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Blumenthal: We should Delay Hearings on Trump's Supreme Court Nominee; Soon: Undocumented Immigrant in Court in Tibbetts Murder Case; Ohio State Trustees Deliberating on Urban Meyer's Future; GOP Rep. and Wife Indicted for Spending Campaign Funds on Themselves. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 22, 2018 - 10:30   ET




SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: We should be pushing to postpone the Kavanaugh hearing. This nomination is now tainted with illegality because the president who's nominated Brett Kavanaugh has been implicated in a criminal conspiracy -- not just any criminal conspiracy, but one that impacted the outcome of the election.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut just moments ago saying the Kavanaugh hearings should be postponed given the developments in the last 18 hours.

Joining me now to discuss that and much more, Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland. So, Senator, let me just begin on that news. Do you agree and do you stand with your fellow Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal on that? Should the Kavanaugh hearings at this point be postponed?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Yes, Poppy, I do believe they should be postponed, both for the reasons Senator Blumenthal outlined, but also because we have an administration that's continuing to hide very important and very relevant documents about Brett Kavanaugh's record. I think what's happened in the last 48 hours just adds additional fuel to the need to see those documents. We have a nominee who has a very extreme view of presidential power who, if he's on the Supreme Court, would be in a position to effectively bail out the president. So we should see those documents.

HARLOW: Senator, who is hiding what documents?

VAN HOLLEN: Oh, the administration has said that the documents that Brett Kavanaugh was involved with when he was in the Bush administration are not going to be available to the Senate for review and they are going to be hidden from the American people. Despite the fact that Brett Kavanaugh himself has said that those documents were very important in forming his judicial views and other views. So you have a major part of the Kavanaugh record that they're hiding right now and that's unacceptable. The public should have a chance to see what's in there.

HARLOW: OK. Senator, let me get you on all of the other news that's unfolded here this morning. You've seen the reaction from the president to both the Manafort guilty verdict and the Cohen guilty pleas. The language that he is using about his former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, who is now found guilty of eight felonies, facing 80 years in prison. Is that he is a good man and that he's a brave man. Do you believe that signals a pardon?

VAN HOLLEN: This is a very dangerous thing for the president to be signaling in a couple ways. First of all, Paul Manafort now has been found guilty by a jury of his peers on eight counts, and felonies, as you just said. And for the president to try to trivialize that in some way sends a terrible message around the country about not standing up for the rule of law.

Second, if the president were to try to exercise his pardon power, it would be a gross abuse of power here. There are Justice Department guidelines for pardoning. The president has ignored those already in his term. If he were to pardon people who could testify against him in different areas, it would be such an obvious part of an obstruction of justice claim that I would hope that judges would conclude that that is even beyond the bounds of presidential pardon power. But as we know, that's something for the courts to decide.

HARLOW: That's pretty broad power that the president holds on that front. Let's talk about potential articles of impeachment against the president. As you know, what the polling shows us is that if Democrats retake the House in November, 2 out of 3 Democrats think that they should push forward with articles of impeachment.

[10:35:05] You have been among the Democrats in Congress who have warned against that, who said don't go so fast, let the Mueller probe play out, you know don't necessarily run on this. I wonder if the last 17 hours and what we've seen with Cohen and Manafort and what we heard from Cohen in court, pointing directly to the president, does that change your position or do you maintain the position on impeachment?

VAN HOLLEN: No, no, Poppy, it does not change my position. I think we should allow the Mueller investigation to play out. Look, just yesterday we had the conviction of Paul Manafort on eight counts. We had yesterday, of course, what happened in the Michael Cohen plea deal. We need to allow the Mueller investigation to take its course.

I do think it is more incumbent than ever for the president to step up and do what he said he wanted to do for months and months, which is tell his side of the story, but tell it under oath, tell it the same way Michael Cohen did, under penalty of perjury. Here they are trying to undermine Michael Cohen, but he swore to this under penalty of perjury. Because here they're trying to undermine Michael Cohen but he swore to this under penalty of perjury.

HARLOW: Right. VAN HOLLEN: The president is refusing to do that. And now I think the public -- and Republicans and Democrats -- should be asking themselves, why is the president refusing to do what he boasted about many months ago, which is he wants to tell a story. Tell your story, Mr. President, tell it under oath.

HARLOW: All right. He may still. We will see what final decision is made. This afternoon you and other senators will be behind closed doors for briefing on election security. And given what has happened in the last 48 hours, Microsoft uncovering the Russian attempt to interfere in our electoral process again. Facebook closing down 652 pages, many of them tied to Russia. Russia is at it again. You and Senator Marco Rubio have this bipartisan legislation that DETER Act that would enforce that more sanctions are slapped on Russia if the DNI can determine that, yes, Russia has meddled again, and they would be mandatory. Right?

VAN HOLLEN: That's right.

HARLOW: But your Republican colleague in the Senate made an interesting point, Rob Portman. He told "The New York Times," I think sanctions are necessary but it is obviously not working the way we'd like it to. Does he have a point given the fact that despite all of these sanctions, Russia is still at it?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, what we've learned is that slapping on sanctions after the fact and sanctions that will remain on, regardless of Russian conduct and behavior, are not going to incentivize them to change their behavior. Which is why all the testimony that we've heard from national security experts and Russia experts is if you really want to deter Putin and the Russians, you have to make it clear in advance what the penalty will be if they engage in interfering in our elections. That's what the bill Senator Rubio and I have outlined. It just doesn't add additional sanctions now. What it says is, if we catch you again, Vladimir Putin, you will face automatic severe penalties. And that is a way that we can try to change behavior. Doing stuff after the fact is punishment, but it doesn't create that incentive to prevent future conduct.

HARLOW: I know that the speaker has been willing to - you know majority leader, rather, has been willing to you know bring this up for a vote. Just quickly, has the White House indicated to you that the White House is open to this legislation, to signing this legislation?

VAN HOLLEN: So, Secretary Pompeo has testified before Congress that this kind of framework is something that they think can work. But they have a lot of questions about the details. But Poppy, as you know, the clock is ticking. It's shameful if the Senate cannot get together to protect the integrity of our elections. We should pass this right away.

HARLOW: Senator Chris Van Hollen, thanks for your time this morning.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you. HARLOW: In just a few hours, the undocumented immigrant that police say murdered Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts will be in court, this as investigators today are trying to figure out how she was killed. Her autopsy is scheduled for later today. We'll have an update on that case -- next.


[10:43:50] HARLOW: An Iowa community this morning is mourning after the body of what is believed to be the 20-year-old college student, Mollie Tibbetts, was found in a corn field. An autopsy will be performed today to try to determine how she died. Authorities have spent a month looking for her. They have yet to confirm the body is indeed Tibbetts, but police arrested Christhian Rivera on first degree murder charges.

He is an undocumented immigrant and he did confess to approaching Tibbetts after he saw her running. He told investigators he pursued her and then abducted her. The news has crushed the hopes of family and friends and everyone in that community that were searching and searching for her for weeks.

Let's go to our correspondent Ryan Young. He joins me now again from Iowa with more. Good morning, Ryan. What can you tell us?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. This was very tough. In fact, they've raised over $400,000 as reward to have people come forward. There were thousands of posters around this area, semi- trucks had her picture on the side of it. I think yesterday something that stood out to us was the gasp and the cries and the moans from the people who showed up at this news conference who are hoping for better information. That's not what happened here.

[10:45:00] In fact, they learned the worst about Mollie. They found that she had died. She had been killed. And they could not believe that someone in this community could possibly be at the hands of that. And listen to the neighbors who used to live right next door to her and their pain in this story.


MARY JO, NEIGHBOR OF MOLLIE TIBBETTS: We're devastated. We're heartbroken. We're sad. Not - you know not for us. I mean for Mollie's family. I mean we know them all so well. And this community, sometimes they say it takes a village. Well, this village really showed -- they showed up.


YOUNG: So you have to think about this family and also the idea, even investigators were asked about this -- how could you miss the corn field? Look, there's cornfield everywhere. In fact, we talked to a neighbor who lived nearby the corn field where the body was found, and she was so upset. They're talking about locking their doors now. Something they don't normally do. But something that we also want to share. A neighbor who turned over some video to investigators. They went by through it inch by inch. They were able to see a dark colored car. They also saw Mollie running by. And then of course Christhian Rivera, according to investigators, told them that he followed along, even circled back a few times, got out the car, started running alongside of her. That's when she threatened to call 911, according to Rivera, which he told investigators. And then at some point he blacked out, and then threw her car in the trunk. From there we have to figure out what happened next, Poppy, but obviously something very disturbing.

HARLOW: Ryan Young, thank you for being there and for all that reporting. Our hearts are with all of them right now.

All right. So, happening today, Ohio State Board of Trustees is deliberating the fate of the football coach there, Urban Meyer. We'll explain next.


[10:51:20] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. Urban Meyer's coaching future at Ohio State may soon be determined. The university's board of trustees is meeting right now. Lindsay Czarniak is with me. She has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

CZARNIAK: Literally as we speak, this is going down. Things are changing. The board of trustees and president of Ohio State, they have been meeting since 9:00 a.m. in morning. Urban Meyer has been seen on sight, so that's now adding speculation that a decision on his future could be forthcoming. This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

Meyer has been on paid leave since Ohio State began investigating what he knew about domestic violence claims against former assistant coach Zach Smith who Meyer brought with him from the University of Florida. There's no timetable on the decision regarding Meyer's future but of course now that's in question knowing that he's there on sight.

Smith who has denied the abuse allegations was fired from the team last month, three days after his wife received a protective order. And meanwhile in the midst of a busy news day for president trump, he turned the topic to sports at a rally yesterday in West Virginia after months of disparaging NFL players over their decision to protest, the president is now taking aim at ESPN for recently announcing it will not air the national anthem before the network's Monday night football game.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was just announced by ESPN that rather than defending our anthem, our beautiful, beautiful national anthem, and defending our flag, they've decided that they just won't broadcast when they play the national anthem. We don't like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CZARNIAK: So the NFL put its national anthem policy on hold last month while it continues to have discussions with the players on how to handle it. And in the meantime, that means there is still no punishment for players demonstrating during the anthem.

Thank goodness we have baseball to talk about. Right, Poppy? Talk about a bittersweet moment. New York Slugger Giancarlo Stanton was traded from Miami back in December. He made his return to Miami last night and he received quite this reaction from former fans.

The Yankee called it, quote, "one of the more special moments of my career, for sure." Stanton spent his first eight seasons in the league with Miami but it was Yankee fans who got the last cheer of the night because he delivered two hits in the Yankees' 2-1 win in extra innings. But you know that was an emotional moment for him. Always.

HARLOW: Good moment. I love seeing that.

CZARNIAK: Yes. It was bittersweet.

HARLOW: All right. Keep us posted on Ohio State as well.

Ahead for us, another Trump ally facing legal trouble this morning. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife have been indicted for allegedly using campaign funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle. Much more on that next.


[10:58:38] HARLOW: This morning a Republican Congressman and his wife indicted on charges that they funded a lavish lifestyle with campaign donations. According to prosecutors, Congressman Duncan Hunter of California, and his wife lived large enjoying a $14,000 thanksgiving vacation to Italy, $6,500 vacation to Hawaii, over $11,000 in personal purchases from Costco, $5,700 they spent on themselves and their kids at Walmart and nearly $2,000 spent on tickets for a family member to go to a Steelers game. All allegedly from campaign donations. The list goes on and on. Despite warnings from the Congressman's own treasurer to stop spending campaign donations on personal items.

Hunter was a founding member of the Trump caucus during the 2016 campaign and the indictment alleges that he and his wife knowingly conspired with one another to disguise the campaign funds for personal use. They are charged with wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations, and conspiracy. Meantime a spokesman for Hunter says the Congressman believes the indictment is, quote, "purely politically motivated." This as House Speaker Paul Ryan called the charges deeply serious. But has not yet called on him to resign. He did, however, remove Hunter from the -- from three House committees that he serves on right now.

Thank you so much for being with me on this busy, busy morning. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. "At This Hour" starts now.