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Senate Judiciary Committee to Take Key Vote on Kavanaugh at 1:30 P.M. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 28, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00] SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R), TEXAS: I thought Ms. Mitchell did a good job.

But to somehow wrap themselves in the normal compassion we would somehow -- that we do feel for somebody in Dr. Ford's situation and claim that we have -- are not treating her well by pointing out the overt politicization of this process is simply trying to take our eye off the ball. There has been a calculated effort to manipulate this process in a way that is blatantly unfair to Dr. Ford and to Judge Kavanaugh. And that's shameful. I said yesterday I think this is one of the darkest days for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings that occurred back in the '50s. You may recall the comments of one of the lawyers who said, "I never really gauged your cruelty or recklessness before today." And asked Senator McCarthy, "Have you no sense of decency?" I think this process has been cruel and reckless and indecent for both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. And it did not have to be that way.

When we learned yesterday from Dr. Ford that she did not authorize the release of the letter of July 30 that she sent to Senator Feinstein, she did not authorize it, she did not want it leaked. But it was leaked. And she said the only people that had possession of it were her lawyers, Senator Feinstein, and Representative Eshoo. You can reach your own conclusion, but the letter had to come from somewhere.

And when she testified that she was not informed of Chairman Grassley's offer to travel where she was, to interview her with bipartisan participation about her claims, she said she didn't -- it wasn't clear to her that offer had ever been made. So when the letter was leaked by somebody, when the offer to interview her before a bipartisan panel of investigators at a place and time of her choosing, out of the public eye, when that was not communicated, it sure looks to me, at least the circumstantial evidence would seem to point, to the desire to have exactly what we had yesterday. And to contribute to what has only been, what has been described as -- accurately as a circus atmosphere. Cruel, reckless, no sense of decency.

I would point to the fact that Judge Kavanaugh said, as long as this nomination has been pending, you have seen a trend toward more and more scurrilous, salacious, and uncorroborated allegations being made against him. All of which the chairman and the committee professional staff have attempted to investigate. We heard from Dr. Ford. We also saw a claim by a Ms. Ramirez that was uncorroborated by the dozens of witnesses that allegedly existed. But the "New York Times" could not confirm. Nobody would confirm her allegation. And then yesterday, the ranking member quoted from some of the claims -- a Ms. Swetnick, represented by Mr. Avenatti. And I was struck by the fact that some of the allegations made in the statement by Ms. Swetnick that we got on September 25th, 2018, accused Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh to gang rape high school girls at a time when Ms. Swetnick was in college and says she went back to parties in high school where girls were gang raped. Not on one occasion, not on two occasions. She said she went to 10 such parties. I'm shocked that our colleagues would embrace this kind of uncorroborated, outrageous, salacious allegation, considering the facts and the timing and the representation by Stormy Daniels' lawyer. Obviously, eager for more public attention and notoriety. But you didn't hear that in the quote from the ranking member yesterday when she quoted from some of the allegations made by Ms. Swetnick.

[11:06:12] Our friend, the ranking member, said yesterday that the integrity of the Senate is on trial. I agree with that. And we're failing badly.

Cruelty, recklessness, indecency toward the people we should be treating with respect and dignity.

That extends to Mark Judge. Isn't it obvious what is happening here with Mark Judge? He has submitted a statement, under penalty of felony, saying that, "Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school. But we have not spoken for several years. I do not recall the events described by Dr. Ford in her testimony before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee today." He submitted that statement yesterday. He said, "I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes. I am knowingly submitting this letter under penalty of felony."

So he says he has nothing more to offer. He's submitted his statement under penalty of felony. But here's the other part. He admits to being a recovering alcoholic as well as a cancer survivor. He said he struggles with depression and anxiety so much that he avoids public speaking. And our colleagues across the aisle believe that the appropriate course of conduct is to drag Mr. Judge into this circus- like atmosphere and to subject his battle with alcoholism and addiction to public investigation and scrutiny and ridicule. That is cruel. That is reckless. That is indecent.

So, Mr. Chairman, in conclusion, I believe this is a calculated effort to delay the vote. I think the evidence all points to that. And the longer we go without voting, it's clear to me that people like Mr. Avenatti and others eager to get attention and willing to peddle the most salacious, uncorroborated, outrageous allegations against this nominee, that we'll continue to see more of the same.

It's well known that about 150 nominations are pending on the Senate calendar. If there's been one thing that's been the hallmark of our colleagues' conduct across the aisle during the time of the Trump administration, it's to obstruct, delay, and deny this administration the benefit of the nominees which they have sent to the Senate for advice and consent. That includes not only judges but all aspects of the federal government. And 150 nominations pending on the Senate calendar because, even with uncontroversial nominees, they want to obstruct, delay, and deny this administration the benefit of the people they have chosen to help govern. So it strikes me as entirely consistent with what we have seen on this nomination. And I think it's disgraceful, as Senator Hatch said yesterday. I think the way Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have been treated is a scandal. And it is cruel, reckless, and indecent.

[11:10:30] SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDCIARY COMMITTEE: Senator Whitehouse?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thank you, Chairman.

I'll be fairly brief. Because I announced my intention to vote against Kavanaugh already.

Judge Kavanaugh has an unpleasant record, both of associations with and rulings for a powerful array of activist Republican special interests to whom he gives a 90 percent win rate. The Supreme Court has an equally unpleasant record of five-four partisan rulings for those same big interests. Not three or four times, not even one or two dozen times, but under Chief Justice Roberts, 70 times. All five- four partisan decisions.

The court is flying all the warning flags of a captured agency, dancing to special interest tunes, and rampaging through precedent and principle to get there. This will be a disaster for the court, and I believe Kavanaugh will contribute to that disaster. His partisan screed yesterday was telling.

As to yesterday, let me be frank. I believe Dr. Ford. I may be wrong, but I believed her. And I believe Kavanaugh dodged and dissembled, ranted and raved, filibustered and prevaricated. I did not find him credible. I don't believe boof is flatulence. I don't believe a devil's triangle is a drinking game. And I don't believe calling yourself a girl's alumnius is being her friend. And I think drinking until you ralph or fall out of the bus or don't remember the game or need to piece together your memory the next day is more consistent with Dr. Ford's and others' testimony than his own. If Dr. Ford's testimony is true, I hope we can all agree Kavanaugh has no business on the court. And I, for one, believed her.

But set aside my own belief. As a prosecutor, I am horrified at what the committee has done. Terminating the FBI background investigation before these new allegations were even considered. Doing partisan interviews by partisan staffers, declaredly determined to force the nominee through. Letting Kavanaugh's alleged accomplice in the assault, the guy in the room with him when it happened, get away with a lawyer's letter and no testimony, no cross-examination. The lawyers in the room will know the reverence with which Wigmore is cited as legal authority in decisions across the country and for decades. "Beyond any doubt," he wrote, "the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth is cross-examination." Mark Judge is in hiding instead of under subpoena. And that greatest legal engine has been deliberately disabled in this matter.

[11:15:31] Let me have one example of where investigation might help. Here's Kavanaugh's calendar. Dr. Ford said that Kavanaugh and Judge and P.J. and at least one other boy were all at a house. Well, we know Brett Kavanaugh was there, because it's his schedule. And here's Judge, and here's P.J. Here are all those three named boys and others at a house together, just as she said. She said Kavanaugh and Judge were drunk. And that she had a beer. Skis is brewskies, beer. They were drinking, just as she said. Now, I will concede that the two girls aren't mentioned. But spot me this. If you had just sexually assaulted one of the two girls, would you add the girls' names to your calendar? I doubt it. This may, may be powerful corroborating evidence that the assault happened. That it happened that day. And that it happened in that place. But with no FBI investigation, we can't tell. That's how you get out of Lindsey's batter's box. You investigate. It's the least thing a sexual assault victim is entitled to when she comes forward.

The FBI could interview all the attendees, not just to obtain simple denials, but to cross check and see if the stories add up. The FBI could see if the house matches the locality and description Dr. Ford gave. The FBI could inquire after and pursue other corroborating or exculpatory evidence. It's what they do.

Anybody who has done any serious investigation knows you don't stop just with witness statements of interested parties. You run down corroborating and impeaching evidence. You check and cross check. You ask and go back again. You do the basic blocking and tackling of investigation. Partisan interviews by political staff predetermined to clear the nominee just aren't the same as real investigators doing real investigation and corroboration.

I don't think this has ever happened before in the history of background investigations, closing out the background investigation without investigating new credible allegations. You cannot tell me Ms. Ford's allegations weren't credible. They were credible enough to get her before the Senate. And yet, she was not given the most basic decent thing that a witness or victim could be given after they come forward, sincere or thorough investigation. Closing out the background investigation without investigating new credible allegations, not any of three allegations, all from women demonstrably in Kavanaugh's social circle.

[11:20:25] Look at this ridiculous letter from the other alleged assailant in the room. And it's equally ridiculous, yesterday's fig leaf, I guess you would call it, where the same statement is repeated just this time with his signature on it. And ask yourself, do you think Investigator Kavanaugh would have tolerated letters like this from the third person in the room? Had there been one with Mr. Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky? Never in a million years. And yet, this is what we're supposed to satisfy ourselves with in this matter. It is preposterous to anyone who has ever done serious investigation. Yet this is what we are left with. We have done a botch of an investigation.

Over time, I expect the facts to come out. They have a way of doing that. Cover-ups never last. The sand is running through Kavanaugh's hourglass. And I pledge whatever I can do to make sure that the truth of his conduct is ultimately determined. Setting aside this botch, we go back to a Supreme Court far too often

dancing to the tune of a handful of big Republican special interests. Big Republican special interests funding the Federalist Society that is now picking Supreme Court nominees. Big Republican special interests using the unlimited dark-money power the Supreme Court gave them to mount TV ad campaigns for Supreme Court nominees. Big Republican special interests funding frequent-flyer entities (ph), so- called friends of the court, offering constant instruction and encouragement to the five Republicans on the Supreme Court. And big Republican special interests on the winning side of those 70 five-four partisan victories. The fruits of their political labor. People are catching on. The record of this is undeniable. And as I said, it will be a disaster for the court.

I yield my time.

GRASSLEY: I think I should try to clarify about the calendar that Senator Whitehouse put up there. The entry has six boys listed for July 1st, 1982. It says, "Go to Timmy's house for skis with Judge, Tom, P.J., Bernie, and Squi." Dr. Ford said there were four boys there. The calendar entry lists six, plus Kavanaugh. That's seven. That's the wrong gathering.

Two allegations made by my colleague are incorrect. The first, I never terminated an FBI investigation. I didn't have any authority to open or close an FBI investigation. The FBI considers this matter closed. If my colleagues were worried about the partisanship of the investigation, the Democrats could have joined us at every step of the way. However, we all know they declined to participate.

Second, we did receive a letter signed by Mark Judge himself, under penalty of felony. I read it previously this morning.

Senator Lee?

[11:25:00] SEN. MIKE LEE, (R), UTAH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

There's been a lot of talk about the need for an FBI investigation. There are many of us who wish that that's where this would have begun. As it should have begun. As it could have begun had these letters been handed over to the FBI with the request they be investigated at an earlier time, as early as late July or early August.

And let's talk for a minute about what would have happened had that occurred. They would have gone to Dr. Ford and they would have interviewed her, and they would have prepared a report outlining Dr. Ford's allegations. If that report would have reflected more or less what we heard yesterday, probably a more distilled version of that, similar to what we saw in her written statements before she appeared before this committee. They would have gone to Judge Kavanaugh, they would have interviewed Judge Kavanaugh, and Judge Kavanaugh would have told us then, as he told us yesterday, that no such event ever occurred. He never did this to any woman, not in high school, not in college, not before, not after. They would have gone to the other alleged eyewitnesses to this event, including Mark Judge, Patrick Smyth, and Leland Keyser. They would have taken statements from each of them. And those statements would have indicated, as they have each indicated in written statements submitted to this committee, that they recall no such event ever occurring. And so we have investigated. I, too, wish it had been investigated by the FBI. And had it been investigated by the FBI at the outset, as it could have been, as it should have been, as it would have been when these letters were received, then this could have been handled in a much more dignified manner, in a manner much more respectful to Dr. Ford, in a manner much more respectful to Judge Kavanaugh, and respectful to both of their families and, indeed, this entire process.

Now, some have mentioned today that there was some emotion in the room yesterday. Yes, certainly. These are emotional circumstances. My heart goes out to both Dr. Ford and her family and Judge Kavanaugh and his family. They have both been through a lot. I don't blame either one of them for demonstrating some emotion. Not for a moment. In the case of Dr. Ford, clearly, she's been through something awful. In the case of Judge Kavanaugh, he, in recent days, has seen, in addition to this allegation dragging his name into the public record, he's seen his name dragged through the mud on a lot of other things, including an allegation that he was involved in and, in effect, running a drug distribution and gang-rape ring. Ask yourself the question, if you or someone you love was alleged to have been involved in running something like that, might not you feel a little bit emotional as well? And might not that spill out into your testimony if you were called in front of this committee?

Look, we have a job to do here today. Our job yesterday was to hear from Dr. Ford and to hear from Judge Kavanaugh. We have done that. Our job now is to vote. Today, we're going to do that.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

GRASSLEY: Senator Klobuchar?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I said at the first day of the first hearing regarding Judge Kavanaugh that this is not normal. It might look normal. You have the nominee. You have the family behind them. You have all the cameras on. But it wasn't normal. It wasn't normal because this nominee was hand-picked by a president who, in just the last week, has gone after his attorney general, threatened to fire the deputy attorney general who's overseeing a major investigation, a national security investigation, hand-picked by a president who is constantly undermining law enforcement, constantly undermining the FBI. And yet, this president picked a nominee who has the most expansive view of executive power that we have seen. A president, a view of executive power that, according to his writings and even the case law, says in his own words in an opinion, that a president should be able to declare laws unconstitutional. In his own views in legal writings that a president should be able to be immune from investigation while sitting in office. That we shouldn't have a special counsel statute.