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Trump, GOP Use Kavanaugh Battle to Rally Voters for Midterms; NTSB Investigating Deadliest Transportation Crash Since 2009; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 8, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] FRAN PROFFER, VOTER FROM GERMANTOWN, TENNESSEE: Republicans hold the Senate and the House so that we can follow Trump's agenda from the last presidential election.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're going to bring you that every day, so tell us what you think, why you're voting in 29 days. Post on Instagram, use the #whyivoteCNN.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington this morning.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. We are so glad you're with us. There's a lot of news to get to.

A day before he takes his place officially on the high court alongside eight other justices on the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh will be at the White House today at a ceremonial swearing in with President Trump. He will take the bench exactly four weeks out from the midterms which were the backdrop for his bitterly polarizing confirmation fight, and now loom larger than ever.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House this morning.

Abby, the president says that Kavanaugh, in his words, is squeaky clean and that the protesters who tried to keep him out were, again, the president's words here, mob. Is that his message heading into the midterms in November?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly what Republicans are hoping to run on. They say that this bruising fight involving Kavanaugh and these sexual assault allegations has actually galvanized their supporters ahead of the midterm elections with 29 days out.

President Trump is the one leading the charge, and what we're seeing tonight at the White House is a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Kavanaugh that essentially serves as an opportunity for President Trump to take a big victory lap over this whole process.

Now Kavanaugh was formally sworn in over the weekend surrounded by his wife and two daughters, but this event tonight is going to be aimed at making sure that President Trump has an opportunity to stand near him and hammer home this message that a second Supreme Court justice is now on the court as a result of Republicans controlling the Senate and the White House.

But at the same time, we also know that Kavanaugh has been preparing for this moment. He's going to take his seat on the court tomorrow. He's been reading up, making sure that he was ready no matter how this confirmation hearing shaped up. We've been told he's going to be seated on the far right of the court, right next to Justice Elena Kagan, and already, he has hired his clerks for this session. And they are all four women.

He promised senators during his confirmation hearing that he would hire an all-woman clerk class for his Supreme Court seat once he was confirmed, and he has done so. He is the first Supreme Court justice in history to do that -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right. So let's pause for a moment and just think about what happened with Merrick Garland when President Obama nominated him for the high court. Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, refused to give him a hearing. He was pressed on all of this and what this means after the Kavanaugh process on CBS yesterday morning by John Dickerson, and McConnell pushed back against the idea that his decision to block Garland's vote, quote, "kicked off a new stage in the partisanship associated with Supreme Court nominees."

He then argued there's nothing new about blocking Garland's nomination. He said just listen and look at history. Watch this exchange.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: You have to go back to 1880 to find the last time a Senate controlled by a different party from the president confirmed a Supreme Court justice to a vacancy created in the middle of a presidential election.

They also conveniently have forgotten that Joe Biden said in 1992 when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the Democrats controlled the Senate, Republican in the White House, if a vacancy occurred they wouldn't fill it.

They also conveniently forgot that Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid 18 months before the end of Bush 43 said if a Supreme Court vacancy occurred they wouldn't fill it. Talk about hypocrisy.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS ANCHOR: Mr. Leader -- right. But, Mr. Leader, I don't think that's right. In 1956, Eisenhower nominated Brennan, the 84th Congress was Democrat controlled, and also on the Biden rule, Joe Biden was talking in the abstract. There was no nominee, no nominee was blocked, and he said to not have the nomination come up before the election, but that it could come up after the election. And so what Democrats say when they hear you doing this is they say

he's creating new rules to essentially do what he wants to do. And as you've written in your book "The Long Game" when you do that, it actually hurts democracy.

MCCONNELL: Yes, well, that's not -- that's not at all what happened, John. You're completely misconstruing what happened. What I gave you is the history of this. I know the history of this. I have spent a lot of time on this throughout my career.

What I did was entirely consistent with what the history of the Senate's been, and that situation going back to 1880.

DICKERSON: Well, I think the 1956 example and also in 1968, later in the election cycle, when a Democratic president put somebody forward, the Republican leader worked with him to get that person a hearing and get him towards the Supreme Court, which is not something that you did. A vote at the --

MCDONNELL: Then there was a democrat -- then there was a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic Senate.

[10:05:02] DICKERSON: But the Republican leader at the time --

MCDONNELL: You are not --

DICKERSON: -- tried to help the Democratic president.

MCCONNELL: You are not listening to me, John. John, you're not listening to me. The history is exactly as I told you.

DICKERSON: Well, we have a disagreement about the history, but I greatly appreciate --

MCCONNELL: Yes, we do. We certainly do.

DICKERSON: We greatly appreciate you being with us here today.

Mr. Leader, thanks so much.


SCIUTTO: You can't help but remember, Poppy, the Daniel Moynihan quote, you're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

HARLOW: But not your own facts.


HARLOW: There you go.

SCIUTTO: Here we are, joining us now, Symone Sanders, CNN political commentator, former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders, and Republican strategist Noelle Nikpour.

Noelle, if I could begin with you, would you grant that it's a bit rich of the Senate majority leader to claim these new rules in effect?

NOELLE NIKPOUR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, you've got to admit that the majority of American voters may not know the rich history that both of these individuals know. So you've got -- you've got to look at a lot of people are probably going to be doing a lot of fact checking. But McConnell --

SCIUTTO: Yes, whether they know -- I mean whether Americans know it --



SCIUTTO: The fact is that when a Republican president -- I mean, you saw John Dickerson there cite it, in the 1950s, Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, Democratically controlled Congress, he was able to nominate and got his -- got in fact a great Supreme Court justice through. So what point is Mitch McConnell making here?

NIKPOUR: Well, I think Mitch McConnell is sticking to his guns. And if you -- you know, we just saw the clip. He's not backing down. He has said -- he has stated that he doesn't know his facts.

SCIUTTO: But what's right?

HARLOW: But he's wrong -- yes.

SCIUTTO: He may not be backing down, but what's right?

HARLOW: Yes, he's wrong on the fact.

NIKPOUR: Well, I mean, obviously he's got to look at where the facts are. And if Mitch McConnell is wrong, Mitch McConnell is wrong. But Mitch McConnell has stated that he -- the commentator is not understanding what his point is, so with that, you know, regardless, I don't think this is going to do anything to effect the midterms. I think that this is a disagreement. I think Mitch McConnell thinks that he is right on track, and that the commentator did not understand what he was trying to say.

And it's fact versus fact, and it looks like obviously the facts are on the other side, and the other guy won -- you know, won the fact point, but where Mitch McConnell is concerned, he is disagreeing with how this was laid out.

HARLOW: So, Symone, what the argument -- you're laughing and I want to know why in a moment. I mean, it seems like the argument being made here in part is that the facts don't matter as much on that? And Charles Blow, liberal columnist as you know in "The New York Times," let me read you what he writes.

"Liberals have to look beyond emotions," talking about the midterms. "Liberals have to look beyond emotions, beyond reactionary electoral enthusiasm, beyond needing to fall in love with candidates in order to vote for them, beyond the coming election and towards the coming showdown."

What is the most effective way for liberals to do that if it's not pointing out the facts?


SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one, Poppy, I'm somebody that believes we have to continuously point out the facts because facts still matter regardless of what Mitch McConnell or even the president says or their allies.

Look, I think folks must have a really short memory. First and foremost, when it comes to elections and turnout, every election since 2016, Democrats have been showing up and showing out at the polls. Progressive voters have been showing up and showing out. That's how Ralph Northam is now the governor of Virginia. That's how Justin Fairfax is the first black person elected statewide in the commonwealth of Virginia since the Civil War.

Like that is how we got -- that is how Democrats won the New Jersey governor's mansion. That's how Stacey Abrams won her primary in Georgia. That's how Andrew Gillum won his primary. And so Democrats are right on target and right on the mark for what I believe will be a blue wave in this November on November 6th. If folks continue to turn out at the polls. So folks -- you know, I was listening to CNN this morning. I heard folks saying the Democrats need to focus on health care and they need to do this and they need that, talk about that.

Those people are totally divorced from fact and reality. They have not been on the ground, and I have. And what Democrats, what candidates across the country are doing, is they're talking about the issues, Poppy. They are talking about the fact that when Republicans got a chance to do something for you, to cut your taxes, that they cut the wealthiest Americans' taxes and only made semi-permanent tax cuts for folks like you and I.

So that is what is winning Democrats' primaries.

HARLOW: I don't know, Symone, if voters are seeing -- the tax cuts, for example, I mean, deficit ballooning. We're heading into a trillion dollar plus deficit next year as a result. It's still way up in the air whether or not bullying China is actually going to pay off and work on trade. I think what voters are waking up to this morning is the reality of a check list for this president who did a ton last week that he promised he would do.

A new NAFTA deal, a new Supreme Court justice that, no, liberals don't like at all, but he carried through on that campaign promise. Unemployment rate at 3.7 percent, not seen since 1969. What do you do, Democrats, 29 days out, with those facts?

SANDERS: Well, Poppy, I mean, look, the fact of the matter is, yes, GDP might be doing good, but GDP means nothing to somebody in Clarksdale, Mississippi, or in St. Louis, Missouri, who -- they only ho only know that their wages haven't gone up. [10:10:10] They're still flat. And so while I understand the

president has lots of great things to tout, I'll tell you, the Republicans in the states haven't been running on those, and I don't know if they're going to start tomorrow. What folks have been running on in their early primaries was the tax bill that they ended up running away from by the time primaries start over.

So I'm not concerned, Poppy. I know there might be a balloon and maybe a little bit of enthusiasm for Republicans, but Democratic voters and progressive voters, I believe, are laser focused and they're laser focused on the fact that if we want change, we have to turn out in November. And I believe that's what --


SCIUTTO: Noelle, there's a new "Washington Post" poll out this morning that looks at 69 battleground House districts. What's different about this poll from other generic ballot polls as you see is they look -- they actually poll the people involved on the candidate, the Republican and Democratic candidate there, and it shows a Democratic advantage there, four points.

That doesn't seem particularly big, but in 2016, in those same districts, they favored Republican voters by 15 percentage points, 56 to 41 percent.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: I want to know, Noelle, when you look at those numbers, is that concerning for you and the Republican Party, at least on the House side?

NIKPOUR: Absolutely. Absolutely. And why do you think our chairman, Ronna McDaniel, came out and said, you know, we are touting so many good things that the president has done, but get out and vote. The problem of it is that you've got to look at some Republicans feel like we've got this. The economy is doing great. Unemployment numbers are great. Stock market, everything is going great.

But the fact of the matter is you can't sit back and think that just because you got, you know, a Republican Senate and House and presidential seat all check listed off, that it's going to have a continuation of this. You've got to get out the vote. And I think that that's where the Democratic Party is getting really energized to Symone's point, is because they feel like they've got a chance because Republicans may be asleep at the wheel.

And that's why you're seeing a lot of people -- that's why you're seeing these close polls that you just showed. These polls are too close for comfort. Look at Texas. Look at Ted Cruz. That is way too close. That is a red meat, red state. So yes, Republicans are worried. And I think rightfully so. And that's why the base has got to be energized. And if you look at it, the small donations have been coming in ever since this Kavanaugh trial.

Small donations from Republican donors have been coming in. And that's a tale tell sign because if you look back at Obama's small donors, they were starting to creep up and he got to be elected by a lot of those small donors.

SCIUTTO: That's a good bellwether, no question.

Symone, Noelle, thanks very much.

Coming up, more on a story we've been following closely. Twenty people killed in a limo crash in upstate New York, including four sisters and a newlywed couple. We're going to speak to a woman who lost three niece in this tragedy.

HARLOW: Also, a Saudi journalist and "Washington Post" writer mysteriously disappears. Turkish officials believe the Saudi government had him murdered inside of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Why is the White House not saying anything officially yet?

And a new report says catastrophic climate change will trigger disastrous flooding, extreme drought, massive wildfires by 2030. The details on this new unprecedented warning ahead.


[10:17:49] HARLOW: All right, 20 people were killed over the weekend after a limousine crashed through an intersection that has been fraught with trouble in upstate New York. And that makes it the deadliest accident in almost a decade.

SCIUTTO: Two pedestrians also killed. The driver, all 17 passengers inside that limo lost their lives. They were on their way to a birthday celebration.

CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval, he is live where it happened.

Polo, what are we learning tomorrow about what's behind this?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the question of how, Poppy and Jim, that's something that members of the community here are asking and most importantly, the families of the victims, of those 20 people whose lives were cut short Saturday afternoon here. Among them, Karina Hales, who I'm joined by at the scene here.

Karina, you and I were talking a little while ago. You told me that your sister, 26-year-old Amanda Halse, was in that limousine with her boyfriend.


SANDOVAL: And did not make it. Tell me what's going on in your head right now. You've come back to the site for the first time since it happened.

HALSE: Yes. This is my first time here. I'm not from around here so I wasn't really sure of what the circumstances were for it. My heart is completely sunken. It just hurts coming here and seeing what happened to the landscaping. And I can't even imagine how it happened or why it happened. And it just hurts coming here.

SANDOVAL: Keeping that in mind, what do you want the rest of the world to know about Amanda, your big sister?

HALSE: My big sister was so great and she was so wonderful. She was such a spontaneous person. And she did whatever she could to have fun with anyone and everyone around her. She was the peace keeper of the family, as we say. She always liked to make sure that she was happy and everyone else was happy and everyone else was getting along. And she was so artistic.

We have so many of her paintings in my house and so many of them that are probably just stored away in her apartment that I can't wait to look at.

SANDOVAL: There's so much that's been said about the people who were in that limousine, the 17 passengers, many young men and women. Some of them newyweds and your sister's case, she was traveling with her boyfriend. How much promise and future was cut in a single moment?

[10:20:02] HALSE: Probably everything was cut for everyone. I know there were newlyweds on the limousine. I know there was a couple that had young children. I saw a gofundme for them. Everyone's lives were just cut way too short, way too immaturely, and I don't know what to say about it. It just hurts.

SANDOVAL: Is there anything you remember about that last conversation that you had with your sister, and when was that?

HALSE: The last time I did see her was last Saturday. Me, her, and my mom all went to a flower shop in Vermont. It was just a quick little getaway, it took about an hour to get there. It was just a nice get-together for all three of us girls to have a nice day out. And I think it was a nice sendoff, I guess, because that would be the last time I would ever see her in person.

SANDOVAL: Karina, well, thank you for being so strong for us and for sharing a little bit of Amanda with the rest of the world. Certainly keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.

HALSE: Thank you.

SANDOVAL: Of course. Thank you. We'll let you go.

Jim, I think -- and Poppy, I think that that's something that we continue to see right now, is really a community coming together for the families of these victims. They are trying to get answers, as you just heard right now from Karina. She's come back out here to try to see for herself what could have happened. That's something that federal investigators and also state police will ultimately have to answer, what happened.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, that poor girl, so composed there, having lost her sister. So many families mourning that loss today.

Polo Sandoval, thanks very much. HARLOW: Yes. She said that trip to the flower shop, a sendoff for

her sister, just a week ago.

And as Jim just said, there are so many families that are reeling this morning that want answers to how this could happen. Valerie Vertucci Abeling is part of one of them. She lost her niece, Erin, just 26 years old, in the accident. She joins me now.

Valerie, I am so, so sorry. Erin was 26. She was with her new husband, Shane. They had just married in June. What can you tell us about her?

VALERIE VERTUCCI ABELING, NIECE KILLED IN LIMO CRASH: Erin was one of the most beautiful souls. She loved her family. She loved everybody. Everybody loved her. She had such a beautiful smile. And just lit up the room when she came in. We always said she was FOMO, fear of missing out, because she just loved to be with everybody and have fun, and just be around family, which was probably the most important thing in all of our lives, was being together.

She was married. She was 34 years old, not 26.


ABELING: And her husband was just turned 30. They were married June 8th. And we celebrated their wedding with all of our friends and family. And this is just a tragedy beyond comprehension for all of us, including all of the other families who were affected by this.

HARLOW: Of course. And I don't know if you can see what we're looking at, but we're looking at these beautiful, I think maybe they're engagement photos of the two of them and the sun is shining through behind them and you see her bright smile. And you can feel, you can feel her happiness.

I know, and I read that your child, your daughter, was possibly going to be with them but ended up not going in that limousine. And that they were texting her photos of the limousine that came and the condition that it was in. Is that right?

ABELING: It was -- she was texting a friend of hers, not my daughter.


ABELING: Because she was at a wedding in Maryland. That's why they weren't there in the vehicle with them. It was a friend of hers she was texting. Her best friend who is getting married this coming year, which she was the maid of honor, she was going to be the maid of honor in her best friend's wedding.

I don't know what that text says. But all I know is that Erin said, you know, it wasn't in very good condition and it sounded terrible. So I don't know. I think my niece instinctively had thoughts that, geez, you know, this is not good. You know, what they sent us. I guess the first vehicle broke down. And they sent them another vehicle. HARLOW: As we look at these images and remember her and honor her

life and all 20 lives that were lost, what do you want people to remember most about her?

ABELING: That she was -- they both were just soul mates because they just -- they radiated love. And beauty. And how a marriage should be. They were just the two sweetest souls you could ever meet. They were just loving and funny and kind. And everybody loved them. And they were so good together. Their lives were just cut short too soon.

HARLOW: Far too soon. Valerie, I am so, so sorry. We all are. All right, we're going to take --

ABELING: It's just the other families that were affected by this. It's just tragic.

[10:25:03] Four sisters and four husbands of the same family. It's just beyond comprehension. The heartbreak.

HARLOW: It really is. And everyone wants answers. And I don't know how many we're going to get, but we'll keep asking.

Valerie, thank you for sharing some of her life and of his life with us.

All right. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back in a minute.


HARLOW: All right, this morning, Turkey is asking to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after allegations that the Saudi government killed the Saudi national journalist Jamal Khashoggi.