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Kavanaugh: I Will Be An Independent, Impartial Justice; President Trump Slams Kavanaugh's Opponents; Interview with Governor John Kasich of Ohio; Investigating Limo Crash That Killed 20 People; Limo Driver Did Not Have Proper License. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired October 8, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

More on the storm ahead. Within the last few moments, we got new information about when and where it may hit and how hard. We'll bring that to you shortly.

We begin, though, with the words the president of the United States tonight at a second swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Now, it was in many ways a victory lap for the president. He's done what no other president has, naming two justices to the court in his first two years in office.

But in addition to celebrating his victory, he also used the moment to say this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure. Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception. What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process.

Our country, a man or a woman, must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


And with that, I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny were proven innocent.


COOPER: Well, it was, whatever you think of the president's choice of Judge Kavanaugh, the kind of language not traditionally heard at moments like this, but this has been a confirmation process unlike any in recent memory. The president clearly believes what happened will politically benefit his party next month during midterm elections.

And ever since Judge Kavanaugh got the vote Saturday, the president has gone all in against the people opposed to the confirmation. Here he was this morning.


TRUMP: A man that did nothing wrong, a man that was caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats using the Democrats' lawyers and now they want to impeach him. I've heard this from many people. I think it's an insult to the American public. I think you're going to see a lot of things happen on November 6th that would not have happened before.


COOPER: Well, he went on to call the process a charade and over the weekend described confirmation opponents this way.


TRUMP: In their quest for power, the radical Democrats have turned into an angry mob. You don't hand matches to an arsonist. And you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob. And that's what they have become.


The Democrats have become too extreme and too dangerous to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law, not the rule of the mob.


COOPER: The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has also been making the mob comparison, only he's not singling out Democratic lawmakers. Instead, he's referring to the protesters themselves.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The Senate Judiciary Democrats leaking Dr. Ford's name against apparently her desires, then trying to lower the standard and say that the presumption of innocence no longer applies in the United States of America and then the mob descended on Capitol Hill and tried to intimidate our members into opposing this good man's nomination. We stood up to the mob. We established that the presumption of innocence is still important.


COOPER: So that was yesterday. Today, he went a step further, suggesting that he and other Kavanaugh supporters were in physical danger.


MCCONNELL: We were literally under assault. These demonstrators, I'm sure some of them were well-meaning citizens, but many of them are obviously trained to get in our faces, to go to our homes up there, to basically almost attack us in the halls of the Capitol.


COOPER: Now, keeping them honest, when Senator McConnell talks about them being literally under assault, he's referring women, many of whom have been assaulted, sexually assaulted. Wherever you come down on Brett Kavanaugh, describing protesters as a mob doesn't fit the facts. No one on either side literally assaulted Senator McConnell or his members.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake acknowledged the rights of protesters after being confronted by two women in a Senate elevator. They were assault survivors. They were also left-leaning activists, certainly not supporters of Senator Flake but he did not question their motives.

It's worth remembering, though, that politicians of all types have tried to tar other protests movements, left and right, as something other than what they were. There were civil rights marchers, Vietnam War opponents, Tea Party conservatives or other protesters today.

[20:05:02] Different eras, different causes, different politicians crying foul with nothing in common except their belief that impugning people freely and peacefully expressing their views is somehow the right to do.

More now on tonight's ceremonial swearing-in and Justice Kavanaugh's remarks just a short time ago.

Our Jim Acosta joins us now from the White House with that.

So, you were in the East Room just now for the ceremonial swearing-in. I'm just wondering what it was like in the room.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it was a fascinating thing to watch. Obviously, you don't get to see living Supreme Court justices there in the flesh in the East Room of the White House. So, that obviously lets you know that history is in the making here.

But, Anderson, I think one of the big questions going into tonight's ceremony over at the White House is whether or not we were going to hear fire and fury or fence mending. And we really we got both. We saw the president accusing Democrats of peddling lies and deception and Brett Kavanaugh trying to turn down the temperature.

But, Anderson, I think probably the more striking thing of the night was seeing Mitch McConnell received not one, but two standing ovations. He was as much the man of the hour, as much as Brett Kavanaugh, and why not? Of course, he was the one that blocked Merrick Garland from being put on the Supreme Court when Barack Obama was president and essentially delivered this moment to President Trump on a silver platter.

COOPER: And for days now, and the president has certainly not been shying away from a very strong defense of Kavanaugh and he continued that tonight.

ACOSTA: That's right. We heard the president earlier today referring to Democratic forces aligned against Brett Kavanaugh as, quote, evil. This has been going on almost all day long, saying that Democratic allegations against Brett Kavanaugh were, quote, a hoax.

And so, it was more of this conspiracy-minded super heated rhetoric. And then he went right on this evening and in fact as you played just a few moments ago apologized to the family of Brett Kavanaugh and even said to the incoming Supreme Court justice that he had been proven innocent when of course, Anderson, what we know from that FBI investigation, Republicans who support Brett Kavanaugh were saying that essentially the charges leveled by Dr. Ford were not corroborated. And that's as far as it really went.

COOPER: Talk a little bit about what justice Kavanaugh had to say.

ACOSTA: Anderson, I thought that was fascinating because obviously Brett Kavanaugh had a chance to do some fence mending here tonight. And I think he did some of that. He did some of that last week in that "Wall Street Journal" op-ed, trying to turn down the temperature.

At one point, he said he wants to be part of a team of nine up on the Supreme Court. Here's more of what he had to say.


JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT: The Senate confirmation process was contentious and emotional. That process is over. My focus now is to be the best justice I can be. I take this office with gratitude and no bitterness.

On the Supreme Court, I will seek to be a force for stability and unity. My goal is to be a great justice for all Americans and for all of America. I will work very hard to achieve that goal. I was not appointed to serve one party or one interest, but to serve one nation.


ACOSTA: Anderson, finally, I think it was interesting that Brett Kavanaugh said to the crowd here and to the nation really, talked about how he had employed female law clerks when he was on the circuit court here in Washington, something that he said he was very proud of, and at one point, he went on to talk about what he plans to do on the Supreme Court. He said he wants to be a force for stability and unity.

It seemed as if he was trying to allay concerns among people out there that he's not going to be that decisive vote that overturns Roe versus Wade, but of course we'll have to wait and see, all of us, together, collectively, whether or not that very pivotal moment comes to pass, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta. Jim, thanks very much.

Another take on how the language being used by President Trump or others might be resonating beyond the beltway and beyond hardcore Trump supporters. After the break, Randi Kaye is going to talk to independent women voters in Florida, which is, as you know, a key battleground state.

Right now, though, my conversation with John Kasich, the governor of another battleground state, Ohio. I spoke to him earlier this evening.


COOPER: Governor, the language that the president is using, calling Democrats a mob, saying the whole thing was a hoax brought up by people who were evil in his words, are those the words you'd use to describe what's happened here?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Well, you know, of course I wouldn't, Anderson. Look, the time has come to move beyond this. And name calling or, you know, kind of celebrating in the locker room, you know, that's not the way to move forward. In fact, when you win, that's when you should really go out of your way to figure out how to hand something to those who have lost and not try to put it in their face. You just enrage them and constantly divide.

Anderson, when I was in Congress, I used to work with Democrats on a number of things, including balancing the federal budget, you know, and limiting the production of the B2. We did this together, Republicans and Democrats. We felt good about getting things done.

[20:10:00] When I became governor, I tried to shove through a labor reform without -- and, look, there were a lot of us involved in this and we shoved it through without really talking to organized labor. They turned around, they put something on -- they put something on the ballot. They reversed my decision and handed me my lunch.

And, you know, I'm glad it happened early in my term because I learned something. You know, I'm strong and opinionated. I believe strongly in the things I want to do. But I've learned that it is better to work with others so they can have something and we can have something.

That's the way in which you unify. And we are losing that because we are operating in a zero sum game world. And what does that mean? Flip a coin, I win and you lose.

And you know what? It's my job to vanquish my opponent. This is very dangerous for the long term of our country, Anderson.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting what you say, no one came away from this confirmation battle feeling good, even those who won, you know, certainly Judge Kavanaugh feels like his reputation has been sullied and tarnished. And, I mean, is there a better way to do this moving forward?

KASICH: Well, I would think in regard to the court, what a president I think should do, for example, with the president -- with Trump now, or if I were there, I tell you what I would try to do. I would say we're going to have a conservative justice. And I'd call Manchin and my friend from over there in Delaware, Tom Carper and maybe a couple of other people and say, look, we're going to have a conservative. Can you -- can you work with me to make sure we can pick someone to have some unity?

Going forward, after I lost that union business, we've been able to do a lot of things together. We were able to get community and police. We have liberals and activists along with police and we were able to put something together where people have felt good.

You know, we just did it with guns where the goal was everybody has to be for the Second Amendment, but what are the legitimate restrictions that should be put on that? And so, we had unity. The way you get things done is make sure that you can achieve your goals while at the same time not leaving somebody who doesn't win with zero, with zippo.

COOPER: Do you think this has blowback on the Supreme Court the way the Supreme Court is perceived?

KASICH: Sure. Sure, it is. I mean, all the -- yes, Anderson.

People are -- they're not -- now, I think, the real question is can the public come together and regard the court's decisions with sort of satisfaction or even if it's grudging approval. You know, this is -- this is dividing the country. We see it in the politics of the Congress, the presidency, where, you know, we see divisions about the press, we see divisions about the justice system.

I mean, Anderson, where is this going to go? And this is not what people teach their children or their grandchildren. Or it's not what we teach our kids in terms of how to be a good winner and a good loser.

COOPER: The fight over Kavanaugh it seems, you know, there's some political pundits who say, look, it's increased enthusiasm among Democrats. The victory is increasing enthusiasm among Republicans ahead of the midterms. It's obviously less than a month away.

Do you think this is going to be a big motivator for voters? And do you think it favors the Democrats or Republicans in one over the other?

KASICH: Well, I think that's what we have to think about human nature. If Republicans got what they wanted, do they have the same amount of energy as the Democrats who didn't get what they wanted and felt as though they were ripped off? I mean, I can't predict it, but what I do know is that the Republican brand has been hurt. We've had a lot of people that have left the party.

And I think fundamentally why it's been hurt is because I think when it comes to family separation at the border, taking health care away from people, particularly as it reflects those with pre-existing conditions, this is not good. This is not -- this is not positive. There are ways to reform all of those things without having to get on the edge of -- frankly, on the edge in some ways that's mean.

COOPER: Governor, appreciate your time. Thank you.

KASICH: I appreciate this conversation, Anderson. Thank you.


COOPER: Well, this is all unfolding just a month out from midterm elections obviously. They were already generating enormous voter interest. The question is which voters and where. What is the president really mobilizing?

We're going to talk about it now with CNN Political Analysts, Kirsten Powers and David Gergen, and former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes.

David, were you surprised that President Trump brought up the Kavanaugh controversy in such blunt terms tonight in front of the other justices?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. It just seemed so inappropriate. He said that Kavanaugh had been proven innocent. We all know that is simply not true.

But it comes in the wake of a series of statements about -- you know, that have flown in the face of what statesmanship is all about.

[20:15:03] Now, Churchill once said, in victory, magnanimity. There's been none of that. There's none of that grace here.

Now, he's called women like Mrs. Ford who came forward, he said these allegations were brought from people who are evil. That's Mrs. Ford. Evil. Only a few days ago, he was saying he was a credible witness.

He talks about the women who have descended on Washington. As you say, the long tradition going back to the civil rights marches, the Vietnam marches and so forth, everybody comes to march when they have a protest. And he labeled them angry left-wing mob.

I mean, McConnell is using mob. It's obviously a major talking point. And this is done to inflame voters, to keep the testosterone levels very high on the Republican side, get out the vote, but it is destructive of ever getting back on the track that Governor Kasich was describing.

COOPER: Steve, do you see the language has destructive?


COOPER: As destructive?

CORTES: The language as destructive? No.

Look, there's a big difference between peaceful protests, which of course has a hallowed tradition in American history and mob tactics such as chasing people out of restaurants, violence, which the left has used to a dramatic degree, particularly with Antifa.

And that should never be tolerated. And that is mob -- those are mob tactics. What we saw even by the Supreme Court protesters was they crashed past a police line to bang against the doors.

POWERS: Oh my gosh, scary.

CORTES: You know, they looked like crazy people. That's not peaceful protests.

That's not using -- it is scary, I agree. It's not persuasion, it's not using words, it's not using arguments to win. I think that's why, by the way, the way the Senate Judiciary Committee performed, the Democrats on that committee is not just by opinion how reprehensible they were.

CNN polling showed among independents, there's a 28 percent disapproval gap. Only 30 percent approved -- of independents approved of the way Democrats handled this whole Kavanaugh confirmation hearing. And almost 60 percent disapproved.

So, the president I think here is tapping into something the American people feel, which is that the Democrats acted reprehensibly in these hearings with their tactics.

COOPER: Kirsten, was it a peaceful protest?

POWERS: Well, it's just interesting to hear Steve talk about how wonderful peaceful protests are, because I don't think he feels that way when football players take a knee. So basically any kind of protest always ends up being a problem.

And these were fundamentally peaceful protests. These were, you know, women going into Senate buildings and trying to talk to senators and some of the senators, like Lisa Murkowski, did sit down and speak to them and some of them didn't. And the ones who didn't did get cornered by the protesters.

We saw videos of them. I didn't find anything about the videos of them. I'm sure it was uncomfortable to be called out, but I don't think anyone's life was in danger.

I don't think people were getting constant death threats in the manner that right now Christine Blasey Ford is getting. She can't go home. She apparently is separated from her children.

So when we're talking about real threats against people who are really frightened, I don't think that's what's going on. These senators have security blocking them off from the women anyway, even from speaking to them. So this idea that this was this crazy out of control mob that was frightening everybody I think is just a story line that works really well for Republicans. It's a story line that almost goes back to the beginning of time for them frankly.

This is something they -- a story they like to tell to get their voters riled up about the out of control mob of Democrats who, you know, are taking over society.

COOPER: Steve, when the president said that Judge Kavanaugh has been found innocent, is that accurate?

CORTES: No, that's not accurate. That certainly was hyperbole. I wish he hadn't say that. And that, by the way, was I think part of why in this case and all cases, the presumption of innocence is so important because at times, it can be difficult if not impossible for the accused to prove that they are in innocent, to prove that they didn't do something.

So, no, he didn't prove that. But it was clear, I think, that the committee and the American people believed via their representatives that there wasn't a convincing case made of his guilt. So that's what matters. But I would not have used that term that the president did.

COOPER: David, you heard Justice Kavanaugh refer to the contentious process in the Senate. He said that it's over, that there's no bitterness. Do you believe that?

I mean, obviously, that's certainly, you know, those are nice words to -- for him to say and I think certainly even people who may not agree with him would hope that is the case.

GERGEN: Well, I welcome the words. I am glad he is trying to douse some of the fires on the Supreme Court. But, you know, the president is standing next to him and doing just the opposite. I don't think we can make a fair judgment about what kind of justice Mr. Kavanaugh is going to be until about a year or two from now.

[20:20:02] And then we can figure that out.

But in the meantime, I want to go back to this polling business. It's not as if the GOP got a huge surge out of these hearings and this process. The CNN poll shows that overall nationwide, disapproval of Kavanaugh's appointment was 39 percent back in September in a CNN poll, and it's now up to 51 percent. And a lot of them -- there's a lot of negativity among independents.

And if you look at women themselves and whether they approve of Trump, that number now is 31 approve of Trump's performance, 62 percent disapprove. So, you know, there are red states where I think the Republicans will make gains out of this, especially in the Senate. But I think if you look at the overall national picture, the women are fired up and the Republicans are still in deficit heading forward.

COOPER: We're going to pick up this conversation after a quick break.

Also speaking to independents, we'll talk about all this, what independent women voters in Florida make of it and whether it changes their mind about candidates, including for Senate next month.

And later, everything we're learning about the tragic limousine crash that took 20 lives in Upstate New York.


[20:25:15] COOPER: Before the break, I said that President Trump had done what no other president had in naming two justices to the court in his first two years in office. I misspoke, I apologize. What I should have said is that he's one of the few who has done this. President Obama also did it as well, naming Justices Kagan and Sotomayor.

It's nonetheless hugely significant. Tonight at the White House, Justice Brett Kavanaugh declared the partisan war over his nomination over, and President Trump in defending him fired another shot. In part, that's a reflection of different temperaments, but it may also have something to do with the fact Justice Kavanaugh is supposed to steer away from politics whereas the president now is embroiled in a midterm election fight.

With that in mind, we wanted to know, how is all of this playing? Randi Kaye spoke with a group of five women, five independents in Florida. Now, to vote in the primaries in Florida, you have to register with a party. In this case, one has registered as a Democrat, two are registered Republicans, two others are registered as independents and therefore did not vote in the primaries.

Of those two, one leans Democratic but they all call themselves independents. Here's what they told Randi.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, how many of you are happy that Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed, show of hands?

Just one. Why?

ERICA DIANGELO, INDEPENDENT VOTER: I'm happy that he was confirmed not because he is my ideal candidate, but because process was handled correctly and he deserved to be appointed.

KAYE: Were all of you just glued to this process from beginning to end?

NICOLE PADRO, INDEPENDENT VOTER: It was the best daytime soap in decades. I mean it was -- it still continues. It's like we're getting a sequel. So, I mean, we get a sequel all the way until November.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thirty more days.

PADRO: The testimony alone was great. I mean this is almost like our new O.J.

KAYE: Do any of you think that this investigation and the accusations have hurt Judge Kavanaugh's reputation?


DIANGELO: Absolutely.

His name is forever tarnished, regardless of whether he -- I mean, he's been cleared but his name is forever tarnished.

KAYE: A show of hands, how many of you think that Justice Kavanaugh can be an effective justice on the Supreme Court given all that's gone on? Three of you. MORGAN KISSEL, INDEPENDENT VOTER: This is going to be a very public

debate for a couple of months if not years to come, and especially with the docket that they have coming up. There's going to be a lot of eyes on him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I keep thinking about the other justices and are they going to pull him aside and be like, look, just chill out a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was just accused of sexual assault.

KAYE: With all that's gone on, will this influence your vote coming up in the midterms?


KAYE: How so?

PADRO: Because normally I would go straight Republican on everything. But knowing now that we have things like Roe versus Wade on the table and that could really realistically become an issue, obviously as a woman, you're going to look at women's issues and say, OK, now let's take a step back.

KAYE: So as an independent who's registered Republican, is there a chance that you would vote on -- in favor of Democrat?

PADRO: There's a good chance of it.

KAYE: So the other registered Republican here, Erica, how will this all affect your vote in the midterms?

DIANGELO: It will definitely make me make sure that I get out and vote. I don't know that it's going to sway my decision one way or another.

ALLYSEN KERR, INDEPENDENT VOTER: This whole thing is just making me want to pay more attention to what is happening in our country right now because there are a lot of things on the table this year that will have huge ramifications going forward. And we have to be cognizant of that.

KAYE: Voting as an independent.


KAYE: The only registered independent here in the room.


KAYE: What about you, how will this impact your vote?

KISSEL: I think this is a huge opportunity for some of the candidates to make a stand and have people like myself who don't come in with any other judgments or preconceived notions, to get me to see their point of view. KAYE: How do you think it will impact your vote?

KISSEL: I really don't know at this point.

KAYE: The Republicans are talking about something called the Brett bounce, where they think it's really energized this whole confirmation process has energized the Republicans. The Democrats also say this has energized the Democrats.

Who do you all think this has energized more?

DIANGELO: I think it has energized the Democrats more actually because they're so upset about the process.

PADRO: I think it's energized the Republicans because now people who would have never voted in a midterm saying, wait a minute, if we want to keep this Trump thing going, we need to go out and vote like we did for him again.

DIANGELO: If there's Republicans out there who really like what they believe Kavanaugh is going to do, for example, potentially overturning Roe versus Wade, they might be motivated to get up and make sure that they get a vote in so that they're not outrun by Democrats.

PADRO: I would say outside of party lines, this is really energized women. Let's just bring women out and get their idea and get them involved in the conversation.


[20:30:00] COOPER: I'm back now with our own conversation with Kirsten Powers, Steve Cortes and David Gergen.

Kirsten, I mean you hear what those voters are saying to Randi. It's interesting because both parties seem to be saying that the confirmation process has energized their base. The obvious question is who gets the bigger boost?

POWERS: Right. Well, that was just interesting. I think it was four out of five of those women said that they didn't think Kavanaugh should be on the court and they're independent voters. And so I think that's interesting because they're not necessarily being swayed by, you know, tribalism or party allegiance. And so that says something to you about I think where a lot of women probably are.

Look, the general consensus seems to be that this is going to hurt the Republicans in the House. It's not probably going to hurt them as much in the Senate, just because of the makeup of the map that you have Democrats fighting to keep seats in red states. And so if you're in a red state and conservatives are fired up, then that's not actually going to probably be good for you.

So, you know, it could be harmful to Democrats in the sense that Democrats were thinking there was this outside chance they could get the Senate, even though it was a long shot, and that's looking less in reach right now. COOPER: Steve, I mean do you think it's going to benefit Republicans?

CORTES: You know, I really do. Look, first, I'll concede I think it's raising enthusiasm on both sides and certainly poll has shown us that. But much more so on the Republican side, according to the recent NPR poll on voter enthusiasm, there was a 10-point gap in favor of Democrats, those saying these elections are very important compared Republicans that has completely collapsed all the way to 2%, which is a statistical tie.

So Republican voters have become very enthused. The deplorables have been woken up and motivated by this. And as far as independents go, I really believe that the reason they're so disapproving of the Democrats is that they watched firsthand the underhanded smear campaign that Dianne Feinstein engaged in and how totally unfair she was not just to Brett Kavanaugh, but also to Christine Blasey Ford. And I think that that kind of cheap chicanery that she engaged in before the country was so obvious and so unfair to everyone involved that it will just going to sway independents our way as well.

COOPER: David, I want to get your thoughts on that. And I also wondered, David, can you remember any time a Supreme Court confirmation, you know, posed -- you know, stood poised to have such a big impact so soon on an election?

GERGEN: No. And I think this has been the most acrimonious Supreme Court fight we've had since Robert Bork way back in the early '80s. But I must tell you, that didn't shake the pillars of the republic at all. It was very personal. And it frankly contaminated the process. Democrats went way overboard in plastering Bork.

But we have -- and I don't think we've ever seen one which has raised fundamental questions about our democracy and has left us for the first time I can remember with all three major branches of government, the White House, the Congress and the judicial branch now essentially defined by the partisanship. And that's new.

I do -- Steve is right about the enthusiasm gap closing in this major poll from about 10 points to 2 points and that obviously helps the Republicans. But I would point out that among independents in the new CNN poll, let's go back to the major point of the CNN poll. By 51-41, a 10-point gap, Americans disapprove of Kavanaugh's confirmation. 51- 41, minus 10 for Kavanaugh. Among independents, it's a minus 18 among independents on Kavanaugh. In other words, the negatives outweigh the positives by 18 points.

So from my point of view, I think both sides, both extremes are going to get out there and be slugging it out. But the search for independent voters still favors the Democrats. I would also point out "The Washington Post" had a big major survey, the first one I've seen from them, about over 60 competitive districts held by Republicans. And what it showed overall nationwide at this point is a four-point Democratic edge. Now, Republicans now think they can close that edge down, but at the moment, the Democrats are still have the upper hand going toward the midterms. CORTES: Listen, David, I think that's exactly accurate. You know, the Republicans are clearly the underdogs here. They were substantial underdogs I think just a few weeks ago. I believe the Democrats have given a great gift to us by their reprehensible performance during those hearings, particularly Dianne Feinstein.

But I agree with you that both history and polling argue that we are underdogs and I think we need to act like we're underdogs and really hustle this last month and left the Trump coalition know that his presidency is on the line because this was a dress rehearsal for impeachment. That's what we saw in these Kavanaugh hearings and if we give the keys to the car to the Democrats, they will impeach the president.

[20:35:05] GERGEN: Let me just -- let the record show that we share a number of views, but on the question of whose reprehensible here, I think what's coming out of the president's mouth in the last few days is far more reprehensible. He is supposed to be the leader for all the American people. He's supposed to be the healer, the uniter and he's doing anything but. You know, saying people like Dr. Ford are evil.

COOPER: Kirsten, to you, what is the most persuasive argument in the next four weeks? Is it the accusations themselves or how the process played out?

POWERS: I don't -- you know, I think the process argument about the Dianne Feinstein issue doesn't really resonate for me just in the sense that we don't really know what happened, but let's just say she leaked it. Leaking is not the atrocity that people have made it out to be. And, you know, they're trying to pretend that they're so concerned about Christine Blasey Ford, but, you know, there's another way to show that you care about Christine Blasey Ford and that would be actually taking her seriously and not saying that you believe her except for the part that she says it's Brett Kavanaugh.

And I had said always from the beginning and I actually think this is where most people are, not the caricature of what the Republicans are saying. It's not that people said he's definitely guilty. There's no presumption of innocence, we'll never -- you know, he's guilty, let's just, you know, take him to town square and draw and quarter him, let's have a real FBI investigation. Let's have a real serious investigation that could clear his name or could find him guilty, one or the other, and that just didn't happen.

And so I think that for a lot of women and a lot of men as well who, you know, who think the way I'm describing right now, just feel that it sent a very clear message to women that we're not listening to you and we're not taking you seriously. And I think that that is going to fire up a certain part of the population.

COOPER: I've got to leave it there. Kirsten Powers, Steve Cortes, David Gergen, thank you. Good discussion.

Coming up, the latest in the investigation of that limo crash in upstate New York that left 20 people dead over the weekend. We'll tell you what investigators found today. I'll also speak with a sister of one of the young victims, next.


[20:41:12] COOPER: The word tragic doesn't even begin to describe it. Twenty 20 people killed when a limousine crashed in upstate New York. Four sisters from one family gone in an instant. One of the couples killed leave behind three children, all under five years old. Now, the search for answers has yielded a few new pieces of information that we want to tell you about, including that the driver was not properly licensed and the vehicle had failed inspection. Miguel Marquez has more.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just wonderful, kind, loving.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Family, friends, an entire town reeling.

JULIA ROBINSON, CRASH VICTIM'S FRIEND: It really makes you question your faith at a time like that. You know, how can God take away so many people at the same time. And leave kids without parents.

MARQUEZ: Seventeen of the victims, all from the same small upstate New York town of Amsterdam. Young couples, some recently married, all now dead. After the modified Ford excursion stretch limousine they rented sped through an intersection, hit a parked car and crashed into a ditch. The driver and two pedestrians also died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reports of a multi-vehicle, motor vehicle accident.

MARQUEZ: The 17 friends initially rented a bus from Prestige Limousine chauffeur service in Gansevoort New York for a day-long surprise birthday party. The bus broke down and the company sent instead a 2001 information excursion that had been modified into a stretch limousine. A relative says the victims were suspicious from the start.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My niece instinctively had thoughts that, gees, this is -- you know, this is not good, you know, what they sent us. I guess the first vehicle broke down and they sent them another vehicle.

MARQUEZ: Investigators now looking into the driver, the company that rented the vehicle, road conditions, and the intersection where the accident occurred. State Route 30 and 30A is a T-bone intersection. Route 30 is a steep hill leading to the intersection with only a stop sign. The driver may have been driving as far as 60 miles an hour when he went through the intersection, finally coming to a stop in a ditch next to a restaurant.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: We don't yet know the cause of the accident, if it was a vehicle malfunction, if it was a driver malfunction, driver error. That's part of the ongoing investigation.

MARQUEZ: Just last month, the vehicle's chassis, suspension, brakes and overall systems were tested. It failed that state inspection. And the driver should have had a CDL or commercial driver's license. He didn't.

CUOMO: I think the owner of this company has a lot of questions to answer. There's an ongoing investigation. But is there a possibility of liability? Civil and criminal? Certainly.


COOPER: Miguel joins us now. Miguel, you mentioned a little bit in your piece, but what more are you learning about this limo company?

MARQUEZ: That the owner is in Pakistan at the moment. He has been contacted by police and authorities. He is -- they are cooperating with the investigation. Several of these cars have been seized. A search warrant has been served on the company, including the car that was obviously in the accident. And they've managed to get the black box or the modules for the airbags that will tell them more about that moment of impact.

So they're looking from the federal level to the state level at every angle of this company and the conditions around this crash. But at this point, this is a town. This is a community that is just shattered by this event. Anderson.

COOPER: It's stunning. Miguel Marquez, thank you very much.

One of the people who died in the crash was Amanda Halse. Just before air time, I spoke with Amanda's sister, Karina.


COOPER: Karina, I'm so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine what you and your family are going through right now.

[20:45:04] Can you just tell us about Amanda? What was she like?

KARINA HALSE, CRASH VICTIM'S SISTER: My sister was someone who you really wouldn't forget. Every person she met, she made an impact on them, whether it was big or small. She's very easy to remember. She was so charismatic and funny and so spontaneous with what she wanted to do in life. She just always wanted to have a good time and just made sure everyone around her was happy. And if she was happy, then you were happy pretty much. That's just the type of person she was.

COOPER: And you two were incredibly close?

HALSE: Absolutely. She's my other half. And it's really hard for me to think about how I'll be able to go on without Amanda. I consider -- like I have a life with Amanda and now I have a life without Amanda and it's really hard to think about.

COOPER: It's like resetting the clock. It's sort of a new life.

HALSE: Yes, absolutely. I mean I know that she'll be here forever with me in my heart and I have all these memories to cherish with her, but this is just a new -- a new life without Amanda.

COOPER: I understand she actually texted you on Saturday. What did she say? Were you able to respond?

HALSE: She texted me around 12:55 p.m. saying that they were getting a limousine to go to Ommegang and Ommegang is brewery in Cooperstown, New York. And I was at work that day, so I wasn't able to reply to her right away. So I replied around 2:00, but at that time it was already too late and she was already gone because the accident happened just before 2:00.

COOPER: And I wonder -- I mean when you hear that, you know, the limousine had failed inspection, the driver didn't have the proper license, what goes through your mind?

HALSE: You know, it just really hurts to think that this would -- how could this ever happen, I don't understand how it happened or why it happened or why -- why this was able to happen. I don't know why we don't have more safety precautions with these types of things. And, you know, as the day has gone by, I found out more and more things wrong. And it just really hurts. It makes me feel like my heart has just sunken so far down. And I've never felt this before.

COOPER: Is there anything --

HALSE: It's like a bad dream to me.

COOPER: Is there anything else you want people to know about Amanda?

HALSE: If I can have anyone know something about Amanda, it would just be to don't take life so seriously, just have fun. Do whatever makes you happy, because that's the lifestyle Amanda led. And even on this last trip, she tried going to Ommegang, she was doing it for fun. And I think I believe it was just a spur of the moment thing that they decided to go and just don't have any regrets in life. That's how Amanda lived. And hopefully, I can carry that on with me.

COOPER: Well, Karina, again, I'm so sorry for you and your family. And I hope you get answers in the days ahead of exactly how this could have possibly happened.

HALSE: I hope so too.

COOPER: I wish you strength, Karina. Thank you.

HALSE: I hope so too. Thank you. I know Amanda is giving it to me today, so I'm feeling her around.

COOPER: I'm glad. I'm glad you're feeling her. Thank you, Karina. You take care.

HALSE: Thank you.


COOPER: We have more breaking news. A powerful storm is winding up and expected to hit the United States. Here's the projected path for Hurricane Michael as it churns onward tonight.

Now just ahead, we'll have the latest from the National Hurricane Center, when they say Michael might hit and where.


COOPER: More breaking news tonight. In its latest bulleting tonight, the National Hurricane Center says that Hurricane Michael has gotten a little stronger as it heads toward the Florida panhandle. Now there's concern because Michael has undergotten what the Hurricane Center calls a rapid intensification. And tonight, evacuations have been ordered in seven Florida counties. Our meteorologist Tom Sater joins us now with more on the storm.

So, just -- if you can, just kind of tell us what we need to know.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, you mentioned rapid intensification. Anderson, the textbook example, we went from 40-mile per hour winds to 85 now and we may do that again. Unlike hurricanes in the Atlantic where we may have maybe a week notice -- a week's notice, we've got tomorrow. And that's it.

We saw this last Thursday, trying to develop, but only a 20% chance of doing so. We've got heavy rain out in Western Cuba. I think it will be interesting to see what this may do to the red tide problem in Florida. I will throw all that algae and mud further inland but maybe enough cold water could help disperse it. That would be the only positive with this.

The models are in good agreement. Again, this looks like it's going to make landfall. After the noon hour on Wednesday and skirt by quickly, this is not going to be like Harvey last year or even Florence. So we're not going to see 2030 into totals. This is more of a traditional classic hurricane that will be a major hurricane. That's category 3.

In red are the warnings, that's from the border of Alabama all the way over to the Swanee River. And with that said, this is a vulnerable coastline. I mean this is now like the other banks where you have that intercostal area, the barrier islands. This is very vulnerable. You're at sea level in a slow rise well inland.

There is enough time and space, Anderson. I wouldn't doubt this even getting possibly get to a category 4. It's more possible than probable, but we're still looking at a category 3.

And as it moves right over right now, Panama City, that means Tallahassee is in its sights, and with category 3 winds, we could see hundreds of thousands lose power. There's so many trees in that Tallahassee area, but the surge is interesting now. This is the time of king tides, the highest tides of the year.

[20:55:02] And they include that into their warning statement, which says life-threatening inundation. So that's a big concern.

COOPER: So you're saying landfall you expect around, you said, 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday?

SATER: One or two. I mean it's due north right now at 12 miles per hour. So we're going to be watching that if it picks up in any speed at all. It could be a little earlier.

COOPER: All right. Tom Sater, appreciate it. Thanks, Tom.

A quick reminder, don't miss "Full Circle." It's our daily interactive newscast on Facebook. You get to pick some of the stories we cover. You can see it weeknights at 6:25 p.m. Eastern It's a nice variety of stories. Hope you'll be joining us for that.

There's a lot more to cover ahead, including the two very different messages at the White House ceremony, the swearing in for Justice Brett Kavanaugh. What the president had to say as well as the new justice, when we continue.