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Republicans Push Forward on Kavanaugh Vote. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 4, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:03]

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: These are important things to me.

When I got out to practice law in Utah, I was told by everybody that Judge Willis Ritter was a curmudgeon that you really had to watch. Well, I got along well with Judge Ritter. He just wanted you to be confident when you went to court.

On the other hand, he was biased. There is no doubt in my mind. This is an important position. And this man is qualified. And to put him through this type of a mess just because they are unhappy that Donald Trump had the right to appoint him is just plain wrong.

And I got to say that I'm proud of my colleagues for standing up on this issue. And we ought to all be standing up on these issues. What we want is, we want competent federal judges who are not biased, who basically will abide by the laws themselves. And this man is one of those people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold up. Hold up. Last question.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: It was very clear to us in the memorandum 2009 between Obama and Chairman Leahy that there's one document, no copies made, and -- and not released to the public.

So we can't do that. Now, there's some suggestion the White House can do it, but you're going to have to go to the White House to get that answer to your question.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Thank you for staying with us in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin.

We have just been listening into Senate leadership from the Republicans making their case for why they believe Brett Kavanaugh should now be confirmed to the United States Supreme Court following the latest development, the FBI's report into a supplemental background check just released for senators to review, in which McConnell we heard say nothing in that report corroborates the allegations of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.

And nothing, he says, would satisfy Democrats. He's calling for the vote to move forward.

Let me bring in our panel and start with you, Gloria Borger.

We heard from Chuck Grassley believing there should be a vote as soon as Saturday, that he could be confirmed by then.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

Look, these -- these Republicans were angry about what had occurred. You heard Grassley call it a demolition derby. You heard Cornyn call it character assassination and that -- and say that the Democrats were on a search and destroy mission.

So there's sort of no doubt in my mind where they are, although Senator Tillis said that Dr. Ford clearly experienced a traumatic event, and that's as far as he went.

What was interesting to me about what Chuck Grassley said, sort of at the very end of the press conference -- and, Jeff, maybe you can talk about this -- was that they can't release anything from this background information, maybe not even a summary.

But he said there's some talk that perhaps the White House could do that. And that was in response to a question about how can the public decide how complete this investigation was without knowing anything about what it contained?

And he sort of left that door open a little bit and passed the baton over to the White House, I thought.

CABRERA: Jeff, any indication the White House plans to make this report public?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Gloria, I picked up on that as well. And I think that might have been Chairman Grassley and the rest of the Senate trying to pass the buck, if you will, up Pennsylvania Avenue, because the reality here is, I think if all thousand pages of that supplemental interviews were released to the public, some dissenters and critics and perhaps even others likely wouldn't be satisfied, because the question will never be answered.

Why weren't others interviewed? Why wasn't Judge Kavanaugh interviewed? Why wasn't Professor Ford interviewed? So the White House officials I'm talking to in fact said that they would also like it to be released or some parts of it to be released, but it's an agreement that was reached by the Senate.

So we have a lot of procedure here. Perhaps at some point some of this so, we will look at. I think the thing that people want to know more than anything is that three-hour interview with Mark Judge. Of course, Mark Judge is the friend of Brett Kavanaugh's who Professor Ford said was in the room of that house some 36 years ago.

Now, we haven't heard from him except in a statement from his lawyers. I think that, among all, that is something that we would like to see. So I wouldn't be surprised if some of that would either leak out or there would be a rule or something to declassify some of this.

[15:05:03]

But the reality is, we see where this is heading. And for all the conversations about this is basically where we were a week ago, that's actually not true. I mean, the reality here now is that the objections, it seems, of Senator Flake and Susan Collins and others have been realized, at least to have this being done.

So during this entire few-week process, which seems like it's gone on much longer, I have not seen as bright of optimism at the White House as I'm seeing this afternoon about the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh.

Now, the question is how damaged is he going on the Supreme Court, if he is confirmed? And that will be a discussion that we have for a long time to come, because there were mistakes along the way here. And I think that that is something that is the next discussion in this.

But, again, Susan Collins is still reading the document. Senator Murkowski, we have not heard from her at all. So, we should take a deep breath and see where they are going to be on this.

CABRERA: Right.

It does seem like those three in particular could be the pivotal. We knew on the Democratic side it was going to be Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp. Heidi Heitkamp within the last half-hour coming out and saying she is going to vote no. We're still waiting on Joe Manchin as well.

But to the point of what we know, what we don't know, there has been a lack of transparency throughout this entire process. This investigation and this report now we have learned is about 1,000 pages' long, includes information that came from nine separate interviews with people that they had conducted these interviews with throughout the process, as well as some information that was into the FBI tip line.

But now we're getting these trickle -- trickling bits of information out about who wasn't interviewed, Ford saying that Ford's husband wasn't interviewed, Ford's team, that is, saying Ford's husband wasn't interviewed, the polygrapher wasn't interviewed, that there were other people who could have corroborated their accounts.

And I want to go to Manu Raju, who was in that news conference.

And, Manu, you asked specifically about just that and the scope of this investigation.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, because we saw those two letters that came out today from both Christine Blasey Ford's attorneys and Deborah Ramirez, the other accuser, her attorneys. Ramirez's side says, look, there are 20 additional people who should be interviewed. There are eight additional people on the Christine Blasey Ford side they said that also should be interviewed. So I was trying to get the senators, to pin them down exactly about why they weren't interviewed, should they have not, the White House not -- should have given a green light for the FBI to move forward?

And the senators did not provide a direct answer to that question that I was trying to get an answer to, instead making a case that they believe this has been a thorough investigation. They don't believe the claims have been corroborated.

They kept going back to how there have been some 150 witnesses over seven background investigations being interviewed. But I was trying to understand why those 28 or so people, why they were not interviewed. And why not spend a couple more days doing that, given the resources of the FBI?

But you heard John Cornyn really pushing back there, saying this is all part an effort to -- quote -- "search and destroy." They believe this is a fishing expedition being pushed by the Democrats. They want to bring this to a close. But ultimately they're speaking to an audience of three, those three key Republican, Senators Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins.

If they agree with them that it has been a thorough investigation, as Susan Collins suggested earlier, as Jeff Flake suggested earlier, Lisa Murkowski has been noncommittal on that so far, then that could be enough to get him confirmed as soon as this weekend, which is why you're hearing that Republican pushback, but not a direct answer to why those additional witnesses were not interviewed, Ana.

CABRERA: Manu, stand by.

We have some new sound from Senator Heidi Heitkamp on why she is now choosing to vote no on Kavanaugh. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

But there's an old saying. History will judge you, but, most importantly, you will judge yourself. And that's really what I'm saying. I can't get up in the morning and look at the life experience that I have had and say yes to Judge Kavanaugh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Gloria Borger, I want to get your reaction, because we know the latest polling shows that this move may not be good for her politically.

BORGER: Right. Heidi Heitkamp is behind, what, a dozen points in the polls. She's been sinking during the whole nomination process. And red state Democrats, this has really hurt them. And you were speaking earlier last hour about how this has motivated the Republican base.

And I think that's -- I think that's what you're seeing right now. And I think that's why the president actually changed his tone on Dr. Ford earlier this week, when he started mocking her, if you will.

I mean, look, this is -- this is political. The Democrats have to show that they have fought as hard as they could to please their base and also because they don't want him confirmed.

[15:10:00]

But we're getting into a midterm election here. And so this ain't bean ball here. And Republicans are sticking with Kavanaugh. The president stuck with Kavanaugh, particularly I think when realized that it was good for him.

Now, it's going to hurt him in the House of Representatives. I mean, ironically, moderate Republicans are going to say, you know what, gee, these suburban women in a lot of House races, particularly those 20- plus districts that Hillary Clinton won, this could hurt Republicans in the House.

But it's going to help them keep those seats in the Senate in those 10 red states.

CABRERA: Asha Rangappa is with us. She's an FBI -- former FBI special agent, also a lawyer.

And, Asha, when you listened to that press conference we just heard, that lengthy press conference with Republican leadership, we heard multiple times them say that they did not instruct the FBI on who to interview, how to go about this probe. Do you take him at his word? Or what do you make of where this investigation landed, who was interviewed, who wasn't?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that would be correct, Ana.

Remember that background checks are run out of the administrative division of the FBI. They're essentially subcontractors for whatever agency or entity is requesting it. In this case, it would be the White House.

When the FBI gave its background check, it was closed. For the FBI to open it up again, they needed a request from the White House to open it up and give them the scope. So, in many ways, they are subcontractors. And unlike a criminal investigation, they are more at the mercy, if you will, of the parameters of what the customer wants to know.

So I think the question here is, what, if any, restrictions were placed on the FBI by the White House in terms of the request to reopen this investigation? Was there a restrictive witness list? Were they told explicitly not to interview some people?

That is going to be key, because, on its face, it does not make sense to me that there were many other people who are not interviewed, if the issue here was to look at a potential issue with regard to character or fitness or suitability for a position of public trust.

CABRERA: So you are saying that it does not make sense to you that if they were given free rein, to use the president's words, that they wouldn't have interviewed additional people, including those that were pointed out by Ford's lawyers?

RANGAPPA: I think those that were pointed out by Ford's lawyer, I think people who are -- who have, in fact, corroborated some of the college allegations, for example, and who have come forth to do give even sworn statements, I think the FBI would have circled back with them and tried to make sure that they were as comprehensive as possible.

The FBI is not in the habit of leaving loose ends. That's not what they do. But unlike in a criminal investigation, where they have independent authority under the statutes of the United States and the attorney general guidelines to pursue those things, you know, in a background check, I think that it's more restrictive, and it's really about what the decision-making person, the adjudicator, in this case, the White House, wants to know.

So, remember, the FBI is also good at writing memos about what they're asked to do. So if the House turns over in November, the House Judiciary Committee could ask the FBI for any notes or memos that were taken with regard to this investigation, and they will -- they can find out exactly what restrictions or parameters the FBI was operating under.

CABRERA: Asha, will this FBI report ever see the light of day?

RANGAPPA: This -- you mean the supplemental background check?

CABRERA: Yes.

RANGAPPA: I mean, again, it is in the possession of the White House.

They are -- it's almost like a part of the personnel file of the person that they are looking at. So I think that, in this case, I believe it was Chairman Grassley said it's the White House decision. I think he's correct.

I think in terms of actually making those public, that will be the White House decision. The irony, Ana, in calling for transparency in the Russia investigation with classified sources and methods, and we're uncovering all of that, but yet saying that this, which is clearly in the public's interest and could affect the day-to-day life of a lot of people moving forward, is going to stay confidential, I think that would be kind of pretty ironic on the part of the White House if they didn't release.

CABRERA: All right, Asha Rangappa, thank you. Quick break. A lot more to discuss, including President Trump landing just moments for now in Minneapolis. Trump's so far today staying quiet about his Supreme Court nominee.

We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:19:13]

CABRERA: Thousands of women are marching toward the U.S. Capitol right now to protest the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Watch this. They're calling this the cancel Kavanaugh march and rally, and among the crowd, survivors of sexual assault speaking out about their experiences.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is there for us. He has been following these marchers as they have been making turn after turn.

Joe, it looks like you have got a little separation from them right now. What's going on?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, it's been a bit of a cat-and-mouse game between the U.S. Capitol Police and the protesters today.

[15:20:00]

As you can see right behind me, Ana, there are protesters who are filing into that building, which happens to be the Hart Senate Office Building.

And over here at the Russell Senate Office Building, we see the leavings, the last people going in.

The reason why they're doing this today is because they had planned to do some type of a direct action possibly involving arrests at the United States Capitol. U.S. Capitol Police got wind of that, so they barricaded the entire U.S. Capitol, making it very difficult for the protesters to get there.

But beyond the process, the point is quite clear. These people have been marching all over Capitol Hill today, a big rally over at the United States Supreme Court in protest of the Kavanaugh nomination. And they have been very specific today, which is interesting, I think.

There was a big roar that went up after the announcement came out that Senator Heidi Heitkamp, the Democrat, would be voting against the nomination. They also called out individually some of the senators who are on the fence, like Susan Collins, like Jeff Flake and some others.

So another day of this on Capitol Hill, it's really a broken through the barrier and become a part of the American conversation, in no small part, Ana, because there are just so many people here.

CABRERA: All right, Joe Johns at the Capitol for us.

Let's talk more about the political fallout now and whether or not Kavanaugh is confirmed.

I have with me Republican strategist Noelle Nikpour and CNN political commentator Catherine Rampell. She's an opinion columnist for "The Washington Post."

And, Catherine, let me just first start with you.

Let's talk about the female vote, because put aside the Supreme Court being at stake here, which is a big part of it. But the fact of the matter is, we're talking about sexual assault allegations. We're in the MeToo era.

And the MeToo era, what we have seen over even just the last year, again, putting Kavanaugh aside, is females are fired up. What do you see as the power of the female vote going into the midterms?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's important to remember that there has been a gender-based partisan gap basically since about, I think, 1980, that women have been more likely to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate in particular than men every single year since then, even if both genders voted in favor of one party or the other.

But that gap is growing. And the fact that we have a president in the White House who has made misogynistic comments, who has boasted about his ability to sexually assault women, that in and of itself, of course, fired up women, fired up female voters to become more passionate and more likely to lean Democratic.

Now you have the entire Republican Party sort of doubling down on that strategy of belittling women, bullying women, supporting, for example, a Republican senatorial candidate who was accused of molesting underage women -- girls, in fact -- and now you have them rallying around a Supreme Court nominee who is accused of...

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Yes.

CABRERA: And as we look at these live pictures, these are inside the Senate office building. You can obviously see a big crowd is pouring into there, funneling into there, wanting their senators to know how they feel about this issue and about the Supreme Court nomination at stake.

But when you think about really politics on both sides of the aisle, there was Bill Clinton. There was the "Access Hollywood" tape that came out before the election and all the allegations that were tied to that and President Trump allegations prior to him becoming president.

I mean, what does that tell you about whether past indiscretions and treatment of women matter when it comes to electing politicians, Noelle?

NOELLE NIKPOUR, REPUBLICAN FUND-RAISER: It does matter.

And I think, did you notice at the -- when the Republican senators were talking, did you notice the spin on the situation? They were not denying Dr. Ford's allegations to where her pain and what happened to her. But do you notice how they were spinning it to where there was another victim?

And that was...

CABRERA: And that was Brett Kavanaugh.

NIKPOUR: You got it.

So I think that this is what they have done. The narrative it looks like for the GOP is to spin that to where there were two victims here. So, I think that they're having to pave that way. And this is why they went ahead and allowed that FBI investigation to be delayed for one week, because time -- time wise, they could afford to have it delayed only one week because the midterms are coming up.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: You're a Republican strategist. Having five white men out there making the case, does that help them with this gender gap?

NIKPOUR: I think that there -- well, there are two ways to look at it, because I think the victim card, so to speak, for the -- Judge Kavanaugh all is trying to appeal to women based on your brother, your husband, your sons.

So I think that they're trying to play this card as regards to the victim labeling for both parties.

[15:25:03]

CABRERA: Right.

Catherine, we have heard from a lot of people, some of the protesters today, some sexual assault survivors who have equated a yes vote for Kavanaugh as essentially saying, we don't believe women who say they have been victimized. Is that fair?

RAMPELL: I think it's fair, in the sense that Dr. Ford's delegations are very credible.

Her testimony was very credible. Nothing about the investigation that took place since that hearing has led us to believe that they -- that the FBI or slash the White House and Republican Senate leadership was in pursuit of truth, that they were trying to figure out whether or not Dr. Ford was should be believed, essentially or whether...

CABRERA: "We have done the best we could under these circumstances" were Chuck Grassley's exact words. RAMPELL: Yes. Well, the best they could is not good enough, if they

didn't -- if the FBI didn't interview Dr. Ford, didn't interview Kavanaugh, didn't interview dozens of people who have come forward and told members of the media, hey, I reached out to the FBI, I have information one way or the other, and the FBI never got back to me.

This was set up to try to provide cover for Senators Flake, Collins and Murkowski to vote for Kavanaugh.

NIKPOUR: There's still division. There is still division. And you can see this.

And I think that this -- we're going to see the results of this division in the midterm elections. This is where the truth is going to come down. And we will see what they have done.

CABRERA: All right, Noelle, Catherine, thank you both for being with us.

Right now, President Trump is arriving in Minnesota. We're going to keep an eye on that to see if he makes any comment on Kavanaugh's confirmation nomination.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)