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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump's Red Line on Kavanaugh?; Kavanaugh Investigation; FBI Completes Interview with Kavanaugh Friend Mark Judge; NYT: Trump Made Millions By Helping His Family Dodge Taxes. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired October 2, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says, when it comes to sexual assault, it's young men who should be afraid, afraid of false accusations.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Breaking today, President Trump opening up about his Supreme Court nominee, defending him, but also drawing a line if Kavanaugh was not honest before the Senate.
And a bar fight, alleged drunk bros and the band UB40? The latest twist in the Kavanaugh story and what Democrats allege it might say about his character, while Republicans say this is all just desperation.
Plus, the first lady, Melania Trump, landing in Africa, as a new Stormy Daniels bombshell goes off. Did Donald Trump personally order his son to try to keep her quiet?
Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper.
We begin with the politics lead and President Trump laying down a red line, saying it would not be acceptable if his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh lied in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, not just about whether Kavanaugh ever committed sexual assault, which the judge has vociferously denied, Kavanaugh's characterization of his drinking habits as a young man, his denial that he was aggressive or ever passed out or ever had any memory loss.
All of that is under increased scrutiny, particularly in the wake of a police report revealing that Kavanaugh was questioned by police after allegedly starting a bar fight while a student at Yale in the 1980s. Some Republican senators have said that if Kavanaugh was not honest in front of Congress, they will have trouble voting for him.
Today, President Trump seemed to agree with that assessment, while also voicing strong support for his pick and saying that he did not find anything wrong with Kavanaugh's college drinking habits, calling it totally normal.
President Trump also, as is his wont, finding sympathy for those accused of sexual crimes, saying that the reaction to allegations of sexual misconduct make it -- quote -- "a very scary time" for young men in America.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.
And, Kaitlan, what are we to read into the president so strongly suggesting that if Kavanaugh lied, he's out? This comes a day after the president went much farther than Kavanaugh and described him as having had difficulty with drinking.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it seems to be a guarded optimism on the president's part. And that is a far cry from what we saw when the president first nominated Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee, when he bragged that he was essentially the ideal candidate for this position, Ivy League-educated, a family man.
Now, Jake, seems to be just hoping that his nomination can hang on.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump voicing confidence in his Supreme Court nominee today, but not without a word of caution.
As he left the White House for Philadelphia, the president telling reporters he's optimistic the Senate can vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh in the coming days.
DONALD TRUMP SR., PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hopefully, as Mitch said, they will have a vote by the end of the week, and it will be a positive vote.
COLLINS: But Trump making clear Kavanaugh's fate remains uncertain, as the FBI investigates the sexual assault allegations made against him.
DONALD TRUMP SR.: A lot is going to depend on what comes back from the FBI, in terms of their additional, number seven investigation.
COLLINS: Trump implying even he could be swayed by the outcome.
DONALD TRUMP SR.: We're going have to see what the FBI says. They will come back with a report.
COLLINS: Amid questions about whether Brett Kavanaugh was truthful when he downplayed drinking in high school and college, the president drawing a line at lying to lawmakers.
DONALD TRUMP SR.: I don't think you should lie to Congress. To me, that would not be acceptable.
COLLINS: Trump, who sources say has privately voiced suspicion about the MeToo movement, claimed today it's a scary time for young men in America.
DONALD TRUMP SR.: It's a very scary situation where you're guilty until proven innocent. COLLINS: Adding, he believes the outcome of all of this will be
bigger than Judge Kavanaugh.
DONALD TRUMP SR.: What's happening here has much more to do than even the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. It really does.
COLLINS: Those statements echoing what Donald Trump Jr. said about the allegations against Kavanaugh in a recent interview.
QUESTION: Who are you scared most for, your sons or your daughters?
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: I mean, right now, I would say my sons.
COLLINS: Asked what message he had for young women, Trump today only offering this:
DONALD TRUMP SR.: Women are doing great.
COLLINS: Now, Jake, we know the White House counsel, Don McGahn, is being kept updated by the FBI as they continue their investigation into the background of Brett Kavanaugh.
But what we are seeing from President Trump is, he's continuing to grow more and more frustrated as this entire process is delayed -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
Let's talk about it with experts.
Josh Holmes, President Trump laying down a line, saying if he lied, that's not acceptable. Does that concern you at all?
JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That's not President Trump's line. That's the law. Right? You don't lie anywhere when you're talking about to the federal Judiciary Committee in the Senate, the House, the FBI.
TAPPER: But Mitch McConnell has been out there saying, oh, that's moving the goalposts.
First you guys were all looking at the sexual assault. Now you're at whether or not he committed perjury by not being honest about drinking. That's McConnell's line, not mine.
HOLMES: It's two extremely different things.
What we're talking about here is whether you have made a factual misrepresentation about an allegation that has come upon you. And I think on that, Judge Kavanaugh is in the clear. Where we have gotten wrapped around the axle a little over the last
week is this constant conversation about whether or not he's been at frat parties, whether or not...
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: The debate is not whether he threw beer. The debate is not whether he threw ice. It is not whether he was at a frat party.
The debate is, did he lie to Congress when he denied all of that kind of activity? That's why I think what President Trump is...
HOLMES: I missed that.
TANDEN: No, he said he never blacked out, he never got really drunk.
TAPPER: He said sometimes he had too many beers. But he did also say, Scott, that he never got aggressive.
TANDEN: Yes, he never got aggressive as -- drunk. He never got aggressive. And now we have evidence that he got aggressive.
And I think the issue here is really, will the FBI, when the FBI looks at these sets of facts, do they look at the credibility of Brett Kavanaugh and does the Senate look at credibility and the fact he misled the Senate in a number of statements?
I think it's important that it's perturbing key members of the Senate like Senator Flake, as well as Donald Trump.
TAPPER: You don't agree?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No.
Look, he clearly said -- how many times have we seen it played over and over again? I like beer, I like beer. Yes, I had too many beers. Sometimes, other people had too many beers. He clearly admitted that he was inebriated at times in college.
JENNINGS: Do you know he was violent? I don't.
TAPPER: The question was, did you ever aggressive? And he said no.
JENNINGS: No. And that's his opinion and he swore it under oath.
And so what you're saying is that, because I don't like his politics, he must be a liar. TANDEN: No, I'm not saying that.
TAPPER: Let's get actually -- we have it on -- guys, it's question four. We have the video of the specific question when Senator Chris Coons asked about this, because there had been a roommate of his from Yale saying that sometimes he got belligerent.
Here's the question and here's exactly what Brett Kavanaugh said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: So let me, if I can, return to a line of questioning my colleague was on before, which was about whether you've ever gotten aggressive while drinking or forgotten an evening after drinking.
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: Those are two different questions. I've already answered the second one. As to the first, I think the answer to that is basically no.
COONS: The quote that jumped out at me was, Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him. There's also, in a separate setting...
KAVANAUGH: I don't think that -- I don't -- I do not think that's a fair characterization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't believe Brett Kavanaugh, Jake. Shocker.
SANDERS: Look, if Brett Kavanaugh had told other lies under oath -- and I'm going to call them lies -- for example, I got into Yale on my own.
His grandfather went to Yale. Why are you lying about that? So, if Brett Kavanaugh's going to lie about that, if he's going to lie about what a devil's triangle, if he's not going to be forthcoming and truthful how much he did drink, why is it hard for us to believe he's not telling the truth here?
I think what I saw in the exchange is someone who is a judge, who is a skilled attorney, who was walking around the words to try to constrain himself to this little thing right here. Brett Kavanaugh's not believable in this scenario.
And so I know it might feel unfortunate. But the thing that is going to sink Brett Kavanaugh is the fact that he lied about how he liked to get down in college. But I would like to remind everybody that Bill Clinton got impeach for lying about a blow job. So, please.
TAPPER: Thank you for that.
TAPPER: Speaking to Bill Clinton...
SANDERS: It's true.
TAPPER: No, I know. I just -- I think it's the first time that word's been on this show.
TAPPER: Speaking of the 1998, 1999 and Bill Clinton, I want you to take a listen to some video that our friends at C-SPAN put up, Lindsey Graham back when he was in the House. He was an impeachment manager talking about lying and the importance of people not lying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: When you found that a judge was a perjurer, you couldn't in good conscience send him back in a courtroom, because everybody that came in that courtroom thereafter would have a real serious doubt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: We all agree that a judge perjuring himself is a disqualification? You just say, he didn't.
HOLMES: I think this is a perfect illustration of the circus this has all become.
We started out with a very serious allegation of sexual assault. We had Dr. Ford in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for three hours documenting in detail what her claims were.
All the senators now are available to review an FBI report over the course of the week and I hope they take all of that very seriously. All of us now are gathered talking about whether or not Brett Kavanaugh had a good time in college or whether or not he's characterized his drinking one way or the other.
TANDEN: That's not what is at issue.
TAPPER: Let him finish, and then we will go to you.
HOLMES: Let me just sum this up.
The reason we're doing that is because nobody has any corroborating evidence for the initial claim, not a single bit of it.
TANDEN: Nope. Here's the issue.
HOLMES: So, now we're in an entirely different situation.
TANDEN: This is the issue, right?
The issue is, if it's true that he did get so drunk that he forgot, when he testified to the Senate whether this happened, he could not give an answer of, no, he absolutely knows it did not happen with Dr. Ford.
This is why these issues are connected. I know that people -- I know it's Mitch McConnell's strategy to say now we're just talking about beers and drinking. But we're not. We're talking about credibility whether or not, when Brett Kavanaugh said to the Senate this did not happen, he could be 100 percent honest.
TANDEN: Dr. Ford is the one who asked for an FBI investigation. She is the one who said, let us pursue this, let's get all the facts, let's have the FBI do this.
TANDEN: And we're getting that. And I think we should see credibility against credibility. And his credibility is at stake here.
JENNINGS: How would anyone in the world except for Brett Kavanaugh be qualified to say whether he forgot something or not, whether he doesn't remember?
JENNINGS: How would you be qualified to say that? The reality is, you wouldn't, because you have got nothing else.
So, here we are at end of the week. You want to have a conversation about perjury, because here's what is going to happen. On Friday, the Democrats are all going to get -- well, I guess we are going to need another week and another week.
JENNINGS: Because the name of the game is delay. Delay.
TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break.
A former NBA journeyman and the '80s group UB40 somehow factoring into the Kavanaugh questioning.
And breaking news, "The New York Times" reporting Trump was given more than $400 million, in today's dollars, from his father, mostly through tax schemes. What about the presidential candidate who said he could save America because he was a self-made billionaire?
Stay with us.
[16:15:26] TAPPER: The FBI has now finished interviewing four key witnesses in their investigation into potential sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. While both Democrats and Republicans wait to see the FBI's final report, more stories about Kavanaugh's actions in college are bringing under scrutiny, the truthfulness about his characterization of his drinking habits as a young man.
Let's get right to CNN's Jessica Schneider.
Jessica, the latest incident in question involves a bar fight that Kavanaugh is accused of starting in 1985. But Republicans say this is a non-issue.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Jake, and they're blasting what they say is an unrelenting smear campaign against Brett Kavanaugh. But CNN has obtained that police report that documents Kavanaugh and his close classmate Chris Dudley involved in a bar brawl near Yale in 1985, all of that while there are questions about where the FBI bi might turn its focus next.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The FBI wrapping up its interview with Mark Judge, the fourth of the key witnesses Republicans wanted investigators to talk to.
MARK JUDGE, FRIEND OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: Man, the old gym here at Georgetown Prep.
SCHNEIDER: Judge is a filmmaker who Christine Blasey Ford says was in the room when she was allegedly assaulted by Kavanaugh at a high school party in 1982.
CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.
SCHNEIDER: Both Judge and Kavanaugh have denied the allegations. At least three others have talked to the FBI. Leland Keyser and P.J. Smyth who Blasey Ford said were at the party, both have said they have no recollection of it, and Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a Yale party. Blasey Ford's team says they have not been contacted by the FBI as questions mount about the extent of the agency's investigation.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake said the FBI is questioning more witnesses.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: They interviewed the first four that were named, and have branched off from there, my understanding, and are interviewing additional individuals, and as it should be, and I hope that they follow leads that come from those first interviews.
SCHNEIDER: This as CNN obtained an unredacted police report which substantiates a claim made by Kavanaugh's Yale classmate Chad Ludington that Kavanaugh started a brawl at a New Haven bar in 1985.
CHAD LUDINGTON, BRETT KAVANAUGH'S FORMER CLASSMATE: Brett said (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you, or something to that effect, and threw the ice at the guy, and the guy understandably, even though he had been aggressive in his response, found that was a little -- one step too far, so he took a swing and Brett and then they were kind of a -- you know, two guys fighting.
SCHNEIDER: Ludington tells CNN he contacted the FBI alleging Kavanaugh misrepresented his college drinking habits to Congress.
LUDINGTON: There is definitely some aggression -- some aggression that did come out quite often when Brett was drunk.
SCHNEIDER: The police report shows Kavanaugh's close friend Chris Dudley was detained. His lawyer says, to be clear, after investigation, Chris Dudley was never arrested by Yale or New Haven police, was never charged with a crime and never set foot in court.
Dudley, a former NBA player, has defended Kavanaugh, saying he never saw him black out during this time in college together. New Haven police say the report is inconclusive regarding Kavanaugh's physical state that night. In the report, Kavanaugh said he preferred not to answer whether he threw the ice.
CHIEF ANTHONY CAMPBELL, NEW HAVEN POLICE: They saw in the report there is nothing that indicates whether or not he was inebriated.
SCHNEIDER: And New Haven's police chief said the department has not been contacted by the FBI about that 1985 bar brawl incident.
Meanwhile, Jake, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for the third accuser Julie Swetnick, he says that she, too, has not been contacted by the FBI -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.
Symone, Republicans seem to be getting very excited about this issue, in a way that might hurt Democrats in the midterms. Take a look at the Quinnipiac poll. The generic House ballot in September, Democrats had a 14-point lead. Now Democrats have a 7-point lead.
Republicans are getting motivated and it's hard to escape the conclusion that this might be part of the reason -- Kavanaugh. SANDERS: Look, I think my polling friends here would agree with me
that a midterm election is not a generic ballot. It's about specific House races, specific Senate races, gubernatorial races. It's not surprising to me that the generic ballot is, in fact, shrinking.
I care about what the people are saying in specific districts and what folks are saying in the states.
[16:20:02] But the fact is, look, Democrats are not are out there running on issues across the country. So, I am not concerned.
I think if we continue to talk about the things that resonate with folks, like how this tax cut was a tax cut for billionaires and millionaires, not regular folks, like how Democrats are the folks that are going to, if you put us in charge, we are the folks that are going to hold this White House accountable and get something done for you. Talk about the economy. Those are things Democrats are talking about and I think that's what's going to resonate this November.
TAPPER: President Trump is out there on the campaign trail talking about Kavanaugh, talking about how Democrats are smearing him.
SCOTT JENKINS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course, and if I were Symone, and my party was tanking because of the issues (INAUDIBLE) --
JENKINS: -- I'd say exactly what she just said. But here's the reality, sweet Jesus, the Republican Party, first time in Donald Trump's tenure, the never Trumpers, the lukewarm Trumpers, the MAGA people, they're all-in on Kavanaugh.
I've never seen an issue that has galvanized these people in Middle America, they look at this stupid bar fight stories, they look at all of this smear campaign and they hate it. The Democrats have once again proved one thing, they will always be counted on to overreach.
SANDERS: Why you say Middle America, to be fair, I think you're talking about men. Many men in Middle America.
JENKINS: No, there's a lot of women live in Middle America, too, and they are unhappy, too. They're unhappy too.
SANDERS: I'm one of them. I'm a woman from Middle America, I'm just saying, though, that across the board, look at the split. Women are also looking at this story. This election will be decided on women across the country.
NEENA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Here's what I think. We can have a debate and spin, and I know Mitch McConnell and Republicans will say it's great for them, and some Democrats will say it's great for them. I think what Donald Trump really wants to do, make this another culture war where it's between men and women. And I hope at the end of this process, you would all agree that it's not really as much a political issue as something about the truth of what happened to a woman.
But having said that, just to say out loud, that if you look at the numbers of how people are feeling about this, still a strong majority of Americans believe Dr. Ford over Brett Kavanaugh, and a lot more women are engaged than men so far in the data we have. People can spin what they're seeing and what they're going to see, but we haven't seen that quite yet.
TAPPER: Josh, I want to ask you. Right now, this seems to be a battle playing out in public. The Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the FBI report is going to come in. Senators can read it privately, but they're not going to release it. There are others, Republicans, John Cornyn and others, who want to release it publicly. They feel it's going to exculpatory for Kavanaugh.
What do you think?
JOSH HOLMES, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, SEN. MCCONNELL: No, I think the vast majority of Republicans prefer if this was public. The problem is the process. And the Judiciary Committee has a process and the FBI has a process by which they provide information. These FBI interviews, which -- by the way, are usually done in closed session --
TAPPER: Right, of course.
HOLMES: -- just before you have a hearing, so as to protect the accuser, not the accused, from being subjected to the kind of partisan game and circus that we've all seen play out of the last ten days. By choosing not to go through that process, now we're sitting here in the middle of, I guess middle of the week. Maybe we'll see this end of the week.
They will be selectively leaked. I guarantee you, it's a circus like you've never seen before end of this week. Ultimately, they'll end up having a vote. But, yes, this is a process that is very unfortunate.
TANDEN: Let's just remember, on how all the never Trumpers and everyone is so united? The reason why we have an FBI investigation, is that Republicans, three Republicans --
TAPPER: Murkowski, Collins, Flake.
TANDEN: -- said I'm not going along with a rush job. So, thankfully, for America, there are people who are actually putting partisanship aside to get to the facts. I wish more people would do that.
TAPPER: In fact, Symone Sanders, take a listen to one of those key senators, Lisa Murkowski, waiting for this FBI report. Oh, we don't have Murkowski?
OK. Well, anyway, she said, I was one of the ones coming out the chute saying there should be an investigation and hypocritical to say anything until the investigation is over and that's really what I'm waiting on.
And Jeff Flake and Susan Collins have said similar things. Do you think there's going to be a vote on Friday the way McConnell is saying there will be?
SANDERS: I -- look, Jake, at this point, I don't really know. I think if Mitch McConnell wants there to be a vote, there will be a vote, barring any of the senators, like Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, down the line, that stood up last week, if they stand up this Friday. That will be the deciding factor.
TAPPER: All right. We'll see.
Coming up, breaking news -- everyone, stick around -- we're going to talk more of the "New York Times" reporting that President Trump is nowhere near the self-made billionaire he claims to be. Stay with us.
[16:28:19] TAPPER: We're back with breaking news.
President Trump sold himself on the campaign trail as a self-made billionaire who earned his fortune on his own, just got a small one million dollar from his dad. But a blockbuster investigation in "The New York Times" this afternoon reporting that President Trump received the equivalent of hundreds of millions in today's dollars from his father, much of it through tax schemes and dodges he helped orchestrate, according to "The Times."
Joining me now on the phone is Russ Buettner who broke the story, along with two colleagues for "The Times".
Russ, give me the headline here. Why should voters care? Why is this a big deal?
RUSS BUETTNER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): I guess it's a big deal because of the fundamental story Donald Trump always called as to why he is sort of exceptional is that he created this massive empire all on his own. And it turns out that's really hard to piece together, really hard to support based on his true life story, which is that he was made a very wealthy young man from the time he was 2 years old by his father and that the flow of money from his father continued throughout his life and escalated especially in times when he was really in financial duress.
TAPPER: Is there anything he did with the tax code that would not merit, that would not bear scrutiny? That would look bad or possibly in violation of the tax code?
BUETTNER: Yes. There were several things we found that the experts we consulted with told us would violate various tax laws and to avoid tax evasions.
One of them was a corporation that he and his siblings set up called All County Building and Supply which didn't really perform any function at all, it just started purchasing just on paper the goods and services that were bought for his father's, their father's businesses, and then adding on 20 percent and passing that bill on to his father. So, they collected 20 percent on basically everything he was buying while doing their work.