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Trump Backs Brett Kavanaugh Despite New Claims Against the Nominee; Democrats Demand Halt to Kavanaugh Hearing Amid New Accusation; Trump Says Second Summit with Kim Jong-un Quite Soon; Trade Talks Stall as U.S. Hit China with $200 Billion Tariffs; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 24, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:11] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. So glad you're with us this Monday morning, and there is a lot of news.

There is, though, zero doubt this hour where the president stands on his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh who is now facing two allegations of sexual misconduct from decades ago. Arriving at the United Nations this morning for the general assembly, you see him there with Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

The president declared, quote, "I am with Judge Kavanaugh." He also called the allegations against Kavanaugh, quote, "Totally Political." Here's the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is a fine man with an unblemished past and these are highly unsubstantiated statements from people represented by lawyers. We should look into the lawyers doing the representation.

Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding person and I am with him all the way. We'll see how it goes with the Senate. We'll see how it goes with the vote. I think it could be -- there's a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything but I am with Judge Kavanaugh and I look forward to a vote.

And for people to come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago and 30 years ago and never mention it, all of a sudden it happens, in my opinion is totally political. It was totally political.


SCIUTTO: Well, the president also made big news, substantial news today on North Korea. A second summit between himself and Kim Jong-un not only happening but supposedly happening, according to the president, quite soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Moving very well. The relationships are very good with North Korea. We have many things in store. Looks like we'll have a second summit quite soon. As you know, Kim Jong-un wrote a letter, a beautiful letter, and asking for a second meeting, and we will be doing that. Secretary Pompeo will work that out in the immediate future.


SCIUTTO: "We will be doing that," says the president. Much more on that in a moment. But we begin with the latest turmoil in the already turbulent Brett Kavanaugh saga. And CNN's Abby Phillip has that.

Abby, we're three days out now from this follow-up meeting where we expect both Kavanaugh and Ford, one of his accusers, to appear and speak in public. And after holding his tongue for a number of days on this, the president in recent days and again this morning showing that he is giving Kavanaugh his full backing.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim. But there has been a striking change of tone from President Trump on this issue. He started out a week ago saying we want to hear what this accuser had to say, speaking of Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school. Now President Trump is clearly saying this is unjust. It's unfair to his nominee. And he's saying that Kavanaugh is a good person who is basically being smeared by these allegations.

What we've been told from sources is that President Trump over the weekend was briefed on a new set of allegations that was published in the "New Yorker" last night. He still stands by his nominee, our sources have said that they are expecting Kavanaugh to try to defend himself, and you've seen the ways in which Kavanaugh and the White House are doing it by saying that this is a smear campaign against him.

And President Trump has repeatedly in the past had sympathy for the accuser -- the accused but not so much for the victim. So I think this is what we're seeing once again when it comes to Kavanaugh, and both of these accusations against him.

HARLOW: Let's talk, Abby, about the news that broke last night, the "New Yorker" piece on Deborah Ramirez, who alleges that Kavanaugh when in college, when they were students at Yale, there was alleged sexual misconduct toward her. What can you tell us about her claims?

PHILLIP: Right. Just in the last 12 hours or so, these brand-new allegations back from when Kavanaugh was a college student, a freshman in college. Ramirez alleges that there was a party in which a lot of students were drinking. She says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her and caused her to touch his genitals when they were at this party. Now she relayed some of these memories from this moment, but the "New Yorker" says that she was uncertain at first about Kavanaugh's role in this, but they did speak with another classmate who went to school with them at the time who corroborated some of the key details that Ramirez brought up to the "New Yorker," independent of her. So there are some questions this morning being raised by the White

House and by Kavanaugh's allies about whether these allegations are corroborated, but here's what Ronan Farrow had to say about that issue.


[10:05:03] RONAN FARROW, THE NEW YORKER: There is a strong evidentiary basis. Her claim is corroborated, as you said, to an extent that is not always possible by people who did not know her, have not interacted with her and yet independently recounted the same fact pattern. Some of those people are on the record in this story so I point you to the piece.

The other is I think the same reason that she decided to speak, John, which is this is a story that is out there on the Hill. It is being investigated. It is a matter of news, whether she tells her own version of this story or not.


PHILLIP: So it's clear that the issue of whether these allegations are corroborated is going to be a key point that's going to be debated by both sides this week. All of this leading up to a likely hearing on Thursday morning with Christine Blasey Ford, the first accuser -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: We should note that Kavanaugh himself vehemently denies this second allegation as well. He calls it part of a smear campaign.

Abby Phillip, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thanks, Abby.

SCIUTTO: Let's go to Manu Raju, he is live on Capitol Hill.

So, Manu, you already had the uncomfortable situation of this hearing on Thursday. Now you have this second allegation. Where do Republican senators, particularly those swing votes, stand here? Does this latest allegation change anything?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know that yet, Jim, because it did break last night. The senators are traveling back into town today. So we plan to get a sense from some of those key senators, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee. Some of those who had raised some significant concerns about the first allegation, how they feel about the second allegation.

Now what we do know is that the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, led by Chuck Grassley, they do plan to look into this new allegation. They claim they had no prior knowledge about this before it broke last night. But they do plan to reach out to that accuser, Debbie Ramirez, to see what story she has to tell, but there's no sense of whether or not she will come for the Thursday hearing, which right now is slated to just have two witnesses. Just have Christine Blasey Ford in the first panel, Brett Kavanaugh in

the second panel, responding to her accusation that he assaulted her back in the '80s when they were in high school, but nevertheless, very turbulent at the moment. Republicans plan to push ahead. The leadership in particular is trying to make the case that this is all appears to be a political effort to drag down Brett Kavanaugh with unsubstantiated claims. Whether that works with their swing voters on the Republican side remains to be seen. A lot will be determined in the next couple of days here -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: And Manu, before you go, can you just clarify something for us? Because this "New Yorker" piece by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow talks about some congressional staff on the Hill knowing of these claims and allegations by Debbie Ramirez that, you know, college student at Yale with Kavanaugh, before the "New Yorker" story broke. Democrats and Republicans. What reporting do you have on that front?

RAJU: Well, Republicans are denying having any knowledge whatsoever, including Chuck Grassley's staff and Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, her staff also said they did not know the details of that report before it was published. But we do know that the Colorado senator Michael Bennett who is not part of the committee but whose constituents is Debbie Ramirez, the woman making the allegation, his office had been in touch with her, put her in touch with an attorney in Colorado after a staffer on the Democratic side of the aisle on the Judiciary Committee referred her case to Michael Bennett's office.

So that's where we get a sense of where things were. But there's no real sense that there was a full-fledged investigation internally happening on the committee, but still allegations that members were hearing about over the last several days here.

HARLOW: Right. OK. Thank you, Manu.

Let's talk about all of this. Our legal analyst Shan Wu is here, Alice Stewart joins us, as well as John Avlon.

Shan, to you, let's listen to Jane Mayer, who co-authored this "New Yorker" piece on Debbie Ramirez with Ronan Farrow, talking on CBS this morning about the claims of political motivation here. Listen to what she said.


JANE MAYER, THE NEW YORKER: I also interviewed a woman who Judge Kavanaugh wanted us to talk to, who wanted -- as someone who would defend him. And I asked her outright, she knows Deborah Ramirez. I said, do you think that politics was a motivation? And she said to me, no, and she's Kavanaugh's defender. So nobody is really alleging that politics was the motivation here.


HARLOW: Shan Wu, aside from the president and the White House -- Shan, can you hear us? He can't hear. All right, all right. Just your take on what we just heard.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's important to know that people are saying that there's a lack of corroboration. A lack of corroboration does not consist of finding people who know nothing about the allegation, asking them about it, and they say I don't know anything. That's not the right kind of corroboration you're seeking.

[10:10:01] They need to find people who know something about it, may have seen the people attending these different events before and after, and look at the evidence.

Each of the allegations needs to be scrutinized independently. And I think the second allegation, we can't possibly sit here and know if it happened or didn't know, but what we do know is it's very serious and could be part of a pattern. If this was a criminal investigation, as a prosecutor, I'd be looking for patterns in the judge's behavior.

But for the purposes of the Senate Judiciary Committee, they unquestionably need time to investigate. They need the FBI to investigate. And they need to look at both of these individually. And they cannot do that by Thursday.

SCIUTTO: Alice Stewart, I want to read to you a quote from an editorial in the "Wall Street Journal." The title of which was "The Presumption of Guilt." It goes like this.

"The set of facts Miss Ford currently provides wouldn't pass even the preponderance of evidence or 50.01 percent evidence of guilt test that prevails today on college campuses. If this is the extent of her evidence and it is allowed to defeat a Supreme Court nominee, a charge of sexual assault will become a killer political weapon, regardless of facts, and the new American standard of due process will be the presumption of guilt."

I want to ask you this question, because arguably it can cut both ways, Alice. Would not more time here beyond this Thursday deadline allow for the investigation of these allegations, not just to the satisfaction of the accusers and senators who have to make this decision, but also to the satisfaction of Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused, to allow for him to clear his name, to allow for the possibility that an investigation by the FBI would clear his name?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, Jim. More time would allow a more thorough investigation into these claims. But at the same time, this has been in the works for many, many months. We knew about Dr. Ford several months ago, and these new allegations I think certainly need to be fleshed out, but I think it would be most beneficial if we could stick to the timeline that we have and get all of the information out there. You talk about the presumption of --

SCIUTTO: Wait, why is that --


SCIUTTO: Why is that most beneficial? STEWART: Let me just say this. We had the senator -- we have the

senator from Hawaii on with our colleague Jake Tapper yesterday. She all but said he doesn't deserve the presumption of innocence. Now I find that extremely troubling when he asked her that direct question. Judge Kavanaugh deserved the presumption of innocence, he deserves due process, he deserves the opportunity to present his side of the story, and in both of these cases here and these allegations, he categorically denies the first instance --

SCIUTTO: No. I get that. That's why I'm asking --

STEWART: -- of the charges from Dr. Ford.

SCIUTTO: Alice, and that's why I read the quote from the "Wall Street Journal" there about this presumption of guilt. I'm just asking, wouldn't -- you know, why the timeline then? Can't one could argue that the timeline is as political as anything? If the goal here is to provide opportunity to accuser and the accused to either substantiate the allegation or clear their name, wouldn't both time and a full FBI investigation accomplish that for both parties involved here?

STEWART: It absolutely would. At the same time, Jim, I think it's important for us to understand while the left accuses the right of an arbitrary deadline, you also have to look at those on the left with arbitrary delays. And this is a situation where we have serious allegations, these women do need to be heard. But if we can expedite it in a process where they can be fully vetted, I have a lot of questions about this "New Yorker" piece with regard to some of the allegations being made in it.

They themselves say in the piece that in the tenth paragraph of a 14- paragraph story that the eyewitnesses have not been confirmed so there are a lot of questions that need to be asked. But I think expediting this process would be in the best interest of all involved.

HARLOW: Can you -- John Avlon, I want your take, and I also want you to weigh in on how Thursday moves forward if it proceeds as it is planned for now. If Thursday is simply -- not simply, if Thursday is only Ford and Kavanaugh telling their stories, we'll see if Republicans bring in outside counsel to question both of them or not.


HARLOW: How does that look if senators then vote on that without hearing from Ramirez, without hearing from any other witnesses? Can they?

AVLON: I don't think it's tenable politically given the accusations from Miss Ramirez that came out after this deal was struck. Now you have two accusers, and there needs to be a search for the truth to either clear Kavanaugh's name or to corroborate these women's accounts.

The problem is this is a political process. Senator Hirono on the left and Lindsey Graham on the right have basically said their minds are made up. That's why the swing senators will be so important in the selection of this swing justice. Politics is even --


HARLOW: And so what happens then, John?

AVLON: There should be a delay, there should be a proper investigation. They should open it to other witnesses, particularly Mark Judge, who is one of the rare cases where you have a situation that occurred a long time ago, unprecedented in the date timeline we're talking about, but there's a third party who was allegedly in the room.

[10:15:03] Why would you not want to hear that person's point of view? So I think that's in the interest of getting to the bottom of this, and either clearing Kavanaugh's name or corroborating these women's accounts.

But behind it all is payback for Merrick Garland Democrats are dug in. It's the Clinton standard that frankly that, you know, Judge Kavanaugh was involved in, where sexual indiscretions were used to as a political weapon, and the term the politics of personal destruction was coined. You saw it today, Kellyanne Conway on air cite a vast left-wing conspiracy.


AVLON: So the past --

SCIUTTO: Rings a bell.

AVLON: -- in the past .

SCIUTTO: Yes. Shan Wu, experienced prosecutor, and you have experience specific to sexual assault cases as well.


SCIUTTO: Who or what is best equipped to investigate these allegations to the satisfaction of both parties? Is it the FBI or is it congressional committees?

WU: Certainly it's the FBI. And all this spin we hear that the FBI is not appropriate to do the investigation here, that's just completely nonsense. The FBI constantly investigates everything from background checks to criminal cases. And the spin we're hearing that, oh, they're not in the position to judge the truth, that's not what they do.

They're professionals who gather the evidence, identify the right witnesses, get statements, and then present that evidence to someone who is going to make some decisions, such as the Senate or prosecutor. And that's exactly what they're meant to do. That's the best people to do it.

SCIUTTO: And as we keep reminding people, there was precedent during the Anita Hill investigation. A Republican president ordered the FBI to investigate those claims.

HARLOW: And it was done in three days.

SCIUTTO: In three days.

Shan Wu, Alice Stewart, John Avlon, thanks very much as always.

Still to come, President Trump is teasing a second summit with Kim Jong-un, this as the president gets set for a week of big meetings at the United Nations including with South Korea's president. We're going to tell you exactly what's at stake.

HARLOW: Also, Bill Cosby will be back in court this morning. The disgraced former actor and comedian will be sentenced for sexual assault. Ahead, what the prosecutors are pushing for.


[10:21:22] SCIUTTO: President Trump making big news on North Korea as he arrives at the U.N. this morning.

HARLOW: He said that a second face-to-face meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un will happen soon, that they're working on it. That is a significant development. He also said, quote, "Tremendous progress has been made with North Korea."

We want to check the facts on all that. With us, CNN global affairs analyst Joseph Yun.

Good morning. Thanks for joining us.

JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Good morning. Good to be here.

HARLOW: What do you make of hearing the president this morning say, you know, summit number two is happening?

YUN: Well, I think it's been in the works for a while. I mean, there is no doubt that we all know President Trump wants to see Kim Jong-un again, and Kim Jong-un in his part has been sending very nice letters, very praiseworthy, and really thanking President Trump.

Now, Poppy, to me, the question is, is all the members of the senior staff in the administration on the same script? Is John Bolton with President Trump in welcoming these overtures. It's also important, Secretary of State Pompeo also on the same wave length. Because it seems to me there is a bit of a disconnect between the president and his senior staff.

SCIUTTO: Joseph Yun, let me ask you this very simple question. What concrete concession or move has North Korea made on denuclearization since their first summit?

YUN: Well, Jim, you know, the situation -- I mean, you know, compare the situation a year ago. So there has been a lot of differences. If you were to tell us, you know, a year later, say last year, we would have no nuclear tests, no missile tests, three American prisoners returned. I think that's a good deal. You know, we would have grabbed at it. I mean, you know, remember, a year ago, we were talking about bloody nose.

A year ago at this same forum in the United Nations, President Trump was saying we will totally destroy you, little rocket man. So it is very different. The big question, though, Jim, is does it mean anything on the fundamental issue of denuclearization?

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: And that's the thing. Listen, no question, I was outside the U.N. this time last year as the president delivered his rocket man speech. There's genuine alarm at this, what would be the end result? Would missiles be firing in both directions? But the fact is this administration has defined success by complete irreversible and verifiable steps on denuclearization. Typically, those concessions happen before a summit. But you had the first summit, there were no concessions before or after that were hard, and now you're going to have a second summit.

I'm just curious, what is the process or the strategy here if you're not getting those concessions and the two leaders are meeting face-to- face?

YUN: Jim, you're right. We have reached an impasse. I mean, that's because of the fundamental difference in understanding what took place in Singapore. We are saying, what the American side is saying you go first. You denuclearize first everything, by the way, and we will go second. We'll give you what you want. But that's what's not happening. There is no trust. And so if anything is going to happen, they're going to have to meet again, I believe.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, so, also today, you have President Trump meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in. And you know, after the hugs that we saw between President Moon and Kim Jong-un last week, what does President Trump need to find out from or get on the same page with South Korea on at this point?

[10:25:06] YUN: At this point, President Moon, for his own reason, is very eager to move forward. So he would be bringing back -- you mentioned the hugs. You know, they met for three days.


YUN: And he'll be bringing back the message that he's serious about denuclearization, but President Trump, you've got to give something in return. You've got to give it now. And I think if you give it now, maybe there is still a path ahead. So President Moon is playing a very, very important role in brokering between Moon and Trump. I mean, sorry, Trump and Kim.

HARLOW: OK. Joseph Yun, always good to have your expertise. Thank you.

YUN: Thank you very much. HARLOW: Also, really significantly this morning, China is now

accusing the U.S. of being a trade bully. Chinese state media saying instead of respectful relationships, the U.S. is using protectionism, false accusations, and intimidation to get its way.

SCIUTTO: Those words coming as new tariffs are kicking in this very morning. A 10 percent tax on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. That is roughly half the amount of everything that China sells to the U.S. China striking back with tariffs of its own on $60 billion worth of U.S. products such as meat, clothing, auto parts, the biggest round of tariffs yet for these two economic superpowers.

Joining us now from the New York Stock Exchange, CNN business anchor and correspondent Julia Chatterley.

One amazing constant throughout this escalating trade war is that the market has been sort of brushing it off. Is that still the case?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It's such a great point, Jim. We are seeing a bit of pressure in the session, but you know, as you pointed out, last week I was talking about record highs for some of these markets, so in light of what we have seen and the escalation that we have seen, U.S. investors are still pretty sanguine here, I'd say.

As you pointed out, U.S. hitting China with the tax, the formalization of the announcements that we got last week. The big question, guys, here is whether or not the president, the U.S. administration, looks at this and says as promised, we're now going to hit China with a further $267 billion, and then it's not half of all China's imports here into the United States. It's the whole lot. And that means all products effectively get more expensive, and the question is, at what point then do we see that hit consumers' purses because products are basically costing more.

China also taking out a full-page spread in the "Des Moines Daily" over in Iowa. So they're being strategic, guys, about the impacts on U.S. consumers here, saying sorry, we got them to go somewhere else because of these tariffs.

HARLOW: That's fascinating. Just pause on that for a moment. The fact that the Chinese government is taking out an ad in the Des Moines newspaper to send their message.


SCIUTTO: To farmers on the side, right. Yes.

HARLOW: Not something -- and we know how soybean farmers, for example, feel about the president and these tariffs right now.

Before we go, I mean, Julia, you interview these CEOs all the time. I speak to them often as well. It seems to me like these companies have priced this in, like Jack Ma. Right? Alibaba (INAUDIBLE). They've priced in this trade war may be prolonged here, and yet that's why we're seeing the market continue to do well because this was expected. CHATTERLEY: Yes, it's interesting. To a certain extent, some of

these corporates have been hit. Investors have looked at them and said they're going to suffer, they're going to have to raise prices. Consumers are going to be concerned, but actually by and large, I don't think it's hitting the numbers yet. We've had a lot of noise. Apple is complaining, IBM complaining, Walmart complaining, but I think until we actually see concrete impacts on these numbers, investors actually at this stage are just kind of thinking that, you know, we can carry on regardless. The U.S. is the safe haven here and everyone else is suffering.

HARLOW: Thank you. Good to have you.

SCIUTTO: Julia Chatterley at the stock exchange.

We have some live pictures now. These are protesters on Capitol Hill. It appears to be anti-Kavanaugh protesters outside the office of one of those key swing votes here, Republican Senator Susan Collins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do not heard from Mainers who oppose this nomination --