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Senators Reviewing FBI Report; Department of Justice Announcement; Pence to Warn China; Amazon Raises Wage. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 4, 2018 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Been a long, long time if Dems retake control.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That would depend on Dems, of course, re-taking control.

HARLOW: of course.

All right, a quick break. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

You're looking at live pictures there from the Department of Justice. They are set to announce new criminal charges against seven Russian GRU intelligence officers. That's the Russian military intelligence officers.

This is happening -- coordinating international because you have some U.S. allies overseas --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Including the Dutch, who announced similar charges today.

A reminder that Russia's still attempting to interfere. And, in fact, I believe this may be the announcement here. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to have three speakers today and four people on the podium. The speakers will be assistant attorney general for national security, John C. Demers.

SCIUTTO: Let's come back. That is the intro there to the announcements.

HARLOW: Right, the two minute warning, right?

SCIUTTO: We're going to come back the moment -- the moment they talk.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: But, meanwhile, let's go to our panel, Ron Brownstein and Errol Louis.

HARLOW: Right.

So, gentlemen, let's get to the key issue at hand here. We're keeping an eye on that. That's very big. But back to the Kavanaugh hearings on Capitol Hill and the vote that looks like a procedural vote, a big deal, is going to be tomorrow.

Ron Brownstein, to you. "The Washington Post" reporting this morning that the White House, really significantly, curtailed the scope here of whom the FBI could and should talk to about this and that it should just be focused on the alleged sexual assault and not the drinking or behavior or -- which were tied to memory loss in college and high school for Judge Kavanaugh. The White House says, look, you know, the Senate put the scope on these things. Investigations need limits, and these are the appropriate limits. Will the swing votes, those five key swing votes for the senators, see this report as sufficient?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think more likely than not. I mean the history of many of the Republican critics of the president is they bark a lot and then don't bite, and then they end up voting with him no matter how much they complain. I think no one would be surprised if that is the outcome.

I think the clearer, though, implication of what has happened is that not only Democrats, but the vast majority of voters who have been skeptical of Kavanaugh, and yesterday in a poll, you know, 52 percent said he should not be confirmed. A doubt remains. I think they are not going to view this as a legitimate process and I think it will continue to pressure for Democrats to reopen these issues, at least in an investigatory manner, if they retake the House in November.

[09:35:04] SCIUTTO: Errol Louis, there clearly, as there often is, a diametrically opposed view from folks on the other side of the aisle that Kavanaugh has been treated unfairly here, that these allegations they say uncorroborated. And I want to read an excerpt from a column in "The New York Times" today by Brett Stevens (ph), a conservative columnist but frequent critic of President Trump, I should note. This is what he writes, I'm grateful because Trump has not backed down in the face of the slipperiness, hypocrisy and dangerous standard-setting deployed by opponents of Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. I'm grateful because ferocious and even crass obstinacy has its uses in life and never more so than in the face of sly moral bullying.

I mean the essential argument here, Errol Louis, is that Democrats pushed uncorroborated allegations with political motivations. And my -- actually, hold that thought, Errol, because we now have the announcement from the Department of Justice. Let's listen in.

JOHN DEMERS, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Violations of several U.S. criminal laws from malicious cyber activities against the United States and its allies. I'm joined today by the U.S. attorney for the western district of Pennsylvania, Scott Brady, the FBI's deputy assistant director for cyber, Eric Welling (ph), and director general of the Royal Canadian Mountain Police, Mark Flynn (ph). A short while ago, the Dutch minister of defense and the United

Kingdom's national security adviser held a joint press conference announcing a recent intelligence operation against several Russian agents conducting a clandestine mission in The Hague. The joint U.K./Dutch intelligence operation led to four Russian GRU officers being caught red handed while they attempted to breach the cyber security of the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons. This GRU target, and an additional laboratory in Switzerland, that was their next target, were analyzing the deadly Russian nerve agent recovered in the U.K. following an assassination attempt, as well as other chemical agents that were used in Syria against innocent civilians. The prime ministers of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement condemning the Russian behavior. We are including a copy of their statements in the materials provided to all of you in this room and online at justice.gov.

Our indictment today charges some of the same Russian operatives caught in The Hague, along with their colleagues in Moscow, as part of a conspiracy to hack a variety of individuals and organizations in the United States, Canada and Europe, to obtain information or access that was then exploited for the benefit of the Russian government.

More specifically, this indictment alleges a conspiracy to use computer hacking to obtain nonpublic personal health information about athletes and others in the files of anti-doping agencies and sporting federations in multiple countries and to release that stolen information selectively and sometimes misleadingly. All of this was done to undermine those organization's efforts to ensure the integrity of the Olympic and other games.

Other targets of this conspiracy were the chemical weapons laboratory in The Hague and a nuclear power company here in America. Three of the seven defendants charged in this case were previously charged in the indictment brought by the office of special council.

SCIUTTO: So you've been listening there to the Department of Justice announcing new criminal charges against seven Russian nationals, specifically members of Russia's military intelligence unit, for a conspiracy to hack here individuals in the U.S., obtaining private information, including health care information. They have not yet identified those individuals. They mentioned athletes, other public figures. And this happening, as U.S. allies, including the Dutch, announcing similar charges as well.

So Russian efforts to interfere in this country continue.

HARLOW: Again. Yes.

SCIUTTO: And aggressively.

Let's go back to our panel now.

Errol Louis, Ron Brownstein, we've been talking about the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Errol, back to the question I had teed up to you before, Republicans, many conservatives, even critics of Trump here see that Kavanaugh has been treated unfairly in this to a political end. I want to ask you answer to that criticism.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, the criticism I think stems from the reality that the Me Too movement has given rise to kind of a counter movement. And what I hear Brett Stevens saying, if I understand it right, is that the counter movement is making its voice known. And all of this is playing out through a political process. But we should be clear that we've got to distinguish between whether or not Brett's -- whether or not Judge Kavanaugh can be proved to have engaged in criminal conduct in the past. Surely that is not what the question is before us in its entirety. The question is whether or not he should be elevated to the court.

HARLOW: Yes.

[09:40:02] LOUIS: If the standard is, if we can't prove you're a criminal, you get to go to the Supreme Court, we're all in a lot of trouble.

HARLOW: So Deborah Ramirez, who is someone who has levelled accusations against Judge Kavanaugh, she says he exposed himself to her while they were at Yale. She provided a list of 20 people she says the FBI should talk to about that. She tells "The New Yorker," and I quote -- and, remember, the FBI talked to her -- I am very alarmed first that I was denied an FBI investigation for five days and then, when one was granted, that it was given on a short time line. The people who were key to corroborating my story have not been contacted. I feel like I am being silenced.

Her lawyers, in just the past few moments, we've learned sent a letter complaining about that, Ron, to the FBI. How will senators weigh something like this?

BROWNSTEIN: Right, the letter is scathing. And, Poppy, I think what we're seeing already today and we'll probably see over the next 48 hours is unprecedented. I think in the interview on "NEW DAY" this morning, in the statement from another Yale classmate, we will see almost a crowd sourced alternative investigation of Brett Kavanaugh with people coming forward with accounts that the FBI simply did not pursue under the limits imposed by the White House and Senate Republicans.

Now, whether that is enough, you know, we are -- you know, we are down to really the question of what Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski consider a legitimate investigation and consider enough to justify their vote. But I think in the next 48 hours, we are going to see something unprecedented, a really marker kind of how the social media age is changing all of the way that we interact. And one that is likely to reinforce the depths.

Don't forget, in the polling that came out yesterday, a significant plurality said they believe Blasey Ford over Brett Kavanaugh. And as the president says, yes, there is evidence of Republican intensity increasing around this fight in terms of the election, but there's no doubt that if you look at kind of the suburban areas that are deciding control of the House, it is an overwhelming 64 percent in that poll yesterday people who live in the suburbs said that if there is still doubt, not even prove, to Errol's point, doubt, after this investigation, he should not be confirmed. Republicans have to realize that whatever this means for the Senate, it is greatly compounding their risk in the House to move forward in the face of these additional allegations.

HARLOW: But if you look at the state polling, look at North Dakota, right, and look at the support for Kavanaugh in North Dakota.

BROWNSTEIN: That's the Senate. That's the Senate.

HARLOW: Right. Of course. I'm just saying, if you look at the support for him there in a state where, for Heitkamp, but, you know, they're looking at the state.

SCIUTTO: It may be race by race, right?

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

HARLOW: Totally.

SCIUTTO: It might be race by race.

Errol Louis, Ron Brownstein, thanks very much, as always.

Mike Pence, the vice president, preparing to send a very tough message to China, that the U.S. will not be imitating, will not stand down. Coming up, the role the U.S. Navy could play in making sure that message is received.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:46:54] HARLOW: All right, in just a few hours, a major speech from the vice president, Mike Pence, taking aim directly, not mincing words at China.

SCIUTTO: Yes, attacking Beijing for what he calls its, quote, reckless harassment of the U.S. military in the South China Sea. The vice president warning that the U.S. will not be intimidated, will not stand down.

CNN's Will Ripley live in Hong Kong with more on what we could expect.

And it struck me, Will, looking at the draft of the speech, or rather the -- that he -- there's also a political message here.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: He said that China does not want Trump as president. That China's -- that Russia's interference in the U.S. pales in comparison, in his words, to China's interference.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean this is going to be really an extraordinary speech, attacking China on the domestic politics front, the trade front and the military front using this weekend's close call in the South China Sea as the peg.

I mean the images that were released are truly extraordinary. They show just how close, you know, these two ships, the Chinese destroyer and the American ship came, within 45 yards of the bow of the USS Decatur. That's what the Navy says. That's what the vice president's going to say in his speech. And he is going to say that the United States will continue these freedom of navigation patrols.

China says that the U.S. is sailing ships into its territorial waters. They claim a large swath of the South China Sea. The U.S. rejects that claims and they sail their ships near the disputed Spratly Islands other disputed areas that China claims jurisdiction over. That's why you have confrontations like the one that we saw on Sunday and perhaps more to come if the U.S. Navy goes through with this plan that's being discussed for a global show of force in the South China Sea and elsewhere for more freedom of navigations operations on the sea and in the sky.

So Vice President Pence will talk about that. He'll also talk about allegations of Chinese election meddling. And I want to read you another excerpt from the speech because this is an extraordinary statement. The vice president, you know, attributing this to an intelligence official that he was having a conversation with saying, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country. And he's going to lay out claims that China is trying to meddle in local elections, trying to sew divide within the United States, you know, amongst the Trump administration and local officials, trying to turn Trump voters against the administration by targeting tariffs specifically in red states. It's just truly extraordinary, not to mention what's happening with trade with those $200 billion in new tariffs the U.S. slapped on Chinese goods just last week.

HARLOW: Yes.

RIPLEY: Not getting any better any time soon, guys.

HARLOW: It sounds like just the beginning of this one.

Will Ripley, thank you so much.

You worked in China. You know how Xi Jinping, you know, will take something like this. What do you think the Chinese response will be?

SCIUTTO: Well, one thing's clear, China does not like to be pushed around.

HARLOW: And that's what Pence is going to try to do.

SCIUTTO: And that goes for the leadership, but also for the Chinese public. And the leadership will be conscious that the public will not tolerate or welcome China, saying, OK, fine, if you're telling us to do this --

HARLOW: Sure.

SCIUTTO: Sure, you know, we'll go with what you say. Yes.

HARLOW: So buckle up.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: All right. We'll be following that in just a few hours from the vice president.

We are following all of the breaking news on Capitol Hill. Senators looking one by one at the FBI report on judge Brett Kavanaugh. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:52:43] HARLOW: All right, count them, 33 days until the midterms. We want to know not what the pundits think all the time, but what you think and what's driving you to the polls.

SCIUTTO: And we've been asking people from all over the country every day in our new segment "Why I'm Voting." Here's what some of you had to say this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELE BROWN, VOTER FROM JUPITER, FLORIDA: Women's issues are very important to me. I haven't had health care in 20 years. That's a big one for me.

SAVANNAH SIMPSON, VOTER AND STUDENT AT UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: My family, they work very hard and they work fair and they earn their money. And so I think that if you're wanting to come to the U.S., I am here to welcome you, but I believe there's a right way to do it.

HEATHER ANDREWS, VOTER FROM HAMBURG, PENNSYLVANIA: There needs to be adequate checks and balances. And I think right now, with the Republicans having the White House, the Senate, and the Congress, things are very skewed and there's no check in the House or in the Senate.

TIM MCMAHON, VOTER FROM NEW YORK: Border security is one of them. Everyone's coming in here. You can't accept the whole world anymore. And the Democrats are just -- is resist everything at all costs. Not open to any type of agreement on anything. I mean, Trump shoots himself in the foot too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Well, yes, on both sides, not a lot of consensus.

SCIUTTO: Well, there was a big variety there, right?

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Lots of folks thinking and thoughtful answers across the board. So we appreciate you guys participating in this.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys.

SCIUTTO: Keep it up.

HARLOW: Yes, post a video. Tell us what you think. Go to Instagram, use the hash tag #whyivotecnn. You might see your response right here.

SCIUTTO: Amazon warehouse workers will get a raise next month, but it comes with an important tradeoff.

HARLOW: Yes, losing their monthly bonuses and stock awards (ph).

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans, chief business correspondent of CNN Business, new name today, is with us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. Yes.

Look, Amazon, a big business story yesterday and again today. You know, it's given $15 minimum wage there across the company. That's 350,000 workers who will see a raise. And some of this analysis I'm looking at, guys, shows that in some states, like Georgia, for example, that's going to be almost doubling of wages for people in Georgia.

Now, the new story today is that in return for that, they're giving up some bonuses for hourly workers. A bonus and a stock purchase program. But the company tells us this. The significant increase in hourly cash wages more than compensates for the phase out of incentive pay and RSUs, restricted stock units. They say they talked to their employees, their hourly employees, and they weren't as excited about a stock purchase plan as they were about more money in their paycheck. And so that's what they want to do.

[09:55:02] You know, Amazon is also asking other companies to lead, to raise wages. They say it's the right thing to do. But it's also a very tight labor market, right? I mean if you're making $11 at Walmart and the economy is as strong as it is, you know, this is an advantage for Amazon to be offering $15 an hour. It's also a response to people like Senator Bernie Sanders, who actually introduced legislation last month that would have fined or taxed Amazon and other retailers basically to punish them for the fact that some of their employees had wages so low that they were using government assistance.

HARLOW: Right. Gosh, you've got to think if you're some of Amazon's biggest competitors, what do you do now?

ROMANS: Right.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

ROMANS: You're going to think about raising your wages, absolutely (ph).

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: And consumers have shown themselves to be plugged into that.

ROMANS: Yes.

SCIUTTO: You know sometimes they'll boycott companies if they're not happy with the company policy.

ROMANS: I know the debate used to always be like, should the government force companies to raise wages. The companies are doing it themselves because the economy is so strong.

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: You mentioned CNN Business.

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: CNN Money is now CNN Business. For the latest on tech, media and finance, go to our new CNN Business. It's your gateway to the future, featuring exclusive interviews with newsmakers, in depth coverage of the companies and innovations driving business forward. You can find it all at cnn.com/business. That launches later today. We've got a great, great piece on there about Amazon. It's Amazon's world and we just live in it, basically.

HARLOW: I think so.

SCIUTTO: You can learn a lot on CNN Business.

Christine Romans, thanks very much.

ROMANS: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Major day on The Hill. Decision time. Will Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh get to the votes he needs to be confirmed?

HARLOW: That did not feel --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)