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Senate's First Vote on Kavanaugh; Vice President Pence Attacks China; U.S. Indicts Russian Military Officers for Cyber Attack; Indonesian Survivors Searching for Their Loved Ones; Netherlands: Russia Targeted Chemical Weapons Watchdog; Collins Under Pressure to Reject Kavanaugh; U.S. First Lady on Solo International Trip. Aired 12m-1a ET

Aired October 5, 2018 - 00:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president's pick for Supreme Court makes a last-minute defense of his nomination, insisting he's impartial and independent, as hundreds of protesters around the nation insist he's not fit for the court's position.

China blasts the United States after the U.S. vice president accuses Beijing of trying to meddle in domestic politics. This comes during a coordinated condemnation of Russia's military intelligence agency, with multiple countries accusing agents worldwide of cyber attacks.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: Around the world, good day.

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court is going right down to the wire, keeping in mind three undecided Republicans hold the key, as the Senate will take its first vote in the day ahead. Kavanaugh's nomination has sparked demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and around the country, as you see.

A crowd of protesters marched Thursday on Capitol Hill and in front of the Supreme Court. More than 300 people were arrested. This crowd chanted, "November is coming," a reminder to lawmakers that the midterm elections are just a few weeks away.

Another cornered Republican Senator Orrin Hatch --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why aren't you brave enough to talk to us and exchange with us?

Don't you wave your hand at me.

I wave my hand at you.



HOWELL: And we also heard from the 98-year-old retired Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens, who had this to say.


JOHN PAUL STEVENS, RETIRED SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: 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 that his performance during the hearings caused me to change my mind.


HOWELL: Kavanaugh defended himself in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed, writing this, quote, "I was very emotional last Thursday, more than I have ever been."

He goes on to say, "I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp and I said a few things I shouldn't have said. I hope everyone can understand that I was there as a son, husband and dad. I testified with five people. Foremost in my mind, my mom, my dad, my wife and most of all my daughters," end quote.

President Trump started talking abort Kavanaugh just a few minutes after taking the stage at a campaign rally in the state of Minnesota. He blasted Democrats for their treatment of Kavanaugh and said their rage-fueled resistance is starting to backfire, according to the president. Let's listen.


TRUMP: Democrats have been trying to destroy Judge Brett Kavanaugh since the very first second he was announced. And he was announced for one simple reason. He is an incredible intellect, an incredible person, an incredible talent.


HOWELL: And U.S. senators have had a full day to read the updated FBI background check on Judge Kavanaugh. We get more of what comes next from Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Choosing his words carefully about his Supreme Court pick...

TRUMP: I think he's doing very well. I think he's doing very well. The judge is doing well, right? ACOSTA: -- President Trump left it to GOP leaders to all but declare

victory in the battle over Brett Kavanaugh.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I feel very good about where this nomination is right 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 senators 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've 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 reign to follow any leads.



SANDERS: -- exactly what they do best. We haven't micro managed this process. We accommodated all of the Senate's request.

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), CALIF.: It now appears that they also blocked the FBI from doing its job. Democrats agree that the investigation's scope 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 letter to FBI director Chris Wray, offering people, writing the investigation conducted over the past five days is a stain on the process, a stain on the FBI and over our ideal of American 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 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 re-election, 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 on Judge Kavanaugh.

ACOSTA: With protests on the streets of Washington, the supreme circus is wearing down nearly everybody.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), S.C.: Because you've humiliated this guy enough. And there seems to be no bottom for some of you.

So why don't we dunk him in the water and see if he floats?



HOWELL: Going now to talk more about this we have Larry Sabato. Larry, the Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Good to have you with us this hour, Larry. Let's start by talking about this op-ed by Judge Kavanaugh published in "The Wall Street Journal" just hours ago, titled "I Am an Independent Impartial Judge."

And in it he says a good judge must be an umpire, a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no political party, litigant, or policy. Take that into consideration statements like that against Kavanaugh's prepared remarks like this.


BRETT KAVANAUGH, NOMINEE, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.


HOWELL: So Kavanaugh's op-ed insisting that he can be impartial in calling balls and strikes. How do you square this circle?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, George, I'm not going to dispute that on some things in some cases he probably could be impartial but a lot of that is nonsense.

In fact that line about we're just umpires, we just call balls and strikes, this came from Chief Justice Roberts in his confirmation hearings during the George W. Bush administration.

And of course, what has he done and the other nominees does both Democratic and Republican, they've gone on the court and they've been very predictable on hot-button issues in cases that have come before them.

So this is a myth. No one really believes it unless they're trying to defend a controversial nominee. Kavanaugh's problem, George, is that his words and his actions and his emotions at that hearing before the Judiciary Committee belies his current claims, the claims in that "Wall Street Journal" op-ed.

HOWELL: So let's go beyond the context of the op-ed, the simple fact that it happened, that the judge took the steps to put this forward.

Does it suggest to you either a nervousness among Kavanaugh supporters or a confidence about getting him over the hump here?

SABATO: Well, it maybe nervousness about the confirmation or it might even be his own inclination if he is actually confirmed.

What will happen then?

Is he going to have years and decades of controversy, kind of like Clarence Thomas had?

Is he going to be a pariah in many circles not invited to prestigious law schools for presentations and the like?

Believe me, these things go through their minds. They look forward to that status. They look forward to those perks.

So they're probably a lot of motives involved in this. I guess my reaction is it's a little too late. Those weren't spontaneous remarks when he talked about the Clintons and --


SABATO: -- partisanship and upset about President Trump's election.

That -- those remarks were written a full day in advance. There was plenty of time to tone them down, to reconsider them but they were not.

HOWELL: And with regards to temperament, there are still plenty of images you find them online of frowning and angry seemingly seeping Judge Kavanaugh from last week's testimony and the retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has come out to say that he's changed his mind and now doesn't think the Kavanaugh belongs on the Supreme Court due to his performance before lawmakers and it seems temperament is a key factor for some senators.

SABATO: Well, it should be a key factor. And I think most people were surprised maybe even stunned by Justice Stevens' comments about this. I don't think we've heard from him in years about any major subject so this is significant.

And really behind the scenes when you talk to senators, maybe they ought to be more concerned about Dr. Ford's testimony or some of the other women or the roommates who have come forward.

But what they will frequently mention first is the lack of decorum, the lack of respect that Kavanaugh showed at that hearing. He was sensing (ph) senators. You don't do that.

Anybody who's ever given testimony before Congress knows that is not the place to rear up and to say some of the things that Kavanaugh said.

HOWELL: Yes and many women have pointed out had it did a woman in that position saying the same thing. It would be a very different outcome had it been a minority, an African Americans saying that sort of thing. Critics say it would be a very different outcome.

We'll have to see where this goes. Larry Sabato, thank you so much for your time.

SABATO: Thank you, George.


HOWELL: And now to a war of words between China and the U.S. vice president, Mike Pence. Beijing condemning Mr. Pence's blistering speech about the Chinese government, saying it's filled with slander and unwarranted accusations.

Mr. Pence launched a broad attack on Thursday, accusing China of predatory economic practices, military aggression against the United States and trying to interfere in America's political system by influencing public opinion. Listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beijing has mobilized covert actors, the 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.


HOWELL: Well, it was an acknowledgment that Russia has been doing something, according to government officials. Our Will Ripley on this story following the new lines on China. Live in Hong Kong.

And Will, look, this speech surely making tense relations there with the U.S. even more tense.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean the U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo is traveling to North Korea this weekend and China on Monday. And who would have thought he would get probably a warmer reception in Pyongyang than he will in Beijing, especially after Vice President Pence's speech, where he accused China of not only election meddling but attacked the country on multiple fronts, military trade and domestic politics.

It was really extraordinary and an indication the Trump administration is trying to push the reset button on the U.S.-China relationship, trying to perhaps set boundaries or lay down the law, if you will.

But Beijing, they're not having it, predictably. They're calling the vice president's speech slander. They're saying that he has made groundless accusations and, you know, when the vice president talked about Taiwan and how the U.S. feels that democracy is a better path for the people living in Taiwan. which China considers a renegade province that they can take back at any time, predictably they also launched into a very thorough defense of their system of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

It just goes to show that the vice president touched on a lot of really sensitive issues in his speech. Let me read you this excerpt of a statement from China's ministry of foreign affairs.

"The international community has already known fully well who wantonly infringes upon other sovereignty, interferes in others' internal affairs and undermines others' interests. Any malicious slander on China is futile."

Of course they're talking about the United States there. And, basically, they want the U.S. to butt out. And they don't take very kindly when they feel like another country is trying to contain the rise of China. China feels it's their time and there has been growing suspicion among Xi Jinping's leadership that, inside the Trump administration, this trade war and now this speech and even talking about the flashpoint in the South China Sea, that close call between the two warships over the weekend, that this all might be part of a bigger strategy by the Trump administration to somehow subvert China.


RIPLEY: And that's going make them much less likely to really work with the U.S., frankly, on a whole host of issues, everything from trade to North Korea as well -- George.

HOWELL: And that really was the question I wanted to ask you, just the impact that were seeing this increased drumbeat from the United States on China.

What impact do you think this is making when it comes to simple economics, these nations working together economically?

RIPLEY: Well, you've got a trade war with no end in sight. It seems as if Beijing and Washington are so far apart. It was noteworthy that vice president Pence gave this speech and in the speech he talked about the supposed friendship between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.

The friendship may be souring. But even with making all these claims, the vice president was careful to separate President Trump. So it's almost like a good cop-bad cop kind of deal.

Look, they're not going to work with the U.S. on trade if they feel that the U.S. is trying to contain the rise of China. And they're certainly not going to respond well if the U.S. the Pentagon moves forward with this plan for a global show of force in the South China Sea and other areas that China claims as its territory.

You saw what happened over the weekend when a Chinese destroyer came within 45 yards of a U.S. Ship. If the U.S. goes through with all these freedom of navigation operations in the sea and the air next month, as they're saying they might do, how might China respond? And could there be a miscalculation that could lead to an actual collision or worse?

Those are a lot of the things that people in this region are looking at right now with some real concern -- George.

HOWELL: Those are serious questions indeed. Our Will Ripley, live in Hong Kong with the reporting.

Will, thank you as always.

The U.S. vice president says that China is worse but Russia remains the focus of a global crackdown on cyber attacks. What we know about a plot against a chemical weapons watchdog as NEWSROOM pushes ahead.

Plus, after their city was destroyed by two natural disasters, thousands of Indonesians there trying to escape.




HOWELL: Welcome back.

The United States and its allies are launching a global crackdown on Russian cyber attacks. The U.S. Justice Department has handed down indictments against seven Russian military officers. They've been tied to several plots, including plans to steal files from the World Anti-Doping Agency.


SCOTT BRADY, U.S. ATTORNEY WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA: It's important that the why not get lost in this.


BRADY: This began with the disclosure of a Russian state-sponsored doping program for its athletes. In other words, Russia cheated. They cheated. They got caught. They were banned from the Olympics. They were mad and they retaliated. And in retaliating, they broke the law. So they are criminals.


HOWELL: The Russian agents aren't just any hackers. Western governments say they belong to a military intelligence agency, the GRU. That group has been accused for a wave of recent cyber attacks. CNN's Matthew Chance has more now on that from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is Russia's most shadowed secret service, a military intelligence agency now suspected of a global campaign of malign activity, from fanning the pro-Moscow rebellion in Eastern Ukraine to the latest revelations of GRU spies hacking sport's Anti-Doping Agency's the U.S. Nuclear Energy Company, the investigation into the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Eastern Ukraine and the global chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW in the Netherlands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The OPCW was a target of undermining by the Russian military intelligence service. The MIVD stopped a cyber operations. Involved Russian intelligence officers that same day were expelled from our country.

CHANCE (voice-over): The Dutch, in coordination with British and U.S. agencies, making public their evidence. Multiple mobile phones and electronic wi-fi hacking equipment was seized from a car allegedly rented by the Russians.

Investigators also say they found this Moscow taxi receipt on one of the suspects, showing a ride from a street near the GRU headquarters in the Russian capital to the city's main airport. Russia has rejected the evidence as crude disinformation aimed at confusing public opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Without any regard to anything, in one bottle, maybe even a Nina Ricci perfume bottle, everything was mixed. GRU, cyber espionage, criminal hackers, WADA. The rich imagination of our U.K. colleagues truly knows no limits.

CHANCE (voice-over): Investigators suspect the poisoning in Britain of a former GRU defector and his daughter, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, may have motivated the GRU's interest in the chemical weapons watchdog. The Kremlin has categorically denied any involvement but U.S. and British officials concluded GRU agents were behind it.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This was not a rogue operation. It was almost certainly approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.

CHANCE (voice-over): GRU agents are also among sanctioned for meddling in the U.S. political system, accused of targeting the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential election and releasing damaging information via WikiLeaks.

With the U.S. and its allies now accusing the GRU of a series of global cyber plots, that now seems like just the tip of the iceberg -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


HOWELL: Matthew, thank you.

A week after an earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of Indonesia, thousands of people there are stuck in no-man's land, a land of rubble and a great deal of pain. Much of the aid coming in is focused on the city of Palu. You see the damage here in Indonesia.

But many of the surrounding towns, they are cut off by collapsed roads and landslides. In the city, life has become a long waiting game. People waiting for food, for water, for electricity and shelter. Our Matt Rivers reports some of the longest hours are spent waiting for news of missing loved ones.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a particular agony, waiting for news you need to know but dread getting. Twenty or so people, all strangers, man this vigil outside the Mercure Hotel on Palu's ruined coastline. Their common causes lie in rubble. Each had someone they loved buried when the hotel collapsed.

"We just really want my daughter to be found," says Martinuz Hamaele. "My hope is to find her as fast as we can. Hamaele got to the hotel just after it went down. He was determined to get to 20-year-old Marienne, who worked inside.

"We entered the hotel, again and again, shouting 'Marienne! Marienne! Where are you? It's us." So despite aftershocks threatening to crumble what was left, he kept going in with his son Frets. And they found six people, pulled each one out and saved each life, but no Marienne.

"I'm so sad," --


RIVERS (voice-over): -- he says, "because when we got here, me and my dad were able to save a couple of people. Why couldn't we help my little sister?"

That's up to the professionals now, including a French team we watched take special sound-detecting equipment inside. It's nearly a week since the collapse and families like these are facing hard truths. And that hard truth is that Marienne is probably dead.

"It's probably impossible she's still alive, but we never stop hoping," he says. "At the least, we can get her body. And if God grants out hope, then she is still alive."

But that's just one family's story. When the tsunami rolled in and destroyed entire communities like the one that was here, it created tragedy on a massive scale. And a full six days after that event, many people still don't have basic services like electricity, food and water, or shelter.

And that breeds desperation. At the Palu Airport, tear-stained evacuees gather at a tarmac gate. Freedom from an unlivable place lies just beyond. But there's only so many seats on a plane. Some make it through, some don't.

This family got separated. The grandmother made sure the soldiers knew. Eventually, they're together again and it's a rush to the plane to make sure it stays that way.

All around, there's anger and frustration. And everyone is just exhausted. The military says it's flying as many flights as it can. These people will wait for the next one.

Far from the airport, sailors brought aid to remote places on the island where help hasn't reached yet. Villagers meet them on the water. They're loud and demanding, feeling the pain and frustration of going a week without a real meal.

The ship then heads back to port, where 250 evacuees are about to sail 500 miles south to another town. The destination matters little as long as it's anywhere but here. By ship or plane, though, they can leave because nothing holds them here.

Back along the coastline at the hotel, that's not an option. The Families here know the likely hard truth. They're not naive. They know the odds. But giving up? No. No way -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Palu, Indonesia.


HOWELL: And we have some unfortunate news to report, an update to Matt's report. Marienne, the young woman whose family was holding vigil for her in Palu, has been found. Her elder sister tells CNN that rescue workers recovered Marienne's body from the collapsed hotel where they were waiting for news. One family's tragedy now part of an entire nation's grief.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, Brett Kavanaugh's U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process could conclude this weekend and his fate likely hangs on a few undecided senators. How they're being pressured to vote -- still ahead.

Plus, he has been called a murderous dictator, a madman and a maniac. Despite that, some people think Kim Jong-un might have the new title -- very interesting title -- in a few hours, Nobel Peace Prize winner. Yes, you heard it. Stay with us.


[00:30:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Live around the world, and from CNN headquarters in Atlanta, you're watching NEWSROOM, thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you, this hour.

The U.S. Supreme Court picked Brett Kavanaugh, defending himself in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Kavanaugh says he might have been too emotional during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Kavanaugh insists he is an independent and impartial judge.

The Netherlands says it expelled four Russian military intelligence officers for trying to hack into the files of the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons. The accusation comes during a Western crackdown on Russian cyber-attacks.

The U.S. announced charges against seven Russian military officers.

In Indonesia, the military there, evacuating thousands of people in the city of Palu, that city on Sulawesi Island, that island devastated by an earthquake and tsunami just a week ago. Rescue and recovery efforts there, they are still under way. Officials expect the death toll of more than 1,400 people, unfortunately, to rise.

The showdown over Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination is becoming even more intense. A final vote in the Senate could happen this week. And an initial vote, Friday, setting the process into motion.

And Kavanaugh's fate could come down to just three undecided Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Their Party and Kavanaugh supporters are pressuring them to accept the judge, but opponents sensed they could flip and are putting on extra heat.

Dozens of people outside Flake's office in a city of Phoenix, Arizona, they're hoping that he will vote no. The retiring senator had already delayed the vote by calling for an additional FBI investigation into sexual allegations against Kavanaugh.

And dozens of people, in Alaska, women, they are now in Washington, D.C. to deliver their message to Senator Murkowski, in person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the senator ultimately votes to confirm Kavanaugh, how would you feel about your senator?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's pretty much it for me. And the reason is, I'm not usually a one-person voter, but I am -- I do believe in people's words. And when Senator Murkowski told us she was pro-choice and when she told us she's here for women, this is about the biggest thing she can do for women.

HOWELL: In the meantime, some of Senator Collins' constituents say if the pro-choice Republican accepts Kavanaugh, that it would be a betrayal. Our Polo Sandoval has more now from the U.S. State of Maine.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vote no in this confirmation. Do not turn a blind eye.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From the halls of Congress --


CROWD: Please say, hell no!

SANDOVAL: To the streets of Portland, Maine, Senator Susan Collins is getting an earful.

CROWD: Call Susan Collins!

SANDOVAL: The senior republican senator from Maine, still undecided, could be the key vote to decide if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, Senator Collin's office.

SANDOVAL: Why the phones in her home state office keep ringing as constituents and other concerned citizens are calling in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll get this down for the senator for you.


SANDOVAL: And stopping by. The final attempt at making their voices heard ahead of Saturday's vote. Most the people we encountered today, seemed to oppose Kavanaugh's appointment.

JOANNA BRINKER, CONSTITUENT OF SENATOR COLLINS: My main concern is his honesty and temperament.

SANDOVAL: Joanna Brinker is one of them.

BRINKER: I know she is in a position of influence right now, and i just want to make sure she was hearing from us.

SANDOVAL: Voting yes on Kavanaugh may be welcomed by Collins' fellow Republicans, but could cost her bipartisan support at home.

Seems like there are some serious political consequences that would come with voting, yes?

BRINKER: Oh, seriously. Yes, I mean, if she votes yes, she is never going have my vote again.

SANDOVAL: Brinker isn't alone. Voter after voter told us they have supported Collins in the past, but may reconsider come 2020 if the senator runs for re-election.

HEATHER SQUIRES, MAINE RESIDENT: Susan Collins actually ran on being a pro-choice Republican. And if she votes for Kavanaugh, I think she's going to have a major problem in Maine, major, major problem.

[00:35:10] SANDOVAL: It's not just voters hoping to sway the senator. The fight over the controversial Supreme Court nominee has spilled on to the airways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A model of integrity, humility and kindness.

SANDOVAL: Advocacy groups in Maine have poured more than $2 million into efforts to persuade Collins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This sounds like a serious allegation and I think it should be fully vetted.


CROWD: Hell, no!

SANDOVAL: The protests likely to continue leading up to the vote, what's yet to be seen, is if any of this will have an effect on Collins' decision.

Judge Kavanaugh does have some support among constituents of Senator Collins. Her staff telling me earlier today, that they've received visitors and also phone calls from people urging the senator to vote yes, this weekend. These are two very different sides, very different opinions. What they do have in common, though, they understand the political stakes are high, not just for Judge Kavanaugh, but their senator, as well. Polo Sandoval, CNN, Portland, Maine.


HOWELL: Polo, thank you. TIME magazine is spotlighting the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process, putting the woman, accusing him of sexual assault, on its cover. It's an illustration of Christine Blasey-Ford, made-up of the words that she used during her Senate testimony where she detailed the alleged sexual assault.

Quotes about Ford's memory were placed on her forehead. Quotes, about her wanting to help, they were placed on her hand. Phrases used including, I'm terrified, agonized daily, and traumatic experience, also placed within that cover.

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump is on a goodwill tour of Africa. When we return, highlights from her trip to Malawi, which included a big donation for students there. Stay with us.


HOWELL: The U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, is in Kenya, where she is expanding her presence on the world stage. Her solo visit is part of a four-country tour of Africa. This week, she's already visited Ghana and Malawi, and she's been promoting her Be Best campaign. Our Kate Bennett has more from Nairobi.


KATE BENNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First Lady Melania Trump, continuing her tour of Africa, her big solo international journey as First Lady. She was in Ghana, and on Thursday, she spent time in Malawi, where she visited a school with 8,000 students and just 75 teachers.

Mrs. Trump saying how important it was that she saw how these children were learning. She sat in on a few classrooms, read some books with the kids, and also donated more than one million textbooks to the country of Malawi, so kids there can continue to learn.

She also donated some soccer balls so they could also play. They had an impromptu soccer game. Later in the afternoon, Melania Trump spent some time with the First Lady of Malawi, having a tea, and seeing a traditional dance performance.

And then, off to Kenya, where Friday it's expected she will go on safari, and again, visit with more local children, as she uses trip to promote her Be Best initiative, helping kids around the world with well-being both physical and emotional. [00:40:19] After Kenya, it'll be on to Egypt, and then back home, to Washington. Kate Bennett, CNN, Nairobi.


HOWELL: The U.S. President and North Korea's leader, two names that might not ordinarily be associated with the Nobel Peace Prize, but these are not ordinary times. The coveted award will be announced in the next few hours, and CNN's Nina dos Santos explains why the two leaders are among this year's possibles.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Donald Trump may be more famous for his fighting words than his diplomacy, but the President's efforts to secure peace on the Korean peninsula, make him among the bookie's top contenders for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, alongside the leaders of North and South Korea, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in.

TRUMP: They said there were two alternatives, let them have what they have, or go to war. And now, we have a much better alternative than anybody thought even possible.

DOS SANTOS: 2018 may not have been the most harmonious of years, but of 331 candidates being considered, the Norwegian committee, which awards the prizes, drawing from its second largest pool ever, a pool which is likely to include celebrities, the usual politicians, and even the pope. As always, the short list remains a secret, leaving room for the odd surprise.

The 2012 decision to award the E.U. at a time of austerity and internal divisions through drew consternation. Even former U.S. President Barack Obama appeared taken aback when he received the accolade in 2009, just 10 months into his term.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize, men and women who have inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

DOS SANTOS: Mindful of the political weight it carries, the prize has sometimes been granted to obscure recipient, like the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons in 2017. In some years, it wasn't granted at all. And the Laureate's legacy afterwards, can have a lasting impact.

Aung San Suu Kyi's struggle for democracy was recognized in 1991. But her failure to denounce the persecution of the Myanmar's Rohingya population has drawn fierce criticism since. The Nobel Foundation has refused to strip Suu Kyi of the merit, and now, some have suggested that the prize shouldn't be awarded until after an honoree's death. If the Nobel Peace Prize is still the ultimate mark of international prestige and can be a powerful force for change, candidates cannot nominate themselves, though.

CROWD: Nobel, Nobel, Nobel!

DOS SANTOS: Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.

TRUMP: That's very nice. Thank you.


HOWELL: Thank you for being with us for this edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell, at the CNN Center, in Atlanta. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.


[00:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)