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Kavanaugh Vote Reaction in Arizona; Kavanaugh Vote Reaction in Alaska; Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired October 5, 2018 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:31:50] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a crucial day. You're looking at the Senate floor. We will hear from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in just moments. What will he say when we now know that Joe Manchin, a key vote in all of this, Democrat from West Virginia, is still undecided, will not make his decision clear until he reaches the floor in one hours' time? We will bring you McConnell as soon as he starts speaking.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We are live in the home states of these key swing votes here.
Let's start with CNN correspondent Dan Simon. He's in Phoenix.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Jim and Poppy.
We know that Senate Flake has been central to all of this. He's the one who forced this seven-day delay. In terms of what he is going to do, well, what did he say yesterday? Well, he said he looked at the FBI report and he saw no information that would further corroborate the sexual assault allegation. He also said that, at least in his mind, this was a thorough FBI investigation.
In the meantime, here at his office in Phoenix, we did see a couple dozen protesters yesterday. These were mainly women from various advocacy groups. We did see a couple of women be arrested right out in front of Senator Flake's office. They were blocking the entrance. They were charged with misdemeanor trespassing.
We also saw a handful of counter protesters as well. We should point out, of course, that Senator Flake has been a polarizing figure here in the state of Arizona with Republicans, mainly because of the criticism that he has directed towards President Trump. But, of course, he does have the chance, at least somewhat, to redeem himself if he does support Judge Kavanaugh.
Jim, we'll send it back to you.
SCIUTTO: That was Dan Simon. That's, of course, Arizona, Jeff Flake's hometown -- home territory.
Gary Tuchman, he's in Anchorage, Alaska, home state of Senator Lisa Murkowski. Gary, think about her. She's got other issues besides Kavanaugh.
Issues with Native Americans, et cetera. I know you spoke with two women who met with Senator Murkowski yesterday. What are you hearing from them?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we don't know how Senator Murkowski will vote, but we do have what we know --
SCIUTTO: OK, standby, Gary, because here's the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve as the newest justice.
Judge Kavanaugh has spent 25 years of his career in public service. He spent the last 12 years on the D.C. Circuit, considered the second most important federal court in the country. His record there has been extremely impressive because the Supreme Court as an example adopted a position advanced by Judge Kavanaugh's opinions no fewer than a dozen times.
Judge Kavanaugh is also a pillar in his community and also in the legal profession. He serves underprivileged communities, coaches girls' basketball and is a lector at his church. He has shown a deep commitment to preparing young lawyers for their careers. He has been a law professor at three prestigious law schools and a mentor to dozens of judicial law clerks.
This should have been a respectable and dignified confirmation process. In a previous era, this highly qualified nominee would have received unanimous support in the Senate. Before a left wing outside groups and Democratic leaders had him in their sights, Judge Kavanaugh possessed an impeccable reputation and was held in high esteem by the bench and the bar alike. Even the American Bar Association, which the Democrat say is their gold standard for judging judges, the ABA gave him their unanimous, well-qualified rating.
[09:35:37] What left wing groups and their Democratic allies have done to Judge Kavanaugh is nothing short of monstrous. I saw what they did to Robert Bork. I saw what they did to Clarence Thomas. That was nothing compared to what we witnessed here in the last three months. The conduct of left wing, dark money groups and their allies in this body have shamed us all.
The fix was in from the very beginning. Before the ink was even dry on the nomination, the minority leader announced that he would oppose Judge Kavanaugh's nomination with everything he's got. Even before he knew the president's nominee, the minority leader said that he was opposed to all 25 well-qualified potential nominees listed by this president. Even one member of my committee said that those who vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh would be quote/unquote complicit in evil.
Another member of the committee revealed the end game when she suggested that Senate Democrats could hold the vacancy open for two years if they defeated Judge Kavanaugh and took control of the Senate in these midterm elections. I saw the most transparent -- I oversaw the most transparent confirmation process in Senate history based on the fact that more than 500,000 pages of judicial writing, publications, documents from Judge Kavanaugh's executive branch service. This is on top of the 307 judicial opinions that he authored.
Despite Democrats efforts to bury the committee in even more paperwork, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a timely four-day hearing on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination last month. Judge Kavanaugh testified for more than 32 hours over the course of three days. Judge Kavanaugh showed the nation exactly why he deserved to be on the Supreme Court, because of his qualifications.
Judge Kavanaugh's antagonizes couldn't land a punch on him during those -- his three days of testimony. Even when they made false or misleading arguments, they couldn't touch him. Some of my colleagues accused Judge Kavanaugh of committing perjury. For that false claim, "The Washington Post" fact checker awarded my colleague three Pinocchio's.
Another colleague claimed Judge Kavanaugh described contraceptives as abortion-inducing drugs. The video that my colleague shared on the Internet was doctored to omit the fact that Judge Kavanaugh was describing the plaintiff's claims in a case that he decided, not his own views. My colleague was awarded four Pinocchio's. And, that -- of course, that's the most Pinocchio's you can get.
But they still had one, big card to say, which they had kept away up their sleeves for a month. Actually, for 45 days, I think. By July, the ranking member received a letter from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school 36 years ago. Instead of referring Dr. Ford to the FBI, or sharing these allegations with her colleagues, either of which would have respected and preserved Dr. Ford's confidentiality, and that's what Dr. Ford requested, the ranking member referred Dr. Ford to Democratic activist attorneys closely tied to the Clintons. The ranking member shamefully sat on these allegations for nearly seven weeks, only to reveal them at the 11th hour when it appeared Judge Kavanaugh was headed towards confirmation because he was so qualified.
[09:40:22] The ranking member had numerous opportunities to raise these allegations with Judge Kavanaugh personally. I'll give you six examples. She could have discussed them with Judge Kavanaugh during their private meeting on August the 20th. A meeting which took place after her staff had sent Dr. Ford to Democratic lawyers. Or another time, shared them with 64 of her Senate colleagues, who also met with him individually. The ranking member's staff could have raised them with Judge Kavanaugh during a background investigation follow-up call in late August. Senators could have asked Judge Kavanaugh about the allegations during his 32 hours of testimony over the course of three days. Judiciary members could have asked Judge Kavanaugh about this in their closed session of the hearing, which the ranking member didn't attend. The closed session is the appropriate place to bring up issues where confidentiality is supposed to be respected. And there were no questions about these allegations among the 1,300 written questions sent to Judge Kavanaugh after the hearing. This amounts to more than -- more written questions submitted to this nominee after a hearing than to all Supreme Court nominees combined. Keeping the July 30th letter secret deprived senators of having all
the facts they needed to have about this nomination. So it wasn't then until September 13th, July 30th to September 13th, nearly seven weeks after the ranking member received these allegations, and on the eve of the confirmation vote, that the ranking member referred them to the FBI. And somehow they were leaked to the press. It wasn't until those news reports on September 16th that I learned even of Dr. Ford's identity.
This is an outrage. The political motives behind the Democrats' actions should be obvious to everyone.
Dr. Ford requested the opportunity to tell her story to the Senate Judiciary Committee. After a lot of foot dragging by Dr. Ford's attorneys, they finally agreed to a public hearing. As promised, I provided a safe, comfortable and dignified forum for Dr. Ford, as well as Judge Kavanaugh. Dr. Ford was sincere in her testimonies, as was Judge Kavanaugh, who emphatically denied the allegations.
It's true that confirmation hearings aren't a trial. But trials have rules based on common sense notions of fairness and due process, not the other way around. It's a fundamental aspect of fairness, a fundamental aspect of due process that the accuser have the burden of proving allegations. Judge Kavanaugh was publically accused of a crime and his reputation and livelihood were at stake, so it was only fair that his accuser have the burden of proof. The consensus is that the burden was not met.
Ultimately, the existing evidence, including the statements of three alleged eye witnesses named by Dr. Ford, refuted Dr. Ford's version of the facts. Our investigative nominating nation council (ph) Rachael Mitchell, who has nearly 25 years of experience advocating for sexual assault victims and investigating sex crimes, concluded that there was lack of specificity and simply too many inconsistencies in Dr. Ford's allegations to establish that Judge Kavanaugh committed sexual assault. Even under the lowest standard of proof, she concluded, quote, a he said/she said case is incredibly difficult to prove, but this case is even (INAUDIBLE) than that. Dr. Ford identified other witnesses to the event. So those witnesses either refuted her allegations or failed to corroborate them. For the reasons discussed below, I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor could bring this case based upon the evidence before the committee, nor do I believe that this evidence is sufficient to satisfy the preponderance of evidence standard, end of quote.
[09:45:03] So we have thoroughly investigated Judge Kavanaugh's background. In addition to the prior six FBI full field background investigations with the interviews of nearly 150 people who have known Judge Kavanaugh his entire life, the committee also separately and thoroughly investigated every credible allegation that we received. Our more than 20 committee staff members have worked night and day over the last many weeks tracking down virtually all leads. And at the request of the undecided members, the FBI reopened Judge Kavanaugh's background investigation for another week. The FBI interviewed ten more people related to the latest credible sexual assault allegations and the FBI confirmed what we senate investigators already concluded, that is this, there is nothing in the supplemental FBI background investigation report that we didn't already know. These uncorroborated accusations have been unequivocally and repeatedly rejected by Judge Kavanaugh and neither the Judiciary Committee, nor the FBI, could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations.
There also is no contemporaneous evidence. This investigation found no hint of misconduct and the same is true of six prior FBI investigations conducted during Judge Kavanaugh's 25 years of public service. Nothing an investigator, including career FBI special agents, does ever be good enough to satisfy Democrat leaderships in Washington who staked out opposition to Judge Kavanaugh before he was even nominated.
There is simply no reason then to deny Judge Kavanaugh a seat on the Supreme Court on the basis of the evidence presented to us. The Democratic strategy used against Judge Kavanaugh has made one thing clear, they will never be satisfied no matter how fair and thorough the process is.
Thirty-one years ago, the Senate Democrats' treatment of Robert Bork, their playbook remains the same. For the left wing, advice and consent has become search and destroy. A demolition derby.
I am pleased to support Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation. I'm sorry for what the whole family went through the last several weeks. We should all admire Kavanaugh's willingness to serve his country, despite the way he's been treated.
It would be a travesty then if the Senate did not confirm the most qualified nomination in our nation's history. The multitude of allegations against him have proven to be false. They have also proven that no discussion of his qualifications came up with any -- a discussion of his qualifications, nothing showed he wasn't qualified. We had a campaign of distraction from his outstanding qualifications. A campaign of destruction of this fine individual.
What we have learned is the resistance that has existed since the day after the November 2016 election is centered right here on Capitol Hill. They have encouraged mob rule.
When you hear things about, get in their face, bother people at every restaurant where you can find a cabinet member, these are coming from public service. That ought to set an example of civility in American society. And it's been made worse by what has happened to Judge Kavanaugh.
I hope we can say, no to mob rule by voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.
I yield the floor.
HARLOW: All right. Well, there you -- all right, there you have the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. We're also -- I think we're going to listen in to the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: My ninth Supreme Court nomination hearing. And I must say, I've never experienced anything like this.
Never before have we had a Supreme Court nominee where over 90 percent of his record has been hidden from the public and the Senate. Never before have we had a nominee display such flagrant partisanship and open hostility at a hearing. And never before have we had a nominee facing allegations of sexual assault.
[09:50:13] The nominee before us, being considered for a pivotal swing seat, if confirmed, would be the deciding vote on some of the most important and divisive issues of our day.
I'd like to start by speaking about some of the issues in relationship to Judge Kavanaugh.
President Trump promised to only nominate individuals to the Supreme Court who would be pro-life and pro=gun nominees, who would automatically overturn Roe v. Wade. In my judgment, Judge Kavanaugh clearly meets the test.
In a speech in 2017, Judge Kavanaugh focused on praising Justice Rehnquist and his descent in Roe v. Wade where he challenged the right to women's privacy as protected in the Constitution.
Also last year, Judge Kavanaugh argued in a dissent in a Texas case that a Jane Doe should not be able to exercise her right to choose because she did not have family and friends help her make the decision.
If adopted, this argument could rewrite Supreme Court precedent and require courts to determine whether a young woman had a sufficient support network when making her decision. Even in cases, as is in this one, where she had gone before a court.
His reasoning demonstrates that Judge Kavanaugh not only is willing to disregard precedent, but his opinions fail to appreciate the challenging realities women face when making these most difficult decisions.
When I asked him about whether Roe and Casey were settled law and whether they were correctly decided, he refused to answer. He would only say these cases are entitled to respect.
Roe v. Wade, as we all know, is one of a series of cases that upheld an individual's right to decide who to marry, where to send your children to school, what kind of medical care you can receive at the end of life, as well as whether and when to have a family. The government cannot interfere with these decisions according to these cases.
Another issue that gives me great pause is Judge Kavanaugh's extreme view on guns. In reviewing his record and judicial opinions, it's clear his views go well beyond simply being pro-gun. During a lecture at Notre Dame Law School, Judge Kavanaugh himself said he'd be, quote, the first to acknowledge that most lower court judges have disagreed with his views on the Second Amendment. Specifically, in District of Columbia v. Heller, Judge Kavanaugh wrote in a dissenting opinion that unless guns were regulated, either at the time of the Constitution was written or traditionally throughout history, they cannot be regulated now, end quote. In his own words, gun laws are unconstitutional unless they are, quote, traditional or common in the United States, end quote.
Judge Kavanaugh would have struck down D.C.'s assault weapons ban because they have not historically been banned. This logic means that as weapons become more advanced and more dangerous, they cannot be regulated at all. When I asked Judge Kavanaugh about his views that if a gun is in common use it cannot be regulated, he replied this way, and I quote, there are millions and millions and millions of semiautomatic rifles that are possessed. So that seemed to fit common use and not being a dangerous and unusual weapon, end quote. Think about that. Judge Kavanaugh made up a new standard that had nothing to do with common use, but instead relied on whether a gun is widely possessed and owned as determinative as to whether it is subject to any regulation.
The United States makes up 4 percent of the worldwide population, but we own 42 percent of the world's guns. By Judge Kavanaugh's standard, no state or locality will be able to place any limitation on guns because of widespread ownership in this country.
I'm also concerned about his views on presidential power. Specifically, he has said that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, cannot be prosecuted, should not be investigated, and should have the authority to fire a special counsel at will. In other words, the president of the United States is above and outside the law. These views raise serious concerns that should concern us all, especially at a time when the president continually threatens to fire the leadership of the Department of Justice for failing to be loyal and reining in the Mueller investigation.
[09:55:39] These views alone are not sufficient for me to vote against Judge Kavanaugh, but what we have seen and experienced in the past several weeks has raised serious, new concerns. Concerns I believe should worry us all. Judges are expected to be, quote, even handed, unbiased, impartial, and courteous, end quote. However, at the hearing last week, we saw a man filled with anger and aggression. Judge Kavanaugh raised his voice, he interrupted senators, he accused them -- Democrats of, quote, lying in wait, end quote, and replacing, quote, advice and consent with search and destroy, end quote.
He even went so far as to say that Dr. Ford's allegations were nothing more than, quote, a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, end quote. Quote, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, end quote.
How could he? This behavior revealed a hostility and belligerence that is unbecoming of someone seeking to be elevated to the United States Supreme Court. His display was so shocking that more than 2,400 law professors from around the country have expressed their opposition. They wrote, and I quote, instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory, and partial manner, as he interrupted and at times was discourteous to senators, end quote.
The professors concluded, and I quote, we have differing views about other qualifications of Judge Kavanaugh, but we are united as professors of law and scholars of judicial institutions in believing he did not display the impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land.
Madam president, I ask unanimous consent to enter a full copy of the letter in the record.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without objection.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
Finally, I want to mention the serious and credible allegations raised by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, the two women who came forward to tell their experiences facing sexual assault.
When Dr. Ford decided to make her story public, she faced all her worst fears. She was harassed. She received death threats. She had to relocate her home, her husband, and two children. And yet, in less than a week, she came before the Senate and told 21 senators she had never met, along with millions of Americans, about the most tragic, traumatic, and difficult experience of her life. And she did so with poise, grace, and, most importantly, bravery.
Unfortunately, she was met with partisanship and hostility. My Republican colleagues have largely chosen to ignore her powerful testimony. Senators weren't allowed to hear from any witnesses who could corroborate or refute her account. They refused to gather evidence or do an impartial investigation into her allegations.
Deborah Ramirez also reluctantly came forward to tell her story. Like Dr. Ford, Ms. Ramirez offered to speak to the FBI. Both Ford and Ramirez submitted evidence to support their allegations, including naming over two dozen witnesses each. Unfortunately, the limited investigation that was conducted by the FBI failed to interview any one of the witnesses these two women identified who could support her account.
[10:00:14] Let me say that again,