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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Did Kavanaugh Lie to Senate?; Interview With Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired October 1, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: High school friend who put his own hard-partying exploits in a book called "Wasted" and later posted a video tour of Georgetown Prep.
MARK JUDGE, FRIEND OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: Let me show you something interesting. This is the dean of student's office. Spent a lot of time in there.
GRIFFIN: Judge says he may have been wasted, but disputes Christine Blasey Ford's allegation he and Kavanaugh were involved in assaulting her at a party.
No other witnesses have corroborated Ford's story. The FBI has already interviewed Debbie Ramirez, who claims Kavanaugh, in a drunken stupor, flashed her at a college party. No other witnesses recall that event either.
At the center of both, though, excessive high school and college drinking, which under oath Judge Brett Kavanaugh says was to excess, but never out of control.
RACHEL MITCHELL, DEPUTY ATTORNEY, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: Have you ever passed out from drinking?
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: Well, passed out would be -- no. But I have gone to sleep. But I have never blacked out. That's the -- that's the allegation. And that's wrong.
GRIFFIN: In addition to speaking to classmates who say Kavanaugh did drink to excess, CNN has spoken to a half-dozen college and high school classmates of Kavanaugh who say they never saw Kavanaugh drink to the point of blacking out, and never aggressive.
That was contradicted this weekend by Chad Ludington, the Yale classmate who released this statement. At Yale, he writes: "Brett was a frequent drinker and a heavy drinker. I know," he says, "because especially in our first two years of college, I often drank with him."
He goes on to write: "When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive."
The Yale roommates of Debbie Ramirez, the woman claiming Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself at a party, said this about Kavanaugh at Yale.
LIZ SWISHER, YALE ROOMMATE OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: He was a sloppy drunk. He was more interested in impressing the boys than he was in impressing the girls. I never saw him be sexually aggressive, but he definitely was sloppy drunk.
LYNNE BROOKES, YALE CLASSMATE OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: I was witness to the night that he got tapped into that fraternity, and he was stumbling drunk in a ridiculous costume, saying really dumb things. And I can almost guarantee that there's no way that he remembers that night.
GRIFFIN: No one CNN has contacted claims to be a witness to aggressive sexual behavior or even unwanted sexual advances by Kavanaugh.
GRIFFIN: Jake, based on the short list of witnesses the FBI is interviewing, it does not appear Kavanaugh's drinking habits and if he told the whole truth about them are even being looked at -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Drew Griffin, thank you so much.
Joining me now, two people who know a lot about FBI investigations such as this, former Congressman and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and former FBI special agent Mike Rogers, also Supervisory Special Agent at the FBI Josh Campbell.
Josh, let me start with you. The White House told the FBI to expand the scope of whom they can talk to. How might that impact the investigation now?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So, Jake, I think there are still questions surrounding what that specifically means.
And what I mean by that is, there have been conflicting reports whether this means that the FBI can now go out on its own and chase down whatever lead that it thinks needs, is warranted, additional investigation, or whether the FBI has to go back to the White House and say, here's what we found, here is what we want to do, and then essentially get permission to go beyond that.
The reason a distinction is important, I think what's happened today is that you have the White House realizing that they're being crushed by this news cycle. There are a lot of people irate at this notion that the FBI would be limited in scope.
If you want a serious investigation, you do a thorough investigation. But to set guardrails and parameters, I think they're feeling some of the blowback against that, and I think it's hypothetical because if they're requiring the FBI to come back to them to request permission, then, yes, they can say the FBI can do whatever it wants.
Ultimately, they're the final arbiter. I will believe it when I see it. TAPPER: Mr. Chairman, you used to conduct FBI background checks years
ago during the George H.W. Bush administration. Let me ask you, this idea that the FBI has already done six background checks on Brett Kavanaugh, therefore there can't be anything to find, is that accurate?
Because I have heard that usually the FBI only starts looking at somebody's activities 18 and over and really college and after. No?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that's right.
I mean, they would have to reengage, this notion they're going to go back into his adolescent years, high school, and college to try to determine the veracity of the claims, if there is corroboration or other things.
And I will say, they would start with a review of the investigations they have. And I will tell you why. It was very important that when we asked questions, we asked about drinking, you know, alcohol consumption and drug use and the levels of alcohol use and did it ever impact them. So they will have a strong record over those six investigations that span about 30 years of his life that will answer the drinking question into when he was an adult and a professional.
And I think they will use that. This notion that it's all about drinking, I think the folks who have made up their mind that was an influence, what they're trying to insinuate is that drinking caused him not to forget that he conducted a sexual assault.
That's a very different thing. So this notion that his drinking is a problem, clearly, those six investigations didn't determine that. It didn't impact him when he graduated from college and became a working adult. So they will try to consider all of that information.
This is different. And if you get seven days, you can do a pretty good investigation. You don't need to interview, you know, 400 people to come to your conclusion. They will go and try to find corroborating evidence for the witnesses who have come forward and said that something happened.
That's what I think they're going to focus on. And they can do that in multiple places all at the same time and then bring that information back for the committee's review.
TAPPER: Josh, is it even possible to disprove Brett Kavanaugh's claim that he never blacked out and that he never had any memory loss? I'm sure people -- we have now a litany of individuals who say that they saw him being sloppy drunk.
But beyond that, I don't know how you get in somebody's brain and prove that that person passed out, blacked out, had memory losses.
CAMPBELL: So the one similar aspect of this investigation that we have seen that is similar to a regular criminal investigation is that, at the end of the day, it's going to come down to witness testimony.
Who do you believe? Now, we have talked about the differences. The FBI conducts criminal investigations. They prosecute people. This is not that. This is determining someone's suitability, someone's character. In order to get at those traits, you have to talk to people that know him.
Again, as you mentioned, this is some 36 years old. There aren't going to be people that are actually coming forth, at least in my estimation, with corroborating hard evidence to say here is a picture of the judge blacked out, for example, or anything like that.
It's going to come down to witness testimony. But I have to tell you, the more you see the volume of people that are coming forward and making allegations, that gives you pause. And I will disagree with my friend Mike Rogers as far as the timeline here.
I think that the one-week timeline that is being placed on the FBI is actually arbitrary. In order to conduct a thorough investigation, I think you can't set those parameters. The FBI has to do what it has to do. We saw over the weekend CNN was reporting that Mrs. Ramirez, for example, had provided the names of additional witnesses, additional people that the FBI needs to go out and talk to.
So I don't think we hamstringing or constraining the FBI in that respect, because it is about who knows what, what they saw, and are they believed? At the end of the day, that's what it's going to come down to.
TAPPER: Mr. Chairman, the president said today he's OK with the FBI talking to Kavanaugh for this investigation, which might be news to Kavanaugh. Do you think they should?
ROGERS: Yes, absolutely.
I mean, he is clearly important into this equation, and if there is anything they talked about in the previous investigations that doesn't cover either this time period or this event, and I would argue it doesn't, then, yes, in fact, they should do that.
And I'm going to disagree with the supervisory agent, Josh, because we did these things in very short timelines when the Bush administration came and we had very short deadlines, and what we did is schedule our resources according to the time that we had.
And I think that you can do it. I think the Democrats are going to come out with a list of whatever it is 25 people they want to be interviewed. The parties should stay out of the investigation. The timeline can be completely appropriate. They will come back and say, if we don't think we got it right, here's some more interviews that we need to do.
But, again, I think the FBI should be able to do it in the time that they have been given, given the nature of these issues and the limited number of witnesses, some of which I understand are not willing to talk about, you know, something that happened in high school or college.
And so they will have some challenges there, but they can come up with a picture of, and I think it's going to be very unfortunate, but it's going to be he said/she said at the end of the day. And the determination of those witnesses and the ability to corroborate information will wait on their conclusion in the executive summary on this.
TAPPER: Take a listen to President Trump talking about the third accuser, Julie Swetnick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The third one, I don't know much about. But it wouldn't bother me at all. I mean, I have been -- heard that the third one has -- I have no idea if this is true -- has very little credibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Josh, what do you think the FBI is going to do?
CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, that's not the president's determination to make. He can obviously opine about it.
But the FBI is going to look at this without a partisan lens, without political lenses. They're going to determine, are these people serious people, can they be believed, can they be trusted?
And, again, if you look at some of the allegations that are going to be made, I think what we have seen, at least according to the reporting, is that her testimony or her allegations are not part of this limited scope that has been, you know, basically thrust upon the FBI that you have to stay within these guardrails.
So I don't think that they can actually determine and assess that credibility until they sit down and talk to her. So for the president to say that, you know, it's not credible, I don't think any of us know that.
But, again, if the reporting indicates that the FBI is now opening the aperture, that they can talk to more people, and she is part of that, at the end of the day, we will be able to determine whether she is credible, based on the reporting that is provided.
TAPPER: All right, Josh Campbell, Mike Rogers, thank you so much. Appreciate your expertise and your time.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are moving the goalposts on Kavanaugh. Is that fair? We are going to talk to a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Key Republican senators are vowing that the FBI investigation into Brett Kavanaugh will not be a sham. Now they are pushing the White House to tell the FBI to interview whomever they need to get it right.
Joining me now is the Democratic Senator from Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. He's a senior member on the Senate Judiciary Committee and has voted on the confirmation of every sitting Supreme Court justice.
Senator Leahy, good to see you, as always.
How far do you think the FBI investigation is able to go? Do you have concerns still that they are being hamstrung by what the White House is telling them to do?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Well, you hear two different things from the White House.
And so a number of us sent a letter down there, saying, don't hamstring them at all.
You know, you have four issues here, four significant ones whose credibility is at stake. Obviously, Judge Kavanaugh's credibility is at stake. The credibility of the United States Supreme Court is at stake, that of the FBI, and that of the U.S. Senate.
So frankly as a member of one of those four, I'd like to see it done right done it thoroughly, I was a prosecutor, I want to see it all done. You know, I was in Vermont this weekend but I heard on the street from everybody Republicans and Democrats if they've got nothing to hide, why are they in such a rush.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So right now I hear a lot of Democrats talking about how much Kavanaugh drank and whether he was misleading in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about that. Do Democrats have anything other than their suspicions that he blacked out or ever had any memory loss? Is there any evidence to that or is it just a suspicion?
LEAHY: Well, I thought the Dr. Ford was very credible. And of course, they're diametrically opposite in their positions. I believe her. I would have believed her has she been a witness at a trial that I -- that I was having. But a Judge Kavanaugh has not been forthcoming in many other times be testifying. Certainly, he was not forthcoming and talking about the stolen e-mails by -- stolen by Manny Miranda from the Democratic Senate members. And he wasn't quite credible in answers to both Republicans and Democrats on that.
So I must admit I come in they're worried about the man's credibility, to begin with. And while he put on an act which Saturday Night Live enjoyed satirizing, there are a lot of people who thought that his testimony last week was just that an act. He never answered the direct questions about what happened.
TAPPER: So Leader McConnell just warned that Democrats are moving the goal posts on the probe. That first it's -- did he -- did he ever commit any sexual assault, then it's did he ever mislead how much he drank, that there's going to be another goalposts shift at some point and there's never going to be enough time for this FBI investigation because all you Democrats are trying to do is delay until the midterms are over, in which case you hope that you have a Democratic Senate. What's your response to Senator McConnell?
LEAHY: My response is that we want to get the truth. That's what I hear in Vermont. That's why I hear from both Republicans and Democrats, get the truth. Let the FBI take the time take -- the time they need to do so. Remember, Senator McConnell said we have to rush. This is a man that held up Merrick Garland for over a year, left the Supreme Court absolute one person for over a year. It's hard for him to say in a straight -- with a straight face, we get -- we got to rush this. But the bottom line is the FBI is not going to play politics, they're going to tell it like it is. Let them give the facts and then every single Republican, every single Democrat will have the facts and he or she will have to explain their constituents this is how and why I'm going to vote.
TAPPER: So Senator, you said before and you're a former prosecutor that you believed Christine Blasey Ford. You believe Professor Ford. The outside counsel in the Kavanaugh hearings from Thursday who was hired by the Republicans wrote to the Republican Senators that a reasonable prosecutor would not bring a case based on Professor Ford's allegations. She pointed to multiple issues. She said Ford had inconsistencies in her statements to the committee, the Washington Post and her therapist. She said Ford has not been consistent with her age at the time of the alleged assault. Ford can't remember key details such as how she got home from the party.
You're a former prosecutor, do you have any concerns about the testimony she gave in terms of whether or not you as a prosecutor -- I realize this isn't a court of law and you would rather have an FBI investigation -- but you say you believe her, do you not have any moment of pause based in her testimony?
LEAHY: Of course, of course, there are going to be some inconsistency from that long ago. She said that herself. But what she didn't remember -- I said what do you remember the most about. She remember -- she said I remember his laughter, his laughter and his hand over my face. You might forget exactly what time the evening it was or anything else, something like that you never forget and that's consistent with a lot of cases that I had of people that have been involved in sexual assault. They remember those things the most.
But even in something back from that, let the FBI go for it, let them talk to the people who were supposed to have been there. Let them talk with Mr. Judge and say what they see. Right now, right now the Senate does not have enough facts to make up their mind especially from a judicial nominee who's misled us in the past.
[16:50:17] TAPPER: All right, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, thank you so much your time as always, sir. It was supposed to be a victory lap on trade for President but did he fumble before spiking the ball? Stay with us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some people say the swamp but I will not say that today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Just in to THE LEAD, you know that the White House sees the big debate is about whether or not Brett Kavanaugh ever blacked out because now the White House is putting out statements, trying to disprove the idea he ever blacked out from alcohol during his college years. I want to bring back my panel. Let me read you a couple of these statements. One of them is from Dan Murphy. He was a suitemate of his for several years at Yale. It says in part, "I never saw Brett blackout or not be able to remember the prior evening's events nor have I ever see Brett act aggressive, hostile, or act in a sexually aggressive manner to a woman.:
And Chris Dudley, those of us of a certain age might remember Chris Dudley. He played basketball at Yale and then he was a Yale man player traveling around the country, different teams every year. Chris Dudley, he ran for governor, also for Oregon, did not win, said this. "I will say this again. We drank in college. I was with Brett frequently in college, whether it be in gym, class, or socializing. I never, ever saw Brett blackout. Not one time in all the years I've known him. I've never seen him be disrespectful or inappropriate with women. Your response.
[16:55:22] MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Again, I do think we're missing the point a bit here. I mean, the allegation is that he sexually assaulted someone. It's entirely possible that you can drink, drink a lot and also not sexually assault somebody. And so, I just -- again, I think we're going around in circles because we're waiting for an FBI report and we're not getting any new information until we get an FBI report. And, you know, I continue to believe that we cannot have a system that is governed by the rule of law based on what people believe or what suppositions people have about whether they blacked out or didn't black out or what they did in that time.
TAPPER: Do you think he was fully honest before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his drinking?
HOOVER: I think he had moments where he could have been more precise, more -- had a clearer, better, maybe more buttoned-up answer, but that doesn't mean he explicitly lied. And by the way, everybody says --
TAPPER: Is that a standard for a Supreme Court Justice?
HOOVER: Well, you know what, the standard for the Supreme Court Justice now --
TAPPER: I mean, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
HOOVER: But consider the circumstances he was under, right? This is a man who was literally fighting for his life, having to defend his political character, his -- no, I'm sorry, rather his personal integrity and a political strategy from a White House that absolutely boxed him in and made it incredibly difficult for him to both defend himself and defend the strategy that made no sense. He wanted an FBI investigation from the beginning but he couldn't say it, because the President didn't want it, because the White House didn't want it. Because this strategy did not favor -- they put him in an untenable position, and I think he was doing everything he could. And frankly, I would have been just as angry as he was, defending my integrity.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look. Remember when Democrats in the 1990s were saying that people lie about sex? You know, so don't -- you know, it's not -- it shouldn't surprise us that the President lied under oath about sex.
TAPPER: Bill Clinton at the time.
AVLON: Yes. Bill Clinton lied you know. And when Clinton lied, nobody died and on and on and on. This is sort of the slippery slope of the standard being put in place right now. And why we do need to delineate really clearly between accusations about his you know, drinking in high school or college, and the alleged sexual assault. And you know, character witnesses are going to pile up and we're going to get this report. And then we're going to have to find a way to find common ground around it.
To me, the more shocking thing that happened late last week is the outburst of not only emotion, which you can, you know, chalk up to righteous indignation, but the abandonment of not only judicial temperament but independence. He came out so hot and partisan. That to me is -- raises a bigger question that the Senate needs to digest than allegations of drinking of in high school and college.
MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's my concern. Overall, ultimately, we have to make -- raise a question of is this person capable of being a jurist. is this person capable on the highest court in the land. And for me, that -- things that should weigh into that are temperament, character, disposition, and his background. So yes, we will never get to conclusively determine beyond a reasonable doubt in many of these things but we've --
AVLON: Also his jurisprudence in his professional career. Don't --
HILL: It is not a dispute anymore. I wasn't --
AVLON: Your accepting that those were pretty good, it's the other stuff --
HILL: I'm not -- what I'm saying is that's not what -- that's not what we're debating right now.
RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: You're saying there's really a question where he can be a jurist. He's been a jurist on the D.C. Circuit. One of the most -- one of the most respected courses -- courts in the land, and you can go through his opinions 200-300 opinions and they are serious, they're credible, they display a judicial temperament and manner. He got angry not because this was a judicial case where he's had to adjudicate between two sides, it's because he was being personally accused of some of the worst possible things they can say about a person including that his part of a gang rape ring and suburb -- in a suburban Maryland County. If you're not angry when someone says that about you, there's something wrong with you.
HILL: Well, a couple quick things. You -- this isn't the first time his temperament has been raised. This isn't just because he's under this accusation. When -- a few ago the American Bar Association lowered its rating with him because of his courtroom demeanor in temperament, so this isn't the first time we've had that.
LOWRY: The gave him this highest rating and vouch for his character --
AVLON: The first time around.
HILL: Right. My point is this is not the first time that's been raised. The second thing is yes, again, this isn't about his opinions. I think that's a question that has been raised obviously in the Senate -- in the Senate proceedings and they should be. But again, we have to ask question if this person is saying little lies with us about what a yearbook caption means or whether it's about how much you drank, then it could as Comey said lead to bigger lies and signal bigger lies, and that's a question that we can point to and look at.
TAPPER: You believe her.
TAPPER: You believe her 100 percent.
HILL: 100 percent.
TAPPER: You think he's lying or he doesn't remember.
HILL: I think rape culture is so pervasive that it's possible that he's not lying and still did it.
TAPPER: You believe him.
HOOVER: I believe that both of them were telling their best version of the truth. And beyond that, I'm not an inquisitor, I'm not an FBI agent, I'm not an investigator, I don't have access to the facts, to the witnesses of the testimony, and none of us do by the way, so that's what we all should be orbiting for. This is what we all should be advocating for, the truth.
TAPPER: Thanks one and all for being here. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.