Return to Transcripts main page


Republican Senators Are Now Considering Delaying A Supreme Court Confirmation Vote Pending FBI Investigation; A Proper FBI Investigation Would Take Two Weeks or More Though; The White House Will Determine the Scope of The Investigation; Brooke Baldwin Says This Historic Event Matters. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 28, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: More on our breaking news. Republican Senators are now considering delaying a Supreme Court confirmation vote pending this FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations facing trumped Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. We just now have news a potential witness here, a key witness. Let's go straight to our CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupesz, and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, he is also former FBI and CIA. But Shimon, talk to me about Mark Judge.

SHIMON PROKUPESZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Mark Judge a key witness in this investigation, would be a key witness in this investigation, his lawyer just put out a statement saying that he would cooperate with the FBI. In the statement the lawyer says if the FBI or any law enforcement agency requests Mr. Judge's cooperation, he will answer any and all questions posed to him.

Of course, the Senators on the committee, the Democrats certainly, have taken issue with this because he has refused to appear before the committee. His lawyer on his behalf has submitted a letter but they want to ask him questions. This would at least alleviate some of that for the Democrats. They want him to be questioned about this incident, about Dr. Ford's allegations. She was claiming that he was with Brett Kavanaugh when all of this had occurred. So, this would at least give some indications that an FBI investigation would perhaps alleviate some of the concerns that the Senators have had about this investigation, that you would have now a key witness who could cooperate.

The whole point, Brooke, is to keep in mind that the FBI here is not going to be investigating this as a criminal matter. Of course, they're going to be looking at this for Brett Kavanaugh's background, whether or not he's suitable to go ahead and become a Supreme Court Judge as they have previously and the six other investigations they've conducted on him. This isn't going to be some kind of fact-finding criminal investigation and look into whether these crimes, these assaults actually occurred.

They'll interview Ford if she wants to be interviewed by the FBI and she has indicated that she does and perhaps other witnesses. We don't even really know what the parameters of the FBI background investigation would be. Could it be limited by the White House? Could the White House just say to the FBI we want you to just look at Dr. Ford, we want you to interview Mark Judge, interview so and so, and limit it to that. That is a possibility that the White House could explore in all of this. They want this done quickly and they want it to stick to the issues that are before the Senators and the committee.

BALDWIN: You bring up great questions. Phil, I want to hone in on the news about Mark Judge. According to professor Ford who has said hasn't recalled any of this happening, what's the FBI's move on this?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER FBI AND CIA: A couple moves. He didn't have an option. What's he going to say, I'm not going to cooperate with the FBI? He undermines the potential clearance for his friend. Because the Democrats will say we don't have a key witness, how can we ever get to the truth?

It's not just about what Mark Judge says. This is one reason Jeff Flake is wrong for saying this could happen as quickly as five days. We should talk of that for a moment. I think that is too quick. The question is who else did they know, one or two steps out for his circle of friends. You don't want to just do circle friends, you want to take a step away to make sure it's a transparent process. If somebody contradicts themselves, you want to come back and maybe do a second round and say, Mr. Judge, you told us something, four people say the opposite, help us figure it out.

BALDWIN: So, you say one week is not enough time?

MUDD: No. I would call the FBI, ask a simple question. Clearly, we want this done quickly. We do not want you to come back and say this an incomplete investigation because we only gave you five days. I think that's a little short. I think maybe a couple weeks. Remember, you're going to have to find these people, interview them about everything from alcohol use to what happened at those parties years ago, re-interview them and collate the material and write it in five days. I don't think so.

[15:35:00] BALDWIN: What if you are also dealing with recollection issues? I mean doesn't that factor in here as well? This was decades ago.

MUDD: One of the reasons this will move quickly is a lot of people who are said to be at the party for example are going to say -- I was trying to remember myself, I can't even remember going to any high school parties.

BALDWIN: We're all trying to think back about where we were.

MUDD: There are other questions. I suspect, this is just my judgment, there will be substantial questions as there were in any investigation. I was reinvestigated about a half a dozen times in government about alcohol use. It's not prejudicial to judge Kavanaugh. It is what you do in a reinvestigation. Alcohol use, drug use, spousal and child abuse. When you get a bunch of people maybe 10, 20, 30 people interviewed, a story starts to emerge.

It's not perfect some people say they don't remember. You can say most of the people we spoke to over the course of a couple weeks said this and then the Senators say it does or doesn't correspond to what we heard from Judge Kavanaugh.

BALDWIN: Shimon, could you talk to me about what we could know or suppose about the parameter about such an FBI investigation. Into your point could the White House say, OK, you can investigate but only about x, y and z?

PROKUPESZ: This is completely up to the White House as to whether or not the FBI looks at this again. The White House would have to make the request. At this point I think everyone expects that to happen. Within the last hour or so, that had not occurred. If you think about it in that sense, then the White House could perhaps seemingly control this entire situation because the FBI is doing this on their behalf. So, they could give orders to the FBI to, you know, re-interview Brett Kavanaugh, re-interview perhaps any of the alleged victims in this incident.

It not clear whether some of the newer alleged victims will have come forward like Swetnick and Ramirez would be interviewed. This is not a federal crime so this is not certainly they would investigate for any criminal activity. It not even clear, they would go back and recreate the crime scene, try to find out where the house was. Did Mark Judge work at this Safeway, were there other witnesses at this supermarket that has come up during these hearings? All of that really remains to be seen, how deep does the FBI go here? Do they just conduct interviews and then take these 302s, which is where they memorialize these interviews, and submit everything to the White House in a packet, then perhaps that will go over to the Senators. And the Senators will be able to review that information and then go from there.

But in terms of any kind of criminal action, or any kind of legal action from the FBI on this we just won't see that. It's not the FBI's criminal investigation. It could be that the White House could say re-interview Brett Kavanaugh, go interview Mark Judge and perhaps interview Ford in this situation and we'll see what happens. Whether or not the FBI uncovers anything new, I'm not sure how that works. I'm not sure if the FBI will even try to find anything new.

BALDWIN: Guys, thank you so much. We are keeping our close eye on this breaking news. Republicans huddling right this very moment in the office of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. He's expected to reveal their plan going forward surrounding Judge Kavanaugh's nomination and this possible investigation for up to a week. We have reporters staked out on Capitol Hill. Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: All right. So, you and I both watched all of the testimony yesterday, right, up on Capitol Hill. Senate Judiciary Committee questioning both Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Here we are a day later and the drama continues, right? We started this day, the Senate Judiciary Committee who would initially vote for the procedural vote that would take it to the Senate floor. Major turn of events today. Earlier today one of the key votes on the Senate Judiciary Committee is Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Initially this morning he said he would vote yes to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. That all changed over the course of late this morning and into early this afternoon. Between perhaps a combined conversation with friends on the other side of the I'll aisle, including Chris Coons, and there was a very emotional Jeff Flake as we saw him at the dais later this morning.

[15:45:00] There was also a confrontation inside one of the elevators up on Capitol Hill. Two women said they were survivors of sexual assault. Essentially

their message was if you vote yes to confirm this man to be on the nation's highest court, you'll be voting no on women. Fast forward to this extraordinary moment just a little while ago on the hill where Jeff Flake after this vote to agree to go on to this procedural vote. He essentially stands up there and is saying I think we need to have to this up to week-long FBI investigation.

That's where we are now. Now it not only Senator Flake but it's also Lisa Murkowski, red state Democrat Joe Manchin. A number of these Senators have been huddling in the Senate majority leader's office just the last couple of minutes as we've been waiting to see what comes of this. Does this get the green light? So, I've got Phil Mudd back with me to talk through, you know, we had this discussion about what an FBI investigation would entail, what kinds of questions would be asked, who else could be involved outside of Judge Kavanaugh and professor Ford. And how is it possible to pull it off in a week?

MUDD: Well, I think that's a mistake from the Congress. What they're risking is the FBI saying we've given them what we could acquire in a week and we're back next week in the same place with some Senators saying this is an incomplete investigation because we had limited the time. One of the key questions we don't know here is whether this is going to be a standard what we call in the business reinvestigation, I want to know about everything, drugs, alcohol, women, kids, everything. Or whether there's going to be some conversation about we're only interested in one category of his life, for example, whether people talk about what happened at that house 36 years ago. I don't think that's the key question here but if you limit it that narrowly, it could happen pretty fast. A lot of people won't remember.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, I'm seeing this note about John Cornyn. If you're with me, what's the latest development here on this potential outside investigation?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the latest development is that it's going to be no longer than a week. Right now, they're meeting with Mitch McConnell, as you know, to find out the process for this. And Mark Judge's lawyer just announced that he is going to -- he is going to talk to the FBI on this background investigation. What they'll find out, I don't know. Phil Mudd you know more about that.

BALDWIN: We'll be talking about that. BORGER: Exactly. Now McConnell's going to come out with a statement,

and he'll talk about procedure. So, who knows if he still decides to go with a motion to proceed tomorrow. He could still do that if he wanted to.

BALDWIN: Sounds like -- let me just jump in. John Cornyn says there will still be a motion to proceed on the vote in the Senate tomorrow with an agreement for a supplemental background check no longer than one week. Sound likes they'll have that procedural vote tomorrow, with the understanding they'll hit pause, have this outside investigation and then have the full Senate vote. Is that what you're reading?

BORGER: And McConnell doesn't want to miss a minute here. He's got this week delay and we've heard earlier today that the President was surprisingly OK, because he knew they didn't have the votes. The other wavering Republicans are on board with this. McConnell says let me get this vote out of the way tomorrow, we still have a most to proceed, when we get the FBI checking back, he's out of committee, we vote, boom, we get it done. So that's what's in his mind.

BALDWIN: OK. So, I think we're waiting. We're talking to the control room, waiting on Mitch McConnell. Is it a stakeout camera? We're not sure if it's a paper statement or the Senate majority leader himself. So, you're saying he will put out there just simply how they'll proceed.

BORGER: Right. He's in charge. It's his ball game. So, he's going to figure out how to play it.

BALDWIN: Well, it's his ball game but he also knows the math, right?

BORGER: Oh, it's all about the math. Look, he would not agree to this, nor would Republicans on the committee, if they thought they had the votes.

[15:50:00] Flake made it very clear that his yes vote for Kavanaugh would not come in committee without this week-long investigation. And then you have others like Manchin and Murkowski saying I think this is a really good idea and I want to do this and so there you go. They know they have to do it. It's just the math. Today was kind of like the morning after to me because everybody was so bitter, testy --

BALDWIN: Keyed up.

BORGER: And partisan yesterday. And today Coons, who is a very good friend of Jeff Flake's, Coons got together with Flake and Flake could have been wavering and Flake said, look, maybe we can do it this way. And Flake was very agreeable to and today Coons, who is a very good friend of Jeff Flake's, Coons got together with Flake and Flake could have been wavering and Flake said, look, maybe we can do it this way. And Flake was very agreeable to that and then things proceed.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much for the state of play as of this very second. Let's go and find out how Senator Jeff Flake's actions today are playing out in his home state of Arizona. Dan Simon is in Phoenix. Dan, who are you talking to, what are you hearing?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, Brooke. As you can imagine, the reaction has been decidedly mixed. The most visible reaction has actually been outside of Jeff Flake's office in Phoenix, where we saw a number of protesters outside of that office. They have been there for the past 24 hours, a lot of women dressed as hand maids, wearing the red dresses and white bonnets. When the word came out this morning that Jeff Flake was actually going to support Judge Kavanaugh, we saw their moods totally deflate. And then when we saw he was asking for this one-week delay, the mood changed a bit. Here's what some of those protesters had to say. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw him being confronted by the women when he was in the elevator, and thought he was a little bit in a pickle. So, I'm happy to hear that he's agreed to work, putting forward the idea of the seven-day period. We'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flake is under a lot of pressure from all sides. And I think he's trying to play all sides, really. Because he always votes for Trump. So, if he really disagreed with Trump's positions or his mannerisms, instead of just complaining about his manners, he should vote against him. But they have made a deal with the devil.


SIMON: As we know, Jeff Flake has been a polarizing figure in the state of Arizona, with many Republicans upset over his criticism towards President Trump. Once again, he finds himself in this place where he's not able to please really many people on either side. I've seen some people remark, Brooke, he's now occupying the space of his colleague, the late Senator John McCain, where people have now -- are now saying he is now acting like a maverick. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Dan, thank you, in Arizona. To Maine we go. Where a key vote in the Senate, Republican Senator Susan Collins, is from. She says she is still undecided how she'll vote on Judge Kavanaugh. She's also been targeted by anti-Kavanaugh protesters. This is a scene inside her Portland, Maine, office. Officers were called in after a crowd of people were marching inside. Kaylee Hartung is there for us. And what's been going on?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, just as you're seeing those tensions high in Washington, or in Arizona, we're feeling those here too in Maine, just outside of Senator Collins' office here in Portland. You can see the cop cars behind me. Those called to help keep the peace in Senator Collins' office earlier today. There was a group of women who had hoped to organize a sit-in for maybe 15 or 20 women today. But hundreds showed up. Senator Collins' staff inundated by this large volume of people, really wanting to share their concern, their frustration and their objection to Brett Kavanaugh. You heard shouts like, "all of Maine is waiting." they were asking the one member of the staff there to field their comments when they would hear anything from Senator Collins as she and Lisa Murkowski as well have been tight-lipped about where they stand at this point. About you that one woman saying she's not a spokeswoman, simply there to listen to their concerns and share them with the D.C. staff. I spoke to so many people here today who said they have tried calling. One woman saying she's been calling 17 times a day, but no matter the time of day she calls, that voicemail is full. People wanting to come here in person, put a real face to the people who have a tremendous objection with Brett Kavanaugh heading to the supreme court, Brooke.

[15:25:00] BALDWIN: Thank you so much in Maine. Any moment now, we'll hear from Republican leaders after they agree to allow for a week-long investigation into the allegations involving Judge Kavanaugh.


BALDWIN: I wrote something about all of this I just wanted to share with all of you today. This matters. What we witnessed in that hearing was nothing short of extraordinary. Put the partisan politics and the insults and the spin to one side. I want to mark this pivotal moment in American history when sexual assault, something that doesn't often elicit more than a shameful whisper, is thrust into the open on national television. Millions tuned in from home, from your mobile device, the subway, even a dad and a daughter in a chemotherapy session. This matters.

Yesterday morning, the nation watched as Christine Blasey Ford shared her truth. Look at her. You can see the struggle. The pain. She didn't want to be there. But she said it was her civic duty. She admitted she was terrified. All of this was all on television, and as it played out, I saw women here at work in tears. I had a young woman in my office wiping her eyes as she felt compelled to share her truth with me. I was texting with a dear friend who had been raped in college, and is in therapy years later. For so many, this story has reopened deep, painful wounds. During this hearing, C-span says callers flooded its talk lines to share their own stories of sexual assault.


[16:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a 76-year-old woman who was sexually molested in the second grade.

This brings back so much pain. I thought I was over it. But it's not. You will never forget it. You get confused, and you don't understand it. But you never forget what happened to you.


BALDWIN: This matters. Listening to professor Ford speak about her desire for a second front door to her home, and ani irrational need for escape many years later.

This matters. According to the nation's largest anti sexual violence organization, every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. And incredibly, only s6 out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison. We all have our stories. Despite drink, waking up on the cold tiles of a hotel bathroom floor, the uncertainty, the shame, the thought, I must have somehow brought this on myself, the silence, distrust and invalidation. This is a pivotal moment in America for all of us.

This matters. This moment is bigger than politics.