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White House Tells FBI It's Not Limited on Kavanaugh Probe; Senate GOP Leader on FBI's Kavanaugh Probe; Trump on Kavanaugh's Drinking "He's had a Little Bit of Difficulty". Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 1, 2018 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: A number of former Yale classmates of Judge Brett Kavanaugh's are speaking out, disputing his testimony that he never drank excessively. Judge Kavanaugh testified last week that he's never blacked out, never passed out from drinking, and now those former classmates are saying he's not telling the truth. Let's go to Lauren Fox, our CNN politics reporter. And tell me exactly what these classmates, former classmates are saying.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, that's right, Brooke. We heard last night from Chad Luddington, who was a former classmate, a basketball player, someone who says he frequently socialized with Brett Kavanaugh. He says in his statement that he believes that Judge Kavanaugh was dishonest before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week when he testified. He said that he believes that Judge Kavanaugh was not being honest about how much he drank in college and here's exactly what he said.

[15:35:00] He said, quote, 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 two years of college, I often drank with him.

Now, Brooke, his statement goes on to say that he was deeply troubled by Kavanaugh's comments to the judiciary committee, that it was a gross mischaracterization of what he remembers about Brett Kavanaugh from that time. And he's not the only classmate who's had concerns. We've also heard from Liz Swisher and Lynn Brooks who say they remember Kavanaugh being a heavy drinker.

Of course, we've also talked to other classmates who refute that, and say that they knew Kavanaugh well, they socialized him. They knew him to be a good friend. I talked to Chris Dudley last week, a good friend of Kavanaugh who stayed in touch with him and he tells me he doesn't remember Kavanaugh ever losing control or drinking excessively to the point where he wouldn't be able to remember something. He said he was just not that kind of guy. So, a lot of mixed messages that we've heard here today, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm. Lauren Fox, thank you for that.

Meantime, more on this surreal Presidential news conference from earlier today, where President Trump remarked on -- he even went there. He talked about Judge Kavanaugh's drinking habit. Even claimed he had compromising information. Let's listen to the Senate Majority Leader speaking now up on Capitol Hill, Mitch McConnell.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: On Friday, the judiciary committee reported this nomination favorably, then here on the floor, we officially moved to take up the nomination. Every Republican member of the committee agreed that Judge Kavanaugh should be reported out with a favorable recommendation and every Democrat voted in opposition. And in some cases, before he or anyone had even been nominated. And they didn't mince any words, Mr. President.

The way one Democratic member of the judiciary committee put it, supporters of Judge Kavanaugh are, quote -- listen to this -- complicit in the evil. That's a Democratic member of the judiciary committee. Another Democrat on the committee, before Judge Kavanaugh was even named, described in almost apocalyptic terms the consequences of whomever the President might nominate.

Here was the quote. We're looking at the destruction of the constitution of the United States, as far as I can tell. And here was the Democratic leader, just hours after Judge Kavanaugh was nominated, I will oppose him with everything I've got. Well, they've certainly done just that. They've done just that.

The ranking Democrat on the committee first heard from Dr. Ford on July the 30th. Did our colleague alert the chairman so the committee could do due diligence in a confidential way consistent with Dr. Ford's wishes? No, she did not. Did she discreetly raise the issue with Judge Kavanaugh during her private meeting with him on August the 20th? She didn't do that either. As best we can tell, the Democrats chose to keep this allegation secret, rather than investigating in a bipartisan and timely way. In fact, Mr. President, they held it in reserve.

But meanwhile, the senior senator from California or her office were already in communication with Dr. Ford. In fact, her office had already recommended, recommended Dr. Ford retain a particular Washington, D.C. law firm. Now, Mr. President, the firm in question is not exactly foreign to Democratic politics. Two, two of its founding partners, including one of the attorneys who personally appeared at the hearing to represent Dr. Ford, had until recently been scheduled to hold a fundraiser for one of our senate Democratic colleagues tonight. Tonight.

Oh, and by the way, the firm had also represented in another matter the person who has made the most salacious and disgusting accusations against Judge Kavanaugh as a high school student.

[15:40:00] This is the firm the judiciary committee Democrats recommended to Dr. Ford. Not long thereafter, of course, Dr. Ford's letter to the senior Democratic senator from California wound up in the hands of the press. The same letter in which she asked for confidentiality was leaked. By whom? As best I can tell, no one had possession of this letter except for Dr. Ford's Democratic congresswoman, the Democratic side of the judiciary committee, and presumably the politically connected lawyers they recommended to Dr. Ford.

And somehow, somehow it ended up in the press? Dr. Ford's plea for privacy was brushed aside, a predictable media circus was launched. Of course, the questionable and concerning handling of this matter didn't stop there. In her testimony, Dr. Ford seemed surprised that Chairman Grassley had offered her legal team a number of more discrete and less burdensome ways to share her story if she preferred.

The chairman had offered to fly investigators out to Florida, to California, or anywhere else for a private interview at a time and a place of Dr. Ford's choosing. Apparently, Mr. President, neither of our Democratic colleagues nor the lawyers they recommended felt it was necessary to make these options clear to Dr. Ford. She told the committee, quote, I wasn't clear on what the offer was. I would have been happy to speak with you out there, referring to California. It wasn't clear to me that was the case.

So, Mr. President, let's take stock of all of this. The ranking member withheld serious allegations from committee colleagues, precluding any chance that they would be handled with sensitivity and discretion. Meanwhile, her staff made recommendations that the accuser retain specific politically connected counsel. Then, her confidential account reached the media faster than it reached either the chairman of the committee or the FBI, which our colleagues have been insisting must now look into it.

And finally, we have reason to believe that Dr. Ford was not even apprised of the chairman's offers to collect her testimony in ways that might have been less likely to create a media circus and less burdensome on her. It's almost as if Dr. Ford didn't want a Washington, D.C.-based media circus, but others with whom she was in contact, on whom she was relying wanted exactly that.

So, we've learned that if you confide in Senate Democrats on highly sensitive personal matters, no requests for confidentiality will keep you from becoming a household name. And if you're a nominee whose judicial philosophy Senate Democrats deem to be objectionable, no centuries-old standard of presumed innocent will protect your name, your family, or your reputation from irreparable damage.

Now, fortunately, Chairman Grassley has taken action to clean up this mess. Last Thursday, he supervised a professional and respectful hearing. He retained an experienced sex crimes prosecutor to methodically collect the details of Dr. Ford's recollections. This is a professional who was recognized as outstanding Arizona sexual assault prosecutor of the year by former Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, a former cabinet secretary of President Obama, and herself a member of the Anita Hill legal team back in 1991.

[15:45:03] Here's what she wrote in her memo to members following the hearing.

A he said/she said case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that. Dr. Ford identified other witnesses to the event and those witnesses either refuted her allegation or fail to corroborate them. I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the committee, nor do I think this evidence is sufficient to satisfy the preponderance of evidence standard that is a lower standard.

So, will our Democratic colleagues listen to this expert opinion, although it conflicts with their political mission? Don't hold your breath. Nor am I optimistic they will stay consistent and accept the conclusions of the supplemental background investigation the FBI is now conducting on top of its six prior investigations of Judge Kavanaugh.

Democrats demanded a supplemental investigation. They proclaimed it would be a game changer. The Democratic leadership and the ranking Democrat on the committee both said recently that an FBI investigation can be completed in less than a week. But Mr. President, I bet almost anything that after it runs its course in the next few days, we will then be treated to a lecture, a lecture. That anything short of a totally unbounded fishing expedition of indefinite duration is too limited or too arbitrary or somehow insufficient. We all know that's coming.

If you listen carefully, Mr. President, you can practically hear the sounds of the Democrats moving the goal posts. Remember, back in the summer, Democrats said there weren't enough documents to get a good sense of Judge Kavanaugh's career. Then we heard there were too many documents. Then once Dr. Ford's private allegation was mysteriously made public, we couldn't possibly move forward until we heard from them both.

Then after neither the hearing nor the statements of supposed witnesses yielded any corroborating evidence, and in fact, produced evidence and in fact produced evidence that supported Judge Kavanaugh, we were told only an FBI investigation would resolve this and that it could be done promptly.

So, let me go out on a limb, Mr. President. Let me make a small prediction. Soon enough, the goal posts will be on the move once again. And I would respectfully say to my colleagues, do these actions suggest this has ever been about finding the truth? Anybody believe that? Do these actions suggest that this has ever been about giving Judge Kavanaugh a fair hearing?

This institution has seen before episodes somewhat like what we're now seeing from some of our colleagues across the aisle. Factor in the McCarthy era. Back in 1950, character assassination and uncorroborated allegations were being utilized in a very different debate in that era. That's when a distinguished senator from Maine named Margaret Chase Smith, an icon, from the great state of our colleagues, Senator Collins went to the senate floor to say enough was enough. She gave a speech that guaranteed she would be in the history of the senate.

She titled it "Declaration of Conscience." Here's what she said.

[15:50:00]I do not like the way the senate has been made to rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. Margaret Chase Smith went on. Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined. We should listen to these words. They speak as loudly today as they did 68 years ago.

In my judgment the pattern of behavior we've seen confirms what Democrats on public statements have told us. They're committed to delaying, obstructing and resisting this nomination with everything they've got. They just want to delay this matter past the election. That's not a supposition, Mr. President, that's their plan.

According to another Democratic member of the judiciary committee, the junior senator from Hawaii, that's their plan.

BALDWIN: Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, here. Surprise, surprise. An incredibly serious matter and taking a turn to politics. Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. Manu, what do you think?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is Senator McConnell making it very clear that he plans to push forward on a vote on Brett Kavanaugh this week. Criticizing Democratic tactics, criticizing going after Christine Blasey Ford's attorneys, calling them politically connected attorneys and trying to make the case this is all Democratic tactics to delay this nomination vote.

Now, one thing that's clear, though, there are at least three members of his Republican conference who are pushing for an investigation, which is why they moved forward with that investigation last week. McConnell himself in a private meeting was not happy with that. He told his Republican senators he did not know which way this would go. But ultimately, he had to agree to it.

Now, this comes, Brooke, at the same time as those same three Republican senators are calling for this investigation, including Jeff flake, the Arizona Republican who really prompted this, and made very clear earlier today that he did not want an investigation that would essentially be a cover. He wanted a real investigation.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Yes, 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 counsel'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.


RAJU: Of course, what exactly is a real investigation? That is the ultimate question here. Democrats are calling for at least two dozen or so witnesses to be interviewed. We don't have a sense of how many interviews the FBI will ultimately conduct, and can they get that done before this Friday deadline, which McConnell is demanding to ultimately get the confirmation vote. All huge questions looming as the senate gets back this week -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Manu, thank you very much, on Capitol Hill.

Coming up, did President Trump help or hurt his Supreme Court nominee, speaking about how much Judge Brett Kavanaugh did drink in his youth. Trump saying Kavanaugh has, quote, had a little bit of difficulty. Back in a moment.


[15:55:00] BALDWIN: If you were to ask a lot of people two weeks ago, Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to become the next justice seemed to be all but a sure thing, but allegations of sexual misconduct over 30 years ago has put a hold on this whole process. Last week we saw dramatic testimony from one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford and of course, we listened to Judge Kavanaugh himself.

And as we have seen so much in the past year, the me-too movement powered by the personal stories of abuse survivors is impacting women at the highest levels, and I explored that with me-too founder, Tarana Burke. Here's our conversation.


BALDWIN: Joining me now is the founder of the me-too movement, Tarana Burke, who sat behind Christine Blasey Ford during her testimony in Washington on Thursday. Tarana, nice to have you on. An honor.

TARANA BURKE, FOUNDER, #METOO MOVEMENT: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: So, as you've been sitting and thinking from Thursday to today, Tarana, what was your biggest take-away? Your one biggest take-away from sitting in that hearing room?

BURKE: We still have a long way to go. I left there feeling like we still have a long way to go before this country, particularly our leadership, understands the life cycle of -- a survivor of sexual violence. And before we take this issue seriously and give it the proper attention that it deserves.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to you on that point in just a second. But just to refresh everyone, let me go back to a couple of moments from the testimony, from the hearing, homing in on Judge Kavanaugh in particular. Roll it.


SEN, AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: You're saying there's never been a case where you drank so much that you didn't remember what happened the night before or part of what happened?

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: That's -- you're asking about, Yes, blackout. I don't know. Have you?

KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? I just -- so you -- that's not happened. Is that your answer?

KAVANAUGH: Yes, and I'm curious if you have.

KLOBUCHAR: I have no drinking problem, Judge.



BALDWIN: You know, Tarana, I keep thinking, had that been a woman, whether it was Dr. Ford or some other female sitting in the hot seat, the way he spoke to Senator Kavanaugh and others, how do you think she -- how do you think she would have been labeled instead?

BURKE: Oh, my god. If a woman had behaved the way that Judge Kavanaugh behaved in that room, we would have been excoriated. She would have been called hysterical, overly emotional, unfit to serve on the bench. I mean, I can't imagine Judge Kavanaugh allowing anybody to act in his own courtroom the way he acted in that senate hearing room. It was ridiculous. That moment that you just played was so deeply disrespectful, it -- in particular because the senator had just talked about her father being an alcoholic, still at 90 years old, going to AA. And then he turns around and asks, have you ever been blackout drunk? I mean, it was just really deeply disrespectful.

BALDWIN: Cue your point about we have a long way to go, right? So as a result of professor Ford's testimony, specifically, we learned that calls into the national sexual assault hotline, they were up more than 200 percent. You know, you've seen all those calls that went in to C- SPAN, as well. You know, I know that her testimony and talking to so many women, her testimony opened deep, painful wounds for women and men. But I'm wondering, Tarana, if there is a silver ling, and that is the fact we are talking about it out loud. What do you think is the next step in moving this conversation about sexual assault forward?

BURKE: I do think -- so we've been talking about it out loud for over a year. But I do think that the silver lining, if you will, is that we are now more focused on survivors. And what I call sort of the life cycle of a survivor. All the questions about how long it takes for people to come forward and why people wait, and, you know, the way your body or your mind responds to sexual violence and trauma, those are really important conversations that we should have been having all year. But I'm glad we're having now. Because I think it helps people to understand.

But it's also still deeply gendered, right? You don't see all of the accusations that we have seen over the years about men who have come forward after being sexually assaulted by priests. There's very little pushback to them saying, well, are they lying, and why did they wait so long? Maybe they're mistaken. Nobody says that to men. We get that very -- very little do we hear that said to men. But we hear it all of the time when women come forward. So still a very gendered conversation about how we treat and think about how we see women, how we believe women, how we hear women when they come forward. Their stories of our pain. BALDWIN: On the news at hand, on the Supreme Court here, right,

despite such a public outcry from half the country, right, the other half would be thrilled to have Judge Kavanaugh seated. There is a real chance that he becomes the next justice of the U.S. supreme court. What do you say to that?

BURKE: I say that, you know, we've been talking about this, obviously, for weeks. The possibility of losing. The possibility that Kavanaugh will be confirmed and we'll have him as a Supreme Court Justice, who was already problematic before Dr. Blasey Ford's --


BALDWIN: That was part of our conversation. We'll put the whole thing on Tarana Burke, thank you. "THE LEAD" starts now.