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AT THIS HOUR

McConnell Says Senate Will Vote on Kavanaugh This Week as President Give FBI Free Reign; Kavanaugh Questioned by Police After 1985 Bar Fight; 3 Key Republicans Will Likely Decide Fate of Kavanaugh; WSJ: Trump Tried to Keep Stormy Daniels Quiet; Nadler: If Kavanaugh Confirmed & Democrats Win House, More Investigations into Kavanaugh. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 2, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Bernie Sanders, who has been a critic, cheering this. We'll see if other companies follow suit.

Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with our colleague, Kate Bolduan, starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

The FBI investigation into Brett Kavanaugh, free reign, the president says. More names, Democrats demand. Which means more leads and very little time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proclaiming again this morning that no matter what, the Senate will vote on the Supreme Court nomination this week. So investigators now have less than four days remaining. And it is still a huge question. Let's be honest, in partisan Washington, who is going to believe the eventual outcome of the investigation when it comes?

The president now saying that the FBI, though, can investigate whoever they want.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONLD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The FBI is doing pretty much as the Senate wants. And we want to know everything. We like the idea of the FBI looking for the seventh time. This is number seven, by the way, the seventh time they will have looked. We think that he's going to be in great shape. And hopefully, in the very near future, they'll take a final vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Investigators have already talked to the Yale classmate who claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her. They have talked to three high school classmates about Christine Blasey Ford's allegations. And now there's word of a bar fight back in 1985. CNN's Abby Phillip has the latest from the White House.

Abby, we heard from the president there. In the rally that he was at last night, he seems still confident in his nominee. What are you hearing from the White House today?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. Well, the White House is waiting for this FBI investigation to wrap up. But they're also playing defense, as we're hearing more and more from the classmates of Brett Kavanaugh, both from high school and college, about what they say that he did at the time. What is not clear is whether or not the FBI is taking all of that into consideration.

What we know right now is that the FBI has interviewed four key people who were part of the allegations they're looking into. Three are related to Ford. One is P.J. Smyth, who is a friend of Kavanaugh's, Mark Judge, also a friend of Kavanaugh's. His interview apparently lasted over the course of two days and wrapped up just this morning. And then there's Leland Keyser, a close friend of Christine Blasey Ford. A fourth person, Deborah, Ramirez, had made an allegation about Kavanaugh's behavior while he was in college, and she's also been interviewed by the FBI.

All of these other individuals who have come forward to say either that Kavanaugh drank too much or did not drink too much during college, some of them have said they wanted to reach out to the FBI to provide this information. What we don't know is whether the FBI is taking that and incorporating it into the background check investigation.

I think it's clear, though, that Republicans and the White House believe that the focus on the drinking has become a red herring for Democrats. So it's unclear if they would want that to actually happen -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Now, Abby, what more do we know or what more are you learning about this bar fight when Kavanaugh was in college?

PHILLIP: This has become an interesting issue, raised by one of Kavanaugh's college classmates, who said he often drank with Kavanaugh and believed he was mischaracterizing his drinking habits. The bar fight happened apparently after a concert, a UB-40 concert, in which Kavanaugh and a friend were at a bar, and someone mistook a person at the bar for the lead singer of this group. Then a fight happened. What we learned this morning is one person, Kavanaugh's friend, was actually arrested during that altercation.

Now, all of this is being told by one of Kavanaugh's classmates, Chad Ludington. And here's what he had to say to reporters yesterday outside of his home in North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAD LUDINGTON, FORMER YALE CLASSMATE OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: I don't think that getting drunk in your college years should matter, no. I wouldn't be sitting here with a coat and tie on probably if that was going to restrict what happens to us the rest of our lives. But I do believe that it's fundamentally wrong, indeed illegal, to lie in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: And that was actually last night on Chris Cuomo on our air. But as you can hear there, Ludington has raised some of these issues and brought it to the forefront.

But now, what this has become is a question of whether or not Kavanaugh was really truthful about how much drinking played a role in his college time and his high school time. The White House is calling the focus on some of these incidents ridiculous -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Abby, great to see you. Thank you so much.

Over on Capitol Hill, no matter what the outcome is from the FBI investigation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said they're moving forward. He said the Senate will vote on Kavanaugh this week regardless.

But the Republican Senator who essentially forced this new FBI investigation to take place, he doesn't seem so sure. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake told CNN, "It depends on where we are with the FBI investigation. The agreement was we wouldn't have a cloture vote to get to the final vote until the report was filed."

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with much more on this.

Mau, there are 100 Senators to track, of course, but I guess it really does come down to three Republicans on what's -- and what really is going to happen. Are you hearing that a vote Friday is still likely?

[11:05:21] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is the plan of the moment, to try to push forward to the vote at the end of the week. But you're absolutely right, Kate, that McConnell needs to begin taking the procedural steps as early as tomorrow to set up the Friday vote. And how will those three key Republican Senators react if that FBI report is not done and if it is done, how will they react to what is found in that investigation and will they be satisfied with the extent of the investigation?

Now, we caught up with one key Senator, one of those three, Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, who said she had gotten assurances from the White House that there would be an exhaustive investigation, at least a typical background investigation. She also would not say, when I asked her, whether or not they should look into the allegations that he may have misled the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of his antics in college.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, (R), ALASKA: I don't know what it is that will come back. I have had a conversation with Mr. McGahn about the extent of what the FBI is doing. And what I have been assured is that they are conducting this background investigation as they do all background investigations, allowing for the investigation to take its course.

RAJU: Should they look into whether he lied or not, lied about his antics in college. Should the FBI look into that?

MURKOWSKI: I think the FBI is doing what we have tasked the FBI to do. That's all I can ask for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, the Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley tried to make the case that the Republican Senators are not doing anything to interfere with that investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I don't think I should question what the FBI is doing because it would raise a question of political interference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, undoubtedly, you can hear there's so much riding on this FBI report. How do those key Senators judge it? Will that be enough to turn their vote one way or another? It will be up to those three Senators in particular to determine how quickly the Republican Senators move forward.

But clearly, the majority leader has Friday at the end of the week on his calendar right now, trying to push forward the end of the week vote. How will that FBI report affect that -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Keeps it on the calendar until he has to change it. We'll see what happens.

Great to see you, Manu. Really appreciate it.

Joining me to discuss, Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent and a CNN legal and national security analyst, Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, a White House reporter for the "New York Times, and a CNN political analyst.

Great to see you guys.

Asha, quickly, on what we heard from Chuck Grassley and what we heard from Lisa Murkowski and how careful they were in talking about the FBI investigation, I'm starting to wonder, what do you think the public is going to end up seeing? If the Senate says they want to release the report, what is the public going to see?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What the public will see, if they release this supplemental investigation, is basically a series of documents which are known in the FBI as 302s. And 302s are testimonial documents which record interviews with people. They don't include any editorializing by the FBI agent taking the interview. They don't include any conclusions. They simply record what the person says, you know, and it should be a very close transcription to the actual conversation. I should note here, Kate, that this is typical in criminal investigations to take a 302 for every interview. My contacts tell me in background checks, normally, only a 302 is only done when there's something called derogatory information, when there's something negative or of concern that comes up. But whether that's the procedure here or whether the FBI has been instructed to document every interview, we don't know. So they'll see some series of interviews, either only derogatory information or all of them.

BOLDUAN: Asha, let me ask you this. This new reporting that's coming out about an altercation or a bar fight in 1985. Brett Kavanaugh threw ice on someone, the victim ended up in a fight. One of Kavanaugh's friends arrested. What does that matter now?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I'll just, I mean -- I'll grab it, Kate, just only because I think it does matter and it speaks to the temperament issue. Look, Brett Kavanaugh made a very clear point. He said he had never, if and when he drank, never to excess, he never forgot anything, things -- that people said he was belligerent. That that was no accurate. He had never woken up in a different place than where he went to sleep. He never woke up with different clothes. All of this speaks to his argument that, yes, he drank and he liked beer. But that it didn't adversely affect him in any meaning way that would present -- that makes him anything different of a character than seen before, then at age 53. All of these back and forths over what he did or did not do in high school and college speak to that character questions. I'll remind people, this is not a legal proceeding. This is effectively a job interview. This is about what Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins think. This is not about whether or not he is guilty or innocent, or not guilty, I suppose. That's why this stuff matters. We're not talking about a court of law. We're talking about how these three Senators feel these anecdotes, the testimony that we hope we hear from the FBI, what do they speak to as it relates to the character of someone who is apply for a lifetime appointment to a hugely important role on the nation's highest court.

[11:11:22] BOLDUAN: The reason I raised it that way, Chris, is because, if you listen to Mitch McConnell this morning, he was making fun of it. He was mocking the report, saying --

RANGAPPA: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Asha.

RANGAPPA: Yes, I think Chris is right. I think there's a character issues with regard to his veracity and credibility. But I think it's important to remember that this is relevant to the actual allegation that is being investigated. Dr. Ford's testimony is that Judge Kavanaugh was inebriated, and aggressive when he was inebriated. And if you're an FBI agent, you know that people behave in patterns. If somebody is not ever -- there's no record of them doing something, it's unlikely that they're going to spontaneously do it. So while it doesn't prove the allegation, it is corroborative of typical type of behavior at that time in time in his life. I just don't want to lose sight of that fact, that that's what they're doing here, is trying to corroborate that particular allegation.

BOLDUAN: Julie, let me bring you in. Something else that the Senate majority leader, and you're hearing other Republican leaders do it as well, feels -- what they're saying very clearly this morning is that Democrats are moving the goalposts in terms of what will be enough, if you will. Saying first, Democrats wanted to delay until after the midterms to have a vote on Kavanaugh. Then, delay over missing documents when that happened during the first round of hearings. Then a delay they wanted because of Christine Blasey Ford's allegation when it came up. Now they say now the Democrats are just focusing on his drinking and high school and college.

Does McConnell have a point on Democrats moving the goalposts?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Certainly, they have, you know, gone to successive sort of points to say, you know, we don't have enough, we don't have enough information. But I think the key point is what Chris said, which is that, you know, the audience here, it's not for Democrats. Most Democrats have already said, almost all of them have already said that they oppose Brett Kavanaugh, with the exception of a few red-state Democrats who were still watching to see what they'll do. The important audience here is Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins, and what they're deg to think is relevant here.

And it is true in terms of moving the goalposts, they made it very clear that they wanted to see this FBI investigation into credible allegations raised by Dr. Ford. And we know that they were also going to look into the allegations raised by Debbie Ramirez. The point that Asha made is right, that the stories thereat have come out in the interim do speak to a pattern of behavior, potentially. But because the FBI is not going to offer an investigative report like say Bob Mueller might at the end of the Russia investigation, because they are at best probably going to offer up transcripts of interviews and bits and pieces of what they found in this supplemental investigation, it's not -- they won't have a comprehensive picture of how Brett Kavanaugh may have acted toward women and other people when he was drunk 35 or 36 years ago. They will have to act on, you know, the pieces and bits that they have. And they have made it clear that they are looking for a reason to allay their concerns and vote yes. So I think the bar is still pretty high for them. And it will be interesting to see with all of this additional information coming out whether they can sort of look away from that, given that it was not originally the scope of what they had hoped to see resolved by the supplemental investigation.

BOLDUAN: We'll see. And we'll listen to see if McConnell says tomorrow it's still on for this week or Friday for a vote. Because it is really, the power is in the hands of those three Republican Senators, as you point out.

Great to see you guys. Thanks very much.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Kate.

[11:15:00] BOLDUAN: Coming up next, a new report on what the president knew about efforts to silence Stormy Daniels and the direct role played by both the president and one of his kids.

Plus, the devastating tsunami in Indonesia as the death toll climbs. Why rescue teams fear the worst could be yet to come. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Who knew what and when is still in dispute when it comes to Stormy Daniels and efforts by Team Trump to keep her quiet. There's news today. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that President Trump was directly involved in that effort. And so was his son, Eric.

CNN's Erica Orden is in Washington, joining me now with more details on this.

Erica, this direct connection hasn't been reported before. What does it mean?

[11:20:06] ERICA ORDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, so the reporting this morning shows a couple things. First, it demonstrates a concerted effort by the president and by members of the Trump Organization to silence Stormy Daniels at a time when she was attempting to publicly tell the story of her alleged sexual encounter with the president. It also shows that the president was directing this effort, his effort, through his former company, the Trump Organization. And it additionally casts some doubt or raises questions about some of the public statements that both the president and other representatives of the White House made during this period about Trump's involvement and about the involvement of others in this effort and his relationship with Stormy Daniels.

BOLDUAN: Erica, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

ORDEN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Joining me now to discuss that and much more, a Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, of New York.

Thanks for coming in.

HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D), NEW YORK: Kate, thanks for having me on.

BOLDUAN: What's your reaction to the reporting from the "Wall Street Journal" this morning, that President Trump has more direct involvement in trying to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, trying to keep Stormy Daniels from doing interviews with the media, even in February?

JEFFRIES: Well, it's not a surprise because this president has not hesitated in misrepresenting facts to the American people consistently. His team has regularly done that, alternate facts, of course, and other ways of communicating that Giuliani has communicated, which belie the truth. This is par for the course as it relates to what we have seen from the Trump administration. Again, it's the reason why we need to ensure that Bob Mueller conducts a full, fair, and comprehensive investigation, gets to the bottom of this whole sordid affair connected to the 2016 election, so that we can determine whether the cloud of illegitimacy that is hanging over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue can be wiped away or whether there should be consequences.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you also about Brett Kavanaugh. The top Democrat on your committee, Jerry Nadler, over the weekend -- let me play you what he said. He said this, and this is if Democrats regain control of the House. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JERRY NADLER, (D), NEW YORK: We would have to investigate any credible allegations certainly of perjury and other things that haven't been properly looked into before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: If Kavanaugh is confirmed, do you still want to investigate him?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think we're going to have to proceed on two tracks, and our primary focus is how Democrats will be fighting for the people, lowering health care costs, increasing pay, cleaning up corruption in Washington, D.C. That's what we promised the American people we would do should we be successful in achieving the majority in the House of Representatives. We have to keep our word to the American people. We also have a constitutional obligation as a separate and coequal branch of government to be a check on an out-of- control executive, which could include the possibility of appointing someone who is unfit to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. And so that will have to be examined and explored. But I have great confidence in Jerry Nadler and his leadership to do the right thing, consistent with our constitutional obligations.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, there's a process, I mean, to impeaching a Supreme Court justice. Do you really think there are grounds for impeachment that you see already?

JEFFRIES: No, and I'm not sure anyone has mentioned that there are grounds for impeachment. I think we have to deal with what's before us right now, which is the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. I think he should be rejected, and hopefully, a handful of Senators on the Republican side of the aisle will see fit to do so. I mean, this whole sordid affair indicates --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Right, but Nadler says if he's confirmed, that would mean that, you know, Republicans would vote him in or Democrats would come over, if some Republicans didn't, and vote him in, he would be confirmed, and Nadler is saying over the weekend that he thinks there should be an investigation. Even after that.

JEFFRIES: Right. I think an investigation is different than the initiation of articles of impeachment. Certainly, consistent with our oversight responsibilities on the Judiciary Committee, which is charged with overseeing the judicial branch of government, of which the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. That if there were credible allegations that a nominee, subsequently confirmed, perjured himself, misrepresented facts to the United States Senate and the American people, that seems worthy of some sort of oversight. What the consequences of that would be is hypothetical, and I don't think that anyone is prepared to go down that particular road.

BOLDUAN: OK. OK.

Mitch McConnell says -- said yesterday and said again this morning that Democrats are moving the goalposts when it comes to Brett Kavanaugh. First, it was delays over documents. Now delays over Christine Blasey Ford's allegation. And now it includes didn't tell the truth about his drinking in high school and college. Make the case that is not moving the goalposts.

[11:25:11] JEFFRIES: I think Mitch McConnell has no credibility on this particular issue. Barack Obama was elected once, and then re- elected. And then had a Supreme Court nomination stolen from him because of Mitch McConnell and his co-conspirators, and now he wants to lecture us about process.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You might think he has credibility, but, I mean, we say it all the time, do two wrongs make a right?

JEFFRIES: I'm not saying two wrongs make a right, but let's independently evaluate the dynamics. This is a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, which will determine the rights and responsibilities of the American people for decades to come. It seems to me that we should not be operating on some artificial political timetable imposed on the American people by Mitch McConnell, of all individuals, who has no credibility to lecture us about timelines, given the fact that he stole a Supreme Court justice already in 2016. Let's just allow a comprehensive investigation to take place, and then that information to be reported to the Senators, who have the advice and consent responsibility as well as the American people.

BOLDUAN: Will you take the FBI report as the final word?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think the FBI report should be thrown into the mix of information that has come out through this confirmation process. And of course, it's the Senators' responsibility to make the ultimate determination as to whether to confirm or not. But it should be a thorough report. It should be made available to the American people. Because at the end of the day, this is a democracy, not a dictatorship, and we should be transparent with the information that is being used by individuals to decide a lifetime appointment.

BOLDUAN: I guess I'll take that as a maybe.

Congressman, thank you so much for coming in. I appreciate your time.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Kate. BOLDUAN: Coming up next for us, Amazon workers are getting a raise. The company says it's responding to critics and announcing a big bump for more than 350,000 workers. Why now? One of Amazon's top executives joins me, next.

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