Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Brett Kavanaugh Has Votes to Be Confirmed to Supreme Court; Interview with Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 5, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:02]

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: If I would have been in that position, I would have liked to have brought this place back to normal procedure, if I had that that opportunity, to a 60-vote threshold.

QUESTION: But why did you wait? Why did you wait for Collins to make her announcement before you made your announcement?

MANCHIN: I think that was basically what was -- I saw her announcement that she was going to say that she would do that.

QUESTION: But did you follow her? Did you decide to vote that way because she voted?

MANCHIN: Oh, no, no, no. I think everyone -- everyone labored with this. Everybody labored with this decision.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!

MANCHIN: And we did our own...

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: ... due diligence.

I was all morning long. Everything.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... Senator Murkowski's not voting with her party affect your decision at all?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: How does Senator Murkowski voting no affect your decision at all, creating it bipartisan on both sides?

MANCHIN: Senator Murkowski is a very, very, very, very dear friend of mine, very dear friend of mine.

And I -- she did everything, crossed every T, dotted every I. She went through the same process we all did. She came to a different conclusion. I came to my conclusion really this morning, when I went through another hour-and-a-half. QUESTION: Do you believe the allegations?

QUESTION: Do you believe Dr. Ford?

MANCHIN: I believe Dr. Ford. Something happened to Dr. Ford.

I don't believe that the facts showed that it was Brett Kavanaugh. But I believe something happened.

QUESTION: You think there was someone else that did it?

MANCHIN: I think something happened to her. I just -- there was no way, no way at all we could see.

QUESTION: Senator, what do you say to women who watched this process unfold, heard Dr. Ford's story and feel like Judge Kavanaugh is getting confirmed anyway, even though they have stepped forward, and that the Senate is essentially...

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: I have had people all over West Virginia come forward. And I have the greatest...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Look at us! Look at us! Look at us!

MANCHIN: I mean, just the respect that...

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: Just the -- basically the hurt that people have, the trauma they gone through. And I don't know -- I mean, I have empathy and sympathy and will do anything I can to make sure that they are heard, to make sure this doesn't continue.

QUESTION: Do you think this was an adequate FBI investigation into Judge Kavanaugh's...

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: I can only have what's in front of me. That's all I have in front of me.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Based on what you have seen...

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: What was that?

QUESTION: Do you think there should have been more witnesses interviewed for the FBI investigation?

MANCHIN: I think that, you know, there's always more that could have been done, I guess, if people are looking at it. I looked at what was in front of me, and I had to make a decision.

QUESTION: But based on what you have seen, was that a thorough investigation by the FBI?

MANCHIN: It was -- from my -- it was thorough, from what I saw. The people I was concerned about, how they said and what they said and how they did it, I did.

QUESTION: Senator, do you think that there is still a place in the Democratic Party for you after this?

MANCHIN: I am just a West Virginian. I am just a good old West Virginian.

QUESTION: But you're up for reelection in a difficult race. Are you concerned the base is going to revolt?

MANCHIN: I didn't look at this from a political standpoint. No, I didn't do that.

QUESTION: Are you concerned with Kavanaugh's temperament at all? I know some Democrats have expressed concern with Kavanaugh's temperament.

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: The Thursday bothered me. The Thursday bothered me a lot. But I saw that basically...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!

(CROSSTALK)

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: What is wrong with you!

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Shame on you, Joe Manchin!

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Halls of the United States Senate, Senator Joe Manchin, following Susan Collins. She's a Republican. He's a Democrat. He announces he will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.

So, for all practical purposes, unless there is some huge surprise overnight, it looks like he's going to be on the United States Supreme Court.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does.

Also, can I just say, what talk -- talk about a tale of two announcements. You had Susan Collins speaking at length on the Senate floor in a very formal way, and then Joe Manchin barely heard over the shouts of protesters at his office, because he came out and did it in a more impromptu discussion with reporters, explaining his vote. Barely heard over people yelling shame, shame, shame.

And I think that this -- this is a big moment for the president. This is a critical moment for the country, given not just this court, but the seat on this court and what this all means.

But it's already instantly going to be looked at through the lens of what's happening in less than five weeks, which is the midterm elections. And what you heard and saw in and around Joe Manchin's office, people protesting him, and...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You heard them screaming, shame on you, shame on you!

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: He is a Democrat who is voting for a Republican nominee. He is a Democrat from a state where the president is probably the most popular. He's gone there to more than any other state, I think seven times, to campaign, he, the president. And there's a reason for that.

But that is just -- we have seen the protests. We have seen the energy. We have heard it and felt it. And it's hard to imagine, but I think it's only going to escalate right now.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I couldn't agree more about the midterm moment, the timing of this right now.

Every Republican strategist you have spoken to, I have spoken to, I'm sure, for the last year-and-a-half, they kept saying, the one thing that really concerns me is complacency on the Republican side, which happens when you have power, when you have all the levers of power. That happens electorally to both parties.

[16:05:10]

And it's been such a concern for the Republicans this cycle, Wolf. And they just got such a boost in the arm today. That's the one side, that they're really jazzed up about this, and that helps elevate them, especially in those red states where these Democrats are running for reelection in the Senate.

But we also know that this plays into the unbelievable energy we have seen on the Democratic side this entire Trump era, Democratic turnout, breaking records, special elections. And in the House map, where white college-educated women and suburbanites dominate the landscape, if the Republicans are to maintain control of the House, they need to keep those districts.

And this plays directly against them on that. Two different worlds, but it is going to have midterm impact

BLITZER: You know, Dana, 51 senators, 50 Republicans, one Democrat, Joe Manchin, will vote in favor tomorrow when the final vote comes on the Senate floor -- 49 -- 48 Democrats and one Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, will vote against confirmation, 51-49.

He will be on the United States Supreme Court.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

And as Ariane was saying, this could presage a sea change in the court. And maybe Ariane can help us with what's on the docket. I was reading that they have kept it kind of noncontroversial, or...

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, absolutely, because they knew if they have this eight-member court so far, they don't want to do too much. And there is no blockbuster cases on the docket right now. But, in the wings, there are a lot in the lower courts.

BORGER: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

DE VOGUE: DACA, Affordable Care Act, LGBT rights, abortion restrictions, those are all percolating through the court.

And they're -- in some way, either petition or emergency motion, will hit this court with nine members.

BORGER: And if I could just talk to David's point -- and, maybe, Marc, you know a lot about this -- I think the question really is whether the Republicans can get anywhere near parity to Democratic enthusiasm, because Democratic enthusiasm is so huge.

And it may be that it will help him in the Senate, and they could keep the Senate, but still lose the House.

MARC SHORT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's no doubt that the left is energized for this.

And, to David's point, I'm not sure this nomination could have more further energized the left than they already were. But I do really believe that Chuck Schumer overplayed his hand in a way that is going to come back to hurt him.

I think he's jeopardized Heitkamp. I think he's potentially jeopardized Donnelly, potentially jeopardized McCaskill, and potentially jeopardized Manchin, because this is somebody that could have been confirmed a while back.

He's protracted intentionally to make this he thought a win for himself politically. And it's it's backfired.

BORGER: Why Manchin? Manchin voted for Kavanaugh and followed his state's wishes. Trump won by how much?

SHORT: So, all the polling data has showed Manchin significantly ahead a Morrisey throughout this. Today was the first times I saw numbers that heard Morrisey ahead. BLITZER: So when does the president come out and gloat? Does he wait until the final vote tomorrow? Or will we see him start speaking out more aggressively tonight?

You worked for him for a long time.

SHORT: I think it is fair to say this is a substantial victory.

BLITZER: I know. But when do you think he will start talking about this? Because he's been very silent.

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: In light of Susan Collins' remarks, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And Joe Manchin's remarks.

SHORT: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, you think he will make a statement? When will he address the nation?

SHORT: I don't know. Maybe -- I would hope tomorrow.

BLITZER: After the final vote. At that point, he goes to the Oval Office and addresses the nation. So it will be a dramatic moment.

SHORT: Yes.

BLITZER: For the president.

BASH: Yes. I mean, and not too get too corny. You're right. It's a victory lap, a deserved victory lap, because he won the presidency. And he got to pick a Supreme Court nominee, because Justice Kennedy said he was going to retire.

And it looks like his guy is going to get on. But not to get too corny, but one of the things that Senator Collins said is, can we get back to the place where there actually are bipartisan votes for Supreme Court justices? I don't know.

BORGER: I think we're a long way from that. I really do. Obviously, we all know the process started to fall apart a little bit with Bork.

But we also know that someone like Lindsey Graham, who has been adamant about the politics of this, and adamant about Judge Kavanaugh, he voted for Sotomayor and Kagan.

SHORT: Ruth Bader Ginsburg had 96 votes.

BORGER: Right. She got 96 votes. But we also know that Merrick Garland was never even considered

because of the politics of all of this. So I don't know how you get back there, unless you have a president who is bipartisan, or independent or something like that.

BASH: And Merrick Garland, we can't forget. That's an important, important point.

BORGER: yes.

BASH: Because Mitch McConnell, you're right, he has done a masterful job at strategizing to get the courts built up. But at what price?

[16:10:00]

Because it has been raw politics. Both sides are playing it now. But he started with the raw politics of no Merrick Garland, even though the president had almost a year on his -- left on his term. And so that has no question built in...

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: There's no doubt that both sides are at fault for where we got. There's no doubt about that.

I do think it started with the Bork confirmation hearings. I think it's become more of a personal characterization since then.

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: But to get back to what you were saying earlier, Dana, I think also Susan Collins did all Republicans a huge favor today.

There is no one else who would have had as much attention on his or her speech as she did in this dramatic moment. And being able to walk through all of her reasons for supporting him and also being able to rebut the testimony of Dr. Ford is something only she could have done that other male senators could not have done as effectively as she did.

And so I think her remarks today were a big asset for all of Republicans.

DE VOGUE: And she knows one thing, is, that, in the wings, had this nominee not been this nominee, it could have been Amy Coney Barrett.

That's somebody who at least on Roe was probably more conservative and someone she wouldn't want. And she was very interesting, though. And this will infuriate the -- some of the groups. She talked on and on about precedent, how she talked to him about precedent in Obergefell, in the religious liberty cases, in the -- in Roe.

And people on the other side will come back and say, she's being just bamboozled here.

(CROSSTALK) BORGER: Dianne Feinstein already did it. She tweeted that when she spoke with him, that he did not say it was settled law. He said -- on Roe, he said it was entitled to respect.

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: And she said in her speech his views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to undo Roe.

That is what -- Susan Collins and Dianne Feinstein believe fundamentally different things about Brett Kavanaugh.

BORGER: They had different meetings, I guess.

DE VOGUE: The groups have just released a statement saying that she has turned her back on the women in Maine, that's NARAL coming forward and saying, you just can't say that about precedent. That means nothing, because precedent, they believe, can be overturned.

BLITZER: Yes, and she made that point on some of the legal issues. But she did make a strong point about a presumption of innocence and fairness, which she said is so important.

She kept referring to that. And she kept mentioning that, yes, she believes that Professor Ford was sincere, compelling. She's a survivor. This has upended her life.

But then she also said, four witnesses that she named could not, David, corroborate what she had alleged.

CHALIAN: That's right. And she said the charges cannot fairly prevent Kavanaugh from serving on the court through this standard of the more likely than not, that she applied that standard, not a criminal standard, she was saying, but her standard for this is that the allegations of Dr. Ford failed to meet that more likely than not.

Your point about presumption of innocence, that is a fundamental principle of fairness. And, if you will recall, Donald Trump in New York, when he was up there for the UNGA, the day before the Ford hearings, had that press conference.

And this was his main point there, was driving this home. And it was the one thing you could just understand, the messaging out of the White House was this point that Susan Collins now made the very core of her argument, that you cannot presume someone guilty, that we presume someone innocent until proven guilty, and that you can't upend that American tradition of fairness for anything.

BORGER: Well, what was interesting was that Collins said that she had talked with Kavanaugh a second time, and she said to ask him very specific additional questions. So you have got to presume that was after Professor Ford's testimony.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, it underscores what is so obvious, that elections really do matter.

BASH: They do.

BLITZER: They have consequences. If Hillary Clinton would have been elected president, Judge Kavanaugh would not have been nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court. Somebody else would have, presumably a much more liberal jurist. And it would have had a huge consequence.

BASH: And for a generation, Republicans in particular, the conservative movement, have been almost singularly focused on the bench and on the courts, making that a key issue. That is, as you said, basically how Donald Trump got the Republican nomination, making those promises.

And at least for that same time, Democrats haven't been that focused on the courts. I assume, after today, that's going to change.

DE VOGUE: Or disciplined. They haven't been as disciplined, because we have never had a presidential -- president nominee before he was elected come up with a list of Supreme Court justices.

That had never occurred before. The Republicans, Trump, McGahn, Leonard Leo, they had a rare discipline to drive..

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Whose idea was that?

SHORT: Well, putting aside the Merrick Garland...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: No, whose idea was that? Was that Trump's?

(CROSSTALK)

SHORT: ... for one second, I think as well, I do think the previous administration, to you all's point, missed opportunities to get other judges confirmed.

There were so many circuit court vacancies because that was less of a priority of Obama and Reid.

BLITZER: A historic day today. This has been a very historic day. The consequences are enormous.

Everybody, stand by. Our special live coverage will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:38] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Welcome back to our special coverage of what appears to be now the confirmation or at least he has the votes, to be confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh, redefining the Supreme Court for a generation to come.

We are back with our panel now.

I want to begin with Paul Begala.

Paul, the president with these two nominations now, Gorsuch and it appears Kavanaugh has redefined this court for possibly a generation.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. This will be the fourth member of a nine-member court appointed by a president who lost the popular vote. That's extraordinary.

The Supreme Court is heading into a crisis of legitimacy. And when -- not if, when Judge Kavanaugh helps them to chip away at civil rights, voting rights, women's rights, abortion rights. I don't think this is going to sit very well with the country. The judge in his unhinged speech last week said to the Democrats, you have sewn the wind and now you'll reap the whirlwind.

He promised that he would be a hardcore partisan, and he will be. That's one thing he didn't lie about under oath, Jim. And you watch the whirlwind come on November 6th, because the women of America are not going to settle for this.

SCIUTTO: How convinced -- how convincing do you find that argument, Dana? Because Republicans are convinced that this was actually an energizing issue for their voters.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it was hard to get to a point where Republicans were maybe less energized than they were before this.

[16:20:05] There's no question that what you saw from the president, what you have seen from Mitch McConnell and others has been an attempt, of course, to get their nominee on the Supreme Court. But it's also been a very, very clear attempt to rally Republican voters who have been really not that excited, not that energized, certainly not even close to the comparison compared to the Democrats, and wake them up and get them angry enough to go to the polls.

It's probably -- they're certainly more energized than they were before. You know, that the Republican committee in charge of electing House members, they're claiming they're getting more low-dollar donations, things like that. But you also have Democrats who are already completely on fire, hard to imagine that they could be more on fire. But this is the only thing --

SCIUTTO: Women in particular.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, look. I think this will energize the Democratic Party. I don't know how much you can go over 100 percent, but they are -- they are going to get up there, and I don't know if the Republicans can get anywhere near parity in terms of enthusiasm.

And, you know, this is really going to help the Democrats in the house. In those moderate, suburban districts, particularly the ones that Hillary Clinton won. I'm not so sure at all that it helps the Democrats in the Senate. I think it helps the Republicans in the Senate, in those red states, those ten red states that Democrats now occupy. I think it will help Republicans there. So they could conceivably keep the Senate, lose the House, with this a very big part of it.

SCIUTTO: A couple smart folks have mentioned to me this week, and I'm curious if you agree. That the loser is the more energized, right? That if Democrats do, and it appears they have, their voters will be energized and Republicans might sit back and say, OK, we've got our guy, all will be fine. Do you buy that?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, to a certain degree. I think the point about the Senate versus the house impact matters. Because suburban women in some of these districts where Hillary won, where Republicans have open seats now, a couple percentage points can go either way. We saw that in Ohio in the special election, in Pennsylvania.

So this is going to be an issue that I think Democrats, if they weren't already energized, will boost them. Where Republicans, I don't think they're going to sit in their laurels, because Trump is going to go out there, and he's going to campaign in a lot of these places and continue to say, look, we might have won, but if you let Democrats take over, they're going to reverse everything.

SCIUTTO: Right.

SETMAYER: He already started that. And that's a motivating force for Republicans. And they have already closed the enthusiasm gap, which was considerable, was double digits at one point.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

SETMAYER: And it's even now, which is considerable.

SCIUTTO: A lot of ground made up in a short period of time. Do you agree with that assessment?

ADOLFO FRANCO, FORMER ADVISER, JOHN : Well, I completely agree with that assessment. And a little bit more. I think this would have been a disaster for the Republican Party, had Kavanaugh not been -- well, has not been confirmed on the road to confirmation, if he's not confirmed.

A win is a win, in the first instance. And secondly, for most of the American people, I know we're sitting around here in Washington and so forth. You have majorities in the Congress. You have a Republican president, a Republican Senate. And this one isn't even a filibuster argument that's difficult to explain at times, because you had a simple majority. You can't muster your party behind you to get things done.

I think Republican voters would have been deflated and it would have been difficult. I also think playing all these shame things and so forth helps with Republicans. And I'll tell you why on this. I disagree with my friend Paul. I think the only ideologues on the

court that I've ever seen have been on the left, who have been always completely -- the same things were said of Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, Reagan appointees. They were said of David Souter. We're talking earlier with Souter is going to destroy women. They were really said of Justice Roberts who voted to keep Obamacare.

I've never seen liberals on the court move to the conservative side. So I think this is going to be an important moment for Republicans to rally not only behind the president, but to make sure that not only does he fulfill this promise to put a conservative, but to ensure they continue to move in that same direction.

SCIUTTO: The only ideologues on the court, on the left?

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely not. But in terms of the electorate, let the games begin, both sides. This will be the clash of the titans, not just this November, but going into 2019 and 2020, as well. And the Democrats will walk them down to where I believe Democrats will win back the House. That will bring some more balance, but also some more in-fighting.

SCIUTTO: Even as you see on the generic ballot tighten, because the polls have shown that tightening significantly through the Kavanaugh fight.

TURNER: I get that, Jim. But all it is about who can enliven their business and turn out the vote. It's about the numbers. That's why I say it's going to be the clash of the titans.

BASH: And we all remember what happened on Election Day, the day after Election Day, where there was this incredible outpouring of emotion on both sides.

[16:25:02] But frankly, much more of a raw emotion on the Democratic side.

SCIUTTO: The women's march, yes.

BASH: Yes. And David Chalian was making this point before, and I agree. It's not going to come close to that, because it's not the presidency. But it's just underneath.

SCIUTTO: Listen, we're going to continue to follow the breaking news. Kavanaugh has the votes now to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, a lifetime appointment of court. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin is here with us with his reaction. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: We're back with the breaking news.

Brett Kavanaugh, a seat on the Supreme Court, all but certain now with enough votes to confirm Kavanaugh in a vote tomorrow.

I want to bring in Democratic senator, minority whip, Dick Durbin, of course, also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who had a chance to question Kavanaugh during his testimony.

Senator, thanks very much for taking the time.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Glad to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So Kavanaugh, he has the votes. Your reaction?

DURBIN: Well, I sat on the floor and listened very carefully to Senator Collins' presentation much. I respect Senator Collins. Susan has been my friend for many years and worked on many things. But I respectfully disagree with her.

I don't know how she and others can come to the floor and say how credible Dr. Ford was, how the allegations she made were so specific, and yet they dismissed them.