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AT THIS HOUR

Senators View FBI Document on Kavanaugh Investigation; McConnell Says No Evidence Against Kavanagh, Move to Vote; Senators React to FBI Investigation into Kavanaugh Allegations. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 4, 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] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

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

You're looking at live pictures. After more than 30 hours of testimony, tens of thousands of documents, three women on the record with allegations of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, and a seventh background investigation, and don't forget, a nation on edge, today, it comes down to one document in a secure location on Capitol Hill. The 100 Senators allowed to view it. And only will show you these five Senators who are undecided. This is the pivotal day in the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and do not forget, the president of the United States has everything riding on this as well.

We'll take you back to the live picture on Capitol Hill and the Ohio corridor, and that's where we have our eyes at this moment because we'll hear the first response from Senate Democrats after we assume they have viewed the report, been briefed on it. We will all see together. We'll bring that to you when they come out. They gave the two-minute warning so they should be walking out any moment. It will be Senator Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats coming out to give their assessment of the state of play.

Right now, we already know that some Republicans are speaking out.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. He's following all this right now.

Manu, what are you hearing right now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans are making it very clear that they have not seen anything in this report that corroborates the allegations made against Brett Kavanaugh. Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman, made that clear after he got his own staff briefing and as he headed into a larger Republican-only briefing that's happening right now behind closed doors.

That briefing absolutely critical because the key Senators who will determine whether or not Kavanaugh gets his lifetime seat are in that briefing. That includes Senator Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, of Arizona, and also we expect Lisa Murkowski. All Republican briefing.

Democrats had their own briefing on a staff level earlier this morning. The staff members just briefed members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Chuck Schumer's office and talked about this. And those members of the committee just left that office. And they said they told me they're going to go read the report themselves in a matter of moments.

Now, at the same time, we're expecting Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, as well as the top Democrat on the committee, Dianne Feinstein, to brief the press about their assessment of this report. Now, the question is, do they see anything that corroborates the allegations? We'll see what they have to say about that. We don't know that answer yet. And we undoubtedly will hear they have concerned this investigation did not go far enough, not enough witnesses were interviewed in their view, and they believe that much more needs to be done to look into what are these very serious allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

So these two competing storylines playing out in real time as members get their private briefings ahead of that pivotal vote tomorrow to break a Democratic filibuster and move to a final confirmation vote as soon as Saturday. So all this riding on these closed-door briefings happening right now behind closed doors -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And, Manu, it's tough. You pointed this out earlier. It's tough to really know exactly who's coming and going or bring that to our viewers because our cameras are not allowed to be outside the room where they're viewing this document.

Do we know if Democrats -- I know I have seen a picture of Diane Feinstein going in to take a look at the documents. Do we know how many Senators have been able to go through this yet?

RAJU: We have -- don't have a full picture of that yet because there are multiple entrances into that secure location. So members can go all sorts of ways to try to avoid the press. Of course, we have been denied access to shoot near the entrance where members would be going in. So we don't have that for the public to see, and the public also will not see what is in the contents of this report.

We do know that Susan Collins is in there. She was spotted by a number of reporters going into the briefing. We know that Jeff Flake is in there as well. We believe Lisa Murkowski is in there as well. We await to see whether the two other Democratic Senators who are at risk of defecting, who may defect, and may consider supporting Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin, when they will get briefed. But on the Democratic side, a smaller group has been briefed on this, the Senate Judiciary Committee members after talking to the staff. We'll wait until the full Democratic caucus to see when they get their briefing, but all happening very rapidly on this pivotal day -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: I'm going to stick with you longer, Manu, as we wait for them to come out of the doors. I want to read -- Manu was eluding to it -- here's a bit from Chuck

Grassley, what he said. He did not read the document himself. He was briefed by staff on this. He said, "There's nothing in it that we didn't already know. These uncorroborated accusations have been unequivocally and repeatedly rejected by Judge Kavanaugh, and neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third party who can attest to any of the allegations."

On this key point, Manu, I'm very interested to hear what Dianne Feinstein says when she comes out.

[11:05:21] RAJU: Yes. I think what we're probably hear from these Democrats is that not enough witnesses have been interviewed. From our understanding, about nine witnesses have been interviews. Part of these investigations into those two women who made the allegations, Christine Blasey Ford, about her allegation that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers in high school. Debbie Ramirez, who alleged that Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were at Yale together. Both of the representatives from both of those camps said they provided a number of witnesses for the FBI to interview, to potentially corroborate their story, and those representatives for Ramirez and Ford contend those witnesses were not interviewed. Democrats themselves have said there should be roughly two dozen or so witnesses that should be interviewed. That does not appear -- that did not happen, at least it does not appear to be the case. And we'll see. We'll see if Democrats raise concerns.

And, Kate, here they enter right now.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Manu. Teeing it up perfectly

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer. Top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein. Let's listen.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D), CALIFORNIA: Then the Democratic leader will make a brief statement. And I'm not going to take any questions.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Nor am I.

FEINSTEIN: At 9:00 this morning, my staff and I reviewed the FBI's report into sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. Let me be clear. I can't talk about the detail because this remains a confidential part of the background report. I hope that changes are made and we'll be able to talk more about what the FBI did later.

But what I can say is that the most notable part of this report is what's not in it. As we noted by the White House, the FBI did not interview Brett Kavanaugh. Nor did the FBI interview Dr. Blasey Ford. What we have heard from numerous people over the last few days seeking to provide information to the FBI, we have seen even more press reports of witnesses who wanted to speak with the FBI but were not interviewed. Deborah Ramirez's lawyer said he was unaware of any corroborating witnesses who were interviewed.

Candidly, what we reviewed today, in a very limited time -- I was there -- I had to leave. The report is, in part, and had the opportunity to read some but not all of it.

It looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation that was limited, perhaps by the White House. I don't know. But the White House certainly blocked access to millions of documents from Judge Kavanaugh's record. I know that. And insured that 90 percent of his e-mails and memos weren't available for the Senate or the public in the hearings. It now appears that they also blocked the FBI from doing its job. Democrats agreed that the investigation's scope should be limited. We did not agree that the White House should tie the FBI's hands. It's simply not credible to say that public testimony in last week's hearing is a substitute for interviews by FBI agents. Not only do Senators lack the expertise of FBI agents, we were only given five minutes to question Judge Kavanaugh.

So in my view, from what I saw, the investigation was very limited. And it will be interesting after all of the members have an opportunity to read the documents, and we have an opportunity in public to discuss our conclusions, what the findings are.

SCHUMER: Thank you, Senator Feinstein.

I just have three points to make. One, we had many fears that this was a very limited process that would constrain the FBI from getting all the facts. Having received a thorough briefing on the documents, those fears have been realized.

Second, I disagree, having received a briefing on all of the documents, I disagree with Senator Grassley's statement that there was no hint of misconduct.

And third, we are reiterated our call, given how limited this -- these documents were and how limited the scope of this investigation was, we are reiterating our call that the documents with proper redaction be made public. Why shouldn't all of America see the facts?

And second, we are reiterating our call to make the directive that the White House and Counsel McGahn sent to the FBI public because we believe it greatly constrained the investigation from the get-go.

The fact that there's only one document in there for 100 Senators is another example of constraining the ability of all Senators and the American public to see the whole truth and nothing but.

Thank you.

[11:11:08] RAJU: What do you mean, you disagree with Senator Grassley's statement, there's no habit of misconduct, Senator?

BOLDUAN: Just pausing for one more second to see if they would take questions even though they said they would not.

Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, in short, they are not happy with the outcome. They think it is a product of an incomplete investigation, is what they say right now.

Let me bring in Gloria Borger, CNN's chief political analyst. Gloria, very different view, maybe very unsurprisingly from Dianne

Feinstein and Chuck Schumer than from Chuck Grassley this morning.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes. Those were two very angry Senators, if you watched. They believe that this was quite frankly a whitewash that was ordered by the FBI -- by the White House. Sorry. And that the FBI investigation is completely incomplete. And what you saw Chuck Schumer say was, you have to release this to the public because the public ought to be able to look at it for itself. And he said, look, you know, he disagrees with Chuck Grassley that there was no hint of misconduct through all of those --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Gloria, I'm going to interrupt you one second.

That's Lindsey Graham, but I think we're also going to go to Mitch McConnell. Whichever one we're going to take, let's take it.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: -- an acclaimed judge who appears and colleagues praise in the very strongest terms. A jurist whom the American Bar Association awarded its very highest rating unanimously, well qualified. Here's what the ABA says it takes to earn that distinction: "To merit a rating of well qualified, the nominee must be at the top of the legal profession in his or her legal community, have outstanding legal ability, breadth of experience, and the highest reputation for integrity and demonstrate the capacity for sound judicial temperament."

This is the nonpartisan test that my friend the Democratic leader, among others, used to call the gold standard. Judge Kavanaugh passed that with flying colors.

So to be clear, this seal of approval comes from the ABA's standing committee on the federal judiciary, an independent entity within the organization. Even after the ABA's president tried to play politics with the nomination last week, the standing committee reaffirmed its rating yet again, unanimously well qualified. That's Brett Kavanaugh.

So, how did we end up where we are today? How did we get here? How did we get from a chorus of expert praise and professional respect to wild tales of violence gangs, sexual assault rings, fist fights on boats in Rhode Island harbors, and the possibility -- get this -- of an argument in a college bar? An argument in a college bar? Several weeks ago, a confidential allegation of misconduct from nearly 40 years ago was leaked to the press. Since then, other allegations have poured forth, many were just patently ridiculous. A feeding frenzy of ridiculous accusations.

[11:15:00] While some cheered on the feeding frenzy for political purposes, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and his staff rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They promptly investigated the varied allegations that materialized at the last minute. Chairman Grassley reopened the public hearing so Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh could speak directly to those claims under oath. That was after, by the way, he offered Dr. Ford the option to tell her story at any place of her choosing, either here or in California, either in public or in private, either with staff or with members. That offer, according to Dr. Ford's testimony, was seemingly never actually communicated to her by her lawyers despite a professional requirement to do so.

Now, of course, the FBI has completed a supplemental background investigation and delivered its results to us here in the Senate.

Mr. President, this is now the seventh time the FBI has thoroughly reviewed Judge Kavanaugh's background. Seven FBI investigations.

So what did we learn? What are the facts and the evidence telling us after seven FBI investigations? The fact is that these allegations have not been corroborated. None of the allegations have been corroborated by the seventh FBI investigation. Not in the new FBI investigation. Not anywhere. So none of these last-minute allegations have been corroborated, as is confirmed by the seventh and latest FBI investigation.

As Chairman Grassley stated this morning, neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third parties who can attest to any of these allegations. No backup from any witnesses, including those specifically named as eyewitnesses by the people who brought the allegations in the first place. Let me say that again. No backup from any witnesses, including those specifically named as eyewitnesses by the people who brought these allegations.

In addition, one person has completely recanted their whole wild story. Another accuser went on television and backpedaled from many of their own ridiculous charges.

So the facts do not support the allegations levied at Judge Kavanaugh's character. Instead, many of the facts actually support Judge Kavanaugh's strong unequivocal denial, which he repeatedly stated to committee investigators under penalty of felony. Which he firmly restated under oath last Thursday before the full committee and the American people. Which aligns with the testimony of hundreds, literally hundreds of character witnesses who have known him over the years.

For goodness sake, this is the United States of America. Nobody is supposed to be guilty until proven innocent in this country. Nobody is supposed to be guilty until proven innocent in the United States of America. The Senate should not set a fundamentally un-American precedent here. Judge Kavanaugh's right to basic fairness does not disappear just because some disagree with his judicial philosophy.

Our society is not a place where uncorroborated allegations of misconduct from nearly 40 years ago, allegations which are vigorously disputed, can nullify someone's career or destroy their reputation. Is that what the Senate is going to be known for? Your nomination comes up here, and we destroy your reputation. That's what the Senate is going to participate in?

[11:20:16] So above the partisan noise, beyond this shameful spectacle, which is an embarrassment to the Senate, what will endure are the actual facts before us. The actual facts. Upon reviewing them, only one question is left for us to answer: Is

Judge Brett Kavanaugh qualified to serve on the United States Supreme Court?

Well, Mr. President, there's a good reason the political opponents of this nomination have never wanted to litigate that issue. Oh, no. They didn't want to talk about that. There's a good reason why they let the politics of personal destruction run away ahead of the facts in an effort to dodge that very good question. Because Brett Kavanaugh is stunningly and totally qualified for this job.

We already know this, but for starters, his academic and legal credentials are second to none. From Yale with honors, and on to Yale law school. Then came not one, not two, but three clerkships in our nation's federal courts. Ending up with Justice Kennedy. His career continued with work in the Office of Independent Counsel and the Office of White House Counsel. And that was only the beginning. For the last 12 years, Brett Kavanaugh has served on what is widely considered the second-highest court in our land, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Written more than 300 judicial opinions. Several have formed the basis of later rulings by the Supreme Court itself. The litany of accomplishments is a fact. A fact. It's a matter of public record.

But just as telling the accounts of all of Brett Kavanaugh, the person, that have been volunteered by those who have known him every step of the way over the years. We have heard from literally hundreds of character witnesses who heaped praise on the Brett Kavanaugh they know. The loyal friend and teammate, the stand-out student, the talented, hard-working colleague, the brilliant legal writer, the role model and mentor, particularly to women. The devoted husband, father, and coach. These letters and recorded testimony were offered by men and women with nothing to gain for themselves. They were just glad to tell the truth about a nominee who they know possessed the character and temperament and qualifications for this important job.

Judge Kavanaugh's professors and others who knew him at Yale describe an intellectual, a leading mentor and thinker. One goes so far as saying, "It's hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh." His former law clerks, in full-throated support, say that Judge Kavanaugh's work ethic flows from a fundamental humility. They say he gives unflinching honest advice and listens carefully to the views of his colleagues and clerks, even when they defer from his own.

His parish here in Washington of all political persuasions haven't minced their words. They deemed him, quote, "unquestionably qualified by his extraordinary intellect, experience and temperament, and warn the Senate not to miss this opportunity to, quote, "put such a strong advocate for decency and civility on our nation's highest court."

So, Mr. President, let's not lose sight of the opportunity before us. This process has been ruled by fear and anger and underhanded gamesmanship for too long. Time for us to stand up to this kind of thing. We owe it to the American people not to be intimidated by these tactics. We owe it to the American people to underscore that you're innocent until proven guilty.

[11:25:25] It's the Senate that's on trial here, Mr. President. What kind of image will we convey to the public? Can we be scared by all these people rampaging through the halls, accosting members at airports, coming to their homes? They're trying to intimidate the Senate into defeating a good man. Are we going to allow this to happen? In this country?

So, we will not pretend that partisan histrionics take away the basic fairness that every American deserves. We will not be hoodwinked by those who have tried hard to smear this good man, to drag him through the mud. And when that didn't work, they turned on a dime and started claiming his real sin was he spoke up too forcefully in defense of his good name and his family. Oh, they decided he doesn't have the judicial temperament because he aggressively defended his good name against this outrageous smear conducted in conjunction with Senate Democrats. Who among us would not have been outraged by having a lifetime record drug through the mud with accusations that cannot be proven, and a blatant attempt to decide on the part of at least some Senate Democrats that the presumption of innocence no longer applies in this country? What kind of person couldn't have been upset about that? They claim he spoke too forcefully in defense of himself after being accused of such outrageous behavior that cannot be proven. I admire him for standing up for himself and standing up for his family. I would be shocked if it were not done in an aggressive fashion. For goodness sake.

So let's reclaim this moment for what it should be. A chance to elevate a stunningly talented and impressive jurist to an important office for which he is so well qualified, so completely and totally qualified. A golden opportunity to give our great nation precisely the kind of brilliant, fair-minded, and collegial Supreme Court justice that the court deserves.

This, Mr. President, is the good that Senators will have an opportunity to do. We have a chance to do good here and to underscore the basic tenant of fairness in our country.

So I filed cloture on the nomination yesterday evening. And I'll be proud to vote to advance this nomination tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: All right, you're listening to the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. He said, what he's seen, there's no corroborating evidence in the latest FBI investigation into the allegations of Brett Kavanaugh. As you can clearly see at the end, he said he's looking forward to moving forward with this nomination.

More important right now than Mitch McConnell is Republican Senator Susan Collins, one of the Senators in the undecided column so far.

Let me get over to Manu Raju because she made a very important statement to CNN -- Manu?

RAJU: A hugely significant statement. Susan Collins, one of the key Senators we have been watching for weeks, coming out of that briefing and saying that, quote, "It appears to be a very thorough investigation."

Now, this is hugely significant because this suggested that she is satisfied with how this investigation went.