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New Kavanaugh Accusations; Senate Reviews Third Accusation; Grassley Says Hearings Will Move Forward. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired September 26, 2018 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Accuser against Brett Kavanaugh. The Senate Judiciary Committee reviewing this document that's been released and reviewing these allegations.
Thank you so much for joining us as we pick up now with "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.
It is a major breaking news day. On the eve of that fate-determining hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee now reviewing more accusations, new allegations against the Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The woman, Julie Swetnick, is a Gaithersburg, Maryland, high school graduate. She's represented by Michael Avenatti.
CNN's Sara Sidner joins us live now with more details.
Sara, walk us through this new sworn deposition.
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So she has sent this on through her attorney, Michael Avenatti, to the Judiciary Committee, who has said that they have received it. Her name is Julie Swetnick. And she is making some claims against the Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
She says this happened between 1980 and 1981. She said that him and his friend, Mark Judge, attended up to 10 parties where there was very, very heavy drinking and inappropriate sexual conduct on the part of Kavanaugh and Judge.
She also makes very clear that she holds certain active clearances, associated working with the federal government, that she has a Public Trust U.S. Department of Treasury clearance, a U.S. Mint clearance and an IRS clearance.
Let us get now to the allegations that she is making and that she has sent on in a sworn affidavit, sworn statement to the Judiciary Committee.
She says that she attended well over 100 house parties in the Washington, D.C., area between 1981 and 1983 where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, were present. She says that the parties were in the area. They occurred every weekend during the school year.
She says that she herself witnessed Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively and engage in highly inappropriate conduct, including being overly aggressive with girls and not taking no for an answer.
She also goes into saying that she herself witnessed Brett Kavanaugh, while drinking excessively at many of these parties, and engaging in abusive and physically aggressive behaviors, grinding against girls, as she puts it in quotes, and attempting to remove or shift girls' clothing to expose private body parts.
She also talks about observing him verbally being abusive and demeaning and humiliating and embarrassing girls. She said that she often witnessed Brett Kavanaugh speak in a demeaning manner about women. She says that he was a mean drunk.
She called him a liar when -- after he did his interview with Fox News where he talked about his behavior during his time in high school, saying that he did not engage in anything of the sort.
We have not heard from Brett Kavanaugh, to be fair. We have reached out and we are hoping to get statement or reaction from him.
Now, this is the third woman who has come forward, but the first woman who has come forward and signed a declaration, a sworn statement, and sent that on to the Judiciary Committee. She makes very clear that there were some other incidents that happened that were far more egregious. She doesn't say she witnessed it herself. But she goes onto some more very disturbing allegations against Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. And she also has said that she was a victim of gang rape, although she does not say that Brett Kavanaugh or that Mark Judge were directly involved in that. But she certainly is making some very strong allegations here.
And, again, she has sent that along to the Judiciary Committee. Now we will have to wait and see what happens. Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, being very clear that they want an FBI investigation immediately, not only involving her, but the others who have come forward, the other woman -- women who have come forward, Ms. Ramirez and Ms. Blasey Ford. She wants to be a part of that. She is willing to sit down with the FBI and she thinks that an investigation is the right way to go in this scenario.
KING: Sara Sidner, appreciate the live reporting. A very sensitive and dramatic issue. Continue your reporting. Come back to us if anything else comes in throughout the hour and, of course, throughout the day.
I want to start the next conversation with CNN's Manu Raju.
Obviously this is a giant decision for the Judiciary Committee. This hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. The chairman has already said this hearing will be for Christine Blasey Ford, not for Deborah Ramirez, the second woman. Now we have a third woman. How will the committee handle the specifics of this? And then the broader question of, can they still justify that this is going to be Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh, vote?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be very difficult to just make -- just make this an isolated case about Christine Blasey Ford given this new allegation. But what the Republicans are doing right now, they just got this information. What they're doing is they say they're investigating, they're reviewing it.
[12:05:07] How they have dealt with these accusations from these other two women have been staff level phone calls discussing exactly what happened with the accuser. They've tried to talk to the accusers. They've tried to talk to the attorneys and talk to Brett Kavanaugh. And these statements that are made to Congress are statements of -- their -- they can be prosecuted if they are lying to investigators.
Now, what they're going to do in this case, too, is set up those phone -- same phone conversations with this new accuser, as well as Brett Kavanaugh, and we're probably going to hear two divergent stories.
Now, in the other two instances, they have not yet spoken to Christine Blasey Ford. They also have not yet spoken to Debbie Ramirez, the woman who made that allegation in "The New York" that Brett Kavanaugh expose himself to her while they were in college.
So the big question here is, there are a lot of Democrats who are demanding an FBI investigation into all of this. Republicans have said that is not appropriate now. We need to focus on Christine Blasey Ford going forward and have a vote soon after. Can they sustain that position going forward is going to be the ultimate question. And they're going to have to decide whether they have the votes to do that. And that's what's really going to drive things at the end of the day.
KING: It's a great point. And, please, continue reporting. Everybody at the table continue your reporting, if you can.
I want to bring in our legal analyst Paul Callan into the conversation before we get back to the politics.
Paul, I just want to ask you, as an attorney, give -- please let our viewers understand the distinction. There are some people out there saying this is Michael Avenatti. They immediately go to their political reflex. Let me get there with the panel in a moment.
This is a sworn declaration from a woman who has a career in public service, done under oath, submitted to the Judiciary Committee under oath in which she lays out these very serious allegations. Should it, does it carry extra weight?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if it is in fact sworn and under oath, it carries the weight that a witness who lies under oath can be prosecuted for perjury. I'm not clear that it is -- you may have information that I haven't seen, John, as to whether this is an under oath declaration. It says -- the one -- the copy I have just says declaration. I don't see any notary stamp or I don't see any indication that she was under oath at the time she gave it. So I'm just not sure about that. But that being the case, it's still, you know, a blockbuster piece of
information, if it's true, because it's, if true, it's another woman making very, very serious accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.
KING: And she says in this document, she says, I am aware of other witnesses that can attest to the truthfulness of each of the statements above.
Again, the Judiciary Committee is in a tough spot. You can understand their frustrations about the timing. You can understand their frustrations that all of these allegations are coming forward after the official confirmation hearing. But you have another woman who's going to put her name on allegations that Judge Brett Kavanaugh engaged in reprehensible behavior. Can the committee, in your view, just go forward without asking the professionals, the FBI or some law enforcement agency to at least check out the basics?
CALLAN: Well, I think, John, that if we were -- of course this is not a criminal case. But if we were looking at this as a criminal investigation, I mean these are -- a lot of these allegations are criminal in nature or border on being criminal in nature. That investigation usually would continue before you would -- a prosecutor would make a decision about whether there was a case or there was not a case. Of course, we're in a congressional hearing, which those standards don't really apply.
But, you know, I think if this affidavit, and I'm not sure, as I said, that it's actually a sworn affidavit, but we might just view it as a written statement signed by the witness. If it's true, if she backs it up with other facts, I think it's a major problem for the Kavanaugh nomination.
KING: A key point there. And let's bring the conversation in the room.
With me here in the studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Michael Shear of "The New York Times," Manu Raju, who started the conversation earlier, Eliana Johnson of "Politico."
This is a difficult situation in the sense that you now have a third woman who is willing to take the risk -- and Paul raises a key point, that if the statement is signed, I declare under penalty of perjury, under the laws of the United States of America, the foregoing is true and correct, I have executed this declaration and it gives the date, there is not, on our copy, a stamp. So it can say this. The question is, was it actually done in the presence of somebody who administered an oath.
But she is clearly willing. She is clearly willing. She put this up to the Senate committee. So you take this at its face value.
And then, of course, Republicans are going to say, this is Michael Avenatti, an avowed Trump critic. The attorney for Stormy Daniels. Someone who has gone to Democratic events saying he might run for president in 2020. So there's an easy, partisan reflex because of her lawyer. But what do they do with a woman who has served in the United States government, as an employee, with security clearances, who's willing to put her name on this on the eve of these hearing. Can they go forward tomorrow?
[12:10:09] MICHAEL SHEAR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, look, one of the dynamics that we've seen throughout this entire Me Too movement is that accusations that start out as a single, a solitary accusation against, you know, and, you know, and against a man in power, often don't pick up the kind of steam that ultimately forces action until there's a second allegation and a third allegation and beyond. And that's what creates often the kind of pressure -- overwhelming pressure that forces some action. And, in this case, the action would likely be at the very least a delay, right? And it does feel like, you know, we don't know what the -- what the accuracy of the allegations are at this point, especially with this third accuser, but it does -- it does make it difficult to understand how these senators, either side of the aisle, whether they're on the committee or not, could possibly vote to go ahead and just confirm in the face of this without some sort of delay.
ELIANA JOHNSON, "POLITICO": You know, I think what Manu said is exactly right. And to your question, John, can they go forward with this, they can do whatever they want. And I think if the hearing proceeds tomorrow, which it's likely that it will, and Republicans sense they have the votes, they will go forward with this because if the Kavanaugh nomination is pulled, I think Republicans would rather see Kavanaugh voted down than pull the nomination and be perceived as caving to what they view as pressuring from Democratic attacks. And the result of that would be world war three on the right. And so I think if they sense that they can push this through and succeed politically, they will do so.
KING: But will they have the choice, is my question.
You had a fascinating conversation, Manu, with Lisa Murkowski, senator -- Republican senator from Alaska, yesterday in which she was trying to walk away but she says, wouldn't it be great if we actually had an FBI investigation. This was into the context of -- not only of Christine Blasey Ford. A lot of Republicans have been able to push off the Deborah Ramirez allegation because she herself says, you know, she reached out to friends because it was so long ago.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.
KING: Her memory -- she acknowledged that her memory was not crystal clear and that she needed to rebuild this and it was fuzzy. This is not fuzzy.
KING: This is -- this is not fuzzy. This is a woman who says she has a crystal clear memory of more than 10 occasions with Judge Kavanaugh, with Mark Judge.
A new statement. This is from Mark Judge, who, if you don't know, this high school classmate of Brett Kavanaugh who has denied the Christine Blasey Ford incident. This is a new statement about this. Mr. Judge vehemently denies the allegations contained in the Swetnick affidavit said Judge's attorney, Barbara Van Gelder.
Again, nothing against Ms. Van Gelder or Mr. Judge. This is a statement to the news media. It is not under oath to a Senate committee that has to decide whether or not to have a vote on Brett Kavanaugh as early as this weekend and put him on the Supreme Court despite what would be a giant cloud. My question is, will this get Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, now that you have a third woman in a very detailed declaration saying, here it is, Mr. -- committee, we are willing to testify under oath. Will they say, Stop?
HENDERSON: And that's been the big question all along, I mean, with Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Lisa Murkowski getting a lot of pressure from back home. The governor there, the lieutenant governor, coming out. Some groups also coming out against Brett Kavanaugh, for different reasons, but, again, I mean, with this third allegation and also comes this allegation as the president is also off the original script, right? The original script was essentially don't criticize this woman. Let her have her say. And you heard him more recently essentially say is was a con job and essentially say he feels like Judge Kavanaugh himself isn't being tough enough in terms of defending his own --
RAJU: And another key --
KING: The president -- I just want to jump in. The president, just moments ago, he's at the United Nations General Assembly. Just moments ago reporters asked him for reaction to these new allegations from a woman named Julie Swetnick. I want to make sure I get her name right, Julie Swetnick. The president did not answer the question.
The president has a 5:00 news conference tonight. Four hours, 45 minutes from now, in which he has -- told his aides to schedule, in part because he's not happy with how Senate Republicans have handled this. He's not happy, we're told, with Judge Brett Kavanaugh's interview on Fox News the other night.
To that point about the interview. We did not know the specifics of Julie Swetnick's allegations when Martha MacCallum interviewed Judge Kavanaugh. She did, though, mention to him that Michael Avenatti was saying that he had a client who had -- a new client who had come forward and that very soon there would be a new -- a new woman saying there was something wrong. Brett Kavanaugh said it never happened.
Sorry, we're trying to get that sound for you from the Fox News interview. We'll bring it to you in just a moment when we do.
We've reached out to the White House for comment from Judge Kavanaugh. We don't have that as yet. The president speaks at 5:00 tonight. You make a key point, this is -- this is their only chance. If you want to get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed before the midterm elections, where there's a giant question of whether the Republicans will keep their hold on the Senate, that Brett Kavanaugh is your pick, period.
[12:15:01] RAJU: Yes. SHEAR: Right.
KING: Is there any indication -- if we know -- that the president will decide, enough?
RAJU: There's -- I don't think there's any indication that the president is wanting to back down. We'll see what he has to say tonight, if they do back away from him tonight, it would be -- as Eliana said, this would be a huge problem politically for them on the right. This would make it -- and it's not even certain that anyone could get confirmed in a lame duck session of Congress, which would raise a whole slew of issues. If the Democrats we to take re-control of the Senate in November.
But we do have to watch those key votes. We mentioned Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins.
KING: Jeff Flake.
RAJU: What does Jeff Flake do?
RAJU: I was outside of his office for two and a half hours this morning waiting for him to come. He knew I was outside. And then a whole bunch of other reporters came and he escaped out the back door. He did not want to talk to reporters.
JOHNSON: He hid under the couch and then he --
RAJU: He hid -- basically.
This morning, other reporters were chasing him. He refused to comment about any of this stuff. He knows how pivotal his vote is. But he had told me a couple of weeks ago, when the first allegation came out from Ford, that if you believe Dr. Ford, you vote no. So he -- that's how he initially is approaching this. We'll see if he decides to do that. He's got -- he's, of course, the one of those three senators, he's the one who's on that committee.
KING: We're going to sneak in a quick break.
Just to recap for you. A woman named Julie Swetnick, represented by Michael Avenatti, has filed with the Senate Judiciary Committee a detailed declaration in which she alleges gross misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh and friends back in their high school days, 10 plus house parties she says where she saw him drinking excessively, using foul language, inappropriate, unwelcomed physical contact with women. We've asked Judge Kavanaugh for a response. We haven't received that yet. The president, moments ago, refused to respond.
We're going to continue our reporting on this breaking news story. We'll be back in just a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:20:45] KING: Back to our major breaking news story, a third woman has now come forward to accuse the Supreme Court nominee, Federal Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual misconduct some 35 years ago back during his high school days here in the Washington, D.C., area.
Her name is Julie Swetnick. She has filed a sworn declaration with the Senate Judiciary Committee. We've reached out to the White House for comment from Judge Kavanaugh. We have not received a response as yet.
We do, though, have the prepared testimony Kavanaugh was already scheduled to give tomorrow. Remember, he is scheduled to testify tomorrow, along with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. She alleges sexual misconduct around the same time frame, in Brett Kavanaugh's high school days here in the Washington, D.C., area.
Julie Swetnick, the new woman to come forward, alleges the same. Brett Kavanaugh has not responded to her specifically, but in his testimony submitted to the committee tomorrow, he planned to say this, this effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. I am here this morning to answer these allegations and to tell the truth. And the truth is, that I have never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever.
That blanket denial from Brett Kavanaugh, in his testimony submitted to the Judiciary Committee, runs counter to this in the declaration Julie Swetnick sent to the committee today. I'll read in part, I attended well over 10 house parties in the Washington, D.C., area during the years 1981 to 1983 where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present. These parties were a common occurrence in the area and occurred nearly every weekend during the school year.
On numerous occasions at these parties, I witnessed Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively and engage in highly inappropriate conduct, including being overly aggressive with girls, not taking no for an answer. This conduct included the fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent.
So you have the flat declaration in the submitted testimony to Brett Kavanaugh. When he delivers that tomorrow, or when the hearing begins, since he's submitted he will be under oath, so therefore penalty of perjury. You have this declaration that Julie Swetnick says she is prepared to testify to the committee under oath, penalty of perjury. The committee, right now, has no plans to listen to anybody except Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Professor Ford. Again, back to the question, can they sustain that when the Kavanaugh nomination also is at risk, -- was already at risk?
RAJU: Well, we'll see. It's a -- it's still a major question. This is an unfolding story. You know, they have resisted bringing in any outside witnesses. The Republicans have been very clear they would not listen to Dr. Blasey Ford's recommendation that they should bring in an outside -- outside witnesses, including Mark Judge, including two trauma experts, including the person who administered her polygraph exam. They have said that there's no reason for that. But with this new accuser, it's going to bring some more pleasure on
them to consider that. I don't -- I'm not getting any indication that they're going to delay tomorrow's hearing. At this point, I think they do want to move forward and just see what happens. If they can move forward to that Friday vote, they will move forward for that Friday vote. That's why it's so important to hear how Republican senators react, if they say we need to put on the brakes, then they're going to have to put on the brakes. That's going to be the ultimate question. We're playing for an audience of essentially 51. Those are the Republican senators right now.
JOHNSON: I think -- the president, really his approach to Supreme Court nominees, has been to leave it to the Federalist Society and leave it to the Senate. And that has been a formula for success for him until this.
JOHNSON: And he's gotten more involved in recent days. He's been more vocal about these allegations. And you see him getting more aggressive in taking on the allegations against Kavanaugh. I think the Senate knows that if it delays more, Trump becomes more agitated. He gets more involved. I don't think that they want that. And I think Chuck Grassley's in a tremendously difficult position trying to grapple with the emerging allegations on the one hand and a restive president on the other.
KING: Right, and can you look the American people in the eye and say, here we have a woman who has done work with the federal government, had a security clearance. Again, I understand the political reflect Republicans will have. Her attorney is Michael Avenatti. That's an easy one.
It does not take away from what this woman is willing to say in a sworn statement about her conduct. She at least deserves to be heard by someone, someone. The question is, who? Can this committee have a vote without -- without putting her under oath, without having any investigation? Is that even fair to Judge Kavanaugh, who would then become a Supreme Court justice, with every time he issues a decision, comma, the judge who was confirmed under a cloud of sexual assault allegations, comma?
[12:25:15] SHEAR: I mean, look, I think Eliana's right that the president has gotten more involved. But the problem for the Republicans is, it hasn't always helped, right?
SHEAR: I mean part of what, at the beginning of the week, what the sort of Republic -- and last week what the Republicans were trying to do with President Trump's help, was to sort of cast Dr. Ford as sort of this sort of strange outlier that didn't comport with Brett Kavanaugh's history, right? President Trump kept saying he doesn't have a blemish on his record, right? And they want to describe this as sort of out of character.
The problem is, now that you have these other allegations, the allegations about what he did at college, the allegation now at all of these parties, it's harder for that message to sort of -- to sort of stick. And the president isn't -- isn't changing that message. He just keeps saying this is the man with no blemish on his character. And so that's not helping.
KING: And so, Paul Callan, come back into the conversation as we have the political conversation, as you read through this declaration. There are some things that Julie Swetnick says she firsthand witnessed and firsthand experienced. There are other things where she says there were others at the party who could come forward and the people talked about this. Hearsay, I guess, would be the technical term.
How much of this, in your view, if, again, this is going to be done in a court of politics, a court of public opinion, a Senate hearing room, not a court of law, but where -- what is your take on this as you read through it as the hearsay? Would the FBI be helpful? Could the FBI do something here?
CALLAN: Well, you know, John, in reading through the entire document, if you look at all of Swetnick's claims, very few of them involve her being touched by or having -- as a matter of fact, none of them involve her being touched by or groped or anything else by Kavanaugh. She's saying that she was at these wild house parties and Kavanaugh and Mark Judge were present at the parties. And she then goes on to describe a lot of horrible things that she says happened at the parties.
However, she's not personally involved in Kavanaugh or for that matter Judge touching her or being sexually involved with her personally. So, yes, in a court of law, a lot of this information would be hearsay and would be inadmissible, but this is a court of politics, as you observe, and it may very well be admissible.
The final thing that really surprises and shocks me. Kavanaugh survived six very detailed FBI checks. And I can tell you, in these FBI checks, you know, they go back and interview your high school friends, your college friends. They're very, very thorough. The reports are that he's undergone this procedure six times. It's really hard to believe -- and I think the FBI will come under criticism if they missed something as big, potentially, as this, if these other women come forward. I'm not sure that Swetnick alone has enough here to make this into something that will destroy Kavanaugh. But certainly, if you investigate, and other women from those house parties come forward and confirm these statements, it's really going to put the Kavanaugh nomination in trouble.
KING: An excellent point from Paul Callan. And the question of the credibility.
But you do have now, Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, three women who, if nothing else, their testimony wildly contradicts what Brett Kavanaugh has said about, I studied, I went to church, I prayed, I did my athletics.
KING: He says he wasn't perfect. He says he drank. But then he quickly segued in the Fox News interview into the, you know, I'm a -- essentially I'm a -- my paraphrasing, but I'm a choir boy.
KING: There's no ways I could have done this.
This is the latest from the Democratic leader of the United States Senate, Chuck Schumer, Republicans need to immediately suspend the proceedings related to Judge Kavanaugh's nomination and the president must order the FBI to reopen the background check investigation.
There are now, Senator Schumer says, multiple corroborated allegations against Judge Kavanaugh made under the penalty of perjury, all of which deserve a thorough investigation.
I strongly believe Judge Kavanaugh should withdrawal from considers. Again, that's Chuck Schumer's view. If he will not, at the very least the hearing and the vote should be postponed while the FBI investigates all these allegations. If our Republican colleagues proceed without an investigation, Senator Schumer says, it would be a travesty for the honor of the Supreme Court and our country.
RAJU: Can I just hop in, John --
RAJU: Because there's some news here. Chuck Grassley just told reporters on The Hill that they're going to move forward on tomorrow's hearings. He said there's going to be no delay. Tomorrow is, quote, very important. This from our colleague Sunlen Serfaty.
So at least Republicans, at the moment, still planning to push forward.
KING: Right. Chairman Grassley at the moment saying that. No offense to Chairman Grassley, but Leader McConnell and, more important, the president of the United States, will have the last word in this conversation. The president's supposed to have a news conference just a few hours from now. We're waiting for a response from Judge Kavanaugh to this.
[12:29:48] We'll continue our breaking news coverage in just a moments. Stay with us.