Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Seven Russian Military Intelligence Officers Indicted by U.S. in Alleged Criminal Scheme of Global Cyberattacks; VP Pence Accuses China of Trying to Undermine Trump. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 4, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thorough or incomplete? The Republicans pushing toward a vote Canada -- on Kavanaugh, I should say, are praising the FBI probe, while Democrats are calling it a cover-up controlled by the White House. Did investigators uncover anything new?
Supreme anger. Anti-Kavanaugh protesters hit the streets, but the president says his supporters are energized too. Will the high court battle influence the November fight for control of Congress?
And worse than Russia? Vice President Pence accuses China of anti- Trump interference in the 2018 election, arguing that Moscow's meddling pales in comparison to Beijing's. Why is the White House eager to call out China and not the Kremlin?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news, high drama and huge protests up on Capitol Hill.
This hour, senators are reviewing the FBI report on Brett Kavanaugh, with the clock ticking toward a pivotal vote on his Supreme Court nomination. Anti-Kavanaugh protesters, they have been out in force as President Trump and Republicans are sounding more optimistic that Kavanaugh will be confirmed.
Three key undecided Republican senators have yet to reveal how they will vote, but two of them, Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, are calling the FBI's probe thorough.
Tonight, Collins went back into that secure facility at the Capitol to get another look at the report.
I will talk about all of this and more with former U.S. attorney and CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara. Our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, tonight, the former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens
reportedly says Brett Kavanaugh should not be confirmed to the high court.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Justice Stevens being reported in "The Palm Beach Post" earlier today, saying at an event down in Florida that Judge Kavanaugh should not be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is saying that basically because of Kavanaugh's testimony at that hearing last week that senators should not put him on the high court.
That is a stunning comment from a retired Supreme Court justice, who was nominated, by the way, by former President Gerald Ford. Yes, he was a liberal member of the Supreme Court. But he was confirmed unanimously by the Senate when he was put on the high court. He is saying Brett Kavanaugh should not be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, sources close to the nomination process, Wolf, tell CNN that Republican leaders up on Capitol Hill and White House officials are feeling increasingly optimistic about the prospects of Brett Kavanaugh. But Democrats are crying foul, arguing the Supreme Court nominee's background is being covered up.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Choosing his words carefully about his Supreme Court pick...
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he's doing very well. I think he's doing very well. The judge is doing well, all right?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ACOSTA: ... President Trump left it to GOP leaders to all but declare victory in the battle over Brett Kavanaugh.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I feel very good about where this nomination is right now. Now, I don't say that from the standpoint of counting votes. I say that from the standpoint of the qualifications of this candidate.
ACOSTA: A big reason for the optimism? Two undecided Republican senator sounded satisfied with the FBI's supplemental investigation into Kavanaugh's background that appeared to fall short of concluding that the judge assaulted Christine Blasey Ford back in the early '80s.
Senator Jeff Flake, who had asked for the expanded probe, told reporters, "We have seen no additional corroborating information," while Senator Susan Collins added, "It appears to be a very thorough investigation."
The White House continued to insist the FBI was given free rein to follow any leads. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We allowed the
FBI to do exactly what they do best. We haven't micromanaged this process. We accommodated all of the Senate's requests.
ACOSTA: But Democrats are accusing the White House of standing in the way of the truth, stopping the FBI from interviewing both Kavanaugh and his accuser.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It now appears that they also blocked the FBI from doing its job. Democrats agreed that the investigation's cope should be limited. We did not agree that the White House should tie the FBI's hands.
ACOSTA: Ford's legal team fired off an angry lettered to FBI Director Chris Wray, offering names of people who her attorneys claimed could refute Kavanaugh's account, writing: "The investigation conducted over the past five days is a stain on the process, on the FBI, and on our American ideal of justice."
Republicans say Democrats are just trying to stall.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: What we know for sure is, the FBI report did not corroborate any of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. And the second thing we know for sure is that there's no way anything we did would satisfy the Democrats.
ACOSTA: Still, the final vote could be very close. One undecided Democrat in a tight race for reelection, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, is voting against Kavanaugh.
SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: The process has been bad. But at the end of the day, you have to make a decision. I will be voting no one Judge Kavanaugh.
ACOSTA: With protests on the streets of Washington, this Supreme circus is wearing down nearly everybody.
QUESTION: Why no polygraph?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Because you have humiliated this guy enough. And there seems to be no bottom for some of you.
So, why don't we dump him in water and see if he floats?
ACOSTA: Even though the final vote is looking good for Brett Kavanaugh, there is still one final X-factor, President Trump himself.
Republicans were furious with his comments earlier this week, when he mocked Christine Blasey Ford at that rally down in Mississippi.
The president still has one more rally -- that's tonight in Minnesota -- before the senators decide Kavanaugh's fate. Wolf, they have gained some momentum today for Brett Kavanaugh. It could be undone tonight, depending on what the president says, Wolf.
BLITZER: We will watch that.
Jim Acosta, thank you.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where we're told Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine is still reading the FBI report in that secure room.
Our senior congressional corresponding, Manu Raju, is over at the Capitol for us.
Manu, so how do we expect this key Republican -- actually, there are a few key Republican senators who are still technically undecided -- to vote?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know yet.
And Susan Collins going back into the briefing room for the second time today. I caught up with her briefly before she went in, I said, do you have any concerns about what you're hearing so far, any new concerns? And she said -- quote -- "I'm not going to draw conclusions before I'm finished reading."
Now, this came after she made some positive remarks earlier in the day saying it appears that they had done a thorough investigation, breaking significantly from Democrats who have said that this was not a thorough investigation, it was an incomplete investigation. Susan Collins does not think so.
Also Jeff Flake, that other key Republican senator, said something very similar. He said he agreed that there was -- appeared to be a thorough investigation. And he also suggested that he -- Jeff Flake also said there was nothing to corroborate those allegations.
Now, when we also caught up with Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, she would not go that far. She was noncommittal. She said that she's still reviewing everything. But she was not in this closed-door briefing that just occurred with Republicans only. Only Susan Collins returned for that briefing among those three undecided senators.
So we will have to wait and see whether or not Flake or Murkowski or Collins, when they will make their decision final. But we know tomorrow that critical vote, when they can -- Republicans cannot lose more than one Republican senator, if all those Democrats vote no. That's why their position is so critical tonight, as Collins is still behind closed doors getting that final details of that briefing, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it's going to be a critical vote.
What are the Republicans that you're talking to saying tonight?
RAJU: Well, the Republicans are defending the scope of this investigation. They say this has been a thorough job. They dispute.
The Democrats they say are just moving the goalposts and not -- trying to just delay a final vote until after the elections. Now, Christine Blasey Ford, one of the two accusers, along with Debbie Ramirez, the other accuser, both of their representative said there were a total of 28 witnesses who should be interviewed who could potentially corroborate this account.
This after the FBI only interviewed nine witnesses. Now, I asked Republican senators, why not allow for 28 witnesses that have been called for to be interviewed? Why not call on the FBI to do just that?
This is how they responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Why not green-light the FBI, tell the White House to green- light the FBI to interview these additional witnesses?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: The FBI has gotten all the -- all the permission they need in order to interview whoever they think is necessary. There has been no one to corroborate any of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or by Ms. Ramirez.
And the FBI has reported that back to us. They have followed additional leads. But the whole purpose of this is delay. This is not a search for the truth anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So not exactly saying why those additional witnesses have not been interviewed. But they believe over seven background checks through the course of Brett Kavanaugh's career, that is enough, it is time for a vote, and they are confident tonight that those -- their members will get on board and they can push him through, break that Democratic filibuster tomorrow for that confirmation vote Saturday.
But members still reviewing this behind closed doors. Expected to happen tonight up until tomorrow morning right ahead of a key vote tomorrow, Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you.
There's more breaking news tonight. CNN has learned that the FBI report sent to Capitol Hill includes 45 pages of interview summaries, as well as 1,600 extra pages of information that the FBI collected from its tip line.
Let's talk a little bit more about the investigation.
Former FBI Supervisory Special Agent Josh Campbell is joining us. He's a CNN law enforcement analyst.
Josh, Republicans say the report was comprehensive. Democrats say it was a sham. Is the FBI being used as a political tool? JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, with the
absence of information from the outside looking in, that's certainly a possibility.
If you look at the way both sides have framed this issue, they couldn't be farther from each other. On one hand, Republicans are looking at this FBI report and asking the question, what is in it? The Democrats are looking at the report and asking something quite different. What is not in the report?
There's still lingering questions about some of the new allegations that surfaced regarding Judge Kavanaugh. It doesn't appear at this point that those were included in that report.
BLITZER: What have you learned about what the report included?
CAMPBELL: So, as you mentioned, 45 pages and then another 1,600 pages of additional information. The 45 pages appear to be the testimonial documents that FBI agents had written based on the interviews with those nine witnesses that they had spoken to. That was obviously a key part of this investigation.
And then the 1,600 appear to be these tips that are coming in from the public unsolicited from people who are either providing information, maybe suggesting that they know something about the judge's past. All that appears to be compiled together, sent to the White House and then sent over to the Senate, Wolf.
BLITZER: What parameters do you think the White House gave the FBI a week or so ago? And why won't either the White House or the FBI release this information to the public?
CAMPBELL: Well, the question about the parameters is so key here, Wolf, because we still don't know what the White House was telling the FBI about what they were permitted to look at.
If you listen to some of the comments that were made today by the White House and the Senate, there appears to be a major contradiction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: We did not come up with a list of people who the FBI should interview.
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: There was an initial list of four provided to us by the Senate. They were interviewed and then leads were followed up on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL: As you see there, Wolf, I mean, you have the Senate that saying that we didn't provide a list of names. You have the White House that saying that they received four name from the Senate.
That only makes things murkier. Again, the question is going to come down to, what did the White House direct the FBI to do? The FBI is not taking direction from the Senate. They're taking it from the White House, their bosses. We still don't have the answer to that question. And I'm not sure we will before the vote nomination, the confirmation comes.
But, again, that's a key question the public is looking and asking. What were the parameters here? What were the constraints, Wolf?
BLITZER: Good point. All right, Josh, thank you, Josh Campbell reporting for us.
Let's get some more perspective right now from a veteran of high- profile investigations.
Joining us, the former U.S. attorney, the CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara.
Preet, thanks so much for joining us.
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Sure.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about all of this.
The FBI, as you know, they interviewed dying people as they conducted this probe over the past few days. They didn't interview Professor Ford or Judge Kavanaugh.
If you had been conducting this probe, would you have been able to issue a report without talking to the two most important witnesses?
BHARARA: I mean, I might have been able to issue a report. You can issue a report no matter how short or long your investigations, but I wouldn't have.
And, quite frankly, I don't understand why folks on one side on the part of the administration have gotten them into -- have gotten themselves into a situation where they have to defend the investigation. In some ways, I think Senator Flake did a favor to the administration by causing them to rethink this absolute opposition to having a further investigation by switching his vote and making his vote contingent on a further investigation and getting some other senators to go along with him.
During this week, the administration, I think, had an opportunity to put to rest some concerns about the quality of the evidence that has been brought out against Brett Kavanaugh. And so, when you have this back and forth that was just being reported on of whether or not direction was given about who could be talked to and who could not be talked to and restrictions on the scope of what the FBI could do, that just puts a cloud on the investigation that wasn't necessary.
A week is not a short period of time, but it's not a huge, long period of time either. And it seems to me that if the list of people to be interviewed was more than nine, reasonably interviewed, but 20, 25, 28 even -- that's the number that has been bandied about -- there are enough resources at the FBI to have just done it, cross every T, dot every I, check every box. And then you could, I think, more easily quiet people who thought it was a short-circuited investigation. And the idea that -- one of the reasons that has been propounded for why they didn't need to interview again Dr. Ford or Brett Kavanaugh is that they both testified in an open hearing at the Senate.
Now, ask any actual investigator or prosecutor in the world about whether or not you get at the truth, and you have -- you ask all the questions that need to be asked and get the answers that you need from five-minute increments in a politically charged atmosphere at a Senate hearing, and they will tell you that you're crazy.
The way that this should have been done, notwithstanding the public hearing, was behind closed doors, interviews with both of them after this other information came out, just to make sure that, again, they checked all the boxes.
BLITZER: By the way, as we were speaking, Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, has left that secure room up on Capitol Hill, the second time she was there today going through all of these documents that the FBI provided.
She refused to make a statement upon her departure. We will see how she votes tomorrow morning.
But what about the other witnesses, Preet, that Professor Ford, actually, through her attorneys supplied to the FBI? Presumably, they could have bolstered her account or at the very least filled in some gaps.
BHARARA: Look, I think the best practice, as I have said, is to interview the people who have been put forward. It doesn't take that much time.
The events in question lasted part of an evening. I don't think it takes a long time to sort of drain the recollection of those people. Some of them don't remember anything, as has been pointed out by other reporting.
And I think it just would have been easier to knock on the doors of all the people that were put forward by these witnesses, not necessarily because it would have changed the outcome. I'm not sure it would have. And for that reason, actually, I think the administration probably has made a mistake in -- to the extent that it's true, in stopping the interviews of other people.
Interview all the people, see what the evidence is, give it to the Senate, let them have their vote. There was no reason to rush it or exclude people, at least that I'm aware of. There may be other information that I'm not aware of. But it seems to me, for public faith and public confidence, interview all the folks.
BLITZER: As you know, the FBI was acting at the direction of the White House counsel. Democrats say the administration put unnecessary restrictions on who could be interviewed. Do you get the sense, Preet, that the White House unfairly influenced this investigation?
BHARARA: Well, I think if the White House did do what has been suggested by your question and that others have suggested, that they put limits on who could be interviewed, then I think, yes, they unfairly influenced the investigation.
Now, in other reporting that you have put forward yourself on the show, there are statements out of the White House saying that they let the FBI do what they wanted to do. The president himself said at some point in the last few days the FBI should do what they think is proper. Maybe it's the case and we're getting bad information and the FBI didn't think it was necessary to look at some other people.
That's not the sense I get. I also think that the White House through its communications department and also from the mouth of the president himself have not earned a reputation for being fully straightforward about these things. If the truth comes out later, and there's clear evidence that they said don't talk to X, Y, or Z, I think that's a problem.
And it's not great for the court. It's not great for Brett Kavanaugh if he is confirmed to the court. It's not great for the administration. It's not great for public faith in the Senate, in the hearing process, in the court, in the rule of law. It's just bad all around.
And people have a right to wonder, if there was a restriction placed on having interviews of other people, what do you have to hide? It creates -- I think it creates a terrible impression on the part of reasonable people who wanted a full investigation.
BLITZER: Want to get your reaction to this extraordinary development.
The retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who initially supported Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, has changed his mind, now says Kavanaugh should be disqualified based on his performance during last week's congressional hearing.
If Kavanaugh is was losing support from someone like Justice Stevens, what does that mean for his potential tenure on the Supreme Court?
BHARARA: Well, it doesn't probably mean anything for his potential confirmation to the Supreme Court, because John Paul Stevens, as distinguished and experience as he is, does not have a seat in the Senate.
On the question of whether or not it will have an impact on his tenure on the Supreme Court, I guess that remains to be seen. I am willing to guess that the eight current members of the court are not at all pleased by how this has unfolded from whatever perspective they come from.
I think the court wants its institution -- every institution wants itself to be respected and to be honored and to be trusted. It's true of a news organization. It's true of the Justice Department. It's going to be sure the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.
And whether or not they will agree ultimately with the opinions that the Brett Kavanaugh might have on particular issues, I think the idea that lots of aspersions have been cast on a future member of the court, it's just -- it's not good for -- again, I keep going back to the same phrase over and over again, because I think it's so important and it's been lost a little bit in this debate.
Public faith and public confidence, not just by one party, but by both parties, in the process and in the institutions themselves is incredibly important. And there are too many institutions in this country that have had crumbling support and had their authority undermined and their propensity for honesty undermined, that now to have the court, which is one of the remaining I think institutions that has more respect than some others, certainly than Congress, to fall to the same fate is, I think, a tragic thing for anybody who cares about the law and the rule of law.
BLITZER: Preet Bharara, thank you very much.
BLITZER: Just ahead: Senators are reviewing the FBI report into the night.
We're standing by to learn if key undecided members reveal whether they will be yes or no on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news unfolding up on Capitol Hill, as senators review the FBI report on the sexual misconduct allegations against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Tonight, a former Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens, says Kavanaugh's testimony before the Senate should disqualify him from serving on the nation's highest court.
Let's bring in our analysts.
And let's talk, Laura, about what Justice -- former Justice John Paul Stevens told the group down in Boca Raton, Florida. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PAUL STEVENS, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: At that time, I thought he had definitely the qualifications for -- to sit on the Supreme Court and should be confirmed if he was ever selected.
But I changed my views for reasons that have no -- really no relationship to his intellectual ability or his record as a federal judge. He's a fine federal judge and he should have been confirmed when he was nominated.
But I think his performance during the hearings cause me to change my mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, a lot of people speculated that he might have to recuse himself from a number of cases that would have some partisan connotation.
He was very, very clear that he was anti the Democrats who were against him. It seems that he was talking about himself as somebody who was the victim of this siege because of revenge, revenge on behalf of the Clintons.
You have this feeling that he may not be able to be the nonpartisan, diplomatic, objective arbiter that you want to have on a bench, certainly on the Supreme Court. That's not supposed to be a political body at all. And remember from his very first confirmation opening statement, he talked about that very issue, that the Supreme Court should never, ever be a political body.
And then he comes out swinging in many ways because he was indignant but based on the allegation that he feels were wrongful towards him, but in larger respect, he did exactly what he was accused of being prior to his confirmation in the D.C. Circuit, which is being a political operative who had motivations other than being a nonpartisan arbiter.
And so Justice Stevens, who certainly is well-qualified to say who should be on the Supreme Court and should not, is telling you part -- that very reason.
BLITZER: What do you think of Justice Stevens' statement? Will it have an impact among these undecided senators?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No in the near term, yes in the long term. No in the near term. He belongs to a Republican Party of memory that doesn't really exist anymore, a kind of centrist Republican Party circa the Gerald Ford era that has been kind of run over successively generations from Newt Gingrich to Donald Trump.
But in the long term, I think absolutely. I mean, just think about we're talking about here. We're talking about a justice who is not just any justice. He's being put on the court to be the fifth member of a Republican bloc that will be a majority potentially for 15 years, who is facing these allegations, who has a majority of the public oppose him -- or at least a plurality of the public opposing him, who is facing these kinds of questions about his legitimacy.
And I think in the near term, no, but does this make it more likely that the House looks at it next year if the Democrats take it? Sure. And does it create more questions about the political legitimacy of the court and the independence of the court, as this majority goes on?
Don't forget, Clarence Thomas, the oldest member of this majority, is 70. These five men could set the rules for the country for the next 15 years while we're going through enormous changes. And I think that is just a ticking time bomb.
BLITZER: As you know, there are a few senators who will decide whether or not he is confirmed, goes to the Supreme Court or not, 51 Republicans, 49 Democrats.
If the Republicans -- if all the Democrats vote against him and the Republicans lose two, it's over. Who are you watching?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Wolf.
There are three Republicans who are on the fence now that are really going to be the key deciders when it comes to this vote, Jeff Flake, who you can see here, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins of Maine.
Jeff Flake prior to the hearing where he had his dramatic change of heart was planning to confirm Kavanaugh. He was planning to vote yes and support him. And he decided at the last minute that he wanted this FBI investigation just as this extra blanket of security, this insurance policy to make sure nothing had been missed.
If he reads this report, as he has suggested in some statements today, and doesn't find anything new, I would think that Jeff Flake is likely to support Kavanaugh. But Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski really the wild cards here.
BLITZER: If one of them -- and Susan Collins, earlier in the day, she went back a second time, but earlier in the day, she said she didn't see any corroborating evidence.
And she said the report was thorough. She thought the FBI investigation seemed to be thorough. And so that would suggest that she's pretty satisfied right now with where things stand.
But, of course, she hasn't made her official decision.
BROWNSTEIN: She's been signaling from the beginning, right, saying that he would not overturn Roe, describing the FBI report as thorough.
I mean, you can say a lot of things about an investigation of nine or 10 people, but thorough would be not the hill that you probably want to die on in describing this report.
BERG: And then if you assume, of course, Susan Collins and Jeff Flake are yeses, Lisa Murkowski probably is not going to be the odd man out here.
BLITZER: If two of them are yeses, it's basically all over, he's confirmed.
BERG: And then frees up Manchin as well to jump in.
BLITZER: That's a good point thing.
Sabrina, Heidi Heitkamp, a Democratic senator who had been undecided, today announced she's voting no. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: 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've had and say "yes" to Judge Kavanaugh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:30:22] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Got a little bit emotional there as she said that. What does her explanation indicate to you?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, first and foremost. Heidi Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in the Senate. And several polls actually have her trailing her opponent, Representative Kevin Cramer, so this actually could be a very politically risky move.
Now, based on some of the conversations I've had with people who are close to the campaign, there are a couple of different elements at play that you saw in her statement.
One of them had to do with this question of impartiality and partisanship. And in fact, a lot of people thought Democrats should have gone harder on that -- on that aspect of Judge Kavanaugh's testimony last week, that he came out swinging, that he talked about revenge against the Clintons. That there was this framing that Democrats could have made, that Heidi Heitkamp made, that can he really be a neutral arbiter from the highest bench in the country?
And then she also talked about how she heard from countless survivors of sexual assault, and I think there is an effort to draw a contrast with her opponent, who actually made headlines recently for saying that, even if these allegations against Kavanaugh were true, are they, in fact, disqualifying?
So it's possible that she (UNINTELLIGIBLE) independent women who might not see this as a make-or-break issue in the midterms and might actually be turned off by those people who are in a rush to confirm Kavanaugh to the bench. How this plays out, we'll of course, find out in November.
BLITZER: Because she said, Heidi Heitkamp she had concerns about Judge Kavanaugh's current temperament, honesty and impartiality. Sort of echoing what Justice Stevens said. LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: All qualities you want to have from somebody who judges other judges, other circuit courts. And also, the ultimate judgment of all things that are important in our society.
And remember, it's not just Heitkamp who's going to be important here. Murkowski has a lot riding on this, based on forthcoming Supreme Court decisions in the near future. She won based on indigenous populations in Alaska, who are supporting her. And you've got spikes in domestic violence and sexual assaults in the communities. They've talked a great deal about that and wanting her support.
So that same calculus, perhaps, that Heidi Heitkamp was talking about may be the one, in fact, that Murkowski will look to, to say, "I may have a lot riding on this, but I have to be true to myself, perhaps, and my stated principles."
BLITZER: Everybody stand by, there's more breaking news we're following. We're going to have more on the FBI's report on sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. Was it comprehensive or was it just a cover, as some Democrats are claiming, with potentially critical witnesses excluded?
BLITZER: We're back with our analysts. Following up the leadup on the crucial vote on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. Tonight, a key undecided Republican senator, Susan Collins, says she's not finished reading the FBI report on Kavanaugh after taking a second look at it tonight. She says she's not going to make a statement on how she will vote tonight. She'll make a statement tomorrow, because she's going to have to vote on this procedural legislation to allow the legislation [SIC] to move forward. And that's a significant vote.
Rebecca, I want to play a clip for you. Kavanaugh's roommate when he was a freshman at Yale University said this on CNN's "NEW DAY" earlier today. He said he really wanted to be questioned by the FBI. They never got in touch with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE ROCHE, KAVANAUGH'S FRESHMAN ROOMMATE: I don't know very many people who didn't drink in college, and I know a lot of people who drank in college to the point of blacking out or throwing up. You know, it's not a proud thing, but it's very common. It particularly was common then.
That wasn't the problem. The problem is does he tell the truth and does he tell the truth when it matters? And does he tell the truth about little things, and does he lie easily, and does he lie for good reasons or does he lie just to protect embarrassment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So that gets at, Wolf, one of the two key questions that are hanging over Kavanaugh that these senators who are on the fence are going to be looking at.
There's the credibility question and there is this partisanship question. Can he be neutral?
And both of these, credibility and temperament, I think, are weighted almost equally at this point.
There was a really interesting comment this week that Jeff Flake made at "The Atlantic" Festival. And I just want to quote it, because it was really significant. He said, "The interaction with members was sharp and partisan, and that concerns me. We can't have this on the court. We simply cannot."
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Then he immediately fudged in his classic manner after, as soon as he got off-stage about "Well, I wasn't really talking about Judge Kavanaugh."
BERG: Right. And so that definitely doesn't necessarily mean that he will vote "no," but it shows what a deep concern it is for these senators and do they want to go down this road.
SIDDIQUI: And Jeff Flake also said that if there was evidence that -- that Brett Kavanaugh had lied to the committee, that there were demonstrable lies, that would be the end of the road for his nomination.
Now, the question is what does Jeff Flake believe constitutes a lie versus perhaps just misleading the committee slightly by omitting information?
COATES: Well, I think they feel -- I think Orrin Hatch made a comment earlier that he almost inoculated himself, in his mind, by making the generalized statement of "Sometimes I drank too much. Sometimes I drank more than other people did. I cringe sometimes thinking about what I've done in the past."
And they're using that kind of cherry-picked statement which is -- really belies the overall breadth and scope of his entire testimony, to say, "See? He's given himself enough opportunity to say that he could not have perjured himself after that."
[18:40:10] It's almost as if he looked back at the Jeff Sessions testimony where Senator Al Franken -- then Senator Al Franken -- asked him a question, and he just said, "Well, yes, I've spoken to Russians in the past," and then gone on to everything else. They would haven't initially had the comments about perjury.
Now this particular cloak of immunity, in their minds, says FBI, you need not investigate that aspect of perjury, because he's already covered himself.
BROWNSTEIN: All of this would be volatile and explosive enough if he was replacing another conservative. But you go back to his meaning. Right? Because they would not consider or confirm Merrick Garland, which would have created five Democratic-appointed justices, he now is the, quote, "swing vote" but more likely a reliably conservative vote, to look in a five-member Republican majority that could set the rules for the country for the next 15 years. And he will go to the court with all of this swirling around him.
You know, John Roberts, the chief justice, has often expressed the concern that the court will be seen as just another arena in the partisan wars between the parties.
Brett Kavanaugh, even if he gets through the Senate, has basically become John Robert's worst nightmare. Because not only is he the fifth vote on all of -- on many of these questions, but he is a fifth vote who would be inexorably trailed and surrounded by these accusations of partisanship and by his own performance.
So I think the politics of this, however this plays out in the next few weeks, is going to have unpredictable ramifications for the years ahead. The only -- the most predictable thing is just more conflict and the court being more drawn into the --
BLITZER: But let's say he's confirmed in a very close 50 votes. Vice President Mike Pence who, by the way, is staying in Washington this weekend, in case he's needed to break the tie. You only need 50 votes plus Pence. He becomes the United States Supreme Court justice. What's the political fallout?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, there's near term and long term. I think the near-term fallout is cross currents. On the one hand, I think, in the Senate where the Republicans are mostly on the offense against Democrats in states that Trump won that are older, whiter, more Christian, more rural, this is going to be something that's going to galvanize their base. And I think there's evidence of that already in the polling.
On the other hand, the House is going to be decided largely in these metropolitan suburban districts and if you look at the biggest threats to Republicans already, it's the sharp movement away from Trump among college educated white women. This will just further turbocharge that.
And as well as among many of the college white men. I mean, you know, in polling yesterday, NPR/Marist polling, two-thirds of college white women said they believed Dr. Ford, and 72 percent of them said he should not be confirmed if there is a doubt left after the FBI report.
BLITZER: Sabrina, this debate over his confirmation has energized the left and the right.
SIDDIQUI: Absolutely. And I think that, in some ways, it depends on if he's confirmed or not, but if he's confirmed, then perhaps the Republicans who have sort of risen up, really, to defend him, I don't know if that neutralizes the energy on their side. Versus, you know, if he's confirmed, that certainly will create a lot of excitement or rather resentment, I should say, among progressives, who might be motivated to turn out to the polls.
But I also just think, to Ron's point, one of -- there's sort of two elements of fallout here. There's the judiciary and the perception of the Supreme Court which sort of waxes and wanes but certainly, every decision, according to legal experts I spoke to that Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the court will be viewed differently.
And then there's also the question for Democrats. Where do they go from here if he is confirmed? There has been some talk if Democrats retake the House, should they open an investigation into the confirmation process? Should they perhaps launch a campaign to impeach Kavanaugh?
BROWNSTEIN: And those will be 5-4 decisions, which will make it more explosive, coming. We could be doing this in a year and it could look even more volatile than it does today.
BLITZER: Stick around. Just ahead, the U.S. goes after Russian spies announcing criminal charges, accusing them of launching global cyberattacks to distract from wrongdoing in Moscow. This as Vice President Pence tries to convince the world that Russia's election interference pales in comparison to the attacks on the U.S. democracy from China.
[18:48:45] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tonight, new indictments by the U.S. Justice Department aimed at Moscow. Seven Russian military intelligence officers have been charged with launching global cyber attacks and other crimes.
Our senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt is covering the story for us.
Tell us more, Alex, about this indictment.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the indictments that came down from DOJ today span a whole range of crimes, from computer hacking to wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering. And of the seven Russians who were indicted today by the DOJ, we learned that three of them had actually already been indicted by the special counsel's office for their attacks in the 2016 election, clear evidence that Russia is now not slowing down its attacks.
And today, the U.S. was joined by allies around the world in cracking down on them.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Tonight, a global condemnation of Russia. The Department of Justice charging seven agents of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence unit, with malicious cyber activities.
SCOTT BRADY, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA: These seven defendants are charged with a pervasive campaign of hacking, steal, 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 well as nearly 250 athletes from 30 different countries, apparent retaliation for Russia being kicked out of the 2018 Winter Olympics for drug doping.
[18:50:05] The Russians also tried to get into the nuclear power company, Westinghouse in Pittsburgh. It had supplied fuel to Russia's enemy, Ukraine.
JOHN DEMERS, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: The defendants in this case should know that justice is patient, its reach is long, and its memory is longer.
MARQUARDT: All this just hours after Dutch and British officials unveiled a trove of evidence against four Russian agents, expelled from the Netherlands. They were caught with a trunkful of electronics trying to hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW.
It was at the OPCW that an investigation into the poisoning and attempted murder in the U.K. of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was being conducted. President Vladimir Putin calls Skripal a scumbag and a traitor.
That Dutch operation carried out with intelligence help from the United Kingdom, which along with Australia and New Zealand are accusing Russia of wide-reaching malfeasance.
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.
MARQUARDT: Or at least they're trying to act with impunity. But make no mistake, this is a failure for the GRU agents who are named by the U.S. and others who were caught and those agents who allegedly poisoned the ex-spy Sergei Skripal, they were also arrested. The GRU has definitely proven they're talented, but they don't always act like James Bond.
In fact, one of those agents actually still had his receipt from the taxi ride in Moscow, from where? According to that receipt, Wolf, GRU headquarters.
BLITZER: Very interesting. Good report, Alex. Thank you very much.
Just ahead, the vice president, Mike Pence, lashes out at China, accusing it of predatory economic practices, military aggression, and trying to undermine President Trump.
[18:56:37] BLITZER: New tonight, Vice President Pence delivers a stern condemnation of foreign interference in U.S. elections, but it wasn't aimed at Russia. Instead, Pence launched a broad attack on China.
Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.
Elise, what was the vice president's message to China?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really interesting, Wolf. The vice president accused China of focused meddling in American democracy more so than Russia, alleging an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the midterm elections, and the climate leading into the 2020 election, saying that China wants a different president and is trying to make it happen.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beijing has mobilized covert actors, front groups and propaganda outlets to shift Americans' perception of Chinese policy. As a senior career member of our intelligence community told me just this week, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country. And the American people deserve to know it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: President Trump made similar claims about Chinese election interference at the U.N. last week, which is part of an effort, of course, to dilute the case against Russia meddling, which we know the president does not like to talk about, because he feels that questions his own legitimacy.
Now, saying China is interfering against Trump kind of counters that narrative but Pence did not provide any evidence. Cyber experts dispute this charge and even the president's own homeland security adviser, Kirstjen Nielsen, says there is no indication, Wolf, that China is actually attempting to disrupt the election just using overt money and basically trying to, you know, use its influence to throw its money around.
BLITZER: So, what is the U.S. going to do about this? Did he offer any solutions?
LABOTT: Well, beyond the tariffs and, you know, military might that the U.S. is showing, the U.S. is deliberating possible sanctions, trying to determine whether this was a violation of the executive order that President Trump signed in September against election meddling, trying to determine if sanctions could be possible, but it's also, I think, a real campaign, an American education campaign is what officials say to try and let them know what the Chinese are doing.
Officials say, Wolf, that China, even more so than Russia, is a big threat to the way Americans think and Americans live because while China is problematic, does a lot of hacking and such, Chinese have a lot more money and a lot more influence to influence American decision makers.
BLITZER: What did Vice President Pence say that China -- what does China think of the president o the United States, President Trump?
LABOTT: Well, he was saying that (AUDIO GAP) is working. President Trump is getting tough on China, whether it's tariffs, whether it's intellectual property, military issues on North Korea.
And they say that they want a different president, and that's what they're trying to do -- influence American decision makers against Trump, going into some of these states where Trump won big in elections, and trying to influence Americans in those states where Trump might, you know, try and overturn his appeal.
BLITZER: Yes, very interesting when he says what Russia's doing pales in comparison to what China is doing.
Elise, thank you very much for that report. Elise Labott reporting for us.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.