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Ford Says "My Fear Will Not Hold Me Back" from Testifying; Trump Says He'll Meet with Rosenstein Thursday Amid Drama; GOP's Hatch Echoes McConnell on New Kavanaugh Allegations. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 24, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: It's so true, Brooke, you know, we start the morning wondering if the latest set of allegations is going to derail this nominee who, you know, was so close to getting a committee vote, moving closer to the floor when everything first blew up about 10 days ago.

But what's happened in the last two hours, Brooke, shows that all parties are digging in in one way or another. We got, most importantly, from the nominee himself, a letter saying he owes it to himself, he owes it to his family, you know, he's a father of two daughters, he owes it to all these women who supported him, to stick with it.

And then we've also heard from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, writing directly to Chairman Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee saying, here's why I came forward. She sort of wanted to give herself more voice, I think. She said to Chairman Grassley, you know, handle this letter the way you see fit. She obviously expected it to be released as it was. And in it she talked about a little about the decision to come forward and what she's trying to do here and she emphasized her role as a citizen in this process feeling the need to explain what she knows of this nominee to this lifetime seat.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Joan, thank you so much on what's happening here. Judge Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford to testify Thursday.

The other huge story, also with a Thursday focus, that the fate of the man in charge of the Robert Mueller investigation, Rod Rosenstein, meeting with the President at the White House on Thursday after conflicting reports about a possible resignation. We have all the details for you. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Stand by for that.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: The President is now scheduled to meet with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after initial reports that he expects to be fired or could resign, all of this happening three days after that explosive "New York Times" report that Rod Rosenstein considered wearing a wire to record President Trump. And even went as far as discussing invoking the 25th amendment to remove the President from office.

Now, the Deputy AG has forcefully denied all of those claims, but let's start a conversation there. Gloria Borger is back with us and also CNN contributor John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel is with us as well. So, Gloria, welcome back. And John Dean, always a pleasure, sir. But, Gloria to you first, just sort of this 30,000- foot-view of -- all right, so, Friday "The New York Times" piece comes out. Monday Rod Rosenstein shows up at the White House, has this meeting with the Chief of Staff, John Kelly. Fast forward to Thursday. He has this meeting with the President. Once the President's finished with the UNGA. What are the different directions this thing could go?

GLORIA BORGER CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think Rod Rosenstein is going to be around for much longer. I mean, it's --

BALDWIN: You don't?

BORGER: It seems to me that -- no. It seems to me that he wants to resign. A lot of people are telling the President, who doesn't like Rod Rosenstein. As you know, we've been talking about this for months, for lots of reasons, because Rosenstein appointed Mueller, reason number one. So, he doesn't like Rod Rosenstein but he also knows that firing him could cause him problems. Republicans have said to him, look, you know, this is going to get in the way of the Kavanaugh confirmation. Democrats are going to go crazy about this and we don't want to get in the way of that confirmation and mix these two big stories up, you know.

And secondly, they know what problems it's going to cause with Democrats. Conservatives don't like Rosenstein. They want to bring him up before The Hill. But the notion is to wait until after the midterm election. So, here the President is in this pickle. First of all, he's got to believe a story in "The New York Times," which he hates. And secondly, it seems that the story may very well have been based on a lot of memos written by Andy McCabe, a person whom Jeff Sessions fired and Donald Trump hates. So, he finds -- he finds himself in kind of a quandary here because, of course, he wants Rosenstein gone.

BALDWIN: Right. He wants him gone. It's a matter of does he do it Thursday --

BORGER: Or does Rosenstein do it.

BALDWIN: Or does Rosenstein do it himself. John Dean, can you underscore the importance -- I don't know how much of a household name Rod Rosenstein is to everyone, but this is the man in charge of the massive special counsel Russia investigation. And not only that, but whenever Mueller comes to his conclusion, writes his report, it is down to this individual, the Deputy Attorney General, to figure out where to go with it.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: And you mentioned the keywords there, the Deputy Attorney General. He's not only in charge of the Russia investigation, but he's really running the Department of Justice. It's always been the deputy as the hands-on guy which lets the Attorney General set big picture, strategic, go out and make speeches, thing of that nature. And the reason that Sessions selected this Deputy Attorney General is because he knows what he's doing. He handles the U.S. attorneys. He handles the assistant attorney generals in charge of the various divisions. It's a very big job and a very busy job. And so, unless you're going to decapitate the entire top of the Justice Department, which you want to do slowly at this stage of his administration, I don't think this is going to happen as fast as people think.

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: Let me ask both of you to stand by because I want to ask what happens if Rosenstein does, in fact, leave, who then could be in charge. Stay with me. A quick commercial break. You're watching CNN special live coverage. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:45:00] BALDWIN: John Dean is back with me, a CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel and talking about this whole what-if game essentially with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when he meets with President Trump at the White House on Thursday, will he resign, will he be fired. Here's my question for you, sir. You know, what -- here's the what-if. What if the President -- what if he goes away? And I know it's supposed to be the solicitor general who's next in line of succession, that's Noel Francisco, but could select someone else. What if Trump put someone in that position who is a bit more Trump-friendly, the more of this is a witch-hunt ilk, what happens to the Mueller investigation? What happens to Mueller himself?

DEAN: Well, Mueller's a very strong figure. He's got not only experience and mileage. He has more than those who might be in charge of him. If it not the solicitor general, who does have conflicts of interest given the law firm he was with represented Trump during the campaign, so he might say, I can't take this on because conflicts. The next place it would go is the Office of Legal Counsel. That's a fellow by the name of Steve Engel. And he is an experienced Washington lawyer. And both of these men are establishmentarians. So, I don't see them doing anything drastic with the special counsel. And I think it would be pretty much stay on course.

BALDWIN: OK. What about also from a legal perspective if Rod Rosenstein were to resign versus the White House fire him. If you're the White House, wouldn't you prefer he resign himself because what kind of signal is that saying, again, this is someone else you're firing who's in the thick of an investigation?

DEAN: What comes into play is the Vacancies Act and who steps in next. So, it's important whether he -- if he resigns, then the Vacancies Act comes in. If he's fired, it creates a whole different set of legal problems under the Vacancy Act.

BALDWIN: Last question to you because I know you were in Washington as a witness in the Supreme Court nominee confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. And you were listening a little while ago when we were all listening in to the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just ripping into Democrats. This is the same man who put off this Merritt Garland confirmation for a year. What did you think when you were watching that? DEAN: I thought he was doing what the Republicans do very well and

that is frame the issue in the terms they want and spin away from the real problems. They have denied any investigation into any of these charges. They have blocked the FBI from going forward and looking at these things, both with Dr. Ford and now with this new charge. And I understand there are further charges that are looming out there, so this story is a long way from over.

BALDWIN: John Dean, thank you as always. A quick break. We'll be right back.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Back to our breaking news. Republicans getting quite aggressive in their defense of Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, as new allegations surface. We just heard from Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and now Republican Senator, Orrin Hatch, who is indeed on that Senate Judiciary Committee, just spoke with our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, who is up on The Hill. Manu, what did he tell you?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He, like Senator McConnell, joining in the defense of Brett Kavanaugh, believing that these allegations are part of a Democratic effort to go after Brett Kavanaugh. Republicans believe "The New Yorker" article, in particular, as an opening because they do not believe that it's credible in any way to try and essentially show -- make the case that this is all part of an effort to undercut Kavanaugh's nomination. Also, Hatch weighing in about his concerns about the potential that Rod Rosenstein may get fired.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Most recent allegation?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I won't make up my mind until I hear what's behind it and what they're saying and look at them carefully.

RAJU: Is it concerning to you, though, what you're reading, these allegations coming up about his past?

HATCH: Everything and -- every Supreme Court nominee, everything is concerning to me. Always has been.

RAJU: What about Rod Rosenstein, should the President fire Rod Rosenstein?

HATCH: That's up to the President. I don't -- I don't know. I like Rosenstein, first.

RAJU: Would you be concerned if he fired Rod Rosenstein?

HATCH: Well, I think if he did something like that, it would cause a furor, which I don't think we need now.

RAJU: Some said it would be a constitutional crisis if he were to fire Rosenstein in an effort to close the Mueller investigation. Do you --

HATCH: Everything is a constitutional crisis around here lately, it seems to me. And there's -- this President's been mistreated as far as I'm concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, everybody. We've got to get inside.

REPORTER: We've got to get inside the Kavanaugh allegations --

HATCH: What?

RAJU: What concerns you most about the second allegation and that maybe the Democrats playing politics --

HATCH: Which allegation is that?

RAJU: The one with Deborah Ramirez. "The New Yorker" article.

HATCH: It's amazing to me that these allegations come out of nowhere at the last minute and that they weren't brought up earlier in this process. And it's not untypical for our friends on the other side to pull that kind of crap.

[15:55:00] RAJU: Sir, why no outside witnesses?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Now, that was the last question I was trying to ask him, why no outside witnesses. The Republicans have made the decision on that Thursday hearing, there will just be two witnesses. Judge Kavanaugh will testify after Christine Blasey Ford. Democrats and the Ford camp want outside witnesses, including two trauma experts and the person who administered that polygraph test for Christine Blasey Ford. Republicans have rejected that so as far. So, that "New Yorker" article will not be part of that Thursday hearing -- at least have no testifying of that. But just those two witnesses so far on Thursday -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: You've also been chasing down -- you chased down key red state Democrat Joe Manchin. This is also from you. Just to put a button on this. Also responding saying the hearing will be very important to his vote. He said all the allegations are, quote, very concerning, but says Kavanaugh has a right to clear his name. Manu, great job as always. Thank you very much.

Coming up here on CNN with all the drama unfolding like the futures of Brett Kavanaugh and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, President Trump today teases that a second summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un is, in a word, close. We'll discuss this and his massively important week at the U.N. coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: President Trump today at the U.N. announcing a second summit with North Korea and Kim Jong-un is close. So, let's discuss. Michelle Kosinski, CNN senior diplomatic correspondent is with me, as is Nic Robertson, CNN international diplomatic editor. A pleasure to see both of you in the flesh. To you first, sir. Can you talk to me about -- he says it's close?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And he says --

BALDWIN: After to admit its progress.

ROBERTSON: And he says President Moon has told him that Kim Jong-un really thinks that President Trump is the guy who can make this happen. So, and President Trump's mind, it seems clear, the meeting should happen, even if there isn't an agreement on the details of what he expects to achieve. The fact they're talking, as Secretary of State Pompeo said, is good about all of this.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And no answers to any questions at a press conference that

Pompeo was a part of early today. And asked in fact by CNN, well, why are you doing this? If they're not taking absolutely concrete steps towards denuclearization right now and they're not really spelling it out, meaning the North Koreans, why are you giving them this new meeting? Not really any detail or answers there. And then, you know, North Korea has already said that it will take steps towards denuclearization but it expects reciprocal measures from the U.S. What does that mean? We have some idea that these are going to be big demands. But again, the Secretary of State doesn't give any detail on what he understands it to mean. Not a whole lot of information ahead of this second big summit that apparently, the President feels only he can solve it. That's why they're doing this from the top-down instead of the other way around.

BALDWIN: We'll be watching both of your coverage this week here in New York at the UNGA closely. Thanks to both of you. Great to see you. I'm out of time. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. Let's go to Washington "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.