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Trump to Release Classified Document in Russia Investigation; Kavanaugh and Accuser to Testify in Public Monday; Interview With Senator Tammy Duckworth; Trump Defends Supreme Court Pick; Brett Kavanaugh Facing Sexual Assault Accusations. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 17, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: What does that tell us about the status of the Russia investigation?
And Paul's conversion. Now that Paul Manafort flipped, there's intense speculation about what the former Trump campaign chairman is telling the special counsel. The Russia probe is clearly in a crucial new phase tonight.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, a Republican senator now says there will be a full opportunity for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser to be heard in public.
We're learning more about that as Kavanaugh is talking by phone tonight with staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is offering to talk to committee members under oath about her claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers.
I will get reaction from Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the president, he is standing by Kavanaugh.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
The White House has just released a statement about this late-breaking development that there should be a hearing next week for Brett Kavanaugh to address these allegations of sexual assault dating back to his high school days. The White House just issuing this statement a few moments ago. We can put it up on screen.
This from White House spokesman Raj Shah, saying that: "Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him."
Wolf, the last part of the statement is interesting, that he is ready to testify tomorrow. It sounds like it may have to wait until next week, delaying the nomination process, as the president said he would allow earlier today, but the White House is showing no signs of abandoning Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court at this point, Wolf.
President Trump dismissed the notion earlier today that Kavanaugh would even step aside.
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump is sticking with his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, brushing off the notion the embattled judge would withdraw from consideration.
QUESTION: He has offered to withdraw?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Next question. What a ridiculous question.
ACOSTA: Asked about the accusation of assault facing Kavanaugh, the president didn't hesitate to defend the judge.
TRUMP: He is somebody very special. At the same time we want to go through a process, we want to make sure everything is perfect, everything is just right. I wish the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner, because they had this information for many months and they shouldn't have waited until literally the last days.
They should have done it a lot sooner, but with all of that being said, we want to go through the process.
ACOSTA: Still, the president did not push back on the possibility of a delay in the confirmation battle.
TRUMP: If it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay. Oh, I think he's on track, yes. I mean, I think he's very much on track.
ACOSTA: Kavanaugh made an appearance at the White House earlier in the day, as sources tell CNN the president is fuming over the allegation rocking his selection for the high court.
But top aides, including the normally combative White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, were keeping their powder dry.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Let me make clear, on behalf to the president, whom I have spoken at length about this, put aside all the nonsense that's on TV and in print from people who couldn't possibly be a source familiar his thinking. She should not be ignored or insulted. She should be hear.
ACOSTA: The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, says Kavanaugh and a friend were drunk when they assaulted her while in high school more than 35 years ago. In a letter detailing her ordeal, she writes: "They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh's hand over my mouth, I feared he may inadvertently kill me."
Her attorney insists this was an assault.
DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY FOR CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: He was ignoring the fact she was attempting to scream and having a difficult time breathing. And she believes that, but for his inebriation and his inability to take her clothes off, he would have raped her.
ACOSTA: Both Ford and Kavanaugh are willing to testify. Kavanaugh maintains he's innocent, saying in a statement: "This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes to her or anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday."
The friend, alleged to have played a part in the assault, Mark Judge, said in a statement: 'I never saw Brett act that way."
A sign of just how poisonous the debate over Kavanaugh has come, just look at this Instagram post from the president's son Donald Trump Jr. It mocks the words in crayon, with the words: "Will you be my girlfriend? Yes, no? Love, Brett."
The Kavanaugh saga presents the president with a familiar challenge.
TRUMP: Hello. How are you? Hi.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump, who once bragged to "Access Hollywood" that he could grope women and get away with it, has sided with men accused of this conduct in the past, whether it was his ex-aide Rob Porter.
TRUMP: He says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that.
ACOSTA: Or Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore.
TRUMP: He says it didn't happen and, you know, you have to listen to him also.
ACOSTA: The president may have learned to show some restraint. He has so far not tweeted about the allegations facing Kavanaugh. As we heard earlier today, he was tempered in his remarks. With the midterms just 50 days away, Wolf, and women voters critical to whether the GOP maintains control over Congress, the president may have temporarily found his own mute button.
And, Wolf, I should point out I talked to a source close to the White House earlier this afternoon who is in touch with a lot of the conservative groups that are watching this nomination process very closely.
This source said the president could not afford to botch this nomination by making some kind of comment that would derail the process, saying the president with many Christian conservatives has -- quote -- "run out of Mulligans" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Important point, indeed. Jim Acosta, thank you.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now for the latest on the Kavanaugh nomination and what happens next.
Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is working the story for us.
Phil, what do we know about how this is about to play out?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is still developing at this moment, Wolf.
Just a few hours -- just about an hour ago Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee met behind closed doors with Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, the chairman, Chuck Grassley, to map out the process forward.
And basically what's been going on behind the scenes for the last four or five days has been a pure scramble, trying to address the allegations, trying to figure out what the allegations are, and then trying to figure out those steps.
And we now know one of those next steps will be a public hearing. As to why? That goes to how do they get the votes. One of the key outstanding votes, moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins, who spoke to reporters earlier. She had a private phone call with Brett Kavanaugh on Friday and she wants to hear more. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: There are an awful lot of questions, inconsistencies, gaps. And that's why, to be fair to both, we need to know what happened. If Judge Kavanaugh has lied about what happened, that would be disqualifying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: So, Wolf, any public hearing would obviously have enormous stakes right now, but the reality on the ground right now is this. For Majority Leader McConnell and for Chuck Grassley, it is a matter of how do they best figure a way to get the votes, votes that they assumed they would very much in line by the planned committee vote on Thursday of this week.
That at this point looks like it is certainly going to be pushed out. There's still a lot of work both behind the scenes and a public hearing to see if they can get the votes back to that place by the time Kavanaugh reaches the Senate floor, Wolf.
BLITZER: The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, he also spoke out about this just a little while ago. What did he say?
MATTINGLY: Well, Wolf, if you want to know kind of how deep the divide between Republicans and Democrats have gotten, not just over the nomination, but over this issue specifically, Senator Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, her spokesman just put out a statement saying this is all news to us.
The hearing, they aren't even aware of. They decided not to participate in a staff call with Brett Kavanaugh earlier today. McConnell believes there are a lot of real questions about how the allegation came to light. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: An accusation of 36- year-old misconduct, dating back to high school, has been brought forward at the last minute in an irregular manner.
It is an accusation which Judge Kavanaugh has completely and unequivocally denied. It is an accusation which the ranking member of the committee of jurisdiction has known about for at least six weeks. Known about for six weeks. Yet chose to keep secret until the 11th hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: So, Wolf, really reflecting where Republican leadership is on this right now. They understand the allegation is serious, but a lot of questions on their end as to why it came out now and what the genesis was of it from the beginning.
For the Democrats' purposes right now, Wolf, they want a renewed FBI investigation into things. They're not even willing to consider the public hearing at this point. What we know for sure, this divide is very real. There's no bridge to it any time soon, and right now it looks like the best observation anybody is going to get to see some type of clarity in this is a public hearing next week, Wolf.
BLITZER: We will see when that happens. Phil, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our CNN Supreme Court reporter, Ariane de Vogue.
Ariane, you have some new information about Kavanaugh's reaction to the allegations.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Wolf, I have been talking to a lot of his friends through the week.
And one person told me he was absolutely flabbergasted by the allegations. And then finally when the woman did come forward, Christine Blasey Ford, he vaguely remembered the name. She went by Chrissy (ph) at the time.
Keep in mind, it was about 30 years ago. It was when they were in high school, but he's absolutely adamant in his denial. We saw it again this morning. He said it is absolutely false. He said, "Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself."
One thing that's interesting, Wolf, is this morning there was some reporting that there would be sort of a scorched-earth policy going after the woman. We have not seen that at all. We have seen the focus on Kavanaugh, on his judicial record, on his church, on his public service.
We even heard the president say, he never even had a little blemish on his record.
So they're going after -- they're talking about Kavanaugh's record. They're talking about the Democrats and how they really don't like what the Democrats have done, but they're not saying anything about Ford. That's an interesting issue.
BLITZER: And Christine Blasey Ford, she is adamant in her allegations.
DE VOGUE: Absolutely.
And she -- what is interesting about that is that she said now she's willing to come forward, but she didn't in the beginning. Remember, that letter to Dianne Feinstein was dated in July, and one of the reasons Dianne Feinstein couldn't do anything about it is that she said she didn't want to come forward. And then things changed.
It started to seep out a little bit and she was really clear with "The Washington Post," she said, "Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and temporary about retaliation."
So now she is ready to come forward, and that's a change from the early weeks there.
BLITZER: And they're both apparently ready to testify in open session before the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath, and if one of them is lying, that's perjury.
DE VOGUE: That's where we are, and they're eager to do it.
BLITZER: All right. Let's see what happens.
Ariane de Vogue, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
Are you encouraged to hear Senator Kennedy say that Kavanaugh's accuser will be heard in a public hearing?
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: Well, I am encouraged to hear that.
I hope that she gets a fair hearing and that we give her a chance to really talk about and tell her story.
You know, I have dealt with victims of military sexual trauma, and one of the things that I learned doing that work is that we must, first and foremost, protect and support the alleged victim as they come forward. This is a very difficult thing that she is doing, and I applaud her for her courage.
BLITZER: Kavanaugh will also have this chance to respond publicly to this allegation, but Senator Hatch already said that Kavanaugh denies being at the party to begin with and says his accuser might have mistaken him for someone else.
What is your reaction to that?
DUCKWORTH: Well, I have heard, you know, many, many predators say and refute allegations against them.
I think what we need to do is, we need to hear from both sides, and this is why it is so important for the FBI to investigate these allegations so that it doesn't become a he said/she said kind of issue.
Again, I learned about this through my work with military sexual trauma. This is why we must have an independent investigation into it and trust the victim as they come forward, and we must take it with all seriousness and not let partisanship get in the way of really finding out the truth.
This is, after all, somebody that's being nominated to the highest court in the land for the rest of his life.
BLITZER: Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator, say they still haven't received a response from the FBI on whether it is investigating this allegation.
And President Trump says he trusts the process. So should he request that the FBI follow through on this investigation?
DUCKWORTH: Well, I will be perfectly honest with you. I don't have much trust in what the president says he will and won't do when it comes to our intelligence agencies.
He has spent most of his time in office so far bashing our intelligence experts.
I will say this. I have the utmost trust in the FBI. I hope that they handle this justly and that they stick to the facts and do this investigation. The American people deserve to know what is happening here.
BLITZER: Christine Blasey Ford was extremely reluctant, as you know, to publicly identify herself. Do you have how concerns about how she would be treated in an open hearing?
DUCKWORTH: Well, of course I have grave concerns of how she would be testified -- how she would be treated if she testified, not just by my fellow senators, but by folks out there in the public.
I'm hearing of people staking out her home. She can't go home already. This is very, very touchy in terms of her personal safety. And I don't blame her for wanting to remain private as long as possible. Again, this is normal behavior from victims of sexual trauma who wait until the last minute, if possible.
They -- you know, in fact, being brought before the press, being criticized is almost like being victimized all over again. We must trust and allow the victims to speak out, allow her to have her day. Lord knows Judge Kavanaugh has had many days in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Let's let her have her chance to speak and tell her story.
BLITZER: And he will have his chance as well.
Did Senator Feinstein make a mistake by not alerting her fellow committee members to this allegation? She's known about it since July. Was there a way to address the serious charges while still protecting the accuser's identity?
DUCKWORTH: Well, I don't know what she could have done. I think she did everything that she could in terms of being -- you know, her legality, her legally required -- she did contact the FBI and she stuck with what the accuser asked her to do.
If you read the letter from the victim, she said that, please, please keep this confidential.
And I think, again, I have to reiterate, this is what a lot of victims of sexual trauma want. They want complete privacy. And in the military, it wasn't until just a few years ago, when the military installed completely anonymous reporting processes, that more and more victims of sexual trauma came forward, many times decades after the incident happened, to say, you know what? When I was a young 20-year- old ensign, when I was a young 20-year-old private, this happened to me, and I didn't feel safe to do this until now, 20, 30 years later.
So, her -- Dr. Ford's actions are very consistent with many, many victims of sexual trauma.
BLITZER: Senator Duckworth, thanks so much for joining us.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead: President Trump is ordering a declassification of documents related to the Russia investigation. We are going to have that breaking story. Stick around.
Also, we will have a report from the disaster in the Carolinas as the rivers and death toll keep rising.
BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight in the Russia investigation , as President Trump is now ordering the declassification of a lot of documents and texts.
Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is here.
Evan, update us. What are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if you remember, back in July, the president ordered the release of some of the documents that he is now ordering further release of.
Previously, a lot of pages looked like this. There were a lot of redactions which showed a lot of information was still being hidden. What the president is doing here is specifically ordering certain pages to be declassified and to be released.
Look, the bottom line here for the president and his allies is that they believe that the Russia investigation, the beginnings of the Russia investigation, essentially is the fruit of a poisonous tree. This is something that they believe was begun in, you know, nefarious means by the FBI, that there are people who committed wrongdoing.
And they believe declassifying these pages is going to show that the FBI should have had no reason to be surveilling Carter Page and launching this investigation that has now hung over this White House for a year-and-a-half.
What is interesting here is that they're also asking for -- what the president is ordering is for release of interviews with people associated with Bruce Ohr. This is the Justice Department official who was in touch with people, including the British spy, Christopher Steele, and Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS, which ordered the dossier.
You know, so there's additional materials here that the president is ordering to be released that the Republicans believe will show, will undermine that this entire investigation was begun in a nefarious manner and that the FBI committed wrongdoing.
I think that's why they're asking for this particular set of documents to be released, perhaps as soon as tonight.
BLITZER: There's also breaking news on Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser.
Nearly a year of cooperation by the time he gets sentenced. For the first time now, we have learned that the prosecutors and the defense have agreed on a sentencing date which is in late November. This is after the midterms.
And what this tells us, Wolf, is that the -- this is almost the end of almost a year of cooperation for Michael Flynn. And until Friday, he was the senior-most person close to President Trump who was who was cooperating with the special counsel.
Of course, now we have Paul Manafort, the chairman of the campaign for about six months, who is now cooperating as well. So what this tells us is that it is -- almost a year of cooperation is nearing an end and now we will see what Manafort has to give to the special counsel as part of his investigation.
BLITZER: Yes, we will watch that very, very closely. A major new development. Thank you very much, Evan, for that report.
Now to the crisis in the Carolinas.
Tonight, the remains of Hurricane Florence have unleashed more rain on a region ravaged by flooding. At least 31 people are now dead, and forecasters are warning that the situation will get worse in the days ahead.
Let's go to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He's in Lumberton, North Carolina, for us.
Polo, hundreds have been rescued. The danger clearly isn't over. What are you seeing?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And over the weekend, Wolf, it was really a critical 24 hours for the people here in Lumberton.
A temporary levee was breached, sending floodwaters into many of the neighborhoods here in Lumberton, North Carolina. We should note most of them had been evacuated. For now, Mother Nature seems to be cooperating, a break in the clouds, allowing rescuers a chance to get their boats in the water and find those people who stayed behind.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Deadly and deep. Floodwaters are rushing through the Carolinas, as days of rainfall break 140-year records in some places, deaths continuing to mount, including 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch, whose body was found this morning. Police say the baby was swept out of his mother's arms as she tried to move fast-moving water Sunday.
EDDIE CATHEY, UNION COUNTY SHERIFF: She was a stranger to this community, driving through this road she did not know. The water forced her off the road and across an open field.
SANDOVAL: There are ongoing rescue efforts across the region, as water levels continue to rise. The Lumberton River invaded many neighborhoods still not yet recovered after Hurricane Matthew two years ago. Images shot by CNN show the devastation at ground level.
Dozens who thought they had survived the worst of Hurricane Florence now suddenly reliant on rescue workers as they leave their homes behind.
JOHN MCGUINESS, VOLUNTEER RESCUER: Some people say they have been praying for a while. Some people are crying. And some people are just like, thank you, lord, you know? SANDOVAL: Teams searching for survivors in submerged trucks and hovering above flooded homes to airlift citizens to safety. This woman was stranded in her house for days without medication.
One Myrtle Beach official tells CNN -- quote -- "We are slowly becoming an island," as some citizens tried to make their way through flooded roadways by car and even canoe.
REP. RICHARD HUDSON (R), NORTH CAROLINA: They're seeing 500-year- flood levels. This is not a matter of hours and days. It's a matter of weeks and months and maybe a year to fully recover from this storm.
SANDOVAL: Flood watches and warnings have now expanded to include 10 states and nearly 30 million people, all looking at the Carolinas for signs of what may be coming next.
SANDOVAL: And, tonight, those evacuations continue throughout the Carolinas, and so does the challenge of simply getting around, Wolf.
Access to some of these regions extremely difficult. You see, overnight the Lumber River, which is the source of all of this water, spilled on to I-95, a major interstate here. Until some of those water recede, portions of the interstate won't reopen.
BLITZER: Polo Sandoval reporting for us, Polo, thank you very much.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news that we are following.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has just scheduled a public hearing on decades-old sexual assault allegations against the U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Plus: President Trump's decision to declassify documents relating to the Russia investigation, we are learning new information.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The breaking news this hour. A hearing now scheduled for Monday morning in which Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will testify about the sexual assault allegation against him along with his accuser.
[18:33:42] Let's dig deeper with our specialists and our analysts, and Gloria Borger, looks like 10 a.m. Monday morning both will appear under oath in open session.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, must-see TV, I think.
The question I have, really, is how is it going to be done? And Ron Klain, who as you know used to work for Joe Biden and was an attorney working for him during the -- during the Hill hearings, the Anita Hill hearings tweeted something today that I thought was interesting.
And he said, "Both Democrats and Republicans should want professional, outside counsel to question Kavanaugh and Ford at a public hearing, not senators. Make this a search for the truth, not a political platform for senators of either party."
So I'm kind of -- I think it is a great idea, No. 1. He's been through it, and he knows what happened at the Anita Hill hearings. And I'm kind of wondering how the process is going to go, because the last thing you want to do is turn this into the kind of a circus where sides are making political points against each other when, in fact, you need to investigate a very serious allegation about somebody who could be confirmed for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.
I think they have to find a way to have some decorum and to get answers to questions that are not political but are rather just substantive and factual. And I think Ron's idea is a pretty good one.
BLITZER: It's a good point you're making.
BLITZER: I want to get Jeffrey Toobin to weigh in, as well. How do you see it playing out?
[18:35:17] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think Ron Klain has a characteristically excellent idea.
However, can you imagine all of these senators, including prospective presidential candidates like Corey Booker and Kamala Harris saying, "A hundred million people are going to be watching, but I think I'll let some lawyer ask the questions."
BORGER: Well --
TOOBIN: I mean, it would be -- I think it would be a good idea; and it is a high-risk proposition for these senators to risk looking like idiots. I mean, let's not forget Alan Simpson talking about Anita Hill's proclivities when he was asking her. Let's not forget Orrin Hatch waving a copy of "The Exorcist," as if she got the idea for Clarence Thomas's harassment of her out of a book.
TOOBIN: Senators can look terrible, but they have a hard time giving up the spotlight and, you know, I have my doubts about whether they're going to do it.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For the White House, this all is going to come down to credibility and who seems the most credible, because Kavanaugh struggled a little bit during his hearings, where they got really testy at some points. And that's going to be the question here, is does he respond in anger? How does he respond to these accusations which he has flatly denied, even of being at this party, anything with this woman. Not saying that he was there and he remembered things differently. He's completely denying even being there.
And as you heard from Senator Collins earlier, she said if he's lying that would be disqualifying for his nomination.
But of course, if this woman comes forward, she testifies publicly and she makes a very convincing argument, and people believe her, the White House is going to be in a really tough position there, because they know that they're not going to be able to get these people who are on the fence about voting for his nomination to confirm him anyway.
That's going to be a real problem for them, because then they will likely have to withdraw him if they can -- it's all going to come down to credibility and if she seems credible. The White House won't be able to do much about that.
BLITZER: David, go ahead.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, I would just say, look, I agree with Gloria 100 percent. This has a high likelihood of turning into a circus. The only problem I have with Ron Klain's suggestion there is that this is exactly the senators' Article I duty, to advise and consent to the president's nomination.
BORGER: So they can listen a little.
BORGER: And then advise and consent.
SWERDLICK: Right. I just think that it's sort of like if you are a U.S. senator and you can't avoid contributing to a circus atmosphere, what are you doing there as a United States senator?
SWERDLICK: It's not a criminal proceeding, so I don't know if I want to have cross-examination by lawyers.
TOOBIN: Can I just add one more thing? I mean, it's -- the issue is credibility, but it's not only credibility. It's also corroboration.
TOOBIN: There are other -- there is other evidence out there in the world that we need to hear.
Mike Judge, the colorful character who was alleged to be the other person in the room, his story needs to be explored. Ms. Ford says there were four women and two men at this party. Who were the four women? Whose house was it at? Why was she in a bathing suit? Was this a house with a pool? I mean, these are all facts that can be determined, that can help us discover what the facts are. I mean, you know, looking into people's eyes is actually not a great
way of determining who's telling the truth, but these are the days before e-mails. These are the days before cellphones, but there are also records involved where you can have corroboration or the absence of corroboration.
SWERDLICK: OK. But, Jeff -- Senator Graham is a military lawyer. Senator Harris is a former prosecutor. There are plenty of lawyers here who can do this if they don't want to grandstand.
BORGER: But they don't have all of the facts. I mean, this is what Jeffrey is saying.
TOOBIN: But you need investigators.
BORGER: You need investigators.
BORGER: You don't have all the facts. You're getting this together very quickly. Obviously, the Republicans want to do this sooner rather than later, but you need to have -- you need to try to get to the truth. You don't want to just have somebody sit there and say, "She seems more believable than he does."
BORGER: "He doesn't seem believable to me."
BLITZER: Usually --
BORGER: "I think she's more believable."
BLITZER: Usually, Kaitlan, there would be weeks and weeks of preparatory work before a high-profile hearing like this takes place.
COLLINS: Exactly, and now they've less than a week before this is going to happen.
And corroboration is important, and that is what a lot of people are going to look for. But the credibility. Senator Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski will not be able to vote yes on him as a nominee if this woman comes forward and gives a very compelling, credible-seeming testimony there, because then we're in the middle of the #MeToo movement; and these women voters who are going to the polls are going to decide if these women, and the red-state Democrats, these people on the fence stay in office -- are going to be paying attention to what happens whenever she testifies on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: All right. There's a lot more that we -- we have coming up. Also, what does the president hope to accomplish now by declassifying lots of documents connected to the Russia investigation? We're going to talk about that.
[18:40:00] And also talk about the new timing of Michael Flynn's sentencing in the Russia probe after multiple delays.
BLITZER: We're back with our analysts. We're following the breaking news in the Russia investigation right now. President Trump ordering the release of classified documents and texts.
And Gloria, what is he hoping to reveal by the release of all these documents right now?
BORGER: Well, look, I think what the president believes very, very strongly is that this is an investigation that was started by people who were out to get him, and I don't have to use the phrase "witch hunt."
I think it's familiar to all of you. And what he wants to do is show by releasing these things, which is that people were biased against him and wanted to get him and he wants to prove it.
And, therefore, he can prove that the Mueller investigation was tainted from day one and therefore, you know, disqualify it even more. I think that's what this is about.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Because in the document that the White House released, and you saw it, Kaitlan, the president specifically asking for the unredacted, unredacted text messages from people that he clearly doesn't like, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, all of whom he has gone after.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: People who he's fired or threatened to remove their security clearances or tweeted disparaging comments about them. Yes, he does want to do exactly that. He wants to expose their bias and show they were out to get them, or show they believe it is still unsubstantiated, that they did surveil Carter Page, that former aide of his. That's exactly they're hoping to do.
And it wasn't just the president who wanted this released. It's his allies over on Capitol Hill as well who have been pressuring him to get the DOJ to release these, and the director of national intelligence. We should note that they're not coming out today. They're going through the formal process of being declassified. But to have them unredact, that is a very keyword. We are going to read these text messages between the FBI director. It's going to be really something I think.
BLITZER: Yes. Jeffrey, the president has the authority. He can declassify anything he wants.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: He could declassify the -- how to make an atomic bomb. I mean, he's got plenary authority to declassify anything he wants.
But let's be clear what is going on here. The president is doing nothing to reveal what went on when the Russian government tried to determine the outcome of our election. He has done nothing but obstruct that investigation. But what he has done is used selective powers to pursue his political enemies, to try to discredit the investigation.
I mean, it is the most appalling obstruction of justice in a colloquial sense, not a legal sense. But let's just be clear, this is a use of declassification to punish his political enemies, and he has done nothing to try to stop the interference in our elections by the Russian government.
BLITZER: You know, David Swerdlick, this is a big deal, these documents that are about to be released.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think so. And we may learn something new, but I do think a lot of this is about reviving a discussion that we've already been having in recent months about, as Gloria and Kaitlan said, the president wanting to frame this as a witch hunt and that people inside the intelligence community were out to get him. To the extent that this is about -- it is not all about Carter Page, but to the extent it is about the Carter Page FISA warrant, I think Republicans have had a good argument all along that information in the FISA warrant application should have been made more clear, the source of it.
But Democrats have strangely done a poor job of pointing out that the warrant did not rely solely on the infamous dossier information. I don't know what else new is going to come out of this.
COLLINS: -- also incorrectly argued that it was that surveillance of Carter Page that triggered the beginning of the Russia investigation.
BORGER: Which it did not.
COLLINS: Which is not true. It had to do with George Papadopoulos, who pled guilty. So, that's also something important. The president has really tried to make the case it is illegal and he has really fudged the facts while he tried to make that case publicly. But he'll be able to pick and choose from this, the text messages that he believes are most unflattering of the FBI and tweet them out.
BORGER: This is like revenge. This is total revenge. He hates these people.
The photographs you just showed are his rogue's gallery of people he believes are out to get them and he's thrilled he fired James Comey as he has told all of us. And this is the person using his authority for personal revenge, and, you know, some would argue it is an abuse of his authority to do this.
COLLINS: But one thing we should note that the White House is hoping here is that there will be those text messages, those things in the documents that do show they were either biased against the president or didn't like the president or made any kind of disparaging remark about him, because the White House will be able to use it effectively to say that they are right, there are people in the higher rankings of the FBI and DOJ that are biased against the president.
SWERDLICK: They want that --
TOOBIN: Meanwhile --
BORGER: Meanwhile the Russia investigation --
TOOBIN: Meanwhile, the Russians continue to try to interfere in our elections.
TOOBIN: And continue to try to manipulate the outcomes, and we don't care about that. We just want to trash James Comey and Bruce Ohr, a lawyer nobody has ever heard of. I mean, it is just insane what's going on here.
BLITZER: We'll follow all of this. Obviously it is extraordinary, by the way, to release any documents involving the FISA court.
BORGER: Of course.
BLITZER: That's amazing. Everybody, stick around.
BORGER: And members of Congress looked at it and said it was fine.
[18:50:00] SWERDLICK: Yes, this is a rerun. This is a rerun.
BLITZER: Guys, don't go too far away. There's more breaking news that's coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
The nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, they are getting ready to appear at a public hearing on Monday.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the allegations threatening Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. The judge and the woman accusing him of past sexual assault are now set to testify in public one week from today before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
[18:55:07] They'll both be testifying under oath.
Joining us now, someone who's very familiar with scandal here in Washington, the former independent counsel Ken Starr. He's the author of a brand new book entitled, there you see the cover, "Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation".
Judge Starr, thanks very much for joining us.
KEN STARR, AUTHOR, "CONTEMPT: A MEMOIR OF THE CLINTON INVESTIGATION": Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: All right. So, you worked with Brett Kavanaugh for, what, about four years?
BLITZER: When you were the independent council investigating Bill Clinton, he was on your staff.
BLITZER: What's your reaction to the fact that now he has to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee and testify on these allegations?
STARR: Well, it's a grave misfortune, but it is what it is, we march forward. I have complete confidence in Brett Kavanaugh's integrity, and there's been such an outpouring of support for him in terms of his integrity, his character, in very over decades here in Washington, D.C. So, I think a great cloud of witnesses is gathering around Brett, I'm sorry, Judge Kavanaugh, to say this person is a person of great integrity and character.
But we will now have a public hearing. But I will say this, the allegations and I'm making no comment about the accuser, but the allegations are just so out of character with those of us who know Brett and admire him.
BLITZER: But someone is lying here. Some -- either the accuser, the woman, who was 15 years old, he was 17 years old, they were both in high school. One of them is not telling the truth, and they'll both be under oath if they lie before the committee. That's perjury.
STARR: That's exactly right. And I say in the book, perjury is very serious, to put it mildly. We do not want to go flew an impeachment process again in this country is one of the lessons I try to share. But I think this is necessary. I was very pleased to see that Judge Kavanaugh said, I'm prepared to testify, at least that's what he said today or tomorrow.
So, I think he's eager to address these issues, and I think he will address them very effectively.
BLITZER: Christine Ford, the accuser, a professor out in California, she says that she's made available to "The Washington Post" the notes that her therapist took back in 2012 in which for the first time she talked about this incident which she says had such a searing impact on her life.
STARR: Well, these kinds of episodes, obviously, are very serious. The question is, was the person involved Brett Kavanaugh, and he says that he was not. So, one can pay the deepest respect to the accuser. But then say, but are you sure you have identified the correct witness, I think that's what this is all going to be about.
But I really want to reemphasize the outpouring of character witnesses for Brett Kavanaugh. And here in Washington, D.C., in these very high profile positions, and many of those women who was very eloquent I thought Brett in his confirmation hearing about his going the extra mile to make sure that women had an opportunity in these chambers. All of those law clerks over all of those years have not said anything other than the most flattering things of his character.
BLITZER: She says he was drunk at the time and maybe that would explain why he doesn't remember anything.
STARR: Well, again, we haven't -- now I'm gathering there's an issue as to whether he was even there.
Let the record show, false identification, not accusing her of false identification, mistaken identification happens every single day. Happily, we do not have to depend on that in the Clinton investigation. There was documentary evidence and so forth. But witness' recollection can be faulty.
BLITZER: This could be a spectacle Monday morning 10:00 a.m., when both of them appear separately before the committee.
STARR: I thought the suggestion made in the prior segment that you have lawyers do the questioning and then the response, the senators won't allow that to happen. But that did happen in Watergate when you have very skilled lawyers, Sam Dash who served, I talk about Sam a lot in my book and Fred Thompson on the minority side, on the Republican side. I think those hearings accomplished a lot.
BLITZER: On the book, as far as "Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation", you believe there are lessons learned during what, seven or eight years investigating Bill Clinton that are applicable today.
STARR: Not that many, but yes, many lessons, there are echoes of the past, and one is impeachment is a nonstarter. Don't go there. Because it's going to take a two thirds majority that was very wisely done on this Constitution Day, this is the day that the delegates emerged in Philadelphia. Don't go there, it's a disaster for the country.
BLITZER: Well, if the Democrats are the majority in the House of Representatives, they may go there as you well know.
STARR: This is a warning. Please don't go there for the sake of the country.
BLITZER: The book is entitled, "Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation" by Ken Starr.
Ken Starr, thanks very much for coming in.
STARR: Thank you, Wolf. I appreciate it.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.