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Explosive New Allegations About Supreme Court Nominee; GOP Lawmakers Appoint Attorney Rachel Mitchell to Question Ford and Kavanaugh; Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski Key Votes in Kavanaugh Confirmation; Lindsey Graham Comments on Kavanaugh Hearings; French President Rebukes Trump's Isolationist Message; Trump Accuses China of Meddling in 2018 Election, Forgets Russia in 2016. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 26, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:31:11] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN AMCHOR: Back with the breaking news here.

I've got all my guests with me.

Paul Callan, I wanted to come to you on Judge Kavanaugh. This hearing is set to role as scheduled tomorrow. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh will be testifying, despite these latest incredibly serious allegations.

My question to you is, we now have Judge Kavanaugh's prepared remarks that I believe were written prior to this latest allegation where he vehemently denies these allegations. In that FOX interview, which we played a clip of a second ago, he hits on drinking in high school, sort of more generically. He's set to say tomorrow, quote, "But I was not perfect in those days, just as I'm not perfect today. I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that made me cringe now."

That seems a step further than what we saw on FOX.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANAYST: I saw the FOX interview. He looked like a choir boy in that interview. Obviously, his lawyers or whoever is prepping him said you better temper those remarks. Remember, the year book that he signed has numerous references to drinking by him and he seems to have a reputation as a heavy drinker. I think that's an effort really to correct the FOX interview.

BALDWIN: Also, you wanted to make a point about point 12 in Julie Swetnick's sworn affidavit, this is before -- she talks about, "I became the victim of one of the gang or train rapes. She says, "I also witnessed efforts by Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could be gang raped in a side room or a bedroom by a train of boys."

CALLAN: That's the most serious allegation in this entire affidavit. That's an allegation that Kavanaugh aided and abetted in the commission of a gang rape. She's not saying he committed the rape, but saying he helped prep the girls to be so inebriated that they couldn't consent.

I would also say and people should be careful when they read this because when you read the entire document, it's really shocking as you read these things. When you go back and when lawyers go back over this, 90 percent of what she said is hearsay. She's saying somebody else told me this, I heard a rumor about this or I saw him grinding against a girl who didn't consent. How would she know the girl didn't consent unless she asked? These technicalities will be used to attack the viability of it.

But number 12, let's be careful about number 12. She says she was there, she saw them participating in spiking punch in order to cause women to be inebriated and then in 12 describe as gang rape situation. Later, she says she was gang raped at yet another party that Kavanaugh was present at but she doesn't accuse him of the rape itself. Very, very serious allegations.

BALDWIN: It's incredible going through all of this.

Areva, we don't know if she is going to testify. It's right now Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. Will Democrats in their questioning, will they be able -- maybe Julie can jump in if you know. Will Democrats be able to bring in these allegations into the questions to both Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh? How is it going to work with this outside counsel, Rachel Mitchell, who the 11 Republican men are bringing in to do the questioning for them? How is that supposed to work?

[14:34:57] AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Based on what the reporting has been to date, Brooke, they are not going to be able to question Brett Kavanaugh about these other allegations. It appears Grassley has been very clear. He's set very stringent time lines that the Senators will be given to ask questions and the questions have to relate directly to Dr. Ford's allegations. We will not have a chance tomorrow to have a vetting, to have questioning as it relates to Julie Swetnick's recent allegations that she has made, which I think is really, really fortunate. You raised a point about this not being a court of law. So many people have been conflating the Senate Judiciary Committee with a courtroom, with standards like due process, like guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Those are not the standards here. This is a job, not an entitlement. Brett Kavanaugh is not entitled to the same protections he would be if he were charged in a courtroom with some kind of serious sexual assault crimes. This is the highest court of the land, this is the American people who have a right to have a judge that has not been blemished or tainted by these very serious allegations. I think if we keep that in mind, the decision by Grassley and his GOP Senators should be a lot easier, that this is not the candidate that should be on the court. He will undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court from today until forever.

BALDWIN: Julie Pace, I want to play for a moment.

Stand by, everyone. We want to get a commercial break in. There was apparently an interesting moment, as we've all been talking, on the Senate floor just a second ago, involving two key votes. We'll play that and get Julie on the other side.

Stay with me. You're watching CNN.


[14:40:44] BALDWIN: Julie Pace, Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press, and Kaitlan Collins, our White House correspondent, back with me. Want to discuss a video and we'll have it in a hot second.

It was between two key Senators here, Susan Collins and Jeff Flake. Jeff Flake obviously a key vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Julie, and Susan Collins facing heat back home in Maine. They were seen chatting in a little bit of a huddle a moment ago on the floor. I'm just wondering, obviously to be a fly on the wall, but also might all of this that is swirling create an out for them on this vote?

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly could. Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski is another Senator to keep an eye on. Jeff Flake was saying he wants to hear Thursday's accounts from Kavanaugh and Ford, actually kind of a crazy thing for a Senator to say I want to hear from them first before I tell you how I vote. The reason the attention is on them so acutely is Republicans don't have much margin for error, in part, because they haven't been able to convince Democrats from more conservative states to come forward and say they're going to vote for ka Kavanaugh. Collins has said she's going to be glued to her television tomorrow like so many Americans watching this and trying to weigh her decision based on what she hears. It will be really fascinating to see how these Senators view the credibility of both Kavanaugh and Ford in this really extraordinary hearing.

BALDWIN: Kaitlin, talk us through some of these key votes. She already hit on Murkowski, Collins and Flake, but others and the different ways this can go.


Hang on, I'm being told -- thank you guys. There's a video here. Top right corner. There they are, seated.

Thanks for the highlight, guys.

Senator Collins on the right, Senator Flake on the left, huddling. Who knows what exactly they're talking about. Presumably, something related to this.

Kaitlan, go ahead.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think we can guess what they're talking about, Brooke.


COLLINS: It's likely. So much drama happening in Washington, not just this week but today alone. A lot of Senators voting whether or not to confirm have already made up their mind. There's only a small handful on the fence. It's the same people on the fence before. And now --


BALDWIN: Hang on. Here's Senator Graham with Manu. Let's listen.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It smells bad to me. I've been very suspicious. Mrs. Ford's allegation, I think something happened to her, we're going to listen to her tomorrow but all the corroborating witnesses go the other way. I've always been interested in hearing from her. But this is getting into the Twilight Zone. You're talking about Brett Kavanaugh being a serial rapist as a sophomore in high school. I have a hard time believing he did it then and he's never done it before.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why shouldn't Mark Judge testify, though?

GRAHAM: Mark Judge is now being accused of being a criminal. So if I were him, I would be careful of the times in which we live. I do believe it's important to invite Mr. Avenatti's client to come to the committee and be interviewed by staff. That should happen right now.

RAJU: Should proceedings be delayed?

GRAHAM: Absolutely not. Two days before the vote, one day before the hearing, from Avenatti accusations that just to me -- you don't go to 10 parties if you see what she's claiming, you go to the cops. I think normal people would feel an obligation to do something about it, at least I hope they would. I don't believe Brett Kavanaugh is a serial rapist. There's nothing in his background, the way he's lived his life, to give legitimacy to these claims. As to Mrs. Ford, I look forward to hearing from her tomorrow.

As for Mr. Avenatti, his client can come before the committee in a bipartisan fashion and we can read about what you said and make our own decision before we vote.


GRAHAM: I'm tell you that after they --

[14:45:10] BALDWIN: Hang on. Don't we want to keep listening to him? He's still talking. No?

OK, OK. We'll come back.

Back with Kaitlan and Julie.

You heard similar themes, we heard Judge Kavanaugh one of his statements in the wake of this latest accusation. He feels like he's in the Twilight Zone. You heard the same thing from Senator Graham and also the same things of Julie Swetnick in her sworn affidavit is saying she went to 10-plus of these parties where she saw and nobody I've seen is calling Judge Kavanaugh a serial rapist. She's just alleging he was at the parties and was present as people were essentially standing in line and raping women. She's not alleging he was doing that. Let's be on the same page. He's saying you don't go to 10 parties and call the cops.


COLLINS: Lindsey Graham sounds downright angry there. He put out a pretty blistering statement saying if Republicans bail on this good man, I'm quoting him, "because of the smears and character assassinations perpetrated by Michael Avenatti, we deserve our fate." That's sending a signal. A lot of concern around how the Republicans in the Senate are treating his accusers, what with effects will be on the midterms.

Lindsey Graham making clear he does not feel this nomination should be withdrawn, there are a mounting number of allegations. He's echoing a lot of what we've heard from President Trump himself, casting doubt on this third accuser because of who it is that is representing, Michael Avenatti, the same lawyer who has represented the porn start who has made claims about having an affair with President Trump. We're seeing that anger play out there.

That comes as others on Capitol Hill, like Senator Susan Collins, who is going to be a crucial vote for Kavanaugh if she votes for him. Voicing opposition to the president weighing in on this and getting involved. She said that the president's comments about the second accuser being drunk and having lapses in her memory were appalling. She felt they were inappropriate and wrong. Those comments made not about only the second accuser but the first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

So we're seeing what the difference is on Capitol Hill between the president's most ardent allies. People like Senator Graham who believe this nomination should be closed, these are smears and character assassinations, and those undecided on their vote for Judge Kavanaugh.

Brooke, Christine Blasey Ford was concerned about coming forward, according to her attorneys, because she didn't think she would get a fair questioning from the Senators on the Judiciary Committee. Lindsey Graham is on this Judiciary Committee, and you can see he sounds pretty made up about how he thinks. He says have her come forward. But he makes it clear he believes Brett Kavanaugh should be on the Supreme Court. That also goes with others like Senator Orrin Hatch, who says he wouldn't even have asked a question of Christine Blasey Ford. Of course, there's that. But they have brought in someone else to accuse him.

Brooke, we're seeing just how much this drama is consuming Capitol Hill.

BALDWIN: It's stunning. We're going to keep covering it from top to bottom.

Ladies, thank you so much.

Let's roll on. We're hearing from another key Senator on this committee about the fate of the hearing tomorrow.

Stay with me. You're watching CNN.


[14:52:55] BALDWIN: We're going to get you back to the news involving Judge Brett Kavanaugh in just a second and this latest accusation involving him.

First, just in, President Trump's bromance with his French counterpart no longer. Apparently, the Trump-Macron meeting hit rough patches. And a senior official said Trump was, quote, "venting and ranting" to Macron about trade. The source said there was some rapport between the two but it wasn't what it once was.

With me, David Sanger, CNN political and national security analyst and national security correspondent for the "New York Times," and , former intelligence analyst with the Treasury Department.

So what gives?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there should be no surprise here. The early relationships that the president said were terrific and were among the best with Macron, who I think had one of the first state dinners --

BALDWIN: He went to France --


SANGER: He wanted to do the parade, the whole thing. Of course, it is Macron who has turned out to be the biggest advocate of sticking with the Iran nuclear deal.


SANGER: One of the fascinating elements of today's Security Council session, which the president presided over, was they ran into one member of the Security Council after another who were singing the praises of keeping Iran inside the deal right after the president had said it was so horrible that he saved the world by exiting him. So the Security Council meeting became the sort of poster child for the divisions that the Iranians are trying to exploit.

I was at a session with a number of think tankers and journalists the other night with President Rouhani of Iran, and he explicitly said his goal was to stay inside the deal and peel the American allies away from the United States. It's working pretty well.

BALDWIN: Makes sense. I want to ask you about China. We know President Trump today accusing

China of trying to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections. Here he was.


[14:55:02] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


BALDWIN: Can you fact-check when we just heard, A, and just talk to me a little bit about the timing, given this back and forth.


MORGAN ORTAGUS, FORMER INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, TREASURY DEPARTMENT: I think nonpartisan security officials have been talking about influence of foreign actors into our elections. I don't think this is new. What's new is the president specifically calling out China on this. He's relating it to his actions on trade. I don't know if they're meddling -- listen, we remember during the Obama administration when the Chinese were accused of hacking and stealing thousands of people's information. So Chinese interference has been well documented in public for a long time. The president is making a correlation to his actions on trade. I don't know how the administration is going to prove that. They're going to have to back up and find a way to. But I think he is right. He is correct that he's the first president to challenge them on trade. Whether that relates to their election interference is something for the administration to prove.

BALDWIN: I heard no mention of Russia.

SANGER: Well, you didn't. But in the meddling, you also heard no intimation of cyber activity. And it looks like -- though we're still trying to sort this out -- the president is placing retaliatory tariffs on goods in sensitive states and electoral areas in the United States, which is something the United States has done when it puts tariffs on as well. So his definition of meddling may be a little bit different than what we're immediately thinking.

BALDWIN: OK, we're look for more of your scoop perhaps in the "Times" perhaps tomorrow, in the coming days.

David Sanger, Morgan Ortagus, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

We have to roll on to the breaking news. We're back with this huge story today, this third accuser coming forward with stunning allegations against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The president and Republicans on Capitol Hill forcefully pushing back. A lot to discuss. We're back in a flash.