Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Did Kavanaugh Lie to Senate?; President Trump Awards Congressional Medal of Honor. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 1, 2018 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:03]

TRACEY SHORS, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: She knew from the time she was -- remembers being pushed to when she escaped.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: And speaking of Rachel Mitchell, you know, you have to wonder whether she would have been able to put out this report, make these conclusions, if she had been able to actually finish her job, which was to also question Brett Kavanaugh.

She obviously didn't get to do that because the Republican senators decided that they actually wanted their five minutes when it came time for questioning Kavanaugh. And when we approached Rachel Mitchell after that hearing today, she would not take any questions.

So it is just interesting and I think important to keep in mind for context that she did not actually spend the same amount of time questioning both Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh.

(CROSSTALK)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I have got to go.

Quickly, 15 seconds.

SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, with the thing with Rachel Mitchell, too, is she was skirting around the things that really mattered and she was focused on her fear of flying, her, you know, credibility things, who paid for the polygraph, you know, how did she find her lawyer, because I think the defense there, essentially, was that this is a big conspiracy by the Democrats.

And so...

BALDWIN: Yes. She didn't get to finish her job, and that's what so many people are wondering what the heck were going on when we were all sitting there watching that hearing.

Ladies, thank you so much. I appreciate that analysis.

Let's roll on to the top of the show.

Here we go. Moments from now, President Trump is set to hold a Medal of Honor

ceremony at the White House. So we will take that live as soon as we see him momentarily.

But first to the breaking news, President Trump lashing out on the heated Supreme Court confirmation battle and the FBI's latest background investigation of his nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

He says he's fine, the president says he's fine if the FBI interviews all three accusers and Kavanaugh himself and that the FBI should do what it needs to do.

One White House official just telling CNN the White House has made it clear to the FBI that agents are not limited in their expanded background search.

That pushes back a bit on reports that the White House was working to narrow the scope of the probe. President Trump also earlier today weighed in on Judge 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.

QUESTION: So, if he did lie about his drinking, does that mean that you will pull his nomination?

TRUMP: I don't think he did. I -- look, here's -- here's what -- I'm just saying, I'm not a drinker. I can honestly say I have never had a beer in my life, OK?

It's one of my only good traits. I don't drink. Wherever they're looking for something good, I say, I have never had a class of alcohol. I have never had alcohol. I have just -- for whatever reason. Can you imagine if I had, what a mess I would be? I would be the world's worst.

But I never drank. I never drank, OK? But I can tell you, I watched that hearing and I watched a man saying that 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's go straight to our White House reporter there, Kaitlan Collins. And, Kaitlan, let's start on this FBI investigation, what we heard

from the president then. We just got a scoop a moment ago. Where are they on this FBI investigation?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, you heard it best from President Trump there, saying that they should interview anyone they deem that is within reason to be interviewed.

And that comes after days of complaints over the weekend, mostly from Democratic senators, saying that the White House is trying to limit the scope of this investigation, because the White House and the Senate Republicans only gave the FBI four or so names to interview about these sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

But President Trump saying they can interview anyone they want, including Brett Kavanaugh, while casting some doubt on the third accuser, Julie Swetnick, and the allegations she has made about there being excessive drinking, gang rapes at parties, and anything of that nature.

But President Trump making clear he thinks they should interview whoever. But, of course, Brooke, there about the drinking, that is also another thing that has been -- there's been a lot of criticism and a lot of concern about whether or not Brett Kavanaugh told the truth under oath when he was testifying in front of Congress about his drinking habits.

President Trump said he was impressed by his candor during that testimony, saying essentially that he was very honest about that and that he said that he had difficulty with drinking. But that's not what we heard from Brett Kavanaugh when he was testifying last Thursday. Instead, he sought to downplay his drinking, characterizing it as normal, saying he's never blacked out from drinking.

And when he was repeatedly pressed on that by Senator Klobuchar, he turned the question around on her, asking if she had ever drank too much. Now, of course, that is of concern today in conjunction with these allegations, because a former classmate of Brett Kavanaugh's from Yale has come forward and said he wasn't truthful whenever he was testifying about how much he drank, that in fact he actually drank much more than he alluded to during that testimony.

[15:05:08]

And Senator Jeff Flake, of course, going to be a swing vote, a key vote here, who is one that pushed for this FBI investigation, said that if it is come to find out that Brett Kavanaugh was not truthful about his drinking habits while he was under oath, that that that would be grounds for pulling his nomination, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, there's something else I wanted to ask you about, which I really noticed, which was the way the president talked to you and talked to another reporter, a female.

Forgive me, we can't go there.

Let's go to the White House to this Medal of Honor ceremony.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... United States accompanied by Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II, United States Army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us pray.

God of all mercy, we ask for both your presence and your peace for all those gathered here this day. We give you thanks for this celebration, for this redemption, for this day to reflect on what you provide and what we need, for our -- for reminding us of the dignity of life, of service, of sacrifice, and of true heroism.

Inspire us, lord, to hold fiercely to your gifts of hope and grace and passion. May the acts, the heroic acts of Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer move us all to greater acts of goodness, of love, to serve our soldiers, our families, our nation, and our world, for it is before you that we humbly ask these things and gratefully say amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Please.

I thank you, Chaplain Hurley.

Thank you to Vice President Mike Pence for joining us for today's ceremony.

Today, it's my privilege to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to an Army Special Forces medic who now serves in the United States Secret Service.

Please join me in welcoming Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Ronald, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you. I wish I was that popular, I will tell you.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Today is a truly proud and special day for those of us here in the White House, because Ron works right here alongside of us on the Secret Service Counterassault Team. These are incredible people.

Several weeks ago, my staff asked Ron and his wife, Miranda -- thank you, Miranda -- to a meeting in the West Wing. They didn't know what it was about. They walked into the Oval Office, and I told Ron that he was going to receive our nation's highest military honor.

It was a moment I will never forget. Ron and Miranda joined today by their two beautiful sons, Cameron, who is 10, and Tyler, who is 7. Stand up. Look at these guys.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Cameron, Tyler, we stand in awe of your father's courage. We really do.

[15:10:05]

Today, he joins the world's most elite gathering of heroes.

Also with us are his parents, Ronald Sr. and his mom, Fabiola, both Air Force veterans.

America is grateful for your service. Thank you very much. Please, stand. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I want to thank, also, Secretary Nielsen for joining us.

Secretary, thank you very much, along with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper.

Mark, thank you very much.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva.

Thank you, Paul.

Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley.

Mark, thank you.

Commander of Special Operations, Command General Raymond Thomas.

Thank you, Raymond.

And Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

I also want to recognize Representative Gerald Connolly and Representative Dan Newhouse.

Thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.

We are privileged to have among us five former recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Bennie Adkins, Harvey Barnum, Gary Beikirch, Florent Groberg, and Brian Thacker.

And thank you all for being here. Thank you. Please, stand up.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you very much for being with us. These are very brave, great people.

Staff Sergeant Ron Shurer was born in Fairbanks, Alaska. He grew up in a military family, moving to four states before middle school. He graduated from Washington State University and applied to join the military, but was rejected due to a medical condition.

I can't believe they rejected him. Boy, that was a bad mistake.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: But they made up for it, right? They made up for it.

Soon after, America was attacked on September 11, 2001. Determined to serve, Ron replied to the military and was accepted into the United States Army. He became a medic and then he completed the grueling training to join the legendary ranks of the Green Berets.

That's a long way from not getting accepted the first time, right? That's fantastic. That's a great story.

It was during his Special Forces training that Ron met Miranda. Just before Ron's first deployment, they were married. Miranda was six months pregnant with their first son, Cameron, when Ron deployed to Afghanistan for the second time.

Just a month before he returned home, Ron was called on a special operations mission. The aim was to hunt down a deadly terrorist, a leader in that world. He was in a remote mountain village, very dangerous territory.

On April 6, 2008, Ron was among the few dozen Special Forces soldiers and 100 Afghan commandos who dropped off, by helicopter, into Shok Valley, a rocky, barren valley far away from reinforcements. There's nobody close.

Ron was the only medic for the team. While he was still near the base of the mountain, the first team began to scale the cliff toward the village.

As they approached the top, roughly 200 well-trained and well-armed terrorists ambushed the American and Afghan forces. Soon, Ron heard his comrade call his name. Ryan Wallen had been struck by shrapnel at the base of the mountain. He was very, very seriously hurt.

But Ron braved enemy fire to rush to his friend and to treat his wounds. Then he heard over the radio that American fighters near the top of the cliff were pinned down and some were critically injured. There was blood all over the place.

It was a tough, tough situation to be in. Immediately, Ron climbed the rocky mountain, all the while fighting back against the enemy and dodging gunfire left and right.

[15:15:07] Rockets were shot at him. Everything was shot at him. When he reached the top, one of his close friends, an Afghan interpreter, was already dead. Two Americans had been shot, Dillon Behr and Luis Morales. He treated them both to stabilize them and their condition.

Ron threw his body on top of Dillon to protect him from shrapnel. It was there on that cliff that Ron realized -- and I guess he felt pretty much like that was it, right, Ron? But Ron realized that this was probably the end. It might be all over.

And, as he recounts: "I just said a prayer and asked that my wife and son would be OK with what was going to happen. Then I just went back to work."

One of his teammates, John Walding, was trying to protect the injured when he was shot, almost severing his leg entirely. As Ron was still rendering life-saving aid to Dillon, he directed another soldier to help stem the bleeding. Then a bullet cut through Master Sergeant Scott Ford's arm and struck Ron's helmet.

Ron said it felt like he had been hit on the head with a baseball bat. But he got up and, in pretty bad shape, bandaged Scott's arm. Soon, Ron and his comrades used nylon webbing to lower the most critically injured down the sides of this really dangerous and very steep cliff.

When he reached the base of the mountain, Ron raced to each patient, giving them lifesaving care -- they were bleeding profusely -- and preparing them to be evacuated by helicopter. But Ron was not done yet. He charged back to the mountain, all the way up, and then rejoined the fight.

For more than six hours, Ron bravely faced down the enemy. Not a single American died in that brutal battle, thanks in great measure to Ron's heroic actions. Many of the warriors who fought in Shok Valley are here today.

When I read your name, will you please stand?

Staff Sergeant Dillon Behr.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Stand up. Stay up, please.

Specialist Mike Carter.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you.

TRUMP: Master Sergeant Scott Ford.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Sergeant 1st Class Seth Howard.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Staff Sergeant Luis Morales.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Sergeant Major Dan Plants.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Lieutenant Colonel Kyle Walton.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Sergeant 1st Class Matt Williams.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Sergeant First Class Karl Wurzbach.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And two wonderful Afghan translators, Baruz Mohamand (ph) and Zia Ghafouri (ph).

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you very much. We really appreciate it.

He did a good job. Did he do a good job? Better say yes now. Otherwise, it's too late.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: We can always change our mind. He did a good job.

Thank you all for your noble service and for being here to celebrate Ron's historic achievement. It truly is that.

As many of you know, a year-and-a-half ago, Ron was diagnosed with cancer. Tough cancer. Rough cancer. But he's braved, battled, worked. He's done everything he can. That cancer, he's been fighting it every single day with courage and with strength. And he's a warrior. He's a warrior.

[15:20:21]

And just like he faced every single battle of his entire life, he's facing a very tough battle right now with cancer.

But I will tell you, he's the best dad and role model two boys could ever ask for, right? Do you agree with that? You better say yes.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I already asked them that question. They needed no prodding. I said, is he a good father or a great father? They said, great father, right? That's good. The best father ever. Wow. That's great. Beautiful. Beautiful boys.

And, Ron, I just want to say, as an inspiration to everyone in this room and to every citizen all across our great land, Ron, our hearts are filled with gratitude and joy as we prepare to engrave your name alongside of America's greatest heroes.

It is my honor and privilege, along with Mike and all of these incredible warriors in front of me, to present you with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I would like to ask the military aid to come forward and read the citation, please.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States of America, authorized by act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.

Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Shurer II distinguished himself by acts of gallantry above and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on April 6t 2008, while serving as a senior medical sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, Special Operations Task Force 33, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Staff Sergeant Shurer was part of an assault element inserted by helicopter into a location in Afghanistan. As the assault element moved up a near-vertical mountain towards its objective, it was engaged by fierce enemy machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

The lead portion of the assault element, which included the ground commander, sustained several casualties and became pinned down on the mountainside. Staff Sergeant Shurer and the rest of the trailing portion of the assault element were likewise engaged by enemy machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

As the attack intensified, he braved enemy fire to move to an injured soldier and treat his wounds. Having stabilized the soldier, he then learned of the casualties among the lead element.

Staff Sergeant Shurer fought his way up the mountainside under intense enemy fire to the lead element's location. Upon reaching the lead element, he treated and stabilized two more soldiers.

Finishing those lifesaving efforts with, he noticed two additional severely wounded soldiers under intense enemy fire. The bullet that had wounded one of these soldiers had also impacted Staff Sergeant Shurer's helmet. With complete disregard for his own life, Staff Sergeant Shurer again moved through enemy fire to treat and stabilize one soldier's severely wounded arm. Shortly thereafter, he continued to brave withering enemy fire to get to the other soldier's location in order to treat his lower leg, which had been almost completely severed by a high- caliber sniper round.

After treating the soldier, Staff Sergeant Shurer began to evacuate the wounded, carrying and lowering them down the sheer mountainside. While moving down the mountain, he used his own body to shield the wounded from enemy fire and debris caused by danger close air strikes.

Reaching the base of the mountain, Staff Sergeant Shurer set up a casualty collection point and continued to treat the wounded. With the arrival of the evacuation medical helicopter, Staff Sergeant Shurer, again under enemy fire, helped load the wounded into the helicopter.

Having ensured the safety of the wound, he then regained control of his commando squad and rejoined the fight. He continued to lead his troops and in place security elements until it was time to remove the evacuation landing zone for the helicopter.

Staff Sergeant Shurer's actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, Special Operations Command Central, and the United States Army.

(APPLAUSE)

[15:26:10]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until the president has departed the East Room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord, God, we're encouraged by this -- by the selfless acts of Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer.

Send us out to work at -- to the work at hand for each of us, with your grace, for the leadership, character, and sacrifice that will honor you and honor the needs of all of those before us.

Bless us, keep us. Make your face shine on us and be gracious to us. May we all find both peace and contentment in the knowledge of your love and in the promise of your presence.

In your most holy name, we pray. Amen.

BALDWIN: So, as we stay on these pictures, I want to bring in Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent.

And, Barbara, we have watched so many of these ceremonies. And I never stop short of being so in awe and humbled by the stories and the service of these recipients.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right, Brooke.

But just think of what this staff sergeant now serving with the Secret Service is also going through. The president revealing that Ronald Shurer is battling cancer, married with two young children, having survived this five-and-a-half-hour firefight in Afghanistan as a Green Beret, coming home, joining the Secret Service, and now battling cancer.

What we heard about his service in Afghanistan just simply takes your breath away, because, of course, for so many troops who served over the years, so many doing similar things, but this one truly extraordinary, a five-and-a-half-hour firefight across sheer mountain cliffs in Afghanistan, running into the battle, firing back and forth, running back and forth, killing insurgents, trying to save his buddies, lowering the most severely wounded by nylon ropes, webbing, down a sheer cliff in Afghanistan, even as he, himself, is wounded, an extraordinary moment here.

And perhaps more than worth remembering, as so many are focused on partisan politics, the real battles, the troops out on the front lines, battling to stay alive and bring their buddies home -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes. Thank you for that perspective.

Barbara Starr, appreciate it.

More now on our breaking news.

After concerns the White House was interfering in the FBI's investigation into Judge Brett Kavanaugh, we're now being told the FBI has gotten permission to speak with as many witnesses as they need in this investigation.

Also, some critics saying Judge Kavanaugh committed perjury when he testified on Thursday, talking about his drinking habits, his recollection, his yearbook references. Hear what his former classmates are saying about that.

And the Republican senator who sparked all of this getting candid about what he was thinking and why he never warmed to President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)