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INSIDE POLITICS

Democrats Sound Off as Kavanaugh Nomination Advances; Kavanaugh Op-Ed: I Am An Independent, Impartial Judge; Unemployment Rate at 49- Year Low. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 5, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


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[12:33:07] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: At this hour, Brett Kavanaugh is one step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate plans its final vote thought on its confirmation not until tomorrow at least.

We don't expect Democrats to go through this process quietly. Before today's razor thin 51-49 procedural vote, this from Senators Feinstein and Schumer, Democrats talking about Brett Kavanaugh's nomination.

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SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He would be a deciding vote on the most important issues affecting our country and every American for generations to come. Mr. President, Madam President, based on all the factors we have before us, I do not believe Judge Kavanaugh has earned this seat.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: I asked my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Why Judge Kavanaugh? There is no dictate that you have to march blindly forward with a nominee when there are others available to you. There are many judges who I'm sure conservatives would be happy to have on the court.

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BASH: All right, so back with the panel. Let's just talk raw politics here because we are so close to Election Day and so many of these key decision makers are on the ballot in really red states, states where the president won by more than double-digits. I'm talking about three in particular. Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota who decided to vote no. We'll talk about that in a second. Joe Donnelly also decided to vote no. And Joe Manchin who at least on the procedural measure to set up this vote voted yes. We'll see if he continues that way.

All signs point to yes and that that will continue. But just in terms of the politics of how this is going to play out in the Senate. The House is a different story because there are different dynamics but in the U.S. Senate, it's very, very fascinating.

[12:35:03] And I want to pull up something that another red state candidate, Phil Bredesen who is a former governor of Tennessee, running to make that red seat blue. He earlier in the week said he wasn't so sure and in this red state, he got booed. Well, today, he said he would be a yes if he were in the Senate. He said the following.

"I was prepared to say yes to his nomination prior to Dr. Ford's coming forward. While the subsequent events make it as much -- make it a much closer call rather, and I'm missing key pieces of information that a sitting senator has, I am still a yes."

So, again, that's a state where there's not -- there are pockets of urban Democratic votes, but overwhelmingly it is a very pro- Republican, pro-Trump state. Same goes for West Virginia. And then you have the other states where there are more Democrats, North Dakota aside, and they're saying, you know, it's probably better for us not to suppress our base and vote no.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And midterm elections are about turn out and getting your voters motivated. And clearly a red state Democrat, it's a lot easier to support Kavanaugh. It's a lot easier to say I'll be with Kavanaugh because -- and the balance of the Senate -- I mean, the Senate really does hang in the balance there.

And -- so you saw Manchin today although his race is not tight, I think it was not really a surprise that he would do this. And I don't expect him to change his mind unless he is the deciding vote and the Democrats bludgeon him into it.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: The bludgeoning will be epic.

BORGER: The bludgeoning would be epic. With a lot of blood, I would think. And, you know, it's different in the House than in the Senate. And that's what's so interesting because moderate Republican women could make the difference in the House. And so you could end up Republicans losing the House and keeping control of the Senate. And this could be a big part of it.

BASH: And it's very -- in terms of the politics of this, this is just the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

BASH: Listen to what President Trump said last night.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats have been trying to destroy Judge Brett Kavanaugh. All you have to do is look at polls over the last three or four days and it shows that their rage-fuelled resistance is starting to backfire at a level that nobody has ever seen before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Not so much if you're a Democrat trying to get fellow Democrats to continue to be enthused. Senator Chris Murphy came off the Senate floor voting no this morning and tweeted this.

"Just walked off the Senate floor where I voted no on Brett Kavanaugh. Every single Republican except one voted yes. I'm upset and I know you are, too, but the silver lining is there is an election in less than five weeks where we can change all this."

ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And I also think It is very interesting to me always when we do see red state Democrats who don't veer towards Trump. I mean, Jon Tester who the president is actively trying to unseat is voting in Montana and so is Claire McCaskill who earlier this year President Trump thought he could unseat her and she's in a tight race and she's voting no as well.

So the politics of this especially for Democrats I think for most of them is about not upsetting the base so much that they have no chance at all. These are going to be tight races regardless. And the base is critical for some of these people even in red states.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Whoever wins this fight over Kavanaugh is potentially vulnerable during the election. Whoever loses this fight over Kavanaugh is going to be really, really angry. Angry is a great motivator when you're trying to get people out to the polls.

And so, if he is confirmed, you can imagine that that will be more of a ground saw behind Democrats. It's interesting to see though how -- as (INAUDIBLE) before, this is not really that personal of an issue, it has become like a gut check issue for people like Heidi Heitkamp when she says --

BASH: But it could be a win-win for Republicans. Win, meaning get them on the court and win because this base that has been asleep, they're been open.

HAM: Yes. I think there is a good chance that we are potentially underestimating the extent to which Republicans are energized by this fight, win or lose. Because I think Lindsey Graham who is largely seen as a guy who works across the aisle and is a moderate guy and not exactly a big hero to many on the far right -- on the sort of the far right conservative activists, he's a symbol for many who are angry in the party and many of them are quiet about it many of them are moderate Republicans.

But that exists and you're starting to see in some of the numbers of donations to the NRCC, a 175 percent up this month over last month in small dollar donations according to (INAUDIBLE) reporting. I think that's important. And it may continue to play out and the important thing to remember too is that there are diminishing returns and enthusiasm for Democrats because they were already up here.

[12:40:03] Republicans have ground to make up. And if they make that up in some of these post races, it matters.

BASH: That's a fair point.

OK, everybody, standby. Up next, Brett Kavanaugh makes one final plea to the public and to key senators hoping to repair his image.

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BASH: On Capitol Hill, there are still lingering concerns over Brett Kavanaugh's impartiality after his angry even sharply partisan testimony last week. Now, in an 11th hour op-ed, Kavanaugh is trying to reassure senators that he does have the temperament to be on the Supreme Court.

[12:45:01] He wrote, "I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp and I said a few things I should not have said. Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge in person I have been for my entire 28 year legal career, hardworking, even-keeled, open minded, independent, and dedicated to the constitution and the public good."

The source involved in the confirmation process said that the op-ed was particularly aimed at placating Republican senators like Jeff Flake, like Susan Collins because they have been worried about that openly so. For their part, Democrats for the most part are saying they don't buy it. Saying Kavanaugh could never be impartial on the Supreme Court.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: Beyond the issue of credibility, Judge Kavanaugh presented to the Senate the bitterest partisan testimony I have ever heard coming from a candidate seeking the Senate's approval. I do not see how it's possible for my colleagues to say with perfect confidence that Judge Kavanaugh has the temperament, independence, and credibility to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: CNN's Joan Biskupic joins us now as part of our conversation. Joan, what do you make of this op-ed this morning?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: I think there were a couple of audiences there, Dana, not just the senators. But this is the first step on what is likely his own version of a 12-step recovery tour from his reputation.

Seriously, when you think of the impression he left to the legal community, to fellow judges, would be fellow Supreme Court justices, he wanted to come out and say something, you know, right there at the top. I will be independent. I will be neutral. I will not be the man that you saw last week pounding the table and declaring himself, you know, part of a partisan fight. So I think that's what you saw first off.

And I just want to remind you of where we're at. It looks like the letter may have done the trick frankly for the senators. We'll all know that tomorrow. But beginning shortly after that, he will -- if it goes the way the White House wants it to go, he will be sworn in, he will join the eight other justices and they're going to close ranks around him and he will want to continue signaling that he will not be the man who sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee but a --

BASH: But there's (INAUDIBLE) in some of his decisions?

BISKUPIC: I think so. I think he will still vote the way he was always going to vote, consistently conservative, more to the right certainly than Anthony Kennedy who he is succeeding which will change the law in America. But I think he will stake steps to do almost the same tone that we saw in that op-ed last night.

You know, it's interesting you just played that clip of Chuck Schumer. Chuck Schumer was at the scene back in the earlier 2000, accusing Brett Kavanaugh of being a partisan warrior. the go-to guy was his phrase on partisanship.

BASH: And Abby, you were talking about that in the break. We -- you know, Brett Kavanaugh is on the federal bench, but it took him a really, really long time to get there for that reason. Democrats called him the Forest Gump of Republican politics.

PHILLIP: We think of Brett Kavanaugh because of in the lead up to this, everything that we heard about Kavanaugh was that he was the guy everybody first thought of for the Supreme Court when they think of the Supreme Court. But people forget that back at that time it took him three years to get on the circuit court because Democrats thought he was too partisan. And he brought those demons back up for them when in his statement last week, he said two things.

One, he accused them of seeking revenge on behalf of the Clintons. And secondly, he said the Democrats were so bitter about President Trump winning in 2016 that this was the result of that. I thought those two things were perhaps the two most damaging things he could have said for himself last week and that's why we're talking about that.

BASH: We're going to sneak a quick break-in. We're going to talk on the other side about other news. There is other big, big news this morning and that is new jobs numbers out today. President Trump likes what he sees. He sure -- he should. Just weeks to go before the election. We'll talk about it when we get back.

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[12:53:28] BASH: President Trump and Republicans sure like what they see in this new jobs report out this morning. The unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent in September. This is the best number we have seen in 49 years, almost half a century. The economy added a 134,000 jobs and below expectations and the monthly average for the year due partly to Hurricane Florence. Hourly wages rose 2.8 percent.

Now the president was quick to tweet his approval, touting the lowest jobless numbers since 1969. Another very important number he did mention, 32 days until the midterm elections.

But in all seriousness, look, assuming that Kavanaugh gets through which is a big assumption now, the economy -- the job numbers is the best that they've been in a half century. You don't get a better picture this close to an election for a president --

BORGER: No. This is a --

BASH: -- going into the midterms.

BORGER: Exactly. This is -- if he gets Kavanaugh and he has great jobs numbers and he's done tax reform and there's no answers on Russia investigation until after the election. Donald Trump go out there and campaign and say, look at this. I've got new two Supreme Court justices. This is why a lot of you voted for me particularly evangelicals. And I'm -- and the economy is great again.

And he can go out there and campaign. This will have been a terrific week for Donald Trump.

BASH: And the question is, though, what I heard out on the campaign trail and some of these tough House races though is whether the -- the feeling of chaos.

[12:55:04] The frustration with the chaos in Washington could overshadow those genuinely good data points.

HAM: Yes, I think it's a real question that continues -- the question continues because he'll keep tweeting and he'll keep speaking in public. You can get a win in the Trump administration, but you can really get a clean win, right? And he tends to muddy the waters.

But on this, the promises that he made and the Trump people made was he fights the court and the economy and he's delivered on those this week.

BASH: Good place to end this hour. A lot more to discuss coming up on CNN.

Thank you so much for joining INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf is picking up our coverage after a quick break.

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