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Republican Leaders Hold News Conference on Kavanaugh Nomination. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired October 4, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: When you look at the polling that's come out in the last couple of days, you do see the gap closing --
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: No question.
CABRERA: -- with Republicans and Democrats. It seems to imply that Republicans have a little bit of momentum right now.
CILLIZZA: Yes. Remember, and this has been true since judges existed until today, the Republican base cares deeply about the federal judiciary. The appeals court but especially the Supreme Court. These fights animate them period. Now that this fight has turned into what they believe to be and Donald Trump a smear campaign, Hatchet job, has made them even more engaged. There's a lot of polling that suggests Republicans are more enthusiastic than they were two months ago. They are still on things like the generic ballot, they are still behind Democrats. Not as far as they have been but still behind. This is helping but it's not an equaling force.
CABRERA: It may not have changed the game.
Thank you, Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
CABRERA: Good to have you with us.
Moments from now, Republican leaders holding a news conference on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination. Again, we are monitoring and will bring it to you live as soon as it happens. Stay with us.
[14:35:05] CABRERA: We're still waiting for Republican leaders in the Senate to speak on the FBI report.
I have with me now Republican strategist, Noelle Nikpour, and CNN political commentator, Catherine Rampell, a senior columnist for the "Washington Post," and our Gloria Borger is staying with us as well.
Ladies, I'm glad to have you with us.
First, Catherine, if Kavanaugh goes on to be confirmed, which party do you think it will help more?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Which party will it help more?
CABRERA: In the sense of voter enthusiasm.
RAMPELL: I think what we see is this has fired up the Republican base. The Democrats had been energized before. Where we have seen a change is amongst Republicans. Republicans feel like their guy has been unfairly maligned, despite the fact that there are these credible accusations. They feel like Republicans have bent over backwards, which I disagree with of course, given that there was severely curtailed investigation under very abbreviated circumstances but that's not necessarily how Republicans see the case. I think we will see if this thing goes through that Republicans are going to be more fired up than they would have been in the absence of this fight.
CABRERA: Do you agree, Noelle?
NOELLE NIKPOUR, COLUMNIST & REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think they're fired up already. We've got some tight races. We've got Senators on the verge of either deciding if this is going to be the most conservative court that they've ever had on the bench or not.
One of the things I looked at with the Democrat Joe Manchin, he said about three hours ago, he's going to be looking at Kavanaugh, his lifetime from 22 years old to 53 years old.
CABRERA: Hold your thought. Let's listen in to Mitch McConnell.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Good afternoon, everyone.
What we know for sure is the FBI report did not corroborate any of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.
And the second thing we know for sure is that there's no way anything we did would satisfy the Democrats. They've always got a reason why the goalposts need to be moved further down the field, farther down the field, and nothing we could do would satisfy them. They're dug in. You've seen it from the beginning.
With that, I want to turn it over to Chairman Grassley and members of the committee, who I think have done a really outstanding job.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you, Mr. Leader.
Before I say a few words, so I won't have to announce each person after me, in this order will be Hatch, Cornyn, Lee and Tillis, so please just come to the podium and say whatever you want to say and then we'll take questions.
This is the 87th day, that's three weeks longer than the average of the last three or four nominees to the Supreme Court. So don't tell me we haven't spent enough time. Also, I feel very good about where this nomination is right now. Now,
I don't say that from the standpoint of counting votes. I say that from the standpoint of the qualifications of this candidate and the fact that those qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice based upon his 12 years on the D.C. Circuit, without anybody finding any fault with his qualifications to serve there, but that hasn't been talked about much. Everything else. This person is very well qualified. A person that believes in the principles of due process, the presumption of innocence and readiness to serve are recognized. So Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed on Saturday.
Now, this started downhill very quickly on about July the 10th when Schumer said that we're going to do everything we can to stop this nomination. And you can look back 87 days, and you can see that everything but whether he's qualified to serve has been brought up, brought up. I've tried to commit, and I think I've carried out what I promised immediately, that we were going to have a fair and thorough process. We have had a fair and thorough process. And I think that's best demonstrated by the fact that we -- the minute I read about who the person was in the Feinstein letter, Dr. Ford, I read about her name in the paper. We got on it right away to provide the forum she wanted. And in turn, we provided the same forum for Kavanaugh.
But what I've been dealing since July the 10th, the downhill slope that Schumer's put us on, is really dealing with a demolition derby. And they just about destroyed a good person to be on the Supreme Court. So hopefully, we're 48 hours away from having a new person on the Supreme Court.
[14:40:44] SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R), UTAH: I certainly endorse everything that the chairman of the committee has said.
Look, I'm disappointed in my Democratic colleagues for what they're doing. There's no excuse for it, but they're doing it.
I'm grateful to the FBI for their efforts in doing a thorough, very important investigation.
Many of us have said that if Judge Kavanaugh did what he's been accused of doing by some of the Democrats and outside people, some outside people, he should be disqualified. But after investigations from both the committee and the FBI, we have found nothing, absolutely nothing to corroborate accusations against him. And we need to confirm him right away.
This confirmation would be a victory for the Senate as an institution. A reminder that the politics of baseless personal destruction has no place here.
I think he's one of the best nominees I've seen in my 42 years in the United States Senate. I apologize to him for the way he's been treated. Yes, this is an important position, yes, and Democrats have a right to feel very worried and upset about a Republican getting this seat because they thought they had won the election. But that isn't the case. And our side has handled this, I think, with discretion, handling every problem that has come up. And, frankly, I hope we can just move forward and get this done. It's the right thing to do.
Judge Kavanaugh's a great judge. He'll make a great justice on the United States Supreme Court. And I intend to do everything I possibly can to make sure he gets there as quickly as we can.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R), TEXAS: Our friend, the senior Senator from Minnesota, said about this confirmation process, she said this is not normal. Well, I agree with her because, if this is the new normal, woe be to the Senate and any nominee that would be subjected to the unacceptable character assassination that we've seen directed at this nominee in this case. If that's the new normal, I don't know who would want to serve and, frankly, I think people would be justified in losing any respect for the Senate and the way it conducts itself during the confirmation process. So more is at stake than just this nomination and the Supreme Court. The Senate itself is on trial here.
A vote against Judge Kavanaugh tomorrow will be an endorsement of the mishandling of this confirmation process because of hiding relevant information that could have been examined on a bipartisan basis in a way that respected Dr. Ford's request for privacy and gotten to the bottom of this as we have attempted to do now with 20 million people watching on television. A vote against Judge Kavanaugh tomorrow will be a vote for abusing the confirmation process and a good person, and it will be a vote for the shameful intimidation tactics that have been employed as part of an orchestrated smear campaign.
I agree that the FBI investigation, now they've talked to a total of 150 different people through the seven background investigations that Judge Kavanaugh has been through since 1993. No corroboration, no confirmation of any of these outrageous accusations that have been made against him.
Unfortunately, this could have all been avoided, most of the embarrassment to Dr. Ford and the public circus-like atmosphere, if we had just -- if the ranking member had just made the allegations known in the regular process, it could have been investigated, as I said, in a way that would have protected her and her confidentiality.
[14:45:14] I've said before, and I'll say it again, I believe that we should and we did treat Dr. Ford the same way I would want my daughters or my wife or my mother treated under similar circumstances. But we have to remember that Judge Kavanaugh's entitled to a fair process, too, and he has not been subjected to a fair process. Anything but.
So now is the time to quit all of these antics, these hijinks, this circus-like atmosphere. And we'll do that tomorrow when we vote and Saturday when we vote to finally confirm this good man to this important position.
SEN. MIKE LEE, (R), UTAH: The process of reviewing the FBI reports that we received this morning has been exhaustive. It has been a collaborative process with my colleagues. It occurred in a classified environment because these were documents that we're not allowed to disclose to the public. But because we can review them in only one place, we reviewed them together and we stopped and we talked about each point made to make sure that we understood the message from each interview and each report. Although that part of it by operation of law is not allowed to be public, I wanted to give you the assurance that we treated these documents with utmost seriousness, with a desire to do nothing more than search for the truth. And just as we spent hours upon hours hearing testimony in open hearings before the public, we've also spent hours upon hour reviewing these documents in a classified environment.
Allegations of sexual misconduct are serious, of sexual assault, are of a most serious nature, and always have to be treated with utmost seriousness. They have been in this case.
Again, this is one who has been through seven background investigations in the course of the last three decades, with over 150 people interviewed with regard to him. This is a man of outstanding character who has lived an exemplary life. He and his family have been subjected to a lot of questioning, a lot of embarrassment, a lot of humiliation in recent weeks. That has been a difficult part of this process for him. But in the process of doing that, he's proven his character and his willingness and to be candid with the public and even sharing facts that are at times uncomfortable.
I'm convinced of this man's character, of his truthfulness, of his qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. I wholeheartedly support his confirmation and look forward to voting for him in the coming hours.
SEN THOM TILLIS, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I agree with everything my colleagues have said.
I also want to say that Dr. Ford, I firmly believe, experienced the traumatic event in her life. I just also believe that there's no evidence that we've seen through the FBI background checks, through the time that we've spent in the hearing, to substantiate that these claims are properly alleged and directed toward Judge Kavanaugh. Thousands of pages in that briefing room -- Senator Lee and I were in that room together for an hour, we'd break for an hour and then we were all back for two hours.
At the desk is also some 1,500 pages that document the prior FBI background investigations. And in none of those was there any reference -- and keep in mind this goes back 23, 24 years. This would have only been six or seven years after he was out of college. Certainly, if it was in recent memory, would you have seen some whiff or some suggestion, yet there was none.
The last thing I'll leave you with is it appears as though since one of the attacks some of my colleagues have taken on the other side of the aisle are not working, they're not really able to substantiate the allegation, now they've moved to this narrative of the way he behaved in the hearing last week was somehow putting to question his judicial temperament. In the 31 hours that he was before the Judiciary Committee, I saw Judge Kavanaugh. He was extremely patient with unfair questions, being cut off. But he maintained his poise throughout those 32 hours with very few breaks. Last week, I saw Brett Kavanaugh. I want judging him as a judge. I was judging him as a human being who is having his life destroyed before his very eyes, having his 13-year-old daughter heart broken, and having his wife issued death threats. And I would defy anyone in this room, if they thought that they had gone through that same experience, if you wouldn't have had those same emotions. Yet, over the course of that testimony, nearly two hours, I think he composed himself and did a good job in answering the questions and defending his good name.
[14:50:29] GRASSLEY: We're ready for questions. Direct them to whoever you want to answer.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator Grassley, can you explain how you came up with your list of who should be interviewed by the FBI?
GRASSLEY: I think I'll let you do that because you were at the same meeting I was at.
LEE: We did not come up with a list of people who the FBI should interview. The FBI was requested to conduct an investigation into any and all credible, current accusations of sexual misconduct by Judge Kavanaugh, and the FBI made the decision as to who to interview.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why not have the FBI interview people whom Christine Blasey Ford confided in over the years? Aren't those conversations usually key to --
MIKE: They did. I think I answered your question. Our request was to the White House. The White House then made the request of the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation into current credible accusations of sexual misconduct. They did that.
TILLIS: Just to be clear, we did not give them a list of people and only these people they can speak with. We went back to have them go back and to those who issued statements, speak with them but a part of the protocol when you do a criminal background investigation, is there anyone else I should speak to. When they went through that, they identified others who hadn't put forth statements before. We saw that in the record this morning.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's eight additional witnesses' interviews. And it was said there could be 20 witnesses interviewed, potentially people who could corroborate these accounts. Why not allow, green light the FBI, tell the White House to green light the FBI to interview these additional witnesses?
CORNYN: The FBI has gotten all the information they need to interview anybody they think is necessary. There has been nobody to interview corroborate the testimony of Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez. And the FBI has reported that back to us. They have followed additional leads. But the whole purpose of this is delay. This is not a search for the truth any more. It became clear early on, when this allegation by Dr. Ford was hidden from the committee and handled in such an extraordinary way, against her wishes and without her consent. This is a search-and-destroy mission. This is not a search for the truth. We've done everything we can to treat both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford fairly and treat all allegations made seriously. That's been exhaustively studied by the FBI and Judiciary Committee.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The president said that there shouldn't be even a little doubt. Given the fact that the accusers are suggesting that there are additional people who could corroborate their stories, are you confident you have eliminated all the cloud of doubt?
CORNYN: All of the people identified by Ms. Ramirez and Dr. Ford have testified contrary to the way Ms. Ramirez and Dr. Ford have alleged. So the witnesses they have identified saying they were present at the event have all refuted their allegations. So I think that ought to settle it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On a slightly different note, within this evening noticeable at the committee meeting when Christine Blasey Ford said it was not clear the committee would go to California to interview her.
Chairman Grassley, you've already referred charges to the DOJ regarding uncorroborated allegations. Will the committee take any actions against the attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford?
GRASSLEY: We don't prosecute. We --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you refer them?
GRASSLEY: I don't know. I don't know if there's any reason to.
I think that -- what I'd like to do, when we get all done, because this is almost rock bottom, I would like to have the future mending things so we can do things in a collegial way that the United States Senate ought to do and, particularly, when it comes to Supreme Court nominations.
And you folks can have something to do with this. Now, I would never use the word fake news. I consider you folks policemen for our democratic system of government. But I want to show you where some of you have bias. I've had demonstrators in my office for two weeks now, both for Kavanaugh and against Kavanaugh. And one time, the people that were for Kavanaugh wanted to be interviewed. And they said we only -- we're only interested in interviewing people against Kavanaugh. Now, that's a bias that none of you should be proud of.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
[14:55:14] GRASSLEY: What?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Ford's legal team has sent a letter to the FBI and they're characterizing this investigation as a stain on the process on the FBI and on the American ideal of justice. What's your response to that?
GRASSLEY: I'll give you. Let the FBI do what the FBI is hired to do and keep political interference out of it. And my making a call to the FBI that you ought to do something is political interference? I made no call to the FBI since this whole process started a week ago. And I'm not going to. I never had any conversation with anybody in the White House because I've got confidence in the FBI. They go where the facts lead them.
TILLIS: Well, I think it's also important to consider the source. This is a legal team that when we formally communicated on more than one occasion that we would come to California and have a confidential interview, and on her terms, from Dr. Ford to testify, she wasn't aware of that, really makes me wonder the competency of the folks she has advising her.
GRASSLEY: Either the competency or the political bias that they have.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How do you think the story is going to judge what Christine Blasey Ford has done?
CORNYN: Well, of course, none of us can have that perspective yet. But I hope what history documents is that what I said earlier, that we -- once we learned of her identity, once her name was leaked, contrary to her wishes and without her consent, to the public and she was forced to tell her story, not in a safe, confidential setting, but in a circus-like atmosphere, I hope we did the best we could under those awful set of circumstances to treat her with respect and dignity and listen to her. But that doesn't mean that we forget our basic concepts of fair play and constitutional due process. That's why we tried to interview every witness that has any alleged knowledge of relevant facts, and because we believe we're a country that believes in the presumption of innocence and due process of law. And what we know now is there's no corroboration. No one confirms the allegations of Dr. Ford, even people she identified as being present at the scene.
So I believe we've done the best we could under these circumstances given the incredible mishandling of Dr. Ford's allegation by the ranking member on this Judiciary Committee to try to treat everybody fairly. But it's time now to vote, and that's what we're going to do starting tomorrow morning.
CORNYN: Hold on. Anybody on the back row?
HATCH: I want to say something before you ask your question. As someone who actually tried cases in the federal court system and in front of two of the most notorious judges in the history of our country, and one case is in front of them, by the way, I want you to know I take this stuff very, very seriously. And I don't know that I've ever seen anybody who would exceed Judge Kavanaugh as a judge in the federal court system. Now, I personally resent what's been heaped upon him. It just isn't right, it isn't fair. It sends a message to everybody do you really want to take a federal judgeship in the future. Now, this is just wrong.
Unfortunately, there are some people who just don't care. They know that these judges on the Supreme Court are going to handle very, very difficult issues. And I'm sure that when the judge is there on the Supreme Court, he'll decide issues that will terribly disappoint Republicans and maybe terribly disappoint Democrats from time to time.
But I know one thing, he's honest. And he will decide cases based upon the law and he'll do a good job in doing it. That's one reason why we feel so deeply about this.
And, frankly, I resent this business of taking on anybody that is from the Republican Party or the Democratic Party for a federal judgeship. It's really irritating, as though these people who have spent a lifetime getting A-B ratings, the highest ratings you can have from the chief rating service of attorneys in this country. I know a little bit about that. I had the highest rating you could possibly have, both here, in Utah and back in Pennsylvania. These are important things to me.
When I got out to practice law in Utah, I was told by everybody that Judge Willis Ritter (ph) was a legend.