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Devastating New Book on Trump Administration; Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Begins. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 4, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:01:08]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We will get you back to Capitol Hill and this contentious hearing, day one, so far here in this confirmation of potentially the next Supreme Court justice, if the president has his way, Judge Brett Kavanaugh there sitting there.

So, we're waiting for his opening statement. That will happen in just a little bit. These senators are still giving their opening statements.

I want to bring you back to the other breaking news on this Tuesday afternoon on this explosive new book that gives us a devastating look inside the Trump administration. This is all coming from Bob Woodward's book. It's called "Fear: Trump in the White House."

It paints a disturbing picture of chaos, concern and dysfunction. Woodward also released a recording to "The Washington Post" of a conversation he had with the president about the book.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm just hearing about it. And I heard -- I did hear from Lindsey, but I'm just hearing about it. So, we are going to have a very inaccurate book, and that's too bad. But I don't blame you entirely.

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, it's going to be accurate.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: All right. OK. Well, accurate is that nobody has ever done a better job than I'm doing as president. That, I can tell you.

So, that's -- and that's the way a lot of people feel that know what's going on. And you will see that over the years, but a lot of people feel that, Bob. So...

WOODWARD: I believe in our country. And because you are our president, I wish you good luck.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BALDWIN: When you think of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward, you also think of this incredible man, Carl Bernstein, CNN analyst, who also teamed up with Woodward for their Pulitzer Prize- winning coverage of the Watergate scandal that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

What do you think of all this?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that the most important thing that we see in Bob's reporting is that the people closest to the president of the United States in the White House and in his presidency see their job as to protect the nation and the world from Donald Trump as president of the United States.

And it's an extraordinary thing. The only previous time that I know of that it's happened in our history is in the closing days of the Nixon presidency. This has been true throughout the Trump presidency: Save the country from the president of the United States.

Page after page after page, Mattis, save the country from this moron. Gary Cohn taking papers off the president's desk, save the country from what he might do. And this is an irrefutable picture, because of Bob Woodward's methodology, which is to go exhaustively, to source after source after source.

And unlike those of us doing these stories day after day on the air and giving little pieces, what Bob has done, going back to the tradition that we have seen through all of the books that he has worked on, is to put a coherent, complete narrative together that is absolutely undeniable, and in this case buttressed with notes, with memoranda, with actual quotes that go on and on and on.

So there is not an element of this that the president of the United States can call fake news or fake book. This is the real story of Donald Trump naked as president of the United States.

BALDWIN: So I was saying with Gloria a second ago, I mean, based upon what -- a lot of this has come from his own chief of staff, from Mattis, as you just pointed out.

And who knows what happens with their futures? The concern would be if there is a true travesty in the realm of national security, Carl, and these people are replaced by yes-men or -women, what happens then?

What happens when the person isn't there to swipe it off the desk?

BERNSTEIN: The first thing is, if this is not a warning sign going off to the Congress of the United States, to the Republicans of the Congress of the United States, saying, first of all, we must protect Mueller's investigation, secondly, we cannot blindly follow this president and his incompetency, which is a theme throughout this book, and his recklessness and his disconcern for the national interest in favor of his own interests.

[15:05:15]

It is time for the Republicans to say, the Trump presidency is a national emergency, and it is up to us, both parties, to treat the Trump presidency as a national emergency. We're just getting at the surface of what's in this book.

BALDWIN: Do you think they will?

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: I have no idea.

What we have seen so far is an abdication of responsibility by the Republicans in the Congress of the United States such as we have never seen. In Watergate, the system worked. It worked because Republicans decided, we cannot have a president of the United States who is a criminal or a danger to the presidency of the United States.

This situation is far more dangerous. And that's what we know now. We have seen pieces of this on the air. Many people have reported on pieces of this, including descriptions that perhaps all of us have used on the air from our sources saying the president is unhinged.

BALDWIN: Sure.

BERNSTEIN: Here, we see and hear his aides by name day after day after day say, the president is unhinged, he is a rageaholic, he is a danger to our national security.

That's what we're dealing with here. And, also, I want to say one thing about General Kelly.

BALDWIN: Sure.

BERNSTEIN: It would seem to me that General Kelly, in the interest of the country, needs to resign.

BALDWIN: Really?

BERNSTEIN: And with a statement that says the presidency can no longer be entrusted to this man. We now have a picture of what we have all been dealing with here. I will be happy to appear before committees of Congress, whether in executive session or whether in open session, and tell them what I have seen about this president of the United States and whether or not he is competent and able to lead the United States.

I think he's in a position to do an act of great patriotism perhaps here, but for him to continue in this job, given what he is quoted as saying by Bob in this book -- and the thing about the book is, like all of Bob's books, the verisimilitude.

And in this book, it goes even farther, because there are so many tape recordings from his sources that the account, the narrative accounts are based on, that we finally are inside the Trump White House. And it is a horror show.

And I said that not with any glee. This is a terrible, sad, dismaying, demoralizing, dangerous condition that Donald Trump has put the United States in. BALDWIN: Carl Bernstein, thank you so much.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be here.

BALDWIN: We are going to pick up on that conversation in just a second.

Let's go now to the confirmation hearings of this man, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who could become the next justice on the Supreme Court.

Listening now to senator Cory Booker.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: ... the opportunity to at least speak and make our case. And even though you have not ruled in our favor, of which I'm disappointed, I do hope you understand that I value your friendship and, frankly, some of the most valuable moments I have had on this Senate.

I still remember (INAUDIBLE) and coming to agreement with you on criminal justice reform. I have come to have a deep respect for you, sir, so I hope you do not think I was doing that earlier.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: If you worry about our friendship being affected, it will not be.

And that gives me an opportunity to say something to the public at large, and that is about this committee.

You would think that Republicans and Democrats don't talk to each other, but I would like to remind the public that, when they think that happens, they ought to think of the record of this committee, not just this chairman, but this committee in the three-and-a-half years and maybe even before I got to be chairman, but in the three-and-a- half years I have been chairman.

Every bill that got out of this committee has been a bipartisan bill.

Proceed, Senator Booker.

BOOKER: Thank you very much, sir. I appreciate that.

It doesn't detract from the fact that I just fundamentally disagree with the way you have been concluding today.

When I first got to the Senate, I was very fortunate that a lot of senior statesmen, yourself, Senator Hatch included, pulled me aside and gave me hard wisdom at times. Remember, I came to the Senate in a special election at a time that they were trying -- that we were changing some of the Senate rules.

Senator Levin gave him and gave me a hard talking-to. Senator McCain gave me a hard talking-to. And all of them made similar points about this idea that sometimes you need to be as objective as possible and see how you would react if the pendulum was the other -- had swung the other way.

[15:10:00]

In other words, they warned me that what goes around in this place comes around and to really think that if the shoe was on the other foot.

And I have been struggling with that, sir, with all honesty, of what would the Republicans be saying and what we would be saying if we had a Democratic president right now, a Democratic nominee right now, and this process was in the reverse?

And I would like to believe how I would behave. And I'm pretty confident -- I would actually be a betting man, be willing to bet that if the Republicans were being denied effectively about 90 percent of the documents about a person's public record -- and I actually do believe that some of the analogies that are made to Senator -- to excuse me -- to Justice Kagan and her solicitor general time is not a favor analogy.

This is part of the nominee's history that he himself has said was one of the most formative times. And so I would not hire an intern in my office knowing only 90 percent of their resume.

There is not a person here that would buy a home only seeing 90 percent -- only seeing 10 percent of the rooms.

I just believe what we're doing here, just on the objective view of fairness, is sincerely unfair, and it's insulting to the ideals that we try to achieve in this -- with some sense of comity and some sense of rules.

But I want to go deeper than that. I'm trying to figure out what the jeopardy would be, what the jeopardy would be if we just waited for the documents. Last night, we had a document dump of tens of thousands of pages, tens of thousands of pages.

As has been said already, there is no judge that who would allow a court proceeding to go on, no judge that would move forward if one of the parties had just got documents as of 5:00 last night or potentially as of 11:00.

What I don't understand is, what's the jeopardy of just waiting, not just for us to digest these documents, but other documents? The reality is, is that, Senator Grassley, you yourself have asked for a specific, more finite set, more limited set of documents that you haven't even gotten.

And so whether it's not seeing 90 percent of the resume of the gentleman before us or 50 percent or 40 percent, that should come within time. And there is no jeopardy, when we have a lifetime appointment. He will be there, should he be confirmed, for decades and decades and decades.

Waiting another week or five days or two weeks for those documents that you yourself has requested, which is a more limited subset, for even those documents to come through, I don't understand what the rush is, especially given all that is at stake. And so those are the reasons why I say to you, with sincere respect,

that this is an absurd process. It just seems unfair to me, and it could easily be solved by us putting a pause here on this process, waiting for the documents, evaluating the documents.

And it will be a much more robust set of hearings on this nominee. As I said, I would not hire an intern if I had not seen -- if I had only seen 10 percent of their resume.

And here, to have a fuller body of the work of this gentleman before us, who, as one of my colleagues called, popping up in some of the most interesting times in the last decade or two on some of the most important issues, already, the limited amount, what we call 7 percent of the documents that I have seen, unfortunately, those are things that are being held committee-confidential, which I don't even know if I can use in my questioning here, I think the penalty, sir, is ousting from -- being ousted from the Senate.

But even the little limited amount of documents that have potentially made my questioning far more rich, far more substantive to get to the heart of the issues of the individual nominee.

And, again, sir, I try to summon the spirit of some of the elder statespeople I had the privilege of serving with, from Rockefeller to Levin to McCain, to summon that spirit to be as objective as possible. I do not think it is unreasonable for us to wait for a week or two to get the full body of those documents.

It will cause no harm or damage, except to have more of a full telling of what is at stake here. This is -- the stakes are too high in what this nominee represents for us to rush through this process without a full sharing of the documents.

And with that, I will continue, sir, with my opening statement.

I have said before already that...

GRASSLEY: I will take this opportunity to probably say that you said I didn't get all the documents I requested. You probably heard the first sentence of something I said after our break. And that was that I could -- I first started talking about expecting a million documents.

[15:15:00]

And we end up, I think, with 488,000. But then I went on to explain that the process, with all the software and everything else that can speed things up, duplicates were eliminated, and, et cetera, et cetera, and so we have gotten all the documents I requested, just to correct you.

BOOKER: Sir, and to my understanding...

GRASSLEY: Go ahead with your opening statement.

BOOKER: No, sir, but I just want to make a point to that, if you don't mind.

You had requested a limited set of documents of his time in the White House Counsel's Office. We have not received all the documents from his time. They are still being vetted slowly through a system of -- not a representative from the committee, but the Bill Burke individual is still reading through those documents as we speak.

I imagine some of them will be dumped on us as this process is going on. And I predict with quite confidence that some of those documents might still be trickling out in the days before the actual full Senate vote.

Please, sir.

GRASSLEY: You're talking about committee-confidential. And you have access to them right now. It just -- there hasn't been a determination that like 80 percent of all the documents are on the Web site, so the public can see them.

But in regard to some, they were forwarded to us without a second review. That second review gives an opportunity to then get them out to the public, if there is no reason that they are excluded under the law.

And you can read those committee confidential documents right now.

BOOKER: Well, sir, I -- we sent a letter days ago asking for that. I will resend it with you in these next 24 hours before our hearing tomorrow.

GRASSLEY: We responded to your letter.

BOOKER: Again, sir, you did not respond to our letter by allowing committee-confidential documents...

GRASSLEY: Please go to your opening statement.

BOOKER: Thank you very much, sir.

And, look, I was -- you know, former Senator, now former Vice President Biden talked about not questioning your colleagues' motives. And some of the colleagues across the aisle have called the efforts by some of us sincerely to get access to these documents a sham, a charade. I can go through a lot of the words that were used calling into question the motivations that I have for doing what I believe, sir, is perhaps the most grave and important duty that I have as a senator, to advise and consent.

And, yes, as Senator Cornyn pointed out, I have announced my decision already, but my duty to the people of the state of the New Jersey and others is to fully vet an individual. That's why I think the documents are important, that his full record is made clear, and that we have a chance to ask questions about it.

I also have said that I oppose this nomination happening right now because of the moment we are in American history, which is very unprecedented. I remind you that we have had bipartisan statements by senators working in tangent about the attack on the United States of America, which was an attack going to the core of what our democracy is about, the voting processes.

A special counsel was put into place. And that has led to dozens of people being indicted, people all around the president of the United States. It has led to dozens and dozens of charges, and that investigation is ongoing.

We have seen the president of the United States credibly accused by his own personal lawyer as being an unindicted co-conspirator. In all of this, we have one judge being chosen who was not on the original list. He wasn't on the outsourced Federalist Society's original list.

He wasn't on the second version of that list. He got on to that list after this special investigation got going, in other words, after the president was in jeopardy. He was added to the list. And then the president pulled the one person from all of that list late -- that was added late that would give him, in a sense, the ability to pick a judge that has already spoken vastly about a president's ability to be prosecuted, about a president's ability to dismiss or end an investigation.

And so that's the second reason why I have asked for us to put a pause on this process. Fundamental to this nation's very beliefs -- Judge Learned Hand said this -- as powerful and profound as the documents of this country are, our founding documents, they are not worth much if the people themselves lose faith in them.

And I believe the nomination of a judge from all of this list that so powerfully speaks to a president's de facto immunity from ongoing investigation prosecution will shake the faith that millions and millions of Americans have in the fairness of the processes and system.

And I have asked Judge Kavanaugh time and time again to recuse himself, to restore that faith, to alleviate the concerns of Americans. And he has thus far refused to do so.

[15:20:05]

Now, I am upset about the process. And this is not manufactured outrage. This is sincere concern for a process that seems wrong and just not objective and fair.

I am concerned about, as my colleagues are on both sides of the aisle, of a Russian attack on our nation. But there's a lot more going on here that makes this nomination of great concern. And it's, frankly, some of the things I have heard from both sides of the aisle tonight when we travel this country, and what we are hearing from individuals and how that relates to a position on the Supreme Court.

Right now, millions of American families are watching this in sincere concern and fear. I have heard them. I have gotten the calls. I have traveled to this country. I have talked to Republicans and Democrats. They are fearful about where the Supreme Court is going and what it will do when it has the power to shape law, shape the lives and liberties for individuals for decades to come.

I have talked to workers all over my state, all over this nation, workers that now work in a country where stages are at a 60-year low as a portion of our GDP, whose labor protections -- workers whose labor protections are being diluted and whose unions are under attack.

So many of those individuals are asking whether the Supreme Court of their lifetimes will be an institution that elevates the dignity of American workers or one that allows powerful corporate interests to continue to weaken labor protections that didn't just happen, labor protections that were fought for, that people struggled for, that some, if you know the labor movement, actually died for.

Are these labor rights going to becoming aggravated? Are they going to become limited, further increasing the vast disparities of wealth and power in our country?

We know this. We have talked to both sides of the aisle. We have talked to cancer survivors, Americans with disabilities, survivors of domestic abuse, parents with beautiful children that happen to have disabilities, who, because of the Affordable Care Act, can no longer be denied coverage because of -- quote -- "a preexisting condition."

There's a Texas case where that's being challenged right now. That's moving up. It could likely go before the Supreme Court. Well, knowing your record, it is right that these Americans, so many of them with preexisting conditions, are asking whether the Supreme Court will be an institution that affirms and protects the rights of people with access to health care, some -- many people who rightfully believe when they read our founding documents that talk about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that health care, they believe, is fundamental.

We all know too many people who have set aside prescription drugs because they are too high because of what corporations are doing there, people who have put off going to see the doctor because a visit is too expensive. That is in the balance with this nomination.

I have gone across the state. And, Senator Durbin, and I don't know if I have told you this. I was in your state talking to a Republican farmer about how the farm country is changing so dramatically, the livelihoods of so many independent family farmers are being threatened by the consolidation of large multinational corporations.

These corporations have acquired so much power. This consolidation now, from the seeds that they buy, the prices going up, to who they have the ability to side -- this abuse of corporate consolidation is driving so many farmers out of business.

You see, one farmer was telling me about the suicide rates. Now, people are saying that this is histrionics, this is not life or death. Well, I know these things actually are often a matter of life or death. When uninsurance rate goes up -- when insurance rates go down, rather, more people without health care often lose their lives.

There is not one senator on the Republican side or Democratic side who has not seen -- I have only been here five years, and I have seen the culture of Washington change because of the obscene amount of dark money pouring into our political process, corrupting our political process, rigging the system.

This nomination will have an effect on that. I have seen Americans all over this country, through bipartisan work that I have done with senators on the other side, who feel entrapped by a broken criminal justice system, one that is -- we know, unassailably, disproportionately targets black and brown Americans, where many Americans believe -- and one famous American said we have a system that now treats you better if you're rich and guilty than poor and innocent.

[15:25:01]

These issues are in the balance now. And everyone who is concerned about these issues and more are wondering what the story of America is.

We had this great leader, a man named King, who said the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

There are so many Americans who fought for these fundamental rights, who -- family members who they remember, union organizers, civil rights activists, women's rights activists, who fought for, struggled for and died for many of these rights, the right for women to make their own medical decisions, including the right to an abortion and not a back-alley butcher, the right for Americans to marry who they love, the right to vote and to work free of discrimination, regardless of race, and the rights of all Americans.

These are our rights. These are American rights. And so we know the answer to these questions. I have looked through the record I have had access to, to see the pattern of your decisions. And that's the pattern that really troubles me, Judge.

And I know we are going to get a chance to go through this, and I know my colleagues will as well, but it seems so clear that in your courts, the same -- the same folks seem to win over and over again, the powerful, the privileged, big corporations, special interests.

And over and over again, the folks that lose are the folks that -- why I came to Washington to fight, working folks, consumers, women, immigrants, minorities, the disadvantaged, the poor.

This is the challenge before us. This is why so much is at stake. I love that my colleagues keep going back to the Constitution, but understand this. I laud our founders. I think they were geniuses, but you have got to understand that there are millions of Americans who understand that they were also flawed people.

We are the oldest constitutional democracy. We are the oldest one. We were founded in a break with human events. You know this, Judge. I have read your writings. We were not founded on some kind of tribalism, as much as we think it's breaking out in our country. We weren't founded because we all look alike, we all pray alike, because we are all the same race. We're not a monarchy or theocracy. We broke with the course of human

events and formed this nation. God bless America. God bless our founders.

But we know our founders and their values and their ideals. We know that they -- that they were flawed. And you can see that in the documents. Native Americans were referred to as savages. Women weren't referred to at all. African-Americans, blacks, slaves were referred to as fractions of human beings.

As one civil rights activist -- I think it was Stokely Carmichael -- used to always say: "Constitu, constitu. I can only say three-fifths of the word."

GRASSLEY: Senator Booker.

BOOKER: I'm almost done, sir.

GRASSLEY: OK. Go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

BOOKER: I have got about three more minutes.

GRASSLEY: The only reason I stopped you at this point is, I thought that I would let people go at least as far as Senator Blumenthal went. And you have reached that point.

BOOKER: I appreciate that. I'm a bit of a trailblazer, sir. I'm going to push two or three more minutes.

(LAUGHTER)

GRASSLEY: OK.

BOOKER: My point -- my point, sir, is that I'm proud of this history.

GRASSLEY: Your clock, when it reaches 10, is your two-and-a-half minutes.

(CROSSTALK)

BOOKER: And I just want to point out right here, from the activism in Stonewall, Selma, Seneca Falls, there's an activism that I worry, rights that were gained were rolled back.

And the example I have here is, there is an amazing activist here right now, Ms. Carlotta Walls LaNier. And Ms. LaNier, I thank her coming today. It was 61 years ago on this very day, on September 4, 1957, that Ms. LaNier, at the age of 14, faced crowds that were shouting racial slurs.

She was jeered. And on that day, Ms. LaNier joined eight other students, a group that would become known as the Little Rock Nine, to try to desegregate an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. We know what they did that day was much more -- much bigger than a

first day of school. It was the first major test of the Supreme Court's landmark decision, the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

I have been shocked sitting here that there are now some judges that Trump has appointed that refuse to even say -- and I'm not saying this is you, sir -- that that's settled law.

There are people like Ms. LaNier who were part of gaining rights in this country, advancing the ideals of this nation towards the purity of the ideals put forth by the founders, despite the imperfections.

And now the fear and the worry is where the trend of the court of the court is doing is rolling back those gains, is undermining that progress, is restricting individual rights as the rise of corporations, the rise of dark money, the rise of the interests of the powerful and the privileged and the elite.

And so I just say, in conclusion, sir, I said this to you in a heart- to-heart moment in the last seconds that you were -- you -- you came to my office to meet with me one-on-one, which I appreciated.

I pointed to the map behind my desk, which is the Central Ward of Newark, New Jersey, a place with mighty people.