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Senate Committee to Vote on Kavanaugh Confirmation. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired September 28, 2018 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00] SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Don't get rattled by all this. We're going to plow right through it," end quote. This was not about insuring a fair process. This was about doing the bare minimum.

And finally, to my Republican colleagues who are so upset about the time that has passed, let's be clear. Dr. Ford asked for confidentiality. And that's what I did. We all know that if I had referred her allegations to the FBI, when she would not come forward, there would have been nothing to do. The FBI would have had an anonymous allegation with no name, no contact information, and no way to follow up.

In addition, Dr. Ford's allegations were referred to the FBI on September 12th, over two weeks ago. If the president and the Republican majority had asked for the FBI to do an investigation at that time, like we asked, it would likely be finished by now. And most importantly, when Judge Kavanaugh has talked to Republicans repeatedly, none of us have spoken to or questioned Mark Judge, Patrick Smyth, Leland Keyser, or the polygraph examiner.

None of us have talked to or questioned James Roach, Lynn Brooks, Liz Swisher, Tom Cane, or Chris Dudley. Not one senator, as far as I know, has had the opportunity from -- opportunity to or question Deborah Ramirez or Julie Swetnick.

My colleagues are right that we should not rush to judgment, and it's not fair to assume Judge Kavanaugh is guilty without gathering the information. But it's equally unfair to have heard from a credible, poised, and brave witness and simply ignore what we heard and move forward immediately.

I don't know Deborah Ramirez. I don't know whether her allegations are credible. I don't know Julie Swetnick. I don't know whether her allegations are credible. But I do know this. Dr. Ford provided credible, powerful testimony that deserves to be considered and not dismissed as a partisan smear campaign which it was not.

In my opening statement yesterday, I talked about the differences between Me Too and the Year of the Woman. And I highlighted the seriousness of sexual assault and harassment. I started out by saying, I hoped we would do better and show women that our country, our committee, has in fact changed.

This isn't a political battle for power, as some have said. This is a serious undertaking with serious allegations. While the Republican strategy is no longer attack the victim, it is ignore the victim.

The entire country is watching now how we handle these serious allegations. It is in fact a real test for the United States Senate and for our country to see how we treat women, especially women who are survivors of sexual assault.

I believe we can do better, and I hope we are better. Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, I'd like to submit for the record a longer statement that addresses some of the attacks regarding my office's handling of Dr. Ford's allegations and the Republican administration.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Obviously, without objection, those will be included.

Before I call on Senator Hatch, since this keeps coming up about the FBI investigation, I'd like to repeat what you've heard from me so many times, but I guess we never get this -- get people understanding.

We can't learn anything from the FBI that we can't learn ourselves. The Senate has our own constitutional duty and our own investigators to follow up on these allegations. I'm not -- I don't think we should discredit the Senate's constitutional duty of oversight as a co-equal independent branch of government.

If the people on the other side of the aisle sincerely want an FBI investigation, I would ask why they did not notify me of Dr. Ford's then confidential letter way back in July so the FBI could weigh in.

[10:05:03] The FBI would honor confidentiality and so would I. And I have had 38 years reputation of protecting -- or confidentiality of whistleblowers. Another span of time for an FBI investigation, as my Democratic colleagues have called for, or even more recently, people outside calling for, would result in another time of brutal attacks on Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh and their families.

They don't deserve those sorts of vile threats that they're receiving. And it's unacceptable. Dr. Ford has stated no objections to an FBI investigation, so why has the need for an FBI investigation only come to our attention here in the last several days, probably less than two weeks? It's been 60 days since Dr. Ford's letter was -- Dr. Ford's letter was made public.

Then we've had some comment about why we didn't investigate Ramirez. When I learned of Miss Ramirez's allegations, I acted immediately to investigate them. Unlike our Democratic colleagues, some of whom sat on her story and apparently conducted their own private investigation rather than share it with the committee.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Mr. Chairman, excuse me for interrupting. But could we have order?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Well, in fact, I would agree on the order. The order would be, we go back and forth, and apparently, you can have two Republicans speak and one Democrat. Is that what the chairman is doing? GRASSLEY: That's what -- absolutely. After I get done, and I'm not

giving an opening statement, I'm explaining as the chairman ought to explain, the work of the committee to people that don't seem to understand it. I'll call on Senator Hatch when I'm done, and then I'm going to call on you, Senator Leahy.

When I learned of Miss Ramirez's allegations, I acted immediately to investigate them, unlike our Democratic colleagues, some of who sat on her story and apparently conducted their own private investigation rather than share it with the chairman. I first learned of her allegations when they became public in the article "New Yorker" published late Sunday evening, September 23rd.

My staff immediately contacted her counsel asking when she was available for an interview with committee investigators. The next afternoon, Monday, September 24, her counsel responded that Miss Ramirez, quote, "has accurately re-laid what she recalls to the 'New Yorker,'" end of quote. Her counsel added, however, that, quote, "She would welcome an investigation by the FBI into this investigation and would cooperate with such. On appropriate terms, she would also agree to be interviewed in person," end of quote.

Over the 24th and the 25th of this month, my staff repeatedly asked Miss Ramirez's counsel two questions before setting up a call to discuss her allegations. So that such a call could actually be meaningful and useful. Number one, whether she had, quote, "any other evidence, including other statements in addition to those that are contained in the 'New Yorker' article," end of quote. And two, whether she was, quote, "willing to provide her evidence including her testimony to committee investigators," end of quote.

My staff repeatedly made clear that it welcomed, quote, "the receipt of Miss Ramirez or anyone else's evidence in the form of a letter or e-mail to the chairman and ranking member. A letter or e-mail from counsel to the chairman or ranking member, or a statement to committee investigators."

Miss Ramirez's counsel has still not provided any evidence to committee staff. If evidence emerged, we, of course, would proceed as appropriate. My staff also acted swiftly to set up an interview with Judge Kavanaugh. He unequivocally denied Miss Ramirez's allegations.

I regret that my Democratic colleagues again failed to timely bring this relevant information to his attention. The article makes clear that some Democratic senators have known of Miss Ramirez's allegations for some time. And it quotes one Democratic member of the committee as saying this allegation, quote, "should be fully investigated," end of quote.

[10:10:01] That is exactly what I have done and what could have been done easier if Senate Democrats had not kept the information to themselves.

And then my last one will deal with the Swetnick allegations. Two days ago, we became aware of the allegations of Julie Swetnick. She claimed that Judge Kavanaugh was involved in a gang rape ring around Washington, D.C. area in the 1980s. My staff has been trying to obtain evidence of her claims and interview her since Sunday, three days before she made her allegation public. But her attorney has so far not cooperated in the investigation.

But by the accuser's own description, she regularly attended parties where she knew girls were being gang raped. Instead of telling authorities about this serious criminal activity, she continued to attend them. And somehow the FBI missed Judge Kavanaugh's six full field background investigations while he worked in a high-profile position in the White House and the judiciary. The fact that he was a regular participant in these gang rape parties.

Now that ought to get a lot of people's attention. We had six full field background investigations by the FBI. And what he was accused of by Miss Swetnick never showed up. And that ought to be -- if it was that much of an activity on his part, surely the FBI would know about it.

Senator Hatch.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This has been a very difficult set of hearings, and a difficult mark up, and I think you have handled it very well. And I compliment all of our people on both sides of the aisle for approaching this very seriously. And it should be approached seriously.

It's been 81 days since President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Since then, we have reviewed more records of this nominee than for any Supreme Court nominee in history. Ever. Ever. Judge Kavanaugh has testified for well over 30 hours, including in a closed session. He has answered nearly 1300 written questions, more than all other past Supreme Court nominees combined.

In the more than 12 years that Judge Kavanaugh has been a judge on the D.C. Circuit, he's built a reputation for honesty, courtesy, and integrity. His clerks and colleagues sing his praises. He volunteers in the community. He's been an advocate for and mentor to his students.

After Democrats unleashed the recent allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, Chairman Grassley sent out a deliberative process to investigate. He has not been, as some claim, a bully. Far from it. But rather than working with us, my Democratic colleagues chose not to participate in this process. Indeed, before yesterday, they had never even asked Judge Kavanaugh a single question about these allegations.

And yet again and again, the refrain has been the same, delay, delay, delay. I can't blame them for that because they are partisan people, and I guess they figured that would be to their advantage. Well, it's not. When we heard the serious allegations made by Dr. Ford, we recognized that we needed to hear her testimony. Chairman Grassley was committed to making sure that she had a safe forum in which to tell her story.

He tried to make it a forum of her choosing, either public or private. Although it appears the lawyers, my Democratic colleagues suggested to her had other plans. Yesterday, we finally were able to hear from Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh.

I want to personally thank them, but I want to thank them both for attending the hearing and speaking to the committee and to all of us and to the American public as well. After the hearing, I saw that Mr. Avenatti had decided that the best place for his client to give her first interview was on a show called "The Circus." The title is fitting. Because that is what this process has become.

All of my Democratic colleagues have said for weeks they will vote against Judge Kavanaugh. Here's where I stand. We can't allow more time for new smears -- we can't allow more time for new smears to damage Judge Kavanaugh, his family, his reputation, the reputation of the court, and of course, the reputation of the country.

[10:15:08] We cannot allow more time for partisans on the left to try to beat Judge Kavanaugh into submission. We can prolong this process knowing that in the meantime -- and we shouldn't prolong it is what I'm saying. Without knowing that in the meantime Judge Kavanaugh's family and our country will be dragged through the mud, or we can end this circus and frankly we've reached a point where it's time to end the circus.

It's time to show some dignity around here. It's time to vote. People can make their closing statements. They can vote whatever way they want to. Nobody is telling them what to do. And frankly, we've had enough time on this to choke a horse. And I just have to say, let's be fair about this. Let's vote whichever way we want to and let's move on this.

I personally am tired of all the games and all the gamesmanship that's been going on around, not just this nominee but others as well.

And Mr. Chairman, as a former chairman of this committee and a chairman of two other committees in my time in the Senate, I want you to know that I think you've done a terrific job. You've been fair. You've been very decent in your approach. You have treated everybody with respect. You've especially treated our Democratic colleagues with respect, which they deserve. And frankly, you're a great chairman.

And I think we ought to all acknowledge that and start treating our chairman with a little more respect and dignity. We all respect him. We all know what a good man he is.

I also think the ranking member has been good through this process as well. I like her very much. She's very sincere. She's on the other side of this from me, but she believes in what she's doing, and I have to stand up and say she has a right to do that. And I just want her to know that I appreciate her and her leadership on this committee.

But it's time to vote. It's time to quit making the political -- you can make your political statements, but they ought to be made in lieu of the vote and then we ought to vote this and make a final determination on where this nominee is going to go. For one --

GRASSLEY: Senator Leahy. HATCH: I'm not finished. For one, I know Judge Kavanaugh. I have

known him for long time. He has an impeccable reputation. He's well respected as a judge in this country. By Democrats and Republicans who know him well. And it would be an absolute crying shame if we keep treating him like he's some sort of an impostor or some sort of person that just can't do this job.

He can do the job. He has done the job, and he's doing it on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the country, and I have a lot of confidence in him. But those who don't, they can vote no.

GRASSLEY: Senator Leahy.

LEAHY: You know, in some ways, it feels like "Alice in Wonderland" around here. It's unbelievable where we are today. It's almost surreal.

This Judiciary Committee is no longer an independent branch of government. And we're supposed to be. The Senate is supposed to be an independent equal branch of government. We're no longer that. We are an arm and a very weak arm of the Trump White House. Every semblance of independence has just disappeared. It's gone. And I think that is something historians will look at, and they'll call it a turning point in the United States Senate.

This committee, after months of breaking precedent after precedent in a manic rush to fill a Supreme Court seat, is now on the verge of voting on a nominee who has been credibly accused of sexual assault and the committee hasn't even conducted a meaningful investigation.

Yesterday, we heard the powerful and courageous testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Following her testimony, I doubt that not one of us left the committee room doubting her credibility. I'm sure nobody doubted her credibility. But then Judge Kavanaugh angrily denied the allegation and I'll get to that shortly. But we should all agree that a credible allegation of sexual assault against a nominee to our nation's highest court demands that we proceed with the utmost caution.

[10:20:04] Our constitutional obligation at the very least is to investigate these allegations properly. This isn't about delaying a nomination until after the election. Even though we have that precedent when the Republicans did that with Merrick Garland. This is about doing our job. This is what we're elected to do, what we're paid to do. And the first step is an FBI investigation. That has always been the first step when new derogatory information comes to light about a nominee.

Even in one instance when the information was as minor as decades-old marijuana use, Republicans still made sure we had an FBI investigation. Why is Judge Kavanaugh, who is facing much more serious allegations, serious allegations of sexual abuse, why is he being held to a lower standard than all of the nominees before him? Certainly all of the nominees I have seen in 44 years. A proper investigation also means hearing from all of the witnesses.

That includes the four witnesses who signed sworn affidavits offered by Dr. Ford. And most stunningly, this committee has refused to call the sole eyewitness to the alleged assault, Mark Judge. Instead, all we have is a brief letter from Mr. Judge vaguely asserting that he has no memory of this alleged incident.

Well, I would like to ask him questions about that under oath, and a lot of us would. He has effectively nailed a do not disturb sign, and apparently the Republicans on this committee are satisfied as if oral testimony and opportunity to question a witness is unnecessary.

Now whether you believe Judge Kavanaugh or you believe Dr. Ford, the fact that we're not allowed to hear, somebody said to be the sole eyewitness, is outrageous. Everybody here knows that.

I said yesterday that earlier time, the Senate failed Anita Hill whom I believe. Today, we're doing even worse. The time of Anita Hill, we had an FBI investigation. We had almost two dozen witnesses. Here, Republicans are not willing to do either. Even if it would delay this information or this nomination just a matter of a week or two. Certainly far short of the November election.

They don't want to hear women who have relevant evidence. Is that really what the Senate Judiciary Committee has lowered itself to? I'm at a loss how Republicans could think they have heard enough about Dr. Ford's allegations and are ready to move on. I think you should look at what the reactions are you're getting around this country. Dr. Ford captivated the nation yesterday with her horrifying story of sexual assault.

Every minute of her testimony was credible. She knew Brett Kavanaugh. She knew Mark Judge. This was not a case of mistaken identity. And in a moment that I'll never forget, when I asked her for her strongest memory, something from the incident she couldn't escape she testified, indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two.

As a teenage Judge Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned Dr. Ford down to the bed and attempted to sexually assault her, indelible is the memory of the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two.

As a member of this committee, as a former prosecutor, as a husband and a parent, I have found Dr. Ford's testimony to be wholly credible.

[10:25:07] And not one member of this committee has suggested she was not. And the same cannot be said of Judge Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh's veracity has been an issue every single time he's ever testified before this Senate. Whether it's repeatedly telling senators they had no role in vetting or working on various controversial Bush era judicial nominees, something that turned out to be a blatant untruth, or whether it's testifying in response to more than 100 different questions from both Republican -- half a dozen Republican and Democratic senators, they never received or believed he received obviously stolen material from Democratic senators' computers. That was another blatant untruth. We found we could not depend on

Judge Kavanaugh to tell the truth under oath. We only learned the truth years later. We only learned the truth of what he had said, what he had said untruthfully after we reviewed the small portion of his White House record that Chairman Grassley was willing to request for this nomination.

Time and time again, when confronted under oath with questions about his involvement in Bush era scandals or controversial matters, Judge Kavanaugh misled the Senate. Now the fact that he's misled the Senate over and over and over again, that does not make him guilty of sexual assault as a 17-year-old. Nor does the fact that he minimized the heavy drinking in his youth and misrepresented the misogyny in his yearbook.

But it does go to the heart of Judge Kavanaugh's truthfulness any time he's faced with potentially incriminating questions. Yesterday, Judge Kavanaugh falsely claimed over and over again that every other person Dr. Ford placed in the house said the assault didn't happen. That's just not true. And we know it's not. The only person who has claimed this incident didn't happen is Brett Kavanaugh. The others said they had no knowledge or memory of it.

Just as Dr. Ford assumed they would say given that it was for them an ordinary night. And one of them even stated she believed Dr. Ford, which of course, Judge Kavanaugh conveniently failed to acknowledge.

Judge Kavanaugh's defiance and evasiveness, his vehement partisan attacks against members of this committee, in the face of powerful incriminating testimony surpassed even that of Clarence Thomas at the time of Anita Hill. He tried to portray Dr. Ford's allegation as part of a calculated and orchestrated political hit.

My years as a prosecutor, I saw a lot of times when people tried to blame the victim. Not to own up to their own deeds. He angrily asserted baseless political tirades. He was all too eager to promote the false Republican talking point that Senator Feinstein was lying in wait with this allegation. He even claimed the allegations were driven by revenge on behalf of the Clintons.

It's hard to make this stuff up. That amounts to conspiratorial madness. In my time in the Senate, I have never seen such volatility, partisanship, and a lack of judicial temperament from any nominee for any court in any administration. There's no secret that I have deep concerns about what a Justice Kavanaugh would mean for the rights of women, for workers, for health care, for unchecked presidential power, and other important issues.

I also believe he's unfit to serve on our nation's highest court because of his history of misleading the Senate while under oath. But as serious as these concerns are, this is different. Voting to advance and ultimately confirm Judge Kavanaugh while he's under this dark cloud of suspicion will forever change the Senate and our nation's highest court.