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Trump Discusses Kavanaugh's Drinking; Jeff Flake Speaks At "Forbes" 30 Under 30 Summit; Speculation That Flake Will Run for President; Flake Wants A More Thorough Investigation of Kavanaugh. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired October 1, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN on this Monday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here. Let's roll right into this breaking news. President Trump lashing out at this heated Supreme Court battle confirmation and the FBI's latest background information and investigation of his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. The President fiercely defending Judge Kavanaugh, but insisting he is open to, you know, this FBI investigation, trying to shut down reports that his White House is working to try to narrow the scope of this investigation. He says he's fine if the FBI interviews all three accusers and Judge Kavanaugh himself. He also weighed in on Kavanaugh's drinking habits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was surprised at how vocal he was about the fact that he likes beer. And he's had a little bit of difficulty. I mean, he talked about things that happened when he drank. I mean, this is not a man that said that alcohol was absolutely -- that he was perfect with respect to alcohol.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, if he did lie about his drinking, does that mean you'll pull his --
TRUMP: I don't think he did! Look, here's what. I'm just saying, I'm not a drinker. I can honestly say I never had a beer in my life, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
TRUMP: It's one of my only good traits. I don't drink. Wherever they're looking for something good, I say, I've never had a glass of alcohol. I've never had alcohol, just, you know, for whatever reason. Can you imagine if I had, what a mess I'd be? I would be the world's worst. But I've never drank, OK? But I can tell you, I watched that hearing and I watched a man saying he did have difficulty as a young man with drink. The one question I didn't ask is how about the last 20 years? Have you had difficulty in the last 20 years? Because nobody said anything bad about him in many, many years. They go back to high school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The President didn't stop there. At times, he was entirely disrespectful to specifically female reporters. He was trying to hold off Kavanaugh questions for as long as possible. Let's go straight to, I'm told, Senator Jeff Flake is speaking. Let's listen.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R), ARIZONA: And I'm that 11th Republican. I had leverage there. And I felt that my friend Chris Coons on the other side of the aisle had just made an impassioned plea to have a short, limited time duration FBI investigation. And I thought, there's no reason we shouldn't accept that. We don't do bipartisan things in the Senate very often anymore. But I felt it was important to do this. And so, I pulled Chris out of the hearing, we talked about it, we brought some others in. And we were able to make that arrangement. And right now, the FBI is investigating. And that's a good thing. We ought to have more information, not less. [applause]
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we shoot through one more photo? That's a tough day. And one more photo after that. This, of course, being one of the more -- most viral things -- yes! How much -- incredible, incredible moment. How much did those two women affect you?
FLAKE: Well, it was that experience, as well as a lot of others. I got calls and e-mails and texts from women who I never thought I'd hear from in this regard saying, here's what happened to me when I was young. Here's what happened to me 30 years ago. It just -- it's an experience that I've had. I know Chris Coons has shared that he's had that experience. And I can tell you, a lot of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have had the same experience. What Dr. Ford said really emboldened a lot of women to come forward. And that experience was -- I'm not sure any of my colleagues had one quite like that, but all of us have had experiences like this in the last week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you obviously found, you know, he saw your comments after you found dr. Ford credible. So how could you at least tentatively vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh knowing that you found Dr. Ford credible?
[14:05:00] FLAKE: Well, those who heard Dr. Ford, everybody, I think, on my side of the aisle and the other side of the aisle said that she offered compelling, credible testimony. And then Brett Kavanaugh came on and made an impassioned, very raw defense and rebuttal to what was going on. And so -- and that was, that was seen as very effective, as well. And I've said before, you know, it -- some people were turned off by the rawness of it, the anger, but I said at the time, had I been, what I felt was unjustly accuse responded, as well, so I don't know how and I had said the day before on the floor of the Senate, we may not have anymore certainty after the hearing. And that's how I felt. There's a lot of doubt still. That's why it was important to have the FBI do more investigating and have more information, not less.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, let's talk about the FBI investigation. "The New York Times" has reported that there might be limits in terms of how many people were interviewed. "The New Yorker" just published a story last night, cowritten by Ronan Farrow who's an honoree about how some people want to speak to the FBI can't figure out how to do it. Does that concern you?
FLAKE: We certainly want the FBI to do a real investigation and we are working to make sure that that happens. I've had discussions many yesterday with my colleagues, with the White House council's office, my staff is following up, as well. I had one of those conversations just five minutes ago, to make sure that the -- that any current, credible allegation that has been made is fully investigated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And will you consider to -- will you continue to say you'll vote "no" if the FBI investigation is not to your liking?
FLAKE: Well, we'll certainly, in the next couple of days, be having dialogue with the White House counsel's office, making sure that it is up to standard. And it does no good to have an investigation that just gives us more cover, for example. We actually need to find out what we can find out. And we have to realize that we may not be able to find out everything that happened. This is something that was a while ago. Some witnesses or potential witnesses may not want to cooperate. But for those that can and those that we can compel to cooperate, we've got to do a fulsome investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did, um -- obviously, Judge Kavanaugh was very, you know, quite angry during his testimony or impassioned, depending which side of the aisle you're on. Did you find it too partisan? Mentioning the Clintons, and there were some Democrats saying, could we even get a fair shake if he was a supreme court justice, with as someone who forges compromise, did that bother you?
FLAKE: I didn't like some of the more partisan references and the tone, particularly the interaction with some of my colleagues, with Amy Klobuchar, that he came back and apologized after a break. I don't like to see that. You feel that maybe you give him a little more leeway, I think I did, because of what he was being accused of. And as I said, if I felt that I was unjustly accused, I can't imagine that I would act differently than that. So, Yes, I'm not -- I don't want to politicize the court. The supreme court is one of the last bastions of trust of an institution with which Americans have trust. And the Senate, as an institution, is having issues, as well. And that's why Chris Coons and I felt that it was important to hit the brakes here and to make sure that we can give, one, our colleagues more confidence, that we've done all of the investigating. Two, the country needed to see this, as well. That we had taken this very seriously.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The move with Senator Coons, the compromise, which, again, led to the FBI investigation, why haven't you used that more? When the Senate is so split, and before the passing of John McCain, it literally was a one-vote swing, why haven't you used that leverage more?
[14:10:00] FLAKE: You know, it's tough. There's just no incentive right now, politically, to reach across the aisle. When you do, it ends up in your opponent's campaign ads. And the -- it's a shame. It really is. Because the institution of the Senate, which really the rules are set to foster compromise. The filibuster rule, requiring 60 votes, that means you've got to reach across the aisle, because it's very rare, it's only been once in a long, long time that one party has had 60 votes. So, you have to reach across the aisle. And we just haven't done it. I felt so strongly a few years ago about it that we needed to prove the Republicans and to reach across the aisle, because it's very rare, it's only been once in a long, long time that one party has had 60 votes. So, you have to reach across the aisle. And we just haven't done it. I felt so strongly a few years ago about it that we needed to prove the Republicans and Democrats can get along that I'm literally marooned myself on a deserted island in the middle of the pacific with Martin Heinrich, a Democrat Senator from New Mexico. And we, with no food, no water, just survived for a week. We managed to do so, we got back here, went around to talk about bipartisanship and how it's needed, why it's needed. This was in 2014. And Stephen Colbert ran a clip on his show of us trying to spear fish and starving, he said, Jeff Flake and Martin Heinrich proved once and for all, Republicans and Democrats can get along if death is the only option. So, for what it's worth, we've empirically shown that compromise and working together can work, there's just far too little of it in the Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, very publicly, you did not support President Trump, you did not vote for him. What does it feel like right now to be somebody, you know, the Republicans aren't happy with you, a lot of Democrats aren't happy with you. What does it feel like to be kind of a man without a country?
FLAKE: That's what it feels like. It does. No, I could never warm to the President. Long before he ran, he talked about President Obama not being a citizen. I thought that, itself, is disqualifying. You cannot do that. And then talked about John McCain in a derogatory way. And then talked about Mexicans in a derogatory way. And I just think that we've got to do better than that. We can't refer to of our opponents, political opponents on the other side of the aisle as losers and clowns. We have too big of issues to solve in this country than to just be partisan all the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don't think -- again, I don't think anybody would disagree with you. So, the question is, we're looking at an audience, people who are under 30. They have seen nothing but government dysfunction in most branches of government. Looking at them, what can you tell them about why they should have any faith right now in U.S. government?
FLAKE: Well, I think that young people have to engage when you look at some of the big things, issues we've got to solve, social security, health care, these are things that young people need to be concerned, because social security may be around for me, but it certainly won't be around for you if we don't solve it. So, it behooves all of you to be involved, all that you can. As a Republican, I look out and see we've got to broaden our appeal. In 2012, after Mitt Romney lost the Presidential election, we did what we called an autopsy of our party and its policy and determined that we had to appeal to a broader electorate and not just drill down on the base. And unfortunately,
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- got thrown in the garbage.
FLAKE: Yes, we've been driving down and drilling down on the base and that only takes you so far.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of never-Trump Republicans who are actually rooting for the Democrats to take control of Congress, they're trying to break the fever of the GOP. What's your take on that?
FLAKE: Well, I think that that is the case. There is a big concern among a lot of Republicans, traditional Republicans, who believe that limited government, economic freedom, free trade, strong America, American leadership, and they see the policies that come out of the White House and say, you know, where's our party? This isn't us. And they're looking, yearning for a more decent politics. For people to get along and to compromise where need. Stand for your principles, yes. But understand that compromise is not a dirty word.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what's the future for the Republican party? What's the path forward?
[14:15:00] FLAKE: I think the path forward is to return to that model. We saw a lot of it and we're reminded of it in the past couple of weeks, with John McCain's funeral. And to hear about how he and John Kerry, they just talked about it, worked on Vietnam, in my time, I've worked with Democrats to engage with Cuba, thinking that, hey, if we want to bring them closer to democracy, we ought to engage with them and show American values there, instead of shunning them. So, on a number of issues, but on the real big issues we need to solve, that cannot be solved just with one party, not even a party with 60 votes. You've got to have both parties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm reading your book, "Conscience of A Conservative," and it's quite --
BALDWIN: All right, the man of the hour here, this is Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona. Not running for re-election. Speaking at this "Forbes" 30 under 30 summit there in Boston and we just had to eavesdrop, because this is the reason why he's one of the members of the Senate judiciary committee who stood up, as we all watched on Friday, after that initial vote and raised his hand and essentially after speaking with his Democratic colleague and friend, Chris Coons, said, hey, we need to -- we need to satisfy folks on the other side of the aisle, and really a lot of people overall, and get this thing investigated. Thus, the FBI investigation now into Ford and Kavanaugh. So, I have with me, Dana Bash and David Chalian. And Dana, you know, I just think it's fascinating, Jeff Flake's role in all of this. And is this, just listening to him and his, you know, measured responses, is this a guy auditioning to run for President?
DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, boy, maybe. That certainly has been the thinking since he said that he was going to leave the Senate. We should add, leave the Senate because he saw the numbers and it was clear he was not going to win his own Republican primary, for the reasons he was just discussing there. That he hasn't been tribal, that he's never been a fan of President Trump, and he -- President Trump is very popular among Republicans in Jeff Flake's home state of Arizona. So, you know, we'll see. But in the short-term, he is probably one of the most powerful men in Washington, President or not. And understands that and the understanding of that power became crystal clear to him, as he was just describing, when, as the 11th member of the Judiciary Committee, he stood up, went to talk to Chris Coons, and made this plan to have this investigation going forward. About the investigation, the fact that Flake just said, Brooke, that he does want the investigation to kind of go -- for them to follow the leads that they get, is noteworthy.
However, I was also told a short while ago, that as part of the conversations that launched this investigation on Friday, Flake was one of those participants, of course, that Mitch McConnell told the White House that what those key Republican Senators wanted to be investigated were these credible claims, but specifically, to interview four people. To interview Mark Judge, Leland Keyser, P.J. Smyth, and Deborah Ramirez, another woman who says that she at Yale College -- university, sorry, says that she has another allegation against him. And that's it. So, the question is, how quickly are those conversations going to go? And whether or not those interviews are going to lead the FBI to wanting to follow up with other interviews and other people?
BALDWIN: Yes, no, I want to dig a little deeper. That's your reporting on the Republican side and we're also hearing from the Senate judiciary Democrats and all the people they want interviewed for this FBI probe. But staying on Jeff Flake, if I can, David, just for a moment. I thought it was noteworthy that Senator Flake said he wants a more thorough investigation, his phrase, we ought to have more information, not less. And he said, not an investigation to just, quote, give us cover. What did you think of that?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, and so, and that comports with Dana's reporting here of where the tension exists, right? That the -- and you heard the President in the rose garden, very clearly, on the scope of this investigation, wanting to sort of hand it off to the Senate. But now the President was sounding somewhat expansive in the rose garden. That he would like to see Brett Kavanaugh interviewed. That he thinks, you know, maybe all three women who have come forward should and could be interviewed, if the Senate deemed it credible and if the Senate deemed it necessary to get the information they need. So there's this little distance that's going on right now, where Jeff Flake launched this process, where the Senate Republican majority trying to constrict it and limit it to just what they think can get done in this week, to give those three critical Senators the information that they need to move forward, and yet, we have this other into Pennsylvania Avenue coming in, to not want to look like they are putting their hand on the FBI investigation too much.
[14:20:00] So, I don't think we're done fully understanding just where the scope of this investigation will be when we get to the end of it, Brooke. To answer your question about Jeff Flake's Presidential ambitions, I want to note, this was in Boston, this event. This evening he'll be in New Hampshire, the first of the nation primary state.
BALDWIN: David and Dana, stand by. We're going to get a quick commercial break in. I have more questions for the two of you. We're getting new information. Dana is reporting out great stuff, too, on the FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, what she's hearing from Republicans, we also have what we're getting from Democrats. And also, ahead, the President's surreal, surreal news conference earlier today about drinking, the accusers, and this mysterious threat against a Democratic Senator. Who the heck was he talking about? We're back in just a second. Who the heck was he talking about? We're back in just a second.
[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The FBI should do what they have to do to get to the answers. I'm guided by the Senate. I want to make the Senate happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should the FBI interview all three of Brett Kavanaugh's accusers?
TRUMP: Uh, it wouldn't bother me at all. Now, it depends, I don't know all three of the accusers --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All three.
TRUMP: Certainly, I imagine they're going to interview two. The third one, I don't know much about. But it wouldn't bother me at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should Brett Kavanaugh be interviewed by the FBI?
TRUMP: I think so. I think it's fine if they do. I don't know. That's up to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: And that was just a taste of that Q&A that we saw this morning between the President and the press. David Chalian, how would you describe what you saw today?
CHALIAN: Well, it sounded to me like the President wasn't directly on message with what Kavanaugh's supporters were necessarily hoping to hear from him. It sounded to me that the President opened up some more avenues of inquiry than sort of closed them down, Brooke. So, the notion that he talked about that Brett Kavanaugh should be interviewed for this. The notion that talking to more women that are on the list of -- that Dana was reporting on of which were going to be interviewed as a part of this, with again, the President seemed to be expanding the universe of this inquiry in his remarks, not constricting it.
BALDWIN: So, Dana, you, again, to go over your reporting, you have these three key Democrats in Mitch McConnell's office, going back to last week, right? Huddling in there, and they want these four witnesses who you outlined, they want these four witnesses interviewed. Juxtapose that with this list that was put out by the Dems on the Senate judiciary committee. 24 people they want interviewed. 4, 24. How do you reconcile that?
BASH: Well, it's hard to reconcile it, which is why this is incredibly hard to kind of figure out how -- what path to take. Because you do have the Democrats saying, no, you've got to do this as wide and with as much breadth as possible in order to make sure we have the answers. Then you have the Republicans -- I'm not talking about the three sort of undecided, but the Republicans who support Brett Kavanaugh, starting with the majority leader, Mitch McConnell -- clearly not wanting to do anything that could rock the both anymore than it's rocked. I can tell you that since I have gotten this reporting about this Senator telling me that the three undecideds said that the four witnesses should be interviewed, I've gotten some messages from sources close to one of those three Senators saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, what they meant was, that's where they should start.
And the FBI should follow the investigation wherever it leads. And all of this is really an exhibit "A" of the fact that when you start down this road, of talking to people and doing interviews, it is always murky. It is not ever clear cut, particularly when you have not one incident at hand here, but you have a few that could be deemed credible. And most importantly, you have three Senators who just aren't sure what to believe and how to go and what to make it clear to their constituents and to the country that they made a decision based on the most information that they could get. And that is the rub here. And that is what we're going to continue to see in a minute-by- minute way, with the back and forth over how wide this FBI probe should be and how much it was intended to be.
BALDWIN: Go ahead, David. Then I've got a question for you.
CHALIAN: That murkiness that Dana is talking about, I think, is why the President is less focused on the number of interviews or people that can be interviewed and more on the clock. He just kept saying, the thing that I want is that this gets done by the end of this week.
BALDWIN: Get it done.
CHALIAN: Get it done quickly. And that's why you're hearing that focus there, with because there's an understanding of how murky it can get.
BALDWIN: I wanted to ask you about the moment where through all of this -- and of course, he's defending his pick for the supreme court -- he starts talking about someone from the other side that he's seen in a compromising position. Hang tight. Quick break. I want your guesses on who the heck he was talking about. We'll be right back.