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FBI Probe Into Brett Kavanaugh Ordered; Trump Orders New FBI Investigation of Kavanaugh, to be Limited in Scope and End in Less Than One Week. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 28, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So why is Mr. Trump suddenly so accommodating after his attacks on Ford and fierce defense of his high court nominee?

And turning point? Jeff Flake's 11th-hour intervention came after he was confronted by sexual assault survivors who were furious about Kavanaugh and his treatment of survivors. After days of anger and division, is there new hope for healing 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: We're following breaking news on a stunning turn of events, casting new doubt on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A short while ago, President Trump officially ordered a new and limited FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. Mr. Trump going along with Republican Senate leaders who were forced to agree to the delay.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake demanded the investigation, threatening to withhold his vote for Kavanaugh in the full Senate, a move supported by other key senators considered to be swing votes.

It is another day of high drama after the emotional testimony by Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

I will get reaction from former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. And our correspondents and other analysts are standing by.

First, let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, walk us through what happened and what happens next.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in a nomination that has led to twists and turns that have come at an almost mind-numbing pace over the course of the last couple days, another one.

Today, a nomination that was expected to move forward, Republican leaders ready to push to the end of the vote, now it is being stalled and people are doing exactly what Republican leaders said for days they would not.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, Republican Senator Jeff Flake pivoting.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I will only be comfortable moving on the floor until the FBI has done more investigation than they have already. It may not take them a week. I understand that some of these witnesses may not want to discuss anything further.

But I think where we are -- we owe them due diligence.

MATTINGLY: Telling colleagues he will only support Brett Kavanaugh's nomination on the Senate floor if the floor votes are delayed and a one-week FBI probe into assault allegations is commenced.

FLAKE: The Democrats who have been, I think justifiably, uncomfortable moving ahead could -- could publicly, in an effort to bring this country together, say that we would feel better. I'm not expecting them to vote yes, but not to complain that an FBI investigation has not occurred.

MATTINGLY: That pronouncement coming after more than an hour of dramatic and secret closed-door talks between Flake and the panel's Democrats starting right, as Flake departed the hearing in order to meet with Delaware Democrat Chris Coons, who later praised Flake's move.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: It is my hope that we could work together on a bipartisan basis to diligently pursue an FBI investigation within the next week, not for the purpose of delay, but for the purpose of investigating further either allegations made by Dr. Ford or others, with a goal towards demonstrating a bipartisan commitment to diligently investigating these allegations.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Senator Flake.

MATTINGLY: Moments later, Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley called for a vote.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Called the role.

MATTINGLY: The whole affair a stunning turn, given Flake just a few hours prior announced he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, with the first floor vote scheduled to take place Saturday.

But in between that statement, those secret conversations and the committee vote, this:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at me when I'm talking to you. You're telling me that my assault doesn't matter, that what happened to me doesn't matter, and that you're going to let people who do these things into power. That's what you're telling me when you vote for him. Don't look away

from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn't matter what happened to me.

MATTINGLY: Flake, cornered in an elevator by woman who said she was a sexual assault survivor, something that made him visibly shaken when he entered the hearing room and throughout the meeting.

FLAKE: This country is being ripped apart here. And we have got to make sure that we do due diligence.


MATTINGLY: Now, Wolf, to take you behind the scenes a little bit, after that hearing, Senate Republicans came and met behind closed doors with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A source tells me McConnell made very clear a delay, an FBI investigation is -- quote -- "not going to make things any easier." But the reality is this, Wolf. McConnell and Republican leaders had no choice. Without Flake, without Senator Susan Collins, without Senator Lisa Murkowski, he does not have the votes and therefore he had to accede to Flake's demands.


The demands are a one-week investigation. The vote will be delayed until the FBI comes back with its findings, but for the time being, pretty much everybody up here who thought there was going to be a vote as soon as Tuesday just going to have to wait, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

Now to the White House and more on the president officially ordering this new FBI investigation.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, a lot certainly has changed over the past 24 hours, the president now launching this new investigation.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, something that the White House was not receptive to last week. They're not standing in the way of it now.

An incredible turn of events over here, and the president releasing this statement a short while ago. We can put it on screen. It says: "I have ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh's file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week."

Wolf, that phrase there, limited in scope, is obviously important there, because it sounds as though they're not really ordering the FBI to go on a fishing expedition for just about anything under the sun. They want this limited, although I will tell you, Wolf, I did talk to a source close to this process within the last hour or so who said that the FBI will be determining the parameters of its investigation.

We will have to see where it goes. But earlier today when I asked the president in the Oval Office about this, he was deferring to Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee who were allowing this to happen. Here is what he said.


ACOSTA: Mr. President, any comment on the request for a delay from Senator Flake? He wants a one-week delay so the FBI can investigate further.

TRUMP: Well, I'm going to let the Senate handle that. They will make their decisions and they have been doing a good job and very professional. I am just hearing a little bit about it. I'm sure it will all be very good. Whatever they think is necessary is OK.


ACOSTA: So, a pretty restrained president there, Wolf.

And one thing we should also note is that Judge Kavanaugh has also released a statement through the White House, essentially saying he's going to cooperate with the FBI in this supplemental investigation, but, of course, Wolf, he doesn't really have any other choice.

BLITZER: Jim, what did the president make of Professor Ford's testimony alleging sexual assault and Kavanaugh's response?

ACOSTA: That was another remarkable turn of events, Wolf. As you know, the president had been raising doubts about all of these accusers for several days now, including the accusations coming from Christine Blasey Ford.

But when I asked him earlier today, the president in terms of how he felt about Dr. Ford's testimony at that hearing yesterday, the president said she sounded credible to him, which was a remarkable acknowledgement, I thought. Here is what the president said.


ACOSTA: And what did you think of Dr. Ford's testimony when you heard that?

TRUMP: I thought her testimony was very compelling and she looks like a very fine woman to me, very fine woman.

And I thought that Bret's testimony, likewise, was really something that I haven't seen before. It was incredible. It was an incredible moment, I think, in the history of our country. But, certainly, she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects.

And I think that -- I don't know if this is going to continue onward, or are we going to get a vote, but, again, I'm here, so I'm not out there watching, because I can't be, out of great respect, although maybe we will go watch together, OK? We will watch together. But I think it will work out very well for the country. I just want it to work out well for the country. If that happens, I'm happy.


ACOSTA: So, Wolf, you can see there some uncertainty in the president's voice there, uncertainty in his words in terms of what is going to happen.

The president saying there he just wants what is best for the country. That does not necessarily mean that that scenario includes a Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

But, Wolf, one thing we should point out, I did ask the president in a follow-up question whether or not he's at this point entertaining any alternatives or replacements for Judge Kavanaugh and he said not at this stage. We will have to see if that changes, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

By the way, we are sold Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to make a statement on Kavanaugh and the latest FBI investigation. We are going to have live coverage of that. Stand by.

In the meantime, Kavanaugh's high school friend Mark Judge says he will cooperate with the federal investigators. Christine Blasey Ford says Judge was in the room when she allegedly was assaulted by Kavanaugh.

Let's talk about how the FBI probe might actually play out.

We are joined by our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.

Shimon, so what will the FBI investigation look like?

How long will it take?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think one of the first and one of the most important things to point out here, despite what some of the people on the Hill are saying, the senators and even the White House, this is entirely being right now dictated by the White House.

The FBI cannot just on its own start looking into Brett Kavanaugh's background again. This was requested by the White House, and the FBI has all along said that they would only do this at the request of the FBI (sic).


So, now we have a request from the White House. And from everything we're being told certainly, the parameters and where exactly the FBI goes in all of this is in some ways being dictated by the White House.

So we shouldn't expect a full-fledged criminal investigation here. They're not going to try to probably look into whether or not this sexual assault or other sexual assaults had actually occurred.

BLITZER: Hold on one second.

I want to go to Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: This morning, the Judiciary Committee reported out Judge Kavanaugh favorably. All 11 Republican members of the Judiciary Committee voted in favor of reporting him out with a favorable recommendation.

Number two, we will shortly move to proceed to the Kavanaugh nomination, and I'm pleased to announce all 51 Republican members of the Senate support the motion to proceed to the nomination; 100 percent of the Republican conference supports proceeding to the Kavanaugh nomination.

Now, in committee, they reviewed the most pages of documents ever produced pertaining to any Supreme Court nomination, literally hundreds of judicial opinions from his tenure on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and five days of hearings during which Judge Kavanaugh testified for nearly 40 hours.

Judge Kavanaugh testified on every topic from complicated legal subjects to sensitive personal matters. And there was testimony and statements from countless personal friends, classmates, co-workers, former clerks and other associates.

So the picture that emerged from all of this is clear. Judge Kavanaugh is one of the most qualified and most impressive Supreme Court nominees in the history of our country. He's excelled at the highest levels of legal scholarship. He holds two degrees from Yale, and for years has lectured at the Harvard Law School.

He's issued more than 300 legal opinions from what is widely considered the second highest court in the nation. Several have subsequently been cited in the Supreme Court's own majority opinions.

Along the way, he has built an outstanding reputation within the legal community for his clear, thoughtful writing, his exemplary, fair- minded judicial temperament.

Judge Kavanaugh's qualifications have been affirmed by his peers and by renowned legal scholars across the ideological spectrum. One self- described liberal Democrat who advised him at Yale said that Judge Kavanaugh -- quote -- "commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers and jurists."

And this praise has been echoed by hundreds of character witnesses who have testified before the Senate or written us letters to praise Judge Kavanaugh's personal character and his integrity in the strongest terms.

The committee has also thoroughly investigated the last-minute allegations that have been brought forward. The evidence that has been produced either fails, fails to corroborate these accusations or, in fact, support Judge Kavanaugh's unequivocal denial.

And in some cases, the accusers have been -- have even recanted their baseless allegations. All in all, this is a nominee who has received what many considered the gold standard of judicial qualification, a rating of unanimously well-qualified from the American Bar Association.

So this is a nomination that deserves to move forward. And that is precisely, Mr. President, what is happening. I commend our colleagues on the committee for sending this impressive nominee here to the floor with favorable recommendation.

Now we will keep the process moving. The full Senate will begin considering Judge Kavanaugh's nomination today.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

Phil, the move to proceed, he says, is going to start right now, start today on the Senate floor. He says all 51 Republican members of the U.S. Senate agreed to support this motion to proceed. That doesn't necessarily mean they will vote for final approval, but it does mean all 51 have agreed to at least allow a vote to take place.


So the context here is important, because there's actually not very many senators left on Capitol Hill. Most have gone home. What they did get was an agreement the take up the nomination, so essentially a motion to proceed to the nomination.


And without wandering down a procedural rabbit hole here, what that means is, when the Senate comes back to work next week, they will be on the Kavanaugh nomination. Now, here is the caveat to that.

The leader has reached an agreement, as we talked about earlier, that they will not move forward on any votes -- sorry -- they will not move forward on a final vote on the Kavanaugh nomination until the FBI investigation is returned to them.

So this starts the process, but, Wolf, it by no means leads to immediate votes or anything like that. It just gets them on to the nomination.

BLITZER: Hold on for a moment. I want to hear what else is going on, on the Senate floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All opposed, no. The ayes appear to have it. They do have it. The motion is agreed to. The clerk lays before the Senate a message from the House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Resolved that the House agree to the amendment of the Senate to the bill

BLITZER: All right, let's go back the Phil.

The motion passed. It looked like a voice -- it was just a voice vote, but it has now passed. That sets the stage for a final vote, but that's not going to take place until the FBI completes its investigation.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's exactly right.

So, look, what we saw today was movement forward on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination. The Judiciary Committee approved the nomination 11-10. Jeff Flake voted for that.

Now Mitch McConnell has brought the nomination to the floor, and they have approved, the entire Senate, technically, because they did it by voice vote, a procedural motion to get on to the amendment.

But the details here are what matters. The key votes, where senators will actually be coming to the floor, casting votes, and that will decide whether or not Brett Kavanaugh is the next Supreme Court justice for the United States, those won't come until later next week.

A final vote, McConnell told senators today behind closed doors, won't happen until they get the FBI supplemental background investigation back. And the reason why is this, Wolf. We talked about this a little earlier, and I think it is an important point. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not want the expanded FBI background investigation.

He wants to move forward now. He had fully planned to have a final vote as soon as Tuesday. He does not have the votes, and so a simple mathematical reality comes into play right now. Until his senators are comfortable, until he has at least 50 votes, they have to do what those senators need to try to move this nomination forward.

So while they may now be on the Kavanaugh nomination, the fate of the Kavanaugh nomination is still very much up in the air, still very much contingent on what the FBI interviews find and still completely hanging in the balance and in the hands of really three Republican senators and two Democratic senators, Wolf.

BLITZER: And I just want to be precise, Phil. There's a lot of procedural voice votes going on right now. I'm not sure what we just heard was the procedural vote allowing the motion to move forward for a final vote in the coming days after the FBI investigation.

We will double-check that. But it is going to happen today, right?


They have agreement across both parties to be able to move forward. This is essentially allowing them to get on to the nomination today so they won't have to have the Saturday session, they won't have to come into work tomorrow. And then they will essentially start everything next week.

But, again, the final vote, the votes that really matter, the votes that will dictate whether or not Brett Kavanaugh has the support, those will not come until either Mitch McConnell has 50 senators in his hands or the FBI background investigation comes back to the United States Senate.

And the undecided senators, Wolf, have made clear it is the latter that's crucial. They need the FBI background investigation to come back. The agreement was it will be one week from today when the FBI has to report or sooner.

So a week from today is the first time technically, if McConnell says -- believes what he told senators behind closed doors today, they can have a vote that would actually dictate what goes forward with Kavanaugh.

BLITZER: Yes, all right, we will stand by and see how all of this unfolds. The key, though, is now this new FBI background check, this investigation. We will see how that unfolds.

Much more on the breaking news right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news.

President Trump ordering a new and limited FBI investigation of the allegations against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It must be completed in less than a week. Republican leaders were forced to agree to the delay to ensure support by key swing vote senators, including Jeff Flake, who set all of this into motion during the course of today.

We're joined once again by our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.

So, Shimon, walk us through what this FBI investigation will look like, how long it could take.

PROKUPECZ: So, Wolf, it is important to remind people, as I did just a short time ago, that this is being entirely dictated by the White House.

That is, this is not the FBI's investigation. They are using agents and investigators from the FBI to do this, because that is just how these things are done, these background investigations. And essentially what happens here is, since the White House has asked for a supplemental investigation, it is entirely limited in scope.

And the White House will dictate what that scope is going to be. This isn't going to be something that the FBI is going to open a case on or assign, you know, dozens and dozens of agents to and to start digging through whether or not Brett Kavanaugh committed some kind of sex crime.

That's not their job here. The White House essentially asked them to go back and look at some of this information. Exactly who they're going to interview, where those interviews are going to take place and when that's going to happen, we just don't know.


We know that Mark Judge, as you have said, has agreed to be interviewed. We don't even know that the professor, Professor Ford, who is making these allegations, will be interviewed. She has already given an extensive interview, you can argue, to members of the Senate Finance Committee.

And then we also don't know if any of the new allegations that recently surfaced from Michael Avenatti and others are going to be part of this supplemental investigation. That remains to be seen.

But it's very important that I think people keep in mind and sort of don't get these high expectations that the FBI is going to go out and try and pinpoint every fact here and re -- kind of investigate this or create some kind of a crime scene and start looking at all of this information.

People should not assume that's going to happen in this case. It is going to be very limited.

BLITZER: Once they complete this one-week, if it takes that long, investigation, who gets the results? Who gets all of the information?

PROKUPECZ: So, our understanding is the White House will get the results. They will get the information. It will come in these 302s, these written reports that the FBI will do, and that will go straight to the White House.

And then the White House will probably share it with members of the committee, but all of this information that's going to be gathered by the FBI goes straight to the White House, and then the White House decides what to do with it.

And in some ways, you know, the FBI is not here to try and reach conclusions on what happens here. They're going to put together whatever information they have, put them in some kind of a form, and submit all of that to the White House.

BLITZER: And they will look into these allegations by these two other women as well?

PROKUPECZ: No, we don't know that. We don't know that they will. That's the thing, right? The White House has said, if you look at Sarah Sanders' statement, it is key there, is that it is limited in scope. That's an important point she makes here, because it doesn't seem right now -- we just don't know that they're going to go outside of the scope that's already been presented to members of the committee.

BLITZER: All right. Shimon, thank you very much, Shimon Prokupecz with the latest on this FBI investigation.

Let's get more perspective now from former U.S. attorney, our senior legal analyst Preet Bharara.

Preet, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: When you were the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, you worked with the FBI on probably a daily basis. If you were investigating all of this right now, how would go you about it?

BHARARA: Well, a couple of things off the top.

See how easy it is to do an investigation? After all of this objection and outrage about the impropriety of doing a supplemental investigation of Brett Kavanaugh, as soon as one senator, Jeff Flake, decided at the last minute that his conscience told him it would be better to have an investigation, lo and behold, it is not that big a deal.

McConnell is OK with it. The president is OK with it, spoke kindly about it. That's point one. Point two is, yes, I was the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, but we only dealt with criminal investigations.

And so it is important to remember here what is going on with respect to Brett Kavanaugh and the additional FBI inquiry over the next week is not to figure out whether or not a crime was committed, not to put forth conclusions or recommendations for prosecution, but to fulfill another function that the FBI serves, and it's an important one, which is vetting of the backgrounds of people who get nominated to high positions.

I went through this. Brett Kavanaugh went through it six times previously, as he told us yesterday, as well. Knowing that the scope is only for the background purposes, I think, notwithstanding that, the way you have to go about doing this, because the whole world is watching, because it's a big deal, because it's a lifetime appointment, you want to be very thorough.

You want to make sure that you have enough people in the various jurisdictions and the field offices to interview the various people who might have knowledge about some of the allegations that are outstanding.

And, remember, this is not a RICO investigation, racketeering investigation. It's not a complicated cyber-crime investigation. It's not like some of the very, very difficult money-laundering things that the Mueller investigation has been looking at.

Mostly, these things are going to be a question of who witnessed what and when. And a lot of memories have changed. But I think the FBI can probably do this in a week, and then we will see what happens.

The other thing to remember is, because the world is watching it, because it's so fraught, because there were so many objections over the investigation, the FBI agents who will be working anonymously and confidentially still have professional pride. Chris Wray still has professional pride, and you want to make sure that nothing that goes on in connection with the investigation casts doubt on whether it was done correctly.

So, for example, in various different forms of language, people have said this should be limited in scope. But what happens if you go interview somebody at Yale who may have been present at a particular party where Brett Kavanaugh is alleged to have engaged in some kind of bad conduct, and then that person says, well, here's my recollection of that event, but let me tell you, since you're asking, and since you have come to see me, about three other things that happened?

And so what happens often in investigations, whether it's of the background variety or the criminal variety, is you take a look at something, and because you're looking at it appropriately, within the scope of what your responsibilities are, you see these other three things happen, and you must look at those.

Now, when that happens, if that happens, I guarantee you there will be an outcry in Congress and at the White House. But that's a potential way that the investigation could go there.

BLITZER: Yes, you mentioned Chris Wray. He's the FBI director.

Preet, would an investigation, from your perspective, be credible if it did not also consider the accusations leveled by Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick?

BHARARA: I think, as a matter of common sense, I don't think it would be, because, remember, the purpose of this investigation is in part not just to vet the background of Brett Kavanaugh, but also to give comfort to the public and to the members of the Senate who have to vote on it that this person is fit for that job.

[18:30:17] And you know, the various ways in which people have talked about this investigation just today, they differ in language a little bit.

So I heard Jeff Flake say that there should be an investigation of the allegations that are out there without a lot of caveat. The Senate Judiciary Committee put out a statement saying that it should be allegations that are credible. So there's the "credible" caveat, and who determines that? And then the White House put out, as Shimon pointed out, a statement saying that it should be limited in scope.

I think ultimately, it's up to the FBI. And if it's going to have credibility, it seems to me that the only way people are going to find that they have faith in what the ultimate conclusions are is if they know that everything that has come out so far, at least there has been some attempt to question those witnesses, to question the people who those witnesses say may also have information about the matter and also, frankly, for the FBI, who are trained investigators and interrogators, to ask questions again of Dr. Ford and of Brett Kavanaugh under penalty of perjury.

BLITZER: As you know, Judge Kavanaugh's high-school friend Mark Judge is a key figure in two out of these three accusations against Kavanaugh. He's willing to cooperate, he says, with the FBI. What would you want to ask him?

BHARARA: I mean I think you would want to ask him a lot of different things. I know it's very easy for people like Mark Judge and others to say, "I don't remember anything."

But, you know, a funny thing happens when you're sitting face-to-face with a couple of FBI agents who are smart enough not to simply ask you so specifically, "Did you witness this particular thing happening in this particular bedroom at this particular party." You start by asking lots of general questions.

Now, I don't know if it will be the case that some of the things that the FBI agents will be asking about are those things in that surreal moment when you had senators on the Democratic side asking about the meaning of various phrases in the yearbook. Because remember, the other thing that's coming on here is not just did Brett Kavanaugh engage in this or that kind of misconduct, but what is he saying about it now? Is he lying about it now?

And there are some people who think, and I understand where they're coming from, that it's a ludicrous scene to see senators asking, you know, a grown, 53-year-old man about what the meaning of various things in a yearbook, you know, are. On the other hand, I also understand why people are concerned about the credibility of a witness who seeks to be on the most powerful court in the land for a lifetime appointment.

Unclear whether the FBI will ask those questions, as well, but they could bear on, you know, this person's fitness for office.

BLITZER: That's an important point. What stood out to you? What else stood out to you from the testimony that we all heard yesterday from both Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh?

BHARARA: Everything. Everything stood out. I think it is one of those things that you see, apparently, like every 27 years, the last time being the Anita Hill hearing.

It stood out to me that the way that the accuser, Dr. Ford, managed to be, I think, successful and credible over time during her testimony was by being polite, by being earnest, by being solicitous, by being deferential, by being mild-mannered.

And on the other side of the spectrum, Brett Kavanaugh, given the circumstances that we live in today, seemed to have done himself a favor with respect to the person in the White House and respect to Republican senators by being the exact opposite, by being belligerent, by being loud, by being emotional, by being combative with the senators.

And, you know, what strikes me is what does it say about our expectations of how men and women should differently comport themselves when they're coming forward to a body that's supposed to be the world's most deliberative body, a subset of the United States Senate?

But the thing that probably most struck me, given the hindsight of what happened today with Jeff Flake, is the vociferousness with which all sorts of people said it is outrageous to demand a several day, further supplemental investigation. That seemed to be overreach, that seemed to be silly. And clearly it was easily turned around today.

BLITZER: It certainly was. There were certain areas, as you point out, of Kavanaugh's testimony that did raise questions about his honesty. He seemed to mischaracterize, as you point out, some of the statements from other people that were present during that alleged assault with Professor Ford. He evaded certain questions about his drinking habits. His explanations about the meaning of his yearbook entries, some of those didn't necessarily add up. How significant, though, in the scheme of things is all of that?

BHARARA: I think credibility is incredibly important. You know, it's not just that you -- if you become a United States attorney or if you become a district court judge or a Supreme Court justice, it's not just how smart you are. It's not just whether or not you, you know, pass a general background check. Credibility is, I think, the ultimate quality and the ultimate attribute for anybody.

And different people will choose to decide, based on different issues and factors, how important credibility is to them, but, you know, as is true in journalism and as is true in law enforcement, the same is true, I think, on the court, that you need some make sure that people are candid and they're straightforward.

[18:35:00] And so even if the issues on which there is a doubt about credibility seem somewhat tawdry and trivial in a sense, I don't think a member is beyond his or her rights to decide not to vote for somebody because there's a credibility question over those things.

BLITZER: Preet Bharara, thanks so much for joining us.

BHARARA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, undecided senators force President Trump to order a new probe of allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, but with the limited -- investigation limited to a week how much can the FBI really accomplish?

And after being cornered by a very emotional protester, Republican Senator Jeff Flake pushed to delay the confirmation vote and seek an FBI investigation. Is there a connection?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable. You have children in your family. Think about them. I have two children.



[18:40:34] BLITZER: We're following major breaking news on Brett Kavanaugh's U.S. Supreme Court nomination. President Trump just ordered a new and limited FBI investigation of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh after a day of shocking twists and turns in the Senate.

Let's bring in our correspondents and our analysts. Dana Bash, an incredible 24 hours. Walk us through how all of this unfolded.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when Jeff Flake earlier today announced, in a very clear written statement, that he was going to support Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, he was going to vote for him, it actually surprised some people who know him from across the aisle, that he was that sort of forward-leaning, including and especially senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who actually had an uncharacteristically profane, on-the-record response in the hallways when he heard about it. And the --

BLITZER: They're good friends, too.

BASH: They're good friends. And the reason for that -- for that reaction is remember, Jeff Flake is leaving. He's retiring from the Senate. And part of his mantra for the past year, or even two years, has been this country is torn apart. It's too -- it's too divisive.

And so that is why at the 11th hour he decided to use the power of his vote, the power of the fact that there is a razor-thin majority in the United States Senate, and he clearly had support from the other three senators who have been on the fence and are undeclared. They have not said how they're going to vote.

And he decided he was going to use it, and he was going to -- he was going to be the one to demand this FBI investigation that the Democrats have been demanding, but it's a whole different ball game when it's a Republican. He understood that, and he made it happen.

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, you worked at the CIA and the FBI. What do these FBI investigators need to do now?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, we're talking about a week. First, you've got to find these folks. Then you've got to fan out and interview them. Then you've got to re-interview. If I interview five people who have a recollection of what -- an event and Sabrina says something differently, I'm going to come back around after a few days and say, "Why is your recollection different than the other people who have seen this?"

At some point then, you obviously have to put collate this stuff, write it and I'd say what we call red-team it. I'm going to bring in a team who wasn't involved and kick everything single thing you say, because it will be pick apart. They're supposed to do that in five days? If I were Chris Wray, I'd say, "Can I give you the timeline of when an investigation like this should end, rather than you telling us?" I don't think that would --

BASH: They did Anita Hill in three days.

MUDD: Yes but --

BASH: It was less complicated.

MUDD: I think it is. But also again, if I'm the Senate, I do not want to have a report that has a cover letter that says, "We did as much as we could do in five days." We're back where we started again.

BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, the Judiciary Committee said the investigation -- and I'm quoting now -- will be limited to current, credible allegations against the nominee. So does that also include the allegations leveled by Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Great question. I don't know. I don't know if anybody knows the answer to that question.

I think if this investigation is to have credibility, it's got to include the other two women. I mean, the -- the point that was made at the hearing was, "We don't want new people coming forward and having to investigate that." I understand that point.

But these three women are already on the record with their -- with their complaints. I think they have to follow-up with those three. But I think the way things have been worded so far, it is ambiguous about whether the FBI will really be able to follow up.

And remember, just to follow up on what Phil said, it's not just a matter of re-interviewing people, which of course, they will have to do. They may well mention other people who then have to be interviewed. That's always how investigations work. "Well, you need to talk to Susan or you need to talk to Tom." That -- that's appropriate. It's going to be hard to do it in a week.

BLITZER: Yes. And once the FBI opens an investigation, you never know where it could lead, and it could lead in all sorts of directions.

Sabrina, as you know, Mark Judge, Judge Kavanaugh's friend from high school, he's -- says he is willing to fully cooperate with the FBI right now. His name has come up in connection with two of the three women making these allegations against Kavanaugh. How important is Mark Judge in all of this?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, he's very important.

[18:45:00] There was a fair amount of criticism that Senate Republicans did not call Mark Judge to testify before the committee because, according to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Judge is the only alleged eyewitness to the assault that she says took place at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh. She said that Mark Judge under oath, of course, telephoned that he was in the room, that he was laughing along with Kavanaugh, that he jumped on the bed at one occasion, that's how she was ultimately able to wrestle free.

Now, up until now, Mark Judge provided a sworn affidavit to the Judiciary Committee, saying he had no recollection of the incident that Ford has described and he never saw Brett Kavanaugh behave in that manner. He's also someone who has opened up about how he has been struggling with addiction from alcohol, he suffers from depression and anxiety. So, he was reluctant to come forward, but he also, by the way, has issued another sworn affidavit to the Judiciary Committee just over the past hour where he's denied Julie Swetnick's allegation that he and Brett Kavanaugh were part of a group of men who spiked the drinks of girls to try and facilitate their gang rapes.

So, I think the FBI will want to press him on one if not both of those incidents, and, of course, if there are inconsistencies between what he says and the others at the interview.

WOLF BLITZSER, CNN HOST: Joan Biskupic, if the FBI in their investigation over the next week doesn't come up with new information, does it, A, guarantee that Judge Kavanaugh will, in fact, be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and does it assure if he is a Supreme Court associate justice, the cloud against him will be lifted?

JOAN BISKUPIC, SUPREME COURT BIOGRAPHER: Yes and no. If there is nothing new that comes out, both in the FBI report and also just publicly from anyone else -- and that's the thing that Brett Kavanaugh has said he fears with any kind of delay -- yes, then I think that, you know, Senators Flake and Murkowski and Collins who have supported this delay have at least suggested if they have that and nothing new comes out, that, you know, the suggestion at least is that they would be inclined to vote for him.

And if all of the Republicans stick together, then he would be confirmed. But, Wolf, will the cloud be lifted off him? He himself has said that the cloud will be with him. He said, you know, after these allegations will I be able to teach again? Will I be able to coach again?

And that fiery partisan speech yesterday will always be with so many Americans that heard that, that I think, you know, dropping the mantle of neutrality, the judge's umpire, as he said earlier, and coming out that way, that will be with Justice Brett Kavanaugh for a very long time. I think it will be -- it has been seared in the minds of many people.

BLITZER: Good point.

All right. Everybody, stand by. There's more on the breaking news we're following. Undecided Republican senators force President Trump to order an FBI background check into the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. So, what could investigators find in this rather limited time they've been given?


[18:52:31] BLITZER: Breaking tonight, a new and limited FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh has been ordered by the president roughly 24 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court nominee wrapped up his Senate testimony, responding to Christine Blasey Ford's allegations.

Let's bring back our analysts and our correspondents.

Dana, there seemed to be such a dramatic moment after Senator Jeff Flake announced he would vote in favor of the confirmation of judge Kavanaugh. He was confronted by two women who saw him and they had this exchange. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable. You have children in your family. Think about them.

I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years, they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl! What are you doing, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me! Any tell anyone, and you're telling all women that they don't matter. They should just stay quiet, because if they tell you what happened to them, you're going to ignore them. That's what happened to me and that's what you're telling all women in America, that they don't matter. They should just keep it to themselves, because if they have told the truth, you're just going to help that man to power anyway.

That's what you're telling all of these women. That's what you're telling me right now. Look at me when I'm talking to you. You're telling me that my assault doesn't matter! That what happened to me doesn't matter. And that you're going to let people who do these things into power. That's what you're telling me when you vote for him.

Don't look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn't matter what happened to me! That you let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies.


BLITZER: Very dramatic moment. One of those women, Ana Maria Archilla, by the way, will be joining Anderson Cooper on "AC360" later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

How do you think, Dana, that confrontation affected Senator Flake?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, that was as he was making his way to what we all thought was going to be the committee hearing where there would be an actual vote. Secondly, it was on live TV. It was on CNN. Our team up there, Suzanne Malveaux and Dave Burgess (ph), caught this and it was live on air.

[18:55:01] And it was wrenching. It was absolutely wrenching.

He was almost paralyzed and you could see not just in that moment but I think in the past week or so, the agony that he has been going through internally about what to do and how to handle this, which we saw how it played out later in the day. You could see it on his face. I mean, there were so many things that I guess he could have done in retrospect and it's one of those things where probably he's looking back and he could have said, I'm so sorry, let's meet later in my office. I mean, who knows?

But he froze, and unfortunately for him, the aides there froze. He didn't want to be disrespectful but clearly didn't want to engage. He was asked just a short while ago in the hallway if that played into his decision to use the power of the fact that he is a key -- was a key undecided vote, and he said that and other things.

He's been saying that he hasn't been sleeping at night and it's just a reminder that it has been very, very difficult for these senators who are not fully decided, to figure out who, what, and where and it's also a very good indicator of why he wanted it to be off his plate and have a more thorough -- actually, the first thorough investigation.

BLITZER: Yes, very important moment indeed. Were you surprised, Jeffrey Toobin, to see this change of heart on the part of Senator Flake?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I sure was and I think it's time for me to eat some crow about things I've been saying about Jeff Flake because I've been saying that he was all talk and no action, and I was wrong. I mean, this was an epic moment in the history of the Senate.

I mean, Brett Kavanaugh would be confirmed in all likelihood tomorrow if Jeff Flake had not done what he did. He may yet be confirmed. I think the odds still favor Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed, but this investigation will take place and the only reason it's taking place is because Jeff Flake stepped up.

It was a courageous act. It was an important act. And it would show that my criticism of him was wrong.

BLITZER: What do you think, Phil?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I disagree. I don't have any sympathy. We went into this and both sides, Senator Feinstein gets an allegation t senate's had it for a while, there's a simple solution here. This is not hindsight.

The solution is, we have an investigation, we don't in the Senate have trained investigators who can follow up. We have an issue of credibility. We also have an issue where two people were put on a show yesterday, they didn't have to be put on. That investigation could have happened in private.

If you'd followed standard protocol, you would say if I were being investigated and this came in, the investigation restarts. The only reason he's there is that she was credible. Otherwise, he doesn't have to deal with it.

Don't look for sympathy from me. I don't have it. They had a solution. They dumped it.



MUDD: Sorry.

BISKUPIC: No, I completely think that it's changed everything. It's changed everything at least for the next week and it puts -- he's teetering now right between success and failure. It depends on what comes. It also depends on -- just think, Wolf, of what people saw of him yesterday, that anger, the kind of lashing out.

I think, you know, he probably feels that even more intensely right now because it was so close, within his grasp, and if not for that woman, if not for being filmed, if not for just Jeff Flake, it would have over.

SIDDIQUI: I think it's also impossible to ignore the cultural context in which these events are unfolding. We've seen the impact of #MeToo, this moment of reckoning around sexual misconduct and I think you really heard in those women the agony and just the frustration that survivors of sexual assault have felt for so long, where they still feel like the burden is on the woman, it's on the woman to stand up her allegations, it's on the woman to have to explain why she didn't come forward sooner and report an alleged assault.

And I think that they very much see Brett Kavanaugh as really crystallizing a lot of those themes. Now, whether that's going to have any bearing on his confirmation, we'll see, but certainly it does indicate there could be some backlash at the polls in November if he's confirmed.

BISKUPIC: Can I add the context of the Supreme Court, where the Supreme Court is with him about to join it. There's so much in terms of abortion rights, reproductive rights, women.

BLITZER: It's going to be a very, very dramatic few days indeed. That's an incredible moment.

Finally tonight, on a very, very different note, all of us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we want to express our deep gratitude to one of the driving forces behind the scenes of this excellent program, our senior broadcast producer, David. There you see him.

Wave, David. You're on television.

For more than five years, David has brought passion, creativity and commitment to our program but now he's moving on to a new role right here at CNN as executive producer of our special events and election coverage.

David, we're going miss you every day but we're so happy that you will still be with us on a daily basis in your new role.

David Gelles, thank you for everything you've done.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.