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Senator Susan Collins Gives Speech in Favor of Kavanaugh For Supreme Court Justice; Donald Trump Has Reshaped the Supreme Court for The Next 30 To 35 Years; Manchin Becomes the Only Democrat to Back Kavanaugh. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 5, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R), MAINE: Woman's right to choose says that Judge Kavanaugh fits within the main stream of legal thought. She also observed that Judge Kavanaugh is remarkably committed to promoting women in the legal profession. That Judge Kavanaugh is more of a centrist than some of his critics maintain is reflected in the fact that he and Chief Judge Merrick Garland voted the same way in 93 percent of the cases that they heard together. Indeed, Chief Judge Garland joined in more than 96 percent of the majority opinions authored by Judge Kavanaugh, dissenting only once. Despite all this, after weeks of reviewing Judge Kavanaugh's record and listening to 32 hours of his testimony, the Senate's advice and consent role was thrown into a tail spin following the allegations of sexual assault by professor Christine Blasey Ford. The confirmation process now involves evaluating whether or not Judge Kavanaugh committed sexual assault and lied about it to the Judiciary Committee.

Some argue that because this is a lifetime appointment. Republican interests be resolved against the nominee. In cases in which the facts are unclear, they would argue that the question should be resolved in favor of the nominee. Mr. President, I understand both viewpoints. This debate is complicated further by the fact that the Senate confirmation process is not a trial. But certain fundamental legal principles about due process, the presumption of innocence and fairness do bear on my thinking and I cannot abandon them. In evaluating any given claim of misconduct, we will be ill served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be. We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy. The presumption of innocence is relevant to the advice and consent function when an accusation departs from a nominee's otherwise exemplary record. I worry that departing from this presumption could lead to a lack of public faith in the judiciary and would be hugely damaging to the confirmation process moving forward.

Some of the allegations levied against Judge Kavanaugh illustrate why the presumption of innocence is so important. I am thinking in particular not at the allegations raised by professor Ford but of the allegation that when he was a teen-ager, Judge Kavanaugh drugged multiple girls and used their weakened state to facilitate gang rape. This outlandish allegation was put forth without any credible supporting evidence and simply parroted public statements of others. That such an allegation can find its way into the Supreme Court confirmation process is a stark reminder about why the presumption of innocence is so engrained in our American consciousness. [15:35:00] Mr. President, I listened carefully to Christine Blasey

Ford's testimony before the judiciary committee. I found her testimony to be sincere, painful and compelling. I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life. Nevertheless, the four witnesses she named could not corroborate any of the events of that evening gathering where she says the assault occurred. None of the individuals professor Ford says were at the party has any recollection at all of the night. Judge Kavanaugh forcefully denied the allegations under penalty of perjury. Mark judge denied under penalty of felony that he had witnessed an assault. P.J. Smyth, another person allegedly at the party denied that he was there under penalty of felony. Professor Ford's lifelong friend, Leland Keyser indicated that under penalty of felony she does not remember that party.

And Ms. Keyser went further. She indicated that not only does she not remember a night like that, but also that she does not even know Brett Kavanaugh. In addition to the lack of corroborating evidence, we also learned some facts that raised more questions. For instance, since these allegations have become public, professor Ford testified that not a single person has contacted her to say I was at the party that night. Furthermore, the professor testified that although she does not remember how she got home that evening, she knew that because of the distance she would have needed a ride, yet not a single person has come forward to say that they were the one who drove her home or were in the car with her that night.

And professor Ford also indicated that even though she left that small gathering of six or so people abruptly and without saying good-bye and distraught, none of them called her the next day or ever to ask why she left, is she OK, not even her closest friend Ms. Keyser. Mr. President, the constitution does not provide guidance on how we are supposed to evaluate these competing claims. It leaves that decision up to each Senator. This is not a criminal trial, and I do not believe that claims such as these need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of more likely than not as our standard. The facts presented do not mean that President -- that professor Ford was not sexual assaulted that night or at some other time, but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the more likely than not standard.

Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court. Let me emphasize that my approach to this question should not be misconstrued as suggesting that unwanted sexual contact of any nature is not a serious problem in this country.

[15:40:00] To the contrary. If any good at all has come from this ugly confirmation process, it has been to create an awareness that we have underestimated the pervasiveness of this terrible problem. I have been alarmed and disturbed, however, by some who have suggested that unless Judge Kavanaugh's nomination is of this terrible problem. I have been alarmed and disturbed, however, by some who have suggested that unless Judge Kavanaugh's nomination is rejected, the Senate is somehow condoning sexual assault. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Every person, man or woman, who makes a charge of sexual assault deserves to be heard and treated with respect. The #MeToo movement is real. It matters. It is needed and it is long overdue. We know that rape and sexual assault are less likely to be reported to the police than other forms of assault. On average an estimated 211,000 rapes and sexual assaults go unreported every year. We must listen to survivors, and every day we must seek to stop the criminal behavior that has hurt so many. We owe this to ourselves, our children and generations to come. Since the hearing I have listened to many survivors of sexual assault. Many were total strangers who told me their heart-wrenching stories for the first time in their lives. Some were friends that I had known for decades, yet with the exception of one woman who had confided in me years ago, I had no idea that they had been the victims of sexual attacks.

I am grateful for their courage and their willingness to come forward, and I hope that it heightens public awareness, they have also lightened the burden that they have been quietly bearing for so many years. To them I pledge to do all that I can to ensure that their daughters and granddaughters never share their experiences. Over the past few weeks I have been emphatic that the Senate has an obligation to investigate and evaluate the serious allegations of sexual assault. I called for and supported the additional hearing to hear from both professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. I also pushed for and supported the FBI's supplemental background investigation. This was the right thing to do. Christine Ford never sought the spotlight. She indicated that she was terrified to appear before the Senate judiciary committee and she has shunned attention since then.

She seemed completely unaware of chairman Grassley's offer to allow her to testify confidentially in California. Watching her, Mr. President, I could not help but feel that some people who wanted to engineer the defeat of this nomination cared little, if at all, for her well being. Professor Ford testified that a very limited number of people had access to her letter, yet that letter found its way into the public domain. She testified that she never gave permission for that very private letter to be released and yet here we are. We are in the middle of a fight that she never sought, arguing about claims that she wanted to raise confidentially.

[15:45:00] Now, one theory I've heard espoused repeatedly is that our colleague, Senator Feinstein leaked professor Ford's letter at the 11th hour to derail this process. I want to state this very clearly. I know Senator Diane Feinstein extremely well and I believe that she would never do that. I knew that to be the case before she ever stated that at the hearing. She is a person of integrity and I stand by her.

I have also heard some argue that the chairman of the committee somehow treated professor Ford unfairly. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chairman Grassley, along with his excellent staff, treated professor Ford with compassion and respect throughout the entire process. And that is the way the Senator from Iowa has conducted himself throughout a lifetime dedicated to public service. But the fact remains, Mr. President, someone leaked this letter against Ford's express wishes. I suspect regrettably that we will never know for certain who did it. To that leaker who I hope is listening now, let me say that what you did was unconscionable. You have taken a survivor who was not only entitled to your respect but also trusted you to protect her and you have sacrificed her well being in a misguided attempt to win whatever political crusade you think you are fighting.

My only hope is that your callous act has turned this process into such a dysfunctional circus that it will cause the Senate and indeed all Americans to reconsider how we evaluate Supreme Court nominees. If that happens, then the appalling lack of compassion you afforded professor Ford will at least have some unintended positive consequences. Mr. President, the politically charged atmosphere surrounding this nomination has reached a fever pitch, even before these allegations were known and it has been challenging even then to separate fact from fiction. We live in a time of such great disunity, as the bitter fight over this nomination both in the Senate and among the public clearly demonstrates. It is not merely a case of differing groups having different opinions. It is a case of people bearing extreme ill will toward those who disagree with them. In our intense focus on our differences, we have forgotten the common values that bind us together as Americans.

When some of our best minds are seeking to develop even more sophisticated algorithms designed to link us to web sites that only reinforce and cater to our views, we can only expect our differences to intensify. This would have alarmed the drafters of our constitution, who were acutely aware that different values and interests could prevent Americans from becoming and remaining a remaining a single people. They invoked in the preamble to the constitution the one that they put first was the formation of a more perfect union.

[15:50:00] Their vision of a more perfect union does not exist today. And if anything, we appear to be moving farther away from it. It is particularly worrisome that the Supreme Court, the institution that most Americans see as the principle guardian of our shared constitutional heritage is viewed as part of the problem through a political lens. Mr. President, we've heard a lot of charges and counter charges about Judge Kavanaugh.

But as those who have known him, the problem through a political lens. Mr. President, we've heard a lot of charges and counter charges about Judge Kavanaugh. But as those who have known him best have attested, he has been an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband and father. Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5- 4 decisions and so that public confidence in our judiciary and our highest court is restored. Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. Thank you, Mr. President. [applause]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So, there you have the breaking news. Susan Collins, the Republican Senator from Maine, announcing a major decision. She will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. And Dana, she was outspoken and defending him on constitutional grounds, his legal background, all of that. But also making the case that she doesn't believe the sexual assault allegations that have been leveled against him.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL REPORTER: This speech was 45 minutes or so. Not a speech that was written at the last minute. Not a speech where her decision was made at the last minute. It just isn't. Now, you know, maybe we'll find out that she had a speech that was prepared for, you know -- to go a different way. But it's hard to imagine, because she was meticulous in laying out all of the reasons she thinks that Brett Kavanaugh should be put on the Supreme Court. And she left the allegations against him by professor Ford for last. She talked about everything from health care to precedent, which is her way of talking about Roe vs. Wade. She is a Republican for abortion rights. And, you know, basically trying to tell her like- minded constituents and people across the country that she believes him when he says he's not going to overturn Roe v. Wade. But then, of course, the most important where we are was about Christine Blasey Ford, and I thought one of the most not noteworthy comments she made was the fact that we can't abandon --

BLITZER: The presumption --

BASH: The presumption of innocence and fairness, especially when passion is most inflamed. Fairness is not something that should be in jeopardy.

BLITZER: She said, I do not believe these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from being on the court.

BASH: Exactly. And look, and that's it. And where we are? Where we are right now is that Judge Kavanaugh has the votes.


BASH: And that's also the most important thing, after that long speech. He's got 51 votes.

BLITZER: 51. You need 50, if the vice President breaks the tie. And now it looks -- assuming Joe Manchin decides the vote in favor, there will be 51.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, in a way, she's now turned into Kavanaugh's greatest defender. Ariane was saying this is the beginning of the rehab. And she also -- I think we had her at hello. We knew where she was at the very beginning of this, because she started this by eviscerating Democratic outside groups as if there were no Republican outside groups on this. But that's another story.

[15:55:00] And Democratic Senators who she believes did a disservice to professor Ford and I thought where she was most engaged on this was talking to Democrats, whoever leaked it, she said, I don't believe Diane Feinstein leaked it. But she said, you have sacrificed a survivor's well-being in a misguided attempt for whatever political crusade you think you are fighting. And it's clear that the entrance of Avenatti into all of this really, really ticked her off. But she -- you know, this is something that I think she's thought about a lot. I think she went and read everything. And I think, however, she did not surprise by voting for her -- I mean, by -- for him.

BLITZER: You know, it looks like it's going to be passed. He's going to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, now that Susan Collins has said she will vote yay.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Donald Trump in a year-and-a- half's time as President of the United States has succeed in executing on one of the generational goals for conservatives, to reshape the Supreme Court in a more reliably conservative direction for decades to come. Donald Trump has done that. He did it by first getting the Federalist Society, the conservatives, to put out that list. Vet all those potential people, so that all conservatives, some even had questions about when Donald Trump was President, able to get on board with this unifying and generational goal for the party, and Donald Trump has executed on it. He is going to be a Supreme Court justice. And this is going to go down, for all the things that will go down in history about Donald Trump's presidency, this will certainly be one of them. He's capping off, I would say, perhaps his best week as President.

BLITZER: Yes. And Ariane, let's just remind our viewers, now that she has announced she will vote in favor of his confirmation, there are 50 votes. And if Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator from West Virginia, who voted to keep this process going today, votes in favor, there will be 51.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. And the thing is, it's not only the Supreme Court that Donald Trump has done and Don McGahn, it's the lower courts. This has been their big issue. And that's what they have pressed upon. And I was really interested in what she said about the --

BLITZER: Hold on a minute. He's just tweeted. Joe Manchin. I think we have it. We'll put it up on the screen. There it is. "I will vote to support Supreme Court nominee, judge Brett Kavanaugh." Very significant moment. That means, Ariane, there will be 51 United States Senators, assuming they all show up, who will vote in favor. He will be confirmed. He will be a Supreme Court justice, as I often say, not for four years, or eight years, but maybe 30 or 35 years. He's only 53 years old. This is a lifetime appointment.

DE VOGUE: Absolutely. And if -- if he's on the court for -- as long as -- old as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is now, that's 2050. We have to think about this titanic shift. That's what started this up. Anthony Kennedy, so important on those hot-button issues, abortion, LGBT rights, affirmative action. That is all going to make this court take a hard-right turn. And she talked about the process now of the court, and almost -- not only a rehabilitation -- the beginning of a rehabilitation for him, but for the court. She said this process has reached rock bottom. It's dysfunctional. It's gotten to a gutter level political campaign. That was real anger about the process.

BASH: Mark, I wonder what you think about what David said. Because he hit the nail on the head about this being -- I don't think people out there who aren't part of the conservative movement, who have been working for this, as you said, for a generation, understand the win here. With justice -- soon to be, it seems, Justice Kavanaugh.

MARK SHORT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: You're both saying it's not just two Supreme Court nominations. There are more circuit judges confirmed in the first two years of his presidency as any presidency in history. That's phenomenal. And also attributed to the effort of Mitch McConnell, who has said, I'm going to keep prioritizing the judges. Over those that have to wait for further cloture votes. I'll continue working on the judges. Despite all the noise and other stuff that is coverage around this administration, one of this President's legacies will be the way he has reshaped the courts.

BASH: It's one thing to do the federal bench below the Supreme Court, but it's the other thing to get the money seat on the highest court in the land. The swing vote.

SHORT: That's true, Dana. But these circuit judges will be in position for future --

BASH: They will.

SHORT: Supreme Court openings, too.

BORGER: And this is McConnell, by the way, who was so into this process and getting it through quickly, who would not allow a vote. And you know what I'm going to say, on Merrick Garland. And held it up forever. And so, you know, that played into all of this. I think McConnell probably figures his strategy has worked brilliantly. And you know Trump and McConnell have not been besties, but I think now -- I think now Donald Trump owes Mitch McConnell a big pat on the back here, because he's done for him, and helped him, and kept garland off for Republicans and then did this, and did Gorsuch.

BLITZER: Hold on a second. Here is Joe Manchin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, explain your decision to vote for --

SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D), WEST VIRGINIA: First of all, I saw that Senator Collins -- out of respect, I wanted to watch her give hers, and she asked to do that. And I knew -- I saw she was going to do that and I said, fine, I'll watch it. And then I --


MANCHIN: I made my decision. And I gave my reasons for my decision.

PROTESTERS: Shame! Shame! Shame!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can learn to the people here -- are you concerned --

MANCHIN: I'm concerned with the sexual abuse people have had to endure, and we have to do something as a country. I had to deal with the facts I had in front of me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe the allegation? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you willing to be the 50th vote for Judge


MANCHIN: I never thought of it as 51, 52. I had -- if I had been in that position, I would have liked to have brought this place back to normal procedure.

PROTESTERS: Shame on you!