just -- there are so many unbelievable elements to this and dynamics to this and that is the key one, is that it is going to be up to these senators, four or so Republicans in particular who are probably the key to decide who they believe. Again, we think Thursday, but could change by the end of the day. We'll see.

Up next, after a bombshell report about Rod Rosenstein, some of the president's top allies are warning him, don't make any moves -- at least not yet. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:53] BASH: On this Sunday morning here in Washington, D.C., Rod Rosenstein is still the attorney general, for now. Sources tell CNN that the president is being urged not to fire his deputy attorney general, at least not until the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight is over.

At issue is Friday's "New York Times" report that in May of 2017, Rosenstein discussed secretly recording his conversations with the president. Not just that, "The Times" says Rosenstein also brought up invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

Now, some colleagues have said the remarks were meant to be sarcastic. For his part, Rosenstein calls the story inaccurate and factually inaccurate, going on to say: Let me be clear about this. Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.

In a second statement issued after a Friday night damage control meeting at the White House, now Rosenstein is adding: I never pursued or authorized recording the president and any suggestion that I ever advocated the removal of the president is absolutely false.

Now, President Trump hasn't commented directly but has said this, listen, on Friday in Missouri.


TRUMP: 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 have some real bad ones.

You see what's happened at the FBI? They're all gone. They're all gone. But there's a lingering stench and we're going to get rid of that, too.


BASH: Now let me just read something that "The New York Times" deputy managing editor put in the paper yesterday, to respond to this notion that, well, Rosenstein was kidding. This is what it said.

Just because you don't like the facts, don't comfort yourself by dismissing the story as fake or credulous reporting. This story is based on months of reporting. The DOJ claim that Rosenstein was sarcastic when he suggested that he wear a wire on Trump is not supported by our reporting or others.

Very interesting. You don't see that kind of pushback by an editor -- I mean, you tell me. You guys have editors -- to the tone of what was intended in a report.

BALL: Well, it was really remarkable that the minute this report came out it set off this flurry of theorizing and conspiracy theories, frankly, about of how -- why this story was done exactly. I think people really overestimate the extent to which a source can just plant a story in the "New York Times." It's not that easy.

And as the editor said, this was a result of months of reporting. So, all of the churning and ulterior motives being attributed are probably not true, because, you know, reporters try to take that into account. That being said, there is conflicted reporting of what the tone was of Rosenstein's remark.

To me, the remarkable thing was that you have the Department of Justice confirming that he said this and they're just quibbling about the tone.

[08:20:04] So, he is not actually contesting or the DOJ doesn't seem to be contesting that he did make this offhand comment and the question is, was it meant seriously or not?

BADE: This whole thing is baffling to me, because the president's allies on Capitol Hill and, you know, conservative talk show hosts, they have been gunning for Rosenstein for a long time. They have, you know, attacked him on TV, saying he basically created the special counsel, this Russia investigation that's going after the president, trying to undercut him.

You have an impeachment resolution on Capitol Hill over document production that Rosenstein apparently hasn't been giving Republicans on the hill documents quick enough. And now, they have this report, this bombshell report. And you would think they would latch on to it, call for him to be fired, impeach him, but they're not. They're saying this is a trap.

And I think this actually speaks to this sort of change in tone with Republicans and specifically Trump allies. They are more cautious as we get closer to the midterm elections and they're also afraid, of course, of the president potentially hurting himself regarding obstruction of justice, that this could feed into that narrative.

BASH: Yes. I think all of those factors are weighing on this. The trap, that is basically what the message is from many of the president's allies, particularly a certain cable channel that he watches and takes cues from a lot and that is Fox News. Watch this.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: If you were laying a trap for Donald Trump, this might be exactly how you do it before moving forward. The president might ask himself, why do Andy McCabe and "The New York Times" want me to fire Rod Rosenstein?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I have a message for the president tonight, under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody. The president needs to know it is all a setup.


BASH: I mean, look, the president is somebody who is -- has not dismissed conspiracy theories before. Is that a diplomatic way to say that? And so the fact that they are saying this to him is -- I agree with you, is fascinating. We should also underscore the conversation that Rosenstein apparently was having was with McCabe, who is, you know, somebody who the Republicans can't stand, think he was just a Democratic shill inside the FBI. So, that's part of this conspiracy theory.

RAJU: Yes. I mean, the conspiracy theory is one part of it. But the other part of it is the real fear that among the Republican leadership, in particular, that if Trump does something that spawns more chaos in the administration, that is going to severely hurt them, heading into the midterms. I mean, that -- when you talk to Republicans, they point to specific episodes that led them to the situation they're in now, things like the Helsinki moment when President embraced Vladimir Putin, what happened in Charlottesville.

If there's firing of Rod Rosenstein just before the elections, there are question if he's tampering further with the Russia investigation, that could hurt his standing in the eyes of Republican voters and suburban districts as we head into the midterms and hurt their candidates down ballot. So, that's that biggest reason why he's being urged right now to take his foot off the gas way until after the midterms. I think that's when you'll see changes.

BASH: And yet -- and yet, from his own secretary of state, new this morning, a suggestion maybe coming from the other side of that argument. Watch this.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've been pretty clear since my beginning of service here in this administration. If you can't be on the team, if you're not supporting this mission, then maybe you just ought to find something else to do.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: I assume talking about wiring the president, talking about the 25th Amendment is not being on the table.

POMPEO: Not remotely.


BENDER: Well, yes. I mean, our sources inside the White House at the time this was happening say that Rod Rosenstein was completely unnerved by what was going on. You remember, Rosenstein threatened over how Comey was fired, how he was sort of used as leverage to fire Comey. He was not happy about that and really unnerved by sort of those Wild West days of the West Wing in Trump's first few months.

But the fact that -- it is baffling, to use Rachael's word here, but even a step back, that the deputy attorney general could be such a lightning rod and effect -- to possibly effect the midterm elections is sort of a moment in -- just underscores the era we're in right now with Trump. And to bring you inside of it a little bit, we at "The Wall Street Journal"" wrote that the relationship between Trump and Rosenstein had actually improved. This was coming from night the White House, that White House officials -- basically the number one over at the Department of Justice. [08:25:01] That story published and I heard from so many Trump allies

that we had gotten duped. Well, I pointed them to the first quote in our story which rose from President Trump, who, when he heard we were working on the story, made a point of saying that my relationship with Rosenstein is excellent.

BASH: That's fascinating.

BENDER: So, you know, that -- how this gets spun by both sides has been --

BASH: And we should also remember that Rod Rosenstein is the one who appointed Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein is the one who is going to receive whatever reporter Robert Mueller writes. So, that is -- aside from the fact that he is helping run the Justice Department, that's another really key factor, the key factor you're pointing out, Manu.

OK. Up next, how Kavanaugh's confirmation battles will impact the midterm election and GOP standing with women voters.

Before we go to break, a flashback to election day back in 1992. That election followed the Anita Hill hearings, when the female senators count jumped from two to six, including one who is now the top Democrat on the committee overseeing the Kavanaugh nomination.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Tonight, history is being made. In California, two women will be elected to the Senate of the United States.

So, Washington, ready or not, here we come!



[08:31:13] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: The sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh have both Democrats and Republicans rushing to define the Supreme Court nominee. Listen to this ad from the liberal group Ultra Violet Action.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Almost 30 years after Anita Hill, and after MeToo, and Roy Moore, Republican senators have not changed. They're still blaming a survivor of sexual assault instead of believing her, saying she was mistaken and mixed up. Don't put another sexual predator on the Supreme Court.


BASH: And on the other side, female friends and colleagues of Kavanaugh stood up to defend the nominee in a press conference this week.


MAURA FITZGERALD, FRIEND OF JUDGE KAVANAUGH SINCE HIGH SCHOOL: The allegation against Brett is inconsistent with everything that I have known about him as a person.

CATHIE MARTIN, FRIEND AND FORMER COLLEAGUE OF JUDGE KAVANAUGH: I have never seen him be anything but a true gentleman in all aspects of his life.


BASH: Whether or not these allegations against Brett Kavanaugh turn out to be true, they have taken a toll on the public's perception of him. For the first time, more registered voters now disapprove than approve of confirming Kavanaugh. And taking a deeper dive in the numbers, he is under water by 16 points among independents, by 14 points among women, and 21 points among college-educated women.

Molly Ball -- you have the cover story in "Time" this week -- What changed". And I want to read part of your great piece. "But while the political spectacle may be similar, this battle will unfold in a different era," -- referring, of course to 1991 and Anita Hill. "Every week brings new variations on the theme of women, racked with pain and rage, rising up in protest after too many years of trauma and terrified silence. Every week too, has brought fresh reminders of the extent to which our whole reality is the product of the privilege and prejudices of entitled men."

MOLLY BALL, "TIME MAGAZINE": Right. This is the debate we were already having not just in the political realm but culturally, right. Everything from, you know, Les Moonves, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken -- all these men who have been brought down by variations on, you know, some kind of allegation of sexual behavior. And I think that a lot of women have realized the extent to which these men's perspectives shaped our world.

And that applies to the Supreme Court as well, to look at a Supreme Court that has been overwhelmingly male and to realize the degree to which that determines how the laws are interpreted in this country. In the same way that who populates the senate determines what gets turned into law.

And so, you know, this was already the major cultural dynamic of our time and so to have this come out about the Supreme Court nominee, who was already controversial for reasons relating to a lot of these same themes, who the -- his supporters from the very beginning took pains to present as a friend to women. He talked so much about his wife and his mother and his daughters and had the sports team he coached come and support him as he began this hearing.

BASH: His daughters.

BALL: And his daughters. And so to have this become the central controversy is almost too fitting for the times that we live in.

BASH: It really is. And yet you make a point about the cultural change, but also maybe the delay. Maybe it's generational. Maybe it's gender. And you have seen that and showed us that in your -- walking your miles and miles and miles every day through the halls of Capitol Hill.

I want to play some of your conversation with Orrin Hatch, Republican, who was on the committee in 1991 during the Anita Hill hearings and still is now; and then Mazie Hirono.


[08:35:04] SENATOR ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He is a very strong, decent man.


HATCH: Yes. I sure do.

RAJU: Do you believe the accuser at all or not?

HATCH: Well, I think she's mistaken.

SENATOR MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Women, like Dr. Ford, who come forward very bravely to tell her story which, by the way, is very credible and I believe her, need to be supported.


BASH: It really is, as Molly said, every element of this cultural tidal wave that we're seeing right now playing right into this critical, critical decision about the swing vote on the U.S. Supreme Court.

RAJU: And will still affect Americans lives for a generation to come -- someone who could sit on the court for 30 years or so, which is why this is such a hugely significant week as we head into this hearing.

But just to go back to what Hatch was saying, this is clearly going to be the argument going forward over the next several days. It's going to be a way to not go after her personally or necessarily question that this incident took place, to question that she's mistaking him for another man or another high school kid at the time, questioning whether or not her memory is completely solid on this very significant situation that occurred. That can be really, really difficult to do without impugning her character and integrity.

And if they do that the way that President Trump started to do on Twitter last week, that's what really concerns him about ultimately getting him on the court.

BASH: And of course, there's public pressure understandably by people who do -- who are sort of entrenched on both sides of how they view this.

I was out in Colorado covering a very important battleground district where independent suburban voters, particularly women, are really key. I asked them about this. And you can see how much everybody is struggling with this. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's probably going to end up on the Supreme Court, if not someone very similar to him will be. So I guess I would like to see it delayed but I don't know what difference it will make ultimately.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's only the one. I could be totally wrong but -- and that is high school. What do we know when we're in high school? I mean sure, we know right and wrong, but it's been what, 30 years ago? So one thing does not make a person a bad person.


BASH: And I should say that those are two women who told me they were likely voting for the Democrat.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. I mean this is a problem, especially for house Republicans, because the Republican majority in the house runs through the suburbs. And we've heard from leadership time and time again that the key voting constituency they need are women.

And women, you know, with Republicans sort of wanting to push this through -- I realize that Republicans want to get Kavanaugh on the bench by October 1st. They want to get him confirmed before the midterms in case the Senate Democrats take the chamber but the sort of time crunch on this, pushing this through, it's really going to turn off women around the country. And that's going to be a problem, especially for House Republicans.

BASH: Yes. Well, that's clearly why Mitch McConnell called the President and said can you just, you know, ease up on the gas, on your Twitter feed? And he did. We haven't seen it since Friday. We'll see.

All right. Everyone -- we've got to take a quick break.

Up next, President Trump is in full campaign mode. Will he be a boost though, or a drag on Republicans in the midterms?

But first, talk about sibling rivalry you've got to watch this ad. It's in Arizona. It caught our attention. It has gone viral.

The Democrat trying to unseat incumbent Congressman Paul Gosar found these people to help him.


GRACE GOSAR: Paul Gosar, the congressman, isn't doing anything to help rural America.

DAVID GOSAR: Paul is absolutely not working for his district.

TIM GOSAR: And he's not listening to you and he doesn't have your interest at heart. My name is Tim Gosar.

G. GOSAR: Grace Gosar.

JOAN GOSAR: Joan Gosar.

JUSTIN GOSAR: Justin Gosar.

JENNIFER GOSAR: Jennifer Gosar.

G. GOSAR: Paul Gosar is my brother.


JOAN GOSAR: And I endorse Dr. Brill --

T. GOSAR: Dr. Brill. Wholeheartedly endorse Dr. David Brill for Congress.



BASH: Just six weeks now until the midterms and President Trump is ramping up his presence on the campaign trail. He campaigned this week for Republican Senate candidates in Missouri and Nevada, and tried to rally supporters by casting this election is all about him.


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.


BASH: Now making the midterms a referendum on Trump is a double-edged sword for the GOP. They need him to bring out his base but also fear his low approval rating and daily controversies will drag down vulnerable Republicans and while Democrats still face an uphill battle to retake the Senate and that's seemingly stacked against them, Republicans are now facing the very real possibility that their hold on the majority could be in jeopardy.

Look no further than ruby red Texas where Republican Senator Ted Cruz is facing a strong challenge from Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke. Friday night the two faced off for the very first time in a really tense debate and Donald Trump was an issue.


SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: 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. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS SENATE CANDIDATE: 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.


BASH: I mean that's not so subtle.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": No. I think Democrats are more than happy to make this election about Donald Trump. But, you know, what the numbers show right now is I think we probably all -- I think we'd all consider it a major upset if Republicans hold control of the House in November here.

But the interesting thing is that that could be a real day of reckoning for the Trump base and even the President himself. The Trump base, Republican voters take the President at his word. I had a conversation the other with a former Trump adviser who said that he was basically accosted in public by a Trump supporter who was talking about the coming red wave.

You know, if you believe the fake news, if you buy the President's line about the fake news then you don't believe that you're at risk here. And I think the President buys that, too. We reported at a private fundraiser, people who pay a lot of money to be in the room with the President, who pay a lot of attention to the polls, that the President stood up in front of them and said, you know, that any Republican who supports him will not lose in November. Telling them how can we lose?

BADE: That red wave is -- you know, GOP leaders are concerned about that talking point specifically. There was a great story in the "New York Times" just two days ago where basically Speaker Ryan apparently sat with Trump and said please stop talking about a red wave. We need people to show up at the polls if we have any prayer at keeping our majority. The red wave is a problem.

The other one is are distractions. Just a couple of weeks ago -- or about just a week ago, Republicans were meeting and talking about their messaging going into October.

The House Republicans are going to be out. They're going to be on the trail. And they were talking about tax cuts, the economy, play up these things.

[08:45:00] Meanwhile the President is tweeting about Puerto Rico and the fact that he doesn't believe that 3,000 people died. And this is specifically the distraction they don't need right now.

BASH: But it really is so tough for Republicans to figure out what to do with the President because he is somebody who galvanizes the base and this RNC memo that Bloomberg reported about this week said that 57 percent of people who describe themselves as strong Trump supporters don't believe Democrats have a chance. So him getting out there is really important in some of these areas.

RAJU: No question. And it's been interesting to see how the different Republican candidates, incumbents, are dealing with this. We've seen like last week, Dean Heller in Nevada, who is in a very difficult race, a purple state, state that the President lost, Latino voters could be an issue there as well.

He's embracing the President after initially distancing himself early on in the Trump presidency because he's made the calculation he needs to hug on to the President very tightly because he needs to drive up the support.

It's different in a lot of ways in past election cycles when a president who has been very unpopular, the party runs away from him. This time, some are embracing him.

BASH: It's so true. Nevada is going to be the one to watch to see whether or not that works or whether or not it's better to stay away when you've got to get the middle out to vote.

All right. Everybody stand by because coming up, our reporter are going to share a page from their notebooks, including how Democrats are already mapping out their investigations into the Trump administration if they do win the House.


BASH: Let's close this hour by heading around the INSIDE POLITICS table and asking our great reporters here to share a page from their notebooks and help you get out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.


BENDER: White House officials have talked about replacing FEMA director Brock Long based on his inappropriate use of government vehicles. He got a major show of support over the weekend from Kirstjen Nielsen, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary but he is still not quite in the clear yet.

For one, part of the agreement between Nielsen and Long is that he will repay the government for the cost of that travel. They haven't settled what that amount is. I'm told it's in the tens of thousands of dollars.

And two, the inspector general is still looking up Mr. Long. They're looking at his relationship with FEMA contractors and in at least one instance that includes discussions of future employment.

BASH: One of those many things that would be huge headlines if not for everything else making huge headlines in this administration.


BALL: We talk a lot about how enthusiastic the Democratic base is. How galvanized this year and what an advantage that is for Democrats in the midterms. However there's one place that Democrats are worried could be a weakness and that's Latino voters.

We've seen a lot of polls recently of some of the crucial House races in California, in Texas, and Florida. Also the Senate races in places like Nevada, Arizona, Florida again, and even Texas Democrats are increasingly worried that they are not seeing Latino voters galvanized in the same way that women have been and African-Americans have been. And that's a concern in the Trump era and it's a concern for the most crucial races on the midterm map.

BASH: Fascinating.


BADE: My one tip this week is, beware an unexpected government shutdown -- fingers crossed it won't happen given all the news going on. But the government runs out of money on Sunday and GOP leaders think they have convinced the President to sign all their spending bills and kick any shutdown fight over his border wall with Mexico until after the elections.

But there are some factions in the White House who are advising him to go for it now; that it will energize the base and will not hurt House Republicans even though GOP leaders completely disagree. Predicting the President is kind of fool's errand so just keep your eye on that.

BASH: I feel like I've seen this movie before.

BADE: Yes. Multiple times.

BASH: Yes, exactly.


RAJU: Dana -- House Democrats are, of course, not in the majority yet. They have not won the majority but they're planning as if they will take the majority in the fall.

Already I'm told that the potential chairmen of some key committees have been meeting and discussing how they would carry out their investigations of the Trump administration should they take the majority. They've had discussions with the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, who could be speaker if they take the House. We'll see what happens with that.

But nevertheless, they are trying -- one of the big they're trying to make sure is they do not duplicate the investigations because there are several committees who are pushing very hard for -- looking to a variety of issues. Everything from immigration to travel controversies to, of course, the Russia investigation that the Democrats in the House believe was not carried out appropriately. So expect those subpoenas to be flying in all sorts of directions. And that's the biggest concern for the Trump administration in that new potential Democratic majority. Impeachment is far way, Democrats are divided over that. But the investigations will be coming very aggressively in the new Congress if Democrats win.

BASH: I mean it is -- there's so many things that could and will happen if the Democrats do take over Congress but particularly the House. And I'm sure you all are hearing this as well, especially you at the White House, that that is what the President understands more than anything.

[08:55:01] His agenda might be derailed a bit but the Democrats having the gavel and having that subpoena power, particularly in the House, where it's just the majority can issue a subpoena could change everything.

All right. Everybody -- thank you so much for everything, for emptying your notebooks and joining us on this early hour on Sunday morning.

And thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thank you for sharing your Sunday morning here. Hope you can catch us weekdays as well at noon eastern.

And up next, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER". His guests include U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Senator Mazie Hirono.

Thanks for joining us.