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Mixed Signals Over Whether Rosenstein Is Leaving; Kavanaugh Defends Himself Against Allegations. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 24, 2018 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much.

[17:00:05] Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. You're fired. Or not. After a day of confusion as to whether he might resign or be fired, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, will meet with President Trump Thursday. Will Rosenstein stay or will he go?

Crisis of confidence. As the president considers firing the man who oversees Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, a key Republican warns against such a move. What would be the ripple effects in Washington of firing Rosenstein?

"I'm not going anywhere." As the second woman accuses him of sexual misconduct, the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, lashes out against what he calls smears and says he's not going anywhere. But his first accuser, who alleges a sexual assault in high school, explains why she's not going anywhere.

And second summit. At the United Nations, President Trump predicts he'll have a second summit, quote, "quite soon" with Kim Jong-un, who he calls terrific. But his CIA director is warning that it will be very difficult to get the North Korean dictator to give up his nukes.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. New questions tonight about the fate of the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

After conflicting signals as to whether he would resign or be fired, Rosenstein is set now to meet with President Trump Thursday about reports that he once discussed secretly recording the president.

Also breaking, a woman who alleges Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school, writes to the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, saying fear and death threats won't keep her from testifying.

Kavanaugh slams what he calls character assassination as a second woman now alleges inappropriate sexual behavior, this time in college. I'll speak with Congressman Joaquin Castro of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. And our correspondents and specialists are all standing by with full coverage.

Let's begin with our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, there are some mixed signals going on. Is Rod Rosenstein staying or leaving?


The White House is pushing back on reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is on his way out the door, at least for now. Rosenstein thought he was going to be fired over all of this earlier today, but the president is speaking about his deputy attorney general very carefully, a sign that the White House and the president both know that firing Rosenstein right now could have severe consequences.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Arriving at the United Nations, where he likes to throw his weight around with world leaders, President Trump is treating one matter delicately. That is whether to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think it's a very sad story. And people are obviously -- we are looking into it. But it's a very sad state of affairs when something like that can happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You must be unsettled about it.

TRUMP: I'm not unsettled about anything.

ACOSTA: Amid revelations Rosenstein once talked of recording the president and removing Mr. Trump from office using the 25th Amendment the deputy attorney general paid a visit to the White House this morning, with reports swirling he was on his way out.

CNN has learned Rosenstein talked about those revelations with top White House officials over the weekend. He has denied the allegations, a denial he'll have the chance to repeat to the president on Thursday.

TRUMP: I'm meeting with Rod Rosenstein on Thursday, when I get back from all of these meetings. And we'll be meeting at the White House. And we'll be determining what's going on. We want to have transparency. We want to have openness. And I look forward to meeting with Rod at that time.

ACOSTA: Advisers to the president seem to disagree on how to respond to the Rosenstein story, with some warning Mr. Trump that firing the deputy attorney general could have unintended consequences. But the president's outside attorney, Jay Sekulow, argued Rosenstein's departure could lead to a pause in the Russia investigation. JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I think it's really important

that there be a step back taken here, and a review. And basically, a time-out on this inquiry.

ACOSTA: It's a tricky decision for the president, as Rosenstein oversees the special counsel's Russia probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself in the investigation. At a speech in Alabama, Sessions seemed to hint that perhaps the chess pieces were in motion.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Going back to Washington, you never know what's going to happen next in the capital city. That's for sure.

ACOSTA: Rosenstein is no stranger to criticism of how he's handled his job, as he described earlier this year.

[17:05:02] ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The dictionary defines piling on as joining other people in criticizing someone, usually in an unfair manner. I also have experience with that.

ACOSTA: But it's unclear how far Rosenstein's alleged talk of the 25th Amendment even traveled. Both U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say they never heard the subject come up.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I'm not aware of any cabinet members that are even talking about that. It is completely and totally absurd. No one is questioning the president at all. If anything, we're trying to keep up the pace with him in the fact that he's got a lot he wants to accomplish very quickly. And we're going to continue to support him in the way that he does that.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: So you can now report there are two senior leaders that have said that your statement -- your question was ludicrous.

ACOSTA (on camera): If it's so ludicrous, why did the deputy attorney general have discussions about it behind the scenes?

POMPEO: I find -- I find the question ludicrous. I've been involved. I've been at the center of this administration along with lots of other folks for -- from virtually day one. I think it was actually day three or four. I've never heard anyone talk about it, whisper about it, joke about it in any way.


ACOSTA: Now, a senior Republican congressional aide told me earlier today, Wolf, that right now firing Rosenstein would throw the midterm elections into chaos and energize Democrats at a time when Democrats are very motivated to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

The president was apparently advised of that scenario over the weekend, and Wolf, for now it seems, according to people close to the president, he is listening to that advice -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. A good report. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta in New York with the president.

Let's dig deeper right now. Our justice correspondent Evan Perez is with us. Our justice reporter Laura Jarrett, as well.

Laura, what have you learned, first of all, about Rosenstein's state of mind right now?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was chaos and confusion earlier over here today at the Justice Department as officials were prepared for the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, to get fired by the president. But that did not happen.

It all, of course, began on Friday with that explosive "New York Times" reporting; led to conversations, we're told, over the weekend, where the deputy attorney general did discuss with White House officials about potentially resigning. But they couldn't get the details worked out. He wanted to do it on his own terms. He really cared about the timing, we're told.

But the White House couldn't get on board. And so we're told today, Wolf, he went into the White House, to that meeting with John Kelly, expecting to get fired. But, of course, that is not what happened. And it appears he really overestimated, if you will, how angry Trump was about that explosive story in the "New York Times." Sources telling my colleague, Kaitlan Collins, that really, Trump was skeptical of the story, because of the involvement of the former deputy FBI director, Andrew McCabe. And he doesn't trust McCabe. And so therefore, he discounted the story.

But, of course, Rosenstein didn't see it that way, Wolf, prepared to see the door.

BLITZER: If he's fired, Rosenstein, or if he resigns, what's the likely impact on the whole Russia investigation?

JARRETT: Well, Wolf, it's interesting. You know, there is a succession plan in place here. We often forget, justice officials had to dust it off today, prepared that Noel Francisco, the solicitor general, who argues cases before the Supreme Court, would take the reins. He would become the acting attorney general. But just for purposes of the Mueller investigation. He would still remain as solicitor general.

He is someone who's a known quantity within conservative legal circles. He's very close to Don McGahn, White House counsel. He also worked in the George W. Bush White House. He also worked at Jones Day with McGahn. So he's someone who is very well-known, very well- respected. And if, for whatever reason -- we're still not there yet -- but if we came to that point where the -- Rosenstein was out, Wolf, then Francisco would take the reins, I should say.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Evan, the president's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, suggested today that there be a pause in the whole Russia investigation if Rosenstein goes one way or another. Is that likely? If he goes, would there be a time-out, as he suggested?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there would be a natural pause if you have someone new coming in. It would take that person some time. In this case, Noel Francisco. It would take time for him to get read in on exactly where this investigation is going. And I think you would see, certainly, at least an informal pause.

I think what Jay Sekulow is pointing to is a broader issue. He wants for there to be sort of an investigation of the investigation behind the scenes at the Justice Department. He, as the president has said, he has a lot of distrust about how this investigation began. He thinks that there's a lot of improprieties that were done by the FBI and the Justice Department that need to be looked into. So I think that's what Jay Sekulow is talking about. I don't know that he'd get that.

[17:10:00] I think -- look, I think for -- the problem for everybody involved here is Rod Rosenstein is coming. I think he was expecting, certainly, to be either fired or to resign after the midterms. For it to have come today, I think was a huge surprise to everybody. And it would have been a huge problem.

I think that's the reason why you see Jay Sekulow going out there and sort of almost trying to hit the pause button, because I think he also understands that Rod Rosenstein being -- departing now would cause a whole set of new questions to arise about this investigation and about the president.

BLITZER: Well, you think there's a possibility between now and Thursday, Mueller could go ahead and issue some indictments?

PEREZ: Look, I think we do know -- we do know that there's still a lot of parts of this investigation that are in the works. And so it may very well be that Mueller has indictments that are planned between now and Thursday. Or certainly in the next -- in the next few weeks.

But, Wolf, I mean, I think everybody has been looking for the midterms. And certainly, after the midterms. I think even the president's lawyers believe that they are this close to the end of what Mueller is doing.

And so I think the president's lawyers would prefer for everything to just calm down and nothing to -- nobody to get fired while that happens.

BLITZER: Evan, thank you very much.

Laura, thanks to you, as well.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He's a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Do you see today's developments as the beginning of what some are describing as a potential Saturday Night Massacre? REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Yes, I mean, really from the

beginning of the president's term and when Rod Rosenstein took over the Russia investigation or overseeing the Russia investigation, it's kind of felt like a slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre.

And remember, there's basically two ways that President Trump can affect what happens to Bob Mueller in the investigation. No. 1, he can somehow get rid of Jeff Sessions. And that's why you've seen him basically bully Jeff Sessions almost from the beginning. And to now, Jeff Sessions has resisted any pressure to leave.

And the other way is to get rid of Rod Rosenstein. And this week we're seeing an intensifying effort there.

But it really speaks to the need of the Congress to step up and protect Bob Mueller and his investigation. And we should be able to get off the sidelines and do that.

BLITZER: That's unlikely, at least in the short-term, to happen. I know you guys have been pushing for it for a long time.

And as you just heard, the president's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, already is calling for a time-out -- his words, time-out -- on the Mueller investigation if Rosenstein resigns or is fired. What would you do to protect Mueller's work, if that were to happen?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, I think right now, it seems like you have a natural time-out. Because I don't suspect you're going to see much more activity between now and the midterm elections. So this is kind of like a natural time-out. I believe because Bob Mueller is trying to not be perceived as putting his thumb on the scale in the next elections.

But, look, as long as Bob Mueller is able to do his investigation and whomever he's reporting to at the Justice Department is not interfering with that investigation or pressuring him to speed up his time line or to have certain findings, then we should be OK.

BLITZER: What do you hope to see from Rosenstein when he meets with President Trump at the White House on Thursday?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, what was interesting is there is conflicting reporting about how serious he was when he made these comments. Whether it was made in jest or whether he was actually serious about it. So I suspect they're going to have a conversation and hash that out. And, you know, and make a determination about -- about whether Rod Rosenstein is going to stay in that place.

BLITZER: Why do you think the president is dragging his feet on making this decision, that bombshell article, as you point out, that that was posted on Friday?

CASTRO: Because I think he knows and even folks like Sean Hannity on FOX News understand that the president has been badgering both Rosenstein and Sessions, and in an effort to affect the Mueller investigation; and the president understands there could be consequences with the Congress. And if not this Congress, then certainly a new Congress that may come in, in January.

BLITZER: Let's turn to a different controversy right now, Congressman. President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, he sat down with FOX News to respond to the second allegation now against them. Watch this.


BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I'm not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process. And, you know, we're looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend the -- my integrity, my lifelong record. My lifelong record of promoting dignity and equality for women, starting with the women who knew me when I was 14 years old. I'm not going anywhere.


BLITZER: He was sitting there with his wife. What's your reaction?

[17:15:00] CASTRO: Well, I don't -- I haven't heard anybody say that he shouldn't have an opportunity to defend himself against these claims. But also, that the women who were making these claims should have the ability and the right to present their case and give a detailed account about what happened in front of the United States Senate. And that before that, that the FBI should do a proper investigation to interview witnesses in these cases and make an assessment of what happened. And that's essentially all that's been asked for at this point.

BLITZER: Congressman Castro, thanks so much for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, we'll have more on the breaking news. Why isn't President Trump saying one way or another if he'll fire the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein? Does he have a reason for letting this drama play out?

And the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, lashing out at what he calls smears, saying he's not going anywhere. But one of his accusers explains why she came forward, making it clear, she's also not going anywhere.


[17:20:18] BLITZER: The embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says he's not going anywhere. In a new interview, he's lashing out at what he calls character assassination and vowing to defend himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee.


BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I was never at any such party. The other people who are alleged to be present have said they do not remember any such party. A woman who was present, another woman who was present, who is Dr. Ford's lifelong friend, has said she doesn't know me and never remembers being at a party with me at any time in her life.


BLITZER: But Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, makes it clear, she's also not going anywhere, saying fear won't keep her from testifying about her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both high school students.

And a second woman now alleges inappropriate sexual behavior by Kavanaugh, this time in college.

Let's go to our CNN congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty. She's up on Capitol Hill.

So what's the latest there, Sunlen?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Brett Kavanaugh and his allies both in the White House and up here on Capitol Hill certainly are fighting back very forcefully tonight. Brett Kavanaugh saying he's ready and prepared to testify on Thursday, saying, quote, "I'm not going anywhere."

And Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, taking to the Senate floor earlier today, saying that Kavanaugh will receive an up or down vote on the Senate floor in the near future.


SUNLEN (voice-over): Tonight, as new allegations threaten embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, he's digging in.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did you guys ever look at each other and say, "I'm out. This is enough. This just isn't worth it"?

KAVANAUGH: I'm not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process. And, you know, we're looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend the -- my integrity and my lifelong record, my lifelong record of promoting dignity and equality for women, starting with the women who knew me when I was 14 years old. I'm not going anywhere.

SERFATY: And in a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Kavanaugh says, "I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process."

Kavanaugh's forceful message comes as a second woman has now come forward, alleging sexual misconduct. Deborah Ramirez, Kavanaugh's former classmate at Yale, telling "The New Yorker" that at a party in a dorm room in the early '80s, Kavanaugh exposed himself to her.

"Brett was laughing," Ramirez told "The New Yorker." "I can still see his face and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants."

CNN has not spoken to anyone so far who is willing to corroborate Ramirez's story. And Kavanaugh denies the allegations, calling them "smears, pure and simple," in the letter to Congress today, with top Republican leaders on Capitol Hill renewing their push to move forward.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Even by the far-left standards, this shameful, shameful smear campaign has hit a new low.

SERFATY: President Trump is standing by Kavanaugh --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a chance that this could be one of the single most, unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything. But I am with Judge Kavanaugh.

SERFATY: -- dismissing the allegations after White House officials huddled with Kavanaugh over the weekend.

TRUMP: For people to come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago and 30 years ago and never mentioned it, all of a sudden it happens? In my opinion, it's totally political.

SERFATY: That argument echoed today from White House officials attempting to poke holes in the report.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: This is starting to feel like a vast left-wing conspiracy. "The New York Times" says that they interviewed dozens -- Nora, dozens of people over the last couple of weeks, trying to verify this second accusation, and they couldn't go forward with the reporting. Not because they are supportive of President Trump's Supreme Court nominees, but because they have some standards.

SERFATY: Ronan Farrow, one of the authors of "The New Yorker" report, today pushing back, defending his reporting.

RONAN FARROW, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORKER": We did receive, however, several direct accounts from people who said they were told right after or saw her describing it right after. And who, independently of Miss Ramirez, recounted the same fact pattern about Brett Kavanaugh doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe Dr. Ford! We believe Anita Hill! We believe Debbie Ramirez!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe Dr. Ford! We believe Anita Hill! We believe Debbie Ramirez!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe Dr. Ford! We believe Anita Hill! We believe Debbie Ramirez!

SERFATY: The new allegations are reenergizing the protests on Capitol Hill.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committees says he'll look into the allegations, but Thursday's hearing with Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh is still on, intensifying the pressure on Republican swing votes like Susan Collins. [17:25:11] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When 15-year-old Christine tried to

scream, her attacker covered her mouth, so no one could hear her. Will Susan Collins listen to her now?

SERFATY: On and off Capitol Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has she made a decision about how she will vote on Kavanaugh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is calling -- she's calling for more information, more hearings -- and I know there are hearings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has enough information. He's a sexual predator.


SERFATY: And a personal letter was just released, written by Christine Blasey Ford and sent directly to Chairman Grassley. That was a letter she sent to him over the weekend. And in that letter, she says her only motivation to come forward is to get to the truth. And she says while she is indeed frightened to testify, she says that will not hold her back from testifying.

Meantime, you also have Brett Kavanaugh and his wife sitting down for that joint interview with FOX News this evening, all of this certainly quite the backdrop, Wolf, for that high-stakes hearing on Thursday.

BLITZER: Yes, the drama clearly intense.

All right. Sunlen, thanks very much.

Our political and legal analysts are here. Guys, I want you to stand by for a moment. We have lots to discuss. There's new information coming in. We'll be right back.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're here with our legal and political experts as we follow multiple breaking stories, including President Trump this afternoon confirming he will meet with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, over at the White House this Thursday. The president says he's looking forward to it, because -- and I'm quoting him now -- "We want to have transparency."

[17:31:13] Gloria Borger, he's still the deputy attorney general.


BLITZER: Rod Rosenstein. But give us a little bit of this dramatic back and forth today.

BORGER: Well, it was -- it was chaotic. And I think some of the best reporting has come from Laura Jarrett and Kaitlan Collins, one from the Justice Department and one from the White House, to say, you know, "Look, perhaps Rosenstein got a little out over his skis on this." That on Friday after the "New York Times" story appeared, he expected to be fired by the president. I mean, wouldn't you? OK.

And then there were -- the president was not happy, but there were lots of conservatives saying, "No, no, no, no, no. This is not the time to fire Rod Rosenstein. You should not be doing this now."

And we reported here on Friday that there were Republicans saying to him, "You don't want to mix up the Kavanaugh story with, you know, with the Rosenstein story. Just hold your fire. And you also have the Mueller investigation. This isn't going to help anything."

Rosenstein thought he was going to be fired. Perhaps he drafted -- perhaps he drafted some kind of letter. We don't know. Spoke with Kelly, went over there, expecting to be fired, and he wasn't fired. And the president was in New York. And so they spoke over the telephone. They agreed to meet on Thursday.

You know, we should say that it's been a relationship that's been fraught. The president hasn't liked the fact that he appointed Bob Mueller, a special counsel. They've been getting along better lately. So who knows? Who knows what could happen?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Better than zero. You know what? This marriage cannot be saved. You know --

BORGER: That's right. In the long term. In the long term. They're having counseling now. And, yes --

TOOBIN: That's nice.

BORGER: That's right.

BLITZER: But the marriage between Sessions and the president not so good either.

TOOBIN: Not so -- well, I don't think there is any doubt that the president is going to clean house at the Justice Department --

BORGER: Exactly.

TOOBIN: -- like the moment the polls close on election day. Sessions is gone. It probably is likely that Rosenstein is gone.

And this matters, because Rosenstein has been the protector of the independence of Robert Mueller. And if Rosenstein is gone and some puppet is put in there who will limit or eliminate the Mueller investigation, that has historic consequences.

BORGER: Exactly.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, look. We know the line of succession as it relates to Justice Department protocol, which is the solicitor general, Noel Francisco, becomes the person who oversees it, if -- he was an attorney for a firm that represented some Donald Trump's -- Donald Trump during the campaign. Possible he recuses himself? Now we're going way down the chain. But then the head of the office of legal counsel would be in charge of this.

But here's what we know, and to Jeff's point. We know for a fact, because he has said it under oath and he has said it publicly many times. Rod Rosenstein believes there is zero reason to remove Robert Mueller, unless there is some sort of demonstrated crime or something big that has gone wrong. Barring that, he's not getting rid of him.

We just don't know that about these other people. Now, maybe that's where they fall. But, again, we -- so you're taking a sure thing in Rod Rosenstein, who has stood up to Donald Trump, and you're replacing it with something that's a question mark.

BORGER: Right.

CILLIZZA: And when you were dealing with the fact that he is already -- we know he -- how he feels about Jeff Sessions. He has already fired James Comey. He runs down the Justice Department and believes there's a deep state. The context there is rightly --

BLITZER: Sabrina Siddiqui, it's interesting that Jay Sekulow, one of the president's private attorneys, today was on his radio show, saying that if Rosenstein is gone, there should be a, quote, "time-out" from the entire Russia probe.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": And the president and his legal team have been laying the groundwork for this moment for months. The entire strategy has been centered on discrediting the work of the FBI and of Robert Mueller and his investigation.

And it's important to recall that Rod Rosenstein is very much the gatekeeper of that investigation. He not only oversees it, but many of Mueller's major investigative decisions have to be run through Rosenstein.

[17:35:12] And we don't know how Noel Francisco would approach the investigation if he would allow it to proceed unimpeded, as Rosenstein has done. But he could very well slow-walk these requests and essentially grind the investigation to a halt.

But it's also important to always recall that there are seven people who are either associates of Trump or former members of his campaign who are cooperating with the special counsel, and that has not changed.

BORGER: Noel Francisco, the solicitor general --


BORGER: -- who would take over, presumably, if he's not conflicted, is very conservative. I mean, there's -- you know, there's no doubt about it. He may be more conservative than Rod Rosenstein, for all we know. But it does put a chink in sort of -- they're moving along. The Mueller investigation is moving along. I think Rod Rosenstein would probably like to see it through. But we don't know whether that is fated --

CILLIZZA: I mean --

BORGER: -- not to happen. And we know how the president feels about it.


BORGER: So particularly after Cohen's office was raided, his lawyer's office was raided, that was it. I thought he was going to be done before then.

TOOBIN: What's this business about a time-out? That's not going to happen. You know, they're working. I mean, this is their job.

BORGER: And they're proceeding.

TOOBIN: And they're proceeding. Like, you know, I know Jay Sekulow would like a time-out forever. But --

CILLIZZA: Well, but it was also -- "We need to hurry up, because it can't come after dates certain, because it impacts the election." And now it's, "Well, we need a time-out."

BORGER: Well --

CILLIZZA: The one thing -- the other comparison I'll make, Gloria, I was thinking of this. It's like you have a baseball manager. They get rid of that manager. You bring in a new guy who's never managed before. He might be the greatest manager ever for your interests. You just don't -- you have no way of knowing.

That's sort of where we are. We just don't know. We know the basics, as Gloria said. He's a solicitor general in the Trump administration. I mean, that would suggest he's pretty conservative. We just don't know how he would come down on this when we know what we get out of Rosenstein.

BLITZER: We've got to take a time-out.

TOOBIN: Time out. Timeout.

BLITZER: For one quick moment. Everybody stand by. I want to ask you about the other breaking news we're following right now in the confirmation fight over the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, including the new interview where he insists the allegations against him are false and declares -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I'm not going anywhere."


BLITZER: Let's get back to our legal and political experts. And Gloria, I want you to listen to this clip. This is Judge Kavanaugh on FOX, defending his record.


BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I'm not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process. And, you know, we're looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend the -- my integrity, my lifelong record. My lifelong record of promoting dignity and equality for women, starting with the women who knew me when I was 14 years old. I'm not going anywhere.


BLITZER: It's pretty extraordinary. I've covered a lot of Supreme Court nominees, the confirmation process. To do a TV interview just before a scheduled vote.

BORGER: Right. He also seemed quite emotional in that clip. It is -- it is extraordinary.

And I was talking to a smart Republican today, and I said, "Why is he doing this? Because doesn't it make him look desperate?"

And the answer was, "No. We want -- he wanted to do it. And it stiffens the backbone of Republicans." And perhaps they're worried that some Republicans may be tempted to wander. And so that's why --

TOOBIN: Wait a second. FOX News? Really?

BORGER: Well --

TOOBIN: I mean, you know, that's where Supreme Court justices are now expected to appear? I mean, I just think -- you know, there is at least the nominal appearance of nonpartisanship that's usually required of Supreme Court justices. To go on Republican television and, you know --

BORGER: But just to go on television is strange.

TOOBIN: Well, I know, but go on "The Today Show." Go on, you know, "20/20" or something. But to go on the Republican network, I think, is pretty unusual -- is even more weird.

CILLIZZA: But I think what you've seen -- you've seen this from McConnell today on the Senate floor. You saw it in a quote from Orrin Hatch that I won't repeat, but you can look up, regarding Kavanaugh. You see it with this. You see it with Kavanaugh's letter to Grassley and Feinstein. It's essentially, "This isn't about me. This is about Senate Democrats playing politics. This isn't about Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez. This is about --"

BORGER: A smear.

CILLIZZA: Dianne -- a smear. "Dianne Feinstein and the rest of the Democrats trying to get us back" -- they won't say this, but for Merrick Garland.

I will say, I think it's a little disingenuous of Mitch McConnell to go on the Senate floor and condemn these tactics and this process when Merrick Garland was -- there were 238 days between the day Merrick Garland was nominated and the 2016 election. That's almost eight months. They never held any hearings. The fact is, they both play politics here.

And these -- I think to lump these accusations into just politics, it unnecessarily and, I think, wrongly lessens them. And that we should hear.

TOOBIN: And he said he wants to tell the story.


TOOBIN: He's going to tell his story. That's appropriate.

SIDDIQUI: And very clear that Republicans are going on offense, and they want to move forward with this as swiftly as possible. They want to put this behind them. They don't want to prolong this process with the potential that there are other allegations that might come out.

But it's also important to remember that we're heading into the midterm elections, and we don't know what the backlash might -- backlash might look like if they do confirm Kavanaugh, because the climate has changed. And we have had this moment of reckoning, where the standards for what is acceptable behavior toward women has changed.

And so we'll see, of course, how women respond at the polls. But they are certainly gambling and they are playing with fire with respect to going on offense here.


BLITZER: And you notice, all of us notice, that the optics, Judge Kavanaugh sitting there in this interview with his wife.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, you know. And she seemed, you know, by her facial expression, like she was disgusted by the whole thing and didn't -- you know, was upset about it, as you can completely understand.

Now, I don't know if he spoke with her, if -- sorry, if Martha MacCallum spoke with her in the interview. We'll have to see. But this is difficult for them to go through. I mean, we all understand that.

But it's different for Dr. Ford. It's difficult for Ramirez to do. It's a difficult situation. Merrick Garland was a difficult situation.


BORGER: We live in a different world than we lived in when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by -- what?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Ninety-six to three, I believe.

BORGER: With 96 to three.


BORGER: Even Sonia Sotomayor was --

TOOBIN: Well, she was --

BORGER: It was three --

TOOBIN: By then, we have gotten to the 60s. And Elena Kagan, same thing.

BORGER: Same thing, but it's --

TOOBIN: And then Neil Gorsuch in the 50s.

BORGER: Right.


BORGER: So we've, you know, gone like this and so we're living in a completely different environment now.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's much more we're following, including the President of the United States now predicting he'll soon have a second summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. But will Kim get rid of his missiles, his nuclear weapons? Stick around. We'll be right back.


[17:51:06] BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump is predicting he'll have a second summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un quite soon. Today, in New York, South Korea's President conveyed a message -- a new message from the North Korean dictator. Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, what is the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the President and his team are saying that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will soon head to Pyongyang to work out the details of a second summit.

The President is now expressing a lot of confidence in his personal dynamic with Kim Jong-un, but the promise of another meeting also brings a lot more pressure to move the needle on Kim's nuclear arsenal.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're making tremendous progress. Chairman Kim has been really very open and terrific, frankly.

TODD (voice-over): President Trump, tonight, banking that his personal relationship with Kim Jong-un will kick-start the effort to get the young dictator to give up his nuclear weapons. The President, today, making a dramatic announcement.

TRUMP: We will be having a second summit in the not-too-distant future.

TODD (voice-over): This isn't the first time he has made the promise of a second summit.

In August, the Trump team hinted strongly that a second meeting could come soon but talks broke down. A planned trip by Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang was cancelled by President Trump.

Since then, North Korea has returned American remains from the Korean War and the South Koreans have pushed for more peaceful dialogue.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Make no mistake about it. The conversations that we're having are important. They're putting the opportunity to complete the denuclearization in place.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, veteran diplomats and security experts are divided, some saying Kim has done little to earn a second meeting with the President.

JOSEPH YUN, FORMER UNITED STATES SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: On the key issue of denuclearization, there has been no progress. Rather, all indications are that they are continuing producing nuclear material.

TODD (voice-over): There are strong indications that since their June 12th summit in Singapore, Kim's regime has produced more fissile material for nuclear bombs.

The North Koreans haven't turned over any significant inventory of the weapons and facilities they have, and they failed to commit to letting U.N. weapons inspectors into the country.

President Trump's own CIA Director spoke today of how tough it will be to get the dictator to give up his nuclear arsenal.

GINA HASPEL, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: They have stated that they believe it is essential to their regime's survival, so I believe that the North Koreans view that their capability is leverage. And I don't think that they want to give it up easily.

TODD (voice-over): Still, top U.S. officials tell CNN it's the two leaders themselves who will have to close the deal. And some analysts believe now is precisely the time to engage again with Kim.

PATRICK CRONIN, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC SECURITY PROGRAM, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: They have to do it at this point because they are, right now, in the most intensive exploration of denuclearization with Kim Jong-un that we've ever been in, and this is the time to test it.

TODD (voice-over): In the past, the North Koreans have dodged, deceived, and outright cheated on nuclear deals with America. Experts warn a second summit will put more pressure on President Trump to pin Kim down on specific measures he'll take to draw down his weapons.

YUN: Have preparation, have a process that will move us step by step now. Because we really don't want to go back to where we were a year ago, bloody nose, we'll totally destroy you. We don't want to go back to that.


TODD: Analysts say it's not just with a second summit that the pressure is mounting for President Trump to produce real results with Kim Jong-un. They say, over the next couple of years, the President will also be under increasing pressure to really get Kim to draw down his nuclear arsenal.

Because after that, experts warn, the political will in the United States to complete a deal with Kim, well, that may run out. And they say that Kim may understand that and he may be willing to string along the President and his team while he still continues to build his nuclear program -- Wolf.

[17:55:04] BLITZER: In the meantime, President Trump continues to praise the North Korean leader. Brian Todd, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, more on the breaking news. The Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh lashing out, saying he's not going anywhere. But his accuser explains why she is not going anywhere either.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Rosenstein's fate. President Trump won't say if he'll fire his Deputy Attorney General when they meet face-to-face this week. After a day of conflicting reports, is the man who oversees Robert Mueller's Russia investigation about to go?

[18:00:03] Distraction or disaster? We're exploring why the White House is dragging out the suspense about Rod Rosenstein and what it all could mean for the Russia probe.