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20-year-old Naomi Osaka of Japan Defeated Serena Williams; Trump is Obsessed With Finding The Op-Ed Author In "The New York Times"; Former President Obama Took The Podium In California Campaigning For Seven Democratic Congressional Candidates; Senate Confirmation Hearings for D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanagh To The supreme Court Could Be Summed Up With Just One Word, Unprecedented; U.N. Has Warned The Assad Offensive In Idlib Could Be A Blood Bath. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 8, 2018 - 18:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[18:00:19] ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Moments ago, a stunning turn of events at the U.S. open women's final. 20-year-old Naomi Osaka of Japan defeated Serena Williams. The ending though was controversial to say the least.

Andy Scholes joins me now with the latest.

Andy, Serena lashing out at the chair umpire. What happened? How did we get to that point?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: So Erica, we were in the second set. Now Naomi Osaka had already won the first set. Serena was already in defense mode trying to battle back. She had been frustrated in the match already because she was not on her serve. She had so many double fault. So in the second set though, coming out of one of the games, the ump. chair umpire gave her a warning for coaching because he said that her coach was giving her hand signals from his seat and the stand and Serena did not like that. She immediately approached him and went at him and said that she in no way was receiving coaching. She doesn't cheat. She would rather lose. She pointed at him and said you owe me an apology.

Then she just went back to playing. Well, the second set continued to not really go Serena's way. And after losing another game to Osaka, she broke her racket on the ground. And at that point, since he had already received a warning, she received a point penalty. So coming out of next game then, she was down 15-0 and Serena was not happy about that. Again, she berated the umpire in between the sets and in between the games. And at that point, the umpire gave her another penalty and the third penalty is a game penalty. And at that point, it put Serena down 5-3 as opposed to 4-3.

Big swing in the match because she could have come back and won that second set and then who knows. And at that point, Serena asked to speak to one of the officials here at the U.S. open. They came on the court, Erica, and it was just chaos in Arthur Ashe stadium.

The fans were booing like crazy because it was a very pro-Serena crowd. They were all not happy. Serena was in tears explaining that this happens that the men do this all the time who receive hand signals from their coaches and get no penalty whatsoever, yet she was getting penalized for it. And her coach after the match admitted that he was giving her hand signals, but said in his entire career, he has never been penalized for this.

The commentators during the match, Erica, said they have never seen someone be penalized for this, especially in a grand slam final. So it was just incredible scene unfolding and it's going to go down as the most controversial grand slam final maybe that weather ever seen.

HILL: That may be an understatement. Twitter is lighting up to put it mildly as I was checking during the break.

Let me just make sure I understand this correctly, too. So the initial call by the chair umpire was because he saw Serena's coach in the stand doing what he perceived to him coaching, making gestures from the stand. She said that didn't happen.


HILL: She's still assessed a penalty. Right? Then the racket issue happened.

SCHOLES: Correct. So at that point, it was a warning.

HILL: OK. So it was just a warning. But all of this then escalated. And then the coach admitted later that he was giving her signal from the stands and was coaching. I mean, is she saying now that she was receiving? I mean, there are like multiple plotlines happening here at once.

SCHOLES: OK. Correct. So, you know, she said she wasn't receiving coaching. And you know, I would say that I guess most tennis players don't really consider that coaching, you know. It's just the coaches in the stands doing hand signals. And like her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, who said after the match, he has done it basically his entire career in matches all the time. Has never been penalized for it in his career.

HILL: Nothing has ever happened.

SCHOLES: And that's, yes, nothing's ever happened. And Serena said the men do it all the time. No one ever gets penalized. So there was a little bit of lost in translation where Serena said there was no coaching happening in there. Her coach did afterward said he was giving hand signals, so.

HILL: Did she also win? She was saying to even men do it all the time. She also made some reference to things like this always happen to me here. Was she saying that she has dealt with more issues at the U.S. open than she does in other tournaments? SCHOLES: That's appeared to be what she was pointing out. She

basically, at one point when she brought out the official, saying this was the last straw. It feels like she had been wronged before in her mind and that this was the last straw. And that brought her to tears out there on the court. And it was so fascinating, Erica, because everyone in the stands was listening to this all unfold and it was like I almost felt like a riot was going to ensue at one point because of the booing and how angry everyone was getting. But Serena, to her credit, and you know, once she calmed down a little bit, tried to wave to the crowd to calm down a little bit. And she kind of felt herself that it was a little unfortunate what was happening because, you know, Naomi Osaka, 20-year-old, was about to win her first grand slam title of her career beating her idol. And I feel like Serena could sense that this was totally ruing her moment.

[18:05:12] HILL: Right, which is important. And we don't want to lose sight of that. And she is the first Japanese tennis player, I believe, to win here. She is 20 years old. She idolizes Serena as we know.

I want to bring in Christine Brennan now.

Christine, touching though on what happened with Serena today on the court, the comments that she made about things like this always happen to me here, you know. Is there, has there been some sort of bias against Serena Williams by the umpires at Arthur Ashe or other courts of the U.S. open in the past that you know of?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST (on the phone): It was about ten years ago, there was a (INAUDIBLE) on Serena that key point at the U.S. open. And people might remember this. She actually took the ball and like said she was going to shove it down the official's throat. It was really a bad moment for Serena. And that about ten years ago now. So there was that.

I think the key point here and Andy of course laid it out beautifully. I think the key point here is that if tennis were kind of like golf, in other words, where no one yells. No one swears. No one gets mad. By the way, we are not saying Serena swore. She said you're a thief, you stole point from me.

HILL: Right.

BRENNAN: If tennis did not have John McEnroe in it or (INAUDIBLE) that going way back or misbehavior galore, especially by the men, then I think what happened to Serena, the chair umpire taking control of the match, and basically ruining in the end of the match, then you could say, well, that's justified because it's like golf.

The problem here is that tennis does have the history with (INAUDIBLE) and other bad boys especially Jimmy Connors (ph) and others. And for Serena then to be penalized in that manner, the game especially, not so much the point but the game, at that crucial moment, that is above and beyond and way out of line with what is happening in tennis, especially men's tennis. Serena was absolutely right about that. And I think that's one of the

big takeaways in this controversy and growing scandal at the end of the match. But you know, it's historic because Serena was trying to go for the 24th grand slam title. And I think that's why this is going to get this kind of attention, Erica, because then it does seem to be, doesn't seem to be, it is a double standard and that's what we have just seen here at the U.S. open.

HILL: Right. And you point out -- I mean, so many people watching this. Not just because of what we have seen from Serena in her comeback, but of course, she played Osaka and lost, right, the last time that they met. This is one of her first matches after coming back from maternity leave. We know how emotional that was for her. How much it pushed her in her training. Even to get back to this point. We see these incredible moments by Osaka, who played so well by all accounts as well. Is there any - I mean, is there any recourse? Do you envision anything happening to this umpire?

BRENNAN: I think we may not see him again at the U.S. open because this is the kind of thing that, and I have no idea, but this is just the ultimate buzz kill and that's not even the right word, Erica. There's got to be a bigger, better word than that for this moment.

And I also want to say this though. Serena did speak to the crowd afterwards in the ceremony and she literally put her arm around Osaka and who by the way idolize Serena and Osaka is crying, of course. And really having a tough time handling this because the boos were still reigning. Serena said enough booing. Stop booing. She won, congratulations to her.

So I think we are going to -- among many things we may remember here about the last 20 minutes or so, we may end up with a positive here. Serena's sportsmanship after that fact in that ceremony was exactly pitch perfect, exactly what you would hope and expect for from Serena. And what I saw this briefly, it sounds like she really was really trying to move everybody forward and that's a positive step. But she has a legitimacy and the story I think we can say safely, Erica, is not going away.

HILL: I think it is only just beginning.

And listen, to Serena's point there, and her sportsmanship at end that a 20-year-old young woman just won her first grand slam. That this is also a major milestone for the country that she plays for, for Japan. And that this happened against her idol, Serena Williams.

We also shouldn't overlook that fact. She should be celebrated on her win. And kudos to Serena for making sure that's what the message is at the end of this.

HILL: Well. And I think there might be people say, wait a minute, then Serena, why did you fight? Look, Serena is fighting for every point. She is, really, back on her hills. And she wants this more than anything. And most of us is going, she win it.

And this is so historic. A year ago, she was fighting for her life, she said, after giving birth and four operations, blood clots, et cetera. A terrible time for her. So to come back this far is extraordinary. We have never seen anything quite like this in sport, not just tennis, men or women. Anyone to come back like this that quickly and be at the top of her game. And so, she is fighting for every point.

I do not blame her for going at it with the umpire, especially knowing the history of the sport and knowing what McEnroe did and got away with and so many others. And may in lies the problem --.

[18:10:17] HILL: Yes. And I'm going to point out -- I'm going to pause you for a second, Christine, just because we are getting the first video in now that we can show you of what happened here. And so let's watch this.


HILL: I don't know, do we have audio on this, guys? I'm not sure if we can bring audio up or not or we just have the video. We don't have the sound on it, so we can see this moment here playing out. And there she is talking with the umpire.

And you know, to your point, Christine, this is not -- and certainly at the open. The open is known for the crowds, too. I mean, it is a fun, anybody who has ever been there, going to the U.S. open is kind of a party. People are respectful of the points being played on the court, but they are also not shy to react.

BRENNAN: It's a ruckus (ph) atmosphere, absolutely. And it is New York personified.

HILL: Yes.

BRENNAN: And so, a little of this is always something good at the use of game. And again, you are fighting for every point, but Serena -- the game penalty it extraordinary. Chris ever said it. Never seen anything like this before. The game penalty, at that key moment, taking a game away from Serena for something that probably hundreds of men have said exactly the same thing in that situation.

HILL: Yes, somehow, I'm not surprised.

Stay with us, we are just get ng the first tape of the interview after this match. So let's take a listen into those moments.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Serena, not the result that you wanted tonight. How do you put into perspective what this match contained?

SERENE WILLIAMS, TENNIS PLAYER: Well, I don't want to be rude, but and I don't want to interrupt, I do question do questions. I just want to tell you guys she played well and this is her first grand slam.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) WILLIAM: But I know, I know you guys were here rooting and I was rooting, too, but let's make this the best moment we can and we'll get through it. But let's give everyone the credit where credit's due and let's not boo anymore. We just - we are going to get through this and let's be positive.

So congratulations, Naomi. No more booing! Thank you to my team. You guys are amazing. Thank you, guys, the crowd, you really are the best in the world. Thank you so much. And I really, I really hope, I hope to continue to go and play here again. We'll see. It's been tough here for me, but thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On behalf of the USAGE, Katrina Adams will present our final --


HILL: I mean, it is something. And I know, Christine, you could hear that as well. I'm not sure if you were able to see it, but we could just see Naomi Osaka not really reacting too much. Serena, tears running down her face. But you can see --.

I mean, listen. A lot of this, too, is that there were people who were fans of Serena before she became a mother. And there are a number of people who have become fans of Serene not just the tennis player, but Serena Williams, the person.

In this last year, she has been open and raw and vulnerable. And you know, for all the fellow parents out there, that has been something that a lot of people have been able to connect with. I think there was a headline I saw this morning, you know, she is the extraordinary because she is an extraordinary phenomenal athlete and she is the ordinary. She is raw and honest about the battles that she has as a working mother. And you saw it all right there. And I think you also saw her maturity in her 30-some odd years that she knows what's it's like to be the 20-something who is just winning here and she knows how important the it is to set that example.

BRENNAN: Without a doubt. Serena has really transcended sports this year since giving birth and all the difficulties she had and has moved into our culture a way I never would have expected. I covered her for years. I covered her in 1999 when she was first rising with her sister. And it's an extraordinary change and wonderful change that she has made and a step that she has made.

For example, the cat suit, which is also controversial and was banned by the French open. Well, the cat suit, she said, was because she wanted to send a message to moms everywhere. That it was showing her body, nothing covered, showing how difficult it was to comeback from pregnancy, especially the difficult pregnancy and all the complications afterwards. And a message to women and young moms around the world.

So that's what she has been doing. And that's why I think this whole unbelievable, chaotic situation, controversy, is going to resonate in way we may not even yet have figured out because she has become such a huge part of our culture and conversation for new moms, the parents, moms and dads everywhere in addition to sports and tennis being the greatest of all time.

So all that into the mix, what a story. And that's why though I think it was terrific how she ended that by saying no more booing. Put her arm around Naomi. Naomi sobbing, poor kid. And this should be a greatest moment ever. Serena realized that and immediately pivoted to trying to do her best to change the subject and focus the attention on the woman who had just defeated her in a crashing defeat for Serena Williams.

[18:16:22] HILL: You pointed out not only the cat suit controversy, you know. She has dealt with so much in her career and has been pretty consistently classy. I would say certainly in the face of the cat suit, a lot people looking at that as a clear double standard. And several other issues there.

Let's take a listen now. We now have the tape in with the sound. We can hear this moment with the umpire. So let's look in to that then we can discuss on the backside.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very unfortunate.

WILLIAMS: Are you kidding me? That's like saying you are a thief because she stole a point from me. But I'm not a cheater. You owe it to me to apologize to me. (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Serena is asking for the referee.


HILL: There we have it. That was the moment. One of a couple of moments today.

Andy Scholes, I'm going to bring you in before we say good-bye on this. The mood I can imagine, I mean, we heard Serena reference the crowd there afterwards. Enough of the boos. Let's celebrate Naomi Osaka. Let's celebrate her win here. There are still though a lot of unhappy people behind you in that stadium.

SCHOLES: A lot of unhappy people leaving Arthur Ashe stadium tonight. I tell you what, after it all calmed down and after Serena accepted that game penalty and went out there to serve, the fans wouldn't stop booing. They just kept booing and booing. Serena had to stop. She had to pace around for a second. It was a good minute or two of the fans just letting their feeling known. She eventually got them to stop and continued on with the game.

But I tell you what, you know, this crowd, I mean, no one was anti- Osaka. It was just probably 95 percent Serena and cheering for her and wanting to see her make history, especially after what she has gone through this past year and they were not happy that all this happened especially, because they could just see the emotion coming out of Serena. I mean, she was in tears three different times out there on the court. And you know, a lot of fans, I can tell you what, never going to forget this. And I bet Serena even made even more fans after what happened here on the court tonight.

HILL: Andy Scholes, Christine Brennan, thank you both.

I can predict here and I think pretty accurately, this will not be the last time that we talk about that moment. But that's going to do it for me today here in New York.

I'm Erica Hill. My colleague, S.E. Cupp continues our live coverage of the day's big stories right after this quick break.


[18:22:45] S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST: Welcome to UNFILTERED.

Just tonight's headline. Treason, patriotism or cowardess? All of those words are being used to describe this leakiest of White Houses. And in particular, the bombshell "New York Times" op-ed by an anonymous senior White House official that dropped this week.

Coupled with the new Bob Woodward book, "Fear," that comes out this Thursday -- Tuesday, sorry, which is full of unflattering and indeed concerning anecdotes from within the Trump administration, it is clear this White House is under siege and the call is coming from inside the house.

Trump for the most part is taking it well. He demanded "The New York Times" turn the author over to the government at once.

Just last night, CNN's Jim Acosta reported that Trump is obsessed with finding the op-ed author and that the hunt has narrowed down to quote "a few individuals."

Meanwhile, chief of staff John Kelly is count counseling the President to move on. Here's the deal. Whistleblowers have a long and storied history in our democracy. Playing a pivotal role in exposing corruption, honesty, dishonesty, fraud, incompetence and all other kinds of corrosive problems. We are better for the sunlight that whistleblowers have shown on injustices and abuse from the Vietnam War to Abu grave to mass data collection. They enjoy a privileged status, which sometimes includes by necessity and amenity. Why? Well, it turns out the powerful don't always like being exposed.

Other administrations have tried to crack down on whistleblowers and the press who aided them. Nixon, of course, tried to silence "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" for publishing the Pentagon papers. The Obama administration invoked the espionage act to go after whistleblowers more than all previous administrations combine.

But here's the problem. The author of this op-ed didn't blow any whistles. He or she didn't expose any specific crime or corruption. Didn't say I'm willing to go to jail to share these secrets with the public. Didn't name names. He or she just sort of aired a list of grievances about how hard it is to work for the President then a sort of don't worry, we're on top of it. Sorry, that doesn't score you patriotism points from me. Either tell

us what you know or resign.

I want to bring in Brian Stelter, host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Brian, I'm going to get to the "New York Times" op-ed and how that went down. Because you know the real story. But first, the Bob Woodward book. That as a story seems like it was so long ago and yet the book hasn't even come out yet.

[18:25:28] BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: We haven't had anything yet.

CUPP: That's right. What do we expect?

STELTER: This is worth on weekend, you know. Tomorrow, he is going to be on TV for the first time.

CUPP: Right.

STELTER: He is going to be on CBS talking about what he has found in his reporting. Then of course, Tuesday, we are going to see the book. We can all actually read it. Now, early copies have been circulating in D.C. and New York. It even circulating in other countries. Diplomats want to see what Woodward uncovered. I think the big surprise is going to be how much Woodward has, primary source material.

CUPP: Right.

STELTER: Notes from meetings. Tape recordings. I don't know exactly what he has, but I know he has notes from staffers from their meetings in the west wing. That's not - Woodward, in his own words, those are the staffers describing Trump. And I think that's going to be important.

CUPP: Is that going to satisfy him, though? Because he has already the President accusing Woodward of lying. You know, Bob Woodward has a pretty good reputation. He has done this to a number of administrations. Is the President going to have an argument, a convincing argument when he tries to discredit Woodward?

STELTER: Because most of the information is from anonymous sources, you either trust those sources or you don't.

CUPP: Yes.

STELTER: You and I have worked in big news rooms.

CUPP: Yes.

STELTER: I think we tend to trust those sources because we know editors are involved. There's a process for granting an amenity. This stuff doesn't get made up at a whole clock.

But President Trump is someone who makes such story. So he believes other people make up stories, too. That is his belief. That's his claim about Woodward. I think for most of Washington, I think for most of the country. Hearing Trump call Woodward an idiot, doesn't make sense. It's non-logical.

CUPP: Yes.

STELTER: Non-sensible (ph). But obviously, the President has been on this campaign of fake news for a year and a half leading up to moments like this, to discredit books like Woodward.

CUPP: OK. Let's go back and talk about that op-ed. Start from the beginning. How did the Times handle this unusual pitch?

STELTER: Yes. Can you imagine this call, this guy, and the op-ed editor of "The New York Times?" He hears from an intermediary a friend or guy he has known for a long time that there is this senior official that wants to speak. And Dow basically says OK, show me the op-ed. Let's read it and then let's vet who the person is. Let's make sure the person actually is who they say they are, right.


STELTER: So if I walk in, I was a cabinet secretary and I had this op-ed, for example, they had to make sure I was really the secretary. So that process happened.


STELTER: Amazingly doubt that he is surprised by how big of a reaction there has been. More than 12 million page views so far in "the New York Times" website. One of the biggest pieces of the year.

CUPP: Is that because of what's inside or because it's anonymous and there is sort of intrigue around it?

STELTER: I think it does make it more intriguing. This has been - but it depends on who the person is, right. If this person works at the White House, we don't know if they do or not. If this person a household name and we find out who it is some day, then having that byline would have make it a bigger deal. If this person is an undersecretary that you and I never heard of --.

CUPP: Yes.

STELTER: Then it wouldn't have been as big a deal for this name.

CUPP: You heard my view of this. I don't think what this person did was patriotic, but I don't think it was treasonous. Dou you think that "The New York Times" was right to publish it and anonymously?

STELTER: Let me put it this way. If this landed on my desk, I would find a way to publish it, too.

CUPP: Yes. Right.

STELTER: I think this was providing more evidence, more data points, and more information to the public and that's a valuable thing, but I would have begged the source to let us describe you a little bit more. A little more detail. Little more than senior official. How senior are you? Where you work? Hopefully someday soon, we will find out.

CUPP: Maybe we'll know.

STELTER: I hope we do.

CUPP: Maybe we won't.

Brian Stelter, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Make sure to tune in tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. eastern for more of Brian on "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Stay there. We will be right back.


[18:33:19] CUPP: In the red file tonight, he is back. After avoiding the spotlight for the better part of the year, former President Obama's done being polite. He took the podium in California campaigning for seven Democratic congressional candidates. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The biggest threat to our democracy I said yesterday is not -- it's not one individual. It is not one big super Pac billionaires. It's apathy. It's indifference. Us not doing what we're supposed to do.


CUPP: That campaign stuff follows a barn storming speech he gave yesterday at the University of Illinois that pulled no punches. So is that just what the Democrats needed?

Here to discuss is Basil Smikle.

I'm so glad you are here to join me. Compare yesterday's speech to today's. I said yesterday was a roast. Today was more like celebration.

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It was. And I think that's the kind of Obama that you will see on this campaign trail.

CUPP: -- which.

SMIKLE: A mix of both.


SMIKLE: You know, he will do it where appropriate. He will go out there, charge up the troops. Make sure people really do understand what's at stake. And at the same time in other places, he will talk about bringing us together because I think that's what his -- the attraction is for him. Among other things, it is voters remembering, yes, those were pretty good times. That may not have liked all of his policies, but he was stabilizing force in our government if people want to get back to that.

CUPP: So in other news in the Democratic Party, this was such a weird week for so many reasons. I heard a number of people being floated both privately to me and also in some news reports for 2020 on your side of the aisle. We need to talk about a couple of these.

Number one, John Kerry.

[18:35:11] SMIKLE: Wow.

CUPP: John Kerry is being credibly floated I'm told privately that he is considering a run. What wing of the party was clambering for more John Kerry? Who said we need more John Kerry? More 74-year-old Boston brommen billionaire globalist war hawk.

SMIKLE: Well, we are actually seeing a lot of the folks in the party running against that, right.

CUPP: Right.

SMIKLE: So I'm not so sure. Look, I love John Kerry, but I think you know Democrats are going to make up their mind to some extent in the next year or so. Because we have to find somebody really within the next six to eight months. But we are going try to determine whether or not we want somebody that's going to be Trump like in that they can go head to head with him or are we going to find the complete antithesis of Donald Trump.

CUPP: He is in no man's land.

SMIKLE: And I don't think he is either. I think he is going to be more of the same that allow the young Democrats are running against right now. And look, one of the things that Obama is doing even not being on the trail is that he has created I think a new cohort of young activists and elected officials presently. And what that does --.

CUPP: You know who has not, John Kerry.

SMIKLE: Well, you are right about that. But that's why I think the Obama effect that I was waiting to see, not necessarily him going in, which I think is wonderful.

CUPP: Well, fair enough.

SMIKLE: But just the impact he is going to have on recruiting and pushing new people out there to run for office.

CUPP: Well, there's another new person running for office. His name is Michael Bloomberg. He is 76 years old. You might have heard from him. Another Boston brommen billionaire. I mean, he is also apparently considering a run. Is there a huge part of the Democratic base that's clambering for more Bloomberg?

SMIKLE: So I have to say for full disclosure, I did do some work for Mike Bloomberg.

CUPP: So this is your fault?

SMIKLE: Yes, partly. But I would tell you when he spoke at the convention in 2016, I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure with all of the sort of stuff we were talking about in terms of the system being rigged and all that, that he was this one percenter that was going to go and speak at our national convention. You know what? People loved him. One, because he was anti-Trump.

But people really, you know --.

CUPP: Do you think he has (INAUDIBLE)?

SMIKLE: I think he can run a credible campaign because there's a, the independence of Mike Bloomberg, I think is attractive for a lot of people.

CUPP: Well, we will see. It is popcorn for me over on --.

SMIKLE: Me too, actually. You are not alone on this.

CUPP: OK, thanks, Basil.

We will be right back.


[18:40:55] CUPP: Apparently this week's Senate confirmation hearings for D.C. circuit judge Brett Kavanagh to the Supreme Court could be summed up with just one word.









CUPP: Joining me now is someone who can tell us from her deep well of experience if that word was actually or overly used this week. Legal affairs correspondent for national public radio, Nina Totenberg.

Nina, thanks so much for joining me. NINA TOTENBERG, LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, NPR: My pleasure.

CUPP: Let's get right to it. Was this hearing unprecedented?

TOTENBERG: Well, I have never seen such a ruckus hearing, at least from the audience. There were about 200 protesters who got hauled out of this and made quite a show of it in the process. And I don't think even the Democrats by the end of it were really thrilled with it.

But it was also unprecedented I think in the sense that the procedures would have been followed in the past were not followed entirely this time. I mean, I think chairman Grassley tried his best to do what he could but they didn't go through the White House documents of the nominee in the usual way and into the presidential records at. And as a result, they got fewer than 10 percent of them which made the Democrats very mad. And they kept pointing out that they - that all of the records of Delaney Kagan had been produced and that President Obama had not evoked the executive privilege in any way shape or form whereas President Trump did invoke some unspecified constitutional privilege. And the Republican kept saying yes, but you have many, many tens of thousands more documents that were produced this time. And we could go on and on over the details of this. But the truth is that the procedures followed were unprecedented. And the Democrats thought they were unfair and the Republicans thought they were fair and trying to get their nominee confirmed before the election which is the main point here.

CUPP: Well. And I was watching as a viewer. I was watching as a voter. And I wondered what viewers and voters got out of it. I talked to Senator Mike Lee just yesterday. He's a member of the Senate judiciary. He is a lawyer. He is the son of a U.S. solicitor general. Former Supreme Court clerk to justice Alito. And he said these hearings might not be necessary. That we didn't always do them. And then maybe the public isn't getting much out of them. What do you make of that?

TOTENBERG: Well, I think that's, that's probably not going to happen. You can't have somebody nominated now for the Supreme Court of the United States. This kind of exchange has been going on. Nominees have been appearing regularly since the 1950s. And you can't really break with that. I'm not sure that this one produced anything revelatory.

CUPP: Right.

TOTENBERG: But there will come time when the President is of one party. And the Senate is of another and where there has to be some sort of an accommodation.

CUPP: Yes.

TOTENBERG: I think that's probably what President Obama was hoping for when he nominated Merrick Garland, who was the nominee, the Democratic nominee Republicans had been asking for for years, but it didn't work out that way. CUPP: Well, just quickly before we have to go, I think we can both

agree the likelihood of Kavanagh being confirmed is high. Yes, with his addition to the court would mean in context.

TOTENBERG: Well, it's going to be a very conservative court. More conservative than most people in this country have seen in a half century. And that has consequences beyond abortion and even the Mueller investigation. It has consequences way beyond that. And people will come to realize that over time and decide whether they like it or not. Until now, conservatives have been the activists on the political front on behalf of a more conservative court. Democrats didn't, it was never their priority and we'll find out whether this makes a difference.

[18:45:27] CUPP: OK. Nina Totenberg, thank you so much.

TOTENBERG: Thank you.

CUPP: Stay there. We will be right back.


[18:49:58] CUPP: The Syrian war is on the (INAUDIBLE) of a very troubling escalation as we speak. Today, new air strikes in Idlib according to the white hell men (ph) and the Syrian observatory for human rights, both are saying Russian forces were behind the strikes. This following Turkey's call for a cease-fire that was promptly rejected by both Russia and Iran yesterday.

The U.N. has warned the Assad offensive in Idlib could be a quote "blood bath" involving tens of thousands of civilians including children in a war that has already seen the deaths of 500,000 people, 50 of them children. It seems impossibly the worst may be yet to come.

Joining me now are Congressman Bredan Boyle, a Democrat from Pennsylvania and CNN national security analyst Sam Vinograd.

Congressman, I know this is an issue you care deeply about. You and I penned an op-ed about this very thing just last week calling for safe zones in Idlib to protect - to protect those civilians. President Trump has warned Assad against the use of chemical weapons, but we know now from the new U.S. envoy for Syria that they are seeing lots of evidence that Syrian forces are preparing to use chemical weapons, in fact.

What should Congress do? What should this President do?

[18:51:22] REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, first, I say thanks for focusing, on this important topic that for the last, really, for the course of this decade has not gotten nearly the attention that it deserves. Either from the media or frankly from those of us in elected office.

In my view, the United States and most of the western world has really had no policy towards Syria. That's included two Presidents of both parties. Most recently with President Trump he's been all over the map. Within a week, he went from saying that we are going to pull out all troops to then launching the strike on the air strip the last time chemical weapons were used.

CUPP: Right.

BOYLE: So in terms of what we are focused on now with Idlib, we are talking about three million civilians who live in this area. If this is the end game, then what Russia and the Assad forces and Iran could be planning would actually likely be the worst atrocity in a war that has been filled with it.

CUPP: Right.

Sam, you worked for President Obama when this war broke out. There are many lessons to learn from the decisions that were made then. Any of them, are you confident, that this current administration has learned?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think we have. And I think that we continued to miscalculate the cost. And in the national security, often you figure out cost and benefits. Under President Obama, we miscalculated what would happen if we did not more actively engage in Syria? From a terrorism standpoint and in terms of what Russia was prepared to do to support Assad in whole range of atrocity.

CUPP: Right.

VINOGRAD: It is not just chemical weapons.

CUPP: Right.

VINOGRAD: He just (INAUDIBLE) bombs as we speak to murders children.

CUPP: Prove that humanitarian consequence a refugee crisis which is a huge strain on resources there and here as you mentioned, terrorism, national security implications, I mean, the consequences abound. And yet, this administrations seems to be sort of doing the same thing.

VINOGRAD: They are in warn and watch posture at this point.

CUPP: Right.

VINOGRAD: So we warned about specifically chemical weapons. Again, all these other war crimes, we kind of put over to the side. So it is chemical weapons. So we will warn against chemical weapons used. We will not do anything to stop it. But we are waiting for it to happen. We will respond when it does. And just watching Russian airplanes target civilians.

We have American troops in Idlib that the Russians have basically said get out of the we are coming.

CUPP: Right.

VINOGRAD: We don't want to get into direct engagement with you. Move over and let us just keep going.

CUPP: Congressman, quickly. Assad seems to think there are no consequences for crossing redlines over and over again. Is he wrong?

BOYLE: So far, it is pretty easy to see why he believes that. You know, one thing I just want to point out and why Syria is so important. This is essentially a mini world war. Not in the sense of world war I or World War II where there were many fields of battle. This is a mini world war in the sense that almost every major nations state is here on the battlefield in Syria. And I will say for those in either party who support a more protectionist foreign policy or that we believe that we are safer if the U.S. withdraw from the world.

This is the kind of thing that happens. The Syrian war. I believe as many others actually on the foreign affairs committee in the house that we are stronger in the United States and stronger in the world when you have an activist U.S. foreign policy and you don't retreat from the world.

[18:55:00] CUPP: Well, and certainly, you know, we got no excuse. We are watching the genocide happen in real time with pictures, with videos, you know, with on the ground testimonials. There is no excuse for our inaction other than to say we simply don't care.

Congressman Boyle, I'm really glad that you do.

Sam, thanks for joining me and for your expertise. I appreciate it.

That's it for us. Be sure to stick around from the "VAN JONES SHOW." He will talk to always outspoken comedian and "the View" co-host to Joy Behar. That's coming up next right here on CNN.