Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Unemployment Rate Falls to 49-Year Low; Angry Protests over Kavanaugh Vote Lead to Arrests; 3 Key Senate Votes Crucial to Kavanaugh Confirmation; Any Moment Sen. Susan Collins Will Announce Final Decision on Kavanaugh. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 5, 2018 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITIAL ANALYST: Getting Kavanaugh confirmed, should that occur, would be something that would be so important for Donald Trump, particularly with his base, his evangelical support, which has been very, very important to him. And a lot of folks were saying, you know, I don't care about anything else Donald Trump does, but he's got these Supreme Court nominees, and if he can get them through, that's why I'm voting for him. Very important.

The economy speaks for itself. The jobs report is full employment. Speaks for itself. He will take full credit for it. Democrats will disagree, that Barack Obama deserves some credit for this for getting this set in motion. But in any case, he does own the bragging rights here and that's exactly what he's going to do.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Jeff, today could be a great day for President Trump. Could this be a pivotal moment for the midterms?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think the question is how much is he going to talk about this? I've been at so many campaign rallies that President Trump has held in swing states and mainly red states across the country, and he actually rarely talks about the economic news. He opens it with a little bit but the rallies sort of become a list of grievances. I think many Republicans would like him to talk about nothing more than this. I'm a little surprised we've not seen the president yet at all today. He has a pretty light schedule. This is something to tout. 1969, that is a huge generational piece of history, a statistic, I can't even think of the word for it. We'll see how much the president talks about this. I know that, you know, whatever happens with this Kavanaugh confirmation fight, it has galvanized Republicans, no doubt, but it's also fired up, you know, some women voters, independent voters and in the House districts, those key House races, I'm not sure that this week of himself presidency helps him at all. So we'll see what happens in November. If history's a guide, he is not -- and Republicans are not going to do well on midterm Election Day despite all of this. But we'll have to see.

CABRERA: Yet, this is a president who has seemed to buck so many norms, time and time again, where you end up with a result that you maybe didn't respect.

Doug Heye, however, the economy has been moving in the right direction for quite some time, since this president took office really. And yet, we've seen a lot of momentum behind the Democrats, until this week and following all of the Kavanaugh developments. Maybe there was a shift in momentum. Can Republicans carry that through to the finish line in the midterms?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think we know yet how sustainable this is, whether it's a cotton-candy sugar-rush high for Republicans, to, if they don't feel the wind at their backs right now, at least they're not going into a head wind for the first time for a year and a half, since Trump's administration. But these economic numbers are really important for the president. If we were at 5.5 percent unemployment, it would be a very different conversation. It's why Republicans are nervous. Today's a bit of an unusual Friday, first Friday of the month. Every first Friday of the month, we've had really strong economic numbers and the president doesn't tout them enough to really help Republicans throughout the country who want to be campaigning on really good news.

CABRERA: Of course, there's always been a back and forth, too, on whether, economically, his trade policies are going to be good for some of his own voters, and especially those Rust Belt states.

Gloria, let's talk about Democrats for a moment. Should they worry this blue wave may not happen overall?

BORGER: You should always worry heading into an election. I think what we're seeing, and a lot of strategists have been talking about this, is that the Kavanaugh vote will galvanize voters on both sides. The Republicans need more enthusiasm. The Democrats have a lot of enthusiasm already. But in the House, for example, if Kavanaugh gets confirmed, it could really help Democrats in those suburban moderate districts that Hillary Clinton won, for example. But if Kavanaugh gets confirmed, it could also really help Republicans keep control of the Senate. So it's kind of a mixed bag here for them. And everybody knows it. That it's not like you can draw a straight line here. Republicans need more enthusiasm. Whether they're going to get a parity to Democrats remains to be seen. I would argue probably not. And so you could have an uneven result. Democrats take over the House, Republicans retain control of the Senate, and Kavanaugh is part of that mixture.

CABRERA: Doug, you look at all the protests in recent days and recent months. I think of the women's march after the election. What do Republicans need to do to show women they've got their back, they support them, they want them as part of the party?

HEYE: This has been a problem for Republicans for several elections cycles now where we have had awful candidates, usually running for Senate, who say terrible things about women, say terrible things about rape, which would be a pretty easy thing for any candidate to talk about. For Republicans now, they need to return -- the Kavanaugh nomination or confirmation is going to drive things for several days. But we don't know if we're going to be talking about Judge Kavanaugh, if he's going to be confirmed, in a week and a half from now.

(CROSSTALK) [14:35:16] CABRERA: That ties into issues that women care about, too?

HEYE: It does. But we can also talk about health care and what subsequent plans Republicans have for health care. I'm looking at Josh Hawley, in Missouri, who has run an interesting ad talking about how he has dealt with preexisting conditions in his family. If they can personalize things and humanize things and not be kind of these robotic Republicans that are so easy to caricature, that's how they can put their best foot forward at a time when they really need to.

CABRERA: Doug Heye, Jeff Zeleny, Gloria Borger, thank you all.

Just ahead, reaction back at home. As we await a final decision from a handful of key Senators, people in their home states are watching how this plays out next. What is at stake for Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Jeff Flake?

And speaking of Collins, in minutes, she will take to the Senate floor to announce her decision on Kavanaugh. We'll bring you that live the moment it starts.

Stay with us. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:40:13] CABRERA: Pain, outrage and anger is on full display on Capitol Hill right now where crowds are protesting the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. They packed the officers of Senators. Dozens were arrested. Earlier, protester held a kegger outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office and his house while chanting "chug" and "what do we do with a drunken justice."

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us on Capitol Hill, where hundreds have been arrested in the last 24 hours.

Tom, what's the feeling like out there now?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, I think there's sense of people wanting to hold on and hoping somehow they can still turn this around. They're all aware of what's happening with the vote count up there and many of them concede they may not be able to prevent Judge Kavanaugh from being turned into a Supreme Court justice.

Nonetheless, they've been out all day today specifically trying to encounter Senators where they can and confront them and make them listen.

If you look at this from earlier today, you get a sense of how passionate some of them are about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHANTING) UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: How can you support someone like this? How

can do you that? It's disgusting. Have you listened to any of these stories? How could you turn your backs on women? You're disgusting. Traitors!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: You see it there. That's what they're trying to make happen here. They want to have direct encounters with any Senator they can who they think might be turned around on this. And many are holding out hopes that there's someone out there, a sleeper, who they think is going to vote for Kavanaugh but might turn around at the last minute and vote the other way. At least it's what's they're holding on to. Tomorrow, they're hoping to vastly increase their numbers as the vote itself comes up and apply any last-minute pressure they can -- Ana?

CABRERA: It's not over until it's over. We saw what happened with Jeff Flake last week.

Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

In minutes, Senator Susan Collins will take to the Senate floor to announce her decision on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. We'll bring you that live the moment it starts. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:47:02] CABRERA: Kavanaugh's confirmation has been riding on three key Republican Senators. We know Arizona Senator Jeff Flake will vote yes to confirm Kavanaugh. We now know Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski will vote no. Maine Senator Susan Collins will announce her decision at the top of the hour.

How is this playing out in each of these lawmakers' districts?

CNN is on the ground in all three states testing the temperatures.

We want to begin with Polo Sandoval, in Portland, Maine -- Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we're outside Susan Collins' office with a group of very vocal and passionate protesters. I'll step out of the way so you can see yourself. Many of these people are constituents of Susan Collins. They bring with them a message to the Senator that they are voters come 2020. I'll explain why that's important here. Much of the Kavanaugh position here in Portland, Maine, recognizes they have supported this Republican in the past. A lot of Democrats have supported Senator Collins in the past, particularly because of her position on health care and women's rights. However, if she decides to vote yes, and if that's what her announcement is in the next few minutes, then they are likely not to forgive her and take away that kind of support. That just gives you an idea of the weight that is on the Maine Senator's shoulders right now. Especially with what you just mentioned with a yes and a no from her colleagues. What will she do? She's in a very difficult spot here and she understands she has a very heavy political price to pay, regardless what she does. Does she vote yes to please some of her GOP colleagues in Washington or does she vote no so she can continue to hold on to this bipartisan support?

That's what's happening on the ground in Senator Collins' district. Her office is right across the street. They are very vocal and passionate, hoping she gets the message as she prepares to give that very important speech on the Senator floor.

CABRERA: We know you'll be listening closely as well as everyone behind you.

Polo, thank you.

After everything Arizona Senator Flake endured, from the angry protesters, and after threatening to vote no on Kavanaugh if there was no FBI investigation into Christine Blasey Ford's allegations, the retiring Senator says he will vote yes to confirm Kavanaugh.

Let's get to Dan Simon in Phoenix for how his decision is playing out - Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Ana. I just spoke with one long-time GOP activist and consultant in Arizona. What he told me is revealing. I want to read this to you. He says, "By voting yes on Judge Kavanaugh, Senator Flake is now able to walk around without fear of embarrassment from people who have supported him throughout his political career. He'll be able to maintain relationships in Arizona. He is staving off what could have been mass protests from Republicans in Arizona. He would have to leave the state."

Again, that is from somebody who has been around Arizona politics for a very long time.

And as for Democrats, it's a little bit like Lucy pulling the football from Charlie Brown. They expressed hope he would vote no on Kavanaugh, especially when he forced that seven-day delay. Something that may be a bit revealing, Ana, yesterday, we saw dozens of protesters here at Senator Flake's office here in Phoenix. Now I basically just see three of them behind me -- Ana?

[14:50:25] CABRERA: Interesting.

Dan Simon, there in Phoenix for us, thank you.

Let's head from Arizona now, way, way north, to CNN national correspondent, Gary Tuchman, in Anchorage, Alaska.

Senator Murkowski's plans to vote no getting a lot of reaction, Gary. How are people reacting to the decision?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First, Ana, I'll tell you, this building behind me is the Senator Murkowski's office when she is here in Alaska. There have been protesters here all week with demonstrators who do not want Judge Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court justice. They are very happy that their senior Senator became the only Republican Senator to vote no in this procedural vote. We had an idea this would happen. We had a window into the Senator's decision making yesterday. There were lots of women who flew from here in Alaska to Washington to meet with Senator Murkowski. And 18 Alaska female lawyers met with her yesterday. When they came out of the meeting, one of them told me she was firmly convinced Senator Murkowski would vote no on Kavanaugh. Another lawyer said, before she walked in, she thought it would be a yes vote, but when she left, she became very hopeful it would be a no vote. They said that the Senator was compassionate and understanding when they talked about their opposition to this candidate. They firmly felt this would happen, she votes no. It turns out that they're absolutely right.

We're being told, at this hour, as we speak, inside the Senator's office in Washington, D.C., flowers are coming from all over the country being delivered to her office from people who did not want Judge Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court justice -- Ana?

CABRERA: And yet, she still has an "R" by her name. She's still a conservative herself. She still represents a lot of conservatives in Alaska.

Do you get a sense that this could have been a good political move for her or could this threaten her reelection in a few years when she's up for reelection?

TUCHMAN: This Senator is one of the few U.S. Senators who enjoys broad bipartisan support. Conservative Republicans, Trump Republicans like her. But also liberals, Democrats, Independents, they like her, too. These women I'm talking about, these lawyers, they are not Republicans, but they are strong Murkowski supporters. Most of them have voted for her the last two times, in 2010 and 2016, and a lot of them voted for her in 2004 also. She has a lot of support. She knew she would anger a segment of her supporters no matter what. That is the risk she takes by making this decision.

CABRERA: Gary Tuchman, in Anchorage, Alaska, thank you.

I want to read some of what Senator Murkowski said earlier today. And I quote her. She says, "I have been wrestling with whether or not this is about the qualifications of a good man or is it bigger than the nominee? I believe we are dealing with issues right now that are bigger than the nominee, and how we ensure that our institutions, not only the legislative branch but the judicial branch continue to be respected."

Minutes from now, we'll learn more about what's going on in the head of Senator Susan Collins as we are awaiting her announcement as she explains her final decision on Judge Kavanaugh.

CNN's special live coverage is just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:57:58] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Dana Bash. Welcome to our special

breaking coverage of the confirmation battle for Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Any moment now, Senator Susan Collins will announce if she is a yes or a no for tomorrow's big vote. If it's a no, it could be a game changer.

BLITZER: It certainly could be. We'll have extensive live coverage of her statement.

She voted earlier today to invoke cloture to end a debate and take up a final vote, alongside two other key Senators, Jeff Flake and Democrat Joe Manchin. That vote typically mirrors how a Senator will ultimately vote in the final roll call decision, but not necessarily always.

That's why Susan Collins' announcement in the next few minutes, Dana, it's going to be so critical. We've been getting some information from sources close to her. It's going to be coming up very soon, right?

BASH: That's right. Now it's coming up on 3:00 p.m. Eastern. We expect her to speak in probably about five minutes.

BLITZER: In five minutes. We'll have live coverage of her statement.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, Jeff Flake, the Senator from Arizona, Republican, he told reporters he will vote yes tomorrow, barring some unforeseen development. What are you hearing about Susan Collins' mindset right now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the best we've gotten is, just about an hour ago, she finished up lunch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Senator John Cornyn, the number-two Republican in the Senate was there as well. Senator John Thune, the number-three Republican in the Senate was there as well. This was behind closed doors. But the majority leader, and, Dana, you know quite well, does not talk a lot in the hallways, came out and said he was optimistic. He wouldn't go any further than that.

I just ran into Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was in a great mood, too, which, I think, everybody has seen has not been the case for the entirety of the last week of two. But these is kind of what we've been reduced to at this point, trying to read the tea leaves. We have talked to a number of Senators over the course of the last couple of hours, none of whom know exactly what Senator Collins is going to do.

Just to set the stakes here, Wolf, you named Senator Jeff Flake. That's 49. If he stays where he is, and he says he's planning to at this point, that's 49 Senators. Republicans need 50. And a tie- breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.