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Trump Weighs in Again on Kavanaugh Controversy; GOP Lawmakers Appoint Attorney Rachel Mitchell to Question Ford and Kavanaugh; Demand Justice Is Campaigning Against Kavanaugh; Trump Accuses China of Meddling in 2018 Election, Forgets Russia in 2016; Will Trump's Rhetoric Against Iran Lead to a Trump/Rouhani Summit; French President Rebukes Trump's Isolationist Message. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 26, 2018 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:15] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

As Senators prepare for tomorrow's hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, sure to be the most historic Supreme Court hearing in more than two decades, President Trump is once again weighing in, dismissing the allegations against Kavanaugh, trashing the process, and also assuming to wish he could go back in time.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republicans could not be nicer in the way they are handling this. They could have pushed it through two and a half weeks ago and you wouldn't be talking about it right now, which is frankly what I would have preferred. I think I might have pushed it forward a lot faster.


BOLDUAN: But wait, there's more. The president also ripped into Democrats once again over the entire Kavanaugh controversy. Listen.


TRUMP: He is an absolute gem. He has been treated very unfairly by the Democrats, who are playing a con game. They know what they are doing. It's a con.


BOLDUAN: Remind me how the president is making his fellow Republicans job any easier to usher the process through and maintain the appearance of fairness. Regardless, the president's comments come after the Judiciary Committee received new documents ahead of the hearing.

Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju. He's on Capitol Hill with more on all this. Manu, first and foremost, what are we going to see tomorrow?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be an intense line of questioning. One, on the Republican side, they have hired outside counsel to come in, a woman named Rachel Mitchell from Arizona. The 11 Republican Senators will be deferring their line of questioning to her to ask the questions to both Christine Blasey Ford, who will testify first right before Judge Kavanaugh in a separate panel.

The Democratic side of the aisle will ask their own question, one by one. They are sharply criticizing Republicans for bringing in an outside counsel. Republicans contend they are trying to de-politicize the process. Democrats believe it is part of an effort to recover for the fact that there are 11 male Republican Senators who would do the questioning.

The ultimate question is, Kate, how do the swing-vote Senators come down at the end of the day after tomorrow's pivotal hearing, which will determine the fate of Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, including Susan Collins, of Maine, Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, Jeff Flake, of Arizona. They are the key votes. What will happen after tomorrow's hearing, that is the big question as we head into tomorrow -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Manu, what about the documents that have been provided to the committee? What are you picking up?

RAJU: Both sides trying to provide their case to say that what they are alleging happened or did not happen. On Christine Blasey Ford's side, providing four statements of support from people whom she had spoken with about this episode years after it happened. Her friends, including her husband, including some statements, one from 2013 where she had lunch with a friend and also discussed that she had been the victim of an attempted rape by someone who is now a federal judge. Those people making the statements under the penalty of perjury.

On the Kavanaugh side, he turned over his 1982 calendar from high school, a five-page document, talking about all sorts of things he was doing, a beach week, how he got grounded. He did not say anything about the party, at least the way it was described. So Kavanaugh's attorneys trying to make the case that there's nothing to corroborate her claims. On her side, she is saying she at least told some people about the episode.

But, ultimately, these are the only two witnesses who will testify tomorrow. The Senators will have to judge their own credibility based on their testimony.

BOLDUAN: Manu, great to see you. Thanks so much.

One of the things that the Republican majority has done is appoint - what the all-male Republican majority has done is bring in outside help. They have appointed Arizona sex crimes prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, to question Ford and Kavanaugh for the Republican side.

CNN's Athena Jones is here with more on who Rachel Mitchell is. Athena, it was a big question yesterday because they were not naming

her. What are you know learning about Rachel Mitchell?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have a statement from Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley. He who describes her as someone who is recognized in the legal community for her experience and for her objectivity. Rachel Mitchell has been a career prosecutor since 1993. She has decades of experience in dealing with sex crimes. She is taking a leave of absence from her current job, as the deputy county attorney in the Maricopa County office in Phoenix, Arizona. There she is the chief of the Special Victims Division which governs sex crimes and family violence. She also spent 12 years as the chief of the Sex Crimes Bureau dealing not just with child molestation but adult sexual assault, as well. This is someone who, according to Chairman Grassley, is widely recognized as an expert on investigation and prosecution of sex crimes, someone who has even instructed prosecutors, detectives, social workers and others on the best practices for forensic interviews of victims of sex crimes. This is someone who has had a lot of experience dealing with sex crimes.

[11:05:32] We saw a tweet from her boss who tweeted out last night, "The American people can be confident that Rachel Mitchell's experience as a conscientious prosecutor, training to seek justice, protect the innocent and pursue truth, will assist the Senate Judiciary Committee in performing its important task." That is a tweet from Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

A little bit more about her background. She has been a prosecutor since 1993. She gave an interview in 2011, published in 2012, to a religious publication, called "Front Line," where she dealt with this issue of how long it may take for people to report an assault or molestation. She was talking about children here. But she said, "People think children would tell right away, that they would tell everything that happened to them. In reality, children often keep the secret for years, sometimes into their adulthood, and sometimes forever."

There, she was speaking about children, but a lot of folks will say that this applies to women and men who have been victims of sexual assault, as well. It is interesting to see her take on that -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: A lot of people will say that is exactly their experience, as well.

Great to see you, Athena. Thank you so much.

She'll be in the hot seat, Rachel Mitchell, tomorrow.

Joining me right now is Brian Fallon, the executive director for Demand Justice, a group campaigning against Kavanaugh's confirmation. He's also the former press secretary for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

Great to see you, Brian. Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: If you want Christine Blasey Ford's story and the truth to come out, do you support having an outside prosecutor ask the question for Republicans?

FALLON: I think it is troubling. I think that the Republican Senators don't want to be accountable for the skeptical line of questions that they intend to pursue with Dr. Blasey Ford. I think -- think about it. They are taking a prosecutor and having her put questions to the person, who is the victim here. This is an effort I think to put Dr. Ford on trial. I think that the public will not greet that with a lot of acceptance. I think this is headed towards a replay of 1991, the Anita Hill hearings. I think, at this point, if Republicans plow forward -- they have scheduled a vote on Friday. They are acting like they will proceed no matter what Dr. Ford says tomorrow, no matter how credible she is. I think that the signal that they are sending is that they intend to plow right ahead. I think, if they do that, and if they do enact a replay of the Anita Hill hearings from 1991, I think you see a replay of what happened in the 1992 elections, which is what elected a wave of women. And in polls this week across key top-tier Senate races, you are seeing a huge women's gap open up --


FALLON: -- anywhere from 15 to 27 points.

BOLDUAN: I want to talk about the impact on the election in a second.

But on the issue of, you say it could be a replay of the Hill hearings, it seems to be directly because of the Hill hearings that Republicans want to bring in this prosecutor because of the way that went down in '91. What is the other option? Would you prefer what -- would you prefer politicians grand standing? Less time for Ford to have her say? That doesn't get you closer to the truth.

FALLON: No. I think what people would prefer and advocates of supporters of Dr. Blasey Ford would prefer is to see the hearing be treated as a true fact-finding mission. If this were a true fact- finding mission, you would be subpoenaing Mark Judge, who was the third person in the room in this encounter, because he can give first- hand testimony. Let's have him raise his hand and give testimony under oath.

I think you would allow Debbie Ramirez, who is the other accuser from Yale, that has come forward this past week, whose lawyers said she is willing to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee. So why wouldn't want -- if you want to establish a pattern of behavior by Judge Kavanaugh, why wouldn't you bring Debbie Ramirez in to tell her story?

And you wouldn't be proceeding in bad faith by already scheduling a committee vote for Friday, literally the day after. You have Mitch McConnell telegraphing he might have a floor vote as quickly as Monday. So --

BOLDUAN: Let me ask about that. (CROSSTALK)

FALLON: -- bad faith by Republicans, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about that. Because you called the process a sham because Grassley did schedule this tentative vote on Friday. As Grassley points out, and you know from your time in the Senate, committee rules require three-day notice for a vote. That is what Grassley is laying out. So Grassley was just laying the groundwork for a possible vote. Why is that a sham?

FALLON: I think the optics are horrible. It sends the message that, come hell or high water, they are inclined to proceed here. You have Republicans going out and calling this a smear. Mitch McConnell has said that Dr. Blasey Ford --


FALLON: -- is perpetrating a smear.


BOLDUAN: -- timing of the vote. Can we acknowledge that the timing of the vote is committee rules?

[11:10:07] FALLON: No, because they can notice it on Friday and have the committee vote next week. There's a three-day notice period but they don't need to take the steps of putting preparations in place to vote as quickly as Friday. Why do they need to afford themselves a bad option? They are in an artificial timeline because they are hell bent on confirming Judge Kavanaugh, no matter what Christine Blasey Ford or Debbie Ramirez have to say.

I think, at this point, what will come out of tomorrow is you'll see, in Dr. Ford, you will see somebody who is extremely credible, has no reason to lie. She is putting everything on the line by coming forward and having to relive this trauma in front of a national audience. On the other hand, you have Judge Kavanaugh, who in recent days, his credibility has come under question. You have people who have previously served as character witnesses for him during this confirmation process disown him and abandon him in recent days. There's a woman, who was a Yale classmate of his, who has been starring in an ad run by one of the groups supportive of Kavanaugh's nomination, that's been airing for several weeks.


FALLON: That ad is off the air. That ad is now off the air because that woman says she doesn't challenge Debbie Ramirez's account because she was a classmate of Debbie Ramirez's as well.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about ads. You have been running ads.


BOLDUAN: Part of your focus has been -- in your ad campaign, has been pressuring red-state Democrats to vote against Kavanaugh. At this point, regardless of what happens tomorrow, do you have them? Do you think they are all a guaranteed no vote?

FALLON: I would be very surprised if any Democrats vote for Brett Kavanaugh after the allegations. I think before the allegations came forward, there were a lot of red-state Democrats who were seriously considering voting for him. Even now, they have been very reticent. I think they rightly want to see the process play out. They don't want to rush to judgment. In their states, I don't think it would be received well if they prejudge these hearings. So I think they will take their time. But I will be surprised, at the end of the day, if any of them say yes to Judge Kavanaugh, who has been now twice accused of serious sexual assault allegations.

BOLDUAN: Accused of sexual assault in one circumstance and accused of inappropriate sexual behavior in another circumstance.

Brian Fallon, thank you for coming in.

FALLON: I think a lot of people would consider that an assault, too. Yes.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brian, for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now right now to discuss this further is CNN politics reporter, editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, and CNN legal analyst, Jennifer Rodgers.

Great to see you guys.

Chris, do you think the strategy that Brian is discussing and Democrats are pushing, which is they want to stop Kavanaugh in his tracks. As Brian was talking about -- and then, of course, the focus is the midterms. Stop Kavanaugh and then take back the Senate if possible. Do you think that is plausible at this point?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Plausible, yes. Likely, no. Let's remember, Mitch McConnell put a very big bet on Donald Trump back when he said that they would not have hearings on Merrick Garland. And 283 days later, Donald Trump wins the election. I guarantee Mitch McConnell didn't think Donald Trump was going to be the Republican nominee. Once he was the nominee, he didn't think he would win. What does that mean? It turned Merrick Garland into Neil Gorsuch. I think there's a possibility that Democrats win back the Senate. It is hard. There are 26 Democratic seats, only nine Republican seats up. One of those nine in Nevada is a seat Hillary Clinton won. And 10 of the 26 were Democrats, were seats that Donald Trump won. The map isn't great. But would say, if not Kavanaugh -- and we don't know -- but if not Kavanaugh, Donald Trump is going to nominate -- would nominate someone else, maybe Amy Coney Barrett, someone like that. He will nominate someone else. He is not just going to let the nomination sit fallow.

BOLDUAN: That is absolutely true. Jennifer, from your perspective, do you think bringing in outside

counsel takes the politics out of the hearing? How will her line of questioning be different than how Republicans would likely ask?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: One thing is she will mush them all together. If they get five minutes per person, she will be able to pursue a more coherent line of questioning because it will not be broken up person by person the way it would be --


BOLDUAN: -- asking questions.


BOLDUAN: Sometimes during these hearings, we don't hear questions. We just hear statements.


RODGERS: Senators are not very good at asking questions unless they have certain experience. But these guys would not do a good job of getting to the truth. One thing that may happen is we may learn a little bit more about their stories. The problem is five minutes per person is a ridiculously short amount of time. If they wanted to get to what was going on, they would give much more time for the questioning.

BOLDUAN: For a point of reference, during his first confirmation, his original hearing, the line of questioning was 30 minutes and then a second round of 20 minutes for each Senator, just for perspective there.

CILLIZZA: Kate, you could go back multiple times. This is five minutes a Senator or maybe five minutes for the outside counsel and all of those Senators, and then that's it. One round, that is it.

The other thing I would say, look, I think Republicans had a choice between a bad option and a bad option when it came to this hearing. They were very concerned about the replay of the Anita Hill hearings with people --


[11:15:17] BOLDUAN: As they should be.

CILLIZZA: Yes. People like Arlen Specter, who is a Democrat. But people saying things like, are you a strong woman. That kind of stuff, those moments, they are afraid of, generally speaking and particularly with the election 41 days away. So what did they do? They said, if you are paying attention, we are so petrified of making a moment here with 10 white men and Ted Cruz -- there's 11 Republicans, all of them are men -- making a moment here, we will bring someone in from the outside and we will cede them our time. You covered Congress. The idea of Senators saying, no, I don't want to talk or ask questions, I mean, it's mind blowing. This is literally --


CILLIZZA: -- a lot of why they are there.

BOLDUAN: But do you give them credit for maybe understanding where their shortcomings are? Look no further than very different topics, the Facebook hearings that happened last year --


BOLDUAN: -- to understand that Senators will ask questions, and very clearly did not have the knowledge in some circumstances to get anywhere.

CILLIZZA: Like I said, this was a lose/lose for them. Ask the questions and run the very real risk that you look like a bully, you look uncaring, or that you already made your mind up, particularly given what some have already said, including Orrin Hatch, or bring someone from the outside and acknowledge that you have these concerns.


CILLIZZA: I think they chose the lesser of two evils, particularly, politically speaking.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about, quickly, Jennifer, about, "USA Today" has four people who come forward saying Ford told them about the assault in the past several years. Two of them naming Brett Kavanaugh. Two of them, she named Brett Kavanaugh, they say. None of them, though, were at the party in question. Additionally, the paper has put out Judge Kavanaugh's calendar that he turned over to the committee from the summer that he says shows no such party was on his schedule. Without going into the nitty-gritty, what does any of this do?

RODGERS: If you were in court, the prior evidence, to talk about the statements that she was assaulted in that way, would come in as evidence because they will be questioning that it happened at all. They will be implying that she is lying. Then you get to put into evidence that you made prior consistent statements. So all of that would come in as corroborating evidence that shows that she's not making it up now because he's up for the Supreme Court. She told people long ago and that is critical.

BOLDUAN: So not a political act.

What about the calendar?

RODGERS: I don't know. Does anybody put teenage parties on their calendar? I'm not sure that's very telling.


BOLDUAN: I am surprised and impressed he has a calendar from 1982. I definitely didn't keep one. Great to see you guys.

Because I was born in '83.

But regardless, moving on.


Coming up, a massive accusation on the world stage. President Trump at the United Nations, moments ago, accusing China of meddling in the midterm elections to hurt him politically. Think he left something out? Maybe another country? We'll take you live to the U.N.


[11:22:41] BOLDUAN: President Trump sounding off, offering up a dire warning today about foreign interference in U.S. elections. What was not said there, Russia. His target, China. What happened at the meeting of the Security Council? Quite a bit. It's still going on right now.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the United Nations here in New York.

Jeff, what did the president say?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, very interestingly, the president was talking about the midterm elections, which are six weeks away only, and talking about election interference, but talking about China's role in it. He has been talking about this slowly over the last few weeks or so, at rallies and other things, saying China is going after his supporters.

Listen to what he said or didn't say about Russia. Take a listen.


TRUMP: Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election. They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.


ZELENY: So talking about a trade war, they are really a political war. But what the president is talking about specifically are some people impacted by this ongoing feud and a trade war. Iowa soybean farmers, first and foremost. There was a four-page ad, paid for by the government of China, in the "Des Moines Register," last Sunday, directly going after Iowa farmers, many of whom are Republicans. The president using that as an example, saying China is meddling in the midterm elections.

But, Kate, what he did not mention at all was the actual election meddling in 2016 and what some security experts fear could happen again in 2018 from Vladimir Putin and Russia, and not from China -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Great to see you, Jeff. Thank you so much.

Let me bring in CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd, a senior adviser to the national Security Council under President Obama, and Nic Robertson, CNN international diplomatic editor.

It's great to see you guys.

Sam, what is your reaction when you heard that from the president about election interference?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: My reaction is that the entire speech was an exercise in cherry picking on intelligence. Of course, in this speech he chose to talk about China and China's election interference, which would have been because he reviewed intelligence that said China was engaged in this activity.

BOLDUAN: An important warning to offer, but.

[11:25:03] VINOGRAD: It is. It is an important warning to offer. But he said later in the speech that he likes President Xi, so likes the guy who is interfering in our elections and violating our sovereignty, which was the subject of his speech yesterday. Of course, he didn't mention Russia's election interference.

In other parts of the speech, Kate, he left Russia out. This was a session on nonproliferation. He started out talking about chemical weapons, biological weapons and nuclear ones. Lest we no forget, Russia used chemical weapons in the United Kingdom just a few months ago. That was not mentioned, even though he pointed to Syria chemical weapons, for example, and all of Iran's activity.

BOLDUAN: Nic, Sam mentioned sovereignty. We had a lot of talk today. It's still about his speech yesterday. He was laughed at, off the top. We talked about that. It was his words after that, the speech after the laughter that will likely have obviously more of an impact. We have one sound byte. Listen to this.


TRUMP: We must defend the foundations that make it all possible. Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived.


BOLDUAN: In that, you heard echoes of the 1930s, clearly, a very dangerous time that led up to World War II. Why?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: He is speaking to his domestic audience. The audience around him is the international audience and, chief among them, is China. I think, if you listen to what the U.N. secretary-general said in his speech, before President Trump, he talked about when the Athenians and Spartans went to war, it was because they didn't trust each other. There wasn't communication. One was rising -- these city-states, one was rising, one wasn't doing so well. The secretary-general was pointing to the situation today where China is on the rise. China isn't sure, can it trust the United States. I was at a business dinner in Beijing recently, sitting next to a former Chinese ambassador, still working for the government. He said to me very clearly, we think the United States has been waiting to take this position against us because we are beginning to do better, because we are coming up. To the point of the secretary- general, to the point of my interpretation, it's what the audience there is reading and what China is reading, and it's an era of, how do we trust each other? We are pulling apart and we're separating out, we don't want to work together. That would resonate again today with what President Trump said about interference by China in the midterm.

BOLDUAN: Right, even connect through the day.

I mean, Iran has been a huge focus. It was a huge focus today and yesterday. And the strong language against Iran, Sam, is akin to his treatment that he gave North Korea. If Iran is this year's North Korea from last year, will the same treatment have the same impact? Do you see a Trump/Rouhani summit in the offering?

VINOGRAD: I don't, because, domestically, situations in North Korea and Iran are very different. President Rouhani is supposedly democratically elected. We've had a lot of issues with how that process went.


VINOGRAD: Since President Trump violated the Iran deal, he has come under incredible criticism, the regime has come under incredible criticism for being fooled or duped by the United States into signing the Joint Comprehensive Agreement to Denuclearize Iran. The idea that President Rouhani would show up again and look like he is willing to be fooled the second time wouldn't really sell well back in Iran. I don't think he will be chomping at the bit to go meet with President Trump again. Whereas, Kim Jong-Un is a dictator. He can meet with President Trump and get all the accolades, and he doesn't look like he has been fooled.

BOLDUAN: Nic, can you just kind of sum up. It wasn't just awkward laughter in the room at the top of the president's speech that was noteworthy. You also had leaders speaking out against what was in the president's speech, the sovereignty, the nationalism. Emmanuel Macron, who apparently has a good relationship with the president, but was speaking out pretty directly about what Trump was promoting. What does that show?

ROBERTSON: It shows that the world is not in lock step with this president. The world is not particularly the United States allies are not as ready to follow the United States and feel that the United States is missing key points and missing key understandings. There are understandings that President Macron was highlighting yesterday was fundamental. To the point that you said just now, there was no mention of Russia, it was President Macron today at the session today that raised the issue of Russia's poisoning in the U.K. So the international allies of the United States are picking up on the areas that President Trump, they feel, is failing to deal with. This is a gap, a gap in understanding. But it undermines the United States' leadership that diplomats and presidents of the United States have spent decades fostering, nurturing, helping grow. We are in a changing dynamic right now.

[11:30:09] BOLDUAN: Yes, a changing dynamic. Such a new dynamic to watch playing out right in front of us.

Thank you. It's great to see you. Thank you.