Return to Transcripts main page


Judge Brett Kavanaugh Has Been Confirmed As An Associate Supreme Court Justice; Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 6, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: You witnessed it. What did you see?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is exactly, Dana. Look. Over the course of the last couple hours, as senators were giving speeches, occasional protesters would pop up and shout a couple of times, "I do not consent and then be pulled out." But right as the roll call, several at the same times, as many as eight popped up in separate sections of the gallery raised their fists and started shouting.

Now, the capitol police, because they were in separate sections of the gallery, it took a while to actually get them out. You know well, Dana, usually it moves pretty quickly and the protesters are --

BASH: Phil, let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- not committed in the Senate gallery. Are there any senators who wish to vote or change a vote? If not, on this vote, the ayes are 50, the nays are 48, the nomination of Bret M. Kavanaugh of Maryland to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is confirmed. Majority leader?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I ask consent the motion to reconsider be considered laid and made on the table and the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action. I suggest that --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant at arms will restore order in the gallery. The clerk will call the roll.


BASH: So there you see 50-48, Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed to be an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court after just about the most -- actually it was the most bruising battle ever to get to that point, but he made it with only one vote to spare effectively. The reason it's 50-48 is because one senator, the lone Republican senator who said she was going to vote no didn't formally make that vote out of respect for another Republican who wanted to vote yes, but is walking his daughter do you the aisle there. So there was some Republican comity there, if you well. Incredibly a historic moment.

And I want to again get back to Phil Mattingly who was in the gallery as this vote started to take place. Phil, go ahead with what you are reporting.

MATTINGLY: Yes, I was just talking about the number of protesters. And Dana, this happens often in contentious votes. I think you make a really good point. I have covered a lot of confirmation battles, I have covered a lot of legislative battles. I'm not sure I have ever seen anything this heated, this bare-knuckled an issue or confirmation or an individual, that by the end of it nobody really felt like they won. Everybody felt like things were in a bad place.

Now, there is no question about it, in terms of victories and who won and who lost, for Republicans, for senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, for the President, this is a monumental moment. This tilts the bench of the Supreme Court for generations to come and that is enormous. It's part of Mitch McConnell's plan with White House council Don McGahn to completely reshape the federal judiciary, something they have done in spades (ph) over the last year and a half or so.

But I think more broadly when you look beyond this, I was struck not just by the protesters, which again we see quite often, but by the final two speeches that we heard before the vote, by Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and senate majority leader McConnell Schumer.

Chuck Schumer going down a litany of reasons why he didn't believe Brett Kavanaugh was suited for the court vote on record and because of the allegations. And then making a point by point request to people watching, if you don't like this aspect of what happened, if you don't like that aspect of what happened, vote. He said it repeatedly over and over again. Basically calling on people to vote if they had a problem with this.

And then Mitch McConnell immediately followed. And while he once again as he has done weeks on end went through why he believe Brett Kavanaugh was just a good justice for the court, not just a good justice for the court but perhaps one of the best ever nominated, he made the point that voting yes or getting through this process could, in his words, lead on a brighter day later.

And he talked about what has happened over the course of the last three weeks, as one of the darkest periods of the Senate. Multiple times over the last couple of weeks, Dana, he has referred to the McCarthy era and tried to make parallels to that.

If you take those two speeches and you see how diametrically opposed they are on the nominee, on the issues, on the conversation that's happening right now, that it just underscores the fact that the Senate right now is not in a great place. And while there's certainly a new justice, there is certainly a confirmation that is occurred. There are a lot of things that happened to happen going forward to try and bring people back together after what just happened.

BASH: Absolutely. Phil, thank you so much for the report, and all of your reporting, keeping everybody on this and ahead of the game on everything going on up there with our whole Capitol Hills team.

And you know, so much - we are back with our panel now. So many times we cover stories in Washington that people don't know about, people don't care about. Look at those pictures. That is right outside the Supreme Court. We saw the pictures and we will see as we discuss the sort of the shot get wider, you see how many people are there, pro and con.


BASH: The cons are the loudest, probably right now which is the way it works. But there are passions, intense passions about this. There were before the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, because of the import, because of what his presence on the court will mean for so many issues that affect every single American across the board in their everyday lives.

BORGER: And this has moved now beyond the Senate chamber and beyond what's going outside in the Supreme Court and the capitol to the country, as the country wrestles with this in terms of the midterm elections coming up.

And I will tell you that what I heard from Chuck Schumer was vote, vote, vote. I just got an email in my inbox from Kamala Harris, elect more Democratic women. It's been a tough day. Our mailboxes are filing up with this now.

BASH: If you start to see our phones go, that's why.

BORGER: Yes. That's what it is. Just totally -- and there's no pretense about it. This is going to motivate both sides, already has, and the President I'm sure tonight we will hear this from the President, who will say what they want to do is impeach this justice, and impeach me. And he will use this as a rallying cry going forward. Don't let them do it. And the Democrats will say, you know, this court is going to change for generations. It's not a matter of whether, but how fast it's going to happen. And you can try and stop it.

BASH: I want you both to talk about what's next. He has been confirmed. How quickly will he actually be sworn in?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: (INAUDIBLE) Sam Alito was confirmed on January 31st, 2006. That evening he was sworn in. That's probably going to happen today. The Supreme Court has been a bit cagey about wanting to put anything out prematurely --

BASH: Because the court is in session.

BISKUPIC: They come in. It is Saturday but --.

BASH: No. What I mean is it's after the 1st of October.

BISKUPIC: Yes. And in fact they are off for Columbus Day, but on Tuesday, when you go into the Supreme Court, you will see him sitting up on the bench on your far right where that empty seat had been all last week, when the justices met without their ninth member. And he will be move into his chamber and that's it for life. ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: But Dana, what's so

interesting is - I mean, right now, this court has taken this hard right turn. When he had his first nominee, he replaced Justice Scalia with somebody who was like-minded -- younger but like-minded. This is the seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy. That means LGBT rights, abortion, affirmative action, second amendment.

A source told me yesterday that Kavanaugh was optimistic. He had already started reading the briefs, because he is going to be on the bench Tuesday. We don't have any blockbuster cases right now, but percolating below are big issues -- DACA, ACA, sanctuaries cities. Those are going to make their ways up to this court, which is now solidly conservative.

BASH: And Julie, this has been a fight for over a generation in conservative circles, to do exactly what we are seeing now. Of course, you know, starting with the lower federal courts, but this is the cherry on top, to get not just the Supreme Court seat, but the swing seat, make it no longer swing. There isn't a swing seat anymore.

JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Absolutely. And I mean, it's a little bit ironic, given how many reservations some Republicans had initially about President Trump when he was candidate Trump, but he is the President who has finally accomplished this.

I mean, it has been a generational fight. There's been this, you know, very aggressive and meticulously planned campaign let by the federalist society. Don McGahn is now the White House counsel. He is very closely aligned and looped in with all of those people. Brett Kavanaugh is part of that circle of people as well. They have, you know, planned this out very carefully. It's not just the Supreme Court either, as Phil was alluding to earlier. This is Mitch McConnell's - this has been his agenda for a long time, to really try to get as many conservative judges to the courts below the Supreme Court and as possible to sort of feed that pipeline. It's not something that Democrats have done. It is not something that Democratic voters have been as focused on frankly as the Republican (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: That will change.


DAVIS: I think that may change. I mean, there was a lot of talk during this confirmation battle about it wasn't fair. Republicans made the point privately and publicly to try to make Brett Kavanaugh answer for all of the sins of all of the assailants of these women who are coming forward and saying they had this in place. These things happen to him. And that may have been true.

It was a confirmation fight over him, and whether he was appropriate for the seat. But you better believe that in this debate that's going to go on in the next few weeks running up to the midterm elections, it's going to be a proxy fight. And this is going to become a real issue I think animating Democrats as well as Republicans. [16:10:06] BASH: And Gloria, you know, we knew and we saw during the

campaign, the President laid the groundwork for this in the most -- now looking back, probably politically astute move that he could make, which was unprecedented, putting out a list of names, so he could prove to conservatives during the Republican primaries when the conservatives didn't know what to make of this New York, former liberal, or liberal on lots of issues, and they took a chance. And he is now the vehicle for the things that Mitch McConnell has been talking about, a legacy.

BORGER: He has had to do it in a way because he needed to convince evangelicals that he was going to do this for them because they were --.

BASH: And he has delivered.

BORGER: He has completely delivered. And during the campaign as we talked to evangelicals and people asking about the "Access Hollywood" tape, wait a minute, there is a biggest picture here. And is his list of Supreme Court possibilities and this is what we care about. Because we are taking the long view here.

What's interesting to me, though, who was the President have to thank? Dana, you know this. He has got to thank Mitch McConnell who he has tweeted about and didn't like. He has got to thank Susan Collins, who he did today, and she of course, was not his friend on the repeal of Obamacare and he has to thank Don McGahn who he does not like, does not speak to --.

BASH: Now, we just now one foot out the door, but two feet out.

BORGER: Two feet out the door.

BASH: Right. His White House counsel.

BORGER: And he is White House counsel and he has been running the show on this. And we know there's no love lost between them. So the three people that he has to thank are people he doesn't like, and now he said, you know, I really respect Susan Collins. We should unwind some of that tape.

BISKUPIC: Can I say something about Mitch McConnell though? Everybody remembers what (INAUDIBLE). But let me tell you something else that he did. It is really important that brings this home to what the court can deliver for the conservative type. Mitch McConnell has had an interest in the Supreme Court since the 70s when he was a senate staffer and he paid attention to the defeat of a couple of President Nixon's nominees. So he has watched they battles and he has been a litigant before the Supreme Court.

BASH: Yes, he has.

BISKUPIC: Major campaign finance cases.

BASH: Exactly. Named for him and he won. BISKUPIC: McConnell versus FEC. Well, first he lost. He lost the

case that preceded Citizens United. So he knows firsthand, Dana, what it means to lose 5-4 to a court that isn't this court --.

BASH: And t's really interesting because he keep -- he knows the limits, the constitutional limits of his power as a senator, of the President's power as a chief executive, and how much power there is in that court that, because it is so -- you two understand it implicitly, because you cover it every day, but for most people it's that, it's a building. And there are some people in robes, and they understand from their civics lessons, but don't really necessarily understand. This is going to change that, for at least this generation, but how powerful the Supreme Court is.

DE VOGUE: Don't forget also they are still, to this day, the Republicans are so furious about people like David Souter or John Paul Stevens. Those were both put on the bench by Republicans, and they thought -- they became more liberal in their votes. And that's why it was so interesting when the President put out that list. Because they not only put out a list, they vetted them.

BORGER: Well, Kavanaugh was not on the list originally. And I'm told that Don McGahn is the one who was really pushing for Kavanaugh and put him on that list.

BASH: And they are personally good friends.

BORGER: Personally close friends. Kavanaugh is sort of well-known Republican figure here in Washington and hence he is friends with Don McGahn and a lot of other Republican attorneys, one would presume, so they added him to the list.

BASH: Right.

BORGER: And then McGahn pushed it.

BISKUPIC: Well, there was very political, though. You remember when he put out the list in May of 2016, there was no inside the beltway person, no swamp. And you know, that was part of the message. And then he wasn't actually even on the list in September of 2016.

Brett Kavanaugh did not get on the list until November, you know, so he was - he was one of the most recent people added to it, but once he got on, his inside connections to Don McGahn and others, there are other George W. Bush people in this administration that played crucial roles --.

BASH: Yes, exactly. And to your earlier point, who is the fourth person that he had to thank?

BORGER: Bush. Thank you.


BASH: Well, that's an important point. I'm glad you brought that up. Because Susan Collins, who is going to be on "STATE OF THE UNION" with me, I talked to her today ahead of the show. And she says that he called her multiple times, George W. Bush, to explain that -- to basically act as a character witness, to say the temperament that you are worried about, that you saw in that hearing last week, where he went after senator Klobuchar apologized, but where he went after all the Democrats, as being just doing the bidding of the Clintons, that is not him. And that went a long way with her.

[16:15:17] BORGER: So here is a question I want answered, which we don't know the answer to really, one may never get the answer to. The person who knows this judicial temperament the best would be his boss, Merrick Garland, who is his boss. Let me point that out. And I'm wondering what he is thinking, feeling, saying? Was he consulted? Wasn't he consulted? And what about other justices? Were they called? Was Roberts called and asked, would this cause you a problem? Have you been talking to --?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They never would do that. Protocol wouldn't call for that.


BISKUPIC: OK. Let me just tell you what I know because I know (INAUDIBLE). Richard Nixon picked up the phone all the time to talk to Warren Berger. That used to go on. It doesn't go on anymore.

BORGER: You don't think Barack Obama might have called Kagan and Sotomayor and said something or ask now that he is not in office now to get a read on this?

BISKUPIC: No. No. OK, Merrick Garland, who -- you mean like Donald Trump called Merrick Garland to say --

BORGER: No, no, I mean Democrats calling Merrick Garland.

BISKUPIC: You mean like senators and people?


BISKUPIC: Oh, yes, but all of them were predisposed against Brett Kavanaugh. You are not going to find - you are not going to find George Bush calling these people. You are not going to find those kinds of power --.

BASH: Go ahead, Ariane.

DE VOGUE: Well, I think it is interesting because Kavanaugh has deep ties to this bench. When he was in the White House he helped chief justice John Roberts get a nomination. Elena Kagan hired him to teach at Harvard. He went to the same high school as Gorsuch. And Thomas has had a similar experience for his confirmation. So you can expect when he get there, he will be embraced by them and he has sent many of his clerks to work for them all.

BASH: So we are waiting for a press conference from the senate Republican leadership. As we do, I want to circle back to the election that is four-and-a-half weeks away, which is kind of amazing. The Republicans committee that's overseeing reelecting Republicans in the House, I'm told by a source there that the small donations from people around the country is up over 1,000 percent, now compared to October of 2016, because they see, and this is just in the past week, because of the fury that they are seeing and hearing about Brett Kavanaugh. Again, the house doesn't have a vote on the Supreme Court nominee, but obviously that's the next game up.

DAVIS: There is no question this has intensified the Republican base and Republican voters to care more about politics, to care more about the court, to care more about the midterm elections. They, you know, President Trump was already going around telling people you can't be complacent. This is an important election. But this really I think has driven it home to people. It is the case though that, as you know, that four weeks is a long time in politics. It would have been better for Republicans if this vote had happened closer to the midterm Election Day, but this has been a big motivator for them. The question, of course is whether it's just as big if not a bigger motivator for Democrats because they are the ones who lost here. They are the ones who had it brought home to them. If we had the majority in the senate, if we had more votes, they could have stopped this.

BASH: That is traditionally what happens. The loser gets motivated, I mean. But there is a pendulum that swings back and forth always in politics. But they were already so energized, how do they get more energized?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the question is --.

BORGER: If they were at 100 percent, and if the Republicans were at 50 percent, can the Republicans get to parity? And I don't know the answer to that question. And also, will the results be different in the House and in the Senate. In the House, you have those moderate Republican districts, 23 I believe that Hillary Clinton won. The suburban women who may be angry, and so this could help, you know, this could really help Democrats get control.

BASH: And Republicans are admitting that.

BORGER: Right. But in the Senate, I mean you have Heidi Heitkamp who voted against Kavanaugh, which is resorted to a dozen points down to - according to some polls.

BASH: They basically voted against most of the majority of her state.

BORGER: She did. And she said she kind of knew that. And then you have - so this is going to play out. Again, as you just said, four weeks is a long time.

BASH: We have a new tweet from the President of the United States. I will read it to you.

I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our great nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Later today, I will sign his commission of appointment and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting, exclamation point.

So you were right, Joan. He will be doing - he will be sworn in. Tonight, he will be officially an associate justice.

[16:20:05] DE VOGUE: He comes in with this cloud, though, right.

BASH: It's more than a cloud.

DE VOGUE: And --

BASH: It's a haze.

DE VOGUE: He did not want to do that FBI investigation, right. And they did do it, and he said he was more -- they found no corroboration. So now he is going to go. And his critics say anytime there's something, an investigation around President Trump, maybe the Mueller stuff again up there, another investigation, they are going to be calls for his recusal when the ACLU goes up, the NAACP. So this is what he is going to have deal. We have never seen it.

BASH: And we have also never seen a situation where the Democrats who are being careful not to say we don't want to even talk about the impeachment because the Congress can impeach a judge. It is a lifetime appointment. The only way they could get taken off if they don't retire is for impeachment proceedings to successfully go through Congress. They say that they are still going to look into it.

From a Democrats' point of view, this isn't over. And they are in the minority right now, but if they do take majority in the house, they have the power to investigate. They have subpoena power, which is huge. Which means that never mind what it means for President Trump's agenda. It means that Brett Kavanaugh is going to continue to have this cloud over his head, because the pressure will be on Democrats. And to be honest, many of them genuinely want to know the answers that they think that they weren't able to get because of the investigation.

DE VOGUE: And that will happen while he may very well be looking at some Trump policies, some issues, so he will be sitting on the court in his black coat.

BORGER: You mean subpoena?

DAVIS: Imagine if there were to be a case, I mean, we just talk about how divided the country is over this. That there are going to be Bush v. Gore type of situation where you had an election that went all the way to the Supreme Court where you had Trump on one side and Democrats on the other. And he is, you know, potentially a deciding vote. Imagine if there's a fight over, you know, releasing President Trump's tax returns, which Democrats are definitely going to try to do if they get (INAUDIBLE), and we already know that Brett Kavanaugh has a pretty expansive view of Presidential power. There is always going to be this question hanging over him of whether he is sort beholden to the President who pushed him through this process.

BORGER: And some have suggested that there are going to be cases that he should refuse himself from. And from where I'm reading, you guys are the legal experts, but that's a pretty high bar.

BISKUPIC: It is a very high bar. And there is a big gap, Gloria, between what the public thinking about when somebody might be tainted and what's actually happened. I cannot tell you how exceedingly rare it is for any justice to recuse himself or herself. It doesn't happen and it is probably won't happen with Brett Kavanaugh.

BASH: Everybody stand by. We are going to sneak in a quick break. A lot more to talk about including a more reaction from senators on Capitol Hill and what we see outside the Supreme Court and Congress, people pouring into the streets.


[16:27:27] BASH: We want to show you some shots and some video of what was going on as the vote was happening on the Senate floor. This is outside the Supreme Court. Protesters crying as Brett Kavanaugh was formally being confirmed.

Now we have live pictures at the Supreme Court, and obviously we can't hear, but we don't need to because the pictures speak a thousand words. We know exactly what these women are trying to say.

On that note here with us on the panel, Gloria and Joan are still with me. We also have Karine Jean-Pierre, senior advisor and former Obama administration official and former senator Rick Santorum, CNN senior political commentator.

OK. So you are the first man we have had on the set.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I know it is hard work on the panel. I'm hoping to live up to the standard here.

BASH: Can you handle it?

SANTORUM: I'm trying.

BASH: But in all seriousness, looking at the images, the emotion of women, those are the ones who are there. But I'm getting text from people, I'm seeing on social media, this is incredibly emotional for women who believe Professor Ford and don't feel that they are being heard. How do you respond?

SANTORUM: Candidly, I think it's more than that. I mean, look. This is really more about the left in America than it is about women. I mean, this has been a nomination that's been opposed, as you heard Chuck Schumer from the very beginning. This is the swing seat. We are going to do everything we can to block this. There was a last- minute attempt to use the Me Too movement to weaponize it to try to block judge Kavanaugh, but they used it because the stakes were so high. And I think you would find the vast, vast majority of those people, folks who opposed judge Kavanaugh from the very beginning and saw an opportunity, again, to use the Me Too movement to try to stop him.

But this is about the power of the Supreme Court has assumed to itself over the last 40 or 50 years. The left has used that to their advantage to get landmark cases to move their agenda forward that they couldn't get through the Congress or the regular process and now they see that day coming to an end. That is a big deal for them.

BORGER: So are conservatives who said the court has been too activist. Now are going to say, wait a minute, we want an activist court because --.

SANTORUM: I think it's just the opposite.


I think what you are seeing is, you know, Brett Kavanaugh and everybody else who has been nominated is, we need to return the court not to be the instrument of social change in America, but to do what it's supposed to do, which is to call balls and strikes, not play the president.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: I think what you say is completely fair. This is incredibly partisan. Democrats does come out against candidate X without even a name, a lot of them. Not all of the, but a lot of them. And--


SANTORUM: The guy who replaced me, he announced he was oppose to Kavanaugh before he was announced.

BASH: Right. But this -- since the allegations, it's taken on a different cultural event.


BASH: People who are not political are looking at this and saying, oh, my goodness. And so how is that going to square with, do you think, with the fact that, politically speaking, of course, the Democrats were already where they are. Republicans are maybe more energized now because of this fight.

SANTORUM: A lot are more energized.

BASH: But what we are focused on, politically speaking, are, in the House, whether Democrats can take control, the people who are a bit less political, who could persuade either way to go Democrat or Republican, that will tip the balance of the House.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISOR, MOVEON.ORG & FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So you have to say this, you have to push back, as you can imagine, Rick. I was part of the protest that you are seeing in front of the Supreme Court building. I spoke at the vigil on Wednesday. I spoke about an hour and a half in front of the SCOTUS. I've never seen this energy. These are women who are heartbroken, who are telling their stories.


BASH: I'm sorry to interrupt. I'm going to give you a chance to respond.

We want to listen to Mitch McConnell in the capitol.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: And also, Mr. President, this is a good day for America, and an important day for the Senate. We stood up for the presumption of innocence. We refused to be intimidated by the mob of people that were coming after Republican members at their homes, in the halls. I couldn't be prouder of the Senate Republican conference.

And we want to thank Senator Manchin for helping us.

And with that, I'll be happy to take your questions.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You talk about this was a dark period. I'm just interested based on what we have seen the last three weeks, both parties have --


MCCONNELL: Well, you know --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- how do you get to that point?

MCCONNELL: We've seen -- sorry to interrupt you. We have seen both sides of the Senate during the same period. During the same period we were having this huge argument over the Supreme Court, we passed an opioid bill done on a bipartisan basis, and a five-year FAA extension. We completed doing the best job on appropriations in 20 years. So we were both able to have a big robust fight over something both sides felt deeply about, and still work together on other issues at the very same time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). And some are angry, they're mad.

MCCONNELL: These things always blow over. I think, even though there may have been some angers expressed during this fight, as I just said, at the very same time, it wasn't very newsworthy for you guys because it won by a big margin, we were doing important things together that hadn't been done together in a long time.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Leader? Mr. Leader? OK. Mr. leader, two questions for you.


MCCONNELL: You - you --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How do you view what impact this will have on the --


MCCONNELL: I called on the woman behind you. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK. Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have any concerns that the Democrats and leaders control the White House, to confirm a more partisan -- in the future?

MCCONNELL: Well, a little history lesson. I have given this to you guys before, but the executive counter was always done on a simple majority basis until Bush 43 got elected, always. Even though it was possible to filibuster, it simply wasn't done. So this notion of filibustering executive branch appointments is a relatively new thing, invented, ironically, by my counterpart, currently, the Democratic leader of the Senate, who began to encourage the Democrats to use filibusters against circuit court appointments during Bush 43's first term. You saw it evolve through several different phases over the next 15 years, leading us right back to where we were before. There were plenty of contentious nominations when the filibuster was still possible. The most conspicuous example of that, Clarence Thomas' confirmation. Came out of the committee with a negative vote, went to the floor, was confirmed 52-48. All of you know it takes only one Senator, just one to make us get 60 votes. Nobody did. We are back to dealing with the executive calendar on a simple majority basis, as we did for 230 years or so, down to Bush. And I don't think, you know, this is going to -- it will advantage the other side at some point, as it always did down through history.


[16:35:31] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Leader McConnell, what do you think the impact of this will be on the fall midterm election? Going forward, do you think it has long or short-term ramifications?

MCCONNELL: It certainly had a good impact for us. Our base is fired up. We finally discovered the one thing that would fire up the Republican base, and we didn't think of it. The other side did it. The tactics that have been employed both by the Judiciary Committee Democratic Senators and by the virtual mob that's assaulted all of us in the course of this process has turned our base on fire. I was talking to two of my political advisers yesterday about the advantage that these guys by their tactics have given to us going into the red- state competitive races, and we're pretty excited. They managed to deliver. The only thing we had not figured out how to do, which was to get our folks fired up. The other side is fired up. They have been all year.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think there's any long-term ramifications in the way that the women view the party, and women who are here in the halls saying --


MCCONNELL: You mean women like Senator Collins and Senator Fischer and Senator Hyde-Smith, and Senator Ernst? This was about treating someone fairly. This was about evidence being relevant. Not about unsubstantiated charges.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: you heard several colleagues say the country needs to heal, the Senate needs to heal. Do you think the country and the Senate need to heal after this? What are you going to do to make that happen?

MCCONNELL: Well, I just finished reading John Meacham's latest book, which is a trip through American history and some of the more challenging periods. This is as near as challenging as some of the experiences we've had in the past throughout our history. The Senate and the country will get past this. We always do. The geniuses that mutt this constitution together knew what they were doing. And I think this is nowhere near the lowest points we have experienced, the McCarthy era, the rise of the Klan in the '20s after Woodrow Wilson premiered "Birth of a Nation" in the White House. We've had some other low points. We always get past them.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You mentioned Senator Collins. Democrats are saying she is now their top target.

MCCONNELL: She's my top priority, too.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Leader McConnell, Senator Lindsey Graham had an interesting statement the other day, citing the Merrick Garland standard, he himself would not consider a Supreme Court nominee once the 2020 presidential primaries have begun. Will you take the same frame?

MCCONNELL: Let's talk about 2016. I'm glad you brought it up. You would have to go back to 1888, 1888, to find the last time a Senate controlled by a different party than the president filled a vacancy created during a presidential election year. I knew full well, based on what Joe Biden had volunteered in 1992, and Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid volunteered in 2007, that who controls the Senate when you have a vacancy that close to the election makes a big difference. There's not a doubt in anybody's mind here, I'm sure, if the shoe was on the other foot in 2016, had there been a Republican president making a nomination to the Democratic Senate, it wouldn't have been filled. We'll see what it looks like in 2020, first do we have a vacancy? And second, who is in charge of the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So you're not closing the possibility --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If Ruth Bader Ginsburg were to leave the court, would you urge the president to put another conservative in that seat?

MCCONNELL: Of course.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you try to encourage more of the female Republican women --


[16:39:58] MCCONNELL: That's a good question. We have encouraged several of our women Senators to come on the committee. I intend to do that again at the start of the next sessions. Their particular priorities have not been -- there's been no effort to avoid it. I've tried to encourage them to do it, obviously, without success. We would love to have one of our women Senators on the judiciary. Hopefully, that will be the case next year.

Thanks a lot.

BASH: That was the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with a press conference where he just, by definition of his character, was clearly more excited and more happy than we have seen him.


It's hard to tell. But we can tell you, that he was.

SANTORUM: That's a happy Mitch McConnell.

BASH: That is a happy Mitch McConnell, we hear, from one of his colleagues. That is as excited as --

SANTORUM: That's ebullient.

BASH: -- Mitch McConnell.

But there's so many things that, you know, that he said there. We can talk about Merrick Garland in a minute.

Again, he's still defending the idea he didn't allow a confirmation vote for President Obama's nominee, which would have, had had it gone through, would have put the court in a different place right now. We're going to talk about that in a minute.

Because we have a little news -- before I do this, I want you to respond to Senator Santorum.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.

I've been at the protest all week. I spoke today about an hour and a half. I couldn't even leave without someone coming up to me and telling me their story. About 39 years ago what happened, 10 years ago what happened. Five years ago. I've been doing this for a long time being in the progressive movement, I've never seen the energy I'm seeing this week. The women's mark was wonderful. Women are angry. They are angry. And we were already energized as we have seen from the polls. Now it's gone even a step higher, if you can even imagine that it can go, and we're 30 days away, just 30 days away and the outcome of Kavanaugh going to the bench, I think it will truly make it even bigger. The intensity that we're seeing already.

BASH: And you have some news about when that's going to happen, when he's actually going to get on the bench and how. JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Right now. By the end of

today, people take both judicial oaths. It's required -- he'll take a constitutional oath and judicial. One done by Chief Justice John Roberts, and one done by the man who he is succeeding, Anthony Kennedy, who was the crucial swing vote, who set off so much of the energy in this nomination fight.

BASH: So interesting.

Another piece of news from the president, and that is an interview he gave the "Washington Post" about Lisa Murkowski, the lone Republican to oppose Brett Kavanaugh's nomination. He is going gangbusters on her, saying, "She will never recover politically for her vote," or for her opposition to Brett Kavanaugh, saying, "that Alaskans will never forgive Murkowski."

You are her former colleague. Do you buy that?

SANTORUM: No. Not at all. She sits with the Republicans, but she ran as an Independent. She lost the Republican primary last time. She has brought support, frankly, you know, across the spectrum. And I suspect if you looked at Lisa's support, it would be equal between the three parties. So I think Lisa did something, ultimately, I think she decided for her state. Because of the one decision that Kavanaugh made with respect to Native Americans, and whether it applies to native Hawaiians and Alaskans, that was a big deal. Lisa's big part of her base are native Alaskans. So I don't think this hurt her at all. I think she did a classy thing, a really nice thing to pair with Senator Daines -- as a dad who walked a girl down the aisle, I know what a big day this is, and I would have missed the vote for that. That was a class act. I think everybody understands. And yet, the Democrats will complain about Joe Manchin, but they understand why he voted the way he did.

BASH: So your advice would be --


SANTORUM: People will complain about Lisa, but people understand the reason she voted -- absolutely. When you win, you don't take hostages. When you win, you move forward and try to bring everybody back on the team.

BORGER: And in Alaska, the Affordable Care Act is a big issue, health care and preexisting conditions. And by the way, we're not sure she'll run for reelection. She may decide, in 2022, she wants to stay and run for governor like her father did. And so we don't what the future --


SANTORUM: It doesn't matter. They thought the vote was right for her state and you can't argue that.

BORGER: No, not at all. [16:44:50] BASH: She did. And the president sees Alaska as a big, giant red state, but you make the important point, it's a very unique state, and she knows her state and she listened to her constituents.

Everybody, stand by.

We'll take a quick break. A lot more on the other side.


BASH: Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins was one of the deciding votes to confirm Kavanaugh today. Earlier, I spoke with her about her decision to support the nominee despite allegations of sexual assault against him. Here's what she told me.


BASH: Ford was really clear, under oath, under pain of perjury, that she was 100 percent certain that it was Brett Kavanaugh who sexually assaulted her. So given the decision you made, do you not believe her?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R), MAINE: Let me say this. First of all, I found Dr. Ford's testimony to be heart-wrenching, painful, compelling, and I believe that she believes what she testified to. I don't think she was coming forth with a political motive. Although, I do not think that she was treated well by those who breached her confidence. But we also had a case where Judge Kavanaugh came forward and said I'm 100 percent certain that this did not happen. So here you have two people, who are each 100 percent certain of what they're saying, under pain of perjury, so then I had to look at the other evidence, and was there corroborating evidence, and that's why I pushed hard for the FBI to do a supplemental background investigation.

[16:50:04] BASH: So do you still think it is possible that he did it? You just don't have the proof to back that up?

COLLINS: I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant.

BASH: So --

COLLINS: I do believe she was assaulted. I don't know by whom. And I'm not certain when.


BASH: Look, I mean this is about as tough as it gets. She told me afterwards, that probably the one that was tougher was when she had to decide whether to impeach the president of the United States during the Clinton era.

And this is -- should we just tell you we're looking at live pictures outside Brett Kavanaugh's house. We'll see if he comes or goes, and if he does a wave or anything of the sort.

It looks like he's leaving his house. But as we look at that, your reaction to Senator Collins.

JEAN-PIERRE: I actually have a theory. I think she was always going to vote yet for Brett Kavanaugh. I really do. I think there was a report saying --

BASH: There he is. There's Brett Kavanaugh. Let's watch. Oh, that was moments ago.


We'll get it right.

Go ahead.

BORGER: We'll talk and then something will happen.

BASH: Go ahead.


We're looking at SUVs. Brett Kavanaugh is in one of them, leaving his house in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


BASH: We do assume he's going to get sworn in, on his way to become, officially to become an associate justice.

BORGER: I think he wants to see this done.

BASH: Yes. He's ready.

Go ahead, Karine.

JEAN-PIERRE: I was just saying that my theory is I think she was always going to vote for Brett Kavanaugh. There were reports saying one of the reasons that Brett Kavanaugh got chosen was because they passed it by Susan Collins, and she gave it a thumbs up. I think she just needed cover. And that's what the FBI --

BASH: I'll tell you what she said to me is she was going to be a yes on the issues that she was looking at until she became undecided, and that she changed her yes to undecided because of the allegations.

JEAN-PIEERE: That's so interesting. I have your instinct all along she was trying to get to a yes. Maybe she illuminated more on this area when you spoke to her. What she said about Roe v. Wade very early one after she met with him, she said he said it's settled precedent, that's good enough for me. I read that as a complete signal of --


SANTORUM: Yes. Remember, and this is why the histrionics we are seeing from the left are so outrageous. This is a Bush Republican. This is not a Trump Republican. This is not an ultra-right-wing conservative justice. This is someone that -- you know, I wasn't for him, because I'm a little concerned he's going to be a little soft on some issues. A lot of conservatives had concerns about it. So when Susan interviewed him and talked to him, I think she felt comfortable. If you look at his public testimony, I walked away from the hearing and I'm like, gosh, I'm not sure he's going to be the guy to overturn Roe v. Wade. When I heard Susan yesterday, I thought it was her finest hour in the Senate. I thought she did an amazing job in walking down all of it, but it didn't make me feel comfortable about where the court is going and the direction I would like to see.

BORGER: Here's something that will make you more comfortable. Dianne Feinstein, in a tweet, threw a little shade at Susan Collins and said when she had her meeting with Kavanaugh, he didn't say it was settled law, that he said he would take it into consideration. And that's --


SANTORUM: Look what he said in his testimony before the Senate. He was very -- he must have said over and over, it's not just a precedent. It's a precedent that's been reinforced more than once. He made a very big deal about that. Made me very uncomfortable.

BORGER: And made Dianne Feinstein uncomfortable for a different reason.

SANTORUM: Made Collins very comfortable.

BASH: The reason why we're talking about Susan Collins is because she always tends to be the last one, because she -- OK, she didn't vote with Republicans on health care, but she does have to consider something that most Republicans don't. You did a bit when you were in Pennsylvania, but she has to consider the fact that the majority of her state is Democrat or Independent, and not Republican. She has an "R" next to her name.

JEAN-PIERRE: She's going to have a problem. You have thousands of people who were outside the Supreme Court who do not great with her. It's hard to have it both ways to say that I believe Dr. Ford, but says I think what Kavanaugh says is actually right. You can't have it both ways. It's problematic. People are disappointed in her. There's a campaign out there that's raised $3 million, $1.5 million in the last 24 hours.

[16:55:15] BASH: No, I think -- she knows she's up for a battle. There are protesters here and in her office in Maine. But she also has a wealth of support in her state.

SANTORUM: Her speech was is exactly Maine. It was independent, thoughtful. She did her work. She showed herself to be a Senator's Senator. I think she'll do well --


BASH: Everybody, thank you.


BASH: We've got to take a break.

Everyone, thank you so much. What an interesting and informative discussion. Thank you.

And thanks for hanging out with all the women.



BASH: Senator Susan Collins will be my guest tomorrow on "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

That does it for me. I'm Dana Bash, in Washington

Ana Cabrera will be right here picking up the coverage right after a break.