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HALA GORANI TONIGHT

Senate Democrats Demand Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Be Delayed Due to A Document Dump 42,000 Pieces; If Kavanaugh Is Confirmed He May Be on The Supreme Court Until 2050; Bob Woodward Has New Blockbuster Book Quoting Actual Participants in Trump's Administration; Nike Makes Colin Kaepernick New Face Of "Just Do It". Aired 3-4p ET

Aired September 4, 2018 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello. Welcome, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. Tonight, we begin where else on Capitol Hill? You followed it on

CNN for hours now where a Supreme Court hearing has devolved into an all- out political brawl.

But we knew it would be contentious. But a hearing under way on Capitol Hill, as I just mentioned, has turned into an incredibly bitter fight full

of high drama over Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Senators, by the way, are still giving their opening statements. They have ten minutes

each. Some have gone beyond their allotted time. Currently, Senator Mike Crapo, the Republican from Idaho, is delivering his 10-minute opening

statement.

We are expecting then to hear from Brett Kavanaugh himself. The hearing is running late because Democrats tried to shut it down as soon as it began.

They are demanding time to review 42,000 documents on Kavanaugh released just last night. They called it a document dump, that they didn't have

time to go through it. They asked to postpone the hearing. They say the White House is withholding other key information that must be reviewed.

Republicans accused them of obstructing the hearing for political purposes. Listen to some very heated exchanges earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D), CALIFORNIA: Mr. Chairman I would like to be recognized for question before we proceed. Mr. Chairman, I would like to

be recognized to ask a question before we proceed. The committee received just last night less than 15 hours ago 42,000 pages of documents that we

have not had an opportunity to review, read or analyze.

CHUCK GRASSLEY, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You are out of order. I'll proceed.

HARRIS: If we cannot be recognized I move to adjourn. Mr. Chairman, I move to adjourn.

GRASSLEY: The American people will hear directly from Judge Kavanaugh.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): We've been denied real access to documents that we need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular orders call for --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That turns this hearing into a charade and mockery of our norms.

BOOKER: What is the rush? What are we trying to hide by not having the documents out front? What is the rush? What are we hiding by not letting

those documents come out?

GRASSLEY: Can I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle how long you want to go on with this? Because I'm not going to entertain any of the

motions you are making.

This is the same Chuck Grassley that ran the Gorsuch hearings. I would like to run this hearing the same way if you will give me the courtesy of

doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are folks who want to run for president, who want their moment in the spotlight, who want that coveted tv clip. Frankly, I

wish we could drop all the nonsense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the first confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice I've seen basically according to mob rule.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we've heard is the noise of democracy. This is what happens in a free country, when people can stand up and speak and not

be jailed, imprisoned, tortured or killed because of it. It is not mob rule.

TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: So, what is this fight about? If it's not about documents, if it's not about Judge Kavanaugh's credentials, not his

judicial record, what is this fight about? I believe this fight is nothing more and nothing less than an attempt by our Democratic colleagues to

relitigate the 2016 presidential election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: And that's Ted Cruz, the candidate -- senator from Texas, I should say, who will be running for re-election in November. The reason we're

seeing flared tempers is the stake of this hearing are so high, the stakes surrounding any Supreme Court justice nominee are very high. They serve

for life. So, the decisions they make have huge policy implications for generations to come potentially. Let's bring in CNN Supreme Court reporter

Ariane de Vogue, White House reporter Steven Collinson and legal analyst Paul Callan. Steven, talk to us first, our international audience why this

nomination is so significant.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It's possibly the most significant Supreme Court nomination we've seen for many years. As seems

very likely, Brett Kavanaugh is seated on the Supreme Court, he will tug the court to the right. That will mean issues like gay rights, gun

control, campaign finance, right to have an abortion, even the issue of whether the President Donald Trump should have to accept the subpoena to

force him to testify in the Mueller probe could come before this newly constituted court which is much more conservative than it has been in

recent years.

[15:05:00] The new swing vote on that court will be Chief Justice John Roberts, ardent conservative. We're talking about a generation which could

really shape the ideological balance of the United States. It could take several Democratic presidencies to reorient the ideological balance of that

court. That's why this is so important and it's unfolding 63 days before a crucial mid term election and as we're starting to talk about the 2020 mid

term election, several senators you saw there, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris under huge pressure to make a stand in this hearing ahead of a

presidential campaign.

GORANI: Ariane, what do we know about Brett Kavanaugh's position on these potential points of contention like roe v. Wade, woman's right to

abortion, gun rights or the Mueller investigation? What do we know about past rulings and things he has written? How do those form potential future

rulings?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: You're absolutely right because what Kavanaugh wants to do is take the seat of Justice Kennedy. We

know Brett Kavanaugh. He has never ruled directly on it. He knows a few months ago his court ruled in favor of an undocumented teen seeking an

abortion and he dissented. We know he has praised Justice Antonin Scalia. He hasn't said exactly what his opinion is. One Republican senator who

supports abortion rights had a meeting with him last week and she came out of it very happy and said, you know, he said that roe v. Wade is settled

law. Look for him to say that in the next couple of days. But it means nothing. That might bind you as a lower court judge but it doesn't bind

you on the Supreme Court. He has over 300 opinions on some of these really important issues and whoa have a real paper trail for him.

GORANI: And presidents being accused for being criminally investigated while in office, that it's a distraction. If he is confirmed, what does

that tell us about how things might unfold with the Mueller probe?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Democrats are most fearful of that position, in particular, because with the president being such a

controversial president and maybe a president who could be subject to subpoena to the Mueller grand jury or impeachment proceedings, they don't

want a Supreme Court justice who takes that position. But, Hala, I have to add one thing that I think is very, very interesting. He came to this

position after working for Ken Starr, who prosecuted president Clinton and both STARR and Kavanaugh reached the conclusion after issuing a subpoena

for Clinton that it was a wrong thing to do, that it could actually disturb the ability of the president of the United States to do his job. So, that

really changed -- he has really changed position on this as a result of, you know, in-line experience in an impeachment proceeding.

GORANI: Steven Collinson does the nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, have the political support? Will he be confirmed by this Senate?

COLLINSON: It seems very likely. Democrats simply do not have the votes. If all the Republicans stick together in the Senate to stop Kavanaugh being

confirmed.

GORANI: But they're missing one Republican senator, which is John McCain, who I believe will have a replacement by the time the vote happens?

COLLINSON: That's true. We learned that John Kyl the former Arizona senator is going to temporarily, at least, take John McCain's seat, giving

the Republicans a reliable conservative vote. It's actually a key question of whether all the Democrats will stick together. There are a number of

Democratic senators who are running for re-election in states that Donald Trump won very easily in 2016. Republican red states who are under intense

political pressure both from their leaders to line up with the rest of the party and oppose Kavanaugh. But from a lot of their constituents who say

they will vote against these senators if they don't back a conservative Supreme Court justice nominee. So, I think it's very likely we'll see some

Democrats, despite the histrionics and theatrics wave seen today, line up with the Republicans and confirm Kavanaugh.

[15:10:00] GORANI: If they don't have the numbers, Democrats basically cannot block this nomination?

DE VOGUE: It sure doesn't seem likely. And one thing I wanted to adhere is that everybody is talking about the Mueller investigation and the Trump

presidency but Ruth Bader Ginsburg the most senior liberal member of the court is 85 years old. If Kavanaugh lives to be 85 and still on the court

it's going to be in the year 2050. It's really important to think long term here. This is a long-term shift on this court. It's not really about

President Trump and all the issues that are consuming us today. It's the big picture and it would be a huge shift.

GORANI: And that's why each party is certainly wanting to get their nominee in there, if they can. But, paul, historically, how much does a

judge's past ruling, his behavior in lower courts, how much of a predictor is it of how he or she acts on the Supreme Court?

CALLAN: Recent modern history it hasn't been much of a predictor because a lot of times they get on the bench and you think you're putting a liberal

on the bench and he becomes conservative or vice versa. Earl Warren, for example, who became a liberal Supreme Court justice, was appointed by a

Republican. Just talking about the long game here, I think that the Democrats may be making a big mistake with Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh is sort of

more of an establishment-type guy with a long record and, remember, Trump is going to get his appointee, whether he gets it now or the next two

years, he has two years to remain as president. I'm betting that the guy or woman coming down the line after Kavanaugh will be a lot more

conservative. He may have Atilla the Hun lined up for the next appointee. Maybe they should be looking at Kavanaugh saying this might not be a bad

choice for us, given what may happen in the next two years.

GORANI: Certainly, the Republicans have the upper hand here. Thank you very much, Paul Callan for that.

To our viewers all over the world who may not be familiar with Brett Kavanaugh, senators had to shout over protesters who were apparently

concerned about health care and transparency of the Kavanaugh hearing. Listen for a little bit. It gives you a taste of what happened earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[indistinct shouting]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I expect many of my colleagues will agree, the role, according to the law and not according to --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: About a dozen people were escorted out of that room with Capitol Hill police making arrests. Who is the person they're protesting? Brett

Kavanaugh. Michael Holmes has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I am deeply honored to be nominated to fill his seat on the Supreme Court.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, now hoping to occupy the seat of a man he once clerked for, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Kavanaugh has been on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006 and spoke of Kennedy during that confirmation process.

KAVANAUGH: He conveyed to his clerks and certainly to me to use one of his favorite phrases the essential neutrality of the law.

HOLMES: The possible replacement of Kennedy with Kavanaugh could reshape the Supreme Court. Kennedy was often the swing vote and a centrist. Often

siding with liberals on issues like abortion, affirmative action and LGBT rights.

Last year, Kavanaugh sided with the Trump administration to block abortion for a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody, noting the

government's, quote, permissible interest in favoring fetal life. He is never expressed outright opposition to Roe V Wade. His confirmation

process in 2006 was hardly forthcoming in his personal views.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D), NEW YORK: Do you consider Roe V. Wade to be an abomination?

KAVANAUGH: If confirmed to the DC circuit, I would follow Roe V. Wade faithfully and fully. That would be binding precedent of the court. It's

been decided by the Supreme Court.

SCHUMER: As to your own opinion?

[15:15:00] KAVANAUGH: If I were confirmed to the DC circuit, senator, I would follow t it's been reaffirmed many times.

SCHUMER: But what is your opinion? You're not on the bench yet. You've talked about these issues to other people in the past I'm sure.

KAVANAUGH: The Supreme Court is held repeatedly and I don't think it would be appropriate for me --

SCHUMER: Not going to answer the question?

HOLMES: His stand on presidential power, Kavanaugh spent years working for independent council Kenneth Star, helping him investigate Bill Clinton's

affair with Monica Lewinsky and outlined grounds for his impeachment. Democrats say they are unsure of Kavanaugh's position on indicting a

sitting president, which is especially relevant after the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial crimes and former

Trump attorney Michael Cohen's guilty plea in which he implicated Trump in a hush money scheme.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D), ILLINOIS: There's no clarity in his position as to whether President Trump in this circumstance would be subject to

investigation and prosecution. It's an unanswered question and there are many others.

HOLMES: Questions he is sure to be grilled on when confirmation hearings begin Tuesday. Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: And we'll get back, of course, to Capitol Hill once Brett Kavanaugh speaks. Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation is a number of huge

stories in Washington today. We're also hearing explosive new details from a new bombshell book written about the Trump administration. It's by Bob

Woodward and features interviews with many of the president's inner circle. In it, Woodward says aides to the president stole papers from his desk to,

quote, protect the country so he wouldn't sign paperwork that would withdraw the United States from a trade deal with Korea.

Woodward also reports that Chief of Staff John Kelly described Trump as an idiot and unhinged and that Secretary of Defense James Mattis describes the

president as having the understanding of, quote, a fifth or sixth grader. Another quote from Trump's personal lawyer John Dowd calls the president an

f***ing liar. The White House has just responded to the book.

Let's go straight to the White House. Jeremy Diamond joins us now. Before we get to the White House response, what are we learning from this Woodward

book today? There are choice quotes in there.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: And fascinating anecdotes that show chief aides from John Kelly to Jim Mattis repeatedly expressing

dismay, at least in private, to aides close to them, about the way that the president is going about handling world fairs, the impulsive nature with

which he has gone about those things and expressing concerns about his handling of things and his understanding of some of these complex issues.

The Defense Secretary Jim Mattis suggesting in private to aides that the president had an understanding of issues of a fifth or sixth grader after

particularly frustrating session discussing North Korea.

But more than that, it's really the portrait of top aides to the president, particularly in the foreign policy space, doing what they can to prevent

some of the president's more impulsive decisions from actually becoming a reality, including Gary Cohen, chief economic adviser, coming in to take

away a policy document from the resolute desk in the oval office that would have withdrawn the United States from a free trade agreement with South

Korea. Because of that move the free trade agreement has actually since been renegotiated and touted by the president as one of the successes of

his administration.

Let's read the pushback we're getting from the White House, Hala, pretty firm. From White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders who says this book is

nothing more than fabricated stories, many from former disgruntled employees told to make the president look bad. She goes on to tout the

successes of the administration and White House chief of staff John Kelly, who in the book is also quoted as calling the president an idiot, pushes

back on that notion in a statement provided by the White House saying the idea that I ever called the president an idiot is not true. He goes back

to a statement he made in May in which he said that he's committed to the president and his agenda. Just a note there on that quote from John Kelly

calling the president an idiot.

According to Bob Woodward he also called the president unhinged. We reported in April as well that John Kelly had called the president unhinged

in a private meeting. This is, by no means, the first instance we've heard those comments from the chief of staff to the president of the United

States about that very president.

[15:20:00] GORANI: We're in crazy town was another quote from the book. Bob Woodward of Woodward and Bernstein fame, whose reporting brought down

the Nixon presidency. The president got wind of the upcoming publication of this book, called Bob Woodward and asked why he had not approached him

to include him in his book, his point of view and version of events in the book. This is a portion of that phone conversation. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, REPORTER AND WRITER: I've got to go talk to me and see them outside of the White House and outside of their offices and gained a lot of

insight in documentation, and, you know, it's a tough look at the world and your administration and you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right. Well, I assume that means it's going to be a negative book but, you know, I'm sort of 50

percent used to that. That's all right. Some are good and some are bad. Sounds like this is going to be a bad one.

WOODWARD: You know, it's a tough look at the world and your administration and you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: So, that's a portion of about an 11-minute or so, Jeremy, conversation, posted on the Washington post website where repeatedly Bob

Woodward said I approached six or seven people to include you in the book and interview you and I was told you were not available. And the president

said, I never got that request.

DIAMOND: Yes. It is fascinating portrait in the ways in which Bob Woodward tried to get this interview with the president during that phone

call he tells the president he talked to Senator Lindsey Graham, close ally to the president in the Senate. He talked to a number of senior White

House aides including Kellyanne Conway, Raj Shah, Hope Hicks, all these people who Bob Woodward tried to get through to, to get an interview with

the president but it was never authorized. We're learning now that the president has been frustrated in recent weeks over the fact that he was not

able to sit down for an interview with Bob Woodward.

You have on that call Kellyanne Conway, one of the folks that Bob Woodward asked for an interview with the president say she ran it up the chain of

command and it was denied. But clearly it didn't make its way all the way to the president, other than a conversation he apparently had with Senator

Lindsey Graham about it, but it didn't go any further than that. The president likes to try to engage with the media when he can. When it comes

to a book like this, he likes to have the opportunity to go on the record, to try to push back against some of the allegations that have been made

against him. But that phone call, the audio of which you just played happened after Bob Woodward's manuscript had gone to print and certainly

now we're seeing the White House's pushback even though the president doesn't have any quotes of his own in this book.

GORANI: It's interesting to listen to that conversation, actually. The type of conversation that we're not used to hearing, the president on

private phone calls like this. It's interesting. Bob Woodward did tell him right out of the gate, I am with your permission, recording this phone

call. Jeremy Diamond, thank you. We'll have more coverage on this later.

And still to come tonight, the Syrian government is gearing up to retake the last rebel-held province of Idlib with reports of air strikes just

hours after a warning from President Trump. And saying don't go there, to just do it. Why Nike's latest ad campaign is blowing up on social media

and backfiring on Wall Street. We'll be right back.

[15:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: For three decades, big Nike slogan was, of course, and we all know it, just do it. But now it's finding out what happens when some people

just don't like what they do. This is how the sports giant is marking the 30th anniversary of its iconic slogan with help from the former NFL

quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The text reads believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything, which is pretty significant, given that

Kaepernick divided parts of America when he took a knee during performances of the national anthem. Some people are tweeting just burn it, in response

to the move. We've seen a lot of that on social media.

Let's speak to someone who knows the world of football first. Former NFL player Ephraim Salaam who is in LA. Just when you saw this ad, what did

you think? First impression.

EPHRAIM SALAAM, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I applauded it. I think it's necessary in this climate and I applaud Nike for standing behind one of their

athletes. Just a few weeks ago, Tiger Woods came out and spoke highly of Donald Trump and said they were friends and he respects the office of the

White House. Michael Jordan has a history of saying, hey, look, Democrats, Republicans, they all buy shoes. He has pretty much stayed apolitical.

Nike stayed with those athletes. It just seems to be a problem now when they want to stand behind someone like Colin Kaepernick whose only

injustice was protesting to bring awareness to the mistreatment of African- Americans and minorities by the hands of law enforcement.

GORANI: Why do you think, then, that his gesture has been misunderstood? Online, if you go online, I'm sure you've seen videos of people burning

their Nike shoes and cutting the swish off their socks, saying he's disrespecting our flag and our veterans. They don't see it as a protest

against the police brutality.

SALAAM: That was the narrative that was changed. Donald Trump was one of the key figures in changing that narrative for the American people instead

of listening to the actual player and players who were protesting, they decided to look at -- take this narrative of it being unpatriotic. Nate

Boyer, who was a green beret, sat down with Colin Kaepernick while he was sitting during the national anthem and say look, it would be better if you

kneeled. Kneeling at the flag is not a sign of disrespect. But that's not good enough for people. They have their own opinions. If Donald Trump

comes out and says it's disrespectful then a large portion of his contingent will believe it.

GORANI: It's not just Donald Trump. He's not playing. Team owners are also disassociating themselves with this.

SALAAM: Absolutely. And it's really tricky. And, you know, again I applaud Nike. Nike is the uniform sponsor for the NFL. You know there's

been some conversations and it will be some type of, you know, conflict there. But they chose to stand behind Colin Kaepernick and his message and

they're donating to his community to elicit and effect change in these communities. That's what it's really all about. It's not about spewing

hatred back and forth or what side you're on. It's how can we change the narrative and change these communities that are being affected and the

minorities in this country that are being affected by not all police are bad, but there have been several cases where unarmed African-American men,

women and children have been killed and nothing has happened. And that's the outrage and that's the problem.

[15:30:00] GORANI: But that's the challenge. Because, as you mentioned, people are misunderstanding the kneeling. They think the kneeling --

they're misunderstanding -- I wonder, though, if you think this Nike campaign will change -- in today's divided America I don't know what would

change anyone's mind but maybe it's the beginning of something here where a discussion can be had.

SALAAM: It's all about conversation. We live in a Twitter sphere. Everything, every conversation resembles that of Twitter where immediately

no one is reading or listening to what the other side has to say. They are just waiting for their turn to speak or reply. And they're not even taking

in the information. How can you actively try to understand something if you don't even want to listen? You look at this ad and it says believe in

something, even if it means sacrificing everything. It has nothing to do with being unpatriotic. Colin Kaepernick sacrificed his livelihood, his

job to bring awareness to an issue that affected him and other people in his community. How can you be mad at that? Why is that offensive?

GORANI: Yes. And other players -- how do you think other players now will go forward with this movement, with this type of activism on the field?

Because now we're hearing from the president, you know. And we've heard many times because this is one of his pet topics, you know, that they

should be forced to stand.

EPHRAIM SALAAM, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Yes. Well, you're not going to be able to do that. You're not going to be able to force people to do something

just because you say so. Those days of that happening are over. And that's that -- you know, that slave mentality where, hey, you have to do

what we say. You're going to stand if we tell you to stand. That's not what America is about. That's not what this country is about.

If you have strong political beliefs or you believe in a cause, you have the right to protest and exhibit those thoughts, you know, those feelings

however you're seeing fit as long as they're nonviolent. And nothing that Colin Kaepernick has done has been against the law and has been violent.

Matter of fact, he's taken his own money, millions of dollars of his own money and put them into communities and into projects to help impoverished

minorities and people who have been affected by senseless violence.

Honestly, how can you be angry with that guy?

GORANI: Ephraim Salaam, thanks so much for joining us from L.A. We appreciate your time this evening on CNN.

Still to come, they are some of world's most vulnerable people. Yet, Palestinian refugees could now face even more hardships after a move by

Washington. I'll speak with U.N. agency that helps these refugees, whose funding was cut by the U.S. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: Being seen as a possible final showdown in Syria's horrific seven- year war. And in the last few hours, activists say dozens of Russian air strikes have already hit Idlib province, killing at least 17 people and

wounding dozens more. Those attacks come just a few hours after a stark and unusual warning from Donald Trump. He tweeted the Russians and

Iranians would be making a great humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed."

In the last hour, we've heard again from the White House saying, "If Assad," quote, "chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States

and its allies will respond swiftly and appropriately."

Let's get more on this. CNN military and diplomatic analyst, John Kirby joins me now live from Washington.

What is behind these warnings from Trump and from the White House do you think?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think they are very narrowly trying to describe, Hala, what they would object to

which would be a chemical attack or any kind of and therefore it's reckless attack. But it's hard to decide or to divine from hat. What do they mean

by reckless? They are clearly not in any of the statements they put out saying, don't attack. They're saying don't reckless the attacks.

[15:35:08] So it's really hard to figure out, for anybody watching this, exactly how the White House and the United States is going to respond to

military activity in and around Idlib.

GORANI: And also, I mean, in the past, when the government, the regime was suspected of having used chemical weapons, the U.S. response barely put a

dent in their arsenal, really, tomahawk missiles, for instance, launched on what seemed, what looked like an empty air strip, et cetera, et cetera. So

it wasn't truly a deterrent in the past what the U.S. has done.

KIRBY: Well, I think that remains to be seen, to be honest with you. The second round of attacks that happened just a few months ago, they were more

robust and they did hit more logistics and facilities that where weapons could be stored or made. So they did try to hit a little bit more. Now,

we just have to see was that enough of a deterrent for Assad not to use chemical weapons in Idlib?

But let's not get wrapped around the axle on the use of chemical weapons, which is where I think the White House is philosophically. This attack,

even if it's just using conventional weapons, could cause up to a million refugees. There's three million people in Idlib. A million of them are

children. Half of the total number are actually people who escaped other places in Syria because this is the last de-escalation zone left.

GORANI: Yes.

KIRBY: So I think the one thing I would agree -- the one thing I would agree with Trump's tweet is that this could very well lead to a major

humanitarian catastrophe, that the Russians, the Syrian, and the Iranians are in no way prepared to have to handle.

GORANI: It's quite interesting that people who may profoundly dislike Donald Trump on many issues will, on this one, agree with him. Because the

idea that don't recklessly attack a province like Idlib where three million internally displaced people has nowhere to go, causing potential carnage, a

lot of people who don't want this to happen would agree with him on that.

KIRBY: No, I think so. But again, I'm a little concerned about the tone coming out of the White House. They're not saying don't attack, which is

what I think we would want the United States to say. They're saying don't recklessly attack, don't cause humanitarian catastrophe, don't use chemical

weapons. But it does -- it does speak to a larger issue, which is that Trump administration has really sort of withdrawn all any aspect of U.S.

leadership or U.S. responsibility for what's going to happen to the Syrian people.

GORANI: John Kirby, as always, thanks so much for joining us.

KIRBY: My pleasure.

GORANI: The U.N. agency that supports Palestinian refugees and has supported Palestinian refugees for decades is accusing Washington of

politicizing humanitarian aid after it ended all funding for its operations, about $200 million worth.

The Trump administration is also expected to call for millions of Palestinians to have their refugee status stripped which would essentially

end their longstanding demand of right of return, a key sticking point in peace negotiations.

CNN's Oren Liebermann talked with some Palestinian refugees who say they will never give up on returning to their ancestral homelands.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Inside the Dheisheh refugee camp, Abdul Qader Al-Lahham makes his way to daily prayers. The 100-year-old

Palestinian refugee has difficulty hearing and a short of strength. But the memory of fleeing his home in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war remains sharp.

ABDUL QADER AL-LAHHAM, PALESTINIAN REFUGEE (through translator): I was left at home, I was outside the machine. When I came back, I realized that

my wife and daughter fled within the villages. So I took my sheep and fled towards Bethlehem where I found them three days later.

LIEBERMANN: The memories are seven decades old. But some scars never heal. Pain and principle carried down through the generations.

AL-LAHHAM (through translator): I'm leaving in 10 weeks in this prison for 70 years, while (INAUDIBLE) of land. But the soil from my land worth more

than my soul to me. But I'm not worried, because injustice never lasts.

Liebermann: This is what's left of Al-Lahham's village, ruins he says he has not visited since 1975.

The idea that this is still their land, still their family's home is one that's central to Palestinian national identity. Two generations later,

his grandson says there is no room for compromise when it comes to the right of return.

Muhammed Al-Lahham is 22 years old, he spent his whole life in Dheisheh refugee camp. The camp services are run by UNRWA, the United Nations

agency in charge of Palestinian refugees. The U.S. cut funding to UNRWA in a move widely seen as trying to undercut the status of Palestinian

refugees.

MUHAMMED AL-LAHHAM, PALESTINIAN REFUGEE (through translator): Impossible. I can never compromise on my right of return. Everything I see in the

refugee camp reminds me of my right. People, flags, pictures, the way we live. I have a right and I will never give it up.

[15:40:09] LIEBERMAN: The key is the symbol here, the ability to unlock your own door once again. Images of the key are prevalent in Palestinian

refugee camps in a way that makes it clear. The Palestinians will not simply give up the right of return. It is this intransigence that makes it

perhaps the most sensitive and difficult issue the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even more so than Jerusalem.

DAN SHAPIRO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: The truth is that every American proposal since the Oslo Accords, under the Clinton administration,

and the Bush administration and the Obama administration, in different ways, has made clear that there's no American intention to facilitate a

right of return.

LIEBERMAN: The Dheisheh refugee camp is home to roughly 15,000 Palestinian refugees, a small fraction of the five million refugees in the Middle East

and beyond.

The idea that these refugees can return to their homes in modern day Israel has always been a nonstarter for the Israelis, as it would dramatically

change the character of Israel as the Jewish State.

SHAPIRO: It may be the hardest issue and it may be an issue that ultimately this whole effort crashes upon.

LIEBERMAN: Even if Palestinian leaders understand the difficulties of the right of return, it will take a major concession in a peace process for

them to be able to make that compromise, like a commitment to a two-state solution from the Americans and Israelis, and that's something Palestinians

haven't heard in years.

Oren Lieberman, CNN, Dheisheh Refugee Camp.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: The head of UNRWA says no matter how many attempts are made to delegitimize Palestinian refugees, they have rights under international law

and, "cannot simply be wished away."

Pierre Krahenbuhl joins me now from Jerusalem. So, how much money exactly is the U.S. withdrawing from your agency?

PIERRE KRAHENBUHL, COMMISSIONER GENERAL, UNRWA: So in 2017, the United States contributed 364 million U.S. dollars for that particular year. This

year in 2018, it was 60 million. So that already represented a very severe cut of 300 million U.S. dollars and now the announcement has been made that

there will be no further funding, which we, of course --

GORANI: So zero dollars?

KRAHENBUHL: -- great regret and disappointment.

GORANI: Zero dollars from the United States going forward? That's what they've told you?

KRAHENBUHL: Yes, that is the message that was communicated in a statement by the state department. And, you know, after many decades of a very

robust, rewarding, and generous partnership this is, of course, deeply disappointing in particular because there is -- it's very clear in my mind

that this decision was taken for political reasons and not in relation to UNRWA's performance.

And I say that with confidence because my last visit to Washington in November 2017 had confirmed at meetings in very senior levels, a lot of

recognition and respect for the work that we do and how we do the work. So I'm very clear that this followed after the debates on Jerusalem and the

tensions between the United States and the Palestinian authority. And that is very regrettable to see humanitarian funding politicized in this way.

GORANI: So when you say it's being politicized, what do you think then they are trying to achieve?

KRAHENBUHL: Well, it's very difficult for me to give an opinion on the motives that have been discussed within the administration. I simply can

tell you that here on the ground, what people are going through -- this is just added to the level of anxiety and despair among Palestine refugees.

And here, we're talking to people who are in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and in Syria that have gone through

decades of dispossession and of loss of home, livelihoods, friends, and neighbors and are waiting for a horizon to be opened and UNRWA is an agency

that has protected their right to education, healthcare, and other services and kept aspirations and hopes alive.

GORANI: And so the obvious follow-up then is, what impact this will have on your work and on the people you are helping?

KRAHENBUHL: Well, look, when the first announcement was made by the United States in January this year, the 300 million reduction would be taking

place in funding to UNRWA. We were disappointed but we didn't sit back and complain. We launched an ambitious outreach campaign to other donors and

we've had mobilization from many parts, countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, and Japan, and European countries, Turkey,

India, Canada, you name it.

So we have covered over half of the shortfall that was created by the U.S. decision. And very important in the last two days was that we were able to

open our education system, all of our schools, which the World Bank described as a global public good here in the region, for over 526,000 boys

and girls. The only fully gender-balanced education system in the region that focuses on human rights education, among other things.

[15:45:07] So I think that is a great element of pride. That that was our best response to the announcement that funding would be cut. And of

course, we will look for new partnerships and new ways as we move forward.

GORANI: And have you received any pledges from any other countries just since this announcement was made by the United States or not yet?

KRAHENBUHL: Yes, very remarkable. Just today, the United Kingdom, it was announced in parliament, in London, that the U.K. would be adding another

seven million pounds to its contribution to UNRWA, which I very much welcome. There were other recent announcements from Germany and several

other European countries, also including the E.U. itself, that they would stand by UNRWA and consider additional funding.

There will be a special event at the general assembly meeting that is coming up at the end of this month that is organized and very much led by

countries like Jordan, but also other partners in it. So we welcome the fact that there's so much solidarity.

Because at the end of the day, Miss Gorani, it's not about UNRWA, it's about Palestine refugees. And you indicated it that these people cannot be

simply wished away. Whether UNRWA is there or not, there are people with rights, with aspirations, with hopes and they are struggling for having

their dignity and rights recognized and UNRWA stands for that and we believe we've made a major contribution to persevering human dignity, but

also to a measure of stability and a very polarized environment here in the region.

GORANI: All right. And we'll be following, you know, the countries that maybe will step in to fill this void that the U.S. has left behind, this

budgetary void. Thank you for joining us from Jerusalem, Pierre Krahenbuhl. We really appreciate your time on the program this evening.

KRAHENBUHL: Thank you. Thank you.

GORANI: We've been following this hearing for Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill. And currently, I believe, Kamala

Harris is speaking, Senator Kamala Harris. As I mentioned before, each senator has 10 minutes to make an opening statement before Brett Kavanaugh

himself will address the Senate judiciary committee. Senator Kamala Harris is one of the more prominent democratic senators from California.

And as I mentioned, some of these democratic senators earlier tried to have this entire hearing postponed by saying that a big document dump had

happened late yesterday after close of business and that they did not have time to review these documents. This is something that the chairman of the

judiciary committee, Chuck Grassley, overruled.

Still to come tonight, the festival and the fallout. The New Yorker pulls an invitation to Steve Bannon to avoid a backlash. But has it all

backfired on the New Yorker? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:55:04] GORANI: When does an exclusive invite become all the more exclusive perhaps when you're the New Yorker and you every publicly un-

invite Steve Bannon from your festival? Despite making multiple requests for Donald Trump's former chief strategist, the magazine quickly withdrew

its invite when Bannon finally said yes. Why? Because there was a massive backlash from staff and famous attendees like Jim Carrey and Judd Apatow.

Bannon has called the move gutless and some are saying the New Yorker has just handed him and his base a big win.

Brian Stelter has more from New York.

So, I mean, they invited him and then they uninvited him. Is this a win for Bannon?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is playing it that way. His supporters are playing it that way. And on paper, it sure looks like that.

It sort of looks like a win for Bannon. You know, you think about the New Yorker this in here -- this happened in a span of a few hours that they

announced him, they were proud of the announcement but the backlash within the magazine's ranks was serious.

I think that was just as important as the backlash from celebrities who were also supposed to attend the festival. This became a business decision

about selling tickets and about keeping the staff satisfied. And so thus, we saw this pullback.

But now the magazine is getting a host of criticism. Not just from Bannon and his allies but from others in the media world as well.

For example, The Economist has Bannon speaking at a festival next week. A very similar event and the Economist says it will go on. He will be there,

not because they believe in Bannon's values but because they do not and the magazine wants to challenge him publicly. That's the great debate in

liberal America right now.

Do you give voice and space to people whose views you disagree with in order to show what they stand for? Or do you try to take away their

platform? The New Yorker did both things. First, they tried to give him a voice, then they took his platform away.

GORANI: But you have some who argue this is an exception. This guy, whether you pushback against him or not, you're giving him a platform for

him to air pretty unfiltered in the end because you're not going to interrupt him every other sentence, white nationalist views. That we know

what he stands for. Do we need to hear it again whether it's in interview context or not? That's what the critics said about this.

STELTER: Yes. Including within the staff, they're saying, hey, we all know what Bannon stands for, we all know what he's going to say. He's not

in power anymore. He's not going to say anything new. That's the argument against inviting him in the first place.

But once you've invited him, do you really want to rescind it within hours? I think that's partly why this was embarrassing for the New Yorker. And by

the way, the Economist makes the point that Bannon is advising several far- right groups, political groups in Europe. So this is a man who, whether, he has power in the U.S. or not, continues to have a prominent voice in

global politics.

GORANI: Right. We know he spent some fair amount of time in Italy trying to spread, yes, his ideology there with certain parties. Quick word on the

Woodward book. Boy, does it sound explosive.

I mean, just a few points here. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, according to the book, said the president acted like and had an understanding of a fifth

or sixth grader. John Kelly called him an idiot, unhinged, said we're in crazy town. Trump told Mattis, according to the book, he wanted to

assassinate Bashar al-Assad. The ex-Trump lawyer calling Donald Trump and effing liar. It goes on and on and on.

STELTER: The word dysfunctional for this White House is generous. The word chaos feels generous. This is a broken White House, according to the

details in Woodward's book and he has so many details. I mean, you're describing just the first headlines from the first excerpts. This is a

nearly 500-page book. So we're going to hear about this book for days and weeks to come. It doesn't even go on sale for another week.

The argument from the White House is that it's fake news. They're going with the argument that these are disgruntled ex-employees making up

stories. That defense might have worked with Michael Wolff a little bit. But Bob Woodward is one of the best-known journalists in the world. He

worked on this book for well over a year, he has a lot of tape recordings of his interviews. So I'm not so sure the whole fake news argument is

going to hold up against Bob Woodward.

GORANI: Right. I was going to say that with Michael Wolff, maybe it could have worked, but with Bob Woodward here -- I mean, we did also -- the

Washington Post released this 11-minute or so phone conversation. Donald Trump called Bob Woodward when the book had already gone to print to say

you didn't talk to me. And Bob Woodward said, I tried.

STELTER: I tried six different ways. You catch Trump there in a contradiction or you might say a lie on that tape. Trump trying to clean

up the book once it's already gone to the press.

Woodward, I'm not saying he's perfect. No one's perfect but Woodward does have an excellent track record. And this book, just like all the past

reporting about the chaos of the White House, it all goes to that single uncomfortable question, that thing people don't want to talk about. The

president's fitness. Is he fit for office? These details in this book are just the latest indication that he may well not be fit for office.

[15:55:06] GORANI: All right. And, as always, the big question is, will this have any impact with his base at all? Usually the answer is no.

We'll see if this is an exception. Brian Stelter, thanks so much as always.

Botswana used to be a refuge for elephants, but now poaching is threatening to wipe out these endangered animals forever. A new report on an elephant

massacre after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: Well, there is a tragedy occurred in Botswana where conservationists discovered 87 dead elephants killed for their tusks. The

images we're about to show you are graphic. The nonprofit, Elephants Without Borders says they found dozens of mutilated carcasses just in two

months' time.

Botswana is usually a safe haven for elephants. But the government recently disarmed the country's anti-poaching unit. The non-profit says

Botswanans are becoming increasingly involved in poaching. While foreigners tend to be reported as guilty. And there you have it.

Upsetting images there.

And at least six people have been killed, thousands displaced by the strongest typhoon to make land fall in Japan in 25 years. Typhoon Jebi hit

the coast with heavy rains and strong winds, clocked at 200 kilometers an hour.

In fact, the storm flooded a major international airport and it forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

That's going to do it for us for this hour. I'm Hala Gorani. Do stay with us. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END