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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump Calls On Justice Department To Protect Kavanaugh From News Media; CNN Poll: Biden Leads Dem Rivals By 30 Points Among Black Voters; Nearly 50,000 G.M. Workers Strike Over Pay And Idle Plants. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired September 16, 2019 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our "POLITICS LEAD" today, moments ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the Senate floor, slamming the call for impeachment from some Democrats as laughable, transparent and self-serving.
Some Democrats, including six presidential candidates, are calling for Kavanaugh's impeachment, this after a "New York Times" story, based on a new book, detailed a new allegation against the Supreme Court justice back when he was in college at Yale.
"The New York Times" later clarified that this student involved in the alleged incident told friends she does not remember the incident.
And, as CNN's Jessica Schneider now reports for us, the president is calling on the Justice Department to -- quote -- "rescue Kavanaugh from the news media."
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New revelations today in a letter obtained and reviewed by CNN.
In it, Democratic Senator Chris Coons urged the FBI to reach out to a witness about Brett Kavanaugh's alleged misconduct at Yale. The letter was dated October 2, 2018, four days before Kavanaugh was confirmed.
Coons writes he heard from several people who reportedly had key information, but had trouble getting through to the FBI. Coons specifically asked the FBI to follow up with a man whose source say was Max Stier, a possible witness to the incident and a Yale college classmate of Kavanaugh and Ramirez with information relevant to Ramirez's allegations.
Coons played a key role in the confirmation hearings.
QUESTION: If Judge Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination is over? SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ): Oh, yes.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I would think so.
SCHNEIDER: Convincing Republican Senator Jeff Flake to call for a supplemental FBI background investigation before Flake would vote Kavanaugh out of committee.
But in a new book, "New York Times" reporters say the FBI did not investigate Stier's alleged claim concerning another student. The newspaper later clarified, saying that student declined to be interviewed.
Her friends say she doesn't remember the incident. A Coons aide tells CNN the FBI received the letter, but never heard back. And a Democratic senator tells CNN -- quote -- "The broader point is that the FBI investigation was not thorough and credible."
CNN previously reported the FBI interviewed nine people in connection to claims by two other women against Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. Now, almost a year after Justice Kavanaugh was sworn into the Supreme Court, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is calling for a renewed inquiry.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): We're going to start looking into the adequacy of the investigation upon which the confirmation was premised when the FBI director comes before us next month.
SCHNEIDER: While the president today and over the weekend defended Justice Kavanaugh over Twitter, telling him to start suing people for libel and saying the Justice Department should come to his rescue.
SCHNEIDER: But the Justice Department, of course, is not the personal attorney for the president or any Supreme Court justice.
In the meantime, a Supreme Court spokeswoman says that Justice Kavanaugh had no comment on the new allegation against him or the calls for impeachment coming from some Democratic candidates.
Jake, only one justice has ever been impeached. That was way back in 1805. And that justice was never actually removed from the bench by the Senate -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, so much.
Ron, you know the name of that...
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Samuel Chase.
TAPPER: Samuel Chase. All right, a little trivia.
Ayesha, let me start with you.
Six Democratic candidates, presidential candidates, have called for Kavanaugh's impeachment. Three more say they would support an investigation into the allegations. But, to be honest, there's this -- Republicans control the Senate. There is no chance, right, that Kavanaugh would be impeached in the Senate.
AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: No.
And Jerry Nadler in the House, who would be presumably starting the impeachment, says right now he's too focused on the president right now to be focused on Kavanaugh.
What this looks like is that they want to say that there was a problem with the process and with the FBI investigation, and that they didn't follow up on these claims. And the fact is that is the case.
Now, the reason, the fact that this is coming out now and that the FBI didn't look into I, that's what gives it legs, right, is that the FBI didn't look into it. And so as you had an actual thorough investigation of these things, that could have been helpful to Kavanaugh and to the people who are accusing him, to all parties, so that you could actually put it to bed.
But it hasn't been put to bed.
TAPPER: So there are some pundits out there saying that this ultimately could help Republicans because this was so unifying during the fight over Kavanaugh.
David Weigel of "The Washington Post" says: Not only did Democrats fail to stop Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, a consensus of Republicans and political strategists argued that by echoing accusations against him, Democrats energized conservative voters and tipped key Senate races toward the GOP like in Indiana or in Missouri.
Do you agree with that?
BROWNSTEIN: Two things are true. Yes, the Kavanaugh fight energized Republicans, particularly in some of those states with heavy rural populations.
Democrats also got the biggest number they have ever received in the history of polling among college-educated white women, in part because of Kavanaugh. And that was why they won so many suburban -- routed Republicans in suburban seats around the country.
To, me the significance of this report yesterday was less the new allegation than the fact that they said seven -- they had seven people who said that they we're told contemporaneously or a little later about the Deborah Ramirez allegation.
And given that, I think it's highly unlikely -- I don't think Democrats -- they have enough impeachment discussion their plate with Donald Trump.
But if there's a Democratic president in 2021, do you think it's inconceivable that a Democratic-controlled House would begin to look at this process? I don't. I think it is more likely than not that if they have -- particularly if they unified control of government, they will at least consider and examine the evidence.
TAPPER: And, Antonia, the president's been relentlessly defending Kavanaugh on Twitter.
ANTONIA FERRIER, FORMER STAFF DIRECTOR, SENATE REPUBLICAN COMMUNICATIONS CENTER: He should.
TAPPER: He said -- quote -- "The one who is actually being assaulted is Justice Kavanaugh, assaulted by lies and fake news."
The latest CNN poll has him, Kavanaugh, at only a 33 percent -- oh, I'm sorry. Is this Kavanaugh or Trump? This is Trump. I'm sorry.
At a 33 percent approval among women. That's 12 points less than men.
Strictly from a polling perspective, should Trump be treading more lightly on this issue?
FERRIER: Let me tell you, I dealt with the entire Kavanaugh nomination and I heard from a lot of women who have sons who said they get very nervous about a lot of these allegations.
Almost all of them were tossed out. The Judiciary Committee, chaired by Chairman Grassley, went through every single one of these allegations, and threw all of them out.
TAPPER: But Grassley said today he hadn't heard of this allegation.
FERRIER: True. I understand that is the latest one.
And the accuser, alleged victim, said she'd had no recollection that it happened. So I'm a little confused as to if the alleged victim had no knowledge why we're sitting here talking about this today.
TAPPER: Well, what do you think about that? Because, I mean, "The New York Times," in their op-ed, they had to add it. But then in the book, it makes clear that the woman who was the alleged victim of this incident or the alleged incident doesn't remember this, told friends she doesn't remember.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
"The Times" has done a lot of work on this, but they don't have subpoena power. And it's not a felony to lie to "The New York Times." The FBI does. And Senate Judiciary Committee does. And they dropped the ball.
There will be unending pressure, not right now, not tomorrow, unending pressure from the Democrats to get to the bottom of this. There's a cloud over Brett Kavanaugh that will be there.
BEGALA: I want to know if my Supreme Court justice is guilty of sexual assault.
FERRIER: That was already investigated.
BROWNSTEIN: They're talking -- OK, this reporting is saying they have multiple people who said they were told contemporaneously about it.
TAPPER: Which is different than having seen it.
BROWNSTEIN: Having seen it.
FERRIER: That could have been a rumor.
BROWNSTEIN: And she, of course -- well, he said if it happened, it would have been the talk of the...
BEGALA: Would have been the talk of the campus.
BROWNSTEIN: And the reporters argue, well, to some extent, it was.
TAPPER: So, the question is whether or not the FBI investigation was thorough enough.
BEGALA: Was it circumscribed?
Now, to the FBI's defense, this was not a criminal investigation.
FERRIER: No. That's not what they do.
BEGALA: This was a job interview background check.
And they may well have been circumscribed by the White House. I don't know that, but that's what I want to know. An investigation will reveal that.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.
We have got more to talk about, a possible problem Joe Biden faces as he tries to shore up support among African-American voters. That's next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Back with our "2020 LEAD" now. And former Vice President Joe Biden is in South Carolina today courting voters in the state where some 60 percent of Democrats who voted in the 2016 primary were African-American, Biden's strongest base of support as of now. As CNN's Arlette Saenz now reports, this all comes as Biden's bungled
answer on the legacy of slavery at the debate last week is adding to growing questions about the former vice president's views and his sharpness.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have not relegated racism and white supremacy to the pages of history.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Former Vice President Joe Biden's visits to states like Alabama and South Carolina, part of his push to win the black vote, a key voting bloc in the path to the Democratic nomination. Biden's current frontrunner status is powered in large part by support from black voters.
JEFFREY LANIER, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: The mind has been made up pretty much from the beginning.
SAENZ: And who's that?
LANIER: Joe Biden.
SAENZ: A recent CNN poll found 42 percent of Black Democratic voters want Biden as their nominee, a 30-point difference from his closest rival Bernie Sanders. But Biden has also faced some criticism for his past handling of race-related issues like his role in crafting the 1994 crime bill and his opposition to school busing, and this response to a question about the legacy of slavery at last week's Democratic primary debate.
BIDEN: We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It's not that they don't want to help they don't want, they don't know quite what to do.
SAENZ: "New York Times" Columnist Charles Blow writing, comments like these and other issues from his past make a Biden candidacy problematic.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a well-intentioned answer and it was a bad answer.
SAENZ: Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren unveiling a sweeping anti- corruption proposal that sets strict new limits on lobbying powers including banning lawmakers and their senior staff from serving on corporate boards and requiring new lawmakers to disclose potential financial conflicts before taking office.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The money is everywhere in so many different ways. The corruption infects so many different decisions that it comes to us what to do about it.
SAENZ: The rollout coming hours before Warren delivers a major speech in New York City where she'll use a teleprompter, a rare sight at her campaign events.
SAENZ: Now, we are here at the Galivants Ferry Stump where Joe Biden and three other Democratic contenders will be giving speeches. Biden was here back in 2006 as he was gearing up to run for president last time around. He's hoping that those longtime relationships in the state will pay off for him in this campaign. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Arlette Saenz, thanks so much. I appreciate it. So here's the real division going on here. You have pundits, writers, the Black commenting class Charles Blow, the communitarian who wrote a New York Times op-ed Biden is "problematic" with an antiquated view on racial matters and racial sensitivities. You hear that a lot from a lot of brilliant black writers out there Jamelle Bouie, Jamil Smith, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
And then you have the fact that Biden is the top choice among African- American voters for 42 percent. Look at who's next, Bernie Sanders with 12 percent. I mean, it's not even close. There's a big division, there often is between the pundits and the public.
RASCOE: I think part of it kind of boils down to the -- a lot of people are not paying close attention. They weren't in the third hour of that debate or the second hour whatever it was. If you weren't being paid to watch it you might not have been watching it. And so they know Biden, they feel like he is someone who can win maybe because he was associated with a winner Obama.
But there are real issues when it comes to the way Biden talks about race. That answer that he gave when he asked -- was asked about his comments about slavery, not only did he mentioned the record player, he also mentioned this study that basically implies or implies that poor black people don't talk to their children or don't talk to them as much as others or as much as white people.
And so that is something that is a burden that you're putting on poor black people and basically saying that there's a deficit and the way that they teach them, that they parent. It's the idea that black people need social workers in their home or is it systemic racism and all these other issues that are holding black children back.
And that's something that he still has to address and he has to be able to address it not just on the teleprompter.
TAPPER: And Ron, a senior Obama-Biden administration official, one does not work for a campaign, told me of Biden's debate performance "Biden's strength has never been his clarity of message or his delivery but watching his long winding answers that don't really make sense in recent debates has also raised the question as to whether that has gotten worse and whether he is up for this." This is not somebody who works for a rival campaign.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, and that is absolutely -- it's absolutely an issue that is going to get probably get bigger as we go. I mean, I covered him in 1988 in 2008, he's never been a great candidate. But certainly, what we saw, you know, in that last hour was probably very problematic for him.
To me, to your point, there -- we could see an enormous generation gap in the African-American community in this vote. You know, Bernie Sanders won black voters under 30 narrowly. I'm guessing that Biden performs more poorly than Hillary Clinton did with black voters or under 30.
But I think among older African-American voters, there's a lot of ground for the other candidates that cover. That may be more difficult to dislodge.
BEGALA: There's a lot of history there that goes beyond a debate performance, but that is the key to this. We're all obsessed about Iowa and bloody Twitter -- let's use a different word, it's a family show. The person in my party can capture the African-American vote is going to be the nominee.
That's not guaranteed to Joe, he has to earn it. But the first strategy session we had with Bill Clinton we said that. The path to our nation lies through African-American.
BROWNSTEIN: They pick the winners in the Democratic primary.
BEGALA: Right. Not the pain in the ass Liberals on Twitter.
FERRIER: And let me just remind everyone that debate just happened. What he said could be further weaponized by opponents and used to drive those poll numbers down with African-American voters.
TAPPER: True. Everyone, stick around. We haven't seen this in more than ten years, the major strike in the heart of Trump country that could spell some trouble for the president. That is next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's all about manufacturing and we're bringing it back in record numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: President Trump, of course, promised he was going to bring back manufacturing jobs to the U.S. That task just got more complicated with the strike announced by nearly 50,000 General Motors union workers in the Midwest and the South demanding that the automotive giant reopen idle plants and up their pay.
CNN's Ryan Young joins me now live from Flint, Michigan. And Ryan, this is the biggest strike by any labor union in the U.S. in more than a decade.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's the first time a strike like this since 2007. You can hear the energy behind this as people go by honking to support all these workers who are standing outside. This is more like five sites just in this general area. They want better health care, they want better wages.
And look, we talked to some people who say this is a fight for the middle class. They want to make sure that everyone across this country understands that. In fact, listen to this one worker who says they're fighting for everyone across this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF HUNTER, EMPLOYEE, GENERAL MOTORS: This is a battle for the middle class. This is -- it had to start, it's starting right now, and it's got to be -- we've got to do this now and together. We're hoping for unity. We're hoping the other two of the big three go out the same way we did. However long it takes, we're going to be here and we're going to do what we have to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YOUNG: Look, when you talk to the people here, they say, look, not only do they want better healthcare, but it's the idea that those shuttered plants when G.M. is making so much money, they want to see those reopened. So that's a part of the conversation. Of course, they've decided to do this just last night, Jake.
TAPPER: And negotiations are ongoing between General Motors and the Union. We're hearing that talks have been really tense.
YOUNG: Yes, absolutely. That's what one of the sources told us that the talks have been tense but they're ongoing. They haven't gone to 24 hours a day just yet. This could cause G.M. a lot of money in the end. So hopefully what folks are telling us, they hope this wraps up pretty soon.
TAPPER: All right, Ryan Young, thanks so much. I appreciate it. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you could tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.