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Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Christine Blasey Ford's Sexual Assault Accusations Against Brett Kavanaugh; Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired September 27, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:02] RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And Deborah Katz and all these -- Dianne Feinstein, who wants an FBI investigation, held this thing for five or six weeks, when she could have had an FBI investigation.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: She was asked to keep it quiet.
SANTORUM: But she was asked to keep it quiet but she didn't.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to bring in Kirsten because -- that is how Senator Santorum sees is which is the left-right, push and pull about the Supreme Court, and yet there is, without question a movement, the Me Too Movement, that is felt not just conservative men, but liberal men, Democrats, people in media, people in entertainment, and a lot of women look at what's going on here through a different prism, through the prism of it's enough already. Women need to be taken seriously.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that's true. But I think, look, you know, I can speak to somebody who is not -- I'm not overly invested in what happens in the Democratic Party. I'm not an activist, and I look at this and I see this in a completely different way than you see it. And I think these people should be taken seriously.
The problem is, this would be quite a conspiracy for her to have been telling her therapist in 2012 about this, for her having discussed this with a friend in 2013. I mean, that's an amazing conspiracy on the part of the Democrats. The name was mentioned to her husband and she told three other people who have done sworn affidavits that it was a person who was currently a federal judge and was somebody who she went to high school with.
So that's an amazing conspiracy for her to -- for the Democrats actually to have known in the future that this was going to happen. The other thing is, if this is what Democrats do, then why didn't they do it to Neil Gorsuch, who went to Georgetown Prep, who -- and nobody can seriously suggest that Democrats weren't upset about that seat after what happened to Merrick Garland. So -- and so -- but see, it's a seat that was stolen in their eyes from the Democrats. So they would have been very upset. And this -- if this is what they do. Then they would have made accusations.
SANTORUM: As tough as they fought against Gorsuch, this seat was going to be the seat they were going to --
POWERS: OK. So let's go back to this idea that now -- so the accusation is that women, that multiple, are actually destroying their own lives. Like, I don't know any woman who would do this. A woman who, and I know a lot of people who care a lot about the court and who are very upset about it. I don't know any woman who's at the level of these women with careers, one who has high-ranking position in the government, who could lose a security clearance, who could lose her entire life, she's 50, she's at the prime of her career, that she's going to destroy her entire life and lie and possibly go to jail?
SANTORUM: And the reality is that --
POWERS: I mean, this is just an incredible accusation.
SANTORUM: Kirsten, this judge has had six FBI background checks. And if you believe the last accuser, the one that says that he was serially involved in gang raping people for over a three-year period of time. And he was --
POWERS: Nobody actually said he was serially gang raping people, that he was aware of it.
SANTORUM: Well, he was involved -- he was involved. She said he was.
POWERS: Yes. Yes.
SANTORUM: He facilitated it and he was aware of it, and this man was the staff secretary to the president of the United States, and you're telling me the FBI wouldn't have found anything? The staff secretary -- the most recent staff secretary. The FBI had that information. And you're just suggesting the FBI is completely incompetent and --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: By the way, she has just sat down.
SANTORUM: It's just not plausible.
TAPPER: This is the first time we have seen live images of Professor Christine Blasey Ford. We have seen occasional still photographs, but here she is sitting down at the -- in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room. You see there, she's with her legal team. I believe that's Debra Katz on the left, and there we have a close-up --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That's Michael Bromwich.
TAPPER: And Michael Bromwich, who also represents Andrew McCabe, I believe.
TAPPER: The fired FBI deputy director.
BLITZER: A high ranking official of the Justice Department. TAPPER: And there is Christine Blasey Ford, the professor that we
have heard so much about, seen the first live images of her, the first film images of her yet.
BLITZER: This hearing is going to begin momentarily. One thing about Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he starts these hearings pretty much on time. They said 10:00 a.m. It's now 10:04. It will begin -- he will make his opening statement, the chairman. The ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, will make an opening statement, and then she will be sworn in, Professor Christine Blasey Ford. She will be sworn in. She will testify under oath.
She will then make her opening statement, Jake, and then they will rotate between Republicans and Democrats, five minutes each.
TAPPER: And we can't underline this enough. So much is at stake depending on how credibly -- how credible Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony is, how credible she comes across. The same thing with Judge Kavanaugh, who will be appearing after her, after a short break. The fate of the Supreme Court seat is in the balance. We do not know how credible she will seem.
[10:05:00] But in conversations with Democrats and Republicans this week, nobody knew, and here we have the gavel and the hearing beginning.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN This morning we continue our hearing on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve as associate justice on our Supreme Court. We will hear from two witnesses, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. Thanks, of course, to Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh for accepting our committee's invitation to testify and also thank them for their volunteering to testify before we even invited.
Both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have been through a terrible couple weeks. They and their families have received vile threats. What they have endured ought to be considered by all of us as unacceptable and a poor reflection on the state of civility in our democracy.
So I want to apologize to you both for the way you've been treated. And I intend, hopefully, for today's hearing to be safe, comfortable and dignified for both of our witnesses. I hope my colleagues will join me in this effort of a show of civility.
With that said, I lament that this hearing -- how this hearing has come about.
On July the 9th, 2018, the president announced Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to serve on the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh has served on the most important federal appellate court for 12 years. Before that, he held some of the most sensitive positions in the federal government. The president added Judge Kavanaugh to his short list of Supreme Court more than nine months ago, in November 2017.
As part of judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, the FBI conducted its sixth full field background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh since 1993, 25 years ago. Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports, which committee investigators have reviewed on a bipartisan basis, was there a whiff of any issue -- any issue at all related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior.
Dr. Ford first raised her allegations in a secret letter to the ranking member nearly two months ago in July. This letter was secret from July 30th, September 13th to -- no, July 30th until September 13th when I first heard about it.
The ranking member took no action. The letter wasn't shared with me or colleagues or my staff. These allegations could have been investigated in a way that maintained the confidentiality that Dr. Ford requested.
Before his hearing, Judge Kavanaugh met privately with 65 senators, including the ranking member. But the ranking member didn't ask Judge Kavanaugh about the allegations when she met with him privately in August.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held its four-day public hearing from September 4th to September 7th. Judge Kavanaugh testified for more than 32 hours in public. We held a closed session for members to ask sensitive on that -- on the last evening, which the ranking member did not attend.
Judge Kavanaugh answered nearly 1,300 written questions submitted by senators after the hearing, more than all prior Supreme Court nominees.
Throughout this period, we did not know about the ranking member's secret evidence.
Then, only at an 11th hour, on the eve of Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation vote, did the ranking member refer the allegations to the FBI. And then, sadly, the allegations were leaked to the press. And that's where Dr. Ford was mistreated.
This is a shameful way to treat our witness, who insisted on confidentiality, and -- and, of course, Judge Kavanaugh, who has had to address these allegations in the midst of a media circus.
[10:10:15] When I received Dr. Ford's letter on September the 13th, my staff and I recognized the seriousness of these allegations and immediately began our committee's investigation, consistent with the way the committee has handled such allegations in the past.
Every step of the way the Democratic side refused to participate in what should have been a bipartisan investigation. And as far as I know on all of our judgeships throughout at least the last four years -- or three years, that's been the way it's been handled.
After Dr. Ford's identity became public, my staff contacted all the individuals she said attended the 1982 party described in the Washington Post article.
Judge Kavanaugh immediately submitted to an interview under penalty of felony for any knowingly false statements. He denied the allegations categorically.
[10:15:00] The testimony we will hear today concerns allegations of sexual assault; very serious allegations. This is an incredibly complex and sensitive subject to discuss. It is not an easy one to discuss. That is why the senators on this side of the dais believe an expert who has deep experience and training in interviewing victims of sexual assault and investigating sexual assault alleged -- allegations should be asking questions.
This will be in stark contrast to the grandstanding and chaos that we saw from the other side during the previous four days in this hearing process.
I can think of no one better equipped to question the witnesses than Rachel Mitchell. Ms. Mitchell is a career prosecutor, civil servant, with decades of experience investigating and prosecuting sex crimes. She has dedicated her career to seeking justice for survivors of sex- related felonies.
Most recently, Rachel was a division chief of the Special Victims Division, Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which prosecutes sex crimes and family violence.
Then-Democratic Senator -- Governor Janet Napolitano previously recognized her as the outstanding Arizona sexual assault prosecutor of the year. And she has spent years instructing prosecutors, detectives and child protection workers on how to properly interview victims of sexual assault and abuse.
With her aid, I look forward to a fair and productive hearing.
I understand that there are two other public allegations. Today's hearing was scheduled to -- in close consultation with Dr. Ford's attorneys, and her testimony will be the subject of this hearing.
We've been trying to investigate other allegations. At this time, we have not had cooperation from attorneys representing other clients, and they have made no attempt to substantiate their claims.
My staff has tried to secure testimony and evidence from attorneys for both Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick. My staff made eight requests -- yes, eight requests -- for evidence from attorneys for Ms. -- Ms. Ramirez, and six requests for evidence for (sic) attorneys for Ms. Swetnick. Neither attorney has made their clients available for interview. The committee can't do an investigation if attorneys are stonewalling.
I hope you all understand that we have attempted to seek additional information, as we do a lot of times when there are holes in what we call the B.I. reports.
Additionally, all the witnesses should know -- by -- when I say "all the witnesses," I mean Dr. Ford and I mean Judge Kavanaugh -- all the witnesses should know that they have the right under Senate Rule 26.5 to ask that the committee go into closed session if a question requires an answer that is a clear invasion of their right to privacy. If either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh feel that Senate Rule 26.5 ought to be involved, they should simply say so.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'll make just a brief comment on your references to me.
Yes, I did receive a letter from Dr. Ford. It was conveyed to me by a member of Congress, Anna Eshoo.
The next day, I called Dr. Ford. We spoke on the phone. She reiterated that she wanted this held confidential. And I held it confidential, up to a point where the witness was willing to come forward.
And I think as I make my remarks, perhaps you'll see why. Because how women are treated in the United States, with this kind of concern, is really wanting a lot of reform. And I'll get to that for a minute.
But in the meantime, good morning, Dr. Ford. Thank you for coming forward and being willing to share your story with us. I know this wasn't easy for you.
But before you get to your testimony -- and the chairman chose not to do this -- I think it's important to make sure you're properly introduced. And I have to...
GRASSLEY: By the way, I was going to introduce her. But if you want to introduce her, I'll be glad to have you do that.
But I want you to know, I didn't forget to do it, because I would do that just as she was about to speak.
[10:20:05] FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
I have to say, when I saw your C.V., I was extremely impressed. You have a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; two master's degrees, one from Stanford and one from Pepperdine; and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, better known to Senator Harris and I as USC.
You are a professor affiliated with both Stanford University and Palo Alto University. You have published over 65 peer-reviewed articles and have received numerous awards for your work and research.
And as if that were not enough, you are a wife, a mother of two sons and a constituent from California.
So I am very grateful to you for your strength and your bravery in coming forward. I know it's hard.
But before I turn it over, I want to say something about what is to be discussed today and where we are as a country.
Sexual violence is a serious problem and one that largely goes unseen. In the United States it's estimated by the Centers for Disease Control one in three women and one in six men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. In addition, when survivors do report their assaults, it's often years later due to the trauma they suffered and fearing their stories will not be believed.
Last week I received a letter from a 60-year-old California constituent who told me that she survived an attempted rape at age 17. She described as being terrified and embarrassed. She never told a soul until much later in life. The assault stayed with her for 43 years.
I think it's important to remember these realities as we hear from Dr. Ford about her experience.
There's been a great deal of public discussion about the #MeToo movement today versus the Year of the Woman almost 27 years ago. But while young women are standing up and saying "No more," our institutions have not progressed in how they treat women who come forward. Too often, women's memories and credibility come under assault. In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves, and often revictimized in the process.
Twenty-seven years ago, I was walking through an airport when I saw a large group of people gathered around a TV to listen to Anita Hill tell her story. What I saw was an attractive woman in a blue suit before an all-male Judiciary Committee, speaking of her experience of sexual harassment. She was treated badly, accused of lying, attacked, and her credibility put to the test throughout the process.
Today, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has come forward to tell her story of being assaulted and fearing for her life when she was a teenager.
Initially, as I said, Dr. Ford did not want to make her story public. Then within 36 hours of coming forward, Republicans scheduled a hearing without talking to her or even inviting her to testify. She was told she had to show up for the -- or the committee would move forward with a vote. It took a public outcry for the -- from the majority -- excuse me -- for the majority to back down and give her even a few days to come before the committee.
Republicans also scheduled this hearing with Dr. Ford without having her allegations investigated by the FBI. In 1991, Anita Hill's allegations were reviewed by the FBI, as is the normal process and squarely within its jurisdiction. However, despite repeated requests, President Trump and the Republicans have refused to take this routine step and direct the FBI to conduct an impartial investigation. This would clearly be the best way to ensure a fair process to both Judge Kavanaugh and to Dr. Ford.
In 1991, the Senate heard from 22 witnesses over three days. Today, while rejecting an FBI investigation, Republicans are refusing to hear testimony from any other witness, including Mark Judge, who Dr. Ford identified as being in the room when the attack took place. And we believe Judge should be subpoenaed so the committee can hear from him directly.
Republicans have also refused to call anyone who could speak to the evidence that would support or refute Dr. Ford's claim, and not one witness who could address credibility and character of either Ford or Kavanaugh has been called.
What I find most inexcusable is this rush to judgment, the unwillingness to take these kinds of allegations at face value and look at them for what they are: a real question of character for someone who is asking for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.
In 1991, Republicans belittled Professor Hill's experience, saying, and I quote, "It won't make a bit of difference in the outcome," end quote, and the burden of proof was on Professor Hill.
Today our Republican colleagues are saying, "This is a hiccup," "Dr. Ford is mixed up," and declaring, "I'll listen to the lady, but we're going to bring this to a close."
What's worse, many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have also made it clear that no matter what happens today, the Senate will plow right through and ensure Judge Kavanaugh would be elevated within a week.
In fact, on Tuesday, the majority went ahead and scheduled a vote on the nomination before we heard one word of testimony regarding allegations of sexual assault and misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh. Republican leadership even told senators they should plan to be in over this weekend so the nomination can be pushed through without delay.
This is, despite the fact, that in the last few days two more women have come forward with their own serious allegations of sexual assault involving Brett Kavanaugh.
This past Sunday, we've learned about Debbie Ramirez, who was a student at Yale with Brett Kavanaugh. She, too, did not want to come forward, but after being approached by reporters, she told her story. She was at a college party where Kavanaugh exposed himself to her. She recalls pushing him away and then seeing him laughing and pulling his pants up.
Then yesterday, June (sic) Swetnick came forward to say that she had experiences of being at house parties with Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. She recounted seeing Kavanaugh engage, and I quote, "in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls," end quote, including attempts to, quote, "remove or shift girls clothing," end quote. Not taking, quote, "no for an answer," grabbing girls, quote "without their consent," end quote, and targeting, quote, "particular girls so that they could be taken advantage of," end quote.
Each of these stories are troubling on their own and each of these allegations should be investigated by the FBI. All three women have said they would like the FBI to investigate; please do so. All three have said they have other witnesses and evidence to corroborate their accounts. And yet Republicans continue to blindly push forward.
So today we're moving forward with a hearing and being asked to assess the credibility of Brett Kavanaugh.
He's made several statements about how his focus was on school, basketball, service projects, and going to church. He declared that he, quote, "never," end quote, drank so much he couldn't remember what happened, and he has, quote, "always treated women with dignity and respect," end quote.