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Ford, Kavanaugh not on FBI's Initial Witness List; FBI Interrogates Second Kavanaugh Accuser Deborah Ramirez; At Least 844 Dead as Earthquake and Tsunami Leave Island of Sulawesi in Indonesia Devastated; U.S., Canada Reach a Last-Minute NAFTA Deal; Jeff Flake: Not a Chance I'd Call for a Kavanaugh Probe if I were Up for Re- Election; White House Limits Scope of Kavanaugh Probe; Supreme Court Kicks Off New Term Amid Kavanaugh Fight. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired October 1, 2018 - 9:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:06] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And welcome to the first Monday in October.
By tradition, this is the start of a new Supreme Court term, but it's not the new court that conservatives were hoping for this morning. At least not yet. Eight justices are getting down to work, minus Anthony Kennedy, who retired in June, and minus Judge Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation remains in limbo, pending a new or supplemental FBI investigation.
And here's how explosive the Kavanaugh confirmation process has gotten. This new probe itself is now the source of a bitter partisan controversy over the scope and the time frame. Both of which sources tell CNN are being heavily controlled by the White House, not the FBI.
SCIUTTO: Agents are not expected to interview Christine Blasey Ford, whose Senate testimony, of course, transfixed the nation on Thursday, nor the former classmate and drinking buddy who put out a scathing statement overnight accusing Kavanaugh of, quote, "a blatant mischaracterization of his drinking at Yale."
For his part, President Trump is congratulating Mexico and Canada and himself, too, for wrapping up a crucial deal to replace NAFTA. He is due to speak live from the Rose Garden two hours from now. Of course, CNN will bring that to you. But we begin this hour with the Supreme Court news, with CNN's Ariane de Vogue.
So, Ariane, there's a lot of back and forth over the last 24 hours over exactly what restrictions were put on this FBI investigation and what were not? And of course, two different views coming from the White House and from others on the Hill. What is the truth here? What are the actual limits and can the FBI push back against those limits?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Right, Poppy and Jim. Here we are. You said it's the first day of the term. It's being totally overshadowed by this confirmation process with Brett Kavanaugh. First of all, the latest, right, is that late last night, Rachel Mitchell, she's that outside prosecutor, she released her report.
She said, look, I'm not -- I know that this wasn't a trial last week, it's a hearing. But I see things, as a prosecutor, and I have to say I have no reasonable -- no reasonable prosecutor would bring charges here. She was worried about the fact that there were gaps in her memory and there was no corroboration.
But Democrats, to your first point here, and supporters of Ford, they totally dismiss this report. They say, look, it was one-sided, she didn't even question Kavanaugh. And they point to what's happening with the FBI. And as you said, the FBI has interviewed now Deborah Ramirez. She's one of the people that came forward to say that Kavanaugh had acted inappropriately. And here's what's key. She gave the FBI names of other witnesses.
And the big question here, Jim and Poppy, is whether or not the FBI or the White House would allow those witnesses to be contacted.
SCIUTTO: You might say they would want to talk to as many witnesses as possible. Yes.
HARLOW: You would think.
Ariane, talk to us about where we are for the high court. I mean, such an important body for this entire country and every citizen. You've got eight justices now. It's happened before. It happened for 13 months when Merrick Garland wasn't given a hearing, but what are the actual implications of a court with eight justices?
DE VOGUE: Well, you're right, Poppy. We were here in July and President Trump wanted Kavanaugh on this bench. And that is not going to happen now. So we only have eight justices. And what that means is Chief Justice John Roberts has to navigate carefully. He's very careful about some of the cases he takes up. And the cases that are currently on the docket, the justices, the eight, to avoid a potential split, might look for narrow ways to rule.
The court does not like it when there's only eight members because they're always worried about those four-four splits, Poppy.
HARLOW: Right. Yes. Ariane, thank you. Important reporting in front of the high court this morning.
We'd like to also read you an entire statement that Judge Kavanaugh's classmate, Chad Luddington, has given to CNN. He wrote this in reaction to the testimony that he heard from Judge Kavanaugh in front of Congress.
HARLOW: That we all heard on Thursday. Let's begin here. He writes, "I have been contacted by numerous reporters about Brett Kavanaugh and have not wanted to say anything, because I had nothing to contribute about what kind of justice he would be. I knew Brett at Yale because I was a classmate and a varsity basketball player and Brett enjoyed socializing with athletes. Indeed, athletes formed the core of Brett's social circle. In recent days, I have become deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterization by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale. When I watched Brett and his wife being interviewed on FOX News on Monday and when I watched Brett deliver his testimony under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, I cringed.
"For the fact is, at Yale, and I can speak to no other times, Brett was a frequent drinker and a heavy drinker. I know because especially in our first few years of college, I often drank with him. On many occasions, I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive. On one of the occasions of the last occasions I purposefully socialized with Brett, I witnessed him respond by a semi-hostile remark not by diffusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man's face and starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail."
[09:05:16] SCIUTTO: The statement goes on, and we're reading the whole statement here. "I do not believe that the heavy drinking or even loutish behavior of an 18-year-old or even 21-year-old should condemn a person for the rest of his life. I would be a hypocrite to think so. However, I have direct and repeated knowledge about his drinking and his disposition while drunk. And I do believe that Brett's actions as a 53-year-old federal judge matter. If he lied about his past actions on national television and more especially while speaking under oath in front of the United States Senate, I believe those lies should have consequences.
"It is truth that is at stake. And I believe that the ability to speak the truth, even when it does not reflect well upon himself, is a paramount quality we seek in our nation's most powerful judges. I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth. I felt it was my civic duty to tell of my experience while drinking with Brett and I offer this statement to the press.
"I have no desire to speak further publicly and nothing more to say to the press at this time. I will, however, take my information to the FBI." Signed, Charles "Chad" Luddington.
Now why did we do that? It's a full statement with a lot of details.
SCIUTTO: We spent a lot of time with him. And to our knowledge at this point, this is not testimony that we are certain that the FBI will consider in its broader investigation. So we felt it was important to share the entire contents.
HARLOW: Absolutely. SCIUTTO: Of that statement with the public. That account of Judge
Kavanaugh's drinking already seeing pushback from one of Luddington's teammates, Chris Dudley, also a close friend of Kavanaugh from Yale, says that he is certain he never saw Kavanaugh black out or behave inappropriately with any women.
HARLOW: Now, the question becomes, what is the FBI going to do with all of this, right? How many people will they speak to, how many leads will they follow and how much is the White House directing all of that?
The president is pushing back against multiple reports from different news outlets including CNN that he is working along with White House council Don McGahn to really limit the scope of the FBI's probe here.
Let's go to the White House. Abby Phillip has more.
Look, we heard the president say publicly over the weekend, look, the FBI has in his words, free rein. But then we have a lot of different reporting from people within the White House. What do you know in terms of where the White House is going to let this FBI probe go?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. The president is saying here that he thinks the FBI is going to do whatever they want to do. He's suggesting that because he says he thinks that it could turn out well for Kavanaugh. But what our sources are telling us is that the White House isn't just passively waiting for that to happen. Don McGahn, the White House counsel, who's been one of the biggest advocates for Kavanaugh inside the White House, has been working with Senate Republicans, according to our sources, to limit the scope of this probe.
In other words, to make sure that the probe doesn't go far afield, and in the words of Kellyanne Conway this weekend, doesn't become a fishing expedition. Now one of the key parts of the limitations that we're hearing about is about Kavanaugh's drinking history. Our sources say that that is not expected to be a part of the probe. We've also been told that at least one of the -- one of the three accusers who've come forward publicly, Julie Swetnick, is not expected to be interviewed by the FBI or has not up until this point.
So there are some key ways in which the White House is looking to try to narrow this scope so that Kavanaugh isn't subjected to what they consider a fishing expedition that could unearth things that they think could be damaging to him -- Poppy and Jim.
SCIUTTO: Well, one person's fishing expedition is a useful investigation for someone in a lifetime position.
SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip, thanks very much.
With us now, CNN law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell, and CNN legal analyst, Shan Wu. Josh, I'd like to begin with you just due to your long experience at
the FBI. There's been a lot of talk about just how important, weighty, or useful this FBI investigation will be. You've heard Republicans say that, listen, all they're going to do is submit what's called a 302, basically witness statements, and then not make any judgment, et cetera, how valuable can that be? Then you have Democrats saying, a week? Listen, you're not going to learn much. There should be a longer time frame here. But in a week -- because even James Comey has said, the FBI can accomplish a lot.
Based on your experience, how valuable is this time they've been given and the leeway, at least, as far as we know that they've been given to do this?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So there are a lot of questions surrounding this investigation. I'll tell you, you know, I once had a drill instructor tell me that ability is what you do, character is who you are. In this situation, no one is questioning the judge's qualifications. There's no criminal investigation that's looking into illegality. It's simply a question of character. Is this person suitable to sit on the United States Supreme Court?
And in this case, the FBI's operating as an investigative arm of the White House. The White House is their client. They're going back and looking at the past -- the judge's past to determine, is he suitable? That's a determination to be made by the White House.
[09:10:01] The question you bring up is a good one because at the same time that, you know, the White House is saying, we're calling in the FBI to dig into this, we're giving him, quote-unquote, free rein, we're learning that that's not consistent with our reporting. There are guardrails that are being put on this investigation, parameters that permit the FBI to only go so far and to only look at certain things.
Now that's within the purview of the White House. They can ask, you know, the FBI to follow certain leads, but at the end of the day with this arbitrary one-week deadline looking into this, I don't think that it is realistic to say that this is a thorough investigation and to put that stamp of approval on it from the FBI, when there are limitations placed on it from the outset.
HARLOW: One thing to note, though. You know, there is a bit of precedent here and that is the Anita Hill investigation which took three days. Now that's a different situation -- similar in some ways that, you know, all witnesses were not called in that testimony and they were not called this time around either. But that took three days. At the same time, it was Democrat Chris Coons who asked for this one week, right?
So Democrats crying foul now, saying it's not long enough. It was Coons who went to Flake and said, let's give it a week, let's do this.
Shan, to you, this 302 report that the FBI comes up with, right, not a judgment, but here's what we found in this probe, that goes to the White House. Is there any obligation for the White House to turn that over to anyone? To Congress? To the Judiciary Committee? To the American people?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's a moral obligation for them to do that --
HARLOW: Right. But do they have to?
WU: -- to show that it's transparent. But not legally, no. In fact, usually in prosecutions, criminal investigations, as Josh well knows, there's a big fight over, you know, when you have to turn over the 302. So they're not under any legal obligation to do that. It's not even a criminal investigation. But I think, you know, one thing people are not understanding, very easy to understand this misunderstanding, background checks are actually normally much broader than criminal investigations.
Criminal investigations are very tightly focused. The agents and the prosecutor constantly in contact to make sure they're staying on target. The background check is to find anything possibly derogatory and present that to a potential employer. So here you have a potential employer trying to make sure they don't learn too much, which really kind of distorts the normal purpose.
SCIUTTO: On -- of course, imagine that in Washington. There's a lot of debate about the substance of this and what's reasonably within the range of this. I know, because I've been asked questions about people I know in their own FBI background checks, about things like this. How did they drink? How much did they drink?
SCIUTTO: What was their behavior like, et cetera?
Josh, you spent a lot of time in the FBI. I know that you personally did not do background checks, to my knowledge. But to your knowledge of background checks, give us a sense of what is reasonably within the range, when you're considering people for public office?
CAMPBELL: So it's a good question, Jim. And, you know, when new agents come in, typically their first office, we're sent to an applicant squad. And that is this particular team that looks into history of people that are applying for employment with the FBI or, you know, other federal agencies with the FBI serving as that investigative arm. So you kind of learn that process, that this is the scope, this is what we look at.
Again, it's a question of suitability. You're not necessarily looking for illegality. And as Shan mentioned, that gives you kind of a wider aperture to really look, what does this person -- what is this person made of? And it's not a conclusion that the FBI is looking into for their own interests, that, you know, they're wanting to make sure that there's someone on the Supreme Court who's of suitable character.
This is something that the White House does. Every White House appointee that goes to the FBI has that same charge, look at this person, look at his background or her, and determine if they are suitable. The question I think surrounding this and we hit on a little bit earlier is this one-week time frame.
Now I have serious issue with this, because it is so arbitrary. In this case, what we've talked about, and we have parameters that are in place, we can only look at certain things, but what happens in the course of an interview when someone provides you new information or someone provides you the names of other potential witnesses. We've been reporting here at CNN over the weekend that the interview with Mr. Ramirez, for example, did yield additional potential witnesses, so the question would be --
CAMPBELL: Is the FBI permitted to run that down and look at it? Or is this merely a check the box exercise?
HARLOW: Right. Shan, to you, James Comey in his op-ed said a lot of interesting things. One of the most notable I thought was that he clearly thinks that Judge Kavanaugh perjured himself. Let me read this to you. He said, "They," meaning the FBI, "also know that little lies point to bigger lies. They know that obvious lies by the nominee about the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to dig deeper."
Aside from James Comey's opinion of whether or not Judge Kavanaugh was forthcoming or not, what do you make of what he writes here and following, you know, that indication? Because Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a key swing vote, said, if it is proven that he wasn't fully honest in that testimony or lied, that's disqualifying for him.
What do you make of Comey's assertion here?
WU: You know, people may think what they want about James Comey, but he's clearly a very skilled investigator. And I completely agree with his take that there are lots of flashing lights in the judge's testimony. I mean, the positions he's taken very questionable as to credibility. And we're already seeing the public disclose, lots of people questioning his statements about drinking.
And again, it's not whether he actually drank or not.
[09:15:00] WU: Is whether he is credible and telling the truth about that. And I agree with Josh's concern over the limit on time in the investigation. You know, I co-wrote an editorial with Senator Coons --
POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Yes --
WU: In which he called for certain types of terms and conditions to look for in the hearings. And let's keep in mind, that was a political compromise that he and Senator Flake had to make. They wanted to have a pause. And now it's important that if that pause develops other leads that need to be pursued, that they not just stick to this one-week timeline like --
HARLOW: Yes --
WU: It's completely set in stone.
JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Yes --
HARLOW: Thank you both Josh Campbell and Shan Wu very much. And can I just say that the fact that Coons and Flake did what they did together, then sat down together for that "60 Minutes" interview on different sides --
SCIUTTO: Right --
HARLOW: If Coons wants -- doesn't want Kavanaugh, Flake does, yet they sat together.
SCIUTTO: They did, rare in today's Washington --
HARLOW: Rare --
SCIUTTO: No question, although, we should note that of course, Flake is an outgoing Republican --
HARLOW: Flake ---
SCIUTTO: Senator and he said that would not have been possible if I were still running for election --
HARLOW: Which is stunning --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: And there is no -- there's no political capital in compromise --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: Anymore, OK, all right, a lot ahead for us this hour. A race to find survivors buried in the rubble in Indonesia. At least 844 are dead this morning after that earthquake in tsunami devastated the island of Sulawesi. Now, mass graves are being set up to bury the victims, we'll take you there live.
Also down at the wire, NAFTA out, a new trade deal in. What does it all mean for you? That's ahead.
SCIUTTO: And one year later, the nation remembers the victims in a Las Vegas shooting massacre. And we take a look at the facts, where does that push, you remember, to ban bump stocks? Bans, is it going to happen?
[09:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PELLEY, HOST, 60 MINUTES: Senator Flake, you've announced that you're not running for re-election, and I wonder, could you have done this if you were running --
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: No --
PELLEY: For re-election?
FLAKE: No --
FLAKE: Not a chance.
PELLEY: Not a chance.
FLAKE: No --
PELLEY: Because politics has become too sharp, too partisan?
FLAKE: Yes, there's no value to reaching across the aisle. There's no currency for that anymore, there's no incentive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: No incentive. I mean, it's a remarkable statement today, let's talk about it now. Joining us, we have Molly Ball and Matt Lewis.
HARLOW: Good morning to you guys. I mean, Matt, to you, hearing that from a conservative or from -- or from a liberal, just that blatant honesty, there's no political capital anymore, in any form of compromise. What's your read?
MATT LEWIS, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: Well, I mean, I would separate the two things. I think that Jeff Flake is maybe a little bit naive if he thinks that this week is going to satisfy or appease the people on the left who want to take down Brett Kavanaugh.
But going specifically of what he said, look, I agree. I wrote a book, you know, two or three years ago about how this system is broken. And there are perverse incentives on both sides of the aisle that drive people farther to the left and farther to the right. And if you try to work across the aisle in any capacity, you will be primaried and probably beaten in a general election.
HARLOW: Gee --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
LEWIS: Or in a primary, in a primary.
SCIUTTO: And listen, that's not entirely new. I mean, we've seen that for a number of years.
HARLOW: But saying it seems new. Like --
SCIUTTO: No --
HARLOW: Hearing it the way we did from Flake, right --
SCIUTTO: Well, to say it in such concrete terms, literally no incentive to compromise. I mean, that's --
HARLOW: I would not have done this if I were running again.
SCIUTTO: It's the definition of politics, right, compromise is actually necessary. Molly, senators were faced with a difficult decision last week or would have been faced had they gone to the vote. Now they have this FBI investigation. But the fact is, they're still going to be faced --
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: With a difficult decision, because you know, the FBI is not going to pronounce final word on Kavanaugh's suitability to sit on the Supreme Court. You have a whole host of issues. What has the FBI investigation done to make that an easier, perhaps more difficult decision for moderate Republicans and Red-state Democrats? Or are they in the same political pickle that they would have been without this?
MOLLY BALL, JOURNALIST: I think they do feel that it has made their lives a little bit easier. Look, I think most Democrats and most Republicans had already made up their minds before this allegation came along and haven't had them really changed by it. However, for that small group in the middle of moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats who have been on the fence, this investigation was a way of allowing them to feel that they did their due diligence.
And I do think they're all sort of planning ahead for, if nothing comes of it, it will make it -- I think it will make them feel better about a yes vote, to be able to say to their voters and indeed --
SCIUTTO: Right --
BALL: To themselves, we did our due diligence, we ran down these leads, we didn't plow through this allegation.
SCIUTTO: But then that's kind of the answer there, right though? Isn't it? In a way, the FBI investigation is cover --
HARLOW: Is it cover, Matt Lewis?
SCIUTTO: For folks who are on -- who are on the fence, right? Whether red state Democrats or moderate Republicans?
LEWIS: I think that's a -- I think that you may be right. That may be their calculus, you know, people like Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski and Senator Collins. They may be thinking, we're going to check this box and do due diligence. I think that they are very naive. I don't know if Brett Kavanaugh is innocent or guilty, I have no idea about that.
But I do know that both sides are playing politics and Democrats want to delay. And Democrats were saying -- like, Chris Coons was saying, hey, just give us a week. It seems that's not -- that's not radical, you know? And it was a three-day FBI investigation for Clarence Thomas.
[09:25:00] SCIUTTO: It was just Democrats, Matt, to be fair --
LEWIS: Just give us --
SCIUTTO: Because Republicans signed on --
LEWIS: Yes --
SCIUTTO: At least a small number signed on onto the plan --
LEWIS: Right --
SCIUTTO: I know that the Democrats delay is a --
LEWIS: Right --
SCIUTTO: Is a talking point.
LEWIS: Well, my point is, and I agree --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
LEWIS: Jeff Flake -- Jeff Flake said, we'll do a week. My point is, it's not going to satisfy anybody, it's going to prolong the agony, certainly, that's tearing this country apart. But you know, Democrats are not going to say, OK, the FBI found nothing, I guess I'll vote for Brett Kavanaugh, no.
It's going to be, why wasn't this two weeks? How come the scope isn't being, you know -- let's talk about his drinking, the fact that he used to get blitzed in college, like, let's make that an issue.
You're not going to appease either side by granting these concessions. Maybe, ten years from now, we can look back and say, hey, at least we took -- did the due diligence to do the investigation.
HARLOW: Molly, Matt is making the assertion that someone, a candidate's drinking habits are not germane here. But given the nature of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, are they not only germane, but perhaps particularly relevant?
BALL: I think you are going to hear a lot of people making that argument. I don't know if it will be persuasive to the senators who have called for this investigation, the ones who are still on the fence. I think they are focused primarily on the principal allegations that issued the -- particularly, you know, the allegation made by Dr. Blasey Ford, seeing if -- you know, there are concrete number of potential witnesses, potential leads that could be run down here.
And I think that was the focus of this call for an investigation, to just not leave that potential evidence on the table. There are these side issues, there are other accusers, we don't know the extent to which the FBI will be allowed to look into some of that stuff.
But I do think that the senators in the middle here are focused principally on that main allegation.
SCIUTTO: Molly Ball, Matt Lewis, thanks very much this morning.
HARLOW: Thanks, guys.
LEWIS: Thank you --
BALL: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Hundreds are in mass graves now, this after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. Officials now worry the worst may still be yet to come.