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GOP Exploring Call for FBI Probe Into Kavanaugh. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired September 28, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.
This is special coverage here of a second round of just extraordinary, fast-moving developments up on Capitol Hill involving the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
Just one day after hours of emotional testimony, a stunning last- minute turn of events. A Republican senator has just called for an effort that his Republican colleagues had staunchly rejected, this notion of an FBI investigation into Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that Judge Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake made this request just before the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side. We have 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, and limited time to no more than one week. And I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's take you now straight to Capitol Hill to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty.
And, Sunlen, tell me what's happening in Mitch McConnell's office.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a huddle right now going on, Brooke, in Mitch McConnell's office over on the Senate side of the Capitol.
I just came from there. There is certainly a flurry of activities, Republican senators racing in and out. And I spoke with, notably, Senator Lisa Murkowski as she was going into the majority leader's office, as she was headed into this huddle with other top Republicans, and asked her about the specific proposal from Jeff Flake for this one-week delay for an investigation to happen.
And she said she supports it. She notably says: "Yes, I do. I support the FBI having an opportunity to have some closure on this."
She importantly did say it has to be limited in scope. And as we're seeing Republicans and some Democrats like Joe Manchin add his voice to those who are supporting this one-week delay, that's going to be an important point I think we have to drill on right now, as they're huddling.
I think the parameters of a potential FBI investigation are likely being discussed. I spoke with a top Republican senator, Cornyn, on the way in, and he said that they are certainly exploring Jeff Flake's proposal. He is not in support of it. But he said that he was -- he gave an assurance to Senator Flake that he would look into this, and that's what they're discussing right now.
But he emphasized that the promise that was made to Senator Flake was to look at specifically the FBI reopening the allegation based around Dr. Ford. So that seems to indicate that Republican leadership could potentially go along with that very-limited-in-scope FBI investigation, not including these other allegations.
All of this, Lisa Murkowski's voice, Senator Manchin's voice, those are such key voices here, adding in their voices and support into Jeff Flake's proposal. And that is certainly increasing the pressure on Republican leadership at this very moment, who have summoned many Republican members of the Judiciary Committee into McConnell's as well, obviously, these key Republican voices like Lisa Murkowski, who is still in there right now.
BALDWIN: Sunlen, keep us posted. Thank you so much.
We should also add here, a short while ago, the president spoke out about these developments up on Capitol Hill, this notion potentially for this week delay and this FBI investigation. He also gave his first on-camera reaction to the gut-wrenching testimony of his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
Here was the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought her testimony was very compelling and she looks like a very fine woman to me, very fine woman.
And I thought that Bret's testimony, likewise, was really something that I haven'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, although maybe we will go watch together, OK? We will watch together.
But I think it will work out very well for the country. I just want it to work out well for the country. If that happens, I'm happy.
QUESTION: Have you thought at all about a replacement for Judge Kavanaugh?
TRUMP: Not even a little bit. Not even a little bit. not even sure
QUESTION: What is your message (OFF-MIKE)
TRUMP: I have no message. I mean, they have to do what they think is right. But there's no message whatsoever. They have to do what they think is right. They have to be comfortable with themselves. And I'm sure that's what they are.
TRUMP: I'm going to rely on all of the people, including Senator Grassley, who is doing a very good job. And that will be a decision that they're going to make. And I suspect they will be making some decision soon, whether to take a vote or to do whatever else they want to do.
I will be totally reliant on what Senator Grassley and the group decides to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's discuss.
CNN senior political reporter named Nia-Malika Henderson is with me, is CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.
And so, ladies, Nia, to you first.
You know, it sounds like the math is on Senator Flake's side, right? They are all huddling in the Senate majority leader's office right now. But everyone sort of woke up maybe thinking one thing and there has been this extraordinary, you know, turn of events.
Do you think, if this happens, this additional week for this FBI investigation, will help or hurt Judge Kavanaugh?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It depends what the FBI comes back with, right?
We don't know what the scope of this FBI investigation would be. I imagine, if you are the Senate Judiciary Committee, A, you haven't wanted this investigation all along, sort of extension of the background on this investigation. But if there is to be one, most likely, they want to keep it a very narrow. Not clear that that's what the FBI would actually do, but we will see. I think, if you're a Republican, you're worried that more time means perhaps more allegations, and then you just start to -- start to delay this thing and he starts taking on water if you're Judge Kavanaugh.
But also, I think if you're Collins, you need a reason to basically tell your constituents and some of those folks back at home who are upset with her, you need to be able to say, listen, everything was done, this was properly vetted, and this is what the FBI came back with.
And I think that's the place where Flake comes in. He's trying to get that group of people, probably four or five folks, people like Manchin, people like Heidi Heitkamp, who hasn't come out yet either, Murkowski, Collins and Flake, that whole group, they need to be comfortable with getting to a yes. And that's the ultimate goal here.
We will see what happens. It's obviously up to McConnell. It's up to the president as well. He tried to make it seem like, well, whatever the Senate decides. But it really is up to him whether or not he's going to call for this additional kind of reopening of this background investigation.
BALDWIN: Carrie, let's play this forward, because there's a lot of ways this could go, obviously. But I want to hone in, put the politics aside and just honing in on the U.S. Supreme Court, and I guess, of course, everything's political. Right?
So if he were to -- they go through this week delay, they do this investigation, ultimately, he is confirmed to the nation's highest court, you still have essentially half of America believing that there would be this alleged sexual assailant on the nation's highest court.
How will that affect the Supreme Court?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, that's one of the biggest news here, Brooke, this week is the hit that the institutions, both the Senate and potentially the Supreme Court, are taking as a result of this process.
This last 24 hours and especially these last couple of hours really show the power of one particular senator, how powerful one senator in a particular moment in time can use the authority that he has to make a difference. And that's what Senator Flake has done. By taking the additional week -- yesterday was really unsatisfactory from a factual perspective.
Dr. Ford presented in a very good way in terms of her impression. She was a credible person, but there's no other corroboration that has been presented through the investigation, at least as was revealed yesterday. And, of course, Judge Kavanaugh vehemently denies it.
So as a factual matter, nothing much was gained. And so that's why this additional week is important, especially because the Supreme Court, given all of the sensitive issues and important issues that it might take up, the credibility of the justices is so important. And that's why I think yesterday actually made an additional difference, because Judge Kavanaugh, I think, really surprised a number of people, because he abandoned the judicial temperament that he has built over his decades in Washington and his years on the appellate court.
He was angry. He was combative. He was emotional. He was all of the things that we don't look for actually in a Supreme Court justice. And so -- and he was partisan, very rawly partisan.
CORDERO: And so I think, all of those things taken together raise more questions and make it make sense for the Senate to take a little bit more time.
BALDWIN: I have had so many female friends say to me today, had that been either Professor Ford or a woman sitting in that hot seat, and that exchange with Senator Klobuchar, and the tone he took in some places, if it were a woman, she would be labeled as hysterical. And it's just -- it's different still in 2018.
Nia, over to you.
Carrie makes this great point about how what a difference one person can make, and that being in Senator Jeff lake. I want to say potentially what a difference a woman can make, because we saw that elevator moment with Jeff Flake earlier today.
BALDWIN: And no one can crawl in the heart and mind of Senator Flake and say, well, this was the aha moment that led him to stand up and say, you know what, we need to investigate. But can you just unravel what happened today with him they got him from, I'm going to go to confirm Kavanaugh to, let's investigate?
HENDERSON: Yes, it very well could have been the testimony and the conversation that he had with these women.
He was going on basically to cast a vote to have this move forward, but they confronted him in the elevator and said, listen, if you vote yes, you are sending a message to women that you don't care about sexual assault allegations. And these are women who had experienced that.
It was gut-wrenching. I was live on set watching it as it was unfolding. It was -- it was riveting. It was gut-wrenching. They were full of anger and anguish. And you could see the pained look on Jeff Flake's face.
And he was almost immobilized, almost -- he didn't even really know how to interact or react with them. It was almost like he was just sort of frozen by the emotion of the moment. And so you imagine that that, coupled with some of the protests, obviously, coupled with conversations that he had with his good friend Senator Coons, that ended up moving him.
And remember that Jeff Flake also had been critical of the process to begin with. He said it was an imperfect process. But he also sort of said at the -- at the end of his testimony yesterday that this is the only process we have.
So it seemed like yesterday he was sort of content with going forward with the process. But, listen, I think that engagement that he had with those women, who I think that was the first time had ever met him, really may have changed his mind and moved him onto a different place. And that's where we are right now.
BALDWIN: Lastly, I think -- I think yesterday was emotional for both sides of the aisle for equally important reasons.
And I just left -- I was going to bed so late last night keyed up over everything, Carrie, and I was thinking, well, everyone just kind of crawled into their own corners last night. At least it seems like there was some semblance today of bipartisanship and Senator Flake wanting -- listening to what his Democratic colleagues are saying, because this matters.
At the end of the day, this is the highest court in the land.
CORDERO: Well, it is. And it takes up issues that are highly political. So, for example, if you can think of a case like Bush v. Gore, where an election hangs in the balance, that's the type of case that could at some point come in front of a -- the next justice, whether it's Justice Kavanaugh or somebody else.
And so these are matters that, they're legal matters that come up to the court, but they also can really get at deep political divides. And there was a real effort -- you saw it from Senator Flake, you saw it from Senator Coons in the remarks that he made in that committee meeting, as well as Senator Grassley saying that he would support Senator Flake's effort to not have an immediate vote, that they were trying to perhaps present a better image of the Senate than yesterday.
BALDWIN: Then yesterday.
Nia and Carrie, ladies, great conversation. Thank you so much.
HENDERSON: Thanks, Brooke.
CORDERO: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: As Nia and I were just discussing, there was this key moment earlier today where you had these two women in this elevator confronting Senator Jeff Flake.
And so, if you missed it, we're going to play the whole thing for you in full.
Also ahead, we will talk live with a former FBI agent about what's about to happen if the Republicans sign off to this up to week-long FBI investigation.
And I will speak live with a former clerk of Judge Kavanaugh's about what could be going on in his head and heart right now.
Stand by. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching's CNN special live coverage.
BALDWIN: We're back now with all these late-breaking development surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his pending confirmation, his nomination moving forward to the full Senate.
But a key Republican senator here, Senator Jeff Flake, calling for a delay on that vote with a potentially weeklong FBI investigation. And now Judge Kavanaugh's future could be up in the air for the time being.
Let me bring in a former colleague of Kavanaugh's, Sarah Pitlyk. She clerked for him in 2010 and 2011.
So, Sarah, thank you so much for being with me.
SARAH PITLYK, FORMER CLERK FOR KAVANAUGH: thank you for having me.
BALDWIN: So, with these developments, and we know everyone's still pounding in the Senate majority leader's office, but this potential for a week delay, so that the FBI can investigate, what do you think your former boss is thinking?
PITLYK: Well, Judge Kavanaugh has been very clear at every stage that he's willing to go along with whatever the committee feels is necessary to prove his innocence and clear his name.
BALDWIN: But he refused to answer all those questions yesterday.
Well, if you if you want to support an FBI investigation, there's Don McGahn, or if you want to support an FBI investigation, just speak up now. And he never did.
I'm sure he would not have signed up for an extra week of this on behalf of his family. I know that it's a trying and difficult period for them. And I think we heard a lot of people, Republicans especially, say yesterday that they weren't sure that additional time for more investigation by the FBI would actually produce anything.
So I'm sure there's some frustration about a process that is not necessarily going to turn anything additional up, but is going to inflict another week or so of this experience on the judge and his family, and on Dr. Ford, for that matter.
But that said, the judge also said yesterday and was very clear -- and he has said all along -- that he defers to the committee about the appropriate process here. I don't think he believed yesterday that it was place to authorize or not authorize an FBI investigation. And I still don't think he believes that.
BALDWIN: Help me understand, though, why wouldn't he at least speak up and say, if he's innocent and you believe him, then why wouldn't he say, give me every single investigation, I will answer any possible question just so I can clear my name?
PITLYK: Well, first of all, there's been 10 days of an investigation already. And he's spoken many, many times on the subject on pain of...
BALDWIN: It's one thing for senators to investigate. It's another for an FBI investigation. It's different.
PITLYK: I think that was a disputed point yesterday. And since I'm not an expert on the differences between various kinds of investigations, I hesitate to weigh in.
BALDWIN: Don't think it's disputed, but OK.
PITLYK: But I know that was not -- they were not -- the people who were arguing against it didn't -- didn't argue against it on the basis that they didn't think it would be useful to have more information.
They argued against it on the basis that it would not produce more information, because the FBI has already looked at Dr. Ford's allegation.
BALDWIN: Sounds like there were still concerns, so there could be this weeklong investigation.
Do you think -- you mentioned obviously the pain and how this has been excruciating for him and his family. Do you think the additional week, though, will help him or hurt her him?
PITLYK: I -- that entirely depends on what transpires during that week, obviously.
BALDWIN: But if he's innocent, shouldn't it help him?
PITLYK: Well, only if they're going to be able to look at something new that the committee hasn't already seen.
So it might not help him any more than the investigation so far has already helped him. And, in that case, I suppose it would just be frustrating. But if, indeed, they get to look at some new evidence, and it is not
still as inconclusive a week now as it is now, then, certainly, I'm sure there can be more certainty around this process.
The judge has always said that whatever the committee feels it needs, he's willing to cooperate with.
BALDWIN: Let me replay an exchange. This is between the judge and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: You're saying there's never been a case where you drank so much that you didn't remember what happened the night before, or part of what happened.
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: It's -- you're asking about, you know, blackout. I don't know. Have you?
KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? I just -- so you -- that's not happened? Is that your answer?
KAVANAUGH: Yes, and I'm curious if you have.
KLOBUCHAR: I have no drinking problem, Judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: He did come back. He apologized for the comment he just made.
But in that moment, Sarah, what did you make of his answer?
PITLYK: I think his answer to that question, like many of his answers yesterday, pointed out that the judge is not a robot.
No judge is. He's a human being. And what was on trial yesterday was not his -- his expertise or qualifications as a judge, but his personal characteristics in such an invasive and intrusive way, that I think pretty much anyone would have reacted negatively to some of the questions that he was asked yesterday.
And I think he admitted...
BALDWIN: But shouldn't he be held to a higher standard, since they're talking about a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court?
PITLYK: A higher standard for whether or not he drank in high school or a higher standard for things that are relevant to his performance as a member of the judiciary 40 years later?
BALDWIN: For asking a senator who whose parent is a recovering alcoholic and asking her if she had a drinking problem, is that what you want to hear from a potential United States Supreme Court justice?
PITLYK: I -- I totally hesitate to judge someone who's in the situation that he found himself in yesterday, frankly.
He -- to judge -- I'm sorry -- just their -- their tone or their tenor.
He -- he admitted that that was, you an know, an inappropriate question or over the line. And he apologized.
But the fact that he was emotional and even -- even, you know, resistant to some of the questions, I don't think, is surprising at all, and I -- I don't think should be disqualifying for a person who has 12 years of exemplary performance on the bench.
I think one day of an extraordinary adversity and judging his entire judicial career based on two minutes of that one day under circumstances that not very many people in the world can even comprehend, I think, is a little unfair.
BALDWIN: Sarah Pitlyk, thank you so much.
PITLYK: Thank you.
BALDWIN: With Senator Jeff Flake supporting the FBI to investigate claims against Judge Kavanaugh, what exactly would an FBI investigation entail? We will get perspective from a former FBI official.