Return to Transcripts main page
Brett Kavanaugh Testifies Before Senate. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired September 27, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You saw some of that with his FOX interview. He was slightly wooden, but there were times when he was almost seeming like he was breaking down and crying, and his wife was sitting there next to him.
I think one of the issues he's going to have, though, is those yearbook interviews, right, where he does kind of portray himself as something of a party boy, beach week, and the keg club, or whatever.
And you could see, when he was in the FOX interview, he was essentially saying that he was a choirboy, he was at church. He was doing a service project. I think, if you're a Democrat, you're going to go after that and see.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Nia, the question I have about Kavanaugh's testimony, which -- and I don't really know what the right answer is -- is, does he portray Dr. Ford as lying right or mistaken?
Those are two very different approaches.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: He has, as of now -- he has, as of now, never said lying. He has only said mistaken.
But President Trump and Kavanaugh's defenders have suggested that she is lying.
TOOBIN: Right, but now he has heard her say, I am 100 percent sure it was Brett Kavanaugh.
So it's really hard to go the mistaken route if she's so insistent. And I don't really know how -- what's the best way, but that's a really important choice he has to make.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: So this opening statement is going to set the tone, right?
And just in the break, I talked to two people who had been really involved in this confirmation long before these allegations, and neither of them had any idea what he was going to say. They haven't heard. They didn't know what the opening statement was. And one suggested, well, maybe -- maybe he's thinking about himself now, he's not thinking about the Republicans on the committee. He's not thinking about the White House. He's thinking about the fact that this is his current job, maybe, the Supreme Court seat and his reputation forever. So maybe we're going to really see something, a separation here in the statement. Maybe he will ask for something.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think this is where Rachel Mitchell could actually come in handy for him.
TAPPER: The prosecutor who the Republicans have hired to do the questioning.
BORGER: Right, and who has been widely criticized.
But I think that she could ask him questions which allows him to say 100 percent, 100 percent, don't remember this, she is mistaken. You know the Democrats, as John is saying, are going to go on the attack. They are just going to just attack, attack, attack.
And I think she may be able to draw him out on these things without putting him in a position where he is attacking Professor Ford.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Jake you said you said in the beginning that obviously we have all seen and we have all now experience the emotion of the morning from her.
And one senior Republican aide texted me about kind of the view of this from their point of view and said it is -- as you said, it's emotion vs. fact, the emotion of what she said and the fact that she sounds credible vs. the notion or the question of whether there are facts to back that up.
And it's unclear if Brett Kavanaugh can provide those facts.
TAPPER: Except, as we have talked about a great deal, this is not a court of law. This is politics and it's the court of public opinion. So actually emotion might factor much more than facts when it comes to what the senators ultimately decide.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, one thing about prosecutors, they are known for asking those direct, open-ended questions, but they're also masterful cross-examiners, to be able to put words into the witness' mouth and lead them through questioning.
And I think that you're right about the notion of perhaps she will be most strategically useful for Brett Kavanaugh to lead him to those uncomfortable moments that you had no idea, you're not blaming this woman for what happened to her, of course, she was a victim of sexual assault, it wasn't you, you don't know what -- you go through the whole thing to have that tension off.
And perhaps that's one of the reasons she was brought in for this purpose. But either way, he's going to have to come up and be very direct and not, as we talked about, not to attack her, but simply acknowledge it has happened to her, but I am not the one that did it.
If he can't pull that off, well, perhaps he doesn't have the credit to be there.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The senators, you see them walking back. And there you see Rachel Mitchell walking in as well.
This hearing is about to resume with the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He is U.S. Court of Appeals judge in Washington, D.C., right now. There, you see more of the senators going in.
John, I'm curious. Like all of us, we have covered Washington for a long time. You have to assume that people at the White House, including the president of the United States, are already thinking, if this nomination goes down, and it's very possible it will be going down, they're thinking of a substitute nominee.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course they are.
And the one thing this White House, for all the talk of chaos, all the talk of personnel turnover, all the talk of leaks and finger-pointing and tell-all books, the one thing they have gotten right since day one is their judicial nominations, both Supreme Court picks in terms of having a system in place, having a structure in place., the lower courts as well.
Now, there are some people, even Republicans, who say that's because they farmed a lot of it out, in sense, out to the Federalist Society, to the outside circle, but they've been good at this.
There's no doubt the president had a short list when he picked Brett Kavanaugh. And if he had to, he would go back. And as I think Senator Santorum was making the point earlier, you do that as quickly as possible, because if you get to that point you, want to move on, turn the page, close the chapter, open the new one.
But all indications are they're not prepared to do that, so I don't think we should get too far out there in that regard. At this moment, the White House is standing by Judge Kavanaugh. He has an incredibly high bar to reach in minutes.
And what you see happening out there is, I talked about the tribes earlier. Those who speak to the Republican tribe are trying to shore them up right now. You have people like Hugh Hewitt, you have people like Erick Erickson, people who speak to the Republicans, saying, you must stand, you must be firm.
Even Erick Erickson defending Rachel Mitchell, saying she brought some facts out. Dianne Feinstein referred Professor Ford to Debra Katz, facts that he thinks they're not going to help out in Omaha or out in San Antonio or out in New Mexico, but they're going to -- he thinks will help in a small room of Republicans to again keep people in the tribe. So I do think, as we watch this play out, there are several layers of
the jury here. To Republicans and their urgency to get Brett Kavanaugh on the court, the most important jury is five or six Republicans they need to keep in line. And if you're Judge Kavanaugh, to Ariane's point, who are you speaking to?
BLITZER: Here he comes. Here comes Judge Kavanaugh. You see the security surrounding Judge Kavanaugh.
He's being escorted into this hearing room. It will resume momentarily. It's a pretty big security crowd that he's got around him. He's a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, as we know.
You see some of his legal team is with him as well. This is a moment for this judge. That's his wife.
BORGER: Can you imagine? He's not only fighting for a Supreme Court. It's his reputation. It's his entire career.
This goes beyond the job at hand in many ways.
TAPPER: Well, and the argument is being made that, if Democrats do believe this to be true, if they believe that these charges are accurate, and all 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have said his nomination should be withdrawn, then are they going to ask that he be removed from the U.S. Court of Appeals?
BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.
TAPPER: Because if somebody is guilty of this crime and has perjured himself, then he shouldn't be on the U.S. Court of Appeals as well.
TAPPER: But Democrats have -- they have been pretty quiet about that.
BORGER: So far.
TOOBIN: Another point to remember, and it will interesting to see how the Democrats use this, if at all, is that there are two other named women who have made very specific accusations in a similar vein of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh.
Will they confront him? I bet they will. What does he say about Ms. Ramirez? What does he say about Ms. Swetnick?
HENDERSON: And of the details from the Debbie Ramirez was his laughter, right?
I mean, that's one of the things she remembered or says that happened. BLITZER: There he is.
TAPPER: Let's listen in.
BLITZER: Sitting in.
GRASSLEY: Judge Kavanaugh, we welcome you. Are you ready?
KAVANAUGH: I am.
GRASSLEY: I have a -- I have a -- something I want to clear up from the last meeting that doesn't affect you. So before I swear you, I would like to explain my response to Senator Kennedy right after the break.
At that time, I entered into the record statements of three witnesses Dr. Ford said were also at the party. These statements were provided to us under penalty of felony by lying to -- if you lie to Congress. As soon as my team learned the names of these three potential witnesses, we immediately reached out to them, requesting an interview. In response, all three submitted statements to us denying any knowledge of the gathering Dr. Ford described.
If we had calls with them, we would've invited the minority to join. Every time that we've received any information regarding Judge Kavanaugh, we've sought to immediately follow through and investigate. The minority staff sat on Dr. Ford's letter for weeks, and staff told us that they believed it is, quote, "highly inappropriate to have these follow-up calls before the FBI finishes its investigation," end of quote, even though the FBI had completed its background information.
When we followed up with Judge Kavanaugh after we received Dr. Ford's allegations, the ranking member's staff didn't join us, even though these calls are usually done on a bipartisan basis.
They joined other calls with the judge, but they didn't participate or ask any questions.
Would you please rise, sir?
GRASSLEY: Do you affirm that the testimony you're about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
KAVANAUGH: I do.
GRASSLEY: Yeah. And like we -- like we offered to senator -- or, to Dr. Ford, you can take whatever time you want now for your opening statement, and then we'll go to questions. So proceed.
KAVANAUGH: Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Feinstein, members of the committee, thank you for allowing me to make my statement. I wrote it myself yesterday afternoon and evening. No one has seen a draft, or it, except for one of my former law clerks. This is my statement.
Less than two weeks ago, Dr. Ford publicly accused me of committing wrongdoing at an event more than 36 years ago when we were both in high school. I denied the allegation immediately, categorically and unequivocally. All four people allegedly at the event, including Dr. Ford's longtime friend, Ms. Keyser, have said they recall no such event. Her longtime friend, Ms. Keyser, said under penalty of felony that she does not know me, and does not believe she ever saw me at a party, ever.
Here is the quote from Ms. Keyser's attorney's letter: quote, "Simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh, and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with or without Dr. Ford," end quote. Think about that fact.
The day after the allegation appeared, I told this committee that I wanted a hearing as soon as possible to clear my name. I demanded a hearing for the very next day. Unfortunately, it took the committee 10 days to get to this hearing. In those 10 long days, as was predictable, and as I predicted, my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations. The 10-day delay has been harmful to me and my family, to the Supreme Court and to the country.
When this allegation first arose, I welcomed any kind of investigation, Senate, FBI or otherwise. The committee now has conducted a thorough investigation, and I've cooperated fully. I know that any kind of investigation -- Senate, FBI, Montgomery County Police -- whatever, will clear me. Listen to the people I know. Listen to the people who've known me my whole life. Listen to the people I've grown up with, and worked with, and played with, and coached with, and dated, and taught, and gone to games with, and had beers with. And listen to the witnesses who allegedly were at this event 36 years ago. Listen to Ms. Keyser. She does not know me. I was not at the party described by Dr. Ford.
This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.
Since my nomination in July, there's been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation. Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate leader said he would, quote, "oppose me with everything he's got." A Democratic senator on this committee publicly -- publicly referred to me as evil -- evil. Think about that word. It's said that those who supported me were, quote, "complicit in evil." Another Democratic senator on this committee said, quote, "Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare." A former head of the Democratic National Committee said, quote, "Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come." [15:15:00]
I understand the passions of the moment, but I would say to those senators, your words have meaning. Millions of Americans listen carefully to you. Given comments like those, is it any surprise that people have been willing to do anything to make any physical threat against my family, to send any violent e-mail to my wife, to make any kind of allegation against me and against my friends. To blow me up and take me down.
You sowed the wind for decades to come. I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.
The behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment. But at least it was just a good old-fashioned attempt at Borking.
Those efforts didn't work. When I did at least OK enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was needed.
Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee, and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn't take me out on the merits.
When it was needed, this allegation was unleashed and publicly deployed over Dr. Ford's wishes. And then -- and then as no doubt was expected -- if not planned -- came a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process before any hearing occurred.
Crazy stuff. Gangs, illegitimate children, fights on boats in Rhode Island. All nonsense, reported breathlessly and often uncritically by the media.
This has destroyed my family and my good name. A good name built up through decades of very hard work and public service at the highest levels of the American government.
This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.
This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions, from serving our country.
And as we all know, in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around. I am an optimistic guy. I always try to be on the sunrise side of the mountain, to be optimistic about the day that is coming. But today, I have to say that I fear for the future. Last time I was here, I told this committee that a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure.
I said I was such a judge, and I am. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. You've tried hard. You've given it your all. No one can question your effort, but your coordinated and well- funded effort to destroy my good name and to destroy my family will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out.
You may defeat me in the final vote, but you'll never get me to quit. Never.
I'm here today to tell the truth. I've never sexually assaulted anyone. Not in high school, not in college, not ever. Sexual assault is horrific.
One of my closest friends to this day is a woman who was sexually abused and who, in the 1990s when we were in our 30s, confided in me about the abuse and sought my advice. I was one of the only people she consulted.
Allegations of sexual assault must always be taken seriously, always. Those who make allegations always deserve to be heard.
At the same time, the person who was the subject of the allegations also deserves to be heard. Due process is a foundation of the American rule of law. Due process means listening to both sides.
As I told you at my hearing three weeks ago, I'm the only child of Martha and Ed Kavanaugh. They're here today. When I was 10, my mom went to law school. And as a lawyer, she worked hard and overcame barriers, including the workplace sexual harassment that so many women faced (ph) at that time and still face today.
She became a trailblazer, one of Maryland's earliest women prosecutors and trial judges. She and my dad taught me the importance of equality and respect for all people, and she inspired me to be a lawyer and a judge.
Last time I was here, I told you that when my mom was a prosecutor and I was in high school, she used to practice her closing arguments at the dining room table, on my dad and me.
As I told you, her trademark line was, "Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?" Her trademark line is a good reminder, as we sit here today, some 36 years after the alleged event occurred when there is no corroboration and indeed it is refuted by the people allegedly there.
After I've been in the public arena for 26 years without even a hint -- a whiff -- of an allegation like this. And when my nomination to the Supreme Court was just about to be voted on, at a time when I'm called "evil" by a Democratic member of this committee, while Democratic opponents of my nomination say people will die if I am confirmed.
This onslaught of last-minute allegations does not ring true. I'm not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done this. To her or to anyone. That's not who I am. It is not who I was. I am innocent of this charge.
I intend no ill will to Dr. Ford and her family. The other night, Ashley and my daughter, Liza, said their prayers. And little Liza -- all of 10 years old -- said to Ashley, "We should pray for the woman." It's a lot of wisdom from a 10-year old. We mean -- we mean no ill will.
First, let's start with my career. For the last 26 years, since 1992, I have served in many high profile and sensitive government positions for which the FBI has investigated my background six separate times. Six separate FBI background investigations over 26 years. All of them after the elent (ph) -- event alleged here. I have been in the public arena and under extreme public scrutiny for decades.
In 1992, I worked for the Office of Solicitor General in the Department of Justice. In 1993, I clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Anthony Kennedy. I spent 4 years at the Independent Counsel's office during the 1990s. That office was the subject of enormous scrutiny from the media and the public. During 1998, the year of the impeachment of President Clinton, our office generally and I personally were in the middle of an intense national media and political spotlight.
I and other leading members of Ken Starr's office were opposition researched from head to toe, from birth through the present day. Recall the people who were exposed that year of 1998 as having in engaged in some sexual wrongdoing or indiscretions in their pasts. One person on the left even paid a million dollars for people to report evidence of sexual wrongdoing, and it worked. Exposed some prominent people. Nothing about me.
From 2001 to 2006, I worked for President George W. Bush in the White House. As Staff Secretary, I was by President Bush's side for 3 years and was entrusted with the nation's most sensitive secrets. I traveled on Air Force One all over the country and the world with President Bush. I went everywhere with him, from Texas to Pakistan, from Alaska to Australia, from Buckingham Palace to the Vatican. Three years in the West Wing, 5 1/2 years in the White House.
I was then nominated to be a judge on the D.C. Circuit. I was thoroughly vetted by the White House, the FBI, the American Bar Association, and this committee. I sat before this committee for two thorough confirmation hearings in 2004 and 2006.
For the past 12 years leading up to my nomination for this job, I've served in a very public arena as a federal judge on what is often referred to as the second-most important court in the country. I've handled some of the most significant sensitive cases affecting the lives and liberties of the American people.
I have been a good judge. And for this nomination, another FBI background investigation, another American Bar Association investigation, 31 hours of hearings, 65 senator meetings, 1,200 written questions, more than all previous Supreme Court nominees combined.
Throughout that entire time, throughout my 53 years and 7 months on this Earth, until last week, no one ever accused me of any kind of sexual misconduct. No one, ever. A lifetime. A lifetime of public service and a lifetime of high-profile public service at the highest levels of American government and never a hint of anything of this kind, and that's because nothing of this kind ever happened.
Second, let's turn to specifics. I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford. I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford. I never attended a gathering like the one Dr. Ford describes in her allegation. I've never sexually assaulted Dr. Ford or anyone.
Again, I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done that to her or to anyone.
Dr. Ford's allegation stems from a party that she alleges occurred during the summer of 1982, 36 years ago. I was 17 years old, between my junior and senior years of high school at Georgetown Prep, a rigorous all-boys Catholic Jesuit High School in Rockville, Maryland. When my friends and I spent time together at parties on weekends, it was usually the -- with friends from nearby Catholic all-girls high schools, Stone Ridge, Holy Child, Visitation, Immaculata, Holy Cross.
Dr. Ford did not attend one of those schools. She attended an independent private school named Holton-Arms and she was a year behind me. She and I did not travel in the same social circles. It is possible that we met at some point at some events, although I do not recall that. To repeat, all of the people identified by Dr. Ford as being present at the party have said they do not remember any such party ever happening.
Importantly her friend, Ms. Keyser, has not only denied knowledge of the party, Ms. Keyser said under penalty of felony she does not know me, does not recall ever being at a party with me ever.