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Trump Arrives at UN for Meeting with Israeli PM; GOP Picks Sex Crimes Prosecutor to Question Ford and Kavanaugh; Senate Panel Schedules Kavanaugh Vote for Friday. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 26, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:13] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.


It is an extraordinary day. A diplomacy for a president who only yesterday declared his disgust for what he calls globalism. Moments from now President Trump will meet with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly here in New York.

We're going to listen in live. Next hour he will chair a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council on disarmament.

HARLOW: But hanging over all of this today really is a historic public hearing that is set for 200 miles away from the United Nations tomorrow. The Senate Judiciary Committee will question under oath Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who says that Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers back in the 1980s.

And this morning, we now know Republican senators on the panel will not be asking questions. They have hired a sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona to question Ford and separately to question Kavanaugh on their behalf. That said, committee Democrats will ask their own questions of both Ford and Kavanaugh and the Judiciary Committee could proceed to vote after this hearing as early as Friday morning.

There is a lot to get through this morning. Let's begin with our congressional correspondent Manu Raju who joins us on the Hill this morning.

So, Manu, a lot to take through with you. But first, I mean, each side has also, in addition to knowing there will be these two witnesses, each side has turned over documents that they think help bolster their case.

Let's begin with the affidavits, the sworn statements, four of them, in an effort to back up Ford's account.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. These are documents turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee by people who've known Ford for some time, including her husband, who have said under the penalty of perjury that they were told by Christine Blasey Ford about an incident involving sexual assault that occurred to her in her -- during her teens and even referenced a federal judge who had done -- who is now a federal judge who had done this to her at the time this occurred. According to these statements, these discussions with Christine Blasey Ford and these individuals occurred before Kavanaugh was nominated as a Supreme Court justice.

Now, in one example, for instance, one of her friends said that they had met in June of 2013. Now she said that according to them during their meeting, Christine Blasey Ford had told this individual that she said that she had been almost raped but someone who is now a federal judge.

So these are the kind of things that have been coming forward over the last day or so to try to bolster her account. We'll see how the members take that because, as we know, tomorrow's hearing will just be Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. These outside witnesses will not testify but these are their statements of support of her story, guys.

HARLOW: All right.

SCIUTTO: As we're talking to you, Manu, just to note here, this is President Trump. His motorcade leaving, I believe, Trump Tower on its way to the U.N. General Assembly. There is the beast, as they call it, the president's limousine heading for that short trip over to the east side of New York. We will continue to monitor Trump's appearances there at the U.N. today.

But back to you, Manu, because you have these affidavits out. The intention there to take away from this idea that Ford just brought up this allegation as Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court. But on the flipside you have Kavanaugh now taking somewhat remarkable step of finding and turning over his teenage calendar from the year 1982. And we now have images of that calendar, entries there.

Tell us what we learned from it and I suppose what we don't learn from this calendar.

RAJU: Yes. A 1982 calendar, about five pages long. It has doodles on it. Talks about him being grounded, it talks about him going for a beach week. But what it does not say is any sort of description of a party that Christine Blasey Ford mentioned in her own public statements to the "Washington Post." That's the case that the Kavanaugh team is trying to make, that there is nothing in this calendar that suggested he wasn't at any sort of party like the one that Ford described.

Of course we know now that Ford has not detailed the date and timing of that exact party, but the argument all along from Kavanaugh's side is that this description of party is not something he ever intended. So this calendar is trying to bolster his case here. We'll see how the senators react when they get a chance to digest this.

HARLOW: And just very briefly, Manu, what can you tell us about the sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona who is going to be doing this questioning, all of the questioning that would have normally taken place by the Republicans, by the 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Who is she?

RAJU: Yes. Rachel Mitchell, she's actually from Arizona. She's on leave as the deputy county attorney. She's the division chief, she was, of the special victims division there in Maricopa County in Arizona where she specialized in sex crimes prosecution.

[09:05:06] So she will take the lead in the questioning here on the Republican side. Each member will get five minutes to ask questions, but they can defer to her to ask questions on their behalf. So she will be asking questions to both Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. On the Democratic side, though, those members are going to ask questions themselves. They will not be deferring to her.

But a rather extraordinary move to bring in someone from the outside in order to help the Republicans in their questioning. Of course, we know there are 11 men on that panel, they're concerned about appearing insensitive in their questioning. So we'll see how she does tomorrow, guys.

HARLOW: OK. Manu, a lot to get through. Thank you for all those updates on the Hill.

Also this morning, new important reporting from the "New York Times." The president, President Trump has privately expressed concern after he watched Judge Kavanaugh's interview on FOX News this week.

Let's go to the White House. Kaitlan Collins is there.

I mean, Kaitlan, what is the concern, that the president does not think that he was strong enough in that interview? What is it?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Pretty much, Poppy. He believes he appeared too weak during that interview according to what sources are telling "The New York Times."

Now you remember that interview. Judge Kavanaugh was emotional. He repeated himself several times. He was pretty calm during it. Never got angry during that interview as he rebutted these allegations made against him while sitting next to his wife. And that's not likely the same response that President Trump who himself has been accused of sexual assault more than a dozen times would have taken in response to being accused of something like this.

President Trump doesn't like that. He made that disappointment clear yesterday when he heard from him while he was up in New York seated next to the Colombian president. And he said that Judge Kavanaugh was not on his footing. He's never been in a place like this. President Trump kind of giving some reasoning behind why he didn't think he made his case strong enough during that interview.

Now, of course, we know that President Trump has completely abandoned restraint here and is instead going after these accusers for Judge Kavanaugh himself, attacking their credibility, saying that that one woman was intoxicated, that she cannot remember certain periods of time during when she says the alleged incident occurred.

But just how you all started the show is exactly right. It's exactly what we're seeing today. That while the president is meeting with several world leaders at the United Nations meeting in New York, this is hanging over it. And that was made pretty clear when he was seated next to the Colombian president but was going after Democrats, accusing them of masterminding some kind of con game here and saying that these women weren't credible enough to keep his nominee off the Supreme Court -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Kaitlan Collins --

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: At the White House, thanks very much this morning.

We're joined now by CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN political analyst, of course White House reporter for the "Washington Post" Josh Dawsey, and associate editor of RealClearPolitics AB Stoddard.

Jeffrey Toobin, if I can begin with you. So clearly Republicans, as Manu was noting, on the committee do not want a dynamic where you have several older white men questioning perhaps toughly a female witness who alleges sexual assault here. But you have a prosecutor in effect taking that role.

Do you expect to see a prosecutorial-like cross-examination here? Tough questions not just for Ford but also for Kavanaugh here, to press them in a way that you might not see otherwise in a civic confirmation hearing?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No. I expect that this lawyer will press Miss Ford and not press Kavanaugh. She works for the Republicans. That's her job. It's her job to get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed. I don't think we should be in any doubt about that.

And I do think it could mean potential peril for Miss Ford because remember, you know, there are questions you could ask her in a respectful but firm way that could make her look pretty bad. You know, where did this take place. Who else was present. What time of day. How many people were there. All of which she has said she is not entirely clear about.

That is -- those are the kinds of questions that senators who are generally incompetent in asking questions would not be able to ask. So it's not just about the atmospherics of a woman asking questions. It's a prosecutor asking questions and I think she could potentially do some damage to Miss Ford.

SCIUTTO: As you were speaking there, Jeffrey, we saw live pictures of the president's motorcade arriving at the U.N., having left Trump Tower a short time ago. We're going to continue to monitor the president's appearances there. But meanwhile, more to discuss here.

HARLOW: We are interested, Jeffrey, in your take on what we heard this morning on CNN and in John Berman's fascinating interview with Kavanaugh's attorney, Beth Wilkinson. Let's listen to one of the points that she made.


BETH WILKINSON, ATTORNEY FOR BRETT KAVANAUGH: What I find most fascinating is the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote all of us and asked for all the documents. In "The Washington Post" interview, Dr. Blasey or Dr. Ford said that she had been seeing a therapist and there were therapist notes that support this. She did not turn over those notes.

[09:10:08] As I understand it from the reporting, Judge Kavanaugh is not mentioned anywhere in there and there is a dispute about how many people were there. She also said there was a lie detector test. The Senate specifically asked her for that and they failed to turn over the results of the lie detector test.


HARLOW: Toobin, it's an interesting point. I mean, there's of course a reluctance to turn over private therapy notes. But if you passed a polygraph that your lawyer recommended you take, why not turn over the results of that?

TOOBIN: It's a good question. I'd like to hear from the Ford side. I mean, it was a very interesting interview with Beth Wilkinson who I thought was a better advocate for Brett Kavanaugh than Brett Kavanaugh was. I mean, she was a much more sort of reasonable, hey, you know, he probably drank too much, but, you know, he didn't sexually assault anybody, instead of Kavanaugh's just, you know, I never did anything bad in my whole life.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey, Jeffrey, briefly --

TOOBIN: More modulated.

SCIUTTO: Brief interruption there because the president has just arrived at the U.N.

HARLOW: Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- coming today. Would you meet with him? He's asking for a meeting with you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I had time, I would. I mean to be honest with you. He has to straighten it out. He's got to be -- he's got to act a lot more humanely. The people are suffering tremendously in Venezuela. There is no reason for this. So I would certainly be open to it. I'm willing to meet with anybody. Any time I can save lives and help people. If it's one life, I'm certainly willing.

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- very important for them to be able to work with the United States? But they don't want --

TRUMP: With who?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Venezuela has said. But they said also that they don't want to declare it a humanitarian crisis because they believe that that would lead to an intervention as they have put examples like Chile and other countries. What is your response to that?

TRUMP: I just want to see Venezuela straighten out. I want the people to be safe. We're going to take care of Venezuela. OK. We're going to take care of Venezuela. What's happening in Venezuela is a disgrace. If he's here, if he wants to meet, I don't know. It was not on my mind, it was not on my plate. But if I can help people, that's what I'm here for.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to ask to protect your allies in the region after Maduro's (INAUDIBLE) to the border in Colombia?

TRUMP: Our allies are in no trouble. We're with our allies.


TRUMP: Our allies, we are with our allies 100 percent. They have no problem. We met yesterday with Colombia. We had a great meeting with Colombia, and we've met with numerous other of our allies, and they are absolutely in no trouble.


TRUMP: I don't know. I look forward to meeting him again. But we don't have anything set. But I look forward to meeting him again.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On North Korea, what needs to happen?

TRUMP: A lot of good things are happening right now.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What does North Korea need to do before you meet Chairman Kim again?

TRUMP: We are denuclearizing North Korea, and we have a wonderful relationship going between our country and them. We're being helped a lot by Japan and very much by President Moon of South Korea and North Korea is going along very well. We really have a tremendous amount of progress since this time last year.



TRUMP: All options are on the table, every one. Strong ones and the less than strong ones. Every -- and you know what I mean by strong. Every option is on the table with respect to Venezuela.


TRUMP: Take care of the people of Venezuela. We have many Venezuelans living in the United States. Many of them live in the Doral area of Miami. I've gotten to know them very well. These are great, great people. We are going to take care of those people.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The paper said today that North Korea might be OK to take care nukes. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

TRUMP: Chairman Kim wants good things to happen for North Korea, and good things are happening with respect to North Korea. And it's going to be great for Chairman Kim and great for the people of North Korea, and that's what we're all about.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- with Japanese Prime Minister Abe today.

TRUMP: Very good relationship with -- and you know with Prime Minister Abe. He was in my apartment just the other day in Trump Tower. We had a very long couple of hour discussion. He loves his country. He had a tremendous victory at the election, as you know, which I was very happy about. I don't know if you're supposed to endorse somebody or not, but I endorsed him and I will endorse him again. He's a great gentleman and a great man and a person who is a great leader for Japan. We have other things to discuss. I think more than anything else, we'll be discussing trade.




TRUMP: I'll be meeting with Chairman Kim in the very near future. It will be announced. We're having a press conference today, we'll start talking about that. But we'll be announcing where and when in the very near future.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Mr. President, you said yesterday that the first lady will travel to Africa --

TRUMP: Yes --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which side of Africa? Has she considered going to Angola?

TRUMP: We're going to announce it in about an hour, you should be there.


TRUMP: She's got a press conference in one hour, you should be there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you know that --

TRUMP: They're announcing she's going to four countries in Africa.


TRUMP: They will be announcing it in about an hour exactly. She's going to be making the announcement --


TRUMP: Which is much more exciting when -- than when I make an announcement.


She'll be announcing she's making a big trip to Africa. We both love Africa. Africa is so beautiful. Most beautiful part of the world in many ways --


TRUMP: Just let me -- let me just say that she's having a news conference in a very short period of time. She'll be announcing exactly where she's going, and I hope you're going to be there.


We'll see in a minute --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your thoughts on the woman crushing Kavanaugh here tomorrow?

TRUMP: Well, I think the Senate, the Republicans could not be nicer in the way they're 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.

But they didn't do that. The Republicans could not be nicer, could not be more respectful to the process, certainly could not be more respectful to the woman and I'm OK with that. I think I might have pushed it forward a lot faster.


I know -- I know this particular man, Judge Kavanaugh, he's outstanding. You don't find people like this. He's outstanding. He's a -- he's a gem. He's an absolute gem and he's been treated very unfairly by the Democrats who are playing a con game. They know what they're doing, it's a con.

They go into a back room and they talk with each other, and they laugh at what they're getting away with. It's a con game, and that's what they play. And that's about the only thing they do well. Thank you very much.


SCIUTTO: We have just heard the president there making some news on North Korea. First of all, claiming that in his words, "we are denuclearizing North Korea". He did not reference any concrete steps by the North Korean regime.

But he did say that he will meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea --

HARLOW: Yes, he did --

SCIUTTO: And he said that an announcement will be coming on that very soon. He even referenced his 5 O'clock news conference this afternoon --

HARLOW: If we might hear more then.

SCIUTTO: That we might hear --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: More then. So that -- we knew he was discussing that idea. Whether there is specifics now, a time, a date, a place, the president seemed to be teasing that and we're going to keep you updated on that as it comes along. We have Alexander Marquardt standing by now at the UN there.

Alexander, we saw the president there speaking. You had John Bolton peeking his head behind him as he made those comments to reporters. Have you heard that the president is going to make a specific announcement later today about time and place and confirmation of a second summit with Kim?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, the president has been repeatedly asked about this over the past few days, and as he often does, he has repeatedly teased the fact that there will be a second summit coming up.

Jim and Poppy, of course, there is a huge disparity between actually having a summit and achieving those concrete goals. It's one thing, as we saw in Singapore, to go out there and shake hands in front of the cameras and call for denuclearization, and it's quite something else to go ahead and get it done.

So there's a lot of negotiation that needs to happen in South Korea, in North Korea, in Washington before those -- the goal of a completely verifiably denuclearized North Korea can happen. To some extent, the Trump administration, as they've been accused of in the past, he's putting the cart before the horse in teasing a second summit. But all we know for now, Jim and Poppy is that, one is expected to

come soon as the president just said moments ago, as well as yesterday.

HARLOW: OK, Alex, keep an eye on all at the United Nations, thank you very much.

[09:20:00] Again, some headlines from the president there also on his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh who will face lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as an outside sex crimes prosecutor tomorrow in this key hearing, it begins about 24 hours from now.

The president said Democrats are playing in his word, "a con game". He said Republicans are being very nice the way they're handling this. And he even said -- and you heard this, Jim, that he prefers -- he would have preferred that the Republicans and Grassley push forward with the vote two weeks --


HARLOW: Ago, and said that the delay to hear the victim. Let's bring back our panel, the alleged victim offering -- back to our panel. A.B. Stoddard, to you, you know, the president is very clear here on where he stands now and who he believes and who he does not believe.

However, a key Republican senator whose vote he needs to hang on to, Lisa Murkowski feels differently. Let's listen -- let me just read what she said just yesterday. Quote, "we are now in a place where it's not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified. It's about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed."

OK, she's a key vote, which way does she go? What will that mean for which way does Suzanne Collins go? How careful does the president, Republicans need to be on this one if they want to see Kavanaugh confirmed?

ALEXANDRA BRANDON STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right, Republicans have made it clear that they -- this is a go for broke strategy. That they want to get him on the bench next week, and that even if they lose the house over this and potentially the Senate, they want to have him on the bench when they're picking up the pieces on November 7th after the midterm elections.

But the other side of this is that they have plenty of time. The midterm elections are not on Monday when they want him to be sworn into the bench. They're in five weeks or six weeks.

So the idea that they're not giving this more time, more measure, more patience, and that only less than a handful of Republicans have publicly come out and said I'm going to wait until after the hearing to make up my mind is pretty astounding if you just think about the political context of this. Forget whether they're truly seeking the truth, the idea that

publicly, only a few people have expressed the kind of anguish that Senator Murkowski is talking about, what she has to do to listen, to hear out this accuser and take seriously her allegations as a senator as she makes up her mind on this really important decision that we've only talked about fewer than a handful of senators who are talking this way is really -- it speaks so much about the process.

At the same time, I criticize the Democrats for whacking the Republicans in trying to make an attempt to be more sensitive and less tone-deaf and choosing a female lawyer who has an expertise and a background in this area.

When we know that if they didn't, they would be criticized for being a bunch of white men being tone-deaf and insensitive. So there's politics being played on both sides. And the -- the president is not helping someone like Senator Murkowski who has a huge decision to make. One, she might regret if it's made too soon and other revelations come out after he's on the Supreme Court.

SCIUTTO: Josh Dawsey, Senator Mitch McConnell has claimed that he has the votes --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: To get Kavanaugh through. Based on your reporting, is that accurate?

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's hard to say, I mean, the president called Mitch McConnell on Saturday and told him to basically rush up the process mirroring the comments he just made publicly at the UN. He said let's have this vote, I'm tired of watching this.

And what McConnell said to him, was, I've got to get members of my caucus in the right place before we do this. It did not seem then that he was 100 percent sure. I mean, a number of the questionable votes, you know, Collins, Murkowski, Flake, are all senators who have strained relationships with the president some more than others.

And the president's impatience here, obviously, manifested itself in this comments, and what he's pushing by in the scenes. But I'm not sure if that's particularly helpful. You know, McConnell has 51 votes, it's a razor-thin majority. There's a possibility of getting Democrats votes, but no one knows if that's going to happen now.

So what Trump is continuing to say, these women, I don't believe them, Kavanaugh is a great guy, we should hurry this up? In the eyes of many Republicans on the Hill, none of these comments are particularly helpful, but the president seems unmoved by that.

TOOBIN: But it's worth remembering --

HARLOW: Yes --

TOOBIN: That this is not the Republican Party anymore. This is the Trump party, as John Boehner said, and I think he's exactly right. I mean, you have these senators who pretend that they are independent. You know, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Ben Sasse, but they're all cowards.

They all always wind up voting with Trump. They'll wind up voting with him here. I mean, I think we need to look at what senators do as opposed to what they say. And all these --

HARLOW: Fair point --

TOOBIN: Posturing and supposed independence --

SCIUTTO: Right --

TOOBIN: From Trump, it all melts away when they have to --

SCIUTTO: Well, we're going to know after tomorrow. Jeffrey, Josh, A.B. Stoddard, thanks very much.

HARLOW: We have a lot ahead. The president is set to speak in minutes ahead of his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we will bring you his remarks live.


HARLOW: All right, welcome back, we're just moments away from hearing from the president. President Trump will hold this bilateral(ph) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They'll address camera soon, we'll bring it to you when it happens.

With us here, David Miller; our global affairs analyst, David Sanger; our political and national security analyst. We just heard a lot --


HARLOW: From the president on North Korea, saying they're making progress on denuclearization, a second summit with Kim Jong-un will be soon on a willingness to meet with Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. Also saying there is no problem with our allies.

David Sanger, to you, when it comes to Iran, and the key topic for this bilateral(ph) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two are clearly on the same page. What are you expecting to hear?

SANGER: Well, you're going to hear this incredibly tough line that you were hearing first from the president, also from John Bolton yesterday and --

HARLOW: Hell to pay.

SANGER: Hell to pay, and this is just what Prime Minister Netanyahu has been looking for, for years. You'll remember that the Prime Minister came to the UN to indict Iran's nuclear program and basically criticize the Obama administration's willingness to enter the 2015 agreement.

Now, he's got a president who has exited that agreement and says he'll confront Iran.