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Sen. Flake Still Weighing Decision, Making Calls Ahead of Key Vote; Now: Critical Senate Vote on Kavanaugh: Fate Unclear; Kavanaugh Nomination Advances to Final Floor Vote. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 5, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00]

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: What nonsense. The people whom Dr. Ford claimed were witnesses. They have spoken with the FBI. We know that because they, through their attorneys, put out public statements saying so. And what we know now is what we knew at this time a week ago. There is absolutely no corroborating evidence for these allegations. Same thing we heard a week ago. If they were, you bet we would have heard about it, but there isn't.

So not withstanding that, the leak of Dr. Ford's letter in violation of her privacy and against her wishes opened the floodgates. The feeding frenzy was full on. The weaponization of her letter by the left led to a torrent of other equally uncorroborated allegations. They were dumped on Judge Kavanaugh and his family. And breathlessly, breathlessly, the media seized on them, the more outlandish the better.

Americans were informed that Judge Kavanaugh masterminded violent drug gangs as a young teenager, until that accuser walked her story back. We were informed that Judge Kavanaugh beat someone up on a boat in a Rhode Island harbor, until that accuser totally recanted. We heard another tall tale of physical assault until that account was thoroughly debunked by a sitting federal judge. Oh, and yes, we were informed that juvenile jokes in his high school yearbook were actually sinister secret references. Oh, there keystone cops were on the case. Keystone cops were on the case, madam president. And Senate Democrats cheered them on.

They read parts of this uncorroborated, unbelievable mudslide, mudslide, into the Senate record. They cited them in an official letter demanding Judge Kavanaugh's nomination be withdrawn. Were they true? Well, of course, that was quite beside the point, quite beside the point. So long as they were convenient. Every effort was made to insure that the fact-free verdict of the mob and the media would win out over the actual evidence. Make sure the mob prevails. But the uncorroborated mud and the partisan noise and the physical intimidation of members here in the Senate will not have the final say around here. The Senate will have the final say.

So madam president, we're almost at the end of the runway. The cross rounds of anger and fear and partisanship have blown strong these past weeks. They have harmed a good man and his family. They have tarnished the dignity of this institution, but all of it can end today. The time has come to vote. The Senate stands on the threshold of a golden opportunity. We have the opportunity to advance the nomination of an incredibly well qualified and well respected jurist to a post that demands such excellence. We have the opportunity to put Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court where his distinguished service will make us and our nation proud for years to come. But we have the opportunity to do even more.

Today, we can send a message to the American people that some core principles remain unfettered by the partisan passions of this moment. Facts matter. Fairness matters. The presumption of innocence is sacrosanct. The Senate has turned its back on these things before, madam president, but never for long. And never without deep regret. This institution does not look back proudly on the era of Joseph McCarthy, nor on any of the other times when the politics of personal destruction poisoned its judgment. No, no, the Senate looks back on those things with shame and with a conviction that we cannot go down that road again. We know the Senate is better than this.

[10:35:00] We know the nation deserves better than this. By confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, this brilliant jurist will be charged with upholding the rule of law and honoring American justice. We must hold ourselves to that very same standard. We must seize the golden opportunity before us today to confirm a Supreme Court justice who will make us proud. And to reaffirm our own commitment to the justice that every single American deserves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a reminder --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the roll call is about to begin on the Senate floor, very, very important vote right now to proceed. Proceed with the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. This is a procedural vote, but critically, critically important, with still some uncertainty whether or not it will pass or fail. If it passes, there will be final vote -- final vote tomorrow some time on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Although interestingly, Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, just said she will vote in favor of this procedural legislation, allowing a final vote. She'll make a statement later this afternoon, we're told around 3:00 p.m. Eastern, whether or not she will vote in favor of confirmation. We're still waiting for more specific details from Lisa Murkowski. Jeff Flake, similarly, we expect he will vote for this procedural vote. Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, his vote is still very much, as we speak right now, up in the air.

Dana, what's the latest you're hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The thing to keep in mind is that as we --

BLITZER: I want to point our viewers to the vote on the floor has started. This usually takes at least 15, 20 minutes for the roll call.

BASH: Yes, and they keep it open until the senators get there. But the thing to keep in mind as we watch this vote right now is that up until this morning, we thought this was the whole ball game, that whatever happened in this procedural vote would be determinative of what happens with Brett Kavanaugh, but we can't say that anymore. And the reason is because that Susan Collins is the one who actually said she's going to vote yes now and she'll announce later what she'll do for the final confirmation. Gloria's hearing that Jeff Flake may be in the same boat. We don't know. I was told that even up to this morning, Wolf, Jeff Flake was making phone calls to confidents - confidantes rather, talking about the issues, talking about the concern, the pluses, the minuses around this Kavanaugh vote. And that just tells you how much of a nail biter this is. Not that we actually need to say that, but those are kind of important data points and color about what's going on with these really, really important senators as they agonize over what they're going to do here.

BLITZER: Yes. These four senators, they have to make a tough decision, Gloria, because it's either pass or fail.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Is that the only option?

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: The Senate -- it's getting a little more complicated, as Dana points out. We're just going to have to see how the vote turns out in another 20 minutes or so. But if you'll recall, during health care and David Chalian has done some research on this, that Collins and Murkowski voted against cloture, against having the bill proceed to a final passage, and they ended up being against health care. But it was McCain --

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Their procedural vote was an indication as to where they were going.

BORGER: That's right.

CHALIAN: That wasn't the case with john McCain.

BORGER: That's exactly - so -- and John McCain voted for this procedural vote, because he thought he could get the bill fixed up and maybe he could vote for it, and then he ended up voting against the bill.

BLITZER: OK. Let's listen in a little bit to this roll call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Inhofe.

SEN. JIM INFOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Isakson.

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Johnson.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Jones.

SEN. DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Kaine.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Kennedy.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. King.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Klobuchar.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Kyl.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Lankford?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Leahy.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Lee.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Manchin.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Markey.

SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. McCaskill.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. McConnell.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Menendez.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Merkley. SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Moran.

SEN. JERRY MORAN (R), KANSAS: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Murkowski.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Murphy.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Murray.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: No.

[10:40:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Nelson.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Paul.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Perdue.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Peters.

SEN. GARY PETERS (D), MICHIGAN: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Portman.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Reed.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Risch.

SEN. JIM RISCH (R), IDAHO: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Roberts.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Rounds.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Rubio.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Sanders.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Sasse.

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Schatz.

SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D), HAWAII: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Schumer.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Scott.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Shaheen.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Shelby.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Smith.

SEN. TINA SMITH (D), MINNESOTA: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Stabenow.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Sullivan.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R), ALASKA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Tester.

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Thune.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Tillis.

SEN. THOM TILLIS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Toomey.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Aye. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Udall.

SEN. TOM UDALL (D), NEW MEXICO: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Van Hollen.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Warner.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Warren.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Whitehouse.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Wicker.

SEN. ROGER WICKER (R), MISSISSIPPI: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Wyden.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Young.

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R), INDIANA: Aye.

Senators voting in the affirmative, Alexander, Barrasso, Blunt, Boozman, Burr, Capito, Cassidy, Collins, Corker, Cornyn, Cotton, Crapo, Cruz, Daines, Enzi, Ernst, Fischer, Flake, Gardner, Graham, Grassley, Hatch, Heller, Hoeven, Hyde-Smith, Inhofe, Isaacson, Kennedy, Kyl, Lankford, McConnell, Moran, Paul, Perdue, Portman, Risch, Roberts, Rounds, Rubio, Sasse, Scott, Shelby, Sullivan, Thune, Tillis, Toomey, Wicker, and Young.

Mr. Manchin, aye.

Senators voting in the negative. Baldwin, Bennett, Booker, Brown, Cantwell, Carden, Casey, Coons, Cortez Masto, Duckworth, Durbin, Feinstein, Gillibrand, Harris, Heinrich, Kaine, Klobuchar, Leahy, Markey, Merkley, Murkowski, Murphy, Murray, Nelson, Peters, Schatz, Smith, Stabenow, Tester, Udall, Warner, Warren, Whitehouse, and Wyden.

Mr. Sanders, no.

Mr. Lee, aye.

[10:45:00] Ms. Hassan, no.

Mr. Jones, no.

Mr. Johnson, aye.

Mr. Schumer, no.

Mr. Donnelly, no.

Ms. Heitkamp, no.

Mrs. McCaskill, no.

Mr. Menendez, no.

Mr. Reed, no.

Mr. King, no.

Mr. Van Hollen, no.

Ms. Hirono, no.

Mr. Blumenthal, no.

Mrs. Shaheen, no.

BLITZER: We're waiting for the official announcement from the Senate floor. It looks like this procedural vote, a very critically important procedural vote, will pass narrowly, will pass. Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, votes yes. Jeff Flake, the Republican senator from Arizona, votes yes to allow this confirmation process to move forward for Judge Kavanaugh. Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, votes yes. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, votes no. There are 51 Republicans, 49 Democrats, with Manchin now voting yes to move this legislation forward, allowing a full scale vote tomorrow in the Senate floor. It looks like they do have the votes to move the Kavanaugh nomination forward. Lots of people are going to be analyzing this. Let's listen in for a moment. I think the official announcement is going to be coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there any senators in the chamber who wish to change their vote? As a reminder to our guests in the galleries, expressions of approval or disapproval are not permitted in the Senate galleries. On this vote, the ayes are 51, the no's are 49. The motion is agreed to.

BLITZER: The Judge Kavanaugh nomination now moves to the next and final stage, a full vote in the Senate. That's expected tomorrow. But this was a critically, critically important move. 51/49. The only Democrat voting in favor, once again, Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, who is in a tough re-election battle right now in his home state. Let's get analysis.

It's dramatic, Susan Collins, as you first reported, Dana, she said she would vote in favor of this moving forward, this procedural vote, but she was going to make her final announcement later this afternoon around 3:00 p.m. Eastern. How she'll vote tomorrow on final passage.

BASH: That's right, and as this vote was happening, it's probably still the case right now, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins voted yes on this procedural vote. Lisa Murkowski voted no, are sitting next to each other talking. And they have been in constant communication, along with Jeff Flake as well, I'm told, but particularly the two of them because they bonded over a lot of things but especially their no votes on repealing health care last year. And the fact that they are talking, I'm told, is something to watch because Senator Collins has not said formally how she's going to vote in the final vote. Neither has Lisa Murkowski, but if you vote no on this procedural vote, which is basically traditionally something that you do for your party, you're not going to vote yes on the final. It's hard to imagine her changing her mind.

But we'll see what Senator Collins does. I'm told that she has been up and down, round and round, about what she's going to do. And sitting there talking to somebody she knows and she trusts could have an impact on what she does. But 51/49 is as slim a margin as you can get. The only thing that would have been slimmer is if the vice president had to step in.

BLITZER: If it would have been 50/50, it would have passed because the vice president is the president of the Senate, he breaks the tie.

BASH: But we need to keep that in mind, how historically unusual this is, for a Supreme Court justice, a nomination by a president of either party, to be this -- to have this kind of drama even on a procedural measure, to have it go forward with this narrow of a margin.

BLITZER: So the question now is will Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, and Joe Manchin continue to vote yes when the big vote comes up tomorrow.

[10:55:05] BASH: And Joe Manchin, if he broke with his party on this procedural vote, it's hard to see him voting the other way back with his party. But you never know. You never know.

BLITZER: Manu is up on the Hill for us. Manu, you watched all this unfold.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, rather dramatic scene, a very unusual scene on the floor, senators themselves sitting and casting this vote. They usually reserve that for pretty historic moments, this being one of them, casting one vote at a time.

Now, Lisa Murkowski kept her cards close to her vest up until that final vote. She sat very calmly, according to our colleagues, Lauren Fox and Phil Mattingly who are in the chamber. They report that she just announced that she would vote no almost expressionless as she did that vote. There was some discussion among some of the members, but catching some of colleagues by surprise. The question still remains.

I was just talking to people in the leadership on both sides, what will happen on that confirmation vote. They do not know for sure if there are the votes to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, because of the very reasons we have been discussing. Is Susan Collins going to split her vote, essentially vote no on confirmation after voting yes to advance the nomination, her decision to make this announcement later today raising a lot of questions that she may vote no. And Joe Manchin, did he just vote to advance this nomination? That does not necessarily mean he's going to vote to ultimately confirm Kavanaugh tomorrow, a lot of discussion, a lot of confusion among the leadership on both sides because of the uncertainty right now of Kavanaugh's nomination hanging by a thread at this moment. High drama here, Wolf, as members try to grasp what just happened on the floor, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Manu, just to be precise, they have 30 hours now to debate and then there will be a final vote on confirmation sometime late tomorrow afternoon, unless the timing changes, right, because there's one complicated factor.

RAJU: Yes, that's right. So there are a couple things that could happen. If the Democrats were to agree to not hold the floor as they plan to do essentially all night and begin to move and debate all day tomorrow, they could speed up that final confirmation vote. I would not count on that. But the complicating factor being Steve Daines, a Montana Republican senator who supports Brett Kavanaugh, is attending his daughter's wedding back in Montana tomorrow, walking down the aisle with her. And he plans to come back if his vote is needed. So that means they may hold open the vote overnight until he returns, potentially early morning Sunday, if his vote is absolutely critical. But if his vote is not critical, he may not be needed.

This could all be moot, Wolf, if we learn how Manchin and Collins go one way or the other. If there the two Republicans defect, that's enough to derail the nomination, but if Joe Manchin were to vote yes, then they would need Daines to come back and Pence to break that tie. So a lot of uncertainty right now. We'll have to wait for the key moment this afternoon when Collins announces her decision and we get a sense from Joe Manchin on what exactly he's thinking at this moment too.

BLITZER: I assume Senator Manchin will make his announcement at some later point today. Senator Flake will as well. Lisa Murkowski, we know she voted no, the Republican senator from Alaska.

Gloria, you're getting some more information as we assess. This is an historic moment right now, because it looks like he's going to be confirmed and become a United States Supreme Court justice. He's 53 years old. He'll remain in the Supreme Court for 30, 35 years, and we'll have an enormous impact on so many critically important issues.

BORGER: Yes, I'm trying to get more information. I wouldn't say that I have succeeded at this point. But you know we're trying to figure out, obviously, if people could change their votes, somebody like Flake, for example, somebody like Collins. And also, what strikes me is the closeness of this. And our contributor, Steve Vladeck, sent a note to CNN and said there has never been a tie vote broken by a vice president to confirm any federal judge, let alone a justice. And that may be what we're about to see whenever that vote takes place, if you do get some people changing.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I also think it's critical that Susan Collins is going to announce how she's going to vote at 3:00 p.m., because what that has done right now, it appears it has bought Democrats some time to go to Jeff Flake now and try to get Jeff Flake to eventually vote no. I mean, perhaps they can get him on board and get Susan Collins there as well. Now, I suspect Susan Collins already knows how she's going to vote. Susan Collins probably already has her plane ticket booked on Saturday out of Washington, D.C. She certainly is playing with a lot of drama here right now, but there is time, I think, for Democrats to try to persuade no votes.

CHALIAN: I want to unpack and underscore something Dana said earlier. You know, we went in today with these four key votes.