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Source: White House Has Not Limited FBI in Kavanaugh Investigation. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 1, 2018 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tweet the show, @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Comprehensive probe. President Trump calls for a thorough but swift investigation into sexual assault allegations against the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. And now we're learning new details on what the White House is telling the FBI about how the probe should be conducted.

To tell the truth. The president says he was surprised by Kavanaugh's comments about his drinking, and statements from some of the judge's former classmates are boosting Democratic charges that Kavanaugh lied. Could his own testimony wind up derailing his nomination?

New deal. President Trump announces a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, replacing NAFTA, and he touts his negotiating tactics as key to the agreement. But will Congress approve it?

And Trump's love affair. Mr. Trump says he and North Korea's Kim Jong-un, quote, "fell in love" at their Singapore summit and that Kim has sent him, quote, "beautiful letters." Why is the American president so enamored with one of the world's most brutal dictators?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. New details of the FBI investigation into allegations of past sexual assault by the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

A source tells CNN that the White House has made it clear to the FBI that agents are not limited in their expanded background search, and that the Trump team is fully open to further calls.

And we've just learned that the FBI has already spoken to two of the people Christine Blasey Ford says were at the high school party where she claims Kavanaugh attacked her, as well as a college classmate who says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her.

I'll talk about that and more with Senator Ben Cardin. And our correspondents, analysts and specialists are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories. First, let's get straight to our chief White House correspondent, Jim

Acosta. He's in Johnson City, Tennessee, where President Trump will be holding a rally later tonight.

Jim, there's new information emerging right now about the Kavanaugh investigation.


The White House is making it clear to the FBI that it can talk to anybody in its probe of Judge Brett Kavanaugh's background. These new marching orders come from the president as he is acknowledging there may be some issues in Brett Kavanaugh's past.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With the fate of Judge Brett Kavanaugh hanging in the balance, President Trump is ordering the FBI to conduct a thorough background check of his embattled Supreme Court nominee. But the president adds, just make it snappy.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want them to do that. I want it to be comprehensive. I actually think it's a good thing for Judge Kavanaugh. I think it's actually a good thing, not a bad thing. I think it's a good thing. Now, with that being said, I'd like it to go quickly. The one thing I want is speed.

ACOSTA: Unlike another investigation, like the Russia probe, that the president could do without.

TRUMP: We don't want to go on a witch hunt.


ACOSTA: Mr. Trump appeared to concede Kavanaugh has not always been judicious in his consumption of alcohol.

KAVANAUGH: I drank beer with my friends. Almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer. But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out.

ACOSTA: Taking note of the judge's comments of his beer drinking habits that even former classmates insist weren't exactly truthful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that bars him from being your Supreme Court nominee?

TRUMP: Well, I've watched -- I've watched him. I was surprised at how vocal he was about the fact that he likes beer. And he's had a little bit of difficulty.

I've never had alcohol. I've just -- you know, for whatever reason. Can you imagine if I had? What a mess I'd be? Would I be the -- I'd be the world's worst. ACOSTA: Then, out of nowhere, the president went on to make an

unsubstantiated claim, that he knows of a Democratic lawmaker who drinks too much.

TRUMP: I tell you what. I happen to know some United States senators, one who is on the other side, who's pretty aggressive. I've seen that person in very bad situations. OK? I've seen that person in very, very bad situations. Somewhat compromising.

ACOSTA: The White House is pushing back on accusations that aides to the president have tried to limit the FBI's probe of Kavanaugh's background, an investigation Mr. Trump could have authorized at least a week ago.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The White House is not micromanaging this process. This is the -- the Senate is dictating the terms.

ACOSTA: Democrats point to constraints on last week's hearing, where the Senate Judiciary Committee listened to the testimony of Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford but didn't hear from Mark Judge. That's the man who Ford claims was in the room when she was assaulted by Kavanaugh.

[17:05:03] JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You don't let that person disappear to the beach, with their clothes stacked in a car, and hide from the process. You have to talk to everybody.

ACOSTA: The battle over Kavanaugh is overshadowing the president's attempts to focus on his agenda, like today's news conference that was supposed to be about a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. Mr. Trump seemed to delight in taking on his GOP critics who have blasted his policy of imposing tariffs on U.S. allies.

TRUMP: Just for those babies out there that keep talking about tariffs, that includes Congress. "Oh, please, don't charge tariffs." Without tariffs, you wouldn't be -- we wouldn't be standing here.


ACOSTA: Now, in a strange way, the battle over Brett Kavanaugh may actually help the president in the upcoming midterm elections. That's because nothing fires up the GOP base like the fight over who controls the Supreme Court.

Wolf, I talked to one source close to the White House earlier this afternoon who said this may be waking up a sleeping giant. But, of course, that may hinge on just how this investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh comes to an end -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta in Tennessee for us.

Let's get some more on the investigation. Joining us right now, our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, we now know that the FBI has already spoken to several potentially very key witnesses.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. So we know that the FBI at this point has spoken to at least three people. Deborah Ramirez, who made her own sexual misconduct allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, plus two people that Christine Blasey Ford say were in the party -- I'm sorry, at the party, where she was assaulted in 1982.

So the question now, where do FBI agents go from here, and whether or not a key witness is talking yet.


MARK JUDGE, FRIEND OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: Man, the old gem. Here at Georgetown Prep.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, the lawyer for Mark Judge, a potential key witness to Christine Blasey Ford's alleged assault, will not say if Judge has been interviewed by the FBI.

JUDGE: This is part of my past, and these videos are part of my history.

SCHNEIDER: Judge, seen in this video, was a high school friend of Brett Kavanaugh and was in the room, according to Ford, when Kavanaugh allegedly pinned her to the bed, groped her and covered her mouth.

Judge told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter he had no knowledge of the incident but says he is willing to cooperate with the FBI.

On Sunday, investigators spoke to Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a party when both were students at Yale. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegation, but a source tells CNN Ramirez provided the FBI with names of potential witnesses to the incident.

Other people the FBI has spoken with: Leland Keyser and P.J. Smyth. Both were identified by Christine Blasey Ford as being at the party where her assault allegedly occurred. They told the Senate Judiciary Committee they don't recall the party or the incident but are willing to cooperate with the FBI.

KAVANAUGH: I drank beer with my friends. Almost everyone did.

SCHNEIDER: After Kavanaugh's extensive testimony Thursday, downplaying the extent of his drinking in high school and college --

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: So you're saying there's never been a case where you drank so much that you didn't remember what happened the night before or part of what happened.

KAVANAUGH: That's -- you're asking about -- yes, blackout. I don't know, have you?

KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? I just -- to -- you -- that's not happened. Is that your answer?

KAVANAUGH: Yes. And I'm curious if you have.

SCHNEIDER: A few of his former classmates are raising red flags.

LIZ SWISHER, FORMER YALE CLASSMATE OF KAVANAUGH: There's no problem with drinking beer in college. The problem is lying about it. He drank heavily. He was a partier. He liked to do beer bongs. He played drinking games. He was a sloppy drunk.

SCHNEIDER: And another Yale classmate, Chad Ludington, says he wants to talk to the FBI, saying in this statement, "I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking, and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth."

Nine Democrats on the Judiciary Committee want the FBI to expand its scope. In this letter to the White House counsel and the FBI director, they list two dozen additional witnesses they want interviewed, including the latest woman to make accusations against Kavanaugh in high school, Julie Swetnick.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We've got to do a fulsome investigation.

SCHNEIDER: Key Republican Senator Jeff Flake says the FBI investigation needs to be comprehensive, and indicated if Kavanaugh has lied, it would be a red line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Judge Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination is over?

FLAKE: Oh, yes.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I would think so.

SCHNEIDER: But prosecutor Rachel Mitchell wrote this letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, warning that any definitive answers may be hard to find: "A he said/she said case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that. I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the committee."


SCHNEIDER: And we know at this point, Christine Blasey Ford has not been contacted by the FBI. And it's unclear if she would be interviewed by the FBI. It's also unclear if Brett Kavanaugh would be interviewed, though of course, President Trump said today that he wouldn't be opposed to that.

[17:10:06] Now, in the meantime tonight, two friends of Kavanaugh's from Yale, including another roommate of his, they're releasing statements saying they never knew Kavanaugh to black out or become belligerent. And, of course, Wolf, they're releasing these statements now to defend his character, which has come under attack. BLITZER: Jessica Schneider with that report, thank you very much for

all that information.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland is joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Wolf, it's good to be with you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Do you trust the FBI to do a thorough job this week?

CARDIN: Well, I trust the FBI. I hope they have the latitude, the time, in order to get the job done right. They need to interview all witnesses that know anything about what happened in regards to the three allegations that have been made, to be able to give a thorough report to the -- to the president and to the Congress.

So I trust the FBI's professionalism, but I'm worried that they may not have the time or they may be under certain restrictions that would not allow them to do a thorough job.

BLITZER: The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, says the Senate will vote this week, final vote on confirmation. Your reaction?

CARDIN: I think Senator McConnell has handled this issue wrong from the beginning, the process that he's used. The fact that we had a vote in the Judiciary Committee before the investigation was done by the FBI. The fact that he's already told us we're going to be voting this week when we don't have the FBI report back. We don't know what that's going to entail and what we -- what we might need to follow up on that.

It's clear to me that Senator McConnell has decided he's going to jam this nomination through, not allow the proper vetting. And I think that's unfortunate.

BLITZER: Do you expect the supplemental investigation by the FBI to turn up new information?

CARDIN: I don't know that. I do know that Dr. Ford was very credible. She was very powerful in her statements. These are very serious allegations. I know that Judge Kavanaugh, in the way that he responded to the committee, showed a partisan streak that really concerns me. So I really want to make sure we get as much facts available from the FBI as possible in regards to these episodes.

BLITZER: Well, do you think the FBI has been given enough time to do a thorough supplemental background check?

CARDIN: I don't think they should have put a seven-day deadline when they're doing their work. They should have as much time as they need. We have plenty of time before the deadline of this Congress. We have months. So there's plenty of time in order to consider this nomination.

As we know, Senator McConnell said that ten months was not long enough for President Obama to make a nomination to the Supreme Court. And yet, Senator McConnell seems to be saying that the deadline is this week to vote on Judge Kavanaugh.

BLITZER: Well, it was Jeff Flake, the Republican senator from Arizona, who came up with this one-week time frame. Was he wrong?

CARDIN: I think that Senator Flake recognized that he had a limited amount of opportunity here. We appreciate the fact that we've got this sort of break, and we have the ability for the FBI to do an investigation. So we're certainly appreciative of the fact that the FBI is now doing that investigation.

My point is this. If the FBI needs more time, they should be able to get it.

BLITZER: Nine of your Democratic colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, they've released a letter detailing a list of some 24 specific people, other entities they'd like to see the FBI talk to. Not the four that were on the original list. Do you support those demands by your Democratic colleagues?

CARDIN: I think proper vetting is that you interview all witnesses that may have relevant information. That's how a thorough investigation is done.

I'm not familiar with the exact list that was on that -- on that letter. But I am certain that many of those people absolutely should be investigated by the FBI. They should be able to investigate any person that could have relevant information here.

And yes, let's do it in a timely way. This -- this is not going to take months. They can get it done within a relatively short period of time. But if it takes longer than a week, let them have the time.

BLITZER: Senator Schumer, the Democratic leader, the minority leader in the Senate, he wants the FBI to formally brief the Senate, all the members, before there's a final vote on the Senate floor.

Do you support that, or would a document, a written report from the FBI, based on all their questions and answers, all their background check information, would that be adequate?

CARDIN: Wolf, the normal procedure would have been for all of this to have been done, including the FBI report completed, before -- before the initial hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Well, that's not being done. In fact, the Judiciary Committee has already voted this out.

So I think Senator Schumer is absolutely right to say that the relevant body now is the United States Senate itself, and they should be fully briefed on the FBI report.

BLITZER: Well, there would have been a formal investigation if the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, would have alerted the FBI in confidence about this problem, but she kept it quiet.

[17:15:09] CARDIN: Well, as you know, there was a very short time period involved. She was operating under the confidentiality of the source. And I can understand that.

The bottom line, this is not about any one of us. It's about Judge Kavanaugh. And for Judge Kavanaugh to get a fair vetting, we should not short-circuit the process. And that process requires the FBI to have adequate time and for the members of the Senate to understand that report before they're asked to vote.

BLITZER: The president was questioned about Kavanaugh's drinking at a news conference earlier today at the Rose Garden. And the process of responding.

And he also leveled a very serious accusation at an unnamed Democratic senator who he claimed had been seen in what he described as very bad, somewhat compromising situations.

What's your response to that accusation from President Trump?

CARDIN: Well, that's out of President Trump's playbook. He always tries -- when he feels he's being attacked, to attack someone else. We've seen that over and over again. We have seen how he's attacked Senator Flake at times, the late Senator McCain at times, Senator corker at times. So we know what he does in an effort to try to distract from the substance of disagreements that he has.

BLITZER: Senator Cardin, thanks as usual for joining us.

CARDIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: The breaking news continues next. Are three key Republican senators responsible for the White House telling the FBI to conduct a thorough investigation? And how comprehensive could it be in just one week? I'll ask a former FBI supervisory special agent.


[17:21:00] BLITZER: The breaking news this hour. The White House pushing back against charges it's limiting the FBI probe into the sexual assault allegation, threatening to derail Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.

A White House official tells CNN the president's team has made it clear to the FBI that it's not limited in the investigation, and that the White House is fine if agents make further calls.

Let's bring in our law enforcement analyst, former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell is with us, along with CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, are the key Republican senators, Flake, Collins, Murkowski, responsible for the White House telling the FBI to conduct a thorough investigation?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. Those senators are the ones who will ultimately have to be satisfied in order for this process to move forward.

The question is, what are current and credible allegations that the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the FBI to investigate?

The Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, just spoke to reporters, Wolf, and he would not say exactly what those allegations were, saying he would leave it up to the FBI to determine.

And Senator John Cornyn, the majority whip, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, just told me moments ago that he thinks the senators should stay out of the process, let the FBI determine what' s credible or not. Even though he believes that one allegation involving Julie Swetnick, the third individual to come forward, he does not believe that's credible. But he said he would leave that to the FBI to determine.

Now, Jeff Flake, of course, who was responsible for this FBI investigation taking place, said in Boston earlier today that this investigation needs to go on and make sure it's not looking like they're trying to cover up anything.


FLAKE: In the next couple of days, be -- having dialogue with the White House counsel's office, making sure that it is up to standard. It does no good to have an investigation that just gives us more cover, for example. We actually need to find out what we can find out.


RAJU: And Susan Collins of Maine, one of those three key senators, also released a statement through her spokeswoman earlier, saying that she had been consulted about this expanded FBI background check. She does expect that to be finished within a week.

But, Wolf, what exactly does that mean? Does that report ultimately satisfy those senators? And who are they actually going to interview as part of this investigation? All key questions, not yet answered at this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said today there will be a vote, a final Senate vote on confirmation, this week. We'll see if that happens. Manu Raju, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all the breaking news. Joining us, CNN law enforcement analyst, former FBI supervisor, special agent Josh Campbell.

Josh, can the FBI do a really comprehensive investigation in only a week? JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, that is a very

difficult question to answer in the abstract. Because we haven't seen the specific parameters that have been placed on the FBI. That is important.

If they come and say, you are only allowed to look at four things, then, yes, I think that can be done in a week. But, again, we don't know what that is.

There's been reporting, obviously, in the last few hours that the White House is saying, no, the FBI can investigate anything. I tend to look at that very skeptically, because I think that that's a little bit of spin there. Some of this reporting suggests that the FBI still has to go back to the White House for permission in order to expand, or to go after specific topics. So I'll believe it when I see it.

I've been highly critical, Wolf, of this one-week arbitrary time frame. And the reason is, it comes down to two things. First of all, impact and then scope.

First impact. This is a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court. The average life expectancy for a male in the United States is about 76 years old. Mr. Kavanaugh is 53. He is likely to serve over two decades in a very powerful position.

So to come to the FBI and say, "You've got a week to look into this person's background," again, there lots of potential here; there's lots of impact.

The second thing, quickly, is the actual scope. Again, if the White House is serious about letting the FBI conduct a serious investigation, there will be leads generated during the course of interviews, during the course of the investigation, that need to be followed up. Things they need to do in order to follow up. So to impose an arbitrary deadline on top of that, I think doesn't really provide for a fulsome investigation.

BLITZER: All right, Josh, thank you. Josh Campbell reporting.

[17:25:10] There's more breaking news ahead, including what the judge said about his drinking and questions about whether he was truthful during his testimony before Congress. We're going to be hearing more from some of his former classmates.

And what could it mean for his nomination if he wasn't telling the truth? President Trump's remarks today may not necessarily have helped Judge Kavanaugh's case.


BLITZER: The breaking news in the Judge Brett Kavanaugh investigation. A White House official now telling CNN it's been made clear to the FBI that its agents are not limited in their expanded background search of Judge Kavanaugh.

[17:30:20] Earlier today, what President Trump intended to be a triumphant announcement of a trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada, veered into a rather wild question and answer session about the judge. And it raises plenty of questions for our political and legal analysts.

And let's start with Laura Jarrett. You cover the Justice Department for us. The White House says they're not placing any restrictions, any limits on this background check during the course of this week. So what does that mean, bottom line, for the investigation?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Bottom line, this investigation has a shelf life. Because no matter what, it all has to be wrapped up in a week. So whether they interview four people or 24, we're going to find out how this all gets resolved, it seems like, at least right now, by the end of the week.

But it's still interesting to watch just how the scope has morphed over the last few days, since Friday. Thanks to Dana's reporting and others, we know it starts as any credible allegations. Then we find out, no, it's really just four people. And that McConnell has worked this out in conjunction with a couple senators and the White House.

And so we'll see whether the Democrats get their way and there will be some more people who are interviewed. But, again, this is -- and everybody is going to be unhappy at the end of the day because of how this originated.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the morphing comes from the same place that this whole investigation started, which is those three key Republican senators who hold all of the cards here. They individually, I'm told, called the White House over the past 24, 48 hours, because of all this confusion about the scope of the investigation, and made clear, "We believe that the FBI should take the investigation where it leads. It should not be limited." And that is why the White House called the FBI to make that clear.

The other thing that I think is noteworthy is that I'm told that these three senators who you just had up on the screen, they are in contact many, many, many times a day, by phone, by text, by e-mail. You name it. And that, at least up to this point, they are determined to act as a trio.

And what does that mean? That means that if they're not pleased, then Brett Kavanaugh is not going to be confirmed, because the Republican leadership in the White House can only afford to lose one vote. And if they act as a trio, they have so much enormous power.

BLITZER: It looks, Susan Hennessey, like the FBI is making pretty fast progress on at least the four initial people they wanted to interview. We've just gotten a statement from Mark Judge's lawyer, saying this: "Mr. Judge has been interviewed by the FBI, but his interview has not been completed. We request your patience as the FBI completes its investigation."

Earlier, we were told that P.J. Smyth, Leland Keyser, Deborah Ramirez, they have also been interviewed by the FBI. So they're moving along. And it's only Monday. SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. So

there is some confusion about the actual scope, but what's going to happen here is standard operating procedure, is they're going to do interviews. In each of those interviews, they're going to develop a new set of leads and just kind of peel back the layers of the onion.

Now, I do think it's really unlikely that they come up with something definitive, some kind of answer that, you know, is really going to convince people.

You know, that said, they are probably going to develop information about, for example, Judge Kavanaugh's drinking. And now the GOP is sort of trying to cast that as, you know, well outside the scope, but it's not. It's actually central to the allegations, not only because it would mean Judge Kavanaugh lied under oath, but also because, if he was actually a heavy drinker, as many of his classmates have testified he was, if it's likely that he blacked out, it suddenly becomes a lot more likely that his is the faulty memory and not Dr. Ford's. And of course, if a witness lies about one thing, oftentimes that's an indication they're lying about other things.

BLITZER: I was just going to say, I assume in this legal statement, the lawyer statement for Mark Judge, when they say he has been interviewed by the FBI, but his interview has not been completed, they want to go back to him and do another round of questioning.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Absolutely. And I think the thing to remember, it's hard, too, because we use so much legal parlance to understand this. This isn't a trial. This is -- we should repeat what Dana said over and over again. This is not about convincing the American public or, Susan is right, the chances of findings being definitive, I would say very unlikely.

It's really only about what do Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins make of whatever the FBI produces? That's it. I mean, I know we're a nation of 300 million people, but those three people will control -- it doesn't matter, is the case proven, is it not proven? It's do those three people believe what is found as either disqualifying or not disqualifying?

And that's essentially it, particularly if Mitch McConnell says there's a vote on Friday. Well, it will be the FBI report sometime between now and then, and then the vote.

[17:35:06] BLITZER: Because they need 50 votes in order to confirm him. A hundred senators. There are 51 Republicans, 49 Democrats. If it's 50/50 tie, Mike Pence, the president of the Senate, will break the tie. That's why these three senators, these three Republican senators, are so critical right now. They hold an enormous amount of influence.

BASH: Right. And the fact that they -- at least until now, have seemed to be working together, particularly to get the information that they each think that they need to make the right decision, is really key. Mitch McConnell was on the Senate floor today, talking about the

goalposts moving. And that was what we are told he said in private to these Republican senators. You know, you're going to -- last Friday. "You want this FBI investigation, but there is nothing that is going to satisfy you," basically, because it's going to be hard to get the answers. Some of these things, from his perspective, are unknowable.

But when you talk about moving the goalposts, he's aiming that at the Democrats, but, again, the Democrats are irrelevant here, because most of them have already said they're going to vote "no." It is these fellow Republicans of Mitch McConnell make all the difference.

CILLIZZA: And to be clear, Mitch McConnell didn't decide to ask the White House for the FBI to reopen its background investigation out of the goodness of his heart.

BASH: He was forced.

CILLIZZA: He did so because, to Dana's point, the three senators we've been talking about said, "We won't vote for him," which means he would fail.

I mean, Mitch McConnell doesn't think this is any better an idea today than he did a week ago when he said this was ridiculous. So we shouldn't be surprised about what he said.

But in a way, Dana is right, the Democrats don't make a big difference. In a way, everybody not named Collins, Murkowski and Flake -- and that includes Mitch McConnell -- don't make a huge difference here. Because what they decide, particularly if they decide in unison, is all that matters.

BLITZER: Yes. I would add Joe Manchin, maybe, to that equation, as well. The Democrat from West Virginia who's undecided.

Everyone stand by. I want to ask you about a new poll that shows last week's hearings had an impact on whether voters want Judge Kavanaugh confirmed.

And later, President Trump goes out of his way to praise the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. But is the young dictator really changing his ways?


[17:41:55] BLITZER: We're back with our political and legal experts. And Dana, as you know, Brett Kavanaugh, he got the "Saturday Night Live" treatment Saturday night. Watch this.


MATT DAMON, ACTOR: I'm going to start at an 11! I'm going to take it to about a 15 real quick!

CECILY STRONG, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Would you agree to an independent FBI investigation into the allegations? DAMON: Asked and answered! I wanted a hearing the next day! The

next day!

STRONG: OK. That in no way answers my question. Would you agree to an FBI investigation?

DAMON: You want a real investigation? Then just look at -- look at my calendars. And you're going to see that every night, I was lifting weights with P.J. and Squee.

Look -- I like beer. OK? I like beer. Boys like beer. Girls like beer. I like beer. I like beer!

RACHEL DRATCH, COMEDIAN: OK. So I asked if you drank in high school, and you said, "I like beer" ten times. That leads me to the next question. Did you ever drink too many beers?

DAMON: You mean, was I cool? Yes.

DRATCH: All right. All right, then. Tell me this, Judge. Did you ever drink so much that you blacked out?

DAMON: I don't know, did you? Huh? Huh?

Am I angry, you're damn right. But if you think I'm angry now, you just wait until I get on that Supreme Court, because then you're all going to pay. Give me a can of water.


BLITZER: Yes. Clearly very funny. But, you know, Dana, it has a tendency, sometimes, the way a politician is portrayed --

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: Tina Fey, the way she did Sarah Palin, it has a lingering effect. And that's what, presumably, he might have to worry about.

BASH: It's true. Although when Tina Fey did Sarah Palin, it wasn't -- I mean, it wasn't an event. This was an event that the world stopped and watched.

And I think what's so funny about that is how dead-on Matt Damon was. I mean, everything from the way he looked to the way he talked to the sniffles that he gave. I think Matt Damon might have a future in this business.

JARRETT: And they're quotes. He's not just making the whole thing up. They're actual quotes.

BASH: They're direct quotes.

JARRETT: Which is how absurd it is.

BASH: Which is, to your point, how the Sarah Palin thing became so unbelievable, because the one skit that they did with Sarah Palin and Katie Couric, they used direct quotes.


BLITZER: It was -- and there's a new poll, Chris, that's just out, a Quinnipiac University poll. "Should the U.S. Senate confirm Kavanaugh? Forty-two percent say yes; 48 percent say no.

CILLIZZA: Which, by the way, is probably pretty similar to if you asked that same group of people, "Do you think Donald Trump is doing a good job or not?" You would get -- you would get 42 percent saying no and 48 percent -- sorry, 48 percent saying no, 42 percent saying yes. I mean, I think there's a lot of overlap in between those two communities.

This is now seen, if it wasn't before -- this is now seen as almost exclusively a vote on your view of Donald Trump. Republicans overwhelmingly supportive, with notable exceptions like Jeff Flake. Democrat-base voters, overwhelmingly oppose.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, given those numbers, if he is confirmed and thus he becomes an associate justice of the Supreme Court, what does that do to the Supreme Court as an institution?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Look, I really don't think it's an exaggeration to say this could have a devastating long-term effect on the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

Now, what we're talking about here is Brett Kavanaugh may be eking out those 51 votes. The problem is, after that kind of confirmation, a substantial question is going to remain in the minds of a lot of Americans, not just about whether or not he committed this assault and lied about it, but also whether or not he is a fair and impartial justice.

You know, as we saw sort of parodied in that clip, he was openly partisan during his statement. He himself in his first hearing, Brett Kavanaugh said, the Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution.

And I do think you have to ask yourself, would a reasonable person believe that he can now fairly rule on the constitutionality of legislation passed by the very Democratic legislators that he's actually screaming about, you know?

And for that reason, I think it is incredibly surprising that he hasn't withdrawn, that he's vowed to never withdraw. That clearly is the right choice for the country, and it's the right choice for the courts.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stick around. There's more news we're following. The President now saying he and Kim Jong-un, quote, fell in love. But is North Korea's brutal dictator fooling anyone into thinking he's actually changed his ways?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:51:14] BLITZER: At this hour, President Trump is in Tennessee for a political rally later this evening. During a rally over the weekend in West Virginia, he made some eye-opening comments about his developing relationship with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

So, Brian, what is the President saying now? It's a dramatic change from what he said only a little while ago.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a huge change, Wolf. You know, about a year ago, the two men were exchanging personal insults, calling each other "Rocket Man" and "dotard." Now, President Trump says he loves Kim Jong-un and experts are saying that just sends the wrong message.


TODD (voice-over): Since their unprecedented and, at times, unusual meeting in Singapore --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have developed a very special bond.

TODD (voice-over): -- President Trump has bragged unabashedly about his close personal relationship with Kim Jong-un. Now, he's taking it a step further, into a full-fledged bromance.

TRUMP: And I was really being tough, and so was he. We would go back and forth. And then we fell in love, OK?

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, analysts say it's time for a reality check on the man Donald Trump is now in love with.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: He is somebody who killed his half-brother with weapons of mass destruction in an international airport. He killed his uncle. He's blown people up with anti- aircraft guns.

He is cruel. He is vindictive. He is bloodthirsty. For Donald Trump to say that he's in love with him, ignoring who this person is, is shocking and callous and just horrific.

TRUMP: Rocket Man --

TODD (voice-over): It was less than a year ago that Trump was calling Kim Rocket Man and Kim called Trump a dotard.

TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

TODD (voice-over): Human rights monitors tell CNN, while Trump has changed his opinion of Kim, the North Korean regime's record of oppressing its people has not changed one bit.

GREG SCARLATOIU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: Thirty percent of North Korea's children are malnourished. A hundred and twenty thousand men, women, and children are held as political prisoners in North Korea's political prison camps. Many others are held at other detention facilities. For example, re-education through forced labor camps.

TRUMP: He wrote me beautiful letters.

TODD (voice-over): On the very same day Trump talked about falling in love with Kim, the dictator's foreign minister said the U.S. and North Korea were deadlocked over denuclearization because of U.S. sanctions on North Korea.

RI YONG-HO, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF NORTH KOREA (through translator): The reason behind the recent deadlock is because the U.S. relies on coercive methods which are lethal to trust-building.

TODD (voice-over): Experts now say Trump's gushing over this bromance could actually hurt prospects to seal a deal with Kim to get rid of his nuclear weapons.

EVANS REVERE, SENIOR ADVISOR, ALBRIGHT STONEBRIDGE GROUP: When they hear an American president saying, right at the outset, that he admires them, that he respects them, that he trusts them and believes them, I think the first instinct of the North Koreans is to take maximum advantage of what they probably believe is a naive American president.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say Trump's comments must be especially stinging to the family of Otto Warmbier, the American student who fell into a coma in North Korean custody and died shortly after being returned to America on a stretcher. At the time, Trump had touted his release as an important achievement by his administration.

BOOT: Well, what this basically says to Otto Warmbier's parent and all the other victims of the North Korean regime is that Donald Trump didn't mean it.


TODD: CNN has reached out to Otto Warmbier's parents who will not comment on President Trump's remarks about Kim Jong-un.

Analysts say President Trump's gushing over Kim isn't just dangerous regarding America's dealings with North Korea. They say it sends the wrong message to people like Vladimir Putin and other dictators that they can simply kill and repress as many people as they want to and still do business with Donald Trump as long as they stroke his ego, Wolf.

[17:55:01] BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you.

There's breaking news next. Critical developments emerging right now in the FBI investigation of the sexual assault claim against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. We're getting new information right now.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Within reason. President Trump denies he's limiting the new FBI probe of Brett Kavanaugh, suggesting agents can follow all leads to a point. We're learning more about the investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as agents have started questioning a key witness, Mark Judge.

[18:00:01] Viciously and violently.