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GOP Sen. Flake Calls for Delay on Kavanaugh Floor Votes; Trump Reacts to News of Kavanaugh Vote Delay. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 28, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's plausible that Jeff Flake could come back. And if he doesn't get support in a couple of hours or whenever it is, that he could come back and change his vote. We just don't know. Right now, it seems to me like it's kind of the mornings after over there on the Senate Judiciary Committee. People have calmed down. And, you know, all the partisanship that we saw yesterday. You didn't hear Lindsey Graham coming out and complaining about Jeff Flake.


BORGER: Just the opposite.

BASH: He said this is democracy.

BORGER: Exactly. It's messy.

BASH: Every senator, every single Senator has tremendous power, especially when you have such a razor thin margin.

BORGER: Right.

BASH: Remember, Jeff Flake has not agreed with the president because of the tone and tenor of Washington right now, because of the divisive nature right now. And he's leaving, retiring for one main reason, he was not going to win a Republican primary because people were so angry for him for speaking out against --


JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: This really does help the integrity of the process at this point. The message that the Democrats were trying to communicate that you felt a lot of people were buying no matter what side they were on is wait a little bit, take a little look. And Jeff Flake said no more than one week. Who would argue with no more than one week? The little clip we saw from the president didn't seem at least moment --


BORGER: Who will argue with it? Judge Kavanaugh.

BASH: Oh, Judge Kavanaugh --


BASH: -- made it very clear he might not have a choice.

BISKUPIC: Two things, two things on that.


BISKUPIC: Judge Kavanaugh is very worried that with every hour that passes something new will come out about him.

BASH: Yes.

BISKUPIC: But he's also probably so aware of what his nomination has done to the committee and to the country. Remember his background. He has always been a very shrewd operator at the nexus of politics and the law, and he would have never wanted what happened to him to have happen to any of the nominees who he helped get on to the court. So I think that -- you're right, he would not have wanted this, he would have wanted the vote on tuesday to be confirmed on Thursday.

BASH: Right, right.

BISKUPIC: But given the atmosphere, if all goes well for him, he'll go on to the bench in a much better posture.


BORGER: Maybe it won't, though. I mean, that's --


BISKUPIC: No. Something could come out. The FBI could find something. But --


BISKUPIC: -- 36 years ago.


BISKUPIC: Yes, there are a bunch of unknowns.


BISKUPIC: People are still looking.

BORGER: I think McConnell -- and McConnell is somebody who was pushing this along at mock speed.


BASH: And he can't anymore because of what Lindsey Graham said.

(CROSSTALK) BASH: -- something else. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is in Mitch McConnell's office. This is something that Ted Barrett, it so happens he's reporting, he's standing outside. We are still waiting. It was incredible drama, what happened just an hour ago in the Judiciary Committee. The drama continues as we wait to see what Mitch McConnell decides.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We don't know -- if the FBI is brought in and does up to a one-week investigation, we don't know what the witnesses are going to say. If you lie to the FBI, that's a criminal -- that's a felony. Understandably, the Republicans, the supporters of Brett Kavanaugh, very nervous. Mark Judge, some of the witnesses to these allegations --

BASH: But the president --

BLITZER: -- may wind up saying, and that could have a dramatic effect. That's why they didn't want the FBI involved to begin with.

BORGER: I think the president was, surprising to me, at least, agreeable to this --

BLITZER: He -- whatever the Republicans want.

BORGER: -- saying that whatever they say is necessary.


BASH: One thing really important, Lisa Murkowski, another one of those key Republicans votes, she just told Sunlen Serfaty that she is with Flake. She went into McConnell's office and said yes if she supports Flake's proposal for a delay.


BLITZER: That's significant.


BASH: Another, another important note in the simple math --


BLITZER: I imagine Susan Collins and other Republicans will say --

BASH: I agree. I agree.

BLITZER: -- the same thing. The pressure is on Mitch McConnell right now, on the president, to let the FBI go ahead, investigate --


BLITZER: -- for up to a week, and then have a final vote on the Senate floor. It just passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh.

[13:34:06] Our special coverage continues right after this.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We begin with a second day of just extraordinary drama from Capitol Hill. The Senate Judiciary Committee just voted to send the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the full Senate floor, but Republican Senator Jeff Flake is calling for delaying the full Senate vote for a week in order to conduct a proper FBI investigation into the allegation that Christine Blasey Ford testified to just yesterday, that Judge Kavanaugh sexual assaulted her when they were in high school. Kavanaugh gave a strong and emotional declaration of his innocence.

Here is Senator Flake from just moments ago.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R), ARIZONA: I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side. We've had conversations ongoing for a while with regard to making sure that we do due diligence here. And I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to, but not more than one week, in order to let the FBI continue to do an investigation, limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there, limited in time to no more than one week. And I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding.


[14:40:00] BALDWIN: So let's go straight to Capitol Hill to Lauren Fox who is standing by.

Lauren, this is all moving very, very quickly now. I understand there's a lot of activity, several key Republicans, including Senator Flake, in the Senate majority leader's office right this very minute.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Absolutely. This was a shocking development in the Senate Judiciary Committee just a few minutes ago. Now the big question is whether Senate leaders are going to allow for this one-week delay Senator Flake has asked for. It all comes down to the vote. Does Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have them? The question right now is that he probably does not.

A few moments ago, my colleague, Sunlen Serfaty, talked with Lisa Murkowski, another undecided Republican Senator, who said she supported Senator Jeff Flake's move for a one-week delay so the FBI can look into allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. A lot of moving parts here. We are all waiting anxiously, our CNN colleagues are waiting outside of Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office. BALDWIN: We'll listen for that and report what happens as soon as it


Lauren, thank you.

The other key piece of this, the president. President Trump reacting to this news moments ago.

CNN Jeff Zeleny, our senior White House correspondent, is at the White House.

Jeff, we heard the questions from our chief White House correspondent, you know, as far as, what do you support this notion of an FBI investigation, and it sounded like the president said it's up to the Senate.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. The president is being unusually restrained about this today. He's not been talking all morning about this out loud or sending out messages. He really is leaving this in the hands of Mitch McConnell and the Senate.

But, boy, what a difference in tone from anything we've heard from him over the last week or so. We have spent so much time this week talking about how he's been blasting Democrats, calling it a con game, everything, saying why didn't she report this some 36 years ago?

Well, today President Trump seems to be, you know, restrained -- is the only word I can really think about -- as he was answering the questions. And he is trying to determine what the next steps are here but he's not blaming anyone, blasting anyone.

Take a listen to how he answered the question just shortly ago in the Oval Office.


TRUMP: I guess the vote was a positive vote, but there seems to be a delay. I'll learn more about it as the day goes on. I just heard about it because we were together.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did you think of Dr. Ford's testimony had you heard that?

TRUMP: I thought her testimony was very compelling. And she looks like a very fine woman to me, very fine woman. And I thought that Brett's testimony, likewise, was really something that I hadn't seen before. It was incredible. It was an incredible moment I think in the history of our country. But certainly, she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects. And I think that -- I don't know if this is going to continue onward or are we going to get a vote, but again I'm here, so I'm not out there watching because I can't be, out of great respect.

But maybe we'll watch it together, OK? We'll watch it together.

But I think it will work out very well for the country.


ZELENY: The president, just a few seconds after that, Brooke, was asked if he's having any second thoughts about his nominee. He said not at all. He's squarely standing behind Brett Kavanaugh.

The question, Brooke, is, is that FBI investigation -- there are many who wonder what would have happened if they would have ordered it a week ago, could they have avoided some of this? Is that where this is going to end up? The White House is going to take its cues from Senate Republicans.

So what is happening right now in Mitch McConnell's office, that is very important. That will determine on what happens on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Jeff, thank you.

I just want to roll the clock back a little bit. It's important to really key in on the moments that led up to this. So Senator Flake was confronted this morning on an elevator, but not just one, two women. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have children in your family. Think about them. I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir? This is the future!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody believes me. I didn't tell anyone and you're telling all women that they don't matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them, you're going to ignore them. That's what happened to me and that's what you're telling all women in America, that they don't matter, they should just keep it to themselves, because if they had told the truth, they're just going to help that man to power anyway. That's what you're telling all of these women. That's what you're telling me right now.

Look at me when I'm talking to you. You're telling me that my assault doesn't matter, that what happened to me doesn't matter and that you're going to let people who do these things into power.


[14:45:16] BALDWIN: Women do have a voice.

Here's the math you need to remember overall when it comes to the full Senate vote on Brett Kavanaugh. Assuming all of the Democrats vote no on his confirmation, if you just have two Republican Senators vote against Kavanaugh, it ends his nomination. Political Director David Chalian is with me now.

It is all in the math. Now that you have this whole scene playing out, if only we could see what's going on in Mitch McConnell's office at this moment.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I can tell you what's going on.

BALDWIN: Tell me.

CHALIAN: He's doing the math. There was a dramatic development this morning where I'm going to confirm. So he went from 48 yeses, he was one away. But what Jeff Flake did was take it down again. He went from 49 yes to 48 on final confirmation pending a week delay with an FBI investigation. So Mr. McConnell lost a yes vote in Jeff Flake pending this outcome. So now that we're hearing that Murkowski's on board with this, the math is very simple. Mitch McConnell, it seems, is going to have to agree to this demand of Jeff Flake's for a delayed investigation if he wants to get to 50 votes. He doesn't have it right now without this.

BALDWIN: Jeff Flake, in general, people have obviously paid attention to him because of some of the harsh words he said on the Senate floor multiple times about our own president, moderate Republican, not up for reelection, what is his role in all of this?

CHALIAN: Well, right now, his role is pretty consequential because he's injecting something into this process that Brett Kavanaugh was very opposed to, which is time. You heard Brett Kavanaugh yesterday say I was ready to come in here and testify the next day I wanted to have a hearing because he understood the more time he's hanging out there, that that is more danger to his confirmation. The Republicans understood that. That's why they wanted to press ahead. All the drama around scheduling Dr. Ford's testimony. So now what you have is Jeff Flake in dramatic fashion injecting a pause button into the process. Nobody suggests that at the end of the day, yet, that the 50 votes may not be there for the Republican and Kavanaugh may well be confirmed, but this is precisely what Mitch McConnell, Judge Kavanaugh, the White House was hoping to avoid.

BALDWIN: David Chalian, thank you so much. I know you need to scoot.

I have a couple of other voices I need to bring in.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, I know you are up with me.

On this pause moment, potentially, for a week, enabling again, potentially, the FBI to do this outside investigation, which is what Professor Ford had called for all along, ultimately it's been up to the White House, the president, to green light this investigation and all last week he said no, no, no. Now you're hearing it's up to the Senate and in the Senate wants that's investigation, so be it.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the key thing to think about here, coming back to the votes, it may be up to the White House to order an investigation like this but the Senate Judiciary Committee can also call for that investigation and because they are the ones and the Senate is ultimately going to have the say on whether or not this nomination can go forward or not, they are going to have to be the ones to weigh in here. I think the president pretty reluctantly but sort of understanding the reality here as it's been explained to him understands that this is a question out of his hands at the moment, that if Senator McConnell does not have the votes and Jeff Flake made it clear he would not have the votes to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, they're going to have to be the ones to make that investigation happen. We do know that it is possible for them to ask the FBI to look into these questions. Senate Democrats have been pushing for a couple of weeks now and obviously Dr. Blasey has been asking for this and her legal team has been asking for this since she came forward. They can do that. It was done decades ago in the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas affair. And they're going to have to do that now if they want to fully vet this to the degree to the people who have the deciding votes on this question want to see at this point. In some ways, it just about the reality of the situation that they would love to go forward with a vote as soon as they can but they don't have the votes do that.

[14:50:07] BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.

Julie, stay with me.

Mark Preston, you heard him say he was ready, I was ready to be here, I was ready to be here the next day. He continued to be pressed by the Democrats on essentially, if you're an innocent man, say yes to an investigation.


BALDWIN: If they agree to this, if it is delayed a week, and what if in the week additional women come forward?

PRESTON: That's a good question. I think you can talk about agreeing to scope and the FBI will only look at if there's an agreement that has been brought up in this time period. In the court of public opinion, if there's other dirt that comes up against Judge Kavanaugh, whether that has to do with his time in high school or in college or what have you, that certainly is going to be put into play. That's why Republicans right now are trying to prevent this from happening. They want this investigation not to happen, they want a vote to occur as quickly as possible. The more time added to the clock right now, the odds tend to go down for Judge Kavanaugh to be added to the court.

BALDWIN: I have Republican strategist, Noelle Nikpour, with me as well.

You've been watching all of this happening in real time and you were saying to me a second ago no one is winning.


BALDWIN: What do you mean by that?

NIKPOUR: This is a very difficult time. I appreciate you having me on today.


NIKPOUR: But this is a very hard time for Republicans in general. No one has won in this, in my opinion. I mean, you know, Flake did the right thing for his conscience. Did you see how troubled he was? Did you see his face?

BALDWIN: Oh, my goodness. Yes.

NIKPOUR: This is a man that has no problem saying, this is what I feel. He stood up to Trump. He has no problems saying how he feels. He was conflicted. Most of us were conflicted. I could hardly get through Dr. Ford's testimony when I saw the pain in her. Then I saw Kavanaugh, I saw his wife, trembling lips, the pain.

This is a very raw time for everybody. Emotions are going wild.


NIKPOUR: Right. I'll tell you what, as far as coming together, obviously they know that they don't have the votes. What Lindsey Graham said, he was right on.

BALDWIN: Which part?

NIKPOUR: He said, if this is what it going to take to get Flake's vote, pretty much, let's do it. I think that time is on Kavanaugh's side. And the reason I'm saying that is because a lot of people are --


BALDWIN: Mark just said the opposite.

NIKPOUR: And they're all saying the opposite. The reason I think so is because it will ease the fact that if Murkowski and Collins and Flake, they vote yes to confirm Kavanaugh, that they gave a week, they're asking for a week, an FBI investigation for one week -- and they have said one week over and over and over again. If they give one week and the FBI concludes their findings, one week is fair. No Republican can say that one week was too long. It's fair. Two weeks, skeptical. Three weeks, it's a hit job.

BALDWIN: Mark Preston, what do you think? Do you think more time will help or -- forgive me, Mark.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Mark says more time could be a bad sign.

Julie, how do you see it?

HIRSHFELD DAVIS: Well, in these situations, more time equals less momentum. I think that was sort of the page that the White House and the Senate Republican leadership had been on, that more time was to the detriment. I think Noelle makes a great point. Some Republicans hold Brett

Kavanaugh's fate in their hands who are seizing upon the process here. The fairness of the process, the optics of the process, whether it looks like they've tried to vet these accusations or not. And a lot of them, including Jeff Flake, if you listen to the speech he gave a couple of days ago, sound like they really want to vote to confirm Kavanaugh, they want to vote to confirm him, but they have to be able to, in their own minds, justify that vote and justify that they did everything they could to vet this nomination before they do that. So in that regard, I do actually think a few more days here, we heard Jeff Flake say up to a week, which means no more than a week, could actually help them get to where the White House wants them to be, where Mitch McConnell needs them to be, and it could give the president the results he's been wanting. Another few days, another five days, seven days is probably better than the alternative. At this point, would be the vote would go down on the floor.

BALDWIN: So it was Jeff Flake who put this forth in the Senate Judiciary Committee, as we saw moments ago. We know Senator Murkowski, a key Republican vote, has agreed with them.

And now, Mark Preston, we're getting word that a key red-state Democrat is also saying yes.

[14:55:00] PRESTON: Right. It looks like we're heading down the road, right --


PRESTON: -- where they're going to get forced into an investigation. I think we all agree there should be an investigation. But if you're Judge Kavanaugh, the more days you add into the calendar that your nomination is not voted on, it's more rocks that Democrats are going to go and try to kick up and try to turn over. He himself said it yesterday, as he had that spirited defense before the Judiciary Committee, things are ugly now, things are going to get really ugly in the next week or so.

BALDWIN: It's Joe Manchin's, Senator Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, who is now agreeing with this outside investigation for a week.

Guys, thank you so much.

Noelle, nice to meet you.

NIKPOUR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We will stay on this breaking news. We have Republican Senators meeting right now in Senate majority leader's office, Mitch McConnell's office, talking about the math.

Back in just a moment.