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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Will Kavanaugh Accuser Testify?; Russia Poisoning Message?. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 18, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:31:57]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news in our politics lead.

The other man, then teenager, allegedly in the room, according to Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Professor Ford, is breaking his silence. His name is Mark Judge. He is a former classmate of Kavanaugh's who denies that the incident ever took place.

Judge says he has no memory of the incident, that he has nothing to offer the Senate Judiciary Committee.

According to a new letter his lawyer wrote to the committee -- quote -- "Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school, but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford's letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes."

But Judge's writings about his hard days of partying while in high school with Brett Kavanaugh are drawing fresh scrutiny, given Ford's accusation that both Kavanaugh and Judge were -- quote -- "stumbling drunk" that evening.

CNN's Jessica Schneider reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Testimony from Brett Kavanaugh's high school classmate, Mark Judge, in demand by Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's important that we hear from witnesses, not least of which is Mark Judge.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: How could we want to get the truth and not have Mr. Judge come to the hearing and be asked questions?

SCHNEIDER: Professor Christine Blasey Ford says Mark Judge was in the room at a house party when she alleges a 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh pinned her down, trying to take off her clothes, and put his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming.

Ford says Judge witnessed everything. Judge, now an author and filmmaker, told "Weekly Standard" Ford's accusation is "absolutely nuts." Kavanaugh has also forcefully denied any incident. Judge's own memoir on addiction depicts the heavy drinking and hard partying of Georgetown Prep students at the time Kavanaugh was there in the early 1980s. But it does not recount any incident such as what Ford alleges.

In "Wasted: Tales of a Genx Drunk," Judge writes how the all-boys high school was swimming in alcohol, and he was shocked they got away with it.

DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY FOR CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: One only needs to look at the writings of Mark Judge, who was the other person present, to know that he wrote about how stumbling drunk he and other members of Georgetown Prep were repeatedly, routinely. This was part of their culture.

SCHNEIDER: Judge even seems to allude to Brett Kavanaugh in this passage from the memoir: "Do you Bart O'Kavanaugh, one character asked another. Yes, he passed out on his way back from a party."

Both Kavanaugh and Judge were varsity athletes at the prestigious all- boys Catholic high school outside Washington, D.C. Captions and quotes inside their class yearbook allude to parties and women, "100 kegs or bust" written on Kavanaugh's yearbook page. On another page, "Do these guys beat their wives?"

And this one, "Prep parties raise question of legality."

Judge's personal page reads, "Certain women should be struck regularly like gongs."

Judge has even waded into conservative politics, writing several articles for "The Daily Caller." He's written about former President Obama, saying, "He seems to be a woman, and a feminist one at that."

And Judge took on the topic of feminism in a 2013 book review, writing, "The bogus war on women is really nothing but liberal women acting out against bad fathers. The anger of the feminist has grown more acute. Nothing short of a matriarchal utopia will suffice. It's easier than admitting what really ails you."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:35:05]

SCHNEIDER: And we have talked to a friend of Kavanaugh's who tells us Kavanaugh may have drank beer in high school, but she says he was never out of control. That same friend saying Judge on the other hand was a loudmouth and a lot wilder, but this person had no knowledge of the party where Ford alleges she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh.

And, of course, Jake, Mark Judge also says he has no memory of this incident, and therefore says he will not be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Take a listen to the Senate minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, discussing Mark Judge and whether he should testify on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: It certainly makes sense for one witness to be Mr. Mark Judge.

How could we want to get the truth and not have Mr. Judge come to the hearing and be asked questions?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And Senator Leahy said that to me just a few minutes ago.

What's the strategy here? Why didn't -- Judge has already said -- he told "The Weekly Standard" last week he has no memory of this, this didn't happened. He said it again in a letter.

Clearly, he is not going to provide some sort of corroborating evidence for Professor Ford. Why do Democrats want him to testify so much?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I suppose the part of it is, if I'm a little bit cynical about it, asking him questions about the high school drinking and all of this, so that he would have to answer truthfully to those and talk about these things that they did in high school.

TAPPER: So, the culture.

HAM: Yes, I think that would that would be the bolstering attempt.

But for both Kavanaugh and Judge, when they -- if they -- if this is their story, all they can do is come and say I did not do this thing, and Judge can say I don't know him to act like this and I never saw him act like this. And they can say that over and over again. And that's about all that they can do.

And I do think it is dangerous to go down a path where if the standard is you have to prove you weren't at a party sometime in 1982, the location and number of people at which we don't exactly know or date of which we don't know, that becomes a really nearly impossible standard to hit.

And all you can do is go and say, if you believe honestly this never happened, say it never happened.

TAPPER: Am I being exceedingly cynical when I think that the reason Democrats want Mark Judge to testify is because he's a horrible character witness, and that they want to try him as if he is up for the Supreme Court because he's written...

HAM: I'm glad that your cynicism surpasses mine.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Oh, it's way past yours. What he has written and said is far more offensive than anything Brett

Kavanaugh's ever said. And they want they want to make him exhibit A.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first off, he's the only eyewitness to this event, if in fact it happened.

And a huge part of the Kavanaugh defense is, he's such a great guy. He's a better Catholic than I am. He's a better American than you are. Just ask him.

It's baloney. OK? It's baloney.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: What is baloney?

BEGALA: Brett Kavanaugh used the power of the office of independent counsel, he worked for Ken Starr, to reopen the investigation of the suicide of Vince Foster.

Now, I knew Vince. I worked with him. He committed suicide. It was a tragedy. That was investigated by the Park Police, by the first special counsel, Robert Fiske, by the Senate, by the House, by the Secret Service.

All said the obvious. The poor man took his own life. He reopened it, spent millions of dollars, and tormented the Foster family in the most vicious, cruel abuse of power I think I have ever seen in 30 years.

And he should be held to account for that. That's part of his character too. If he would do something that horrible, I don't know what he was like in high school, but I know what he was like when he had power in that office. And he tormented that poor family.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That goes to character, doesn't it?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It does go to character.

And, yes, I do think that Mark Judge would be a terrible character which. Yes, as boring as many of the -- most of the testimony already was, I think this would actually be entertaining.

And, of course, we live in a day and age of reality TV, with the current president. What I think is interesting, I did not know that about what you just shared. But we talked ad nauseam about how Brett Kavanaugh's testimony made me feel, listening to him respond to Senator Hirono or to Senator Harris or to Senator Booker, the only three people -- or three people of color on the committee, was also like -- it was -- it was troubling.

So, to me, I do want to hear someone else who can talk about his character, even if it was in high school. There are other things that are present-day and more recent that I think speak to his character more definitively than this moment.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: Harris also launched an attack that went nowhere.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: That was not an attack. It was far from an attack.

HAM: It was speculative and silly.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: I think it's interesting the only time we call -- we question people's credentials. The only time we call into question whether or not it's silly or there was there was -- it was founded on good principle is when it is a woman or a person of color sitting in the United States Senate.

[16:40:05]

That is really frustrating to me.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: She was fact-checked, the same as I am fact-checked every day when I sit in public. And that's fine. She's perfectly capable of dealing with that.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: It was his response to her asking questions, where she had good reason to believe what she was asking.

I know her personally. I know that she did...

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: Then you have more information than the fact-checkers had.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: That's not true either.

But what is so interesting is, she just said, did you do this? And he said, it depends on who you talk to. Who told you that? He could have just said no. And he went through this whole rabbit...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: This is the whole thing about whether or not he talked about...

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: It's a large law firm. And he went to check whether he had talked to anybody from...

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: That's very nice in how you're framing it.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I just want to get back to the story right now about Professor Ford.

And, Josh, is there -- what are you hoping for on Monday? What's the best thing that...

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's nothing good. There's nothing good that could -- this is a circus of the highest order.

It should have been prevented. It was very preventable. This is a very regrettable situation. And I think the handling of all this from July on is a real problem.

What is the most likely outcome Monday is that we again hear he said/she said. You again here from Democrats that they want to delay more.

Now, could that have something to do with this? Sure. But so did all the document requests up until last week. So did all the Bush document requests before that. The goal -- the name of the game from a tactical standpoint for a justice is to try to delay the nomination as much as you possibly can.

That's been like that since the beginning of Supreme Court hearings. So this is not all part of just fact-finding. This is a tactical manipulation of the system.

Now, they do need to get to the bottom of this. Monday is important for a whole range of issues.

TAPPER: Right. Yes.

Everyone, thank you so much.

A person who publicly embarrassed Vladimir Putin somehow ends up in a hospital after an alleged poisoning, somehow. It wouldn't be the first time Putin sent a potentially lethal message to his enemies. That story next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:23] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our "WORLD LEAD" now. Poisoned by Putin? That's the suggestion being made by the band and protest group Pussy Riot after one of its members felt ill in Russia last week. 30- year-old Pyotr Verzilov was rushed to a Moscow hospital and then air lifted to Berlin, Germany. Doctors there say it's highly likely he was, in fact, poisoned. Pussy Riot has frequently staged demonstrations against the Putin government for its abysmal human rights record. CNN's senior international correspondent, Atika Shubert just spoke with the man's family in Berlin.

Atika, what did they have to say?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they had just visited him at the hospital and they said he's awake, but he doesn't really comprehend what's happening around him. He has a kind of amnesia and he didn't even recognize his own mother at first.

Now, I also spoke to Nadya Tolokonnikova, she's a founding member of Pussy Riot and has a daughter with him. For her, it's very clear that this was a probable assassination attempt and she's basing that on what the doctors told her, that there were some sort of poison that attacked his nervous system.

I also spoke to Veronika Nikulshina. She was with him when the symptoms appeared. She described how he lost his sight, then control of his legs and she believes, based on what the doctors said, that he would have died if she hadn't been there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VERONIKA NIKULSHINA, BAND MEMBER AND PARTNER OF POISONING VICTIM: So it was really shock. We were really surprised. I was really surprised when it started to be worse and worse from hour to hour. Just a few days ago, he understand that he's in the hospital and then he probably is poisoned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUBERT: Now, why would he have been poisoned? Well, Verzilov did pull off a stunt over the summer where he stormed the pitch at the World Cup with other political activists dressed as police officers. It was highly embarrassing to the Russian government.

However, you know, a poisoning seems exceptional retaliation for this. And I think it's important to remember that Verzilov was also involved deeply involved with investigations into Putin's closest allies, so that may have something to do with it, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Atika Shubert, thank you so much. This is, of course, hardly the first time Russian president, Vladimir Putin has been accused of having his critics silenced through violent means.

CNN's Tom Foreman is at the magic wall for us. And, Tom, it's a remarkable list when you put them all together.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it absolutely is, Jake. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a sharp message to his critics really this year saying on Russian state T.V., "Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves." It's an interesting choice of words considering the apparent poisoning of this man, Verzilov with Pussy Riot and other outspoken cases of dissidents suddenly falling ill.

In Salisbury, England, the victims were former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter. British investigators believe they were poisoned by a nerve agent, sprayed on a door handle. It was a very serious attack which official say could have easily killed them both, although they eventually pulled through.

In 2006, we know about the case of another former Russian agent who died after drinking a cup of tea in London. Alexander Litvinenko. Authorities say that tea was tainted with Polonium-210, a deadly radioactive poison. Doctors fought three weeks to stop his rapid decline but he died anyway. Jake?

TAPPER: Or his operatives ever been definitively linked with any of these attacks?

FOREMAN: Yes. In the eyes of some western investigators who say that is the only plausible explanation for the techniques and materials involved. But no in the eyes of the Kremlin. For example, after the British officials released images of the two suspects in the Skripal case, Putin himself said they were nothing but tourists who happened to be in Salisbury at that precise time. Then those two showed up on Russian TV with the same story. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:50:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Salisbury, a wonderful town?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the famous Salisbury cathedral, famous not only in Europe but in the whole world. It's famous for its 123-meter spire. It's famous for its clock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And, Tom, poison is certainly not the only threat facing critics of the Kremlin. Walk us through some of the other cases.

FOREMAN: Sure. In 2015, Boris Nemtsov a politician that criticized Putin's policies was shot dead on a bridge in Moscow. Some Chechens were convicted of the murder. Critics still think Putin was involved.

In 2013, Boris Berezovsky, a former Kremlin insider whose critiques of the government was going loud, was found hanged at his home in England. Suicide was suggested, but never proven.

Lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky died in Russian police custody. He'd been investigating allegations of fraud.

Human rights activist, Natalya Estemirova, who wrote very tough pieces about Russian authorities in Chechnya, was shot to death.

So as journalist, Anna Politkovskaya. A staunch critic of Putin. As were several other journalists and other political foes.

The Russian government has denied involvement and there had been some convictions of people with no proven ties to Moscow. But skeptics say look at how many of Putin's opponents wind up mysteriously dead and just ask yourself, is that just a coincidence? Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

The X-rated details in Stormy Daniels' new tell-all book, and we do mean tell-all. Details that may spell some major legal trouble for President Trump. That's next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:10] TAPPER: Lots of books claim to be tell-alls but they don't follow through. Stormy Daniels' new book about her life, it's not that book. Wow. She tells all.

From the details of her career in porn to, yes, being in bed with the future president of the United States and even being able to pick certain parts of him out of a lineup. And then being threatened to shut up about it. And all these accounts are in there.

CNN has an early copy. Sara Sidner is live for us in Los Angeles. Obviously, president Trump denies ever having a relationship with that woman, Ms. Daniels.

Sara, some of the details here are very not safe for work but relevant to the legal troubles the president might find himself in.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And clearly her attorney said the reason why she did this, the reason why she detailed so excruciatingly thoroughly is because she said she was tired of being called a liar by the Trump administration.

But she also tells a lot. Most of the book, is about her life from her early childhood all the way through becoming a director in porn and also doing some other kinds of movies that we have all seen her in. But she certainly is very, very clear that this is full disclosure.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: In her tell-all book, porn star Stormy Daniels gives readers a look at her life from a deeply disturbing childhood of neglect and rape to a public battle with the president of the United States.

She writes that her first sighting of Donald Trump in 2006 in his hotel suite in Lake Tahoe was shocking. "Trump came swooping in wearing black silk pajamas and slippers," she writes. "What are you doing?" I yelled. "Go put some effing clothes on."

She writes that he changed and they both joked about his hair. "I pointed to his hair, what's going on with this?" "I know," he said, with a smile. "It's ridiculous." She said the two talked about family. "What would your wife think of you being here with me?" Stormy writes. "Oh, don't worry about that," he said. "It's not a big deal. And anyway, we have separate bedrooms."

She writes Trump then brought out a picture of Melania holding their son Baron who was just four months old at the time. And when Daniels came out of the bathroom, she claims Trump was lying on the bed in his underwear. They had sex.

She then describes his genital in great detail. "His penis is distinctive in a certain way," she writes. Proof her attorney, Michael Avenatti says she is tired of being called a liar by Trump's people.

President Trump has never spoken her name in public, nor admitted to any sexual rifts. But his spokes people and attorneys have denied it ever happened again and again.

Trump and Daniels allegedly met months later at the Beverley Hills hotel. She revealed while in his room, as the two were watching TV, Hillary Clinton called. Clinton was vying for the democratic presidential nomination against Barack Obama.

"When he hung up, he was effusive about Hillary. I love her," he said. "She is so smart," Daniels writes.

Fast forward almost a decade to the Trump and Clinton campaigns and you'd never know it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton made her money as a corrupt, public official breaking the law, and putting her government office up for sale.

SHUBERT: Daniels also reveals she was raped as a child. She writes it happened repeatedly by a man who lived next door to one of her friends. "I was 9. I was a child. And then I wasn't," she writes. "He was raping Vanessa, so I put myself between them. Continually offering myself up so he would leave her alone."

Daniels says a school counselor called her a liar when she revealed the rape.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Now those disturbing details obviously very touching, hard to read. The book comes out October 2nd. Jake?

[17:00:02] TAPPER: All right. Sara Sidner, thank you.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.