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Interview With New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez; Brett Kavanaugh Set for Confirmation; Kavanaugh Confirmation Near Certain as Collins, Flake & Manchin Say They'll Vote Yes; Kremlin: "Hysteria" Behind Unmasking of Russian Spies. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 5, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Confirmation likely. After a day of drama on Capitol Hill, Brett Kavanaugh now has enough votes to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, as three undecided senators throw their support behind President Trump's nominee.

Anger and emotion. Chaos on Capitol Hill, as protesters swarm the offices of swing-vote senators, hoping to sway their votes, vividly showing how deeply divided the U.S. is over the Kavanaugh nomination.

Reshaping the court. Kavanaugh's confirmation will change the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court, possibly for generations to come and potentially impacting everything, from abortion to gay rights to climate change and health care.

And Russia's sloppy spies. Some of Moscow's top military intelligence agents are caught red-handed trying to wage aggressive cyber-attacks on Western institutions, only to be betrayed by their own mistakes and missteps.

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: The breaking news tonight, confirmation for judge Brett Kavanaugh now all but certain, as three previously undecided senators announced they will vote to put him on the Supreme Court.

Republicans Jeff Flake and Susan Collins along with red state Democrat Joe Manchin appear to have secured Kavanaugh's confirmation. Senator Lisa Murkowski is the lone Republican saying she will vote against Kavanaugh.

Senator Bob Menendez standing by to join us in a moment to talk about the breaking news. Our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go straight to Capitol Hill.

Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is joining us.

Phil, a day of very high drama in the U.S. Senate.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, no question about it. Rarely, if ever does Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell go into a vote, let alone big vote, not knowing if he has the votes, and yet sources tell me that's exactly the position he was in this morning, one that was maintained throughout much of the day until Senator Susan Collins took to the floor.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is on the path to confirmation by the narrowest of margins.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

MATTINGLY: Senator Susan Collins, long undecided, declaring she will vote yes, despite protests over sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

COLLINS: The facts presented do not mean that president that Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night or at some other time, but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations failed to meet the more-likely-than-not standard. Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.

MATTINGLY: Senator Joe Manchin, a red state Democrat, announcing just minutes later he too would be a yes.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: ... concern basically with the sexual abuse that people have had to endure, and very much concerned that we have to do something as a country. So, I had to deal with the facts I had in front of me.

MATTINGLY: Clinching an enormous victory for President Trump and his nominee amid a raw, divisive process of allegations and innuendo.

QUESTION: Senator, have you made your final vote?

MATTINGLY: And capping a day of drama and uncertainty that had Kavanaugh's prospects sitting on a knife's edge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On this vote, the ayes are 51, the no's are 49. The motion is agreed to.

MATTINGLY: After Senator Lisa Murkowski split with her fellow moderates on a procedural vote in this moment.


MATTINGLY: Murkowski later explaining to reporters that -- quote -- "In my view, he's not the right man for the court at this time," despite immense pressure from both sides and even from their own colleagues.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I have reached out to all three, to Senator Collins and to Murkowski and to Senator Flake, but I also know that they are getting input from absolutely everywhere.


MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, with the votes in hand, the final confirmation vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh should come some time tomorrow afternoon, but one of the broader questions even if and when he is confirmed is what happens next? What happens next for the U.S. Senate as an institution? What happens next for the conversation the entire country has been having over the cost of the last couple of weeks?

Even what happens next with the Supreme Court? Those are all questions that aides I have been talking to the last couple of days make very clear they don't have the answers to right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Phil, thank you very much. Important questions indeed.

President Trump was among those watching the drama unfold on television.

Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, what are you learning about the level of concerning over at the White House over the way Susan Collins, the level of concerns that existed before she announced her final decision?


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, we should point out that the president was watching Susan Collins' speech and that he is rather relieved and he's feeling good about the end result here, that it looks like his pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, will be confirmed by the Senate.

But, Wolf, absolutely. As Susan Collins was getting ready to deliver this speech, I'm told by a GOP source familiar with the nomination possess that people inside the Republican side of the Senate Judiciary Committee, people inside the White House, people inside team Kavanaugh, that they were all collectively holding their breaths as Susan Collins delivered this speech because of the unpredictability of all of this.

And I can just show you a quote from the source that we got earlier this afternoon, a source familiar with this process saying -- and this is interesting, Wolf. It says that: "We were on the edge of our seats. Signs were good, but you never take those for granted until it's announced. We were thinking that it shouldn't have been this close."

So, Wolf, just going back to this point that they thought that this nomination process would eventually yield to a result where Judge Kavanaugh would be confirmed by a comfortable margin, that obviously that gap closed considerably in the remaining hours before all of this. But the fact that a GOP source in the middle of all of this would say that they were on the edge of their seats I think underlines just how critical all of this was this afternoon when Susan Collins gave that speech.

BLITZER: How has the White House reacted publicly to the Collins commitment to vote yes on the confirmation?

ACOSTA: Interesting, Wolf, because the president, as you will recall, earlier today fired off that tweet when they initially cleared that first vote earlier this morning.

So far, no tweet from the president just yet, but Sarah Sanders did issue a tweet this afternoon thanking Senator Susan Collins. We can put that up on screen. It says: "Thank you, Senator Collins, for standing by your convictions and doing the right thing to confirm Judge Kavanaugh."

You know, just interesting there that the White House would pretty immediately reach out and put out that kind of statement. But, Wolf, another tweet that we should bring to your attention, this is from the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., weighing in on Joe Manchin, the West Virginia senator who is in that very hotly-contested race for reelection in West Virginia.

Don Jr., even though Joe Manchin announced his support for Brett Kavanaugh, Don Jr., the president's son, going after Joe Manchin: "A real profile in courage from lying liberal Joe Manchin," Don Jr. tweeting, "waiting until Kavanaugh had enough votes secured before he announced his support. I bet he had another press release ready to go if Collins went the other way."

Wolf, I think that is at this point the Republican Party's attempt to really try to spin Manchin's vote in favor of Kavanaugh as some kind of negative because, as they know, this is a tough race in West Virginia. If Joe Manchin could somehow eke out a win in part because he came out in support of Brett Kavanaugh, that obviously foils a lot of Republican plans to overturn that seat and turn that seat red, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the president, as we know, spent a lot of time in West Virginia campaigning against Joe Manchin.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that, Jim Acosta.

Let's get some more on all of that.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is joining us. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Good to be with you, Wolf. BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts on today's very dramatic historic

development. Certainly looks like Brett Kavanaugh is on his way to becoming a Supreme Court associate justice. Your reaction?

MENENDEZ: Well, it does look like that at this point, and I regret the decisions of some of my colleagues have made.

Look, I think that I listened to Senator Collins' remarks on the floor. I have a great deal of respect for her, but I think a lot of her remarks are aspirational as it relates to Judge Kavanaugh.

There's a difference, for example, as Judge Kavanaugh says that you have to have -- you should have respect for precedent. Respect doesn't mean that, in fact, you won't overturn precedent.

In fact, the Supreme Court at different times has done exactly that. There was no commentary about how Judge Kavanaugh ultimately comported himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the last appearance, where he clearly acted in a way that was a true partisan cloaked as a judge with robes, but in fact was a real partisan in his remarks and his demeanor.

Obviously, it was not one of a Supreme Court justice. So I just come to a different conclusion, and I honestly believe that he does not deserve to be on the court.

BLITZER: But do you agree, Senator...

MENENDEZ: And we will see what happens.

BLITZER: Let me just -- let me press you. You agree it is a done deal, there's virtually no chance of changing any of your colleagues' minds before now and the vote tomorrow afternoon?

MENENDEZ: Look, I have seen things happen in the past, but right now I don't have that expectation, based upon the announcements made by Senator Collins, Senator Flake and others.

BLITZER: Yes. They were very dramatic and very firm.

Senator Collins expressed her frustration with the entire confirmation process, which she says hit rock bottom during this fight. She pointed out that Supreme Court justices used to be confirmed with overwhelming majorities.


Do you think anything can be done to restore that kind of collegiality?

MENENDEZ: Well, look, I think I have a different take on when this process hit rock bottom.

It hit rock bottom when the Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat that should have been a nomination by President Obama and kept it open for nearly a year. I think it hit rock bottom when they changed the standard for the vote from a filibusterable 60-vote threshold to a 51- vote threshold.

So, I think that's when it hit rock bottom. And now is the result not only of that process, but obviously a judge who I believe is deeply flawed in terms of his candidacy for the Supreme Court.

I hope we can get to a better process moving forward, but the seeds of this, from my perspective, happened by the actions of Republicans, both in stopping Merrick Garland and then changing the rules about what a vote to approve a Supreme Court justice would take.

BLITZER: But don't you think Harry Reid and your fellow Democrats deserve some of the blame for that? Because years ago, when Harry Reid was the majority leader in the Senate, he moved to do away with that 60-margin vote, the filibuster for various positions.

And then Mitch McConnell, the new majority leader, said, you know what, we're going to do away with that position, we're going to deal with the nuclear option, as it is called, for Supreme Court justices as well?

MENENDEZ: Well, first of all, Harry Reid preserved the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court justices.

BLITZER: But he did away with it for others, so he set a precedent by dealing with that.


MENENDEZ: No. There's not a precedent.

The precedent would have been, from my perspective, Wolf, if he would have changed the vote for a Supreme Court justice. Then there would be nothing to complain about. He understood the gravity of what it is to have a Supreme Court nominee. He could have changed the vote then. And we wouldn't have had -- we would have had Merrick Garland on the court, instead of, you know, the last nominee.

So the reality is that while he did it for lower courts, because we had unprecedented obstruction by the minority at the time, he preserved it for the Supreme Court, because he understood the stakes.


BLITZER: Was it a mistake, with hindsight, to go ahead and do that nuclear option for other federal judges' confirmation?

MENENDEZ: I think it would have been an enormous mistake if, in fact, Harry Reid then as the majority leader would have eliminated the 60- vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees.

BLITZER: I'm asking about the other federal, like courts of appeals, federal district court judges. You see how...

MENENDEZ: I don't -- I think there's a difference.

BLITZER: Because I ask the question because the president right now, he is getting a lot of his judicial appointments confirmed to be federal judges either at the appellate level or the district court level, and he simply needs a simple majority.

MENENDEZ: Listen, you know, we can debate about whether or not it was a good idea for lower courts.

The one thing that Harry Reid and Democrats understood was that when you come to the Supreme Court of the United States, you need to preserve that bipartisan vote that is necessary, that 60-vote threshold. We didn't eliminate it then. If not, Merrick Garland would have been on the Supreme Court of the United States.

BLITZER: But I want to move on, but with hindsight, was it a mistake to use the nuclear option for lower court federal judges, as Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats pushed through?

MENENDEZ: Look, I think at the time we had an unprecedented obstruction by the Republicans, and the courts were begging for just even district court nominees, and that's the reality that was faced and that's why they moved ahead.

But even in the face of the reality, they could have gone for the whole thing. They didn't. They purposely preserved the 60-vote threshold for the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: Yes. I know a lot of your fellow Democrats have pointed out to me and to others that that did set a precedent. It made it easier for Mitch McConnell later to move one step further and include Supreme Court nominees as well.

I know you don't want to get into that.

But let's move on to some of these other sensitive issues, Senator.

Did Judge Kavanaugh say anything in that "Wall Street Journal" op-ed that he published yesterday to convince you he will be an impartial associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court?


I think that's a confirmation conversion. The reality is, he showed me who he was when he was before the Senate Judiciary Committee after Dr. Ford testified. He showed me to be a partisan. He said what goes around comes around.

He made the whole process political when he said that this was a left- wing conspiracy hit against him, a repayment for the Clintons. He took out every political canard at the end of the day.

And his temperament, in addition to that, in questioning members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who were asking him legitimate questions based upon the allegations that were brought, he made it political at the end of the day. He doesn't show me anything by what he wrote afterwards that changes my mind.

[18:15:00] BLITZER: You are up for reelection next month. Some polls have shown a surprisingly close race for your Senate seat in New Jersey.

Are you worried that this Supreme Court battle has energized Republicans ahead of the midterms?


Look, when it comes to the court,I take a principled view. I actually voted against Judge Kavanaugh when he was nominated for the D.C. Court of Appeals. I think it was the right decision then. Voting against him tomorrow on this one for the Supreme Court has verified, from my view, based on decisions he made on the D.C. Court on civil rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, on immigrant rights.

And I will let the New Jerseyans decide on that. As a matter of fact, I think New Jerseyans will stand with me on their view on Judge Kavanaugh.

BLITZER: Some Republicans, including the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., have accused Democrats of already plotting to take steps to impeach Judge Kavanaugh if they win majorities in Congress. What's your response?

MENENDEZ: Look, I think the only thing that we're focused on is saying to the American people, the race for Congress on the House and the Senate, the consequences could never be more significant. The stakes have never been higher. There's no checks and balance on this administration. They have it all.

Let's first have a check and balance on an administration that I believe poses risks both at home and abroad in the decisions they make.

BLITZER: Senator Menendez, thanks so much for joining us.

MENENDEZ: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, there's more breaking news ahead, as we look to this weekend's final confirmation vote on Brett Kavanaugh.

Could any of the swing-vote senators actually swing back their support and upend the nomination?



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.

The Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh now has the votes he needs to be confirmed in a final vote this weekend after GOP senators Collins and Flake and Democrat Joe Manchin announced their support.

Let's get more from our reporters and analysts.

Dana Bash, I assume it is a done deal now.


I mean, there are 51 senators on record now saying that they are going to vote yes, and we're just going to have to wait for literally the clock to run out, the legislative clock to run out in order to take that final vote tomorrow.

So it is a huge victory for the president. It is a huge victory for the conservative movement that has been waiting for decades for this swing seat to open and to be able to pack the court with conservatives like Brett Kavanaugh.

And there's no question that that shouldn't be taken away from Republicans and the president. This is just the beginning of a humongous political fight, the emotional political fight that is already taking place and will only get more extreme and more intense as we get towards the midterm elections.

BLITZER: You know, Nia-Malika Henderson, Senator Collins, she delivered a 45-minute, very lengthy, detailed speech on the Senate floor, wrapping up with her support for confirmation.

But let me play this clip. Watch.


COLLINS: The presumption of innocence and fairness do bear on my thinking, and I cannot abandon them.

In evaluating any given claim of misconduct, we will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be. We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy.


BLITZER: She said she saw no corroboration of these charges.


BLITZER: The allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.

HENDERSON: You know, there is no point when I was listening to that speech that I feel like Susan Collins was ever really undecided.

It was such a well-written, well-delivered, well-reasoned speech. She, of course, is getting kudos from his colleagues about it now. Lindsey Graham basically saying, wow, this is a speech they should study for decades going forward.

And, you know, there was a lot of drama obviously going up to her speech, this idea of, was she going to vote with Lisa Murkowski? And there she was surrounded by two Republican senators, right, in the background, Cindy Hyde-Smith and Shelley Moore Capito. So there was really a kind of show of force for Susan Collins, a show of force for Republican women as well, standing by Brett Kavanaugh in a very impassioned way. And I think it gave Republicans what they needed.

It was in some ways probably the best defense we have heard of Kavanaugh. I mean, we have seen a lot of sort of passionate speeches, Lindsey Graham obviously, Grassley also, and McConnell, but that was a real moment I think for Collins, and I think obviously Republicans very much appreciated, because she gave a kind of tidy bow to their in some ways messy process to get him to the court.

BLITZER: She obviously worked long and hard preparing that 45-minute speech.


BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, what did you think?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it really addressed every single issue that has been outstanding about Brett Kavanaugh, his judicial philosophy, the sexual assault allegations.

It was a speech that could have been written by Chuck Grassley. I mean, it was entirely pro-Kavanaugh. You know, we have been describing her, perhaps incorrectly, as someone who was agonizing or undecided, but that was not the speech of someone who decided this is a 51-49 question.


I mean, she rejected every argument against Kavanaugh and embraced every argument in favor of him.

A lot of her assertions I think can be very much open to question. The idea that, you know, she thinks that he's not going to overturn Roe v. Wade, that there was no corroboration of the professor's accusations, I mean, I think those are highly, highly debatable, but she went fully with Kavanaugh, and the chips will fall where they may.

BLITZER: We know what's going to happen tomorrow.

Rebecca Berg, immediately after she wrapped up her speech on the Senate floor, Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, he announced that he will vote yes in favor of confirmation as well.

Shortly thereafter, Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, weighed in on Twitter, writing this. "A real profile in courage from lying liberal Joe Manchin. Waited until Kavanaugh had enough votes secured until he announced his support. I bet he had another press release ready to go if Collins went the other way. West Virginia, vote for" -- and then he said #makeAmericagreatagain and Morrisey, his opponent in the Senate race that is coming up in a few weeks.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Well, Donald Trump Jr. has been a very effective cheerleader for

Republicans this cycle. And you could see in that tweet why that is. He's very passionate about the races that are going on right now.

But what you are reading in that tweet, Wolf, is just what you are going to hear from Republicans in terms of spin about Manchin's vote. I mean, there's no good way truly for Republicans to spin it because Manchin took the vote that was the most politically reasonable vote for him to take.

He is from a very Republican state. He's in a very competitive race for Senate, but he's currently winning that race for Senate. If he had decided to vote no on Brett Kavanaugh, that could have really mixed up that race in a way that would have been unpredictable, but Manchin took the safe vote, the safe pass, and he's in position, really the pole position in that race. He's in a very safe political position.

BLITZER: Ariane de Vogue, you cover the Supreme Court for us.

This very narrow margin of victory for Judge Kavanaugh, how will that impact once he becomes a Supreme Court associate justice?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, Wolf, one thing that we have never seen before is a confirmation statement like he gave that was so political.

I mean, when he was glaring at those Democrats, invoking the Clintons, that is going to be a cloud that will go with him. Of course, when he gets at the court, he will be embraced by the justices. He knows many of them, right? He helped put Chief Justice John Roberts on the bench when he was in the White House. He was hired by Kagan at Harvard.

Justice Thomas had similar problems during his confirmation hearing. He's going to embrace him. So the justices themselves may not be the problem, but we saw something really interesting yesterday, and that was retired Justice Stevens. That was unprecedented.

Justice Stevens came out and he said, because of his judicial temperament that he saw during that confirmation process, he thought he was unqualified for the bench. That doesn't happen very often, and that is very interesting.

BLITZER: Very important, indeed.

All right, everybody, stand by. There's a lot more we're working on.

How will the current Supreme Court justices receive Brett Kavanaugh? His confirmation is now all but assured.

We want our panel to stand by. We will talk about that and a lot more, lots of news, right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with our reporters and our analysts. [18:33:10] And Dana, it has been a busy day, but you had some time,

actually, today to sit down with a couple of Professor Christine Blasey Ford's lawyers and get their reaction.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It was really interesting, because when we sat down, we didn't know for sure what the final vote would be -- would be, but it was pretty clear where it was headed. And what they said was that, even now, what Professor Ford believes is that she did her civic duty.


BASH: If Judge Kavanaugh becomes Justice Kavanaugh or even if he stays on the federal bench he's on now, would Professor Ford like impeachment proceedings to begin?

DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY FOR CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: Professor Ford has not asked for anything of the sort. What she did was to come forward and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and agree to cooperate with any investigation by the FBI, and that's what she sought to do here.

BASH: So, no, she's not going there on impeachment?


BASH: She does not want him to be impeached?


BASH: Have you heard any regrets from her about coming out the way she did?

LISA BANKS, ATTORNEY FOR CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: I don't think she has any regrets. I think she feels like she did the right thing, and this was what she wanted to do, which was provide this information to the committee so they could make the best decision possible. And I think she still feels that that was the right thing to do, so I don't think she has any regrets.


BLITZER: She was terrified to begin with, but then in the end, she went to her congresswoman, then the senator, spoke to "The Washington Post," and the rest is history.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, of course, her motives have been questioned. They were questioned by the GOP senators, essentially saying she was something of a pawn.

Her lawyers were very much questioned, too. Were they in the tank for Republican -- for Democrats and, in some ways, working in cahoots with Democrats to bring this story forward?

[18:35:00] Interesting there. I mean, they're basically saying, you know, she did what she wanted to do. She's not going to push for impeachment. She's not this political creature where it is going to hangover her head and she's going to seek revenge on Kavanaugh going forward. So, yes, good get, Dana. And really interesting.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, you've written books on the United States Supreme Court, an excellent book, "The Nine," I must say. Where do you see the Supreme Court moving now that Judge Kavanaugh looks like he's going to be a member of that nine, of that very elite nine?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Roe v. Wade overturned. Affirmative action over.

BLITZER: Let me just hold you for a second. When you say overturned, or more restricted abortion rights for women?

TOOBIN: Overturned. What you're going to see is states ban abortion. I mean, you know, Mississippi has talked about it. South Dakota talked about it. A lot of people say, "They're going to limit it, but they're not going to eliminate Roe v. Wade."

If you have a state that outlaws abortion, as we are almost certainly going to do in the next couple of years, even probably sooner, the court is going to have to either uphold Roe v. Wade or overturn Roe v. Wade. There is no way to decide that case without deciding the face of -- fate of Roe v. Wade. It is going to be overturned. It will be gone.

There will be states in this country -- probably a dozen or so, maybe more -- where abortion is illegal. It will not change California. It will not change New York. Many states will still have abortion as available as it is today, but abortion will be illegal in a significant part of this country because of what happened today.

BLITZER: And when he told Susan Collins, among others, he believes in precedent, Roe v. Wade as a precedent, you say?

TOOBIN: That, you know, precedents get overturned all the time at the Supreme Court. They overturned a Supreme Court precedent which almost identically, within two years of Roe v. Wade, just this past turn in a case about labor unions.

The idea -- and liberals overturn precedents, too. I mean, the idea -- Lawrence v. Texas was the case that said gay people couldn't be criminally prosecuted for having consensual sex. That was a decision in 2003. That overturned a decision from 1986. It wasn't that long earlier. They overturn precedents with regularity. Not all the time, but with regularity.

And President Trump promised during the campaign that he would appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade; and by that, I think he meant he will appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, and that's what I think he's done.

BLITZER: Yes. And we're going to talk a little bit more about that later. Nia, the political fall-out, especially only a few weeks before the midterm elections, could be significant. HENDERSON: That's right. I mean, we see both sides energized.

Obviously, the liberals, Democrats, progressives, they were already energized. And now you've got Republicans. All of the data is showing that they're newly energized by this.

I think one group of people to watch here -- and we've been watching them already -- suburban white women. And we somewhat saw a split here. Lisa Murkowski versus Susan Collins in terms of how they felt about it. So you wonder going forward, those moderate Republican women, particularly in swing districts, in House districts, where do they fall? Are they going to sort of split in the way that you saw Susan Collins do on Lisa Murkowski?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But many Republicans view this, of course, as a very energizing issue for their base. And the question for the party, now that the vote is set to move forward tomorrow and Brett Kavanaugh is headed to the Supreme Court, is how do you keep that energy up among the base for a whole month?

So much can happen in a month, in any year, but especially in this administration. So how do you keep Republican voters, if you're the Republican Party, focused on this issue?

One preview, potentially, of their strategy was in another Donald Trump Jr. tweet. I know we quoted him just last segment, but he tweeted about the possibility that Democrats, if they take control of Congress, would want to impeach Brett Kavanaugh.

And you asked about that question, Dana, smartly in your interview, but that is, I think, going to be part of their strategy.

BASH: And I also asked Nancy Pelosi that very question, and she would be the person who would be in charge of the House, presumably, to begin impeachment proceedings, and she -- I didn't need those glasses. It's been a long day.

BLITZER: We'll get them.

BASH: She said, "I'm not going there. I'm not going there on impeachment. I'm not talking about impeaching the president, and I'm definitely not going there on impeaching Brett Kavanaugh," because she understands what a rallying tool that is for Republicans.

BLITZER: And you know, the good news for Republicans, the very good news for the president: not only the confirmation almost certain of Brett Kavanaugh, but these economic numbers that came out today.


BLITZER: Three-point-seven percent unemployment in the month of September. That is the lowest number since, what, 1969 --

BASH: In 49 years.

BLITZER: -- 49 years.

BASH: Almost half a century.

BLITZER: That's a pretty impressive number.

BASH: It's unbelievable. I mean, it's really unbelievable, and the president is in -- the Republicans should be, on paper, in the cat bird seat right now. Unbelievable job numbers. He's got two Supreme Court justices who are -- at least 1 1/2, I guess, you can say. And -- and so the wind should be at their back.

[18:40:21] The problem is that the ying to that yang is the Democrats are watching everything happening out there in the world and in the country; and they are so fired up and even more so after what is going to happen tomorrow.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: The thing is, one thing not to lose sight of is this judge's issue and how he seized on this so early on. I mean no other presidential candidate ever came up with a list when he didn't even have the vacancies. And remember, he made this a sticking point during the campaign. This is going to be one of his most lasting legacies. Think of some of the Supreme Court justices right now.

BLITZER: Hold your thought. I want -- you and Jeffrey, we're going to talk about this, this legacy on the Supreme Court and all these federal judges.

BASH: Can you check what the SIT ROOM budget is for new glasses?

BLITZER: If you need new glasses, we're going to get those new glasses.

Everybody stand by. Lots more on the breaking news right after this.


[18:45:50] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We have more now on the breaking news. Historic news: Brett Kavanaugh plays to win confirmation this weekend and reshape the United States Supreme Court possibly for generations.

Let's dig a little bit deeper. Joining us still, Jeffrey Toobin, our chief legal analyst, and CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue.

You know, Ariane, I'm going to play a clip for you. This is Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. She was at Princeton University today with Sonya Sotomayor. They were speaking about all sorts of things, but listen to this clip from Elena Kagan.


JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT: People too often don't realize we agree a lot. If you look at the court's case load --


BLITZER: Unfortunately we don't have that right clip. We have a shorter version. Let me see if we can key this up. This is Justice Kagan. Listen to this.


KAGAN: It is an incredibly important thing for the court to guard, is -- is this reputation of being fair, of being impartial, of being neutral and of not being simply an extension of the terribly polarized political process and environment that we live in. And, you know, this is a challenge.


BLITZER: All right. Those are pretty timely words.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: This speaking event was planned for a long time. It just happened today. But Justice Kagan, she could have avoided everything. She could have said, I'm not talking about it.

She made a point almost like Chief Justice Roberts would, but caring about the institution of the court there because she knows that coming out of this, this is the most politicized we have ever seen it and she wanted to send a strong message that she cares about how this court looks and that -- that it can't be looked at politically. And she also said something else which we didn't have in that clip, but she also said, you know, for years we had a swing vote. Maybe first it was O'Connor, then it was Kennedy and now there may not be a swing vote.

And the reason that's important, she said that the swing vote enabled the court to look like we're not owned by one side over the other. There is concern, and I think that's what Kagan was getting at, about the institution of the court and now what's going the happen because you're going to have these five by Republican presidents, four by Democrats and there's a worry for them.

BLITZER: Yes. We were talking about this, the impact it will have, five conservative justices, four liberal justices. Jeffrey, I interrupted you last time. But go ahead and flesh it out for us.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I was talking about the end of Roe v. Wade, I was talking about the end of affirmative action, Citizens United, all the campaign finance related cases, deregulating American politics, when it comes to gay rights. I don't think same sex marriage is in jeopardy, but think about the Masterpiece Bakery case where a baker didn't want to make a wedding cake. Wait until they start getting cases from hotel owners who say I don't want to use my creativity for gay customers, restaurant owners who don't want to serve gay customers.

I mean, this is a dramatic change coming and the conservatives are in charge, and there is a reason why the evangelicals and the base of the Republican Party has stood with Donald Trump all this time. It is not because they admire Donald Trump's personal life, is he has delivered on what is most important to them.

BLITZER: But why do you think, Jeffrey, that the conservatives are much more passionate about this than the liberals?

TOOBIN: It is a great question, Wolf. In the 2016 campaign, during the convention, the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton didn't mention, Barack Obama didn't mention the fact that Merrick Garland was being held hostage at that very time, that issue disappeared from Democratic campaigns. Can you imagine if the Democrats had done that to a Republican appointee?

I mean, this is an issue that has motivated Republicans, and with small exceptions Democrats have been asleep on. Maybe all of this controversy will change that, but you make a great point. There is a widely disproportionate level of interest between the parties on the Supreme Court.

[18:50:00] BLITZER: And it has an impact.

You know, former President Obama was criticized he didn't work hard enough in getting appellate court justices, federal judges confirmed and filling a lot of those seats.

DE VOGUE: In the early years, he was absolutely criticized for that and I remember, I was covering it at the time, and the outside legal groups were pulling their hair out because they were saying, this is our chance. You have seen much more discipline on the conservative side here, led by the Federalist Society, Don McGahn, he gave a big speech there.

They started early on this, and they know one thing, is that this could be long after -- my kids may not remember the Trump presidency. His nominees are still going to be on the bench, and keep in mind. It was Trump who said during the campaign, I might have as many as five retirements. They were thinking about this early on.

BLITZER: All these federal judges, these are lifetime appointments too, and they have an enormous impact.

Give me your final thought, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, the person that Barack Obama has to thank for having any significant impact on (AUDIO GAP). Harry Reid invoking the nuclear option gave him the chance to put judges on the bench during the first two years of his presidency. The last two years, when there was a Republican Senate, he got no judges through at all.

There is a huge difference between how Democrats and Republicans look at the Supreme Court, perhaps the events of the last few weeks will change that. We'll see.

BLITZER: We'll see, indeed.

All right, guys, thank you very much.

There's more breaking news ahead as Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination moves to -- over its final hurdle. Will there be any last- minute surprises?

Plus, we have details of the rather sloppy espionage that blew the cover of some elite Russian spies.


[18:56:27] BLITZER: Tonight, the Kremlin is saying hysteria drove the U.S. and other Western countries to unmask alleged Russian intelligence agents who tried to disrupt world affairs through aggressive cyber attacks.

Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Moscow for us. He's joining us live.

Matthew, it was sloppy spy work rather than hysteria that led to these agents being unmasked.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And even the Russian media are calling this a black week for the GRU, Russia's secretive military intelligence agency, with the United States' allies not just accusing the country of carrying out these espionage cyber attack activities all over the world, but also exposing details of their sloppy antics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Johnny English. I'm here to see Pegasus.

CHANCE (voice-over): It's all too easy to mock a bungling spy. More Johnny English than James Bond is how one British minister dubbed Russia's GRU agents in a series of embarrassing blunders. Take the four agents recently expelled from the Netherlands. Not only were they caught red handed trying to hack the global chemical weapons watchdog, but one of them even had a Moscow taxi receipt in his pocket showing a ride from GRU headquarters in the Russian capital to the airport. Great for accounting, not good for espionage.

Of course, even the best secret agents can make mistakes. Not that long ago, Russia mocked British spies after filming them using an electronic gadget disguised as a rock to receive information. And it's just a few years since an alleged CIA agent was unmasked in Moscow and shown on TV wearing a particularly bad blond wig.

The concern about recent sloppiness of Russian spies, though, is that they don't seem to really care about being caught. The suspected GRU agents accused of poisoning the Skripals in Britain earlier this year made little attempt to hide their tracks. The pair were repeatedly caught on CCTV traveling to and from Salisbury, even Novichok, the poison used, is identifiably Russian.

And as for their cover story, as broadcast on Russian state television, unconvincing is one that springs to mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our friends have been suggesting for quite some time that we visit this wonderful city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Salisbury, a wonderful city?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): What makes it so wonderful?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's a tourist city. They have a famous cathedral there, Salisbury Cathedral. It's famous throughout Europe and in fact, throughout the world, I think. It's famous for its 123-meter spire. It's famous for its clock.

CHANCE: Implausible deniability, that's one way of seeing it. The Kremlin sending a blunt message to its enemies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, remember, every agent would carry a pen that looked just like this, completely innocent to the untrained eye, but click it twice --

CHANCE: Plain old incompetence, though, cannot be ruled out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen my secretary?


BLITZER: Matthew Chance reporting from Moscow, excellent piece. Thanks, Matthew, very, very much.

That's it. Thanks very much to all of our viewers for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.