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New Book on Kavanaugh Allegations; Missiles Launched from Iran; Trump Fights for Latino Vote. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Who -- who eye witnesses or an eyewitness says the same thing that happened to Debbie Ramirez, which is Brett Kavanaugh exposing himself and forcing his body onto a woman happened at yet another party.

One more time, did you speak to that woman?

ROBIN POGREBIN, AUTHOR, "THE EDUCATION OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: AN INVESTIGATION": I tried to reach her, and she has had no interest in addressing these allegations. The one way in which she would engage with me is, she was a close friend of Deborah Ramirez, one of her best friends, and so she ultimately drafted a statement about her support of Deborah Ramirez and Deborah Ramirez's integrity and basically kind of guilelessness and why she would have no motivation to make up a story like this.

CAMEROTA: Why wouldn't this woman speak about her own experience?

POGREBIN: I -- my sense is, from those who know her, is that she doesn't remember it. And, I mean, let's remember that this was a drunken party and it's conceivable that people don't always remember what happens in a situation like that. A lot of drunken people, you know, Brett was taken over to her by his friends. They were drunk. She was drunk. And they put his penis in her hand.

Why this is meaningful is for us, from our perspective, is you actually have someone who is named, who is known in Washington, who tried to get this story to the appropriate authorities when it would have been relevant to his confirmation.

CAMEROTA: And you're referring to Max Stier.

POGREBIN: I'm referring to Max Stier.

CAMEROTA: So he's well respected and Max Stier tried to --

POGREBIN: He talked to senators. He talked to the FBI.

KATE KELLY, AUTHOR, "THE EDUCATION OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: AN INVESTIGATION": We know, for example, that Senator Chris Coons wrote a letter to Christopher Wray, the FBI director, specifically directing him to talk to Max Stier last -- early October while the FBI investigation was underway. This because Stier was not having luck getting through to the investigating authorities.

CAMEROTA: And we did have Chris Coons on the program earlier.

But why won't Max Stier come forward publically to talk about this if he felt so strongly?

POGREBIN: I have a pretty good understanding of that from -- from the reporting that I've done, and that is that Max Stier feels like he did his duty with these -- with this account, which is an eyewitness account, something he saw. He thought it was important to the process. He went to the relevant authorities. Once Kavanaugh was confirmed, his work was done. Once this guy is on the court, he had no interest in making this a public issue.

CAMEROTA: And in terms of your reporting and your journalism, you confirmed his account with what you say are two, I think, government officials.

POGREBIN: We have -- we have several senators' offices who were made aware of these allegations at the time.

KELLY: It was also written about in documents at the time in a letter that lawyers for Dr. Ford prepared for the FBI and others have heard about it as well.

CAMEROTA: And the FBI just opted not to --

POGREBIN: Not to follow up.

CAMEROTA: Not to follow up. Not to go down that road.

KELLY: Right.

POGREBIN: Which was consistent with a lot of -- I mean this was a circumscribed investigation and, obviously, they decided not to include the Max Stier allegations.

CAMEROTA: Christine Blasey Ford, of course she got so much attention because she testified during his confirmation hearings. And during that hearing, there was a feeling of, if only we could talk to her friend, the friend who she went to the party with. Surely the friend could corroborate or deny what happened at that party or her memory of it.

Well, it turns out you did talk to that friend. And is it fair to say that that friend doesn't really believe -- not only does she not corroborate Christine Blasey Ford's version, she doesn't necessarily believe that it happened?

KELLY: That's right. And this is a very interesting narrative in the book. And this friend, Leland Keyser, is on the record for the first time with us in the book. Essentially Leland has said consistently last year and in the reporting of this that she doesn't recall the incident one way or another.

At the time, in 2018, she did say to a reporter, words to the effect, you know, Dr. Ford is my friend and I believe her.

After that, later in the process and during the FBI investigation last fall, she reflected on it. She had an initial meeting with the FBI at which she said whatever she could recall. She then went back, rested, really thought hard about the events that were being discussed, looked at some of the high school photographs of Brett Kavanaugh that were circulating around and decided she didn't find him to be a familiar face at all.

She had dated his very good friend, Mark Judge, who was alleged to be in the room during the alleged Blasey Ford assault. She had dated him briefly. So she knew some of those boys, but Kavanaugh's face didn't ring a bell. And she also thought the circumstances around the alleged incident, the fact that Ford had been at a certain country club that day, the fact that it was a relatively small gathering among other things didn't ring right to her. So she initiated a second conversation with the FBI and reported all this to them, along with the fact that she had felt pressured to change her story by friends of Blasey Ford's and hers from high school.

Now, to be fair, we -- we have not heard that Ford directed that or even knew about it at the time, but that that pressure was going on.

CAMEROTA: Let's end with Debbie Ramirez's story. So Debbie Ramirez, just to remind people, she was at this party. Everybody was drunk.

[08:35:00]

And it is her recollection that Brett Kavanaugh dropped his pants and put his penis in her face. And you found out that the FBI believed her story basically.

Here's what you write in the book. During the meeting which lasted about two hours, the FBI agents asked Deborah Ramirez many questions. At the end, as the agents were on their way out, one said something to the effect of, we find you credible. Yet Bill Pittard, another Ramirez lawyer, said the agents also made clear that their hands were tied, explaining, we have to wait to get authorization to do anything else, he recalled. It was almost a little apologetic.

What did you find out about why the FBI thought their hands were so tied? Why was this -- why was their investigation limited to one week? You all spent ten months investigating this. Why did the FBI not go further?

POGREBIN: I mean I think that the additional FBI investigation, which ultimately Senator Coons and Senator Flake, you know, kind of together came up with as a solution to some of these allegations swirling out there, satisfied no one. To some extent, the -- you know, it gave the Democrats the chance to sort of feel as if at least some of their concerns were being explored. But a week is a very circumscribed period of time. It was directed by the White House in terms of how many witnesses and how long they explicitly said they didn't want this to be a fishing expedition. So they reined it in.

On the other hand, they did do an additional investigation. So, to some extent, I think that, you know, nobody ended up satisfied by that.

CAMEROTA: Well, Robin Pogrebin, Kate Kelly, the book again is "The Education of Brett Kavanaugh." Thanks so much for coming in and explaining all of this to us.

POGREBIN: Thanks for having us.

KELLY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.

John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Really interesting discussion.

So new CNN reporting this morning on where the Saudi oil attack was launched from and what weapons were used. Will this change U.S. calculations about a military reaction? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:41:17]

BERMAN: All right, the breaking news.

A source familiar with the investigation tells CNN there is, quote, a very high probability that this weekend's attack on Saudi oil facilities were carried out with low-altitude cruise missiles assisted by drones and launched, they say, from an Iranian base near the border with Iraq.

Joining me now is Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

And, Fareed, this new information, I think, sheds a little light on the types of things we've been hearing in dribs and drabs. Very high probability launched from Iran.

What does that mean at this point?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, it's a confirmation or a kind of confirmation of something we've known, which is that this was -- this was an attack too sophisticated to have been done by the rebels in Yemen. It probably wasn't done from Iran directly. It was done by some kind of Iranian proxies. Perhaps a militia in Iraq. I still wouldn't discount the possibility that it came from Yemen, but it does appear to be in some way directed or influenced by Iran.

But we've known this. The issue really is, John, the United States, ever since it withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, and then imposed punitive sanctions on Iran, which it forced the rest of the world to follow, has been applying maximum, maximum pressure on Iran to the point of almost strangling it economically. And it's not clear to what end because one day Trump says he wants a deal, another day he doesn't. The Iranians, in response, are trying to apply what pressure they

have. They have proxies in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq. And so this is the Iranian almost predictable counter response. We started this. It's not clear why. Trump largely got out of the Iran nuclear deal because Obama negotiated it, not for any particular, strategic reason. So it's not clear where he's going to go from here.

BERMAN: It isn't clear where he's going to go from here because he has contradicted himself over the last few days. First he said he was locked and loaded, which made people believe, understandably, that he was poised for some kind of military response. Then yesterday he said, well, that's not our preference, we're still looking for some kind of diplomacy. And also in one of his initial statements, Fareed, he said something that a lot of people are paying attention to. He said, we're waiting to hear back from the kingdom, as in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as to who they believe was the cause of this attack and under what terms we would proceed.

Senator Angus King told me he felt that was outsourcing U.S. foreign policy to the Saudis. How do you read it?

ZAKARIA: Well, there's no question that we have outsourced American foreign policy in the Middle East to Saudi Arabia for quite some time now. It is not clear to me what American interests were served by abrogating the nuclear deal. It's not clear to me what American interests are served by this enormous, you know, twist of -- essentially he's trying to strangle Iran.

This is part of a Saudi/Iranian rivalry in the region that is partly geopolitical, partly sectarian. The Saudis are Sunnis. The Iranians are Shia. The Saudis are Arabs. The Iranians are Persian.

So we have gotten ourselves enmeshed in somebody else's civil war, in the -- you know, in a situation where it's not clear what America's interests are. And then the president said something which was even more demeaning, I think, in describing at some point in the Oval Office the fact that, well, maybe the Saudis will pay us. We can be sure that they'll pay us if we do something.

Now, you know, I would hope we would -- the president of the United States would understand, the American armed services, our men and women are not mercenaries out for hire to the highest bidding.

[08:45:06]

I don't think it matter whether the Saudis offer to pay a little or a lot, with cash or credit. That is not why you put American men and women in harm's way. You put them in harm's way to protect America's interests, maybe broader regional interests, but the whole way in which this has been spoken about, to my mind, demeans the United States.

BERMAN: Fareed, I want to read you something that former Senator Bob Corker, who was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations, wrote over the last 24 hours. He said, "the timing of the attacks on major oil plants in Saudi Arabia is really strange. We need to make sure we know who is responsible. Who benefits most from these actions?"

And I found that curious because here's a senator who is in a position to know and be circumspect about these types of things and he's basically saying, don't rush to judgment here. Don't be so sure about where you point the finger because there are a lot of different interests at stake here.

ZAKARIA: That's a very -- that's a very shrewd observation from Bob Corker. And I think what he's alluding to is some people wonder whether, in the Iranian government, there is a hardline faction that does not want Trump and Rouhani to meet, does not want the possibility of a new deal with Iran. One never knows. But it is certainly true that the Iranian regime has many factions and two principal ones. Rouhani, the president, and the foreign minister, Zarif, being clearly in favor of a more moderate approach and some kind of deal on the nuclear issue, and the hardline Revolutionary Guard faction, which has always not wanted it. And this has played itself out openly in Iran in the Iranian parliament where after the Iran deal, the president and foreign minister were savaged.

So it's possible that the hardliners in Iran did this as a way to sabotage any such prospect. We don't know. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is, the United States should act on the basis of America's interests, not on the basis of, you know, reflects of antipathy toward Iran, and certainly not on the basis of Saudi interests.

BERMAN: Fareed Zakaria, great discussion. Thank you so much for being on with us this morning.

ZAKARIA: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, up next, the fight for Florida's Latino vote in 2020. Why President Trump's stance on Venezuela could help him bigly (ph), as he'd say.

BERMAN: Bigly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:51:29]

CAMEROTA: All right, President Trump has made his hardline stance on immigration a centerpiece of his agenda and his upcoming campaign, which, of course, has drawn criticism from many Latinos. Yet, in Florida, the president does have support among many Cuban-American voters. His campaign hopes to court more Latinos with its hardline stance on the socialism and the dictator in Venezuela.

Joining us now to help explain all of this is CNN political commentator Ana Navarro.

Ana, great to see you, as always.

Here is what President Trump said about the enthusiasm from Cubans for him last night at his rally. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just before the last election, the Cubans from Miami, where we got a tremendous percentage of the vote, close to 90 percent, they gave me the Bay of Pigs Award. Can you imagine, right, the Bay of Pigs Award. And the Venezuelans and the Cubans are all for Trump, I will tell you that, they're all for Trump. They like what we're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: First of all, is the Bay of Pigs Award good? Second of all, 54 percent of Cubans did support President Trump in the last election. So, explain.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in my view, they should have given him the pig award, but, anyways. Look, here's the bottom line, foreign policy for us, foreign policy in Latin America, in Florida, in south Florida in particular, is a local issue. You have waves of immigrants, of exiles that have come here. The Cubans, who started coming in '59 and the '60s, the Nicaraguans, like I -- like me, who came in the '80s, the Venezuelans coming now and so many influxes of immigrants fleeing left-wing totalitarian, murderous, thuggish regimes. This is happening right now with Venezuela.

You take on Venezuela, it is -- you check off a box and you get brownie points with Nicaraguans, with Cubans, all of whom are voters. It is an issue that matters for us.

And the interesting part is, you know, but for Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, there hasn't been a dictator that Donald Trump has met that he hasn't liked. The difference is that Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans actually vote in a purple state that is usually -- that usually comes down to the wire where you can win or lose an election by 534 votes, by less than half a percentage point.

And so what we have seen repeatedly, the theme that we've seen repeatedly used in Florida and now nationwide is, if you vote for Andrew Gillam, he'll turn Florida into Venezuela. If you vote for so and so, they will turn Florida into Venezuela. We know what socialism looks like. Nancy Pelosi is turning America into Venezuela. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is turning Florida into Venezuela.

I've received fundraising requests from people like the Florida senator, Rick Scott, saying, you've -- you know, Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Venezuela, socialism, therefore, donate for me --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

NAVARRO: To me because I will help defeat them. It is a recurring theme and it's worked because what people need to understand is that there's a lot of people who've lived this personal trauma in Miami and so it strikes an emotional nerve, the -- that idea, and it stokes fear in people. CAMEROTA: Yes. And --

NAVARRO: It might be irrational, it might be illogical, but it is emotional.

CAMEROTA: But so you're saying that President Trump is using it to great effect. For his own poll numbers and enthusiasm, he is using going after Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela as a dictator, though, as you point, he is certainly comfortable and cozy with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, but it's working? Going after Nicolas Maduro and calling him a dictator is winning for voters and that is a winning position and that Latinos, well, I guess, Venezuelans and Cubans, are -- they like what they're hearing.

[08:55:24]

NAVARRO: Look, I -- but -- but to a point, right? Because then you have to question yourself. If Nicolas Maduro is such a bad guy, and he is, he is a murderous thug, why then is the Trump administration not issuing temporary protective status or protecting Venezuelans and granting their asylum claims?

And, you know, there's also the point of where you can do overkill on this. There was a point earlier this year when I think Venezuelans thought the American cavalry is coming at any moment and we're going to go rid of Maduro. They pumped it up so much. They played it up so much. It's almost -- it is almost the Bay of Pigs of 2019 when we have left Venezuelans on the street getting killed and maimed and starving to death while using it as a political pawn in the United States.

CAMEROTA: All right, Ana Navarro, thank you very much for explaining that entire perspective to us. Great to see you.

John.

BERMAN: All right, CNN has critical, new details about the attack on a Saudi oil field. We're pressing the administration for a response. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END