Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump to Order FBI Background Investigation into Kavanaugh; Trump Orders FBI Supplemental Investigation Of Kavanaugh Will Be Limited In Scope And Completed In Less Than One Week; GOP Forced To Delay Vote On Kavanaugh. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 28, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Dramatic delay. Undecided senators force an extraordinary delay in a final confirmation vote for Brett Kavanaugh, with the Judiciary Committee now asking the White House to instruct the FBI to investigate allegations against the Supreme Court nominee.
[17:00:14] The president's reaction. After the president tells senators to do whatever they feel is necessary, a White House official now says the president will order and authorize an FBI background investigation.
Key witness. Kavanaugh's boyhood friend, Mark Judge, at the center of the latest allegations, now says through a lawyer he will cooperate with a law enforcement investigation, answering any and all questions.
And tearing us apart. Senator Jeff Flake and other key lawmakers say the bitterly contentious confirmation fight is tearing the country apart. Is bipartisanship dead?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. There are stunning new twists in the explosive and searing confirmation battle over the U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Republican Senator Jeff Flake, backed by undecided colleagues, has succeeded in delaying a final Senate vote by up to a week, forcing the GOP leadership to seek an FBI investigation for the latest allegations against Kavanaugh. The White House now says the president will order such an FBI probe.
And a lawyer says Kavanaugh's high school friend, Mark Judge, at the center of these allegations, will cooperate with any law enforcement investigation.
I'll speak with Senator Mazie Hirono of the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents, analysts and specialists, they are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, in the truly extraordinary developments unfolding up on Capitol Hill. So Manu, where do things stand right now? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Republican
senators just left a private meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to talk about all the day's stunning developments. When they emerged, they made very clear that the majority there has agreed to delay a final confirmation vote until after the FBI report into these, quote, "credible allegations" are -- is completed.
Now, it's unclear exactly what credible allegations the FBI will investigate. But senators told me, leaving that meeting, that the FBI will determine what it should and should not investigate.
Now, this report that the FBI eventually will do so significant. It could change the votes in the Senate, depending on what happens.
Jeff Flake, the senator who prompted that delay, told me moments ago, certainly it could change his vote. He will wait and see what that report shows.
RAJU (voice-over): Republicans this morning were confident that they had the votes to quickly confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. But a late twist now could put the nomination in jeopardy.
In a move that stunned his colleagues, Republican Senator Jeff Flake demanded a week-long delay to give the FBI time to investigate whether Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I can only say that I would be only comfortable moving forward on the floor -- I'll move it out of committee. But I will only be comfortable moving on the floor until the FBI has done more investigation than they have already. It may not take them a week. I understand that some of these witnesses may not want to discuss anything further. But I think we owe them due diligence.
RAJU: In the 12 days since Ford made her allegations public, Republicans have time and again rejected calls for an FBI probe. But with Flake's call for a delay, backed by other key senators like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Republican leaders had no choice but to delay the nomination vote.
(on camera): What happens if the FBI is not done with this background check or investigation within a week?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, one, you can have the FBI, the CIA and the Foreign Legion, and they're not going to tell you any more than you know now. That's my view, but we'll see what happens.
RAJU: They're not done, then what's going to happen?
GRAHAM: He said he's going to -- a week is enough for him or maybe less. So we're not playing this game of opening this up, and it goes on forever. What he said was that "I would feel better if they had a week to look at what's in front of us," no more.
RAJU (voice-over): The Senate Judiciary Committee did approve the nomination on a party line vote Friday. But his fate in the full Senate will now depend on the results of the probe.
Friday's developments were just the latest twist in a nomination battle that has left the Senate and much of the country bitterly divided. All playing out just weeks before the midterm elections.
After Ford and Kavanaugh both delivered emotional and riveting testimony, which Kavanaugh strongly denies, key senators like Flake were deeply torn. The Arizona Republican issued a statement Friday morning, saying he would support Kavanaugh, because he deserved a presumption of innocence, with Ford's allegation uncorroborated. But just moments later, angry protesters confronted him.
[17:05:09] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's telling the truth! What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court! This is not tolerable!
RAJU: Flake entered the hearing room ahead of the committee vote, visibly shaken, oftentimes frowning and resting his head on his hands.
He later abruptly left his seat and asked to speak privately to his close friend, Democrat Chris Coons. The Delaware Democrat later told CNN Flake said he was concerned the nomination battle was tearing the country apart.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Senator Flake and I share a deep concern for the health of this institution and what it means to the rest of the world and to our country.
RAJU: It was a rare moment of bipartisanship turning one of the most divisive confirmation battles in history.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We did have a motion. This was all a gentleman's and woman's agreement.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Gentleman and woman's agreement.
RAJU: Now, Jeff Flake did not say those protesters ultimately changed his decision today. But he said that he had sleepless night last night, and couldn't pinpoint one reason why he ultimately had this change of heart late.
But a big question going forward is how will some of these key senators respond if the FBI does not complete its investigation within a week. Jeff Flake said that "All I can tell you is we're prepared to move forward within a week. They should get it done by that time."
Lisa Murkowski, I asked her that same question, Wolf. She would not say. She said, "We'll just deal with it at that point." And as for Judge Kavanaugh, he issued a statement just moments ago,
Wolf, saying that he will, in fact, cooperate with this FBI investigation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Dramatic developments indeed. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you. President Trump has now ordered an FBI probe into the Kavanaugh allegations.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. So Jim, what's the latest over there?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. A statement just came in a few moments ago from the president, ordering this supplemental investigation into Judge Brett Kavanaugh's background. We can put up this statement from the president on screen.
It says, "I've ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh's file, as the Senate has requested. This update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week."
Wolf, a source close to this process just told me a few moments ago that the parameters of this supplemental FBI investigation will be determined by the FBI. So it's going to be the FBI that determines the scope of all of this.
But as we have heard all afternoon, this is going to be a short-term process. The Republicans have said that they want this done within a week, and that appears to be where things stand right now.
And earlier today, I asked the president about all of this. And he said he was really deferring all of the decisions on all of this to the Republicans in charge of the Judiciary Committee. And here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Mr. President, any comment on the request for a delay from Senator Flake? He wants a one-week delay so the FBI can investigate further.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm going let the Senate handle that. They'll make their decisions, and they've been doing a good job and very professional. I'm just hearing a little bit about it.
I'm sure it will all be very good.
Whatever they think is necessary is OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, Wolf, we should also point out, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has also released an additional statement through the White House, and he is saying that he's going to continue to cooperate with the FBI investigation, this supplemental FBI investigation. But, Wolf, you can -- you can see some frustration if you read between
the lines in that statement, where he says, "I've done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate." Judge Kavanaugh obviously feels he has had his life opened up, and that's about to happen again, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim, what did President Trump make of Professor Ford's testimony yesterday, alleging sexual assault, and Kavanaugh's response?
ACOSTA: Well, this was one of the more striking things that we saw today, Wolf. President Trump, who was really sort of all over the place at that press conference earlier this week, was very restrained when I asked him about what he thought about the testimony given by Christine Blasey Ford. Here's what he told us earlier this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And what did you think of Dr. Ford's testimony when 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 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'll go watch together. OK? We'll 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: So some remarkable un-Trumpian restraint from the president there during that brief opportunity to talk to reporters, Wolf, is something that we just don't see very often from the president.
But I think it's a sign that during this very big #MeToo moment for all of Washington, that the president knows, at this stage, at this critical stage in the nomination process for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, caution is probably a good idea.
And Wolf, one thing we should also point out: I also asked the president whether or not he's considered a replacement for Judge Kavanaugh as of earlier this afternoon. Now obviously, things have changed. This investigation has now been ordered. It's going to happen over the next week. But as of this afternoon, he says he has not even considered that a little bit -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.
Joining us now, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. She's a key member of the Judiciary Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Good to be here once again.
BLITZER: What should the scope of this new FBI investigation look like?
HIRONO: Well, it certainly should cover the three credible reports that have come forward, and it has to be complete. We can't have some kind of a perfunctory investigation just to give cover to some wavering senators. It has to be the kind of job that we expect the FBI to do, and I believe that they can do it. They better put the resources there to be able to do a fair and complete investigation in a one-week period.
BLITZER: Who will get to see this FBI report once it's finished? How will it be presented to the Senate and indeed to the American public?
HIRONO: At this point, I would want to see a copy of it. And so I certainly press for that. I don't think it's the kind of situation where you can just have the chairman who says, "Oh, there's nothing to it." No, we're way beyond that in terms of transparency.
BLITZER: Well, have they told you already how you're going to see it, if it's going to be made public, if it's going to be kept confidential?
HIRONO: I just found out just recently that the committee is asking for an investigation and that the White House is going to go along with it. I think that there now will be an effort to better define what kind of an investigation it should be, even if I know that you reported that it is up to the FBI; but the FBI does have some parameters that I think we can describe. And I'd like to make sure that at least the three credible reports are investigated.
And we also need to know, what kind of parties did he go to? And clearly, Mark Judge needs to be questioned very carefully. Because I think that he very much skated over all of the allegations of the kind of drinking he did, almost to the point of passing out, as some -- the people who are very close to Judge Kavanaugh have testified, during both his high school, as well as his college years.
BLITZER: As you know, Senator Hirono, Democrats have been calling for an FBI investigation for days and days and days. Is it thanks to Republican Senator Jeff Flake now, as a result of what he did today that there finally will be this separate FBI investigation?
HIRONO: As far as I'm concerned, the FBI investigation has to be very thorough, complete. And I know that Senator Flake was very torn. You reported that he had sleepless nights. He was very, very concerned about the process and what it would do to the Supreme Court to send someone there with this kind of cloud over his head. And so I share those concerns.
And I have to say that my good friend, Chris Coons, is a very good bridger. And he talked to Jeff Flake, and there are others, but I know that Chris Coons is a very good friend. He's -- he really wanted to come up with a better way for us to go forward.
BLITZER: So you give Chris Coons and Jeff Flake credit --
BLITZER: -- for this development? Is --
HIRONO: But in the meantime -- in the meantime, the rest of us have been calling for this for, it seems like, decades.
BLITZER: I know. You weren't getting very far. But things changed dramatically today.
Senator, is one week enough time for the FBI, from your perspective, to conduct this investigation? Do you expect the FBI to turn up maybe additional information that will require more than a week to be pursued?
HIRONO: My expectation of the FBI is to provide the resources and the people that they need to conduct this investigation. I would hope that they understand how important it is for them to do a thorough investigation within the time given to them.
BLITZER: You're a former prosecutor in Hawaii. As you know, there's no statute of limitations for sexual assault in the state of Maryland. In addition to the FBI probe, would you encourage Professor Ford to ask investigators in her home state of Maryland to pursue this as a criminal matter?
HIRONO: I think that's something that Dr. Ford has to decide. Her life has been totally upended as it is. She gave a very credible, believable testimony. She shared her truth with us. And I think that it was very hard to watch her not to conclude that she was telling the truth. And I think all the people who were watching probably came to the same conclusion.
[17:15:22] BLITZER: You've already said for days that you're voting "no" on Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation. But if the FBI does come back within a week, and the FBI says they found no additional information to support Professor Ford's accusations, would you at least be satisfied with the process?
HIRONO: I first want to be reassured that, in fact, the FBI investigation was thorough, that they talked to all of the witnesses and provide us with the information necessary to determine his credibility, his character and his candor. Because I had already determined, prior to all of these reports coming forward, that he lacked, definitely, credibility. And I cited a number of cases in which he misapplied the law, misstated in my view, facts. And he is very outcome-driven. And that outcome is to be very much against reproductive rights and against environmental protections. Definitely in favor of very expansive protections for a sitting president to keep him safe from criminal and civil proceedings.
I think those are the kinds of positions that Judge Kavanaugh has. That certainly came to the attention of this president, and one of the major reasons that they -- the president nominated Judge Kavanaugh and why the very conservative forces that are supporting him want him on that court quickly, before the October term, which is about to begin.
BLITZER: Senator Hirono, thanks so much for joining us.
HIRONO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, breaking news. Undecided Republican senators force President Trump to order an FBI background check into the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh after forcing a delay in the confirmation vote for his U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
And what would this limited probe entail? How much ground could investigators cover in that short amount of time allocated to them: a week or less?
[17:21:30] BLITZER: The breaking news: President Trump has just ordered a supplemental FBI background investigation into Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Senate Republicans this afternoon agreed to delay a final vote on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court for one week, and request the FBI investigation into, quote, "the current credible allegations against Judge Kavanaugh."
Let's bring in our political and legal specialists.
And Laura Jarrett, you cover the Justice Department for us. Can the FBI really get an investigation like this done within a week?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Potentially, yes. We all remember in the case of Anita Hill, the FBI finished that in three days in 1991. So they can get this done.
But I don't think we know enough nearly yet about the scope of this. Depending on how many different allegations are we looking at? Are we just looking at Professor Ford? Are we also looking at Deborah Ramirez? Are we also looking at Julie Swetnick? We just don't know enough yet, and I think that that depends on how far of a deep dive we're going to do here.
But the White House is the driver on the scope, and I don't think that that has been fully articulated Sarah Sanders's statement, Wolf.
BLITZER: You just heard Senator Hirono say the FBI should look at all three of these women's allegations. So potentially, who would they want to talk to?
JARRETT: Well, in the case of Professor Ford, we would at least want to talk to Mark Judge, the person who everybody has said we have got to hear from. He's put some statements, you know, from his lawyer, from himself now. But we'd also want to hear, potentially, from her friend Leland. We'd
also want to hear from the P.J. person that she named. And she also said there was one person she couldn't remember who was there, but maybe other people who were at the party remember this unnamed person. So there's at least a fair number of people at the party for Dr. Ford's case that they would want to talk to.
BLITZER: Could the FBI compel witnesses to testify, to provide information, as part of this background check?
JARRETT: No, that's not how this works. This is a background check investigation. This is not a regular criminal trial. There is not a prosecutor who is serving a grand jury subpoena here. The FBI has a very limited role here. And I think that that somehow gotten lost in all kind of the morass of this. But this is not a case where they are going to slap somebody with a subpoena.
Now, having said that, Mark Judge has said he wants to cooperate. And other witnesses have said plenty of times, they don't want to participate in the chaos and the sideshow, but they are willing to talk to the FBI.
BLITZER: The agreement, Gloria, says that they should look into, quote, "current credible allegations," that they should be investigated. Who gets to define what "current" means and what "credible" means?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the White House does, as Laura was saying. I know that the Ford camp wants the other allegations looked into, particularly at least Deborah Ramirez. I think that the senators do, too, as you point out. But I do think the White House is key here.
And I also think, you know, if you're going to say it's one and done, one week and done, they're going to have to figure out how to limit it, because there's only so much you can do in a week.
BLITZER: You know, Ariane, we just got a statement from Deborah Katz, a lawyer for Professor Ford. I'll read it to you and to our viewers: "A thorough FBI investigation is critical to developing all the relevant facts. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford welcomes this step in the process and appreciates the efforts of senators Flake, Murkowski, Manchin and Collins and all other senators who have supported an FBI investigation to ensure it is completed before the Senate votes on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination. No artificial limits as to time or scope should be imposed on this investigation."
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, that just tells you the problem right there. Because this is a huge victory for Ford, for the Democrats. It is not what the White House wanted. It is not what Kavanaugh want, and it's not what the Republicans wanted.
[17:25:08] And just think about the delay. They're going to and questions. And Laura is absolutely right. This isn't a huge FBI investigation. But what if the other person -- the name of the other person at the party comes up? Then that's another person added. That's the problem.
And when you look at the delay, though, there are two things to consider. Brett Kavanaugh said during his hearing, you remember, when he said this two weeks has been so hard. Every day has been an eternity. But on the other hand, if an investigation is done, once it is finished, and he is confirmed, he hits the Supreme Court with no cloud under him anymore.
BORGER: Well, and it also -- it also helps those people who are wavering go home to their constituents and say, "You know what? We got an investigation. We went the extra step. And therefore -- and then I can vote." Don't you think that helps them, Jackie?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. It actually could get some of those red-state Democrats who have strayed as a result of these allegations from voting "yes" on Kavanaugh.
Joe Donnelly, for example, he's from Indiana. He's got a very tough race. He said absent an FBI investigation, he's going to vote "no."
So now they're checking that off.
KUCINICH: We'll see what comes of it. But that could definitely give him back on board.
BLITZER: Susan Collins wants the FBI investigation. Lisa Murkowski. The Republicans --
BORGER: So they can -- they've got --
BLITZER: We'll see what happens over the next few days. They could be potentially critical.
Everybody stand by. I want to ask you about what appears to be a key moment today when Senator Jeff Flake was confronted by a protester after he announced that he planned to vote "yes" on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination. Did this encounter impact the course of today's event?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- that violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court! This is not tolerable! You have children in your family! Think about them. I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years, he will --
[17:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're back with our political and legal experts and Gloria, after Senator Flake came out with his statement of support for the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh, it looked like it was going to be a pretty quick sale through the committee, then the floor, final vote. And then something dramatic happened with Senator Flake near a senate elevator. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You think that was the moment?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, look at his face. I can't say that was the moment. He's looked that way for quite some time. He's been completely undecided about this. Has been sharing the fact that he's had many sleepless nights over this. And I think that how could you not be affected by that? But I also know that he's been talking to Chris Coons, a good friend of his, and they've been trying to come to figure out a way to work something out. I mean, Flake announced that he was going to vote for Kavanaugh, which I think was a real disappointment to Coons. I know it was.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN COMMENTATOR: But he wants to. He wants to vote for Kavanaugh.
KUCINICH: But he can't get himself there. And I think you're right, Coons came out and said today that Flake and he have been very disturbed about -- the condition of the Judiciary Committee right now. How nasty, even the members are being to each other. And I think it really has been eating at him.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: But that's not going to get any better now, right? It's almost he's opened up this ratness. We saw it a little bit better today --
BORGER: What is a lot better today.
DE VOGUE: Yes, but think about what Dianne Feinstein said. She talked about him, Kavanaugh, going on the attack yesterday, yelling at Democrats. How do you put all that language back in the bottle, and even Brett Kavanaugh, who wants to take the court -- his opening statement yesterday was so political; it's more political than anything we've seen on the court. How does all of that get put back in the bottle, and how do we get another nominee down the road looking at this?
BORGER: And also, you know, this -- Kavanaugh said it himself yesterday, that this could encourage more people to come out. What's -- tell me, Laura. What does the FBI do if suddenly now there are more names that come out? LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. It's also -- I mean, this
could have cleared Kavanaugh in a way that I think could have benefited him weeks ago. And it still might, that's the fair point, but this idea that it's so limited in scope, it can only be for a week. I mean, why are we doing this in the 12th hour, instead of four weeks ago? Why are we not doing this back in July?
BORGER: Well, the Republicans would blame Dianne Feinstein, which they openly did.
JARRETT: Fair enough. I think they're good questions. If you seriously thought this was such a significant thing that it was enough to refer it in September, why not refer it in July? But we are where we are now. If more people come out in the coming days while they're doing this over the next week, then is the White House going to go back and say, OK, we're extending it another week, another week?
[17:35:03] JARRETT: And the Democrats will be pushing for just that.
JARRETT: Because now they have their in.
BORGER: I think they can't move the goalpost, do you?
DE VOGUE: I think they have.
BORGER: They'll try.
JARRETT: It depends on what comes out.
BORGER: Yes, exactly.
BLITZER: You can only imagine how the Chief Justice, John Roberts, is looking at this battle about a potential new Supreme Court justice.
DE VOGUE: Wolf, keep in mind. The Supreme Court starts again on Monday. And they start again now with just these eight justices. And we're at a rare time, because we have four liberals put by a Democratic president and four conservatives by a Republican. That doesn't happen. So more than ever, we look at the possibility of these 4-4 splits.
The 4-4 splits mean basically the Supreme Court is blocked from setting big precedent, and they have to move very gingerly. And it was Chief Justice John Roberts and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steve Breyer, they hate the prospect of where we are with confirmation hearings now, because they say it makes the Supreme Court look political. And that's a critical problem for them going forward.
BLITZER: Well, he made it himself, yesterday, Judge Kavanaugh, look extremely political.
JARRETT: Right. BORGER: Right. Going back to the Hillary Clinton revenge theory. I mean, that's --
BLITZER: All right. Everybody standby. By the way, Anna Maria Archila, one of the women who emotionally confronted Senator Flake in the elevator earlier today, she's going to be joining our own Anderson Cooper later tonight, "AC360," 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Up next, more information on today's dramatic developments up on Capitol Hill, which forced Senate Republicans to change plans and delay a final vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. How will the president handle the delay?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And somebody has got to explain this to Trump. So --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever they think is necessary is OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:41:19] BLITZER: We're watching the floor of the U.S. Senate right now. We've just been told to expect the Republican Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, to make a statement. We'll have coverage of that, stand by. We'll hear what he has to say. In the meantime, we're back with our political and legal experts. As you know, Gloria, the president came out with a full-throated endorsement of his Supreme Court Nominee, Judge Kavanaugh. Today, he liked the aggressive stance that Judge Kavanaugh clearly took, but he also had some very kind words for Professor Ford. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you surprised he's not questioning her credibility?
BORGER: No. I'm not. Because she was so believable. You saw the way the country was feeling, his friends on Fox News felt that she was believable. Chris Wallace said it was a disaster for Kavanaugh. I'm not surprised he loved Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh mentioned the Clintons. I think that was probably for an audience of one. And we haven't seen anything like because it was so baldly political, that kind of statement. But I am surprised that he's -- into the FBI investigation, because he hates the FBI. It's the deep state. But I think he can count and do the math. And I think that's the only reason he wants to do it, is because he knows he doesn't have the votes without it.
DE VOGUE: But the thing is, he can now blame the FBI, if he doesn't like how that's going. And that's what we're going to have to look at. And how many more times? That clip we played, the news was just breaking. He's going to be asked several more times this week what he thinks about her testimony. And if it shifts -- we're going to be back in the same place.
KUCINICH: And he's already kicked the hornet's nest a couple of times and risked really alienating Susan Collins, for example, wasn't happy the last time he said. So, I mean, he -- will he be able to mind his Ps and Qs for a week? It's happened I think, like, once before, so it's not impossible, right?
BLITZER: Let's say, would the president have, Laura, in what the FBI does over the next few days?
JARRETT: Well, in terms of how they carry out their actual interviews of these witnesses, he doesn't have any say at all. But in terms of the scope, again, he is the driver on that. We have to learn more. I think we need more reporting on exactly what the White House has prescribed they're supposed to do here. But if their role is only to interview a small subset of witnesses, not look at Ramirez's claims, not look at Swetnick's. I mean, that is a very different-looking interview than the wide-ranging scope that they could have.
It just depends on what somebody's definition of credible is here. But I think the Democrats have a lot on the line here. They invested so much in the process. They invested so much for days and weeks, we heard all we want is an FBI investigation. What if the FBI doesn't come back and have the kind of testimony from Mark Judge that they may they think that he does? What if he says, I don't remember? Now, Kavanaugh has a lot on the line, to be sure. If Mark Judge says anything other than I don't remember -- if Mark Judge says, oh, yes, I remember that night. Oh, yes, I remember Christine Blasey Ford. Anything like that, I think he's in trouble.
BORGER: But it gives red state Democrats an excuse to vote for Kavanaugh.
BLITZER: If they come back with nothing significant. On the other hand, once the FBI opens an investigation --
BLITZER: -- you never know what's going to come out of that investigation. So, there's understandably a lot of nervousness on the part of Judge Kavanaugh and the Republicans.
[17:45:01] Coming up, President Trump agrees to order an additional FBI investigation. The allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. Will the probe include the explosive allegations being made by two other women in addition to Professor Christine Blasey Ford?
BLITZER: Our breaking news, President Trump just ordered a supplemental FBI background investigation into the allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford told her story to the committee yesterday, but two other women also were making serious accusations against the judge. Our Brian Todd has been looking into their stories. Brian, tell us more.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of these women accuses Brett Kavanaugh of engaging in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls back in the 1980s. The other woman accuses Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at Yale University. A key question tonight, is the FBI going to look into the allegations of these two other Kavanaugh accusers.
[17:50:37] TODD: Their names came up during the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh, two other Kavanaugh accusers. One is Julie Swetnick.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: She recount of seeing Kavanaugh engage, and I quote, "in abusive and aggressive behavior toward girls."
TODD: That allegedly occurred in the early 1980s. In a declaration released through her lawyer, Swetnick also claims Kavanaugh was present at a high school party around 1982 where she was the victim of a gang rape. She did not identify Kavanaugh as one of her attackers.
JULIE SWETNICK, KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: From what I experienced firsthand, I don't think he belongs on the Supreme Court. And I just want the facts to come out and I want it to be just and I want the American people to have those facts and judge for themselves.
TODD: Then there's Deborah Ramirez. In an interview with The New Yorker, Ramirez accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a party at Yale University in the 1980s.
COLLINS: She recalls pushing him away and then seeing him laughing and pulling his pants up.
TODD: Kavanaugh vehemently denies both women's allegations.
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I've never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever. The Swetnick thing is a joke. That is a farce.
TODD: Lawyers for both Swetnick and Ramirez sparred with Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee over whether they would testify. The Republicans accusing the women's lawyers of stonewalling request for information.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: And they have made no attempt to substantiate their claims.
TODD: The lawyers for the women denying that. Michael Avenatti represents Swetnick.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR JULIE SWETNICK: We have been asking for an opportunity for her to not only testify but to sit down with FBI agents and disclose what she knows together with witness identities that had witnessed many of these events.
TODD: But analysts say, Senate Republicans have viewed Christine Blasey Ford as the more credible accuser.
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: They believe the other ones are full of holes and potentially even lies.
TODD: Swetnick was herself accused of domestic violence in Florida in the early 2000s. An ex-boyfriend alleged she threatened to harm his family. The case was dismissed and Michael Avenatti claims the ex- boyfriend has no credibility. Avenatti told "CNN TODAY" that because the Judiciary Committee wouldn't have her testify, Swetnick will tell her story in an interview before the full Senate vote on Kavanaugh.
Do these other women still have an effect on this whole thing, in some way?
STODDARD: The allegations about Judge Kavanaugh's conduct and behavior, the fact that he was at parties where people were very drunk, had friends that were very drunk, that they became very aggressive and rowdy and irresponsible, that is part of a collective, cumulative sort of portrait of Judge Kavanaugh's conduct in those days and could loan credibility to the accusations from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
TODD: And there is another woman whose information could have shed new light on these allegations. A lawyer for a woman named Elizabeth Razor, an ex-girlfriend of Mark Judge, who was allegedly in that room when the alleged incident between Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford took place, says that Elizabeth Razor was willing to share her information with the FBI and the Judiciary Committee.
Razor told The New Yorker that Judge told her of an incident where Judge and other young men took turns having sex with a drunk woman. Razor said, Judge regarded the incident as consensual and she says she has no knowledge that Brett Kavanaugh took part in that incident. Neither Elizabeth Razor or Mark Judge ever appeared before the Judiciary Committee. But as we've been reporting, Wolf, Judge's lawyer says he will cooperate with the FBI. Wolf.
BLITZER: Mark Judge, Brian, is now denying the allegations by one of the women you just reported on, right?
TODD: That's right, Wolf. Judge has just sent a letter to Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein of the Judiciary Committee denying the allegations made by Julie Swetnick. He denied the specific allegations she made about gang rape, about sexual assault. He denied her allegations that he and Kavanaugh spiked women's drinks at parties. Mark Judge says he does not know Julie Swetnick.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Thank you very much.
[17:54:48] Coming up, undecided Republican senators force President Trump to order an FBI background check into the allegations against the Supreme Court nominee after forcing a delay in a confirmation vote for Brett Kavanaugh.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Investigation launched. Tonight, a dramatic new delay in Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Trump just ordered a limited FBI probe of the allegations against Kavanaugh after Senator Jeff Flake forced the hands of fellow Republicans.
Willing to cooperate. Kavanaugh's high school friend Mark Judge says he will answer any and all questions from law enforcement investigators. Will he back up or possibly dispute Kavanaugh's denials?
[17:59:56] Very compelling. Before ordering the new FBI probe, the president praised Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against Kavanaugh. So why is Mr. Trump suddenly so accommodating after his attacks on Ford and fierce defense of his high-court nominee.
And turning point?