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Hurricane Heads for Florida; Interview With Washington Congressman Denny Heck; Kavanaugh Takes Seat on Supreme Court; U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley Resigns. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 9, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Diplomatic departure. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley calls it quits, prompting a warm-and-fuzzy White House announcement, instead of a terse presidential tweet. Why is she leaving and why the special treatment from Mr. Trump?

Stonewalling. Tonight, an aide to Trump ally Roger Stone is more confident about his refusal to cooperate with Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Is the newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, in his court?

And losing women. CNN's exclusive new poll drives home the widening gender gap and why it could cost the president's party control of Congress. Is the Kavanaugh controversy giving Democrats a greater advantage with the midterms just four weeks away?

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.

Hurricane Michael is stronger and more dangerous tonight as it plows toward the Gulf Coast as a major life-threatening Category 3 storm. A just-released forecast shows Michael is on track to hammer the Florida Panhandle tomorrow as the most destructive hurricane to strike the region in decades. More than 20 million people in five states, they are at risk from this monster storm.

Also breaking, President Trump suggests no one would be more competent than his daughter Ivanka to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations after Nikki Haley's surprise announcement that she's stepping down. But, tonight, Ivanka Trump says she won't be getting the job.

This hour, I will talk with Democratic Congressman Denny Heck. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.


BLITZER: Let's go live to Florida right now, the Panhandle, where residents are bracing for hurricane Michael to hit.

Our own Brian Todd is already in Fort Walton Beach.

Brian, you are in a rather vulnerable area. What are you seeing?


Believe it or not, we are seeing the initial stages of storm surge, even though the storm really hasn't arrived in earnest yet. I'm on Bay Drive in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Right behind me the Choctawhatchee Bay coming right off the Gulf.

And look at the water and the storm surge. We are told by local residents, by the sheriff and also by our CNN weather team this is not normal, that the water levels even at high tides are not up this high. This is a beach right here, and the water has washed completely over the beach.


And I'm standing in several inches of water here on Bay Drive. And we're told that this could really wash through when the storm pushes through in earnest here. This water could a lot get higher.

Some of these local residents are a little bit vulnerable to flooding here. A lot of them now, like these houses over here, are up on stilts, they're elevated, so they're not vulnerable to flooding, but the big question in this, Wolf, is going to be the wind. This is going to be a very heavy wind event here with this hurricane, much more powerful winds than in Hurricane Florence a couple of weeks ago.

So are some of these houses going to be able to sustain, you know, the ripping off of shingles and other damage to these structures, Wolf? But, again, you are seeing initial -- you know, just some of the storm surge here and we haven't even had this in earnest yet. It is still several hours away, Wolf. Again, you can see the waters of the Choctawhatchee Bay starting to push over here.

We are told this is what happens as the storm starts to push some of the water north right into the Gulf area. We are in very low-lying areas here. They have told everybody that is on the south side of Route 98, which is an east/west route -- that is over that way -- to evacuate in low-lying areas like this.

The question is, are people heeding those warning, Wolf?

BLITZER: Well, what about those evacuations? What are you hearing? Because people are being told get out, get out now while you still can, because pretty soon the winds alone will prevent these folks from leaving.

TODD: Right.

The window is closing. The bridges behind me are going to start to close when the winds get to 40 miles per hour. Then people are not going to be able to get out.

We are told that a lot of people are heeding the warnings, but a key question, Wolf, is tourists. This place really swells with tourists. There are a lot of residual tourists here from the summer months. Some of them may not understand necessarily how serious this is or may not have heard some of the warnings to get out. They're keeping a very close eye on the tourist population here as well.

BLITZER: As they should. All right, Brian, thank you. Be careful.

Also tonight, President Trump has declared Florida a disaster area ahead of Hurricane Michael. He's monitoring the storm as he deals with the unusually timed resignation of his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka addressing speculation tonight that she might replace Nikki Haley.

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

Jim, Haley's resignation seemed to have caught so many key members of the Trump team off-guard.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And the White House is already working on a replacement for Nikki Haley, and President Trump is talking up the prospects of one possible contender, his daughter Ivanka Trump.

The president said he couldn't think of anyone more competent for the petition, but Ivanka, we should point out, is putting an end to the speculation this evening in true Trump fashion, tweeting this, that she will not be the replacement for Nikki Haley.


ACOSTA (voice-over): At a time when the White House is struggling with female voters, a major loss for Trump, as United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, one of the highest-ranking women in the Trump administration, is stepping down.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hate to lose you. Hopefully, you will be coming back at some point, but just maybe in a different capacity. You can have your pick. But I just wanted to let you know, so at the end of the year, Nikki will be leaving. And we will be in constant touch.

ACOSTA: Haley wanted to make one thing clear. She is not leaving to pursue her own political ambitions.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: And I will say this. For all of you that are going to ask about 2020, no, I am not running for 2020. I can promise you what I will be doing is campaigning for this one. So I look forward to supporting the president in the next election.

ACOSTA: But read between the lines, and there could be a sign of things to come, as Haley praised members of the Trump family, Ivanka and Jared Kushner. HALEY: I can't say enough good things about Jared and Ivanka. Jared

is such a hidden genius that no one understands, and Ivanka has been just a great friend. And they do a lot of things behind the scenes that I wish more people knew about, because we're a better country because they're in this administration.

ACOSTA: CNN has learned Ivanka's name has surfaced in discussions about Haley's replacement, but when told about the internal speculation, a source said Ivanka laughed. That didn't stop the president from engaging in that speculation later in the day.

TRUMP: I have heard Ivanka. I have heard, how good would Ivanka be?

The people that know, it's nothing to do with nepotism. But I want to tell you, the people that know, know that Ivanka would be dynamite. But, you know, I would then be accused of nepotism, if you can believe it, right, even though I'm not sure there's anybody more competent in the world.

ACOSTA: There were more tea leaves earlier in the day, when the president appeared to set a high bar for the next U.N. ambassador, saying Haley had made the job more glamorous.

TRUMP: We have a number of people that would very much like to do it. It's a great position. And Nikki realized that. She's -- she's -- I think she's helped make it a much better position, if you want to know the truth.


I think it's become maybe a more glamorous position than it was two years ago. Maybe.

ACOSTA: The glowing praise is a far cry from the jabs they were exchanging during the campaign, when Mr. Trump tweeted, "The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley." And she responded, "Bless your heart."

QUESTION: Do you believe Nikki Haley when she says she doesn't want to run for president in 2020? You guys used to clash with one another.


TRUMP: That's right. But we -- I didn't know her. I mean, she supported somebody over me in the primary. It turned out very well for me. She respected it.

And after that, we got along, as you would say, very well.

ACOSTA: There are also questions about the timing of Haley's departure, as her letter of resignation was dated last week, when she wrote: "As a businessman, I expect you will appreciate my sense that returning from government to the private sector is not a step down, but a step up." But just yesterday, the government watchdog CREW raised questions about flights on private planes Haley took last year, writing: "In this case, Ambassador Haley's relationships with this individuals appear to have significant political and professional components."


ACOSTA: Now, President Trump says he will select his new U.N. ambassador in the next few weeks.

And, Wolf, one thing we should point out on the president's mind earlier this afternoon, he was talking about his new Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh. I asked the president earlier today about his comment that he made yesterday when he described the forces against Brett Kavanaugh as -- quote -- "evil," and here is what he had to say.


ACOSTA: Should we say that about fellow Americans?

TRUMP: I know many. I know fellow Americans that are evil. I know -- are you saying we shouldn't say that a fellow American is evil?

I have known some fellow Americans that are pretty evil.


ACOSTA: So there you have it, Wolf.

The president did not issue any regrets, offer any regrets in terms of describing forces against Brett Kavanaugh as being evil. He also declined to say who he thought was evil in terms of the opposition to Brett Kavanaugh.

He didn't say that the Democratic senators or the protesters, peaceful protesters up on Capitol Hill or even Christine Blasey Ford were evil, but he did stand by his characterization that some of those folks who were against Brett Kavanaugh were evil.

And he, as you saw there in that clip, said it was perfectly appropriate, he thought, for him to describe his own fellow Americans as evil -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim. Thank you, Jim Acosta reporting.

Let's talk more about Nikki Haley's sudden resignation with CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, you have also been hearing that Haley's resignation came as a surprise to many inside the Trump administration. Is there concern over her pending departure?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There is concern, for sure. Interesting. The news broke during our air this morning, and the

nearly unanimous reaction -- this is true domestically -- Republicans and Democrats on the Hill -- was surprise, but also from foreign officials and diplomats who had developed a close relationship with Nikki Haley in this role over the last several months, couple years now of the Trump administration.

And that surprise joined with a fair amount of concern.

I want to read what I heard from a senior diplomat at the U.N. who said that her service there, in his words, avoided what could have been a breakdown of U.S./U.N. relations. Folks speaking in those terms, because, I will tell you this, Wolf, and I know you have heard a similar thing, that when you speak to officials, leaders, even among America's closest allies, they will often mention two names that give them confidence and assurances when they speak of U.S. foreign policy in the age of Trump.

And those two names consistently have been Mattis, James Mattis, defense secretary, and Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the U.N., because on the issues that Trump himself has had very public disagreements, even with U.S. allies, whether it is the E.U., the NATO alliance, the role of the U.N., but, more critically, those key defense alliances, it is Nikki Haley and James Mattis who have come out and issued reassurances, sometimes to contradict the president, frankly, the comments contradicting the president, particularly on issues such as Russia.

Nikki Haley much more forward-leaning in her public statements than the president has been, criticizing Russia for its interference in the election, its malign activities abroad.

And so you hear with her now leaving concern who replaces her and who can those officials and leaders turn to when they have concern about where the U.S. stands on these issues? That's a real concern, Wolf, and I have heard it from a number of folks overseas. They are going to be watching very closely as to who fills her shoes.

BLITZER: And the president says he could make an announcement within the next two or three weeks. We will see if that happens.

Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Congressman Denny Heck. He's a Democrat. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

Who do you think the president should nominate to replace Nikki Haley?

REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: Well, whomever he nominates, Wolf, I hope it is somebody that shares an adherence to the values of human rights throughout the globe, which Ambassador Haley was on occasion willing to stand up and speak out on behalf of.

[18:15:00] I would recommend to him, if I thought he would consider it, somebody like Nancy Soderberg, who was the alternate representative in the Clinton years and carried the rank of ambassador to the United Nations.

But she is a little tied up now running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Florida 6. Short of that, perhaps Cory Gardner from Colorado, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee and has a broader geopolitical view of world relations.

But whomever it is, I hope they support the values of human rights and I hope they understand the importance of good relations with our partners throughout the world.

BLITZER: As you know, Nikki Haley was able at times to walk a rather fine line. She sometimes contradicted the president, but managed to remain in his good graces.

Do you think that's a necessary quality for whoever he nominates?

HECK: Well, sure, but I think it is a difficult quality to achieve.

And if you stop and look, there have been more high-ranking people depart and head for the exit signs in the Trump administration in 20 short months than any presidency in modern history and perhaps throughout history. I'm not quite sure of that.

They have left in droves, and it just goes to speak to how difficult it is, in fact, to serve this administration and to be able to have that balancing act of never offending him and of always being completely, 100 percent, unthinkingly, blindly loyal to him.

BLITZER: We have a graphic. We will put it on the screen. We show all the administration departures over the past year-and-a-half or so. And you see all those folks who have left the Trump administration.

As you know, Congressman, the president's national security adviser, Ambassador John Bolton, the former ambassador to the U.N., he is frequently a very harsh critic of the United Nations. He has gained significant influence certainly inside the Trump administration.

Do you think the next ambassador will have the president's ear?

HECK: So it may be that Mr. Bolton's involvement in this is a part of why Ambassador Haley departed.

I think that's one of the more interesting questions, why did she leave and why now? The norm is that an ambassador to the U.N. serves more like four years because of the importance of depth of relations.

And certainly it would have been more in the norm for her to have waited until after the election to make an announcement. It is all very curious. As my colleague Mark Sanford, there's something not quite right here. Maybe, in the fullness of time, we will better understand this. Maybe she departed suddenly and prematurely because she wanted to get

out ahead of a midterm election disaster that she would be at least secondarily associated with, or maybe she wanted to depart prior to the issuance of a report by special counsel Bob Mueller.

We just don't know yet, and, hopefully, we will someday.

BLITZER: Let's talk about that a little bit, because you're on the Intelligence Committee.

That "New York Times" report, which came out claiming that former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates seriously considered a proposal from an Israeli intelligence firm to create fake online identities and use manipulation on social media to help Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, what are your main takeaways from this report?

HECK: No surprises whatsoever, Wolf.

I mean, this is a part of the broader pattern of engaging in these kind of deceptive practices and completely weaponizing social media platforms that has, in part, led to now the conviction of at least five very-close-to-President Trump associates, from his national security adviser, to his campaign chairman, to his assistant campaign chairman, and right on down the line.

There are now five convicted felons, including, by the way, Rick Gates. So, there should be nothing whatsoever that surprises people that this conversation would have taken place, and that they would have explored this possibility.

BLITZER: Do you see a direct line to Robert Mueller's Russia probe?

HECK: Well, as insofar as Rick Gates has now turned state's evidence, we will all find that out.

I don't expect, as I said before, for there to be any more announcements between now and the midterms, 28 days, four hours-plus from now, Wolf. But I do think, at some point, there will be additional indictments. I don't think he's done yet. There are just too many people that are cooperating too fully, now Mr. Manafort and Mr. Cohen, and immunity granted to the chief financial officer at the Trump Organization and Mr. Gates.

Bob Mueller would not have struck the plea deals with them if they had not made what we call a proffer, in other words, showed their cards a little bit, here is the information I have that might be of use to you.

And so I fully expect there to be additional indictments before all is said and done.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect there will be as well.

All right, Congressman Denny Heck, thank you so much for joining us.

HECK: You're welcome, sir.

BLITZER: The breaking news continues. We are going to have more on the surprise resignation of the U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, and Ivanka Trump now ruling herself out as a possible replacement.

Plus, a Roger Stone aide mounting a constitutional challenge against the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Will the newest Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh, support his case?



BLITZER: We're tracking the path of Hurricane Michael right now as it pushes towards the Florida Panhandle. It was upgraded just a little while ago to a powerful Category 3 storm.

Also tonight, an aide to longtime Trump ally Roger Stone is expressing new optimism about his efforts to defy Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The reason? The new justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.

Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, has been digging into the story for us.

Sara, what are you learning?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is the latest in the saga of Andrew Miller, who is a former associate of Roger Stone's.


He was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. But instead of providing that testimony, he decided he wanted to wage this court battle and challenge Mueller's authority. He and his attorneys are hoping that that fight will go all the way up to the Supreme Court.

So, he was asked in a radio interview with a sympathetic interviewer -- the interviewer is Michael Caputo, who is another witness in this saga surrounding Roger Stone -- about how he feels about his case now that Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court.

Here is what they said.


MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: How does it feel to know that Brett Kavanaugh, who Kavanaugh says is a yes vote in your case, how does it feel to know he's there?

ANDREW MILLER, FORMER ROGER STONE ASSOCIATE: I feel nothing but great. I'm cool as a cucumber now. My stress has been pretty much relieved in the fact that I have the disciples, Peter and Paul, working on my case, and Alicia Dern, really just -- I have never been so protected.


MURRAY: Now, Wolf, previously, we had been told that Andrew Miller, who is not a public figure, was very stressed out about this case. Apparently, now he feels differently with Brett Kavanaugh on the court.

BLITZER: Is there any chance this case will actually make it to the U.S. Supreme Court?

MURRAY: Well, there are hurdles before we get to that point.

First of all, he would have to lose at his appeal that's slated to be heard on November 8, and so we will see what happens in that case. The other thing to remember is that his attorneys have said, look, if he is forced to testify, if the Supreme Court doesn't take this up, if he cannot get it to that point, he is going to provide testimony.

But they do want to try to wage this legal challenge. So, we will see how it goes.

BLITZER: We certainly will.

All right, Sara, thank you, Sara Murray reporting.

Just ahead, we will have more on the reasons for and the timing of Nikki Haley's decision to step down. What does it mean for her, for her future, and for the future of U.S. relations over at the U.N.?

And will women decide the midterm elections and the battle for control of Congress? We are taking a closer look at the gender gap in our exclusive new CNN poll.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're tracking the path of Hurricane Michael right now as it pushes toward the Florida Panhandle. It was upgraded just a little while ago to a powerful Category 3 storm. We'll watch it very closely.

[18:31:47] Also breaking, the sudden resignation of the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Tonight, President Trump says he's considering a number of people for that post. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, insists she's not one of them, even though her father says she would be incredible.

Let's bring in our correspondents and analysts. And Kaitlan Collins, the president has now landed in Omaha. He's going to be heading to Iowa for a political rally. You see Air Force One there on the ground. And we've just been told he spoke off-camera but on the record to reporters on the flight to Omaha.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did. President Trump has been really chatty today. This is his third time taking questions from reporters, and he spoke to them for about half an hour. And of course, one of the main topics was who was going to replace

Nikki Haley, who are you considering? Because this resignation was a surprise to pretty much everyone except President Trump and a very small group. But while he spoke with reporters, he did say he has a short list of who he's considering to replace her, something he said he'll announce in the next two to three weeks.

It's a list of five people. Dina Powell, that former Trump aide who now works at Goldman Sachs and lives in New York, is on the list, he confirmed. He said that Dina Powell would love taking this job.

Another question was is Rick Grenell on your list? That's the U.S. ambassador to Germany. Something that Grenell, fans of Grenell's have been suggesting his name since Nikki Haley stepped down and announced her resignation, but President Trump said he's not on the short list. He said he likes him where he is, being the U.S. ambassador to Germany and he wants him to stay there. And that for right now, he is not on that list.

So we know there's a list of five. We know Dina Powell is on it. We know Rick Grenell is not. Ivanka Trump clearly, judging by her tweet, is also not. But we don't know what those other four names are, and that's what we're going to have to consider. Who else is President Trump weighing? Because this is not, by any means, a lock for Dina Powell. She's just a contender; doesn't seem to be a top contender. So it's kind of a waiting game to see who it is that President Trump is considering.

BLITZER: It's -- let's see what he says in the next two to three weeks. He'll announce a successor to -- to Nikki Haley.

You know, when we heard earlier in the day speculation that he was considering his daughter for the U.S. ambassadorship to the United Nations, she just tweeted a little while ago "That replacement will not be me." There was a lot of anticipation after the president said no one is more qualified than her, Phil.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, that's absolutely -- no one is more qualified to add amusement to the American political landscape.

I mean, can you imagine that confirmation hearing? What training do you have? What experience do you have? What education do you have? What -- what jobs have you had with the U.S. government that give you qualifications for this?

And the most interesting questions that would involve the confirmation hearing. If you go through a confirmation hearing -- and I've been there -- you've got to show up with your financial records. And I presume for her those financial records would also include records from her husband. I can't wait to see -- and it will never happen based on her tweet -- a congressional committee saying, "We have some interesting questions about your financial disclosures related to this position." She can't go through that. That would be a joke.

BLITZER: It was a pretty extraordinary moment in the Oval Office today when the president announced that she was resigning and leaving the position by the end of this year.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Yes, both President Trump and Nikki Haley were effusive in their praise of one another. And one of the things that Nikki Haley has been able to do is really frame her departure as happening on her own terms, which is rare for those officials who have so far left this administration. Many of them, of course, being forced out due to some sort of controversy.

[18:35:12] And in many ways, it's emblematic of Nikki Haley's tenure in this position over the last nearly two years, where on the one hand, she has been a loyal defender of the president, but she has also been able to carve out an image for herself. Of course, distancing her own position from that of the president's when it comes to, for example, the U.S. posture toward Russia, as well as being a vocal proponent of human rights, being very critical of the Kremlin and its activities in Syria.

So I think one of the big questions when it comes to a replacement is who is it going to be? Is it going to be someone who just toes the line when it comes to this president, or someone who is going to speak more forcefully, sometimes maybe perhaps against the president's position on the global stage?

BLITZER: I want to get Jeffrey Toobin's thoughts on all of this. And listen to what the president said earlier today about the possibility of his daughter, Ivanka, becoming the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Ivanka would be incredible. That doesn't mean I'd, you know, I'd pick her because you'd be accused of nepotism. Even though I'm not sure there's anybody more competent in the world.


BLITZER: All right, Jeffrey.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, there's nothing this president and his family likes better than nepotism. I mean, we learned from "The New York Times" that his father gave him the equivalent of $400 million to get started in the real-estate business.

You know, he's got Jared Kushner, his son-in-law; he's got Ivanka, his daughter, in very prominent positions in the White House. None of those positions require Senate confirmation, and I think that's something they'll want to stay away from.

But, look, I think what's become clear is that the secretary of state and the national -- and the U.N. ambassador in this administration is Donald Trump. You know, he had somewhat outsiders. He had the chairman of Mobile as the secretary of state. He had H.R. McMaster as the national security adviser, who had somewhat different views from his. They're all gone. This is all now Donald Trump's own people. He's running the administration. You know, he's in love, as he says, with Kim Jong-un. He's very close

to Benjamin Netanyahu. You know, we all know how fond he is of Vladimir Putin. These are the people -- these are the views that are reflected in all of his appointees, and I expect that's what we'll see in a new -- in a new U.N. ambassador.

COLLINS: One other thing to consider is whoever is the new U.N. ambassador is going to be working with a totally different group than what Nikki Haley was used to working with.

When she came in, it was Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and H.R. McMaster as the national security adviser. Now, with Mike Pompeo as the secretary of state and John Bolton as the national security advisor, it's a very different group.

One thing that could be challenging for Dina Powell as she is being considered for this job, according to the president, is that Bolton is not a fan of hers. He considers her a globalist. He doesn't think that she has the right views of the Trump administration to be in this position, so that could be a hurdle that she has to get over if President Trump is going to select her. And it could be a voice that is saying, hey, you shouldn't pick her. Here's x, y and z for why. So that is something to consider. This person is going to be working with a very different group than the people that Nikki Haley was used to working with.

BLITZER: But it is interesting that the only person that he is listing among his five finalists for the position, Sabrina, is Dina Powell.

SIDDIQUI: It is, certainly. And it was hard to also ignore that Nikki Haley is particularly complimentary toward the president's son- in-law, Jared Kushner, and his daughter, Ivanka Trump. And they were both close allies of Dina Powell's during her time in the White House.

But I think Kaitlan brings up a very interesting point, because one of the things that Nikki Haley had was the trust of many of the diplomats who were skeptical of some of the other figures in this administration.

Now, sometimes she also rubbed them the wrong way by saying things like the U.S. will be taking names. But they looked at her as one of the few remaining moderating voices in this administration.

And those that we've spoken with, that I've spoken with today in my reporting said this announcement took them by surprise. There was really no immediate sign that her departure was imminent.

And now I think one of the few people they see as someone they can deal with is James Mattis, the defense secretary. We've heard, of course, that his relationship with the president has deteriorated somewhat in recent months, so there's also a real question as to what this administration looks like after the midterm elections, as more and more of those people who have that trust on the global stage are no longer part of it.

BLITZER: Did you want to add something?

COLLINS: No. I thought --

BLITZER: You looked like you wanted.

COLLINS: Not at all.

BLITZER: But maybe, Phil, you did.

MUDD: What you say about the global stage is interesting. We're talking about what happened. The story here is what will happen.

She has become the non-Sarah Palin. That is somebody who has great Republican credentials, a woman who comes from a family of immigrants who now -- I mean, people like me -- let me be honest, when she went from South Carolina to New York to Washington, I'm like, "This is not going the work out well." She's done very well up there.

[18:40:08] So she walks away going to the future as a young woman saying, I've got everything, everything going for me. I think that's a story for the future.

BLITZER: You think, Jeffrey Toobin -- I know you study politics very closely -- women are going to decide the midterm elections?

Let me put a poll up and show what our latest CNN poll shows, this gender gap among lightly voters. Sixty-three percent of women now say they will vote for a Democrat, while only one-third of the women plan to vote for a Republican. What does that tell you?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, there has been a gender gap, with women more favorably disposed towards Democrats since the Reagan years, but it's never been this big. This is really enormous.

And I think what's significant about this poll is that the spin that we've been hearing from the president and from some Republicans that the Kavanaugh fight alienated women, that they were worried about their husbands, their brothers, their sons being accused, is just that; it's spin. This is apparently -- and the other polls seem to bear this out, that the Kavanaugh fight has simply reinforced women's alienation from the Trump administration.

Four weeks is a long time. Things could change, but everything seems to be moving in that direction.

BLITZER: The midterm is four weeks from today, but, you know, in some places, Sabrina, election voting has already started.

SIDDIQUI: It is already underway. And I do think that gender gap is actually worth parsing a little bit more, because you do have the aftermath of the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, but that's not just one incident in isolation. The Republican Party has struggled when it comes to women voters in now multiple election cycles.

And so while the majority of Republican women continue to back this president, fewer women are identifying as Republicans. And so there are much longer-reaching consequences for the Republican Party when it comes to women. And I think this particular election cycle will be a key test for that.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. We're going to have much more on the breaking news right after this.


[18:46:43] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're back with our analysts and a new CNN interview with the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She sat down with our Christiane Amanpour who asked about the Brett Kavanaugh controversy, the midterm election and the possibility that President Trump might be impeached. Watch this.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is the president going to get impeached? If the Democrats win, will they impeach him? The Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told me last month it was not her goal to go for impeachment. What do you think?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think there are many ways for a Congress to hold a president accountable. Some of them, frankly, should have been exercised by the Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate. The investigation into Russia's interference in our election, the Senate Intelligence Committee has tried to work in a bipartisan way. The House Intelligence Committee has been turned into a circus.

So a really focused, deliberative effort to not only look at what this administration has done -- and that's in every area, whether it's in how they're regulating or deregulating, the economy, the tax cut, the ballooning of the deficit and the debt, what they're doing to the environment, education. There is so much to be concerned about.

So the first order of business for a Democratic House and Senate should be to get back to regular order and try to impose discipline and accountability on this administration.

The question about impeachment, you know, that will be left to others to decide. I want to stop the degrading of the rule of law, the delegitimizing of elections. One of their priorities should be, let's protect our elections. Let's make sure that we have electoral security. Let's end the suppression of voters.

So, there is a big agenda if the Democrats take over.

AMANPOUR: What do you think the Kavanaugh hearings -- what kind of impact will they have on the midterms? Because at first the Democrats were quite happy that it might galvanize. Now the Republicans are happy that it will galvanize their base. What do you think is going to happen?

CLINTON: I think that both sides will be galvanized. It's just a question who actually takes those feelings and shows up to vote, and it always comes down to that. We have more voters who favor Democratic candidates.

One of the tragedies of what's happened in our electoral system is the Republicans have systematically suppressed voters, probably as many, Christiane, as 12 million voters were purged by Republican governments in states between 2012 and 2016. We have all kinds of questions about the security of our voting machines. So, we know that Democrats have to turn out in even bigger numbers in a lot of congressional districts and states to be successful because they're being, you know, pushed back by a headwind that is trying to prevent them or discourage them from voting.

But if Democrats, and I not only include Democrats, I include Republicans who are worried about the direction of this administration, independents who want to see more accountability, if they should show up, we should win.

AMANPOUR: Last night, President Trump had a sort of ceremony for now Justice Kavanaugh at the White House, and he apologized on behalf of the American people for the immense amount of pain and harm that he said that the judge had been put through by this system.

[18:50:13] What do you make of that? And what message, including the president's mocking of Christine Blasey Ford for her allegations, what message does that send to women? And remember, women went for President Trump in 2016.

CLINTON: White women.

AMANPOUR: White women.

CLINTON: White women. All women went for me. And, look, white women have been voting against Democratic presidential candidates for decades now. The white vote has only been won twice in the last 60 years, my husband being one of the two. Lyndon Johnson being the other.

So, it's not a surprise. It's a disappointment, but it's not a surprise.

What was done last night in the White House was a political rally. It further undermined the image and integrity of the court. And that troubles me greatly. It saddens me because our judicial system has been viewed as one of the main pillars of our constitutional government.

So, I don't know how people are going to react to it. I think given our divides, it will pretty much fall predictably between those who are for and those who are against. But the president has been true to form. He has insulted, attacked, demeaned women throughout the campaign, really, for many years leading up to the campaign, and he has continued to do that inside the White House.


BLITZER: Very strong words from Hillary Clinton. Our correspondents, our analysts are here. They've been listening very closely. We're going to get their sense.

Everybody, stand by. I want to take a quick break. We have lots to discuss. Much more on the breaking news right after this.


BLITZER: All right. We just heard from Hillary Clinton a little while ago. A new interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. Let's get reaction from our experts.

Jeffrey Toobin, does she help Hillary Clinton or hurt Democratic candidates four weeks away from the midterm elections?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, let me just say in answer, I think Democrats are pathetic. They are afraid of everything. It's like oh, we can't have Hillary Clinton talk because it will motive the Republican base. We can't have Barack Obama talk because it will motivate their base. We can't talk about impeachment or it will motivate their base.

You know what? Hillary Clinton got 3 million more votes than the other guy in 2016. I don't see why she shouldn't be campaigning around the country. I don't see why Barack Obama shouldn't be campaigning.

This is -- she is an enormously important figure in American history. She got 60 plus million votes. I don't see why she shouldn't speak out like any other famous person.

BLITZER: All right. Phil, what do you think?

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Absolutely. No she needs an extended vacation in the Arctic. An East Coast liberal lost to the biggest clown candidate.

And who do the Democrats have speaking now? Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Dianne Feinstein, John Kerry is out speaking, each of them an East Coast or West Coast liberal. And we're saying that message in the age of Middle America doesn't like it anymore. Are you kidding me? She needs to go away like now.

BLITZER: Sabrina?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: Well, look, I think -- with Hillary Clinton, it is true that their approval rating has fallen since the 2016 election, but it still stands at 77 percent. So, she still remains --

BLITZER: Among Democrats.

SIDDIQUI: Among Democrats. So she still remains a popular figure within the Democratic Party. She is a prolific fundraiser. So I do think ultimately it helps a lot of these candidates to have her out there hitting the campaign trail on their behalf.

I also thought it was interesting since you brought the conversation back to women, because a lot of her campaign tried unsuccessfully to get some of the Republican women to switch and perhaps cast a ballot for Democrats and also to peel some of those independent-minded women voters that was difficult for her to do because they ultimately did cast their ballot reluctantly for Trump. But perhaps the midterms present a turning point when it comes to some of those suburban women who could see that what they saw is, in fact, what they got when it comes to Trump.

BLITZER: A lot of folks at the White House want to see a lot of Hillary Clinton right now that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're fine with that, and it was interesting because so much focus on the midterm elections has been on women, not just suburban women, but all women. She made clear to point out she won all women while Trump won white women. But she was talking there about how she is disappointed that, you know, women don't vote for Democrats and whatnot, that she is not surprised, but she is disappointed.

She talked about how Trump has been demeaning women for years because she was asked what he said about the Christine Blasey Ford, how he doubted her fabrications and said they were fabricated by Democrats. But this is the point, will the women who voted for Trump care about that? Will they be turned off by his remarks?

It doesn't seem to be the indication because, of course, these are people who heard the "Access Hollywood" video and they still voted for President Trump. So it may not bother them at all. So I don't know why pointing who to what he has done in office would change their minds, what he said about women while in office, how that would change their minds if they weren't turned off enough by the "Access Hollywood" video.

BLITZER: Very quickly.

TOOBIN: I just think it is unbelievable that this woman who was the secretary of state, who is first lady of the United States, who got more than 60 million votes is supposed to go off on an iceberg and say nothing to anyone ever. I mean, I think that's just ridiculous.

BLITZER: All right.

TOOBIN: I mean, this is an important person. She is not the only person, only person speaking for Democratic Party. But there you go.

BLITZER: We got to leave there it, guys. Thanks very much.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.