Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

White House Tries to Discredit Explosive Woodward Book; Trump's Supreme Court Pick Faces Grilling on Capitol Hill. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 5, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It is much -- it is, you know, very much in the eye of the beholder.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would agree to some degree that you're right that, you know, we do appreciate when the court gets it right. And doesn't -- and interprets the constitution as it is intended instead of creating legislative fixes and for example imposing taxes which courts do these days, on things.

I mean, the court -- there's a difference between a fair calling on a campaign finance law and I can argue whether that's a good decision or bad one, as to when a court takes it upon themselves to legislate. And there is a difference between the two and I don't think liberals get comment to that.

JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But to go back to the question of how these all became partisan, I mean, to the political organizing credit of the Republican Party, they were much better at organizing around judges up and down the ranks. Not just Supreme Court judges but lower court judges and Democrats followed suit and tried to organize in the same way. And it's become a big political issue and one that motivates both bases.

But, you know, that's where a big part of where it came from. Those outside third party groups that made this a political grassroots organizing tool.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I do want to ask one question of you, Dana, which is Senator Graham made a point of allowing Brett Kavanaugh almost a do-over yesterday. And there's a lot -- this has been reviewed almost more than the Zapruder film. But yesterday, one of the Parkland fathers, Fred Guttenberg approached Brett Kavanaugh. Mr. Guttenberg is perhaps understandably in favor of more gun control and sees Kavanaugh as somebody who should not be on the court because he ruled in favor of gun rights.

And there was an attempt to handshake and the security was there. I'm not exactly sure what was going through Brett Kavanaugh's mind. Senator Graham gave him an opportunity to say something to Fred Guttenberg and he didn't take it. He affirmed that he is always there to listen to how his laws and his rulings are -- how laws under his rulings affect people. But he didn't take it. I was surprised by that. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I was, too because you're right, it wasn't -- he -- because let's go back to Roberts with the baseball analogies. This was a softball, it was actually tee ball. I mean, he was allowing Kavanaugh to do what clearly Senator Graham and others thought was a big mistake which is, just be human.

TAPPER: To shake his happened and just say I'm so sorry for your loss.

BASH: But this is a human being who lost a child, and, you know, not, as you said, it's not clear whose fault it was.

TAPPER: He may not have known who he was, et cetera.

BASH: Probably. Probably. But this is a chance to just make an image that has gone viral right and he didn't do it the way he probably could have.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And the judge spent a lot of time speaking about his own personal family.

BASH: He did.

BLITZER: His daughters and how much he's involved in community activity. That's why I was so surprise he didn't take advantage of that opportunity.

Everybody stand by. We're getting new reaction also to Bob Woodward's explosive new book. Among the new details, what President Trump says was the biggest mistake he has made. But will the White House effort to discredit the Pulitzer prize-winning Watergate journalist actually work. Much more of our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:37:14] BLITZER: As the White House continues to champion the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump and his allies are trying to discredit the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward and the dysfunctional White House that Woodward describes in his brand new book.

TAPPER: Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said any insults of the president's intelligence in the book came from disgruntled former employees. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think there are that many current staffers that are painting that picture. Again, I don't think you can have the type of success that we've had in this White House under this president if that book was an accurate reflection of what's taking place.

Look, these are the same rehashed, retold stories certainly just because they keep getting told doesn't make them more true. I think that's a ridiculous accusation. And not just because the same people keep writing the same type of books. You have a bunch of elites and left-leaning individuals who have a narrative to drive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani also weighing in on Twitter after Woodward described an outburst in which President Trump called Giuliani, quote, a little baby that needed to be changed. Giuliani writing, quote, this incident about me entirely false.

Joining me now, CNN White House Reporter Jeremy Diamond. And Jeremy, Giuliani is denying that Woodward even reached out to him for that anecdote. What do we know about exactly who spoke with Woodward for the book?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jake, denials have really been the mantra of this White House. And the people close to the White House who are involved in this book. We've seen the president now tweet out the denials from his White House Chief of staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. And we saw that denial from Giuliani.

But we do know that at least a dozen current and former White House officials that CNN spoke with, spoke with Bob Woodward for this book. And even in that conversation that Bob Woodward has with the president, the audio which was posted by the Washington Post yesterday, we know that Kellyanne Conway mentions having talked to Bob Woodward in the course of his reporting on this book.

But the White House strategy had been pretty clear to try to and discredit this latest book. It's the strategy they've used in the past with "Fire and Fury" book, the latest book from Omarosa as well. But it's proved a little bit more difficult with Bob Woodward. And while that may be the reaction from the White House and the president, it hasn't quite been the case even from the president's allies on Capitol Hill like Senator Lindsey Graham.

TAPPER: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You should believe that Bob Woodward is a good reporter. You should take some of it with caution. The whole theme of the book is that President Trump can run hot and be volatile. I agree.

[12:40:00] The process is one thing. The outcome is another. And there's a support system around this president that I think works for him.

As to whether or not he should have sat down with Bob, that would be for him to judge. I always believe it's better to tell your side of the story. But it was a brief intervention on the golf course and it went like this.

Mr. President, I think Woodward is writing a book about your presidency. He does it about every president. I'm sure he'd like to talk to you. You might want to think about that. And that was it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: And Jake, we know that the president is still upset about the fact that he was not able to sit with Bob Woodward for an interview with this book. So I think we can expect to hear more from the White House and certainly its allies as the day goes on.

Jake?

TAPPER: All right, we should point out of course Woodward put in at least six requests he said to speak with President Trump, including with Kellyanne Conway and Lindsey Graham.

BLITZER: And you got to believe those requests made their way to the president of the United States. Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president has direct access to the president and certainly she would have mentioned, by the way, in addition to Lindsey Graham. This book is coming out. You want to talk to him?

TAPPER: It's a silly criticism the idea if they wanted -- they knew the book was being written. Washington, D.C., knew the book was being written and they decided not to let him be available.

BLITZER: You know, Jamie Gangel has done a lot reporting on this. You've actually gone through the book and you looked closely at this. It's hard to believe the president didn't know that Bob Woodward wanted to sit down and interview him.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It's clear from the audiotape of the conversation between Bob Woodward and Lindsey Graham that the president says, oh, it is true that Lindsey Graham told me that.

TAPPER: The audiotape between Trump and Woodward, yes.

GANGEL: So at the very least, we know that the president was aware of it and admits that. These -- if his staff did not tell him that Bob Woodward wanted to do an interview with him, which I find very hard to believe, they weren't doing their jobs. That's -- if Bob Woodward is writing a book about you, you say to the president, he would like an interview.

The other thing that I think is true, and I wasn't sure if it was in Lindsey Graham's sound right there is, he has said now on the record, Bob Woodward is a good reporter. And what I can tell you about the book is that there are dozens of inner circle administration White House former and current people who are interviewed. There are hundreds of hours of audiotapes. Almost everybody allowed Woodward to interview them and record it on tape.

But we should explain what deep background is. That gives these people the protection to say, I didn't do it. Deny. Because what Bob Woodward has done is he said you tell me everything. Nothing is off the record. But I won't say that you were the person who did it.

That said, when you read the book, there are some people who are very thinly veiled. It's not hard to guess who spoke to him. But my reporting is also that there are people who are completely unnamed who are very senior and important who spoke to him as well.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to take a very quick break. When we come back, more discussion about both the Supreme Court hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Bob Woodward's bombshell new book. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:48:19] BLITZER: Welcome back. We're only moments away from the resumption of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing meet with Judge Kavanaugh. Five senators so far have asked questions. Each senator has 30 minutes or so for questions. The chairman of the hearing, Chairman Grassley, is resuming this hearing.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: -- to face this next round. If I had to pick an area of clear expertise when it comes to Brett Kavanaugh it would be the area of judicial nominations. You have been engaged in that at several different levels, including your own personal experience. And so I'd like to ask you if you would comment on the strategy of your own nomination.

Specifically, I would like to ask you whether those who were planning that strategy sat down and cleared with you their decision on the release of documents.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: No, I was not involved in the documents process or substance.

DURBIN: No one told you that you'll be the first Supreme Court nominee to assert executive privilege to limit the access to 100,000 documents relating to your service in the White House?

KAVANAUGH: Senator, so there's a couple things packed into your question. So I did study the nominee precedent. Read all the hearings. This came up in Justice Scalia's hearing. So I read that with all his memos from being head of the office of legal counsel and he was asked about that.

And I know with Chief Justice Roberts, there were four years of information when he was principal deputy solicitor general. That those were not disclosed either.

DURBIN: But as far White House documents, you are breaking new ground here. Or I should say covering up old ground here.

[12:50:04] KAVANAUGH: Well, I guess I -- again, I wasn't involved in the documents' discussions or process or substance in terms of the decisions that were made. But in terms of thinking about the issue, in terms of questions that could come to me like Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts received, or Justice Scalia did. I guess I don't distinguish. It's all executive branch documents. Justice Department documents and White House documents are not different.

DURBIN: Let's realize that when it comes to the role of the National Archives, we're being asked to give you special treatment.

KAVANAUGH: I can't comment because I don't know.

DURBIN: Judge Kavanaugh, this is your field, judicial nominations. This is your nomination.

KAVANAUGH: Sorry.

DURBIN: You are now embarking on this journey in this committee, denying us access to documents which were routinely provided for other judicial nominees. You had to have known that was taking place.

KAVANAUGH: Senator, I think what Justice Scalia said in his hearing when he was asked about his office of legal counsel memos is the right thing which is that's a decision for the Senate and the executive branch to work out. As a nominee, I will -- and there are long-term privileges and protections, as he mentioned, that were in effect for that discussion. And it's not for the nominee to make that decision.

DURBIN: Well, that is an interesting comment because the way you're being presented to the American people with only 10 percent of the public documentation that could be provided to this committee is going to reflect on you and your nomination. And of course you know that.

KAVANAUGH: Well, I guess I -- again, looking at the nominee precedent, Senator, that was true in Justice Scalia's case. All his memos from 1974 to 1977 when he's head of the office of legal counsel. A consequential time, at least as I understand it. Those might not have been disclosed. He's asked about that in his hearing. Chief Justice Roberts, four years of deputy solicitor general memos which would have been --

DURBIN: You're perfectly fine with this notion?

KAVANAUGH: No, I said I am -- it's up to the chairman and you and the committee, the Senate and the executive branch --

DURBIN: In fairness, Judge Kavanaugh, I think it's up to you. I think it's up to you. If you said at this moment to this chairman and to this committee, stop, pause, hit the pause button. I don't want any cloud or shadow over this nomination. I trust the American people. I want them to trust me. I am prepared to disclose those public documents.

Take Senator Leahy's line of questioning. He was not the only victim of Manny Miranda. I was as well. And I didn't realize that this Republican staffer had hacked into my computer, stolen my staff memos and released them to the Wall Street Journal until they showed up in an editorial.

So now your knowledge of this, your role in this, is we're limited to even discuss because of the fact that we are classifying and withholding information about your nomination. First as Mr. Bill Burke who has some magic power to decide what the American people will see about your role in the White House. Then the decision by those who put your nomination before us to take 35 months of your service as staff secretary to the president of the United States and to exclude the documents. Then the unilateral classification of documents coming to this committee as committee classified in a manner no one has ever seen in the history of this committee.

Judge Kavanaugh, that reflects on your reputation and your credibility. If you said at this moment I don't want to have a cloud over this nomination, I am prepared to suggest to the committee and ask the committee humbly, please, withhold further hearings until you disclose everything. Why won't you do that?

KAVANAUGH: Senator, I do not believe that's consistent with what prior nominees have done who have been in this circumstance. It's a decision for the Senate and the executive branch. Justice Scalia explained that very clearly, I thought, in his hearing.

DURBIN: Are you happy with that decision?

KAVANAUGH: I do not -- it's not for me to say, Senator. This is a decision -- the long term interests of the Senate and the executive branch, particularly the executive branch, are at play. And Justice Scalia again explained that well, I thought --

DURBIN: I wasn't here for Justice Scalia, but I will tell you that --

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Let me interrupt without taking time away from you so don't charge him for this time, but here's something that the nominee doesn't need any help for me to answer this, but we don't care what the nominee thinks. We've got to follow the Presidential Records Act. And that's what we're following is the law.

DURBIN: Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, following the Presidential Records Act involves the National Archives.

[12:55:01] The National Archives is not involved in this process. It is a Mr. Bill Burke who was a former assistant to the nominee who has decided what will be withheld, what is going to be committee confidential. So it isn't the Presidential Records Act, please.

GRASSLEY: Well, still, let me make clear here. You know, we anticipate some of this so let me read. Criticize the committee process for obtaining Judge Kavanaugh's records. They have accused us of cutting the National Archives out of the process. So this is where I want to set the record straight. President Bush acted consistently with federal law when he expedited the process and gave us unprecedented access in record time to Judge Kavanaugh's record. But we have worked hand and glove with the archives throughout this process and the documents this committee received are the same as if the archives had done the initial review.

In fact, the archives is not permitted by law to produce records to the committee without giving both President Bush and a current president an opportunity to review. The National Archives was not cut out of the process. As President Bush's representative informed the committee, quote, from his letter, because we have sought, received and followed NARA's, that's the same as what I used the word archivists, views on any documents withheld as personal documents, the resulting production of documents to the committee is essentially the same as if NARA had conducted its review first. And then sought our views in the current administration views as required by law.

In other words, the documents this committee received are the same as if the archives had done the initial review. We're just able to get the documents faster by doing it this way. Which gave the Senate and the American people unprecedented access in record time to a Supreme Court nominee record.

Continue.

DURBIN: Mr. Chairman, the National Archives have stated publicly that how the way we were handling the records for this nomination are unprecedented and they've had nothing to do with it. They've asked until the end of October to produce records. And they have been told we don't need you. We're going to finish this hearing long before then.

I'd like to ask that it be placed in the record the statement from the National Archives related to the records related to Judge Kavanaugh.

May I have consent to place this in the record?

GRASSLEY: Yes. I'm sorry, what --

DURBIN: Statement from the National Archives.

GRASSLEY: Put in the record. Yes, without objection.

DURBIN: Thank you.

And now I'm going to throw you a pitch which you've seen coming for 12 years. I want to talk to you about the 2006 testimony which you gave before this committee. It was at a different time. We were very concerned about the issue of torture and detention and interrogation.

Yesterday, I asked you to show the American people that you have nothing to hide by coming clean with this on this issue. And I'd like to refer specifically to some of the questions that were raised because of that 2006 testimony. I believe we have here a statement. My question as well as your response. I'm sure you've seen this because it's been reported in the paper that you've been waiting for this question for a long time.

When I was back in the day a trial attorney preparing a witness for interrogation testimony, deposition, giving testimony at trial, I said two things. Tell the truth and don't answer more than you're asked. Don't volunteer information.

Judge Kavanaugh, you failed on the second count. The question I asked you. What was your role in the original Haynes nomination, decision to re-nominate. At the time of the nomination, what did you know about Mr. Haynes role in crafting the administration's detention and interrogation policies?

Your response?

Senator, I did not. I was not involved. And am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants or, and so I do not have the involvement with that. And with respect to Mr. Haynes nomination, I have known Jim Haynes, but it was not one of the nominations that I handled.

GRASSLEY: Raise it O'Rourke (ph), I can't see the bottom. Got it. OK.

DURBIN: I asked you about this when we had a meeting in my office.

KAVANAUGH: Yes.

DURBIN: And I still don't understand your answer. In terms of how you could state as clearly and unequivocally. I was not involved and am not involved. The questions about the rules of governing detention of combatants.

You were involved in the discussions about access to counsel for detainees. You confirmed this during the meeting we had in my office and there are multiple media reports as well. You were involved in discussions regarding detained U.S. combatants, Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. You confirmed that in our meetings and there are e-mails that support that fact.

You were involved, and this is one I want to be specific about. You were involved with President Bush's 2005 signing statement on Senator --