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Trump Says That Kavanaugh Accusations Are A Hoax Created by Democrats; Strong Storm Expected to Make Landfall in Florida; 20 People Killed in Limousine Accident. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 8, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you so much for being with me as Justice Brett Kavanaugh takes his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The President is calling the accusations against the now-Justice a quote, hoax. A hoax. Despite the fact that Trump called on Kavanaugh's accusers, called Christine Blasey Ford a credible person and a fine woman. And as the President takes aim for Democrats, for what he says what they did to Kavanaugh, he is also slamming them for what may be ahead. There is talk of impeaching the new Supreme Court Justice if Democrats take control of the House come midterms. Election day is now a month away. Here was President Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The way they really tortured him and his family. I thought it was a disgrace. Now they're thinking about impeaching a brilliant jurist, a man that did nothing wrong, a man that was caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats, using the Democrats' lawyers, and now they want to impeach him. I've heard this from many people. I think it's an insult to the American public. And I think you're going to see a lot of things happen on November 6th that would not have happened before. I think a lot of Democrats are going to vote Republican. Because I have many friends that are Democrats. The main base of the Democrats have shifted so far left that we'll end up being Venezuela.


BALDWIN: So, who will benefit from this Justice Kavanaugh backlash? Republicans, as the President predicts, or could it be Democrats fueled by women and independents turned off by Justice Kavanaugh's confirmation? A new poll, some of it conducted just last week shows a slight lead for the blue party and battleground House districts. 50 percent to 46. And you see those districts in 2016 went majority Republican. So, let's go straight to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. And Jim, I want to go straight to the President's words, saying that Kavanaugh's nomination was caught up in a hoax by the Democrats and he didn't stop there. What else did he say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty remarkable what he's saying, Brooke. We should point out a few minutes before you came on the air, he was making additional comments at this law enforcement speech that he's giving down in Orlando, Florida. He was talking about the battle over Brett Kavanaugh and some of the allegations that were brought forward. And he said, quote, it was a disgraceful situation brought about by people who are evil. So, the President is putting this in some very stark, I mean just the most pointed terms possible. It is unclear, Brooke, whether or not the President is lumping in the accuser in that Brett Kavanaugh saga, Christine Blasey Ford into that comment when he says that this was brought forward by people who are evil.

If you talk to people inside the White House, inside the Republican party, obviously in the Democratic side, they fall believe Christine Blasey Ford to the point where she says she was sexually assaulted. Where there seems to be a huge divide is that people like Susan Collins and so on say while they believe Christine Blasey Ford was assaulted, they don't believe that Brett Kavanaugh committed that act. But it is rather striking, Brooke, to hear the President continue this battle, almost as if he wants it to continue. And we'll see some of that later on this evening, when the President hosts an event over here at the White House in the east room, where Brett Kavanaugh will be brought out in front of the cameras and announced as the next Supreme Court Justice. This is the victory lap that they're looking for over here at the White House, but the way this is being framed in the most stark political terms possible, it does raise the question whether or not the President is trying to go too far with some of this rhetoric, you know? There's talk of mob rule and so on. I mean, Brooke, have you been to a Trump rally?

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

ACOSTA: You do hear rhetoric at those rallies that would conjure up images of a mob. Go back to the 2016 campaign when the President said as a candidate that he would like to punch protesters in the face and so on. So maybe the President knows what mob rule and mob tactics look like, because he encourages them himself. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you. Let's talk all about this. I have two great voices joining me. CNN's David Chalian and Melanie Zanona with "The Hill." David, this is what the President of the United States has just said. That the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination, quote, was caught up in a hoax set up by the Democrats, quote, the things they said about him, I don't even think he even heard of the words, it was all made-up, it was fabricated and it's a disgrace.

[14:05:00] So, the first time I read this, how can you not instantly think of Blasey Ford and, listen, whoever you want to believe, to me that sounds like the President is saying, her story is fabricated. We know civility is dead with this President, but this is disgraceful.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, he -- you know, he's clearly -- as Jim was saying, trying to follow the -- some bit of a playbook here, that many Republicans were expressing on the hill last week, about Blasey Ford specifically, we do have the to separate this out, because I think the comments he was saying about the words he never heard was about Michael Avenatti's client, and he was referring to the third woman who came forward, Julie Swetnick. But in terms of Blasey Ford, I do think that he was trying to have it both ways. He wants to, as he has said before, say that she gave compelling credible testimony, but -- so he doesn't want to sort of offend anyone or discredit her account. And yet, he's saying it's a complete hoax. This was made up by the Democrats, and clearly, he doesn't believe her version of events and her version of events is that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her.

BALDWIN: Melanie, this is -- how do you interpret the President's words?

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER FOR "THE HILL": I think this has been the GOP strategy all along. They sought to make Kavanaugh into the victim. Just look at what Lindsey Graham said the other day. I won't repeat the exact comments he said, but he basically was saying that Kavanaugh was the one who was poorly mistreated in this entire process. Republicans are really sounding alarm, saying that your sons and your husbands and your fathers are going to be the next ones who could be -- who could stand falsely accused of a sexual assault. You heard the President also say not too long ago that it's a scary time for men in America. Of course, this is a false equivalency. The rates of sexual assault are much higher than the rates of those who are being blamed falsely, but of course, this is a very effective strategy for the GOP base and for Trump supporters. Just look at the responses that we've seen at the rallies when he makes these comments, when he mocked Ford. When he mocked her, he got cheers and applause. So, clearly, it's working and they're digging in just as hard even after getting confirmed?

BALDWIN: That's what I want to focus on. The President knows what he's doing. He knows that the cries get louder. He knows midterms are, you know, four weeks away, David Chalian. Does he think this playbook -- I know he's out at four rallies this week. Will this work? Will this help gin up the base, for everyone to show up on November 6th? Everyone, as in Republicans.

CHALIAN: Right. I'm sure it will have some benefit on that. I have little doubt about that. Donald Trump has a pretty strong relationship with the base of the Republican party and you hear him out there, Brooke, when he's giving speeches, he's saying, guys, you've got to act like my name is on the ballot. You have to even -- you know, this selection is about me. Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist, he says, the battle over impeaching Donald Trump is what is on the ballot on November 6th. So, they want to lean in and make this about Trump, so that he can try and use some of that very strong bond he has with the base as a way to bring them out in November. And no doubt Kavanaugh is a big part of that. The concern that some Republican strategists specifically running House races have is that as he does that, there is -- there is the potential and perhaps likelihood to continue to disaffect independent voters, white college- educated women, suburbanites, who have no patience for this at all. And that is so much of the battle for these districts where incumbent House Republicans are vulnerable.

BALDWIN: Yep. Melanie, how do you see it? Because you could see it as, I think to David's point, those independent voters, those who are maybe on the fence, this may, you know, have the opposite effect on them, right? ZANONA: Yes.

BALDWIN: Or also just energizing Democrats. Energizing women to say, we're not taking this.

ZANONA: Right. So, Mitch McConnell called this a gift. And I think he's right that it's a gift in the Senate. But I think it's going to be a curse for them in the House. And that's because you -- the Republicans are defending dozens of vulnerable seats, many of which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. These are suburban swing districts for these independent, moderate women, are a crucial voting bloc. They are already energized by the #MeToo movement, fed up with Trump, and I think this whole Kavanaugh play is just pouring gasoline on the fire. So, you could really see this come back to haunt the GOP. Now, I think they might have made the calculation that the House is already gone and they might not care and they did get the conservative Supreme Court that they wanted. And Mitch McConnell is pushing through with the re-shaping of the courts, not just at the Supreme Court, but also federal judges, the district courts, as well. So, you know, at the end of the day, they may have gotten the Senate GOP, they got Kavanaugh, but it might cost them the House.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: Speaking of gasoline, Republicans in this White House, they have been all in over this. They've been latching on to protest scenes is an issue in the wake of this Kavanaugh fight. Listen for the word "mob" here.


TRUMP: In their quest for power, the radical Democrats have turned into an angry mob.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, MAJORITY LEADER: We refuse to be intimidated by the mob of people that were coming after Republican members at their homes, in the halls.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: What we have learned is the resistance that has existed since the day after the November 16th, 2016, election is centered right here on Capitol Hill. They have encouraged mob rule.


BALDWIN: David, a mob.

CHALIAN: Yes. That's not by accident, Brooke. Yes, that is language that they believe is going to help energize their team. You've got to remember, for the last year and a half in American politics, since President Trump has taken over, we have seen a fired up Democratic party. We've seen it in their turnout numbers, in primary season this year. We've seen it in special election results throughout the last year and a half of the Trump era. And what every Republican strategist has expressed that they were concerned about is complacency on the Republican side. So getting the huge partisan battle of a Supreme Court confirmation, especially one as contested as this one was, in the mix and being victorious in that, and then just making it a pure partisan fight at the end there, as you heard all of those Republicans do, they're hoping that brings Republicans into the enthusiasm game, even if they can't overtake Democratic enthusiasm, at least get them a little more jazzed about the election than they had been.

BALDWIN: I think people are pretty jazzed, safe to say. Whether you're talking to folks on the left or the right, four weeks away, guys. David and Melanie, thank you guys so much. As President Trump left the White House for Orlando, he seemingly ended speculation that he might fire his deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein was on Air Force One with President Trump today. This is the first time they have met face to face since that bombshell "New York Times" report from what feels like forever ago, just a few weeks. Remember the report claimed that the deputy Attorney General discussed secretly recording Trump and using the 25th amendment to remove him from office. When asked directly if he has planned to fire Rosenstein, Trump said, no, I don't. No. And added this.


TRUMP: Well, we're going to be talking. We'll be talking on the plane. I actually have a good relationship, other than, there's been no collusion, folks. I didn't know rod before, but I've gotten to know him and I get along very well with him.


Let's go straight to Shimon Prokupecz who's in Orlando. Shimon, so, all good between these two?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, for now that is, Brooke. Trump here still speaking. He did thank the deputy Attorney General a short time ago. He said thank you to him for being here. That he and rod both flew down together. And then Trump joked, saying that the press wants to know, what did you talk about? And Trump would just only say from the podium here that they had a good talk. Would not further say or elaborate as to what they talked about. We were told by White House officials that I think the conversation lasted about 30 minutes and those details from those conversations, we just don't know. But it is significant, nonetheless, that deputy Attorney General is here with him. They flew down together. It was certainly a surprise to all of us that he was going to board air force one with him, en route to here. Of course, you know, for quite some time, there's been some speculation that the President would fire him. That seems to not be the case for now. We'll see how long that lasts, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Do we know, quickly, Shimon, why he was on the plane in the first place?

PROKUPECZ: No, we don't know. We don't know why. We certainly were not told ahead of time that he was going to accompany him on the plane. So, it certainly came as a surprise. And the other thing I want to point out, certainly, there are a lot of cheers coming from this crowd here. One of the biggest and loudest cheers came, to go back to the conversation you were having moments ago about Kavanaugh is when the President was talking about Kavanaugh and this audience, this room filled with law enforcement officials, all cheered and clapped as he discussed and described his selection of Brett Kavanaugh.

[14:15:00] BALDWIN: Shimon Prokupecz in Orlando, thank you so much, Shimon.

Meantime, this just tragic story out of upstate New York. It was a vehicle that never should have been on the road, driven by someone not even certified to dry a limousine and now 20 people are dead and all kinds of questions are being raised about how this accident could have happened in the first place.

Also, a Category 1 Hurricane is barreling toward Florida and strengthening with landfall projected for Wednesday. Exactly where will it hit? We have those details, ahead.

And a "Washington Post" contributor from Saudi Arabia just up and disappears after visiting his home country's consulate in turkey. Now turkey says Saudi authorities had him killed for speaking out online. We detail his story, next. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: Michael is a Category 1 Storm. Is it -- it is forecast to hit Florida by Wednesday. Governor Rick Scott is urging people to stock up on food and water for at least three days. Let's get the timing now from meteorologist Jennifer Gray. What should Floridians expect?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They should expect a major storm, a Category 3 along the Florida panhandle. This is a fast mover. It's already Monday afternoon, this could be here by Wednesday. So, you don't have a whole lot of time, but you do have time. 75-mile-per- hour winds right now with gusts up to 90, moving north at 7. This storm is going to enter so m very warm, favorable environment in the Gulf of Mexico. The water there is very, very warm. So, this storm is going to intensify. Could be a major storm by tomorrow afternoon. And then by Wednesday morning, just off the coast of the Florida panhandle, is a major Category 3 Storm. And we're looking at this to make landfall anywhere between, say, the Florida/Alabama line, all the way through the big bend of Florida. Could make landfall anywhere in that area, and then it just shoots off to the north and east. Now, this is going to bring a lot of rain to Florida. It's also going to bring a lot of rain to the Carolinas, possibly areas that are already just completely soaked. Already getting a lot of moisture and rain across Cuba, the Florida Keys, and look at this. Water in the Gulf of Mexico in the mid-80s. That's a very favorable environment. Now, the models are agreeing for the most part, but if it takes this yellow route, this is the euro, it's going to go across, closer to the big bend of Florida. The red, the gfs, that's going to be more populated areas. And then that's also going to take it across the Carolinas. South Carolina, North Carolina, bringing in about 6 to 10 inches of rain there. If it follows more of an eastern route, it should go off the coast, for the most part, leaving the Carolinas with not as much rain. So, either scenario, this is a major tomorrow, Brooke. This is going to cause a lot of wind damage, storm surge, and it could hit the Carolinas, as well, with a lot more rain.

BALDWIN: We'll stay in close contact with you over the course of the next couple of days. Jennifer Gray, thank you.

Meantime, 20 people have been killed, including four sisters and a newlywed couple after a limo crashed in New York state. We are now learning that the limo shouldn't have been on the road in the first place. Failed inspection. And the driver wasn't even licensed to drive it. How did this happen?


BALDWIN: Now to that horrific limousine accident in upstate New York that has devastated an entire the community. 20 people have been killed when police say the driver careened through an intersection and into that ravine. This all happened Saturday in the town of Schoharie outside the state capital. Police say a Ford Excursion limo carrying 17 passengers blew a stop sign and crashed into a parked SUV and actually hit two more people. The aunt of crash victim Erin Vertucci says her family is just heartbroken.


VALERIE ABELING, THE AUNT OF VICTIM ERIN VERTUCCI: 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 just have fun and just be around family, which is 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 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 others' families who were affected by this.


BALDWIN: Officials believe this is the deadliest transportation incident since 2009. And now these new details about the driver in the vehicle, apparently neither should have been on the road. CNN's Polo Sandoval is in Schoharie with more on the driver and the company that owns that limousine. And Polo, I know you don't have the answer to the question, but why was that limo on the road in the first place?

[14:30:00] POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Brooke, in the last few days, we have heard from people here, they are heartbroken. You just played that clip. They are overcome by sadness, the sadness that comes with these kind of tragedies. But adding to those feelings now is anger. Anger. Many people are now angry to hear this latest news that the driver who was behind the wheel of that limousine, according to New York's governor was not appropriately licensed to drive that vehicle. And also, that that limit, that 2001 Ford Excursion limousine failed inspection last month and should not have been on the road in the first place. So, there is this growing call for accountability, particularly from one of the top city officials in nearby Amsterdam, New York. Why are we hearing from them? That is because a majority of the passengers, 17 passengers in that limousine were either from that town or at least had some tie.

So, what we heard from city officials is this call for accountability. What this doesn't do, however, what this doesn't mention is actually answer the question of what actually happened here? Was it something wrong with the driver or perhaps something wrong with that vehicle that failed inspection. We hope to hear from authorities in the next two hours here. In the meantime, we're hearing more of these human stories. Of course, you just heard from the family of Erin Vertucci and her husband who passed away. And Axel and Amy Steenberg, who had just been married this past summer. Amy was having her three sisters join her on this birthday celebration over the weekend here. And also, Amanda Halsey, we heard from her younger sister, who returned to the scene today.