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Senate Judiciary to Take Key Vote on Kavanaugh at 1:30 p.m. ET. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired September 28, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: 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. It will politicize the U.S. Supreme Court, a branch of our government that should be above politics. And for victims and survivors of sexual violence struggling with whether to come forward, the consequences may be even worse. Every one of us who's been a prosecutor has seen how hard it is sometimes for victims to come forward. And are we sending the signal that you stay there, don't come forward.
You know, how this committee handles this nomination will be viewed as a reflection of how seriously our society views credible claims of sexual misconduct. During Dr. Ford's testimony, the national sexual assault hotline saw an unprecedented 147 percent increase in calls. When survivors see us taking sexual assault seriously, they're empowered to come forward. If they see us callously sweeping it under the rug, I fear they'll have disastrous consequences. If victims think they'll never be believed and it will not matter even if they are believed, then why come forward at all?
Dr. Ford deserves to be heard. And that must mean more than just checking a box. Remember, Dr. Ford did not spend her entire life preparing for this moment. She is not backed by the most powerful officials in our nation's government. She did not come here with a political agenda. She did not testify with a job promotion on the line. She did not evade our questions, and she did not demean our motives of either Republicans or Democrats.
She instead plainly, with grace, and at times emotionally, recounted the trauma she experienced as a 15-year-old girl, trauma that has been haunting her for the 36 years since. She had nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming forward. I listened closely to both her and Judge Kavanaugh. And I believe her, as I believed Anita Hill. I'll be voting no on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination. He does not have the veracity or the temperament for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our nation. And no such nomination should be confirmed in the face of such serious, credible, and unresolved allegations of sexual assault.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Senator Graham.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you. I know I am a single white male from South Carolina and I am told I should shut up, but I will not shut up if that's OK. Because I got here the same way everybody else did. The people in South Carolina voted for me and Senator Scott to be their voice, men and women, and I'm going to try to be their voice today. And maybe not just for South Carolina but a little bit about what I think is going on here.
Joe Biden, I can't believe we're saying this on our side, listen to Joe. But Joe was right a lot. Joe Biden is a unique guy. If you had one last conversation before you die, you would want to have it with Joe. You would be around for a while. He's a decent guy. If he runs for president, he'll be hard to beat. He came to Senator Thurman's funeral and gave a long eulogy. I ask him, Joe, I said that was incredible. This can't help you in Delaware. He said I just like the old guy. I didn't agree with him, and I didn't like some of things he did in his life, but when I was down and out, he was there for me. And to my colleagues on the other side, this will end and we'll see what we do next. I hope we can muster the ability to move forward, but some observations about where we find ourselves and how we got here.
I wrote a book, and I think Senator Blumenthal is the only person I know that actually read it. It was online. I ran for president, and I got 1 percent. So I had my time to be president.
[10:35:00] Didn't go very far, and I lost. I didn't think Trump would win. I ran out of adjectives to describe about how I felt about his campaign. Well, he won and I lost, and he's president. And I try to help him where I can. And say no when I must. And the election is over for me. I would like to tell him that you had a choice to make for the Supreme Court vacancy of Justice Kennedy. I think you did a good job, Mr. President. For somebody who supposedly is crazy and there's chaos everywhere, he did a good job here.
Now, why the difference between Gorsuch and Kennedy? Excuse me, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. It's the Kennedy seat. You don't get that, you're not paying much attention. Gorsuch is an even swap for Scalia. But this is high-stakes stuff. Right? This is the seat where the guy in the middle is at risk. Kavanaugh clerked for Justice Kennedy.
Would you have picked him? No. But you lost the election. And that does have consequences. When I said it about Obama winning, I meant it. Merrick Garland. Scalia dies in the election year, the last year of the term of President Obama, the primaries are already underway. Not in 100 years has anybody been nominated under that circumstance. So I don't think I did anything unfair with Garland.
As to Sotomayor and Kagan, I was told on our side, you've got to keep them off the court because they're going to be a pro-choice vote. They hate guns on and on and on. And I tried to go back to what this committee used to do. Strom Thurmond voted for Ginsburg. You'll never convince me that it was because he agreed with her philosophy. I think he saw in her a qualified person.
Fritz Hollings voted for Scalia, the same is true, 96 and 97 votes. What's happened? Most of the nominees of the Supreme Court had never had a hearing. It was also just assumed that they're qualified and they're not hacks. That they're going to go forward. Elections do matter. When it comes to President Trump, elections do matter.
Now, about the law. And to my friends who have been prosecutors, I have been a prosecutor, I have been a defense attorney, and I have been a judge. Every woman who's been victimized needs to be heard, count me in 1,000 times over. Count me in for the proposition for every one woman who comes forward, only God knows how many women and children go to their grave with the abuse.
If you don't realize that, you just don't know this area of life. But you're going to be heard in the United States. I had a young man accused of sexual assault when I was in the Air Force as a defense attorney. The case eventually fell apart, and he almost killed himself. I had women who have been gang raped and didn't want to testify, but they did, along with counselors that sat up with them all night, Tough stuff, emotional, who to believe.
I have been doing this legal stuff most of my life. I have never heard a more compelling defense of one's honor and integrity than I did from Brett Kavanaugh. He looked me in the eye, everybody in the eye, and he was mad, and he should have been mad. He could tell you where he was at and what he was doing during high school in a way that just blew me away, Brett Kavanaugh and women.
If you're a gang rapist when you're a sophomore and a junior in high school, you don't let it go. Every woman who actually knows Brett Kavanaugh has come forward to say he is not that kind of guy. He has been at the highest level of public service under tremendous scrutiny, six FBI investigations, and we miss the sophomore/junior gang rapist.
We didn't miss it. It's a bunch of garbage. We're in the twilight zone, and here's what I would say about Ms. Ford, all I can say about Ms. Ford, I feel sorry for her, and I do believe something happened to her, and I don't know when and where, but I don't believe it was Brett Kavanaugh.
[10:40:11] And as a prosecutor, you couldn't get out of the batter's box because in America, before you can accuse somebody of a crime, you have to tell them when it happened and where it happened, and you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt it did happen. The reason this case will never be brought in Maryland or anywhere else, you just can't get there. If you wanted to get a warrant, which is a probable cause standard, to search or arrest somebody, you have to prove by probable cause where it happened and when it happened. How are you supposed to defend yourself? Is the burden really on you to prove you were not at a party 35 years ago and they won't tell you where it was and when it was?
So all I can say is that under any reasonable standard, any concept of the rule of law, this would not go forward. There have been five allegations here. The fifth allegation was brought to me by Senator Whitehouse, who did absolutely the right thing. Somebody contacted him in Rhode Island and said a friend of his was on a boat with Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh and they treated her badly. He went down and beat them up. And she won't come forward. I said, well, I'll make sure, I'll join with you, let the FBI look at it. And turned out not to be true. The fourth allegation was an anonymous allegation, a letter without a date or a return address, sent to Cory Gardner just a few days ago. And he turned it over to the committee. And somebody on that side leaked it to NBC News and it made it on the news, the fourth allegation. That really bothers me. I don't know what's going on over there, but that's not right. It was somebody over there.
Now, about Ms. Ford, I feel really bad that she wanted to remain anonymous and could not. The one thing I know for sure is that Dianne Feinstein would not do this and did not do this. But I know for sure somebody did. It wasn't chatter from a friend. Three groups had this letter. That was requested to be anonymous. Dianne Feinstein and her staff, the Congresswoman from California and her staff, and the lawyers. Somebody betrayed her trust, and if you can't figure out why, you shouldn't be driving, to delay this hearing, to set in motion the destruction of this man, to keep this seat open past the election. That, I know beyond any, any doubt.
What else do I know? I about fell out of my chair when Dr. Ford said I didn't know you will be willing to come to me. The e-mail interactions between this committee and her lawyers, my staff would still welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at any time and any place convenient to her. Come to us or we to you. I'm willing to have my staff travel to Dr. Ford in California or anywhere else to obtain her testimony, September 19th.
Well, that wouldn't fit in the plan. It wouldn't be public. And it would get over with sooner than people wanted. I don't know what to believe, but I tend to believe that Dr. Ford did not know about this invitation. And I have been a lawyer most of my adult life. And somebody needs to ask the question to her lawyers, how could she not know about this? Are you beginning to understand what's been going on for a very long time in this case? It's not that hard to figure out. So if this is the new standard, the accusation proves itself to those who want to ask questions, you hate women. God help us all.
[10:45:00] If the new standard for the committee is that there's no presumption of anything, that you have to prove why somebody would accuse you, not just say I didn't do it and here's why I didn't do it, but you have to prove the motives of your accuser. God help us all. The Avenatti moment tells you what's going to happen if we keep this farce going, plenty of time, plenty of opportunities to get to the truth. This has never been about the truth. This has been about delay and destruction.
And if we reward this, it is the end of good people wanting to be judges. It is the end of any concept of the rule of law. It is the beginning of a process that will tear this country apart. And if I am chairman next year, if we keep the majority and Senator Grassley moves over, and I hope he doesn't because I think he's done a great job, I'm going to remember this. There's the process before Kavanaugh and the process after Kavanaugh. If you want to vet the nominee, you can. If you want to delay things for the next election, you will not. If you try to destroy somebody, you will not get away with it.
Jeff is leaving. He has wrestled with this. He's trying to be fair. I cannot tell you, Jeff, what happened 35 years ago. I can tell you this. That through any legal system, this thing would not get out of the batter's box and that everything I know about Judge Kavanaugh screams that this didn't happen, and all of the other things.
So to my good friend, friends on the other side who are struggling, I think an FBI investigation is going to do nothing. It's not going to tell you any more than we know now. It's going to just keep it going and going and going until he breaks and he won't, until the next five come forward. I'm going to vote yes. And I'm going to tell his two daughter daughters that I am proud of your dad. And I really, really believe he's a good man. And I'm going to tell Dr. Ford I am sorry you had to go through this, too.
GRASSLEY: Senator Durbin.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thursday was an historic day in the Senate committee with more than its fair share of history. In our deliberations over the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, we have confronted some of the most serious charges ever leveled against a nominee. Those charges were made at a moment in our nation's history when we're living through a cultural revolution.
Women in America are not only emerging into more and more positions of responsibility, but they are now airing grievances over sexual harassment and abuse at every level of society. Caught in the vortex of this cultural shift, there is not a person in this room who can truly measure the trajectory or ultimate outcome of this historic change. America is marching forward in the pursuit of justice for women in this country. Sadly, many on this Senate Judiciary Committee are still mired in the dead space it was 27 years ago during the Clarence Thomas nomination hearing.
Yesterday in this room, America saw this inflammatory issue in real time, in real life. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was credible, cooperative, and resolute. When I asked her directly under oath the degree of certainty that she had that she was assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, she responded 100 percent. When the prosecutor on the Republican side tried to weave a political conspiracy or make her a tool of her lawyers, it fell flat. This woman, who had identified Brett Kavanaugh as her assailant to her husband and therapist six years ago, believed she had a responsibility as a citizen, as a citizen, to come forward and tell her story.
[10:50:13] I thought about the words she used during the course of her testimony yesterday. The words she used more often than not to describe her motives was helpful, helpful. She wanted to be helpful to this committee and to her nation. I believe her. But she was afraid in wakening those carefully guarded and painful memories, and she was afraid for her family. She confided in our colleague, Dianne Feinstein, with the clear understanding that Dianne would protect her identity, and I have no doubt that Dianne accepted that responsibility and kept her word.
Yesterday, two members of this committee leveled personal attacks at Senator Feinstein. They said she concealed Dr. Ford's letter for partisan reasons, and one went so far as to say she leaked the contents of that letter or her staff leaked that letter to the press. Perhaps in this Trumpian era, those sorts of baseless personal charges are to be expected. But if we descend to this level of political discourse, we will have forsaken the traditions of the Senate and the comate which is essentially to our public service.
And for the record, this baseless claim was refuted immediately by the intercept which was first to publish the story about Dr. Ford's allegation. Their reporter said last night, and I quote, "Feinstein's staff did not leak the letter to the intercept."
Yesterday, Dr. Ford made the personal decision to tell her story publicly. She came before this committee under oath and volunteered to answer every question. None of the Republicans on this committee were willing to question or confront her, not one. They sat silent as their prosecutor, Ms. Mitchell, tried to do their work. But after Dr. Ford completed her testimony and left the building, it was a different story.
Last night on a TV show, one senator said, and I quote, "Ms. Ford has got a problem in destroying Judge Kavanaugh's life won't fix her problem." How could you listen to her honest and direct testimony and draw that conclusion?
Judge Kavanaugh's opening statement yesterday was filled with raw emotion. Looking at his family and friends gathered to support him, one could not help but feel as our colleague Senator Flake reminded us, that this undertaking is deeply personal, and there is humanity to reconcile on both sides of the ledger. I can feel the intensity of what he's experienced over the last few weeks. But I could not understand how Judge Kavanaugh could say that he, quote, "bore no ill will towards Dr. Ford" then called her charges, quote, "a calculated, orchestrated political hit," citing, quote, "apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and his 2016 election," and quote, "revenge on behalf of the Clintons," "revenge on behalf of the Clintons."
This lock her up grace note in Judge Kavanaugh's remarks may have raised a cheer in the White House, but a sad moment in the history of this committee. The exchange I had with Judge Kavanaugh was an honest effort to loose what this committee faces when two sworn witnesses are in direct contradiction.
What I asked for, what many have asked for, is obvious. Turn over the facts we know to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Let them connect the dots. Let them complete the investigation, then let us meet and evaluate their findings.
Do you remember yesterday when on several occasions the Republicans made a point of quoting the American Bar association? Mr. Chairman, I would like permission to enter into the record a letter sent to this committee on September 27th, 2018 by the American Bar Association.
GRASSLEY: Without objection, it will be entered.
DURBIN: Let me read it. This is what the committee received. The American Bar Association urges the Senate Judiciary Committee and as appropriate the full Senate to conduct a confirmation vote on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States only after an appropriate background check into the allegations made by Professor Ford and others is completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
We make this request because of the ABA's respect for the rule of law and due process under law. The basic principles that underscore the Senate's constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI. Each appointment to our nation's highest court, as with all others, is simply too important to rush to a vote.
[10:55:05] Deciding to proceed without conducting additional investigation would not only have a lasting impact on the Senate's reputation but it will also negatively affect the great trust necessary for the American people to have in the Supreme Court. It must remain an institution that will reliably follow the law and not politics. Respectfully, the Senate should recognize that a thorough FBI investigation will demonstrate its commitment to a Supreme Court that is above reproach. That letter was signed by Robert Carlson, president of the American Bar Association.
All of the quotes yesterday about the ABA's finding on Judge Kavanaugh are a distant second to what we have been asked by the same organization to do, and it's not an unreasonable request. So who is telling the truth? Two sworn witnesses in direct contradiction. But there is one significant difference. One of these sworn witnesses has stepped forward and said I will submit my testimony and myself to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, understanding that anyone who lies to the Federal Bureau of Investigation is subject to criminal prosecution.
The other witness evaded that question over and over and over. Oh, I'll leave it up to the committee. It's up to the chairman. You're going to have to decide on that. You make that decision. Judge Kavanaugh knows better. He knows that if he had turned yesterday to the White House counsel and said suspend this until we have an FBI investigation, to clear my name, my reputation, and my nomination to this court, it was the right thing to do because those scales had been tipped in favor of the one sworn witness who was willing to take her case before the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I'll be voting no on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
GRASSLEY: Before I call on Senator Cornyn, since the ABA letter came up, I have this comment that the president of the ABA called for an FBI investigation as you just heard and to do it before a vote. I have explained many times another FBI investigation is not necessary. The ABA is an outside organization, like any other that can send us letters and share their advice, but we're not going to let them dictate our committee's business.
Also, this letter is from the president of the ABA, one individual. He doesn't represent the hundreds of thousands of lawyers in the United States. It isn't at all clear that the ABA president has authority to speak for the organization on this matter. This letter doesn't say that he conferred with anyone else or that he convened the judicial qualification committee by conference call or otherwise. The ABA president's opinion doesn't alter the fact that Judge Kavanaugh received a very well qualified rating from the ABA standing committee on the federal judiciary and the standing committee did not join this letter.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have said before that I believe that in considering Dr. Ford's testimony, we should treat her the same way I would want my wife, my daughters, or my mother treated, if they were in similar circumstances. Conversely, I want to make sure we treat Judge Kavanaugh the same way we would treat my father, my brother, or a son. We owe that to both Judge Kavanaugh and to Dr. Ford.
It is simply false to say that somehow we have in drawing attention to the fact that this has been an orchestrated effort to delay the vote on this nomination, that we have somehow been disrespectful of Dr. Ford. I'm proud of the way this committee treated Dr. Ford yesterday. I thought it was appropriate, dignified, and apparently our friends across the aisle are somehow upset that we got a trained lawyer who handles claims like this on a daily basis to handle it in a thoughtful, appropriate way, to elicit facts and information from Dr. Ford. I thought Ms. Mitchell did a good job.