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At This Hour

Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford Hearing. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 27, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think this is going to resonate in many ways to the justices on the Supreme Court while they worry institutionally.

I felt we got an answer here that I was sort of puzzled about beyond the personal tale. That was why she decided to come forward, because she obviously was very terrified by everything, but she talked about the sense of urgency she had. And she vividly described what happened to her matching the urgency that the country should feel.

He's going to come back this afternoon and could be equally compelling, but this is a really tough one to fight.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRRESPONDENT; It is. And until this moment, until this morning, we have heard about her, we have heard her story, as we read it in the "Washington Post," as we read it in this statement that they released yesterday. But it is a whole different thing to really feel it. And the humanity that we're seeing here, no matter what you believe going into this, no matter what you believe now, it is impossible not to feel that.


BASH: And again, you know, we're all watching it and trying to sort of gauge how this is going to go. But the people who are going to have to vote on this, particularly, again, those two female Republican Senators, it is hard to imagine them not watching this and saying, as they were even thinking going into this, whoa, whoa, whoa, let's take a breath here.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: One thing that is also interesting is she's bringing her professional expertise, essentially saying the brain can't forget this trauma. I think she used the phrase, "The hippocampus can't forget" this sort of "indelible memory" of those people, she says, who were laughing at her while it was going on.

What's also interesting is the way in which I thought Rachel Mitchell was going to be effective here, because she would have a certain amount of time, she isn't being that effective because she is trying to go at this memory question. How loud was the music playing? Do you remember how you got home? Were they talking as they were going down the steps? And the basis of what she's saying is scientific. She remembers something very specific about the incident. She might not remember the music is playing, so I think the ritual Mitchell gamble isn't really paying off. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: I think one thing that's interesting, too, is before when this first came out, people said, why are you coming forward now? Why so long? There was no reason, really, and she said, it was my civic duty. Today, we learned more. We learned how this is affecting her life, big ways and small ways. Her house renovation. She wanted to have two doors.

BISKUPIC: The two doors. That was incredible.

DE VOGUE: The fact she said as she watched Kavanaugh's career progress, that triggered her every time. So we're seeing sort of why this stayed on, why the impact was more than what happened 30 years ago.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT; Very dangerous to keep score, if you will, during the day.

I want to read you several incomings from Republicans close to leadership. What matters most, can Mitch McConnell hold this together. Does Susan Collins say slow down? Does Jeff Flake or Ben Sasse, who are on the committee, do they decide to vote no or do they decide, we're need more time, we need to hear from Mark Judge? I'll use this one. This is a Republican very close to the Senate Republican leadership: "This is awful for Kavanaugh. She was believable. Lots of details. And convincing. He has a huge task ahead of him."

There are people saying this may be slipping away.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And another thing, Jeff Toobin, that's important to keep in mind here, is that this is an emotional testimony. And it's an emotional experience for people watching, for millions of Americans watching at home, especially people who have been survivors of sexual assault, men or women. And that is something that Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, et cetera, are going to have to weigh. Do they want to discount all of those emotions of constituents?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is sickening to watch. I'm sorry. I mean, I just find this excruciating. Someone thinks this woman is lying -- I mean, just the idea that anyone could consider this false testimony.

You know, you could not be more right about the experience. I'm even seeing it in social media, I'm seeing it in people I know. Women who have undergone experiences like this saying I can't watch this because it is a triggering experience. You know, 50 years from now, people are going to be playing that exchange with Pat Leahy, where he says, what do you remember most, and it's the laughter.


TOOBIN: That to me is going to be one of the indelible images of this decade, not just this testimony. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We're told, Gloria, that people in that hearing room were crying.


BLITZER: There were tears there. And I can only imagine the people who were watching on television crying as well.

BORGER: It was affecting and believable. And the part of the process that I think is not working is not really working is that you had Rachel Mitchell, right, asking questions --

[11:35:12] TAPPER: The prosecutor.

BORGER: The prosecutor, asking questions for five minutes, clearly, wanting to sort of go over details, perhaps finding holes in the story, whatever, and then you go to Leahy, then you go to Durbin. So Mitchell gets interrupted every five minutes. She's trying to build some kind of a case, I would presume.

Jeffrey, you're the attorney here.

TOOBIN: It's a completely ridiculous format.

BORGER: So what happens is she goes through this chronologically or whatever she wants to do, and then, boom, it goes to Pat Leahy.

TAPPER: Yes. The format is not good.

BORGER: It doesn't work.

TAPPER: I want to go to M.J. Lee, CNN reporter, who is in the room, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

M.J., you have been sending us notes and photographs internally about what it's like being there. Tell our viewers.

M.J. LEE, CNN REPORTER: It has just been an incredible, emotional scene inside the room. It's really hard to describe unless you're in there. Obviously, Christine Blasey Ford, her statements have been very emotional. You saw that she has been crying, and that, in turn, has made the people sitting in that room -- we know that some of the members of the audience are her friends and supporters -- but not only just them, but some of the Senate staffers as well as the Senators also getting emotional. We saw a number of people crying, wiping away their tears. It was audible that people were crying in the room. Just having a very visceral reaction to Blasey Ford was saying.

And just to underscore how significant of a moment this is, just remember -- and I know I'm sure you all have been talking about this all morning, prior to today -- we did not have a visual of Blasey Ford. We only really had a name. We had maybe one or two, three photographs of her, just to go by. And now we have this very visually sort of moving and powerful look at her saying in her own words as she is crying what she says happened to her back in high school.

The other thing that I would note, just in terms of the dynamics in the room, and obviously, you have been observing this as well, very, very notable, the difference in when the Republican side is questioning Blasey Ford versus Democrats. Obviously, sort of the back and forth between this outside counsel, the female counsel that Republicans have chosen, questioning her, and more of sort a cross- examination style, and then when it gets tossed back to the Democrats, that has been sort of a personal questioning in terms of how they're speaking to Blasey Ford. So there's been a lot of tension, a lot of emotions in the room, and obviously, we're in our first break right now in this hearing.

I will say, the Senators, the Republican Senators who are exiting that room, you could tell that they were very stoic, very solemn, and not wanting to engage reporters at all. One of those Senators actually was Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He obviously has made clear how he has felt. A lot of ambivalence about the process. I tried to ask him, just trying to get a comment from him. His reaction to all of this, and he really wouldn't say much.

TAPPER: All right, M.J. Lee, thank you so much.

I want to talk right now about the crude politics of this, if I can. And I don't want to discount at all what millions of Americans are no doubt feeling when they watch the testimony. But right now somewhere in the capitol, I believe in Vice President Pence's capitol office, is Brett Kavanaugh. And he is sitting there trying to decide how he should come across. He is getting conflicting advice. Some people are no doubt telling him, this is powerful, you have to acknowledge it, you can't discount her pain, you should just say what you have said before, you don't deny her pain, but she has the wrong guy. And then there's what he is being told by President Trump, fight, hit back --

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: -- attack. And he's going to have a choice to make.

BORGER: He's going to have a very difficult choice to make. Not only in tone, as you point out, but in detail. In describing his own truth about how this wasn't him, and how he wasn't there. And so I don't really -- you know, it's a difficult, difficult thing for him to try to figure out. And I'm hearing from Republicans saying this is a disaster for them. And he's now -- Kavanaugh has to walk in there after she has said that this is an indelible memory. Has to walk in there and say, well, my memory is strong, too. And I wasn't there. And this wasn't --

[11:40:05] BLITZER: She said 100 percent.

BORGER: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: One-hundred percent, she has no doubts who these two boys were inside that room.

BASH: If I may, instinct is to fight, according to people, Jake, who are close to him.


DE VOGUE: At least going in.

BASH: Pardon me?

DE VOGUE: At least going in.


BASH: Going in, his instinct was to fight


BASH: which is why he did that FOX interview, which didn't do that.


BASH: It's one thing to fight on the outside, it's another thing to be in there. But that's been his approach.

BLITZER: The reaction is beginning to come in. Significant reaction.

Let's listen to Senator Gillibrand of New York.


SEN. GILLIBRAND, (D), NEW YORK: I don't know how any Republican watching this testimony could possibly vote for Brett Kavanaugh after what she said. Not only her honesty, her integrity, her truth, it's obvious. And I just don't know how any Republican could vote for Brett Kavanaugh after hearing her.


BLITZER: What do you think?

BISKUPIC: I just want to draw a comparison to what we saw with Anita Hill and what we see with Dr. Ford, is that Anita Hill projected strength and control and a real professionalism to match then-Judge Thomas. The vulnerability of this witness is coming through much more. You feel her reliving it. And I think that makes it much harder than what Clarence Thomas faced with Anita Hill, because it was almost an equal "he said/she said." This time around, the idea that she's living it almost on a daily basis, the way she talked, I think it's tougher. Much tougher.

TOOBIN: And what keeps haunting me listening to this is something that hasn't been mentioned very often. She was 15 years old. She was almost a little kid. I mean, 15 is barely an adolescent. To go through this at 15, I mean, it is just so haunting and horrible to think about. And you know, it's no wonder it affected her whole life.

TAPPER: Ariane De Vogue, the worst thing for Kavanaugh happened, which is Professor Ford came across credibly. She came across as human. She didn't come across as a Democrat out for revenge. She didn't come across as a Flake who made this up. She came across as somebody whose mind is 100 percent certain and who a lot of people out there believe. This is going to be tough for Brett Kavanaugh to negotiate.

DE VOGUE: There's two things that I think are interesting. One is we had her opening statement, and we did not have a full one from him. We didn't have that. And why? Maybe they are not sure exactly how they were going to respond in the opening statement.

And another thing is that she came across, this isn't a trial, but both sides gave evidence. Her evidence was affidavits from people she told long afterwards because she didn't tell anybody. Part of his evidence was his calendars from when he was a child, you know, 17 years old. And there's no marking of where the party was in his calendar. It says there's doodles on it and different parties, but not this one. He's having to come in and basically after that testimony reconstruct something that he doesn't say happens without --

TAPPER: Here we are, John, in a point where everybody now is thinking about, OK, Brett Kavanaugh, whoever he is today, was he at 17 capable of something like this? Was he at 17 able to get so drunk and hanging out with a guy named Mark Judge, who was also so drunk, and was it in him to do this? People are going back and reading his yearbooks and going back and reading Mark Judge's book, which is an expose of what it was like to be a drunk growing up in a prep school in Washington, D.C., a somewhat fictionalized version.

KING: Including a character named Bart O'Kavanaugh.

BLITZER: Bart O'Kavanaugh, who got very drunk as well. That's what's going on in people's heads right now. And you have and Susan Collins saying, how come we're not calling and subpoenaing Mark Judge to testify?

KING: At a minimum, that is the scale that has tipped today. Judge Kavanaugh deserves his chance. And we should be careful. And I get Senator Gillibrand there saying, how could anyone vote for Kavanaugh? Judge Kavanaugh hasn't had a chance to speak yet, and he deserves that chance to speak, and he should be treated fairly.

However, her credibility, her passion, her answering the questions at a minimum, at a minimum -- this is not a trial, but I would like to ask this prosecutor, you're a sex crimes prosecutor. If you had a potential eyewitness, would you not compel that person to testify under oath? I would like to ask Judge Kavanaugh, you're an officer of the court. If you found out, you were presiding over a trial and a potential eyewitness was kept from the proceeding, wouldn't you compel that witness to testify? How can the Republicans -- if you take Professor Ford as credible, how can you move forward and confirm somebody to the swing seat on the United States Supreme Court without getting a potential eyewitness under oath? I do not know how they can answer that question.


[11:45:03] TOOBIN: Because they want to win.

BORGER: Right --

TOOBIN: Because they want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Because they want Citizens United expanded. Because they want gay people to be not allowed to shop everywhere they want to shop.

BASH: But, Jeffrey, the reality is that --


BASH: -- the U.S. Senate, on the Republican side, in particular, the way the caucus is set right now, you have a couple of Republicans who don't agree about the process. And that is why it is very hard to imagine, based on my reporting, and based on what Susan Collins, in particular and Lisa Murkowski have said publicly, that already they were predisposed to saying, let's just hear from Mark Judge. After this, how can they not?

BORGER: The big question is, they have to decide if Kavanaugh has perjured himself before the committee. No matter what you think of, oh, this happened 35 years ago, how can we knock him off the court because of something he did when he was a young kid? The question is before the committee now, did he perjure himself. And can someone who perjured himself go and sit on the highest court in the land?


KING: Should he still be a leading judge on the second-highest court in the land?

BORGER: And I don't see how you can make that decision.

TAPPER: Perjured himself on what?

BORGER: Perjured himself on saying this wasn't --

BASH: I didn't attack anybody.

BORGER: -- I didn't attack anybody.


BORGER: I didn't attack anybody. This wasn't, you know -- this is --


TAPPER: But how would one prove that?

BORGER: Maybe with Mark Judge, maybe other witnesses, with -- what I'm saying -- in other words, with an FBI investigation, perhaps. I think that's the question that sits out there, and you can't decide, I think, with just her testimony and then his testimony, as you were pointing out. I mean, how can you --

(CROSSTALK) KING: What about his reputation? Even if he is to be confirmed --

BORGER: Exactly.

KING: -- do you want every single conversation about Justice Brett Kavanaugh to be, the Supreme Court issued a decision today that dramatically did this. The decision was, comma, written by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, comma, put on the court -- you know --


TOOBIN: Worked out fine for Clarence Thomas.


TOOBIN: Clarence Thomas -- every piece that --


BLITZER: Hold on. Professor Ford is now seated once again. The hearing is about to resume.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We're going to have a vote at 12:40, so would it be possible for you to go from now until 12:40 without a break?

FORD: Yes.


Now it is Senator Cornyn's time, so proceed Ms. Mitchell.

MITCHELL: Thank you, Senator.

I have a blow-up here to my right of the map that was shown to you. The address that's indicated on here as belonging to your family is what all the property tax records showed as being your address.


MITCHELL: Just to put it in perspective, I'd like to show you a further-out -- a zoomed-out picture, so that we can put it in perspective. So, we can show the greater Washington area. Of course, you can see the Beltway on that -- the Beltway area.


MITCHELL: Then number three, if we could look at that, we drew a one- mile radius around the country club and then we calculated from the farthest point...

HARRIS: Mr. Chairman, again, we don't have these documents.

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) HARRIS: No, we're not. That's why she showed three different documents, because they depict three different things. So we'd like to see all three documents, please, so we can follow along.

GRASSLEY: She -- proceed please.


Looking at number -- the third thing here, we calculated the distance from the closest point to your house from a mile radius of the country club and then the farthest point. You can see it's 6.2 and, of course, 8.2 miles.

FORD: Yes.

MITCHELL: And you've described this as being near the country club, wherever this house was, is that right?

FORD: I would describe it as it's somewhere between my house and the country club in that vicinity that's shown in your picture. And the country club is about 20 -- a 20-minute drive from my parents' home.

MITCHELL: A 20-minute drive. And, of course, I've marked as the crow flies.

FORD: Yes.

MITCHELL: Would it be fair to say that somebody drove you somewhere, either to the party or home from the party?

FORD: Correct.


Has anyone come forward to say to you, "Hey, remember, I was the one that drove you home?"



In your July 6th text to The Washington Post that you looked at earlier, you said that this happened in the mid '80s. In your letter to Senator Feinstein you said it occurred in the early '80s.

FORD: Yes.

MITCHELL: In your polygraph statement you said it was high school summer in '80s, and you actually had written in and this is one of the corrections I referred to early and then you crossed that out.


Later in your interview with The Washington Post, you were more specific. You believed it occurred in the summer of 1982 and you said at the end of your sophomore year. FORD: Yes.

MITCHELL: You said the same thing I believe in your prepared statement.

How were you able to narrow down the timeframe?

FORD: I can't give the exact date. And I would like to be more helpful about the date, and if I knew when Mark Judge worked at the Potomac Safeway, then I would be able to be more helpful in that way.

So I'm just using memories of when I got my driver's license. I was 15 at the time. And I -- I did not drive home from that party or to that party, and once I did have my driver's license, I liked to drive myself.

MITCHELL: I'd assume the legal driving age was 16.

FORD: Yes.


Now, you've talked about attending therapy. In your text to The Washington Post dated 7/6 -- so that's the very first statement we have from you -- you put in there, quote, "have therapy records talking about it."

FORD: Yes.

MITCHELL: I want to make sure I understand that. Did you already have your therapy records at that time?

FORD: I had looked at them online to see if they existed, yes.


So this was something that was available to you via a computer, like a -- a patient portal?

FORD: Actually, no, it was in the office of a provider.


FORD: She helped me go through the record to locate whether I had had record of this conversation that I had remembered.

MITCHELL: Did you show a full or partial set of those marriage therapy records to The Washington Post?

FORD: I don't remember. I remember summarizing for her what they said. So I'm not - I'm not quite sure if I actually gave her the record.

MITCHELL: OK. So it's possible that the reporter did not see these notes.

FORD: I don't know if she's - I can't recall whether she saw them directly or if I just told her what they said.

MITCHELL: Have you shown them to anyone else besides your counsel?

FORD: Just the counsel.

MITCHELL: OK. Would it be fair to say that Brett Kavanaugh's name is not listed in those notes?

FORD: His name is not listed in those notes.

MITCHELL: Would it also be fair to say that the therapist notes that we've been talking about say that there were four boys in the room?

FORD: It describes the sexual assault and it says erroneously by four boys. So the therapist got the content of it wrong.

MITCHELL: And you corrected that to The Washington Post reporter, correct?

FORD: Correct.

GRASSLEY: Senator Whitehouse.

WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, chairman.

Thank you, Dr. Blasey Ford. A lot of people are proud of you today.

From a prosecutor's view, one of the hardest things that we have to do is to speak to somebody who's come forward with an allegation of sexual assault and let them know that we can't provide the evidence to go forward to trial. It's a hard day for the prosecutor to do that.

And so, both because making a sincere and thorough investigative effort is such an important consolation to the victim in that circumstance and because it's what you're obliged to do professionally, sincere and thorough investigation is critical to these claims in a prosecutor's world. It may be the most basic thing that we owe a victim or a witness coming forward is to make sure that we give them a full, thorough and sincere investigation.

You have met all of the standards of what I might call preliminary credibility with your initial statement. You have vivid, specific and detailed recollections, something prosecutors look for. Your recollections are consistent with known facts.

You made prior consistent statements, something else prosecutors and lawyers look for. You are willing to, and - and did, take a lie detector test. And you are willing to testify here. Here you are, subject to professional cross-examination by a prosecutor.

So you've met any condition any prosecutor could expect to go forward; and, yet, there has been no sincere or thorough investigation of your claims.

You specifically asked for an FBI investigation, did you not?


(UNKNOWN): You can say something (ph).

FORD: Yes.

WHITEHOUSE: And are you aware that when the FBI begins investigating, they might find corroborative evidence and they might find exculpatory evidence?

FORD: I don't know what exculpatory evidence...

WHITEHOUSE: Is it(ph)...

FORD: ... is.

WHITEHOUSE: ... not helpful to your recollection and -- and -- version of events. Helpful to the accused.

FORD: Understood. Yes.

WHITEHOUSE: So it could go either way.

FORD: Yes.

WHITEHOUSE: And you were (ph) still -- not just willing, but insistent that the FBI should investigate your recollection and your claim?

FORD: Yes. I feel like it would -- I could be more helpful in that, if that was the case, in providing some of the details that maybe people are wanting to know about.

WHITEHOUSE: And -- and as we know, they didn't. And I submit that never -- never in the history of background investigations has an investigation not been pursued when new, credible, derogatory information was brought forward about the nominee or the candidate.

I don't think this has ever happened in the history of FBI background investigations. Maybe somebody can prove me wrong, but it is wildly unusual and out of character.

And in my view, it is a grave disservice to you -- and I want to take this moment to apologize to you for that, and to report to anybody who might be listening, that when somebody's willing to come forward, even under those circumstances, even -- haven't been -- not given the modicum of courtesy and support of a proper investigation, you've shown yourself particularly proud in doing that.

And the responsibility for the decision to have this be, I think, the only background investigation in history to be stopped as derogatory information came forward, belongs with 13 men: the president, Director Wray of the FBI, and the 11 members of the majority of this committee.

As to the committee's investigation, the fact that Mr. Kavanaugh's alleged accomplice has not been subpoenaed, has not been examined and cross-examined under oath, has not been interviewed by the FBI, tells you all you need to know about how credible this performance is. The very bare minimum that a person who comes forward is owed, is sincere and thorough investigation and you've been denied that. And I will make a personal pledge to you, here, that however long it takes, in whatever forum I can do it, whenever it's possible, I will do whatever's in my power to make sure that your claims get a full and proper investigation and not just this.

Thank you for being here.

FORD: Thank you.

GRASSLEY: Since this issue's come up so many times, I'd like to comment.

The New Yorker published an anonymous account of allegations, September the 14th. Two days later, Dr. Ford identified herself as the victim in a Post article, detailing her allegations.

I immediately directed my staff to investigate. September the 17th, Dr. Ford's counsel went on several television shows, requesting that her client have an opportunity to tell her story.

The same day, I scheduled a hearing for Monday, September the 24th giving Dr. Ford a week to prepare her testimony and come to Washington, D.C.

On September the 17th, the committee investigative staff reached out to Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh to schedule follow-up interviews with Republican and Democrat investigators.

Judge Kavanaugh accepted the opportunity to speak to the investigators under criminal penalty. Dr. Ford declined.

In his interview on September the 17th, Judge Kavanaugh denied the allegations and requested a hearing as soon as possible. Democratic staff refused to participate in that interview.

The next day, September the 18th, committee investigative staff contacted Mark Judge requesting an interview. Committee staff also learned the identity of two other alleged partygoers and requested interviews. Mark Judge submitted a statement under penalty of felony denying knowledge of the party described by Dr. Ford and states that he never saw Brett at the -- in the manner described by Dr. Ford.

And I can go on and on about that, but we got to realize that what we have done in this case -- all the time, you go through a background investigation by the FBI, then it comes to us and there's always some holes in it that we have to follow-up on.