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Senators React to FBI Investigation into Kavanaugh Allegations. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired October 4, 2018 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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.
And what we have heard from Republicans emerging from this closed-door briefing, they're saying there was nothing to corroborate the allegations made against Brett Kavanaugh that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers, and that he exposed himself to Debbie Ramirez when they were in college together. The Republicans have come out one after another and said there's absolutely nothing to corroborate that in there.
The Democrats have said, however, this was not a thorough investigation. There needs to be further investigation. They call it incomplete. They say there needs to be much more, witnesses who need to be interviewed. They say it's been curtailed, probably by the White House.
But Susan Collins making it clear, Kate, she's siding with the Republicans on that key question about whether or not this investigation was done thoroughly and completely. She believes it has.
Now, what does that mean for her vote? We don't have final answer on that yet. She would not comment when questioned by our colleague, Jeremy Herb, about whether or not this means she would vote for Kavanaugh. She said she's still looking into it. She may go back for further briefings later. But an initial indication, very positive for Brett Kavanaugh. Susan Collins emerges and says this appears to have been a very thorough investigation.
We'll wait to see what Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican Senator, has to say, and Lisa Murkowski. But one key Senator making this very important announcement. A key moment here -- Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, at a key moment.
Manu, thank you for bringing us that.
Let me go back to Gloria really quick. Gloria, you heard from Dianne Feinstein, from Chuck Schumer, from Mitch McConnell, and then now from Susan Collins. Where do you see this heading?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: What we're seeing are evaluations of the FBI report that are black and white. I mean, they couldn't -- you know, they couldn't be more different.
BORGER: Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer are effectively saying it was a whitewash, that it was incomplete, that it did not talk to the people that it needed to talk to. And then you hear Susan Collins coming out saying it was complete. You have Mitch McConnell on the floor saying that it was complete and that what the Democrats are doing is underhanded gamesmanship and that the country should not be hoodwinked by those who want to smear this good man. So I think what you have here is a "Democrat said/Republican said" version of what they're reading. And that's why I think you heard Dianne Feinstein say this ought to be released to the public so the public can decide whether the FBI has in fact been limited by the White House in who it can interview. And we know that Deborah Ramirez's attorney has said that, that none of the people that she suggested be interviewed who could corroborate her story were interviewed. So it's hard to make a judgment here when you don't know what -- when you don't know what you're looking at, and Senators are coming out with such completely different pictures.
BOLDUAN: Yes, and whose word do you take? It's impossible to say right now, Gloria.
Here with me in the studio, CNN political director, David Chalian, and former FBI supervisory agent, Josh Campbell.
David, I hope and pray and dream of a day when, on one issue, one document, everyone sees the same thing coming out of Capitol Hill. It's a Pollyanna theory, I know, but what we're seeing right now, we are where we were Friday.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think we're in a different place. I think the ballgame is over. That's why what Manu Raju was reporting about Susan Collins' statement is a hugely significant moment because the entire argument from the Democratic side about the investigation is that it wasn't thorough. That it wasn't complete. And she's not buying into that argument at all. And --
BOLDUAN: And Jeff Flake was in that as well.
CHALIAN: Exactly -- as an avenue to oppose his nomination. She's made that -- if, indeed, she were to surprise us and say I'm a no vote, she won't have this as an excuse because she said this is a very thorough investigation. This is the avenue Democrats are pursuing. I think it is, as Manu was saying, even though we don't know her vote yet, I understand that, but that was a hugely significant statement. Remember, Jeff Flake has already announced his intention to vote to
confirm Kavanaugh. That happened before he got the week pause and the FBI investigation. Susan Collins is saying I reject this Democratic off-ramp. That -- this is --
BOLDUAN: Jeff Flake was all about process and his concern, as he said to Chris Coons, that it was -- the process was tearing the country apart. And the process now, Susan Collins says, has been thorough enough, and the process is now moving forward.
[11:35:09] CHALIAN: Again, we don't know her vote, but every indication right that, as Mitch McConnell was making the case, this is moving towards Kavanaugh's confirmation.
BOLDUAN: Josh, as you were saying, it's Republicans are talking about what is in the report, Democrats are talking about what is not in the report.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Exactly. I think you nailed it when you said we have one document, and neither side can agree on what this document means. It's because of that fact. They're asking the wrong questions. Republicans are looking and saying, this is it. This is this person's life. We have gone through it, it looks good to us. Democrats are saying, no, there are all these other allegations the FBI has not looked into.
The one question -- and I don't expect any particular movement in the next 24 hours. But what Democrats will be pushing for, as Chuck Schumer mentioned, is for the White House to release what directives actually went to the FBI. What were the parameters here? So long as the White House can hold firm on that, not releasing that, I think they'll be able to run out the clock. Should the American people see what the FBI was limited in, then questions come about as whether this was comprehensive or whether it's something they were trying to ram through.
BOLDUAN: Because what appears to be contradictions, is what you're getting at, where the president is saying that the FBI investigation, they should have free reign to investigate, whatever they need, talk to whoever they need. But the "Washington Post" reporting behind the scenes, there was absolutely restrictions put on who could be talked to and what avenues they should be pursuing in terms of the direction the FBI is taking.
And also the fact that there's still out there. The White House this morning saying they were deferring to the Senate to tell them what direction this should go. Still, we don't have a clear answer on who was running the show.
We have much more to come on the breaking news as Senators are going in, they're either being briefed on what is in this FBI investigation document or they're going in and reading it themselves. New reporting on how lengthy this document is and new reaction coming out.
We'll be right back.
[11:41:24] BOLDUAN: We have more breaking news coming in now. Getting some reaction from another key Republican Senator in terms of the fate of Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, Senator Jeff Flake, who has on the FBI's new report.
Let's go back to Manu Raju with breaking news for us -- Manu?
RAJU: Yes, Jeff Flake making another very critical announcement after leaving this closed-door briefing with Republican staff who had reviewed the contents of this FBI background investigation into Brett Kavanaugh, telling this to our colleague, Ted Barrett: "We have seen no additional corroborating information."
So he did not say if he would -- how he would vote, but he did say he agreed with Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, the other key Senator, who said it was a thorough investigation. Flake agreed with that.
So if you read the tea leaves there, these two key Senators, who could undoubtedly raise some red flags right now if they had concerns, they shared the Democratic concerns that this was not an investigation done thoroughly, they have not raised those red flags. In fact, they said the opposite. They're happy with this investigation so far. And we have heard other Republicans come out and say there's absolutely nothing to corroborate these two allegations of sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh.
So it appears that Flake and Collins are agreeing with their colleagues about how this investigation was conducted. And one area that appears to have satisfied them is the individual, Mark Judge, a friend of Brett Kavanaugh, the Republicans came out saying that he was interviewed extensively by the FBI. The Republicans appear to be OK with how they handled it. But as we know, Democrats have not been satisfied with this investigation so far. Nevertheless, these key Republicans seem to be OK. We'll see if they vote yes as early as tomorrow -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Want to make sure this is not missed. Why it's so important we're talking about the fact that two key Republicans and the fact that there are two of them is so key. It's just plain and simple. It's just the math we have been discussing, that Republicans maintain a 51-49 majority over the Democrats. That is why these two matter so much, Manu.
RAJU: No question about it, because, of course, if those two vote no, this nomination is over, assuming all Democrats also vote no. But if they stick together, they vote yes, even if they lose that one other Republican, Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska -- we have not yet heard from since the briefing happened -- if she were to vote no but those two vote yes, Brett Kavanaugh gets his lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.
And it certainly appears by what they're saying this morning that they're probably more inclined to vote yes tomorrow to advance this nomination, having raised no red flags and talking very positively about this investigation so far. So very significant statements. They both said they want to read more about this report after getting just briefed by the staff. We'll see if anything changes their mind. But at the moment, it does not appear to be the case.
BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you so much. Great reporting. Thank you for jumping back on. I really appreciate it.
Manu and everybody on Capitol Hill, our entire team, getting this reaction. We'll bring it to you because these are the important things because this is what's going to tell us what this vote is going to look like.
Let me bring in Nia Malika Henderson on this.
Nia, David Chalian very importantly reminds everyone, when it comes to Jeff Flake, even as he says, quote, "We have seen no additional corroborating information," that might not tell you how he's going to vote, he did tell the American public how he wanted to vote before he had walked into that committee meeting on Friday, and that's when everything kind of blew up and they called for a pause. He had said beforehand he planned to vote for Kavanaugh.
[11:45:10] NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER: That's right. And with the kind of extended period of review with the FBI, it was clear he sort of needed affirmation from the FBI, sort of underscoring what was going to be his yes vote anyway. And it appears Collins might be on the same page as he is at this point. You remember last week, after the hearings, they were sort of the group of four Senators, Murkowski, Collins, Flake, and Manchin. It looks like at least two of those folks are sticking together.
I think the key here is when they came out of this briefing about this FBI report, who did they sound like? Did they sound like Republicans? Did they sound like Independents? Did they sound like Democrats? They sounded like Republicans. The stakes for them rejecting their party and essentially saying no on Kavanaugh were always really, really huge. That was a big bet for either of these people to make. Obviously, we don't know what this final vote is going to be. But all signs, at this point, are pointing to Flake and Collins sticking with their party, sticking with the Republicans, and being yes votes on this nominee.
BOLDUAN: Nia, stick with me.
I'm going to bring in Mark Preston as well.
Mark, one of the many cliche lines we use on Capitol Hill all the time or in Washington is when you're arguing process, you're losing. Do you think that applies here? Because that's where I'm seeing the breakdown, right? Democrats think the process has been not fair. They think there could be -- and that's what they're saying, an incomplete investigation. Republicans say they have seen enough, and what they have seen is not disqualifying.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, when you start to get into process, I mean, eyes gloss over. When you talk about the politics and certainly the politics of personal destruction, people are more likely to understand that and relate to that. So I think that's what you're seeing from Senate Republicans, certainly from Mitch McConnell who has been going to the Senate floor really every day and talking about Brett Kavanaugh as a person.
But a couple things happened that I really think are important that will give us a little insight into what's happening. We have reporting from Elizabeth Landers, another colleague on Capitol Hill, who ran into Senator Bob Corker, and he said that of the people that were interviewed, they were asked about Kavanaugh's drinking in high school and in college. So if you take that bit of information and you piece it together with what we have heard from Susan Collins and from Jeff Flake, it would seem to be that they haven't received any information from those that they interviewed that would give them any pause about his drinking which, of course, has been another one of the top issues we have been discussing, certainly as he moves forward.
You know, the second thing is, too, that you have Chuck Schumer, who basically pulled the pin out of the hand grenade and rolled it on the Senate floor, he said he disagreed with Chuck Grassley about the findings of the report, specifically about no hint of misconduct. What does that mean? No hint, meaning Chuck Schumer saying that there's hints of misconduct.
PRESTON: So let's see what they are.
BOLDUAN: You have reporters as he was walking away say, what does that hint mean? He left it linger. He did not answer.
PRESTON: Correct. He's a shrewd strategist. I just hope he's not playing political games any more than we have seen so far. But certainly, interest is piqued in knowing before the vote what else is in those interviews.
BOLDUAN: And this was a little bit of what started with last night, with Democrats on the committee writing a letter in response to a tweet. I won't get into it. But they said they would say it's inaccurate to say there was no -- they said width of either sexual misconduct or alcohol abuse, and that's just lingering out there on part of Democrats. Republicans saying they see none of it.
Regardless, we're here now and getting important reaction into what they're seeing, in this all-important, everyone put all their chips on this one, the FBI investigation into Brett Kavanaugh.
Mark, stick with me.
[11:49:10] We're going to get a quick break. We have much more on the reaction from Capitol Hill coming in.
BOLDUAN: All eyes are on Capitol Hill as Senators, Republican and Democrat alike, are heading into a secured room in the capitol to take a look at the one document everyone wants to see, the further FBI investigation into the background and allegations against Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
Coming out, we are getting a lot of important reaction from Democrats and Republicans.
Senator Lindsey Graham viewed the document and came out and spoke with reporters a short time ago. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm confident the FBI did a good job. They were not hindered in any way. The focus of the background check was on credible allegations before the committee. I was looking for certain things to be answered by witnesses. I'm more confident than ever that what the committee found held up, and then some.
The main thing for me is that you need to go to the FBI and you need to ask them, did they feel like they were able to do their job without interference, and I think the answer is yes. They interviewed over 150 people throughout the course of Brett Kavanaugh's life. For those who suggest he had a problem like this from prior interviews, no evidence of that. That's all manufactured.
The Senators who requested the supplemental FBI background check got what they requested. I am ready to vote.
[11:55:39] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you confident, sir, that the Senators you mentioned, Flake, Murkowski --
GRAHAM: You need to talk to them. I am confident that --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Lindsey Graham, he is confident going in and he's even more confident going out -- Gloria?
BORGER: Look, he echoes a lot of Republicans, saying that there was no corroboration, and he said he is more confident than ever. The Democrats got what they wanted. He called it a complete check and included the other six investigations and said go to the FBI and ask if they were able to do their job.
What's important is the comments from Flake and Collins, as you were talking about. They seemed to say that the investigation was thorough and they see no additional corroborating information. Those are the two key votes.
I think the Democrats can see it slipping away from them, quite honestly. Those were the votes. Those were the folks pushing for this. Flake in particular. We know Flake wanted to get to yes. We didn't know that about Collins. We are still waiting to hear about Murkowski. The Democrats are going to fight this, saying this is not complete and
it was a white wash. They didn't interview everyone they needed to interview.
But in the end, Mitch McConnell will call for a cloture vote tomorrow and a full vote on Saturday. And he's counting. It's all about the math, as he said earlier -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: That's exactly right, Gloria.
Josh Campbell is still here with me.
Josh, a few things about this document that are coming out from the amazing reporting. One source is telling them that the FBI report is more than 1,000 pages long. Now I'm understanding why when a Senator goes in, we will read the rest later today. That is starting to make sense.
Several Senators are saying that Mark Judge, who is one of the interviews that was needed from the get go, Senators were say, he was interviewed for a total of three hours. What does that tell you about how this investigation was conducted?
CAMPBELL: Based on the information we're getting in, if you look at the report in totality, it includes the testimonial FD-302s. These are testimonial document that an FBI agent will write up after they interview someone based on their notes and that goes into the document handed over to the White House. This includes information provided from the public in the online portal and the tip line, that kind of information that people are submitting. We don't know what the FBI is going through vetting and verifying that or how that calling actually went.
BOLDUAN: Or it goes into the file.
CAMPBELL: Correct. And it's handed over. I find it hard to believe a Senator will be able to get to 1,000 pages of anything in the time frame they have been given.
I think the overarching issue goes back to the comprehensiveness. I have to tell you, my former colleagues, I don't envy them. I don't think this is deserved. But they have been preparing or should be prepared for a major backlash from Democrats. It appears to be, based on some of the swing votes we're seeing --
CAMPBELL: -- he is going to be confirmed. And Democrats are going to be wondering, why was this not more comprehensive.
The most concerning part about this, for me, is that this is part of a White House strategy. I mean the buck doesn't stop in the Oval Office. It stops at the FBI or the Senate. Anywhere but the White House. The reason we know that, and the reason I suspect the FBI is being used a as a political tool is because the White House will not tell us what parameters were placed on the FBI. This is the most- simple of information they can provide. We are not asking about substantive details about the judge's past. We're asking, what did you tell the FBI to. The fact they are not releasing that information puts the FBI in an untenable position. They are now going to be answering for parameters that were set on them by their boss at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
BOLDUAN: I would not want to be an FBI agent today.
Nia, let me bring you in real quick.
Final thought, what is the most important thing we need to take away from this?
HENDERSON: Flake and Collins. Their statements, they are basically saying, Flake, there was no corroboration in the FBI reports, and Collins saying this FBI was very, very thorough. That's the big take away. Those are the Senators everyone was focused on. They seem to be indicating they will vote with their party. We don't know. We have to see what happens tomorrow. Everything indicates that's how they will vote.
BOLDUAN: You'll hear these lines many times more. "It appears to be a very thorough investigation," Susan Collins. "We see no corroborating evidence," Jeff Flake. Remember those words.
That does it for me right now. An amazing hour today. I'm Kate Bolduan.
"INSIDE POLILTICS" with Dana Bash starts right now.