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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Devastating New Book on Trump Administration; Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Begins. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired September 4, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Mueller in this excerpt says, "I need the president's testimony," says this to Dowd. "What was his intent on Comey? I want to see if there was corrupt intent."
And that certainly squares with what we know is going on with the interview -- with the investigation as well.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: With what we know.
Clearly, according to the book, the special counsel still would like to sit down with the president of the United States.
I think this -- if this book does nothing else, today is significant. On the day that the president's Supreme Court justice nominee, Judge Kavanaugh, is sitting before the United States Senate, there are questions.
JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You can try so hard to bring Kavanaugh into this.
SANDERS: Because he's in it. Judge Kavanaugh believes in expansive executive powers. Judge Kavanaugh -- this is going to go before the Supreme Court. Let me just real clear.
HOLMES: What is?
SANDERS: The question of the president, maybe a subpoena, this investigation. Anyone that can sit here and say that there's not a good chance that this question of the special counsel...
HOLMES: What question?
SANDERS: ... what is happening around this president is going to go before the Supreme Court, you're not telling the truth.
HOLMES: But what question?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The question is, should the president have to respond to a subpoena while he is president?
TOOBIN: And it's a legal issue that is very likely to wind up before the court.
And several Democrats have made a very interesting point in the course of today's opening statements, where they said, you know what's strange is that Judge Kavanaugh's name was not on the two original lists prepared by the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation.
TAPPER: The list of approved Supreme Court justice nominees.
TOOBIN: Approved Supreme Court nominees.
But once the Mueller investigation heated up, his name suddenly appeared, someone who cares so deeply about enhanced executive power. Is it because they recognized that this was someone who would be a good vote on those issues on the Supreme Court?
No proof, but the sequence of events, I thought, was very interesting. It hadn't occurred to me before.
TAPPER: Just out of fairness, the alternate theory is that Don McGahn, the White House counsel, is friends with Kavanaugh, has known about him for years. I think they worked together in the past perhaps at the Bush White House, and he kind of snuck him in.
TOOBIN: Those theories are also not inconsistent with each other.
HOLMES: And is a choice that just so happened to have almost unanimous consent amongst Republican senators, which of course makes things a whole lot easier for this White House trying to confirm him.
TAPPER: To get his confirmed, that people like him, as opposed to some of the others.
HOLMES: It could be a wild conspiracy theory, or, on the other hand, they could actually just be trying to get a Supreme Court justice confirmed.
SANDERS: A Supreme Court justice that believes in expansive executive power. (CROSSTALK)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Going back to what you said, bringing in the Kavanaugh stuff, this book, there is no denying that while is this going on, this hearing today, which should be a bright spot for this White House, that, if all goes according to plan, and there aren't any big mishaps, that this guy could get confirmed and the president could have two Supreme Court justices that he nominated there, something that he definitely would have bragging rights about, that this book drops today.
And it's got all of these explosive allegations, a lot which are highly credible, that that is coming on the day that this should be a day that the administration is focused on having their nominee on Capitol Hill trying to your get confirmed. They're having to respond to these questions, these allegations in the book.
TOOBIN: But isn't it better for the administration that we're here talking about a book that, with all due respect to Bob Woodward, is going to go up the bestseller list and then disappear, and Brett Kavanaugh quietly is moving forward towards confirmation, where he will serve until 2050?
TOOBIN: If I'm in the White House, I think that's a pretty good deal.
SANDERS: I would like to note Brett Kavanaugh is not just quietly moving. Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee definitely put up a fight today and are still putting up a fight, so much so that we haven't even heard Brett Kavanaugh's opening statements.
And it is, what, almost 5:00?
COLLINS: It's dark in the West wing. But it's not that dark that they would be thankful for a book where the defense secretary says the president has a fifth-grade education to distract from their nominee on Capitol Hill .
TAPPER: And we are expecting Kavanaugh to speak any minute now. And when that does happen, we will bring that to you live.
But, I mean, what do you make of the overlap of it? Obviously, Symone is here doing what a lot of Democrats are doing, saying that all of this stuff having to do with Trump, Mueller, Russia is relevant to this hearing. We're hearing Senate Democrats say that as well.
HOLMES: With all due respect to Symone, Democrats are trying to do everything they can do when they don't have the votes to try to peel one off where they can.
So you kind of make all kinds of different insinuations that you don't have enough paperwork about a guy who sat on the D.C. Circuit for 12 years, which, of course...
SANDERS: Just to ask, do we have his records, his time as staff secretary in the Bush White House?
HOLMES: Symone, he's already submitted more paperwork than all of the nominees...
HOLMES: Let's get to the point which I think does matter here.
If in fact the allegation that this White House would have put somebody like Kavanaugh in, who would have so little integrity, so as just to rule based on the person who appointed them, they would not have the Republican votes to be confirmed. I can absolutely assure you.
TAPPER: But it doesn't have to do with their integrity.
He obviously, just if you look at what he's written, he does have a favorable view of executive power. I mean, that's just a fact, when you when you analyze his view of the executive branch vs. the legislative branch and judicial branch.
HOLMES: Jake, you mean there's been paperwork that's been turned over the people have read?
TAPPER: But that's my point. It doesn't have to do necessarily with lack of integrity, although you do hear that insinuation being made.
TAPPER: It also has to do with the fact that he does have a view of a strong executive branch, as did, by the way, President Bush.
HOLMES: I think he's had -- he's been extraordinarily candid about his view of a whole lot of different things.
But his qualifications for the bench, I think, are totally sound. I mean, I don't -- I haven't heard anybody make an argument about whether or not this guy is fit to serve on the Supreme Court.
Everybody's making an argument about whether this has something to do Russia, whether he's turned over enough documents.
(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: His qualifications, as far as I can tell, are impeccable in terms of background, academics.
And he also is going to keep the president's promise to have Roe v. Wade overturned. This is something that the president promised, and he's going to deliver it.
And what's, frankly, irritating about this process is that there are all these denials about his substantive views that are politically toxic, when, in fact, he is going to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. He is going to vote to end affirmative action.
TOOBIN: Then why did The Federalist Society put him on this list, just like Neil Gorsuch?
HOLMES: You're also filling in an agenda that may or may not exist.
Look, I think the important part is, is conservatives view the judiciary, if you go in with a political agenda, you're disqualified from the beginning.
SANDERS: Let me be really clear.
People -- there's been so much posturing on Capitol Hill today about the role of the legislative branch and how the legislative branch has ceded their job to the courts.
One could argue that, yes, I agree that Congress needs to step up and actually do their job. But the fact of the matter is, particularly just on Roe, there are 13 cases right now across the country that will potentially make their way to the Supreme Court that have to do with reproductive autonomy, the access to health care.
And if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed and becomes Justice Kavanaugh, he will rule on those. And his record, what we know about what he thinks, what he believes means that he will gut Roe, that he will rule against the bodily autonomy of women.
HOLMES: I must have missed it, because he has 12 years of rulings on the D.C. Circuit.
SANDERS: What I'm saying is Justice Kavanaugh -- what I'm saying is, Judge Kavanaugh has a record and he has thoughts. And we need to -- oh, is be going to speak now? We are going to hear from him?
TAPPER: We are going to hear from him. SANDERS: Because the people would like to know.
TAPPER: We have been waiting a little bit. We're going to go back to the hearing room, where Brett Kavanaugh is taking the oath.
And we will listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: ... the testimony you're about to give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I do.
GRASSLEY: Thank you.
Proceed with your statement, or anything else that you want to tell the committee right now.
KAVANAUGH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Feinstein, members of the committee.
I thank Secretary Rice, Senator Portman and Lisa Blatt for their generous introductions. They are patriots who represent the best of America.
I'm humbled by their confidence. I'm proud to call each of them a friend.
Over the past eight weeks, I have witnessed firsthand the Senate's deep appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary. I have met with 65 senators, including almost every member of this committee.
Those meetings are sometimes referred to as courtesy calls, but that term understates how substantive and personal our discussions have been. I have greatly enjoyed all 65 meetings.
In listening to all of you, I have learned more about our country and the people you represent. Every senator is devoted to public service and the public good. And I thank all the senators for their time and their thoughts.
I thank President Trump for the honor of this nomination. As a judge and as a citizen, I was deeply impressed by the president's careful attention to the nomination process and by his thorough consideration of potential nominees.
I'm also very grateful for his courtesy. At the White House on the night of the announcement, the president and Mrs. Trump were very gracious to my daughters, my wife and my parents. My family always cherished that night, or, as my daughter Liza calls it, her debut on national television.
KAVANAUGH: As a nominee to the Supreme Court, I understand the responsibility I bear.
Some 30 years ago, Judge Anthony Kennedy sat in this seat. He became one of the most consequential justices in American history. I served as his law clerk in 1993. To me, Justice Kennedy's a mentor, a friend and a hero.
As a member of the court, he was a model of civility and collegiality. He fiercely defended the independence of the judiciary, and he was a champion of liberty.
If you had to sum up Justice Kennedy's entire career in one word, liberty. Justice Kennedy established a legacy of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
I'm here today with another of my judicial heroes, my mom. Fifty years ago this week, in September 1968, my mom was 26, and I was 3. At that time, my mom started as a public school teacher at McKinley Tech High School here in Washington, D.C.
1968 was a difficult time for race relations in our city and our country. McKinley Tech had an almost entirely African-American student body. It was east of the park.
I vividly remember days as a young boy sitting in the back of my mom's classroom as she taught American history to a class of African- American teenagers.
Her students were born before Brown vs. Board of Education or Bolling vs. Sharpe. By her example, my mom taught me the importance of equality for all Americans, equal rights, equal dignity, and equal justice under law.
My mom was a trailblazer. When I was 10, she went to law school at American University and became a prosecutor. I am an only child, and my introduction to law came at our dinner table when she practiced her closing arguments on my dad and me.
Her trademark line was: "Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?"
One of the few women prosecutors at the time, she overcame barriers and was later appointed by Democratic governors to serve as a Maryland state trial judge.
Our federal and state trial judges serve on the front lines of American justice. My mom taught me that judges don't deal in abstract principles. They decide real cases for real people in the real world.
And she taught me that good judges must always stand in the shoes of others. The chairman referred to me today as Judge Kavanaugh. But, to me, that title will always belong to my mom. For 12 years, I have been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
D.C. Circuit. I have written more than 300 opinions and handled more than 2,000 cases. I have given it my all in every case.
I am proud of that body of work, and I stand behind it. I tell people, don't read about my judicial opinions. Read the opinions.
I have served with 17 other judges, each of them a colleague and a friend, on a court now led by our superb chief judge, Merrick Garland.
My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. A judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.
In deciding cases, a judge must always keep in mind what Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist 83: The rules of legal interpretation are rules of common sense.
A good judge must be an umpire, a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy. As Justice Kennedy explained in Texas vs. Johnson, one of his greatest opinions, judges do not make decisions to reach a preferred result. Judges make decisions because the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result.
[16:45:00] Over the past 12 years, I've ruled sometimes for the prosecution and sometimes for criminal defendants, sometimes for workers and sometimes for businesses, sometimes for environmentalists and sometimes for coal miners. In each case, I have followed the law. I do not decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge, I'm not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.
As Justice Kennedy showed us, a judge must be independent not swayed by public pressure. Our independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our Constitutional Republic. In our independent judiciary, the Supreme Court is the last line of defense for the separation of powers and for the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. The Supreme Court must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution. The justices on the Supreme Court do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms.
If confirmed the Supreme Court I would be part of a team of nine committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. I would always strive to be a team player on the team of nine.
Throughout my life, I've tried to serve the common good in keeping with my Jesuit high school's motto men for others. I've spent my career in public service. I have tutored at Washington Jesuit Academy a rigorous tuition-free school for boys from low-income families. At Catholic Charities at 10th and G, I served meals to the homeless with my friend Father John Enzler. In those works, I keep in mind the message of Matthew 25 and tried to serve the least fortunate among us. I know I fall short at times but I always want to do more and do better.
For the past seven years, I've coached my daughter's basketball teams. I love coaching. All the girls I've coached are awesome. And special congratulations to the girls on this year sixth grade CYO championship team, Anna, Quinn, Kelsey, Shani, Chloe, Alex, Ava, Sophia, and Margaret. I love helping the girls grow into confident players. I know that confidence on the basketball court translates into confidence in other aspects of life.
Title 9 helped make girls and women's sports equal and I see that laws legacy every night when I walk into my house as my daughters are getting back from lacrosse, or basketball, or hockey practice. I know from my own life that those who teach and coach America's youth are among the most influential people in our country. With a kind word here and a hint of encouragement there, a word of discipline delivered in a spirit of love. Teachers and coaches change lives. I thank all my teachers and coaches who have gotten me to this point and I thank all the teachers and coaches throughout America.
As a judge, I've sought to train the next generation of lawyers and leaders. For 12 years I've taught constitutional law to hundreds of students primarily at Harvard Law School. I teach that the Constitution separation of powers protects individual liberty. I'm grateful to all my students. I have learned so much from them. And I'm especially grateful to the Dean who first hired me, now Justice Elena Kagan.
One of the best parts of my job as a judge as each year hiring for recent law school graduates to serve as my law clerks for the year. I hired the best. My law clerks come from diverse backgrounds and points of view. A majority of my 48 law clerks have been women. More than a quarter of my law clerks have been minorities and I've had far more African-American law clerks than the percentage of African- American students in U.S. law schools. I am proud of all my law clerks.
[16:50:09] I'm grateful for my friends. This past May, I delivered the commencement address at Catholic University Law School. I gave the graduates this advice. Cherish your friends, look out for your friends, lift up your friends, love your friends. Over the last eight weeks, I've been strengthened by the love of my friends and I thank all my friends.
I'm grateful to have my family behind me. My mom rightly gets a lot of attention, but a few words about my dad. He has an unparalleled work ethic and the gift for making friends with people regardless of who they are or where they come from. My dad and I are both passionate sports fans.
When I was 7 he took me to the 1972 NFC Championship game at RFK Stadium just two miles from here, upper deck section 503 row three seats eight and nine. When I was 17, we sat in the same seats for the 1982 NFC Championship game. In 1995 when I was 30, we're at Camden Yards together when Cal Ripken plated it as 2,131st consecutive game and broke Lou Gehrig's seemingly unbreakable record. And so many other games of my dad, a lifetime of friendship forged in stadium seats over hot dogs and beer.
My daughters Margaret and Liza we'll be in and out of this hearing room over the next few days. And they are strong girls, dedicated students, outstanding athletes. In the time since you last saw them at the White House ceremony on July 9th, I'm pleased to report that Margaret's gotten her braces off and has turned 13, Margaret is the sweetest girl you'll ever know. As for Liza, I tell her every night that no one gives a better hug than Liza Kavanaugh.
Finally, I thanked my wife Ashley. She's a strong West Texan, a graduate of Abilene Cooper Public High School and the University of Texas at Austin. She's now the popular town manager of our local community. This has not exactly been the summer she had planned for the family but I'm grateful for her love and inspiration. Ashley is a kind soul. She always sees the goodness in others. She's made me a better person and a better judge. I thank God every day for my family.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Feinstein, members of the committee. I look forward to the rest of the hearing and to answering your questions. I am an optimist. I live on the sunrise side of the mountain not the sunset side of the mountain. I see the day that is coming not the day that is gone. I am optimistic about the future of America. I am optimistic about the future of our independent judiciary. I revere the Constitution.
If confirmed at the Supreme Court, I will keep an open mind in every case. I will do equal right to the poor and to the rich. I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you, Judge Kavanaugh --
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You have been watching Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh delivering his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary a committee. And we just have now president Trump's tweets on the hearings which have been pretty contentious since the start. President Trump writing, "The Brett Kavanaugh hearings for the future justice of the Supreme Court are truly a display of how mean angry and despicable the other side is. They will say anything and are only looking to inflict pain and embarrassment to one of the most highly renowned jurists to ever appear before Congress. So sad to see."
As the Democrat at the table, do you want to -- do you want to respond to what you had to say, the President --
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think the Democrats were extremely respectful today in the hearing. They were simply asking for under regular order, please Mr. Chairman let's delay, let's get the documents. We feel like we don't have the information, enough information to be able to effectively advice and consent on this issue.
I'd like to note that Chairman Grassley has yet to entertain Senator Blumenthal's motion which is amotion is on the floor in the -- [16:55:18] JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Symone, I love you but
so respectful that they had to dismiss Judge Kavanaugh's daughters from the hearing room at one point.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Oh please.
SANDERS: They were already going to get up, now, Josh.
TOOBIN: Come on.
HOLMES: Oh, please. Oh, please.
TOOBIN: No because they were planning on leaving anyway. They're little kids. They didn't want to sit there the whole --
HOLMES: They're either contentious. And he sat -- the bottom line is he sat here for six hours and entertained people questioning his character, questioning his integrity without the opportunity to respond. And now that he's had a chance to respond, I think he did a pretty nice job there.
TOOBIN: I think he did a nice job but he -- and you know what he's going to be on the Supreme Court for 30 years. I think he can spend an uncomfortable afternoon.
TOOBIN: You know what, let's discuss his character, let's question his integrity if it's -- if it's worthwhile. I mean, it's wonderful that he is a terrific parent, he is a fine person from everything I've been able to determine. I know I'm a little bit. I know him only to be an honorable person who has a lot of integrity. And let's talk about -- you know, I there was a great line there where he said, you know sometimes I vote for coal miners and sometimes I vote for environmentalists.
It's not coal miners he votes for, it's coal companies. Because the real cause of his life is not abortion but it's deregulation. It's about limiting the power of the federal government to stop pollution to regulate working conditions, that's the cause of his life not -- and so you know, it's not coal miners he's been fighting for.
HOLMES: Jeffrey, I think if we were to say what the cause of his life would be, it would be the commitment to the rule of law under the Constitution. I don't think --
SANDERS: So here's my question under that. If we're talking about -- this is the problem when I hear commitment to the rule of law and the Constitution, are we talking about the Constitution as it was originally written. There are lots of things, there are amendments that were added to the Constitution that we're not there when the Founding Fathers -- the Founding Fathers weren't thinking about me when the wrote the Constitution.
HOLMES: That's a legitimate to think to have, absolutely. SANDERS: So I say that and then I say to this point about Judge
Kavanaugh being a great father and he coached his basketball, what does that have to do with my bodily autonomy and the fact that he thinks employers should be able to determine if women that work for them should be able to get birth control. That is the fundamental question here on the table.
TAPPER: I want to bring Kaitlan in because as the White House Correspondent, you're not going to take a position in some of these contentious issues, but I do want to note that it is President Trump's delivery when it comes to the judiciary, when it comes to appointments to the bench whether Gorsuch or Kavanaugh or all the appeals court judges, all the circuit court judges etcetera that has Conservatives sticking with him even through the Fire and Fury as it were from that book and from the new Woodward book.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's why a lot of people voted to put Donald Trump in office precisely like people like Brett Kavanaugh can be in that room listening to these Senators go on for seven hours or so in their opening statements before he finally makes his opening statement. But there in his remarks as you heard it really sounded like he was trying to appeal to Democrats by saying he's going to have an open mind, praising Merrick Garland, Obama's Supreme Court nominee, praising Justice Kennedy, saying that he picked women to be his clerks, African-Americans to be his clerks.
He really was trying to say that he's a guy that seems to be middle- of-the-road that makes these fair choices. So it was interesting there that sounded a lot more like John Roberts-esque than anything else I think.
TOOBIN: And you know why you know Republicans or the base of the party doesn't care about Stormy Daniels, doesn't care about Karen McDougal, doesn't care about the President you know setting a poor role model example, that's why. Because they get -- they get Judge Kavanaugh, they get Judge Gorsuch, they'll get abortion banned in a third of the country in a couple years. That's what they want and that's what --
TAPPER: You really think abortion is going to be banned per se?
SANDERS: Yes. They could be -- it's being gutted right now.
TAPPER: I'm not doubting -- I'm not -- I'm not -- let me just say, it's doubting it's going be state chipped away out or gut because the character of the court is shifting to the right.
TOOBIN: In New York --
TAPPER: Do you think Roe versus Wade is going to be overturned?
TOOBIN: Absolutely. Not in New York, not in California, not in Illinois, not here in D.C., but in South Dakota, in Alabama, in Mississippi it will be illegal to have -- to perform abortions and there will be doctors prosecuted. TAPPER: You disagree.
TOOBIN: Oh, you don't think so.
HOLMES: No, I would -- look I just --
TOOBIN: You don't think so?
HOLMES: I mean, the idea that you know that, Jeffrey, I think is just crazy. There's -- of course we don't know that.
TOOBIN: So Donald Trump was lying in the campaign when he said if I get two appointments Row v Wade is going to be overturned? That was a lie?
TAPPER: He did say that. That is true.
HOLMES: I mean, I think we spent the first half of the panel of with all of you saying that he's a liar so I mean, look, I don't know what is the fact about --
TAPPER: I don't think Kaitlan and I saw that for the record.
HOLMES: I don't know -- we don't know what kind of cases are going to come before the Supreme Court.
SANDERS: We do know. There are 13 on the table right now that would gut Roe V Wade --
TAPPER: We're going to be here all week. We're going to be here all week, everyone, thank so much. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or twee the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage now continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.