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Trump Touts Accomplishments At U.N., World Leaders Laugh; Senate Judiciary Committee Sets Kavanaugh Vote For Friday; WSJ: Trump Is Considering Keeping Rosenstein As Deputy A.G. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 25, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room". Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, the world laughs, President Trump boasts to the U.N. met with ridiculed. Now he says he was in on the joke, really?

Plus secret lawyer. Republicans hired an attorney to question Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser. So why aren't they revealing her name? And trouble in Trump country, how a district Trump won by double digits is now a toss up. Let's go out front.

Good evening, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, the world laughs at President Trump. The President stands before diplomats from 193 countries in a major address to the world as a leader of the most powerful nation in the world. And how did the world respond tonight, by laughing, literally. President Trump kicking off his address to world leaders and much the same way he kicks off his campaign rallies touting his accomplishments. But wait for the reaction.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country. America's -- so true. Didn't expect that reaction. But that's OK.


BOLDUAN: Didn't expect that reaction, maybe not, but it was the reaction, and it did not just stay inside that room. I'm going to show you the headlines from around the world in just the past few hours from Russia, to Canada, to England, and Spain, all noting that world leaders laughed at President Trump. So, you must be wondering the same we all were wondering. What does the President say now? Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The laughter, what did you feel about that? TRUMP: Oh it's great. Well, that was meant to get some laughter, but it was great.


BOLDUAN: So was a planned punch line all along. He actually wanted people to laugh at him bragging about his accomplishments in office but he seemed so dead serious every other time he's delivered that very same line.


TRUMP: We have accomplished more than any president in the first year, by far.

No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.


BOLDUAN: And now, it was all a joke. And if so, who was really laughing now? I leave that to you as we go to Jeff Zeleny who's out front live outside from tower here in New York. And Jeff, for the President, this has got to hurt.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, there's no question that one thing that gets under President Trump's skin more than anything we've seen over the years when people don't take him seriously, when people laugh at him, when people aren't treating him to the degree to which he thinks he should be treated. But I can tell you being at the United Nations all day, it was not intended to be a joke, no doubt. He was starting a speech as he often starts a speech. He was, you know, giving a very similar campaign speech.

The difference here is President Trump very rarely speaks to audiences that aren't hand-picked and completely friendly. So, you know, his speech writers perhaps should are kept that in mind but there was a sense in the room that, yes, you know, you can even see on the looks of some of the diplomats faces, Germany, in particular, had a couple moments there. They were laughing at him.

And you can tell he said that wasn't the reaction I expected, it's OK. Whenever President Trump says, it's OK, probably means it's not OK. The point is this, he is the President and he has, you know, really, you know, exceeded expectations from elites ever since he started running, ever since he came down the escalator here in Trump Tower behind me, you know, three summers ago. So the point is, he is the leader.

In many respects, he doesn't care what elites think of him. But the substance of the speech was alarming to some of the room because, you know, essentially, you know, pushing that America first agenda again on the world stage. So I think it was the substance of the remarks for the rest of the speech that was actually probably more concerning to some globalists in the room. You heard, you know, the French President Emanuel Macron who's actually become pretty friendly with the President really, you know, belittling the President and his remarks. The Iran President questioning his intellect. So, the joke at the beginning, not a joke. He'll be back at the U.N. tomorrow morning chairing a meeting of the National Security Council. We'll see how he starts off that meeting, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Who knows if laugh lines are really going to be happening then -- but, we'll wait and see. Great to see you, Jeff, I really appreciate it.

With me now, Samantha Vinograd, she's a former Senior Advisor to President Obama's National Security Council, Peter Brookes, he's former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, now with the Heritage Foundation and Dana Bash, she's CNN's Chief Political Correspondent. It's great to see you guys. Thanks for being here. Dana, do you think this was something of a reality check for the President today?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Maybe. I mean, Jeff pointed out exactly what the issue is with that beginning of the speech, it was totally tone-deaf because it was the kind of thing that he says to roaring applause.

[19:05:11] Loves to say to roaring applause when he goes out on the campaign trail and that is really his oxygen. That is what he loves to do. And this was definitely not that audience, at all. But, look, I think that that was maybe a shocker. But I think is also interesting that the rest of the speech.


BASH: Where he was very much America-first, very much about sovereignty, very much about the alliances, such as the U.N. should be limited. America's place in the world, even in foreign aide should be transactional, that also landed with a thud in this audience. But that was the point. Certainly he considers himself and is very much a disrupter. There is no place that he likes to be as much of a disrupter as a place like the United Nations.

BOLDUAN: That's an excellent point. But, I mean, Sam, I don't want to -- the point to be missed though, that leaders get up on to the mike stand, step up to that microphone and say wild and controversial things. Hugo Chavez and Bush is a devil, that's just one example of so many speeches. But from the President of United States, I think that's what is so surprising.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, FMR. SENIOR ADVISOR TO NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL UNDER PRES. OBAMA: Exactly. And I remember my first (INAUDIBLE) in 2009 when Muammar Gaddafi got up there.

BOLDUAN: You say (INAUDIBLE) a bunch more time.


VINOGRAD: United Nations in all assembly. When Muammar Gaddafi got up there and gave the most outlandish speech and we all cornish but we all knew that he was going to do that. That was built in. Now we have the President of the United States, the founding member of the United Nations going up there, making outlandish statements, doing a superlative contact and talking about all of his accomplishments, right?

And what I think about is who was actually clapping during that speech other than perhaps the President himself. You have to bet Vladimir Putin was because that entire speech was retrenchment for U.S. power. It was a retrenchment for the U.S. Liberal Democratic order. And the President gave an entire speech supposedly on sovereignty which is the ability of a state to govern and protect itself and did not once mention the fact that, guess what, Russia is attacking our sovereignty. Russia invaded a sovereign country like Ukraine. He didn't mention it once in that entire speech.

BOLDUAN: So Peter, what's your take on all of these today? I mean, the President had to know going in, this was going to be a tough crowd. Dana lit it up very well, Jeff was saying as well. I mean, criticizing your national alliances before the definition of an international alliance, if you will. I mean, I can show -- for our viewers just to show what Jeff was talking about earlier when he was talking about Germany, and how the Germans reacted to his comments about their dependence on Russia.


TRUMP: Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course. Here in the western hemisphere, we are committed to maintaining our independence from the encroachment of expansionist foreign powers.


BOLDUAN: Were you surprised, Peter, about today the reaction in the room, how it all went down?

PETER BROOKES, FMR. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, ASIAN & PACIFIC AFFAIRS: Well, look, there's a lot of ways to break this down. And you were talking about the German issue hearing. What the President is talking about there is Nord Stream 2, which is this energy pipeline from Russia directly to Germany that cuts out pole and then the Baltic states. And this is an issue that's a serious policy issue the President brought it up at the NATO Summit. This goes back to the Obama administration as well. People are very, very concerned about this.

So, you know, the reaction on the part of the Germans, I was kind of surprised it was televised that way. Usually these sort of things focus on the principle, the speaker. But the fact to the matter is, is that we have a disagreement with the Germans on this and there are a lot of people in Europe that are very unhappy with the Germans on it. So I think the President's speech was a very serious policy speech. We can get beyond what happened at the beginning.

But there was a lot of things he talked about. He talked about terrorism, he talked about the Middle East, he talked about Syria, Iran, North Korea. So I thought this was a very serious policy speech and talked about a lot of the issues that are not only important to the United States but also the international community.

BOLDUAN: And I've been hearing argument from a lot of, you know, even-keeled level-headed people saying this is potentially more of a harder line speech, a tougher speech than even he gave last year, Dana, then even though maybe the words were a little superlatives, the words were a little stronger last year in talking about North Korea. But because I do wonder though if a lot of what he said in the speech is over shadowed though by what happened at the top and the reaction of world leaders. And the reason I bring it up is the thing about this whole thing is being respected and not being laughed at is something Donald Trump takes very seriously when it comes to the world stage.

He said it over and over again. He campaigned on it million times. Here's a couple examples.


[19:10:04] TRUMP: We're going to be respected again. We're not going to be a laughing stock like we have been, and we have been, believe me, all over the world.


BOLDUAN: So what then is the impact of what happened today, I wonder?

BASH: You know, look, I think even if this hadn't happened at the beginning of the speech today, the prediction that you just heard candidate Donald Trump make has not come to pass. It just hasn't. I mean, anybody who steps foot abroad knows the very first thing that you hear for an American is what is going on. What's going on with your country. Having said that --

BOLDUAN: But is that politics abroad good politics at home then?

BASH: Yes it is. But having said that, to sort of play devil's advocate or maybe to give the President, you know, some props here, there are issues like NATO. He has been a bull in a China shop on NATO. The way that he behaved when, you know, at the summit in Canada and then again in Europe, it was the opposite of how anybody who teaches at diplomacy 101 class would tell you to do it.

Having said that, some of these countries have actually come to meet some of his demands on the issue of paying the dues to NATO. Not all the way but they are stepping it up a little bit. And if he hadn't been maybe the way that he is that wouldn't have happened. There are certainly a lot of things that have gone the other way, that's just one minor example.

BOLDUAN: And I think to Dana's point though no matter laughing in the room, outside the room, whatever it may be, you're still dealing with the United States. So you still -- I do wonder though, you know, this is what you're dealing with. I mean, this is still the power of the United States. It's still, you know, the strongest country in the world. So the impact abroad is?

VINOGRAD: I don't know. Well the impact abroad we have polling numbers actually. A Pew (ph) global research, its published numbers showing that our division in the United States abroad is at an unprecedented low. But let's look at the variables that countries use to judge American power. We have the secretary general of United Nations saying a few weeks ago that American soft power is on the decline.

We have the President today in his speech saying that he's going to pull back on foreign assistance because he's only going to give it to our friends, and isn't going to give that it if his feelings get hurt. So we're going to be pulling back on the foreign assistance side. He also said that we are going to be pulling back our defense spending again if countries don't meet us on the spending side or again if they hurt his feelings. So, what are we doing to export American leadership and America's brand abroad at this point.

BASH: And let me say one other thing is that beyond this sort of being laughed at it's the substance of what he said. That everybody in the room who has a sense of history because people who are diplomats generally do have a sense of history that this President doesn't tend to have, knows what previous American presidents have had to deal with and therefore have had to overcome. Therefore, the notion that he's done more for America than, you know, anybody in the history of the world is laughable. And I think that actually speaks to the disconnect as much as anything else.

BOLDUAN: In this major moment then, Peter, what do you think the lasting take away will be?

BROOKES: Look, I don't think the beginning of the speech is going to have any impact overseas. Every diplomat around the world is digging through for a transcript to see whether they're mentioned or not mentioned and what was said and what was not said. Look, this is the United States. I think the President had a very strong message on burden sharing. Dana mention that. And I feel very strong about that as well, not to take the United States for granted.

And I think it was a very strong speech and was an improvement I think upon what we had last year, especially on number of these issues such as North Korea and he put Iran on notice. And we'll see how does it translates in tomorrow's National Security Council meeting.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I do wonder if Iran is (INAUDIBLE) with North Korea, will the same treatment have the same impact in a year from now. We just see though. That's a fun one to wait for.

Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.

Out front for us next, Republicans hire a secret lawyer to question Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser revealing only her gender. Why won't they say here name? Why not reveal who she is?

Plus, a top Republican warns Trump not to mess with Rod Rosenstein or his job. What are the odds the President won't listen? And what or who was Senator Ted Cruz looking at on his cellphone. This sounds creepy, but we're going there. The answer may say something about how his campaign is going.


[19:18:11] BOLDUAN: Breaking news, the Senate Judiciary Committee is laying the ground work for a vote on Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination this Friday at 9:30 a.m. That means that senators may have less than 24 hours after hearing testimony from Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford who is accusing him of sexual assault. They may have less than 24 hours to consider this. But the Chairman of the Committee Chuck Grassley, he quickly issued a tweet saying that if they are not ready to vote, they will not vote.

All right, let's get to it right. Republicans though are also confirming that they have hired a female outside council to ask questions for Republicans during this hearing. With me right now is Bob Vander Plaats, he's an influential Evangelical leader who has praised Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, and National Affairs Correspondent for "The Nation, Joan Walsh. Great to see you guys. Thank you so much for being here.

Joan, what is your take on this outside prosecutor? This was a big question, right?


BOLDUAN: Were Republicans going to be asking questions as far they're being considered. And now they announce that they're bringing in an outside prosecutor, outside council, if you will, to ask questions in the place of the 11 Republican senators.

WALSH: OK. Can we actually use the words that I believe Senator McConnell used which was female assistant? We're bringing in a female assistant to do the questioning. I mean, I don't know if they are trying to drive all women out of the Republican Party or what. But their attitude has been so condescending from the beginning.

And to bring this woman in, do they think we're stupid that they're going to hide behind the skirt of a woman who's going to lead the questioning because they literally can't find one man -- well, first of all, they can't find one woman to put on the Judiciary Committee which is a very important committee. And then they can't find one man who's on the committee who could act with a modicum, of respect and restraint and ask fair, decent questions.

[19:20:07] I don't use this expression a lot but it's time for them to man-up. This is pathetic.

BOLDUAN: Bob, do you see the risk what Joan is laying out?

BOB: Well, I like Joan a lot and I even like, you know, how you laid that out but I know Senator Grassley very well.

BOLDUAN: Yes. BOB VANDER PLAATS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE FAMILYLEADER: And I think what he did here, he said, hey, we want to hear you. We'll go to you, you didn't come here, we'll do private, we'll do public, we want to hear you. I think what Senator Grassley is doing where I disagree with you, he is trying to take politics out of it. This shouldn't be the senators of the Senate Republicans control in it.

Let's have a neutral party in here and let's ask the real questions. I think Senator Grassley wants to get to the truth. And that's what the American people should be. We want to get to the truth on this, not to one ditch or the other ditch and say whatever political party we're part of, that's where we want to be. Let's get to the truth of this.

WALSH: Quite honestly, Senator Corker actually came out and said, of course we're going to do this. Because we don't want to be -- we don't want somebody to make a dumb remark and then it goes viral. He didn't use those exact words. But he did say that. It's obvious that's what they're doing.

PLAATS: But it's also a very hyper political. So try to take the politics out of it. In fact, in --

WALSH: I don't think anyone is going to fall on that.

PLAATS: Well in business industry, a lot -- ministry we say remove the emotion and let's just deal with the facts. I think that's what Senator Grassley is trying to do.

BOLDUAN: Any hearing though on Capitol Hill it's impossible one to remove emotions and sometimes impossible to get to the facts. But is it -- does that unemployed though because is it lose-lose for Republicans. Criticize if there --

WALSH: Well I think it is lose-lose.

BOLDUAN: -- if it is only white men setting up on the dias (ph) asking questions, and pretty size -- well then what they're they supposed to do.


WALSH: They're supposed to reflect the reality which is the normal course events in this kind of a hearing is that the senators themselves ask the questions. That's what happened. They didn't have any outside council asking Brett Kavanaugh questions in the first round of hearings. This is not done.

And it's quite clear to everyone, I appreciate that you're trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not. It's clear what they're doing and they need to live with the reality of the situation they created that they could not put one woman on that Judiciary Committee. I hope next year that they will remedy that. But right now they don't have a woman and they don't have a man that they trust --

BOLDUAN: Do you think because they look like they're afraid?

PLAATS: No, I don't think so. I really don't. And maybe because I know Senator Grassley really well and I know what kind of a guy he is and what kind of integrity he has.

I think if you take a look at women in the Senate, they like Senator Feinstein. I mean, here's Judge Kavanaugh went through six FBI vettings, impeccable record, impeccable integrity, went through a Supreme Court confirmation hearing and Senator Feinstein a woman sits on this letter while he's going through the hearing. Why not bring that out in the open when you can actually discuss it. Now we're in a situation where it's going to be a Thursday and now we have a woman coming in to do the questioning.

WALSH: Bob, I think you know why, but in case you don't, I mean, Dr. Blasey Ford yesterday wrote -- or excuse me, last week wrote a letter, and yesterday it was released, and she explained the timeline very well. Right or wrong, she wanted this known. She thought she could do it anonymously. She went to her Congresswoman, Anna Eshoo. She put her Congresswoman in a certain way, in a kind of bind, one or both of them then went to Senator Feinstein.

As long as she did not want to come forward they were kind of stuck not knowing what to do. They were kind of trying to investigate it --

BOLDUAN: And they're still trying to figure who leaked it.


WALSH: And I don't know who it is and that shouldn't have happened.

BOLDUAN: Republicans want to get -- you say, want to get to the facts, they want to get to the truth. They're very OK with bringing in outside council to ask questions and to get to the truth. What's the difference then in bringing in an outside investigation to looking to the accusations that came up late in the game? Lisa Murkowski now is saying that, you know, there should be an FBI investigation. What's the difference between these two things?

PLAATS: Well I think what's going to happen is that Thursday is going to be -- you're going to find out a whole lot. And it may be where, you know what, what Dr. Ford says, what Judge Kavanaugh says, and maybe the senators say, you know what, this warrants a further investigation. Maybe that is another issue that they're bring --

BOLDUAN: You think that can happen?

PLAATS: Well it could be. But there's a process to that. And just because they scheduled a vote, I think what it is they're saying, no, we are going to move on unless something real comes out on Thursday.

WALSH: I think the other question people are asking now is why are they not subpoenaing Mark Judge, his friend who she has said was here, his friend who we know has written of their time together with Georgetown Prep and their binge drinking and everything else.

BOLDUAN: They made clear they're not going beyond these two interviews.

WALSH: Right. But when you say we want to get to the bottom of it that would be another way to do it. So I'm not that trusting as you are to say that's what they want. I'm glad we solved that all right here.

BOLDUAN: We do right this here (INAUDIBLE).

PLAATS: Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

[19:25:02] Out front for us next, the Wall Street Journal just now reporting some breaking new details about Rod Rosenstein fate and future. That is next. And is Trump country turning a little more blue?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I'm a Republican and I'm basically tired of the Republican Party.



BOLDUAN: I'm following some breaking news, President Trump now says that he's open to keeping Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on the job that is according to the Wall Street Journal via people who have spoken to the President. The President telling advisers that he wants to hear directly from Rosenstein about reports that Rosenstein suggested secretly recording the President in using the 25th Amendment to oust the President from office. But it could also help the President with Republicans like Senator Suzanne Collins who said today that firing Rosenstein would be a quote, huge red line. So what is the President saying publicly? Now she sure seems content letting Rosenstein twist in the wind for yet another day.


TRUMP: I'm meeting with Rod Rosenstein on Thursday. Today I'm doing other things.


BOLDUAN: Out front tonight, Greg Brower, former FBI Assistant Director and Francey Hakes, former Justice Department official. So, Greg, what happens then when Rosenstein now goes to speak to the President? There's no way to avoid it, right? He has to go there?

GREG BROWER, FMR. HEAD OF FBI'S CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS OFFICE UNDER COMEY: Well, he serves at the pleasure of the President. So when the President summons a senior administration official to the White House, that senior administration official goes to the White House for a meeting. So it will be curious to see what comes out of it.

I think that the President would be well-advised to consider and I think most observers would agree that there are three problems potentially with the President firing the Deputy Attorney General, the first is political. I think most Republicans are advising the President, don't do something like this on the eve of the midterms, just politically it's not a good idea.

Secondly, those around the president concerned with the possibility of obstruction of justice case against the president wouldn't want him to do such a thing. And then, third, I think most observers would say this is a bad idea to attack the department like this by firing the deputy attorney general.

So, anyway the president and team look at it, I think they're going to conclude it's not the right move at this time and I might suggest or predict nothing will happen.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Francey, do you think it is all down side like Greg does?

FRANCEY HAKES, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I do actually agree with Greg, I don't think the president will fire the deputy attorney general. I never thought he would unless Rosenstein goes in and tells the president that he, in fact, was advocating for the president's removal for being unfit under the 25th Amendment. Since I think it is unlikely that the deputy attorney general will say that to the president, I think he's probably safe, at least until after the election when I predict both he and Sessions are gone and gone quickly.

BOLDUAN: Greg, I mean, Senator Collins said is it is a huge red line if he's fired, if key senators are threatening that do you think that is what is possibly, you know, tipping the hand of the president on this decision? I mean, can the president get rid of Rosenstein if senators are laying down threats like that?

BROWER: Yes, it's difficult and even waiting until after the midterms, while that may take care of the Republican political view that it's a bad idea to do right now it doesn't necessarily take care of the view many on the Hill have that it would appear to be an attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation. And so, for the president it's a difficult dilemma he faces.

BOLDUAN: And Francey, it's not really clear what the follow through would be if the president crossed the line. I'm kind of wondering that. Any new nominee would need Senate approval. So that could be maybe what the threat would be. I mean, do you think now that he's just likely to survive this.

I just -- this is like an amazing turn of events considering how yesterday started and now he's going to stay. I don't know, Francey?

HAKES: Well, the truth is, Kate, that the DAG is a very important person in the federal government. I think I might have said that last night. BOLDUAN: Yes.

HAKES: Every single agency sends thing to the DAG. He's the COO of the Department of Justice and runs the Department of Justice in a very real sense. So, losing the DAG is significant. But you will have someone step in as acting DAG. It's not like that position becomes vacant. It's not like Bob Mueller doesn't know what to do without Rod Rosenstein over him. Robert Mueller knows how to investigate and will continue regardless whoever is in charge.

BOLDUAN: Let read what is said on Capitol Hill also very critical of Rosenstein throughout putting on a new demand of the deputy. This is Mark Meadows, Republican from North Carolina. You can't have the number two official at the Department of Justice making comments about wiring the president and not addressed it. Rod Rosenstein must come before Congress this week under oath and tell the truth about his alleged statements.

Francey, do you think he should have to testify about this?

HAKES: Well, Congress certainly has oversight responsibility. And I do think it is a serious matter. If a presidential appointee is talking seriously about the president being unfit for office. Now, we heard it might have been a joke. I certainly hope that it was because it's a serious matter for someone under the president talking about him being unfit. I think Rosenstein will have to go to Congress and will have to address whether or not he said those things and whether he was serious about it.

BOLDUAN: Great, but resigning or being fired, that wouldn't that solve that problem, would it somehow save him from answering those questions on Capitol Hill?

BROWER: Not necessarily. But look this idea put forth by some House Republicans of having the deputy attorney general come up to testify is a politically motivated sideshow. I really don't think it's any more than that.

BOLDUAN: Say it ain't so, coming from Capitol Hill.

BROWER: Shocked, I know we're all shocked to hear that. I think what's -- the irony there though is that apparently those House Republicans are basing their outrage at Rod Rosenstein on Andy McCabe's version of events. Of course, Andy McCabe in the eyes of those same House Republicans couldn't tell the truth if his life depended on it. So, we're in really strange territory right now.

BOLDUAN: Yes, also believing in anonymous sources in the New York Times. That's where we are right now.

Great to see you both. Thanks so much. Let's see what comes tomorrow, because I'm sure it will be different.

OUTFRONT next, it's neck in neck in Kentucky for a House seat in a district Republican congressman once owned now he can lose to a first- time candidate. And standing by her husband, who is Ashley Kavanaugh?


[19:39:01] BOLDUAN: Tonight, President Trump announcing his next campaign stop, headlining a rally next Tuesday in Mississippi, a reliably red state that Trump won in 2016 but there are some signs Trump country may not be solidly Trump anymore. Look no further than Kentucky which overwhelmingly backed the president.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rural Kentucky, standing-room only. Democrat Amy McGrath.


LAH: Former marine pilot and first time candidate running for Congress in a district President Trump won by 16 points.

(on camera): Who did you vote for in 2016?


LAH: You voted for Trump?

HANSEN: I'm a Republican. And I'm basically tired of the Republican Party.

LAH: What is it you care most about?

HANSEN: They need to fix the health care program because it's broken.

[19:40:03] I had a stroke last year, and I'm still recovering from it, and I lost my health insurance because I don't work.

LAH (voice-over): The registered Republican and Navy veteran overwhelmed as he promises his vote.

MCGRATH: I'm going to work very hard. That's all I can promise --

We have to respond. This is what you're seeing around the country. What is our response to 2016? What's our response going to be as Americans to what's been happening in our country? You saw it here in Kentucky.

LAH: Kentucky's sixth congressional district, not just horses or bourbon, they are worries over health care and tariffs that could cost jobs.

REP. ANDY BARR (R), KENTUCKY: Nice to see you. Nice to see you all.

LAH: Three-term Republican incumbent Andy Barr outperformed Trump in the district two years ago.

BARR: Hello. How are you?

LAH: Beloved by his base, taking nothing for granted.

(on camera): You're actually physically running.

BARR: Well, there's a lot of people. There's a lot of hands to shake. So, we're enjoying that.

Let us know if we can ever help. OK?

EDDIE BARNES, BARR SUPPORTER: We don't have a problem in our Congress, so let's keep him in there.

LAH (voice-over): One recent poll shows the race as a toss up. Barr is sticking with Trump.

BARR: They're suburban Republicans who are maybe dissatisfied with the president's personality.

Thanks for spreading the word for us.


BARR: But there's people like in this part of the district very supportive of the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's important I come out today.

BARR: There are fundamental differences between me and my opponent. I'm conservative and she's a liberal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remain with your children on this journey and guide your way in accord with your will.

LAH: Barr affirming conservative values like opposition to abortion.

BARR: You have an opportunity to make a profound difference in the cause for life in November.

LAH: And on offense with attack ads.

POLITICAL AD: Amy McGrath, too liberal for Kentucky.

MCGRATH: I want the to say to Andy Barr, seriously, is that all you got?

LAH: McGrath countering with her record of military service.

MCGRATH: Because after 89 combat missions, there's nothing a party could force me to do anything.

LAH: With a race so close, both candidates are leaving no stone unturned in search for votes.

BARR: Appreciate your service, sir.

Hey, there's a coal miner right there.

LAH: Which is why Barr has to schedule to reach every possible supporter.

BARR: How are you?

LAH: And McGrath.

MCGRATH: Hey, ma'am. Good to see you.

LAH: Toddler in tow is opening new field offices in rural town.

MCGRATH: This is just amazing. I'm just thrilled.


MCGRATH: Thank you.

LAH: Even where Republicans outnumber Democrats.

ANN MILLER, MCGRATH SUPPORTER: I feel from talking to people that are Democratic not taking the road of we don't have a candidate. We do have a candidate.


LAH: On election day, Kentucky polls will close at 6:00 p.m. It is one of the earliest states to close on election night. It will give us an indication, early indication of Democratic enthusiasm and whether the Democrats' closing message of health care in the Trump presidency, Kate, has been effective flipping these red districts blue -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Kate, it's great to see you. Great work. Thanks so much.

OUTFRONT with me right now, senior writer and analyst for CNN Politics, Harry Enten.

Don't make fun of me when I slip up and say something wrong here.


BOLDUAN: You say weird things happen in wave election years. What weird things are we looking at? Can you give us any example?

ENTEN: I mean, look, look at the map where Democrats are competitive right now, Kentucky sixth district, West Virginia's third district, Kansas' second and third district, these are places that have been Republican over the last few cycles and yet Democrats are either tied or leading in district polling there, and that's just an example.

When you have a wave, it can be rising tide and left places that you wouldn't otherwise expect it. BOLDUAN: But the path Democrats are looking at in winning back the

House, why do you think it is different than others thought it was going to be?

ENTEN: Yes, I think after the 2016 election a lot thought the path would be where Hillary Clinton outperformed Barack Obama in the Sun Belt, in the South and the West.

BOLDUAN: That would make sense.

ENTEN: That would make sense.

But, in fact, what we're seeing in places she under performed Obama in 2012 the congressional map, presidential map, is where it seems that Democrats are doing their best. In fact, if you look at the place, West Virginia's third district or Kentucky sixth, neither Obama nor Clinton did particularly well there, but they are places that are ancestral Democratic where they voted for Democratic candidates back in say the '90s or early 2000s.

BOLDUAN: Going way back. How can you be so sure, Harry?

ENTEN: I mean, look, we're not sure and this is one of the key factors that I think we're going to try and do this year when we're forecasting races, right? We'll say for instance, Kentucky 6 district is a very tight race. We're working on a forecast right now that will go up on in few weeks.

But the confidence is very, very wide. So, it could end up being that Barr wins by say 15, or McGrath wins by 15. We're trying to be as honest with the viewer, the audience, as possible that this is an imperfect science and that we're trying to give the best estimate possible.

[19:45:06] BOLDUAN: And so, lesson here is, don't count your wins until the polls close.

ENTEN: Absolutely. In fact if I were to say right now, our best guess is probably Democrats ending up in the majority with, say, about 230 seats, but it could be as low as 200, in which they could only gain five seats or could be as high as 260, let's say the generic congressional ballot really goes out in control and Democrats win the national house vote by, say, 10 to 15 points.

BOLDUAN: Yes, whether it comes to any talk of a wave. It is a fight until the end no matter what people say.

ENTEN: It is definitely. If you go back to 2006, for example, you saw in that particular year seats that no one ever thought were going to fall. Republican incumbents, Jim Bradley in New Hampshire, Jim Leach in Iowa. These were shocking but it happened because waves do strange things.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you.

ENTEN: Thank you. BOLDUAN: Weird things happen when Harry Enten comes to visit.

OUTFRONT next, accusations of sexual assault weighing not only on the Supreme Court nominee but his wife of many years, who is Ashley Kavanaugh?

And Senator Ted Cruz observed in mid flight, was he swiping left or right?


[19:50:00] BOLDUAN: Tonight, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley denying a request by Democrats to delay Thursday's hearing with Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser. One of the reasons, he cites threats to Kavanaugh and his family. This comes as Kavanaugh's wife has been thrust into the spotlight amid this controversy.

Erica Hill is OUTFRONT with more.


ASHLEY KAVANAUGH, BRETT KAVANAUGH'S WIFE: This process is incredibly difficult, harder than we imagined. And we imagined it might be hard.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ashley Kavanaugh candid as she addresses the allegations of sexual assault against her husband. At his nomination in July, Judge Kavanaugh praised his wife as a source of strength.

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: Through bad days and so many better days since then, she's been a great wife and inspiring mom.

HILL: Born Ashley Estes, the 43-year-old grew up in Abilene, Texas. Her Cooper High School yearbook includes pictures of the 1993 graduate with the golf team and student council. Her next stop, the University of Texas at Austin. Ashley was an assistant to George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas and met her future husband while working in the Bush White House as the president's personal secretary.

JUDGE KAVANAUGH: Our first date was on September 10th, 2001. In the difficult weeks that followed, Ashley was a source of strength for President Bush and for everyone in this building.

HILL: The Kavanaughs married in 2004. President and Mrs. Bush among the guests.

JUDGE KAVANAUGH: So help me God.

HILL: In 2006, Ashley Kavanaugh looked on as her former boss appointed her husband to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

THOMES CHOATE, FRIEND OF ASHLEY KAVANAUGH: I believe that a lot of his success has got to be due to his choice of a wife. She's a good wife. She's a great mother. She has a life of her own.

HILL: That life includes her position as a town manager in Chevy Chase, Maryland, the affluent D.C. suburb the family calls home.

Town council chairman Greg Chernack telling CNN he hopes she stays on, noting she's, quote, done a fantastic job. She made our small community even better.

The Kavanaughs have two daughters, Liza and Margaret, both of whom attended their dad's confirmation hearings earlier this month.

ASHLEY KAVANAUGH: It's very difficult to have these conversations with your children. And we told them at the very beginning of this process, this will be not fun sometimes. You're going to hear things that people feel strongly, and you need to know that, and just remember, you know your dad.

HILL: The scrutiny, the spotlight, the questions. Ashley Kavanaugh isn't the first to be thrust into this public role. From Virginia Thomas, pictured here at the confirmation hearings for her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, to Silda Spitzer, Huma Abedin and a defiant Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER FIRST LADY: You know, I'm not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I'm sitting here because I love him and I respect him.

ASHLEY KAVANAUGH: I know Brett. I've known him for 17 years. He's decent. He's kind. He's good.

I know his heart. This is not consistent with Brett.

HILL: Words of support as stories continue to swirl.


HILL: Following that unprecedented interview on Monday, Ashley Kavanaugh has kept a low profile. And now the countdown is on to Thursday, when her husband and Christine Blasey Ford are set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. Erica, thanks so much.

Coming up next for us, Jeanne Moos on what Senator Ted Cruz was looking at on his phone. Is that Beto O'Rourke?


[19:57:45] BOLDUAN: Tonight's burning question, what was Ted Cruz looking at on his flight?

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Ted Cruz likes to schmooze about being tech savvy.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: So I pulled out my phone, I sent a tweet. MOOS: But when he pulled out his phone aboard a flight to D.C., he

got nabbed gazing at his Senate race rival Beto O'Rourke. Politico posted the photo, inspiring mockery like this diary entry. I wonder if he thinks about me.

Someone else called it humanizing. Who among us has not stared at a picture of Beto O'Rourke and gently caressed the picture with our thumb, added another. Just like Senator Cruz seemed to do.

Come on, get a grip. Cruz is probably just reading a news article about the race featuring his opponent's face. It's not Tinder.

But there were plenty of Tinder jokes. Swipe left, swipe right. Hmm.

Beto O'Rourke supporters look on him as having the charisma of a Bobby Kennedy, playing air drums to The Who as he drives through a Whataburger.

REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS: Thank you. You too.

MOOS: While Ted Cruz suffers the slings and arrows of late-night comedians.

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: I noticed he looked like a blob fish.

MOOS: The same day the in-flight photos were snapped, protesters at a D.C. restaurant hounded Cruz and his wife. Chanting about the Supreme Court controversy but adding insult to injury with this reference to his opponent's hotness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beto is way hotter than you, dude.

MOOS: Not everyone found the phone photos funny.

I have a problem with looking over someone's shoulder and reporting what documents or articles they're reading.

The Texas Democrats used the pictures to recruit volunteers. Even Ted Cruz is signing up to volunteer for @betoorourke."

No, Cruz was not really cruising his rival. It just looks like O'Rourke is the wind beneath his wings.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BOLDUAN: And tonight, Cruz's campaign is having a little fun with this as well, giving us this statement. Breaking news, the airline passenger paparazzi captured the senator reading news clips about his campaign.

Well-played, Senator Cruz.

Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.