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Key GOP Senator Collins Returns to Review FBI Report, Manchin Noncommittal; The Kavanaugh Effect; Right Now, Manchin Noncommittal, Collins Reviewing FBI Report; DOJ Charges 7 Russians In Hacking Scheme As Pence Warns China Is Trying Is Trying To Undermine Trump. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired October 4, 2018 - 16:30   ET



JOANNA BRINKER, VISITED SENATOR COLLINS' OFFICE: I always thought of her as a moderate. But I don't really believe that anymore, based on some of the things that she's been, you know, doing lately. I was appreciating her vote for the ACA, but this time, I'm really worried.

HEATHER SQUIRES, VISITED SENATOR COLLINS' OFFICE: Susan Collins actually ran on being a pro-choice Republican. And if she votes for Kavanaugh, I think she's going to have a major problem in Maine.


[16:30:04] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So, those are liberal or moderate Democrats, it sounds like, I'm guessing, who want her to vote against Kavanaugh. She's getting pressure from the other side as well, as a Democratic operative. I'm wondering if she votes for Kavanaugh, are Democrats just salivating to take that seat away from her when she's up for re-election in 2020?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the relevant voting bloc in Maine are independent and Susan Collins has always done very well with pro-choice Maine independents and so, indeed, I think she will be subject to a huge amount of influx of money.

But, look, I actually generally think that senators just have to vote their principle on this one. And the reason why it is so distressing about Susan Collins, about Lisa Murkowski, about Jeff Flake -- about, frankly, all of them, is because the debate, in some respects, was over on policy. This became, all of a sudden, about his judicial temperament, about really serious accusations about behavior, that he did not take seriously, that he bullied back in the senate.

So, the things that are happening now, I think, are about something bigger. And I think that the piece that is so enraging women is that are we being listened to or are we being railroaded? I think Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski standing with her leadership and women being railroaded is what is extra painful.

TAPPER: Mona, I want to get your response to that. But there is some news I want to report. Senator Joe Manchin, since we're all watching the SCIF, the secure room where this is being held, Manchin, also a key undecided senator, Democrat from West Virginia, he just left that room where he was viewing the report. He told CNN he still needs to finish reading the report and he planned to go back tomorrow to finish in reading.

And he added, quote, Heidi made her decision, I'll make mine. That's a reference obviously to his fellow red state Democrat Heidi Heitkamp who announced earlier this afternoon, she is a no. He's still giving no indication where he's leading.

Go ahead. I know you want to weigh in on Susan Collins.

MONA CHAREN, SENIOR FELLOW, ETHICS & PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Yes, I mean, I do think it would be a healthy thing for our country if we don't see the Senate going in the same direction as the House of Representatives is, where it's total polarization, Democrats versus Republicans. The few moderates who are still holding on in the Republican Party are actually a sign of something positive that we should be hoping to nurture rather than brow beat this woman into voting one way or the other.

There is a group that has raised a huge amount of money and is sort of holding this over her head like the sort of Damocles, saying if you don't vote against Kavanaugh, we will give this money to your challenger.

TAPPER: $1.5 million, I think.

CHAREN: Yes, so far.

ROSEN: Nowhere near what the Republican leadership can raise for her in five minutes.

TAPPER: Still, this is a grassroots effort of some sort.

ROSEN: Come on, let's be realistic. That's not a threat.

CHAREN: But the point is that she is a species of politician that I think we ought to cherish in our hyperpartisan world.

TAPPER: And then there's Lisa Murkowski obviously. And she's an interesting case, because she ran as an independent Republican. The governor of Maine as -- of Alaska, rather, is an independent and obviously there's a Native American population that's about 15 percent I think of the population in Alaska, very important voting bloc, and they do not like some of the decisions that Brett Kavanaugh has made.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I do believe she if she supports him, she's going to be in trouble, because -- not just because of the sexual assault allegations, but because the native indigenous Alaskan people believe he is not going to treat them fairly. And so she's already going into it with that and then I think separately, I think Lisa Murkowski is a person of integrity and I think she's somebody who is bothered by this.

So, I'm hoping she's going to vote based on her conscience. She has been willing to vote, even being pro-choice in Alaska is not necessarily a winning issue. And she has stood up for that --

ROSEN: They can't feel good about this process. They can't feel good about the railroad nature of how this investigation has gone.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Tthis is not a railroad nature. Let's be honest.

ROSEN: It absolutely has been.

SANTORUM: Everyone has given the opportunity to be heard.

ROSEN: No, they weren't.


CHAREN: And the fact that the accusation was brought in at the last second --

TAPPER: One at a time.

ROSEN: Brett Kavanaugh could have offered a polygraph test. He could have offered himself up to the FBI. He could have --

TAPPER: OK. We're going to take a quick break, quick break, and come back to you, Senator. I promise.

The Kavanaugh effect on the upcoming elections, who benefits most, Republicans Democrats? That's next. Stay with us.


[16:38:47] TAPPER: President Trump is using the wrangling over Brett Kavanaugh to score points and take jabs at Democrats with the FBI report in and Republicans on Capitol Hill optimistic and enthusiastic that Kavanaugh will be confirmed. The president said just moments ago in Minneapolis that he thinks Kavanaugh is doing very well.

Let's bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins who's traveling with President Trump in Minnesota.

Kaitlan, with the Kavanaugh vote even closer, what do we expect to hear from President Trump when it comes to Kavanaugh, this rally this evening?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, aides say it's almost guaranteed that President Trump brings up Brett Kavanaugh tonight, because this is his third rally this week, and with each one, we've seen him grow increasingly tougher on his attacks of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

And what we are seeing the president do with Brett Kavanaugh is channel his anger over the delay in his confirmation hearing, Jake, into what he thinks could be a winning strategy in the midterms election this fall.


REPORTER: Mr. President --

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump keeping quiet this afternoon, as the White Households its breath while senators review the FBI report into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah confident the report doesn't back up the claims made against Kavanaugh.

[16:40:05] RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We believe that all the Senate's questions have been addressed.

COLLINS: And the White House pushing back on criticism they limited the FBI investigation.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We allowed the FBI to do exactly what they do best. We haven't micromanaged this process.

COLLINS: Officials fully aware it will come down to crucial votes.

SHAH: We are fully confident after reviewing this information, senators will be comfortable voting yes.

COLLINS: President Trump started the week furious and frustrated by the delays in Kavanaugh's confirmation.

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: My family has been destroyed by this.

COLLINS: But now he believes Kavanaugh could be a rallying cry, helping Republicans shore up much-needed support in the mid term elections, just weeks away.

The president has hit the road three times this week, with a fourth trip on his schedule to stump for vulnerable Republicans.

But the candidate he's campaigned the most for is his embattled Supreme Court nominee. In Tennessee, he said Democrats are trying to bring Kavanaugh nominee down.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats are willing to do anything and to hurt anyone to get their way.

COLLINS: In Mississippi, he cast doubt on Christine Blasey Ford's credibility.

TRUMP: How did you get home? I don't remember. How did you get there? I don't remember. Where is the place? I don't remember.

COLLINS: And tonight, in Minnesota, aides say he'll likely have Kavanaugh on his mind again, after claiming on Twitter today that the Kavanaugh drama is having incredible upward impact on voters.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: So, Jake, President Trump predicting this is going to have a big impact on voters. But, of course, the vote is still up to those key senators -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins with the president in Minnesota.

Let's continue to talk about this with our experts.

Senator Santorum, is this enough of an issue to get Republicans to the polls? I know right now, with the snapshot right now, it's a real sugar high.


TAPPER: Is it going to still be there in a month?

SANTORUM: You remember, Trump would never have won the presidency if it wasn't for the Scalia open seat and conservatives coming out in droves because of it. This just reminded them how important it is and frankly just how, you know, how bad the other side is when it comes to these issues.

And so, I think you're seeing it. You're seeing it in North Dakota, which, you know, Heidi Heitkamp, you know, basically saying, I give up. I mean, I think she's basically said that I can't win this race, I'm going to keep my bona fides with the Democrats and maybe I'll get a cabinet appointment somewhere down the line, but basically she's seeing the numbers. She can't win this race anymore.

And, you know, I think Kevin Cramer is going to be the next senator for North Dakota.

TAPPER: So, that's your interpretation of her remarks?


TAPPER: Let me play her remarks. She did an interview with a local North Dakota TV station, radio station. We'll play that and I'll get -- I got a lot of vigorous head shaking going on here.


SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: It's a lifetime appointment. This isn't a political decision. If this were a political decision for me, I certainly would be deciding this the other way. I can't get up in the morning and look at the life experience that I've had and say yes to Judge Kavanaugh.


TAPPER: So you don't share the senator's view that this is her just saying I've lost. I'm just going to do what I want to do?

POWERS: No, because that's not really how politicians usually act. You know, she's down in the polls, there's no question. But I think we know state polls are not the most precise polls. And so, we actually don't know, you know, whether she could pull it out in the end.

And people in North Dakota are overwhelmingly on the side of Judge Kavanaugh. So, if, you know, she was going to make a purely political decision, she would go ahead and support him and try to rally people around her and try to win. I think she's a good example of what leadership looks like, that you actually should just decide what you believe and you should follow that.

TAPPER: One of the reasons she says it because she used, as a prosecutor, she used to prosecute sex crimes and she can't vote for Kavanaugh because of what he has been accused of. But let's also point out that she is down significantly in the polls. Brand new Fox News poll showing she trails her GOP opponent Cramer by 12 points, 53 percent to 41 percent.

Is it possible that without the cynical idea that she's just doing this to get a cabinet appointment, that she has decided, look, I don't know whether or not I'm going to win, it looks like I won't, I'm just going to do what I think is right?

ROSEN: Listen to the emotion in her voice, you know, having faced women and help women who have gone through this. And if Republicans take this issue and go state by state stomping on survivors who legitimately came forward with a claim of sexual assault as some rallying cry for victory, you will rue the day. Not only will you rue the day in electoral results, you'll rue the day for your daughters --

SANTORUM: Where have you seen that happened?

ROSEN: -- for your families --

SANTORUM: Where have you seen that happened?

ROSEN: -- for everything.

SANTORUM: Where have you seen that happened?

ROSEN: I will be more ashamed --


ROSEN: -- Donald Trump and you and everybody else, going state to state, and making after he wins --


SANTORUM: Ridiculous argument.

ROSEN: Stomping on women's hearts.



CHAREN: OK, you have a shadow of a point in this. There is one person who has behaved badly here, which is President Trump who, in his rally did things that were despicable. Making --

TAPPER: He mocked -- he mocked the accuser.

CHAREN: He mocked her and he be little -- OK, terrible. But that is not the whole Republican Party, that isn't people who don't have doubts about the evidence.

ROSEN: What are we -- what are we claiming, Mona, this fantastic Kavanaugh victory. We showed it to those Republicans, we --

CHAREN: No, no, here's what --

ROSEN: -- those lying women. What are they going to say?

CHAREN: Do you want -- do you want to know --

ROSEN: What makes this political?

TAPPER: OK, let's just -- one at a time here.

CHAREN: Are you interested in a conservative point of view on this which is that this feels to them like a complete character assassination and railroading of a totally qualified candidate purely because of the abortion issue and because the left can't stand the idea that the court's ideological balance will switch by four to conservative. And so from their perspective and this is uniting conservatives who are pro-Trump, anti-Trump, whatever but that -- on this they're saying we can see a hit job.

ROSEN: If they can look at Dr. Ford and say that and go out and public and claim that, shame on them.

TAPPER: So can I just -- I just want to bring in Kirsten here because you wrote a very moving op-ed for USA Today in which you talked about your own assault as a child and -- or as a teenager and how you remember very distinctly, very clearly some parts of it.


TAPPER: And other parts much like Dr. Ford, you don't know. You can't say --

POWERS: Where it was.

TAPPER: -- where it was and the date and this and that but you remember who did it and you remember the feeling of it. And for people like you who have experienced this, this is a personal moment where you feel like a party is rejecting you.

POWERS: Yes, well, I feel like it's -- yes, I mean, I -- just a step back for a second. I think you know -- I think you know too as well. I criticize Democrats all the time. If this was a Democrat, I would literally be saying exactly what I'm saying now. So this is not a partisan thing. But I think you're hitting on something that's very troubling about this, is that I've listened to Republicans over and over well beyond Donald Trump saying she's not credible because she can't remember the date, she can't remember the house, she can't remember these things. And if he just would have had a trauma expert come in and explain how these things work, you would have found out that this is actually extremely typical.

And I was speaking to somebody who's a former FBI agent who you know has dealt with a lot of cases like this and he said you get tunnel vision and you remember everything that happened to you with absolute clarity and you don't remember anything else around it. So not remembering where the house was or what the date was or who drove you home is actually just classic trauma victim behavior. And so that -- when I said I don't feel like we have done a real investigation into this, nobody's considering this and they're continuing to make an out because she doesn't know these things that it didn't happen.

TAPPER: So -- and this is -- and this is the point is that there are people out there who feel that way, suburban women, Republican women in some cases who are turned off by a lot of this because they hear President Trump and they don't -- you two aren't saying this but they hear people being rude about it.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think as Mona said, I think what President Trump said last night hurt Republicans but hurt a lot of congressional Republicans. I think this is a situation where you know, I hate to just get down with a pure politics of this, but most of the vulnerable seats that Democrats have are in very red states that don't have big metropolitan areas or suburban areas in it. But most of the places Republicans are in trouble in the -- in the Congress are in suburban areas. So this is probably going to help Republicans in the Senate and probably going to cost another ten seats or more in the House.

TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. Russian spies indicted for hacking again but the Vice President is saying what they did "pales in comparison with what's being done by another country." That's next.


[16:50:00] TAPPER: And in our "WORLD LEAD." Hacking, fraud, theft, and money laundering, the Justice Department charging seven Russian intelligence agents with those crimes today as part of what prosecutors called an international scheme. And while the government also accuses three of those agents with having interfered in the 2016 elections, Vice President Mike Pence is today warning that Russia's actions "pale in comparison with what China is trying to do all in the name of hurting President Trump" the Vice President says. CNN's Alex Marquardt joins me now. And Alex, the Trump administration taking a swing two adversaries, both were meddling here in the U.S. but very different ways.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. On the one hand, the Vice President really stepping up the pressure on China for a whole range of economic and political maneuvers that the Trump administration believes that China is using to try to weaken them and they say meddle in November's midterms. But that's a completely different kind of for meddling that we normally talk about at least when it comes to Russia which today was accused by the Department of Justice of yet another series of cyberattacks not just here but around the world.


MARQUARDT: A global choreographed crackdown on Russia exposing new hacking attempts. In Washington the Department of Justice charging seven agents of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence with malicious cyberattacks.

SCOTT BRADY, U.S. ATTORNEY, WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA: These seven defendants are charged with a pervasive campaign of hacking, stealing private and sensitive information and publicizing that information to retaliate against Russia's detractors.

MARQUARDT: Detractors like anti-doping agencies targeted in the U.S. and Canada as were nearly 250 athletes apparent retaliation for Russia being kicked out of the 2018 Winter Olympics for drug doping. Hours earlier Dutch intelligence officials revealed that four Russian agents were also charged by the U.S. had been caught and kicked out of the country after trying to hack the global chemical weapons watchdog which is currently investigating the poisoning and attempted murder in England a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. Allies Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom all joining in the condemnation of Russia's malicious cyber activity.

PETER WILSON, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE NETHERLANDS: The GRU is an aggressive, well-funded official body of the Russian state. It can no longer be allowed to act aggressively across the world against vital international organizations with apparent impunity.

[16:55:08] MARQUARDT: These Russian attacks announced the same days the U.S. raises the temperature with another adversary, China.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: What the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.

MARQUARDT: Vice President Mike Pence blaming Beijing for waging a campaign against American businesses, media, and the public.

PENCE: Our intelligence community says that China is targeting U.S. state and local governments and officials to exploit any divisions between federal and local levels on policy.

MARQUARDT: Specifically going after areas Trump won in retaliation for the administration's new tariffs.

PENCE: By one estimate, more than 80 percent of U.S. counties targeted by China voted for President Trump and I in 2016. Now China wants to turn these voters against our administration.


MARQUARDT: Jake, this has become a common tactic for the Chinese. They go after areas where our leaders are from. They targeted Mitch McConnell who's of course from Kentucky by putting a 25 percent tariff on whiskey and bourbon. They went after Paul Ryan with Wisconsin cranberries and Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa with soybeans and pork. Now, Jake, there is no doubt China can play a very strong economic game and it is clear the president is now taking it personally. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks so much. The Vice President just accused of China of trying to replace a president Trump. Your reaction.

ROSEN: You know, I hate -- I'm not going to come to the defense of China. I think that both China and Russia are acting badly for different reasons. But the idea that that the Trump White House consistently tries to sort of hide the ball on Russia and call out China, it just boggles my mind. China obviously has economic agenda against the United States and they're very aggressive with it and trade actions are important. Russians have actually been found to have legitimately interfered with our elections and they stay silent on it.

SANTORUM: Well, I don't think indicting seven Russians for hacking as being silent. I think they pretty clear on that.

ROSEN: But the White House has been silent.

SANTORUM: I would agree the president can be and should be louder on that. But look, what's China is doing is blatantly political. I mean, I don't think you can argue that point. They are specifically targeting Trump voters and Republican strongholds in an attempt to try to swing this election, to try -- to try to inflict misery if you will, on those voters so they'll vote for it for the other team. And I'd love to see Democrats screaming and honestly, you know, that's not right. They shouldn't be doing it that way. And in fact, many of the -- many Democrats actually support the tariffs that the President has put in place.

So -- and this is -- you know, this is an area where you have folks on both sides who are both opposed and for with the President is doing. This is not a partisan issue. The issue of tariffs and one I think Democrats could speak a little louder.

ROSEN: I don't they should be doing it. I mean, I don't. I think people affected by the tariffs should be speaking out, absolutely.

TAPPER: I've heard a lot of Republicans over the last couple years, not you, and not you, but I've heard a lot of Republicans making fun of the idea that Russian election interference had any sort of impact at all. To me, it seems very similar to the Chinese election interference.

POWERS: Well, I mean to say that it pales in comparison to what happened with Russian interference seems sort of on the face of it to not be accurate because what the Russians did was so incredible and I don't -- anything -- even though the allegations that have made against China so far aren't on the same level of what the accusations against Russia has been and they're not as you noted, it's just not something we hear from the White House or frankly from very many people in the Republican base that they take seriously is a serious problem. So you know, I just -- I just -- it just kind of boggles the mind.

CHAREN: It is a (INAUDIBLE) situation that this administration, on the one hand, it's Justice Department will come out with all these other countries and consortium and condemn the Russians and you know, it seems all very normal but then there's the White House which actually isn't part of this administration when it comes to these things. And you have Mike Pence the vice president really basically being the P.R. officer for you know, trying to get Russia off the hook, saying oh well, yes, yes. But look you know really, what China is doing just you know, come far outstrips any bad acts by Russia.

SANTORUM: If you look at the dollar value of what China is doing economically to our country -- to Trump voters versus what Russia's spent in the last election, it is over -- the Chinese are much more.

CHAREN: Well, that is a completely different question.


CHAREN: They're retaliating about the tariffs because the tariffs --

SANTORUM: But they are retaliating politically at --


CHAREN: But that's not trying to disrupt our election.


TAPPER: Thank you one and all. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.