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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump Hosts Ceremonial Swearing-In For Kavanaugh; Brett Kavanaugh Speaks After Swearing-In Ceremony; Heitkamp Defends Vote Against Kavanaugh: "I Saw Rage;" Twenty People Killed in NY Limo Crash; Hurricane Michael Forecast to be "Dangerous Major Hurricane." Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 8, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks very much, Michelle for that report. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

OUTFRONTtonight, victory lap, the President and his new Supreme Court justice about to appear together for the first time since that bruising and divisive confirmation battle. All eyes tonight on what Brett Kavanaugh will say to the country. The historic prime time event in the east room of the White House, you see a live picture there right now. What will their message be tonight, from the President and from the new justice?

Let's get right over to the White House where the ceremony is about to begin. Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT with me there. Jim, what are we expecting tonight from the President and from Brett

Kavanaugh?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I think the big question for what's going to happen here in just a few minutes is whether or not we're going to see fence spending or more fire and fury. We do expect the President to speak for about 20 minutes or so. The new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, we're also expecting him to speak.

And the question is after we heard the President earlier today talk about the Democratic forces aligned against Kavanaugh as being, quote, evil, whether or not he's going to dial down that rhetoric. We know of course that Brett Kavanaugh put that op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, and you can see people coming into the room right now. Supreme Court Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice Roberts, Breyer and so on.

But, Kate, you saw that op-ed in Wall Street Journal where Justice Kavanaugh seemed to dial back a lot of that rhetoric that we saw in this play at his hearing that also featured his accuser Christine Blasey Ford. Some of the other notables we should mention in the room right now is Justice Kavanaugh's wife and children. Also one thing I want to note, Kate, just before we got to started here, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came into the room, I thought that was very interesting because he actually came in to a standing ovation before the standing ovation that we're seeing right now. The doors were opening up behind me, so we'll see the President and the Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in just a few moments.

Obviously, Kate, this is a very big moment for President Trump. People are calling this a win for him, of course. That all depends on how Justice Kavanaugh performs on the high court, Kate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States accompanied by the Honorable Anthony M. Kennedy and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Members of Congress, members of the Cabinet, honored guests and fellow Americans. It is my privilege to address you tonight from the East Room of the White House.

We are gathered together this evening for a truly momentous occasion. I have long been told that the most important decision a President can make is the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. Well in just a few moments we will proudly swear in the newest member of the United States Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Joining us for tonight's ceremony is every sitting Supreme Court Justice. Chief Justice Roberts. Thank you. Justice Thomas. Thank you. Justice Ginsburg. Thank you.

[19:05:15] Justice Breyer. Thank you, Justice. Justice Alito. Thank you. Justice Sotomayor. Thank you. Justice Kagan. Thank you. And Justice Gorsuch.

I would also like to send our deep appreciation to Maureen Scalia, the wife of the late, great Antonin Scalia. And also to our White House Counsel, Don McGahn. Thank you, Don. Thank you.

We are thrilled to be joined this evening by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Kennedy, America owes you a profound debt of gratitude for a lifetime of noble service to our nation. And I want to thank you very much. Thank you.

Very special and treasured guests tonight are Justice Kavanaugh's amazing wife, Ashley. Thank you, Ashley. And their two beautiful daughters, Margaret and Liza. Thank you. And we are also joined by Justice Kavanaugh's mom and dad, Martha and Ed. Thank you.

I would like to begin tonight's proceeding differently than perhaps any other event of such magnitude. On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure.

Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception. What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency, and due process. Our country, a man or woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

And with that, I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent. Thank you. You were. Thank you very much.

Margaret and Liza, your father is a great man. He is a man of decency, character, kindness, and courage who has devoted his life to serving his fellow citizens. And now, from the bench of our nation's highest court, your father will defend the eternal rights and freedoms of all Americans. You know that.

We are joined tonight by a leader who has never wavered in his support and devotion to the rule of law, and to Brett Kavanaugh's elevation. He worked very, very hard. And he truly has done just an incredible and wonderful job for the American people, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Thank you, Mitch. Please, stand up.

[19:10:21] I think that's the biggest hand he's ever received. They just don't -- they don't get it, Mitch. You're great. Thank you. Very much appreciate it.

I would like to thank another man whose principled leadership has earned widespread admiration, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley. Thank you, Chuck.

We are grateful to all of the senators on the Judiciary Committee who fought so hard for this confirmation, Senators Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, Mike Crapo, Thom Tillis, and John Kennedy. Thank you.

And thank you also to Rob Portman, who is sitting right here. Thank you, Rob, very much.

And finally, we are indebted to Senator Susan Collins for her brave and eloquent speech, and her declaration that when passions are most inflamed, fairness is most in jeopardy. How true. How true. How true.

Brett Kavanaugh is a man of outstanding intellect, a brilliant scholar, and his credentials are unsurpassed. A graduate of both Yale College and Yale Law School, he has taught at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown. When he's not working or with his family, he's giving back to his community.

He spent 26 years in public service and, just like Justice Gorsuch, he clerked for Justice Kennedy. For the last 12 years, Brett was a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, widely regarded as our nation's second-highest court. During his tenure, he authored over 300 opinions, distinguished by their masterful and impartial reasoning.

Known as a judge's judge, he is fair-minded, unbiased, and even-handed person. He understands that justice must be divorced from the passions of the day -- tethered instead to the enduring foundation of our republic, the Constitution. Justice Kavanaugh fills the place left by Anthony Kennedy. Soon, Justice Kennedy will administer the Judicial Oath to Brett Kavanaugh, just as he did last year for Justice Gorsuch. This will be the first time a Supreme Court Justice has ever sworn in a former clerk to take his seat -- a beautiful moment which reminds us that freedom is a tradition passed down from generation to generation. And that's a big statement, and I want to thank you for that so much. That's so beautiful. So beautiful. So beautiful.

Margaret and Liza's presence tonight reminds us what this historic event -- all about your father -- is all about. It's about what kind of a nation we're going to be and what kind of a country our children will inherit. It is up to each of us, and to all Americans watching tonight, to answer that question. It is up to us to reclaim our heritage of equal and impartial justice. It is up to us to re- dedicate ourselves to the traditions and wisdom of our founders. And it is up to us to renew the bonds of love, loyalty, and affection that link us all together as one great American family.

[19:15:02] Let us pray we are successful in this task. And let us pray that all of America's children will grow up in a country that is fair, and just, and safe, and strong, and free. And let us ask God to bless Justice Kavanaugh and his family as they embark on this incredible journey together.

I now invite Justice Brett Kavanaugh to come forward and to take the Judicial Oath. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice Kavanaugh, are you ready to take the Judicial Oath?

BRETT KAVANAUGH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you please repeat after me. I, Brett M. Kavanaugh, do solemnly swear --

KAVANAUGH: I, Brett M. Kavanaugh, do solemnly swear --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that I will administer justice without respect to persons --

KAVANAUGH: -- -- that I will administer justice without respect to persons --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and do equal right to the poor and to the rich --

KAVANAUGH: -- and do equal right to the poor and to the rich --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and that I will faithfully and impartially --

KAVANAUGH: -- and that I will faithfully and impartially --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- discharge and perform --

KAVANAUGH: -- discharge and perform --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- all the duties incumbent upon me -- KAVANAUGH: -- all the duties incumbent upon me --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States --

KAVANAUGH: -- as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- under the Constitution and laws of the United States.

KAVANUAGH: -- under the Constitution and laws of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me God.

KAVANAUGH: So help me God.

Mr. President, thank you for the great honor of appointing me to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court. I've seen firsthand your deep appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary. I am grateful for your steadfast, unwavering support throughout this process. And I'm grateful to you and Mrs. Trump for the exceptional, overwhelming courtesy you have extended to my family and me.

Mr. President, thank you for everything.

TRUMP: Thank you.

KAVANAUGH: I'm honored to serve on a Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice John Roberts. Chief Justice Roberts is a principled, independent, and inspiring leader for the American judiciary.

As a country, we are fortunate to have John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States. I'm honored to serve alongside all of my new colleagues, each of whom I know, and each of whom I greatly admire and deeply respect.

All nine of us revere the Constitution. Article 3 of the Constitution provides that the judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is an institution of law. It is not a partisan or political institution. The Justices do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. We do not caucus in separate rooms. The Supreme Court is a team of nine, and I will always be a team player on the team of nine.

As a new Justice on the Supreme Court, I understand the responsibility that I bear. Some 30 years ago, standing here in the East Room with President Reagan, Anthony Kennedy took the oath to be a new Justice of the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy became one of the most consequential Justices in American history.

[19:20:13] I served as Justice Kennedy's law clerk in 1993. To me, Justice Kennedy is a mentor, a friend, and a hero. On the Supreme Court, he was a model of civility and collegiality. He fiercely defended the independence of the judiciary, and zealously guarded the individual liberties secured by the Constitution. Justice Kennedy established a legacy of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. I will always be humbled and proud to sit in Justice Kennedy's seat on the Supreme Court.

I thank the members of the United States Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his leadership and steady resolve. I thank Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley for his wisdom and fairness. And I give special gratitude to Senators Rob Portman, Susan Collins, Joe Manchin, John Kyl, and Lindsey Graham. They're a credit to the country and the Senate. I'll be forever grateful to each of them and to all the senators who carefully considered my nomination.

Presiding over the final vote in the Senate on Saturday was Vice President Pence. I'm grateful to the Vice President for his sound advice and faithful support. I thank Counsel to the President Don McGahn, who was a warrior for fairness and performed his critical duties in the finest traditions of our Constitution.

I thank all the outstanding people in the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Senate who worked day and night on this nomination. One of a federal judge's most important responsibilities is to hire four new law clerks each year. The law clerks are recent law school graduates and they work in the judge's chambers for one year. They're among the best and brightest young lawyers in America, and they become the future leaders of the legal profession. I thank my former law clerks who devoted so much time and energy to support me during the confirmation process.

Inspired by my mom, who as a trailblazer for women in the law, I've worked hard throughout my career to promote the advancement of women. Women still face many barriers in the American workplace, and all of us have a responsibility to address that problem.

During my 12 years on the D.C. Circuit, a majority of my law clerks were women, and almost all of them went on to clerk at the Supreme Court. A clerkship on the Supreme Court is one of the most coveted achievements and credentials in American law. I'm proud that all four of my newly hired law clerks at the Supreme Court are women -- a first in the history of the Supreme Court.

Tonight I thank all my friends -- so many amazing and fearless friends, from my high school days, college, law school, clerking, the Bush White House, including President George W. Bush. From the judiciary, teaching, coaching, playing sports. The vibrant, loyal, and tight-knit Catholic community here in the D.C. area and so many others.

Ashley and I are grateful for their prayers and for the prayers from the thousands and thousands of people we have heard from throughout America. When I give advice to young people or speak to students, I tell them, cherish your friends, look out for your friends, lift up your friends, love your friends. I love all my friends.

[19:25:09] I thank my family. My mom, Martha, and my dad, Ed, are here. I'm their only child. My mom was one of Maryland's earliest women prosecutors and trial judges. My dad taught me his work ethic and love of sports. They've given me a lifetime of love, and I'm forever grateful to them.

My daughters, Margaret and Liza, are smart, strong, awesome girls. They're in the middle of fall lacrosse, looking forward to the upcoming basketball season. I thank their teachers for giving them the day off tomorrow so that they can come watch two cases being argued at the Supreme Court.

My wife Ashley is a proud West Texan from Abilene, Texas. Graduate of Abilene Cooper Public High School, University of Texas in Austin. She's the dedicated town manager of our local community. She's got a deep faith. She's an awesome mom, a great wife. She is a rock. I thank God every day for Ashley and my family.

The Senate confirmation process was contentious and emotional. That process is over. My focus now is to be the best Justice I can be. I take this office with gratitude and no bitterness. On the Supreme Court, I will seek to be a force for stability and unity. My goal is to be a great Justice for all Americans and for all of America. I will work very hard to achieve that goal.

I was not appointed to serve one party or one interest, but to serve one nation. America's Constitution and laws protect every person of every belief and every backgrounds. Every litigant in the Supreme Court can be assured that I will listen to their arguments with respect and an open mind. Every American can be assured that I will be an independent and impartial Justice devoted to equal justice under law.

Although the Senate confirmation process tested me, as it has tested others, it did not change me. My approach to judging remains the same. A good judge must be an umpire, a neutral and impartial decider who favors no litigant or policy. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.

In the wake of the Senate confirmation process, my approach to life also remains the same. I will continue to heed the message of Matthew 25. I will continue to volunteer to serve the least fortunate among us. I will continue to coach, teach, and tutor. I will continue to strive to be a good friend, colleague, husband, and dad.

As in the past, our nation today faces challenges and divisions. But I am an optimist. I live on the sunrise side of the mountain. I see the day that is coming, not the day that is gone. I am optimistic about the future of America and the future of our independent judiciary, the crown jewel of our constitutional republic.

As a Justice on the Supreme Court, I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law. Thank you all.

(APPLAUSE)

[19:30:18] BOLDUAN: And what you have been watching is the ceremonial swearing-in of now Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And in a moment, an opportunity for unity as it began. I mean, just think of the unity of the justices. All of the sitting justices coming in, sitting down in the East Room, the president did not nod towards unity in this moment.

Let me bring in right now, OUTFRONT tonight, Kaitlin Collins. She's a CNN White House correspondent. Patrick Healy is here, politics editor at "The New York Times". Joan Walsh is a national affairs correspondent for the nation. And Scott Jennings is a former adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell who I believe received not one but two standing ovations in the remarks tonight.

Patrick, let me begin with you. Two very different -- you heard two very different messages from President Trump and from Brett Kavanaugh. I have never seen an historic moment like this, a swearing-in of a Supreme Court justice, have it begin in this way.

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, it was really striking, when you bring in the Supreme Court, usually it's at the state of the union speech, there's a solemnity to it, they are sitting there listening. It wasn't a sense of like introducing the lineup at a political rally, that's what it felt like tonight. You had to wonder what was going through Elena Kagan's mind or Ruth Bader Ginsberg's mind, it seemed like he made the nod to them and said, thank you, but then started calling out people like Mitch McConnell, making some pretty audacious statements in terms of apologizing to Brett Kavanaugh on behalf of our nation.

Yes, this is what the president does. He's the president of the United States. That is the president of everyone. But after such a searing, emotional -- you know, I think for a lot of Americans looking ourselves in the mirror as a people, in terms of how we deal with justice, how we treat women and men in this country.

And, you know, trying to -- usually a president is healing in that moment and apologizing to Kavanaugh on behalf of the nation, it just -- it felt again like sort of a Trump orchestrated political event. And it was -- I've never seen anything like that.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, his words were -- I mean, just a shade off of some of the attacks that the president has laid out even earlier today, I mean, he called Democrats evil this morning, and then this evening, he says, apologizing to Brett Kavanaugh, a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception.

And, Joan, he says, you, sir, Brett Kavanaugh under historic scrutiny were proven innocent.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, "THE NATION": It was extraordinary and it was outrageous, Kate. I just want to remind our viewers that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford cannot live at home any more. I believe she's separated from her sons. So, this woman has been through hell.

The idea of holding a victory rally like this for Justice Kavanaugh to say, the court should not be a partisan institution, but then stand there and thank mainly Republicans, Joe Manchin got a shout out for his vote. It's just not something that's supposed to happen. I just -- we've never seen anything like it. He was already -- he had already been sworn in, so that -- you know, it is ceremonial.

And he also -- I just -- not to dump on the poor guy, he was not found innocent, he was confirmed. And that speech was just warmed over from his Senate testimony, from his "Wall Street Journal" op-ed, I don't know what he thought he was doing out there. He was not taking the opportunity to say anything new or introduce himself to the American people in any kind of way.

BOLDUAN: They were two distinctive speeches. We almost had to deal -- I guess we have to deal with them independent of one another. There were some nods toward conciliation, building bridges, Scott, that we heard from Brett Kavanaugh. But I do want to get your take on the president.

I -- he busts through presidential norms every day. We know this. But what did you -- why? Why do you think the president need to start with an apology of Brett Kavanaugh?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER ADVISER TO SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: We know how the president feels about this, we believe -- he believes that Brett Kavanaugh has been wronged every step of the way, he believes this has been an outrageous circus inflicted upon Kavanaugh, and therefore him. I mean, that's one thing we should remember here, is that I think the president used all of this as an extension of an attack on him, because Brett Kavanaugh was his nominee.

So, I think the president feels like after winning such a close issue, he wants to put a political fine point on it. Now, in Kavanaugh's remarks, I thought they were appropriate.

[19:35:01] He struck a nonpartisan tone. He struck a conciliatory tone. I mean, this guy just ran through hell in a gasoline bathing suit, he wanted to take a chance to say thank you and thank you to his family publicly.

So, I wasn't surprised they had a swearing-in ceremony so publicly tonight. It's not the usual kind of thing. But then again, it's not the usual kind of presidency.

BOLDUAN: Kaitlan, it was -- let me -- Kaitlan, I want to get to your new reporting that you have tonight on what the president has thought over the last couple weeks. But also your just impression of what you heard from -- it's almost as if you heard Brett Kavanaugh first when he sees the nomination process tested me, but now it's over. And then you heard the president who seems to just want to relitigate that nomination process. It was pretty striking.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There were so many striking moments in that short ceremony there. But it started with President Trump himself, who said, I'm going to do something that doesn't normally happen if something like this. And I'm going to apologize to Brett Kavanaugh and his family for what they've been through.

So, President Trump really set the tone at the beginning of this event by stating -- not ignoring the elephant in the room, and stating it pretty clearly. Something we heard the president voice, that he believe all this is unfair to Brett Kavanaugh and his family. And he made that clear right from the top.

But then Brett Kavanaugh took over and he made several key points that I thought were really interesting, one, he noted that he's hiring all female clerks, the first time it's ever been done on the Supreme Court. So, just pointing back to that same record that we saw him really highlight during his first confirmation hearing, before Christine Blasey Ford had come forward with her allegations.

And also, one moment during that -- people in the room are telling me, as President Trump was saying, this shows you are still innocent until proven guilty, Clarence Thomas was seen clapping in the room. I don't know if any other justices were, but Clarence Thomas was also accused of sexual assault was there clapping as well.

But, Kate, the overall theme that we saw there, that tone that Brett Kavanaugh was trying to set before he does join them on the bench tomorrow, was a really striking quote. He talked about how this process has been a contentious and emotional one for him. But he said, I take this office with gratitude and no bitterness.

So, he's really trying to make clear that he's not going to carry over what we saw, that very emotional Brett Kavanaugh last week, he's not going to carry that over when he's on the bench. He said he's going to keep the politics out of it, and he's going to go back to being the same judge he's been for the last few decades.

BOLDUAN: And, Joan, I want to get your take on Kavanaugh's outreach nod to women, the female clerks that he's hired and what he said during his remarks tonight?

WALSH: I mean, the female clerks, I guess that's great. He talked about that before. It felt a little like pandering to me.

As I said before, there was not anything really new. This is the way he introduced himself in the first --

BOLDUAN: For him, though, maybe safe is best, in terms of stick to the script --

WALSH: Sure, stick to the script.

BOLDUAN: It's worked.

WALSH: I guess it has worked. But I don't know that it's going to make women who are still upset about the treatment of Dr. Blasey Ford feel any better. It did feel like pandering to me.

BOLDUAN: Guys, stick around. We got more to come.

OUTFRONT for us next, the most endangered Democratic senator opens up to our Dana Bash about why she voted no on Brett Kavanaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You'd seen his body language.

SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: I saw somebody who was very angry, very nervous, and I saw rage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Will that cost Heidi Heitkamp her seat, her Senate seat?

Plus, new details about the limo crash, the deadliest transportation disaster in nearly a decade. The limo failed inspection. The driver himself wasn't properly licensed to operate it.

Plus, Hurricane Michael about to intensify, forecast to be a category three storm when it strikes Florida.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:42:20] BOLDUAN: President Trump just wrapping up a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony with his news Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The president striking a sharp tone in his remarks, saying he was apologizing to Kavanaugh on behalf of the nation, and also saying to Kavanaugh, you were proven innocent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now calling the fight over Kavanaugh an adrenaline shot for Republicans in the midterm. One seat that he is watching very closely, Senator Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota. Could she lose the seat after voting no on Kavanaugh, a Democrat in a very red state?

Dana Bash is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Heidi Heitkamp having fun, walking in a classic North Dakota parade.

HEITKAMP: Hi there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.

BASH: Her smile masks her political reality.

She's the most endangered Senate Democrat. And those voting against Brett Kavanaugh probably didn't help.

HEITKAMP: It's been a tough week for me because, you know, the political rhetoric is, you can't vote that way if you expect to come back. And I tell people, Ray and Doreen Heitkamp didn't raise me to vote a certain way so that I could win. They raised me to vote the right way.

BASH: Applause here, but elsewhere, reminders that President Trump carried the state by 36 points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how we're going to ever get over that.

BASH (on camera): So, you're obviously a North Dakota voter. You're disappointed with her vote against Kavanaugh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BASH (voice-over): Her Republican challenger, Congressman Kevin Cramer, well ahead in the polls, said he was shocked.

REP. KEVIN CRAMER (R), NORTH DAKOTA: I really fully expected her to vote yes.

BASH (on camera): Why?

CRAMER: Because she had been building her entire campaign, really her entire brand as the bipartisan senator from North Dakota.

BASH (voice-over): Heitkamp voted for Neil Gorsuch and planned to do the same for Kavanaugh.

HEITKAMP: I had the office plan to prepare a statement saying I was voting for him.

BASH (on camera): Really?

HEITKAMP: Up until -- up until that hearing.

BASH: Wow, that changed everything.

HEITKAMP: It did for me.

BASH (voice-over): She didn't believe him and worried about his temperament, especially after watching a second time with the sound off.

HEITKAMP: We communicate not only with words, but we communicate with body language. We communicate with demeanor.

BASH (on camera): What did you see in his body language?

HEITKAMP: I saw somebody who was very angry, very nervous. And -- I saw rage.

BASH (voice-over): Cramer is appealing to voters who see all this as victimization run amok.

CRAMER: Politics of personal destruction as -- with this broad stroke being just accepted, is offensive to a lot of the women in my family.

HEITKAMP: You should be so grateful that your mom's never been victimized and that your wife's never been victimized and your daughters haven't.

[19:45:05] But people in my life have, including my mother. And, you know, to suggest she's not strong because she's a victim was like a trigger for me. BASH: Heitkamp is trying to focus elsewhere.

HEITKAMP: It's high-tech.

BASH (on camera): Super high-tech.

HEITKAMP: And it's also really expansive.

BASH: Hurting farmers like Tom Brosowske who she invited us to me. He says China's soybean tariffs, retaliation for Trump's trade policy, already cost him $100,000.

TOM BROSOWSKE, NORTH DAKOTA FARMER: How is it going to work out? I haven't heard a plan yet.

BASH: Cramer says opposed Trump's new tariff plan against China at first and lost.

CRAMER: Once the president sets a strategy, a global strategy, I think it's better if we get behind him, unify and win a trade war fast rather than undermine the entire process.

BASH: Six years ago, Heitkamp won by a single point. Her warning this year, the shrinking middle means more gridlock.

HEITKAMP: If someone like me can't get re-elected, what does that speak for other people who want to be moderate or just encourage people to go to their base? I think that's a real concern.

BASH: For now, Heitkamp is determined to be herself, when a band plays, she grabs the mike.

(SINGING)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And, Kate, Heidi Heitkamp is not only the most endangered Democrat, she also is a very, very key player in any question about whether the Democrats could potentially take control of the Senate. Most Democrats don't see a path to doing that, unless Heitkamp wins her re-election here, and it's going to be tough.

BOLDUAN: No wonder you're there, and all the pressure is on her, and all the eyes are on her.

Great to see you, Dana. Great piece as always. Thanks so much.

I'm going to bring the panel back with me right now.

Patrick, Dana lays it out perfectly, kind of the stakes here. But she was already down 12 points to Cramer. Do you think what you see, kind of what Dana was laying out, the writings on the wall for Heitkamp?

HEALY: It's going to be tough. I mean, she has a terrific reputation in North Dakota. She won yes by a sliver. But she got a lot of respect on both sides there. The problem is, you know, right now is whether she can refocus the debate back on to local terms, on to issues like tariffs and the way they're hitting the soybean belt in North Dakota.

I mean, Kevin Cramer talked to my colleague Jonathan Martin this weekend, and made that comment about how #metoo was like a, quote, movement toward victimization. Cramer has a habit of saying -- making remarks that are really striking. And some people -- look, there's a debate about this, a dispute about this, but whether Heitkamp can refocus things on issues is unclear.

BOLDUAN: Scott, let me bring you on this, though, because that gets to a big issue here, and that gets to kind of where is -- I know, don't tell me every race is different. Go with me on this, where the conversation is.

Donald Trump says he wants the election to be about him, when Mitch McConnell says that he wants to thank Democrats for the tactics they used during the Kavanaugh proceedings, because it was the shot in the arm, it's the adrenaline shot they needed. Republican voters are energized, but how energize? Enough? Do you think you can ride the Kavanaugh vote all the way to the midterms?

JENNINGS: Well, based on what I'm seeing and hearing and feeling from Republicans and talking to strategist and people who are polling these races, there has been a massive boost in Republicans finally focusing on what life would be like if Democrats were to take control. This hearing exposed a very scary future under Democratic control. So I think it reminded Republicans what's at stake.

I think in a place like North Dakota, take Kavanaugh out of the equation, she was already running seriously up hill. I mean, Trump won the state by 36 points. She votes with Trump about half the time. I mean, clearly, her voting record is out of line with where most of her constituents are.

So, Kavanaugh aside, I think she was already trying to be something -- she's a liberal running in a state that wants a conservative, and that was always going to be a problem for her.

BOLDUAN: Joan?

WALSH: She's actually not a liberal. She's a moderate, Scott.

But I just to say -- to go back to what Patrick referred to, the interview that Kevin Cramer did with Jonathan Martin where he said he railed against the #MeToo culture of victimization. But he said something kind of awful, which is his wife and his mother and the women in his family want no part of it because they're not victims, they're tough women. Well, that really struck a nerve with a lot of women. He is in danger of turning himself into the Todd Akin of 2018 with that remark.

And Senator Heitkamp also lost it, I believe, with Jonathan Martin because she heard that as saying her mother, who was sexually assaulted was not tough. That victims are not tough. So, I think he's stepped in it. Now, it's going to be tough for her. It's going to be tough before.

[19:50:01] HEALY: And she didn't -- and to be fair, like she didn't lose it emotionally but she really -- she reacted in a very direct way that I think can resonate with a lot of women and a lot of men, which is this has happened in my family and making judgments about other people about whether they are strong enough or victim enough is dangerous.

BOLDUAN: And I wonder -- you know, the impact of -- you know, let's talk about the comments, Kaitlan, from the president tonight. It seems very clear, and I want to know what you're hearing, that the president today would like to keep this fight up. Meaning make it appear that it is still a fight of Democrats versus the president even regardless that Brett Kavanaugh is now currently sitting on the Supreme Court.

COLLINS: Very much so. That's what the White House is going to see if they can hold on to over the next month or so before the midterm elections is this energy that they feel has energized the Republican base that they were worried weren't going to really turn out in the midterm elections.

And now, President Trump seems to have shifted from this realization, this recognizing that they could lose the House to now saying he believes that there are going to be Democrats voting for Republicans this fall. So, we'll expect him to keep that front and center at all the rallies he's going to this week starting in Iowa tomorrow night.

BOLDUAN: Unclear where the president got that polling data, but we will check it.

Regardless, thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.

OUTFRONT for us next, that deadly limousine crash in Upstate New York. Officials say that both the driver and the limo should never have been on the road. We have the very latest.

And Hurricane Michael, it could be a dangerous category 3 storm when it makes landfall. Where will it hit? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: New details tonight about the deadly car crash in Upstate New York which killed 20 people, including four sisters.

[19:55:05] New York's governor saying the limo should never have been on the road at all. State police not ruling out potential criminal charges at this point. Authorities also say that the group in the car had tried to hire a different car that day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR ROBERT E. PATNAUDE, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: We can confirm the name of the limo company is Prestige out of Saratoga County, and also that the driver of the limo did not have the appropriate license to operate that vehicle. I believe that they had tried to hire a different vehicle, but it canceled for some reason, so the subject in charge of this excursion scrambled and found this company to satisfy their needs for today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Athena Jones is OUTFRONT in Amsterdam, New York, at a vigil for the victims of the crash.

Athena, the NTSB is saying this was the most deadly transportation crash in the U.S. since 2009. Are they offering any clues as to what caused this tonight?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate.

Well, these investigations are just getting under way so no solid clues so far but this accident has touched this entire community. You can see it in the outpouring of grief and support we saw here tonight at this candlelight vigil which is just wrapping up. This was a horrific accident, a horrific loss of life.

I want to let you hear from a witness to the incident, Bridey Finnagen. She described a loud bang. Here's what more she had to say about what happened on Saturday. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIDEY FINNAGEN, WITNESSED THE CRASH: Then I heard screaming. I walked up and I could see this large van, very unusual-looking vehicle for out here in Schoharie, in the bushes and really wrecked -- hit a tree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: So that witness there describing a horrible scene. We did get updates just in the last several hours from the New York state police and from the National Transportation Safety Board. Both agencies are conducting separate investigations. You mentioned the state police found the airbag control module, which they hope will provide some clue, but investigators are looking at a long list of things. They are looking at the driving and safety records of the company and of the driver.

They're looking at the design of the vehicle, the stretch of limousine design, and also a configuration of the intersection which had been modified in the last several years. They're going to be looking at whether speed is a factor, of course.

Now, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said earlier today that the driver, as you mentioned, did not have the proper license to be driving this vehicle. He also said that the vehicle had been inspected by the State Department of Transportation last month and failed that test and so it should not have been on the road. Investigators here from the NTSB expect to spend about five more days gathering evidence. It's going to take much longer to find out what went wrong -- Kate. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. So many people killed and now children left

orphaned tonight as both parents, many of them with both parents killed tonight. Just horrible.

Thank you, Athena. I really appreciate it.

Now, I want to take you to another developing story we're watching. Another dangerous storm is bearing down on the United States. Florida is bracing tonight for Hurricane Michael, a major storm that could make landfall as a category 3, powerful category 3 very soon.

OUTFRONT now is Jennifer Gray in the CNN Weather Center.

Jennifer, where and when are you looking at right now for this to hit?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This is looking to make landfall along the panhandle on Wednesday, possibly midday, as a potential category 3, a major storm. Right now, it is just on that north side of Cuba as a category 1. It's had a lot of land interaction so it hasn't been able to intensify as rapidly as it will be able to in the next couple of days as it enters the waters of the Gulf of Mexico that are very, very warm.

So, ripe conditions for further development during the next 24 to 48 hours. Winds up 84 miles per hour, gusts of 100, moving to the north at 12 miles per hour. This could be a major storm by tomorrow afternoon and then making landfall around 1:00 on Wednesday before racing off to the north and east.

And we're looking at potential 100-mile-per-hour winds around the Panama City area, really anywhere from, say, the Florida/Alabama line all the way to Apalachicola. We could see anywhere from 70 to 100- mile-per-hour winds. Now, this is going to be a fast mover, it's not like Florence. It just sat there. But it is going to move quickly.

And you can see those very strong winds, about 50 miles per hour, still off the coast of the Carolinas by the time we get into the end of the week. So already seeing rain across Cuba, of course, the Florida Keys, the West Coast. The models agreeing very well this is going to make landfall on the west side of Panama City.

So, the dirty side of that storm, the most intense side is from Panama City to Apalachicola. Of course, we could still see some variations in this, but the models are agreeing, which raises our confidence pretty much -- pretty well. So this is going to race to the northeast. Look at that, bringing a lot of rain to the Carolinas, Kate, an area that has already seen their fair share of rain over the last couple of weeks.

BOLDUAN: Yes, the last thing you need is even another drop of rain over there. Now, it looks like no matter what, exactly where it's going to hit, it's coming Wednesday.

Thanks so much, Jennifer. And thanks so much, everyone, for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.