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WSJ: Trump Sought Restraining Order Against Stormy Daniels; Trump Insults Female Reporter in Tense Press Conference Exchange; Melania Trump Visits Ghana to Start First Major Solo International Trip; Wall Street Weighs New Trade Deal. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired October 2, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:12] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
The time is short but the scope is getting wider. This morning the re-opened FBI background check of Brett Kavanaugh has a new mandate from the White House. And that is interview anybody that's necessary. That said, the one-week deadline still stands, and lest there be any doubt, the Senate majority leader says that floor votes on Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court will get underway this week.
HARLOW: Right. And it's already Tuesday.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are asking the FBI to question at least two dozen people. Twenty more than the four people who were specified by the White House and Senate Republicans.
Originally one of those four Deborah Ramirez, who alleges that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a drunken party at Yale, has offered up her own extensive list of at least a dozen witnesses. We are told that list includes people Ramirez says were in the room that night, as well as those with whom she discussed this incident contemporaneously, as well as others.
Also emerging this morning, a police report from 1985 documenting a bar fight that Kavanaugh's critics including a classmate who was there say further indicates he may have misled the Senate about his drinking. The White House responding calling that ridiculous.
Let's go to the White House, Abby Phillip is there with more this morning.
What else is the White House saying on this?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Poppy. Once again we are talking about this issue of Brett Kavanaugh's drinking. And that's in part because President Trump put that back on the public agenda yesterday during that press conference. He talked about Kavanaugh acknowledging problems with his drinking during his Senate testimony, which is actually something Kavanaugh tried to downplay a little bit when he spoke to senators. But the president -- meanwhile the president is talking about that
publicly, it is not clear if that is officially part of the FBI investigation that is ongoing. Now we do know that so far the investigators have spoken with four witnesses, including Mark Judge, who is a friend of Brett Kavanaugh's and was allegedly present for the incident involving Christine Blasey Ford. And they've also spoken to Deborah Ramirez, which is a second accuser who's accused Kavanaugh of some misconduct during their college years.
Ramirez, as you pointed out, has already given investigators a list of a dozen more people that they can speak with. Senate Democrats have added 20 more names to that list. But again we are still at a place where we don't know what is the mandate that the FBI has and how deep are they going to go into some of these witnesses that are being potentially presented to them as part of this investigation.
But President Trump today later is going to be once again hitting the campaign trail. This time in Mississippi. And this could be another opportunity for him to back Kavanaugh as he did last night at another campaign rally, and as he did in the Rose Garden yesterday afternoon. The president's words and comments here are critical to this in part because it signals to Republicans where he stands on his own nominee -- Poppy.
SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip, thanks very much at the White House.
SCIUTTO: Now two -- several actually GOP senators, key ones, say that they want a real investigation.
Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.
Manu, from your conversations, do they believe that they can get that real investigation under the time limit that has been set, of basically a week?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Republican senators have been told by the FBI, by the Justice Department that they believe that that background investigation could get done by Friday. Now the question is if it does expand, if there are other witnesses that they have to interview, can they ultimately finish by that time? I don't think the senators here know. But nevertheless Republican leadership is dead set on getting a vote this week.
Mitch McConnell made very clear he is pushing for that vote by the end of the week and John Cornyn, the Senate majority whip, told me also that this investigation should not be interfered with by senators. But nevertheless they want to move forward and no matter what happens here.
Now, Jeff Flake, one of the three key senators whose vote is at risk of flipping on the Republican side, said early this morning to CNN that he believes that the report needs to be finished before there is any investigation -- before there is any key procedural vote on the Senate floor by the end of this week. So he is leaving open the option, it seems, of not voting to advance this nomination if that FBI report is included.
So we'll see what the FBI does in that tricky bit of procedural maneuvering for the Senate majority leader. They need to take those procedural steps starting tomorrow to set up a vote by the end of the week but we'll see what happens with that FBI report. That complicate things at all, guys.
HARLOW: Thanks, Manu. Appreciate the reporting.
Athena Jones is with us now, our correspondent in New Haven, Connecticut, about -- look, this police record from 1985 that "The New York Times" first reported on that we've now seen, what does it say about Kavanaugh's conduct while at Yale?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy.
[09:05:01] Well, this was a night in September of 1985 when Kavanaugh was at a bar with several friends. The report says that a man told police that Kavanaugh threw ice at him, quote, "for some unknown reason." That's when things heated up between Kavanaugh's group of friends and this other man, a 21-year-old man. And according to witnesses a friend of Kavanaugh's Chris Dudley then threw a glass at this man, leaving him bleeding and in need of attention.
When it comes to Kavanaugh, he did not want to say when the police arrived whether or not he had thrown ice, basically whether or not he had started this fight. His friend Chris Dudley denied throwing a glass at this man.
The police report does not indicate Kavanaugh's disposition, his state of mind. It doesn't say that he was drunk or inebriated. It doesn't say that he was arrested, it doesn't say that anyone was arrested. So there's still some questions related to that report.
Now Republicans and people who support Kavanaugh say that this is ridiculous. This is a nonstory about a scuffle at a bar decades ago. It shouldn't have any bearing on whether Kavanaugh -- Judge Kavanaugh should sit on the Supreme Court. Sara Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, tweeted this late last night, she says, "Democrats desperately attack Judge Kavanaugh for throwing ice during college. What motivated 'New York Times' reporter to write this ridiculous story? Throwing ice 33 years ago or her opinion of Judge Kavanaugh in July?"
She is referencing a tweet by that same reporter over this. Of course Kavanaugh's critics say this goes to the picture he's painted of himself and whether he may have drank to excess and was belligerent and aggressive when he was. And so they argue this paints of a picture of whether he might have been able to have committed the assault that Dr. Ford says he committed.
Back to you.
SCIUTTO: Listen, I mean these are all fair questions. Athena Jones, in New Haven, thanks very much.
HARLOW: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Joining us now, Caroline Polisi and James Gagliano.
James, let me draw on your experience as former FBI supervisory special agent here. For folks at home, right, who are trying to digest this information that's ever coming every couple of days, the bar fight, you know, questions about his drinking habits, how honest he was before the Senate.
If you were doing a background check for an official applying for a job in the federal government and you got new information like this, whether it is a police report from 1986 or a college classmate who says, actually, he did drink a lot and I saw him get combative in those circumstances, would that be relevant information to you in conducting a background check?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, sir. So the FBI has only one mandate that I'm familiar with. I'm not familiar with restrictions or limitations on investigations. They pursue evidence. They follow the evidence bereft of fear or favor and they track down that evidence and wherever it leads, that's where it goes.
I understand that there is a distinction here between a criminal investigation and a background investigation.
GAGLIANO: In a background investigation, you are looking at character, associations, reputation --
HARLOW: In that way it could be broader actually.
GAGLIANO: It could be broad. If something came up, absolutely. Now I think the limitations that we're talking about here is they want them to look into the alleged incidents, alleged incidents of sexual assault. If something else comes out of that, if another witness needs to be interviewed, if some new piece of evidence is collected or harvested, it would be dereliction of our duty not to pursue it.
SCIUTTO: See, that's -- it's a fair point, right, because you are not saying here you have a choice here to investigate or not investigate. You're saying it would be dereliction if you did not.
GAGLIANO: You swear an oath.
SCIUTTO: Yes .
GAGLIANO: The motto of the FBI is fidelity, bravery and integrity. And their job, they are charged with following the evidence. And to do so or to not to do is would be dereliction of duty. I cannot imagine any instance where this FBI director, with what I know of him, would not say to the president or to the White House or to Senate Republicans in any instance, you cannot tell us who we can interview and who we cannot interview. That is beyond the pale. Cannot imagine it.
SCIUTTO: Caroline, it's -- as you look, I mean, there are separate questions here, right, as you look at this because the FBI has a job. It's got to investigate it. Then you bring that information to senators who then have to make a decision whether this is important enough to them to change a vote either way. I mean, those are two different questions, right? Do the investigation and then present that information to the folks who have to make the decision.
CAROLINA POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, that's exactly right. And we all sort of can hear Joe Biden's words ringing in our ears, the FBI does not draw conclusions.
POLISI: Well, just like an MRI machine doesn't draw conclusions. It produces more information. And I think your question, Jim, really highlights the precarious nature of this whole situation in general. It's a quasi -- legal-quasi criminal situation and each senator needs to decide what standard of proof he or she is using in making his or her determination. It's not -- again, this is not a criminal trial. We're not talking about the deprivation of life, liberty or property. We're not going to throw this man in jail.
It's not -- you know, due process as we know it in the legal system is not on the line here. It is a job interview and everybody needs to think about what standard they want it to be. I personally think it should be more akin to a civil standard, a preponderance of the evidence.
[09:10:02] Do you think it's more likely than not that this incident did occur? But again there are no hard and fast rules in this situation and everybody is just kind of flying by the seat of their pants.
HARLOW: Is there a danger, though, in going with the basis that Caroline suggests, which is just a preponderance of the evidence when you're looking at something from -- you know, from 36 years ago, when you're talking about a lifetime appointment to the high court? Should the standard be higher?
GAGLIANO: So when the FBI conducts these background investigations, they do them for people that want to become FBI agents, they do five- year reinvestigations of people who will hold top security clearances, and they look at judicial nominees. Should there be a different standard? Well, I've heard the argument that this is a job interview, that this is not -- to Caroline's point, this is not a criminal trial.
I think that our laws are predicated and based on presumption of innocence and due process. So if our laws are based on that, we should look at this the same way. I think I would feel a lot better and a lot of law enforcement folks would feel a lot better if a police report was filed in Montgomery County. If the police report was filed in Montgomery County then the grand jury system could be evoked, right? Then we could start subpoenaing witnesses, doing an investigation that way. The FBI, to your point, their job is only to go out and interview
folks. They're not doing surveillances, they're not doing for FISA warrants or Title III affidavits. They're not doing any of the things you would do in a criminal investigation. They can only put that information from those interviews in a document, an FD-302 which is testimonial document, put them together, hand one copy to the White House, the other copy to the Senate Judiciary Committee and leave it. They can't draw any conclusions.
HARLOW: Thank you both. Appreciate it.
SCIUTTO: Thanks, guys.
HARLOW: Good to have you here.
A new report this morning in the "Wall Street Journal," the president in February, according to the "Journal," directed his then attorney, Michael Cohen, to get a restraining order against Stormy Daniels. What is the significance of that of him getting involved at that point in time? We're going to give you the details.
SCIUTTO: Plus, a new (INAUDIBLE) down, is a show down with China coming up after striking a deal with Canada and Mexico the administration gearing up for its next major trade battle. Kevin Hassett, he's the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Trump, he's going to be here with us.
And the death toll spikes in Indonesia after a devastating earthquake and tsunami. We're on the ground there. You've really got to watch this. It is fascinating. It is frightening. It is devastating.
[09:15:00] HARLOW: Welcome back. The "Wall Street Journal" this morning reporting that President Trump sought a restraining order against Stormy Daniels back in February, why? To prevent her from publicly talking about the affair that she alleges she had with him.
The journal reports that the president reportedly told then personal attorney Michael Cohen to seek restraining order against Daniels through a confidential arbitration proceeding that involved the president's son Eric Trump and an outside attorney.
SCIUTTO: Now, that attorney then reportedly requested the restraining order at the request of Eric Trump. The journal says an arbitrator then privately issued the order to Daniels who ultimately ignored it, we should say, and went on to do a "60 Minutes" interview with our colleague Anderson Cooper.
Joining us now, Errol Louis and Bianna Golodryga.
HARLOW: Tell us the significance of this because the story from the president has changed over and over. We are all reminded of what he said on Air Force 1 when reporters asked him, did you know about the, you know, $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels for her silence? No. The significance -- if the journal reporting is accurate that he sought through his son and an outside attorney a restraining order to keep her quiet through arbitration.
ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS: Yes, well, there are a couple of areas of significance. One is that, the president has been caught not telling the truth. But you add this to a very long list of other instances --
HARLOW: Right --
LOUIS: Not shocking news in a way. I think he's established that he's not necessarily going to always be straightforward with the press or the public. More important I think is the idea that all of the talk about keeping himself separate from the operations of the Trump organization were not even remotely being followed here.
You know, it's one thing to benefit from the Trump International Hotel, there's a monument cases that are making their way through the court. This is almost finger-tip control, direct control over the operations through his son, he was supposed to have some kind of arm's length distance from it.
And you know, it's a tangled bunch of business in which his personal affairs, his relationship to Stormy Daniels, whatever it really is, is somehow entwined with the finances of the Trump Organization. And here is the president of the United States kind of, you know, manipulating and ordering people what to do, offering to pay legal fees and on and on and on. It's a terrible mess, but it really speaks to the fact that this president is still running his company.
SCIUTTO: You know, the journal says that this was in February this year as Bianna mentioned, the president denied this after that. You know, let's play some sound from the president from Air Force 1 in April, two months after this apparently took place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, what else?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make this if there was no truth to the allegations?
TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney, and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: I don't know, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: Well, we already knew that the president was not being
truthful when he gave that answer based on what we learned since then. Now highlights that even more. Bianna, the president's advisors have frequently said that it's the Stormy Daniel's case actually, and Michael Cohen's now cooperation worry them more than the Mueller probe.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN: And you see that people did ask Michael Cohen about it. And prosecutors asked him about a lot more, and now that he has worked out a deal with prosecutors, it is something that sources say really concerns the president and the administration.
And it offers just one more example of what Michael Cohen may have that we don't know yet, right? It's Michael Cohen's name being thrown out there once again, dangling information that the president does not want the public to know.
[09:20:00] I'd also just go back to the point that Errol made about the significance of Eric Trump being involved because you see that the administration and the president respond by saying that, oh, I was talking to him because it has to be -- him, being my son. And not as somebody who is running the Trump organization --
HARLOW: Organization --
GOLODRYGA: And you see that excuse being given time and time again. Any time there's a sort of inconvenient crossing of paths between the president and his daughter or his children whenever something comes up that's newsworthy, they are the president's children or they work for the president. It's a big --
SCIUTTO: I mean it shows as Errol was saying, just how hard it is to stand up those supposed fire walls --
SCIUTTO: Right? I mean, we could -- Ivanka Trump works for the White House, right? Which means she works for the American people. Eric Trump was supposed to be the one taking care of the business so that the president wasn't involved.
HARLOW: A good point --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
LOUIS: I mean, when we get to the bottom of all of this, I think the only remaining mystery for me is why this case? Why this one act of whatever relationship he had with Stormy Daniels seems to have them so sort of on edge that they keep coming up with new untrue stories that are easily discovered.
Why go to all of this effort? In many other cases he doesn't even bother. He says, you know, look, I did things one way and now I'm going to just say something different. In this case, this whole question of like the cover up being worse than whatever the underlying offense was, it really sort of is kind of outside in a lot of ways because she's been on "60 Minutes", she's been at every public forum she could find, Avenatti has built a television career around this.
She's published a book about it, she's talked about his genitals, I mean on and on --
HARLOW: This is the guy, Avenatti who is running for the White House in 2020 -- yes, before we go, I do want to get you both to weigh in on something we saw yesterday in the press conference. And it's how the president chose to treat some female reporters, one of our colleagues, Kaitlan Collins and another fantastic White House reporter Cecilia Vega, let's just watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Now that you've answered several questions on trade, I'd like to turn --
TRUMP: Yes, don't do that --
VEGA: To Judge Kavanaugh --
TRUMP: Do you have -- do you have --
VEGA: Mr. President --
TRUMP: Excuse me, do you have a question on trade? We'll do one or two more questions on trade
VEGA: You've answered several questions on trade --
TRUMP: OK, don't do that, that's not nice, please --
VEGA: Mr. President, just to wrap up, can you promise --
TRUMP: You know what? You've really had enough --
Hey, you've had enough. She's shocked that I picked her. She's like in a state of shock --
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm not thinking Mr. President --
TRUMP: That's OK, I know you're not thinking, you never do.
COLLINS: I'm sorry?
TRUMP: No, go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: "I know you're not thinking, you never do." Optics for the president? Especially, you know, it shouldn't be political, but if you're going to look at it politically how to just play with the president and women?
GOLODRYGA: I hate to say this, but I feel that we've sort of become numb to this type of behavior. If this had happened immediately following the election, I think this is all that we would be talking about, our hair would be on fire.
And we've gradually grown to -- I hate to say, accept this kind of behavior because it's not acceptable, but it's something that's become something of an MO for him. And we see him lash out at certain --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
GOLODRYGA: Reporters on Twitter, good for Kaitlan and Cecilia to continue plowing through --
HARLOW: Of course, doing their jobs --
GOLODRYGA: You don't want to be the subject --
SCIUTTO: But she advances --
GOLODRYGA: Of the story, right?
SCIUTTO: There were golden --
GOLODRYGA: Except, and I love the, I'm sorry?
LOUIS: Yes --
GOLODRYGA: Yes, you know --
LOUIS: No, this is -- I mean, this is the Trump effect, right? It's what ties together everything we've been talking about lately. From the temper tantrum that Brett Kavanaugh threw -- Judiciary Committee to the Stormy Daniels obvious untruths to this sort of a thing, that it's insults.
It's falsehoods, it's tantrums. It's a different kind of coarsening of politics that was warned about all through the primaries in 2015, all throughout the general election in 2016. It's a choice that the voters may not have fully realized that --
HARLOW: Right --
LOUIS: We were making --
HARLOW: And we're going to see in the mid-terms and if this strong economy continues to 2020, is James Carville right, is it the economy -- but in that fit? Calls it a whole lot of other things as well --
GOLODRYGA: And can I just make one quick point just about the Stormy Daniels on the issue of why this seems to get under their skin where they may be alter -- and one theory could possibly be that there's concern that the house will turn Democratic. HARLOW: Sure --
SCIUTTO: Right --
GOLODRYGA: And that you will start to see --
HARLOW: Sure --
GOLODRYGA: More investigations --
HARLOW: OK --
HARLOW: Thank you guys very much --
SCIUTTO: Thanks to both of you --
HARLOW: Appreciate it.
SCIUTTO: First lady Melania Trump crossing the African continent on her first major foreign trip solo, we're going to be with it.
HARLOW: Now, plus, moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Stocks expected to falter a little bit at the open, global markets down. We'll see why? How the reaction is to this new trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Are people worried? What is this going to mean for auto prices in this country and the global auto market? We'll check the market next.
[09:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HARLOW: Happening right now, a significant moment for the first lady, Melania Trump, it is her first major solo trip to the continent of Africa. Take a look at some of the video we just got in, her being welcomed after she arrived in Ghana, a troop of dancers there.
SCIUTTO: Cnn's David McKenzie is in Johannesburg. David, significant here that her first major international trip is to Africa. That's a continent we remember that President Trump has insulted in private conversations in the past. Has that affected her reception in any of these places?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, Poppy, certainly she's only a few hours into her trip, so we'll have to see how she's welcomed in the other countries she visited. Certainly, in Ghana, there is a very strong relationship with the U.S., it's an ally of the U.S. administration in many ways.
But there has been criticism from the current Ghanaian leaders and others of the private comments that President Trump has made, derogatory comments about the continent. But the first lady will try to push her own agenda, which in this case --