Kavanaugh and accuser invited to testify next week. TRANSCRIPT: 09/17/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Emma Brown, Richard Blumenthal

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 17, 2018 Guest: Emma Brown, Richard Blumenthal

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

She said later, looking back at it, that the hardest thing for her was having her parents there. She said she needed them there to support her. They did provide her great support. It gave her strength. She loved that they were there to support her.

But the single most difficult part of the whole ordeal was that they were there, that specifically, she couldn`t protect her mom, she couldn`t protect her elderly mom and her elderly dad from what happened there in the room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANITA HILL: The most difficult part, my parents were in -- my mother turned 80 on the day of the vote to confirm Clarence Thomas, and I believed the difficult part was to watch my parents who were elderly people, who had lived good lives and raised their children and to be honest and truthful and hardworking and all of the things that we want parents to do for their children. To watch them go through it, the sense that they felt that they couldn`t protect me from it, and I think it was really hard on them.

It undermined their confidence in whether or not the government truly represented them. And for an African American family, those kinds of questions have existed. And to have it personalized I think was really difficult, but I have to say they were so strong and so wonderful and so supportive, and they never wavered.

And so -- but it was still hard for me to watch them go through that and know that I couldn`t protect from the feelings that they had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: It was so hard on me to know that I couldn`t protect them. It was hard for them to see that they couldn`t protect me. It was hard for me to see that I couldn`t protect them.

That portion of that interview with Anita Hill that you saw there, that has actually never been aired before. I had seen it in a transcript from that interview they did for the headliner show for which she was interviewed. Because I had seen that in the transcript, I asked for it to be restored so I could show it tonight, specifically because this moment for me had always been such a kind of harden your throat moment from that hearing, that hearing where Anita Hill came forward. Reluctantly, she did not want to testify.

It was after the confirmation hearings for Judge Clarence Thomas were already over, after the close of those hearings, Professor Hill`s allegations came to light, and they basically reopened the proceedings to hear from her, and it has always stuck with me, this part that happened right at the very start.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: We will make room for your family to be able to sit.

HILL: It`s a very large family, Senator.

BIDEN: Well, we will -- we will begin, but attempt to accommodate as quietly as we can what may be an unusual arrangement. I might ask, is everyone who is sitting behind you necessary and to sit behind you and maybe they could stand and let your family sit. We must get this hearing moving.

There are two chairs on the end here. We will find everyone a seat. But we must begin.

Now, Professor Hill, at the risk of everyone behind you standing up, would you be kind enough to introduce your primary family members to us?

HILL: OK. I`d like to introduce first of all my father, Albert Hill.

BIDEN: Mr. Hill, welcome.

HILL: My mother, Irma Hill.

BIDEN: Ms. Hill.

HILL: My mother is going to be celebrating her 80th birthday on the 16th.

BIDEN: Happy birthday in advance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That chairman there is very recognizable, a much younger Joe Biden, then senator, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That`s, of course, before he went on to multiple runs for president and ultimately the vice presidency for eight years under President Barack Obama.

And as you can see, he is being very kind there to Professor Hill`s family. She had just explained in her opening statement that she had grown up on a farm in rural Oklahoma. She was the youngest of 13 children. She and her siblings were raced by those parents, she said, in a deeply religious atmosphere in Baptist church. She explained that is still a very important part of her life, and then her parents are shown in after she explains it.

And then the hearing gets under way with her parents sitting there behind them, her mother on the eve of her 80th birthday. And with them sitting behind her to support her. This is how it goes. And actually this is almost the best of how it goes.

I should tell you if you have kiddos watching with you tonight at home and you do not want them to hear how this went, this might be a good time to hit pause or hit the mute button.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Can you tell me what incidents occur to have had ones you`ve described to us, occurred in his office?

HILL: Well, I recall specifically that the incident about the Coke can occurred in his office at the EEOC.

BIDEN: And what was that incident again?

HILL: The incident was regard to the Coke can that spelled out in my statement.

BIDEN: Describe it once again for me, please.

HILL: The -- the incident involved his going to his desk, getting up from a work table, going to his desk, looking at this can and saying, who put pubic hair on my Coke?

BIDEN: Was anyone else in his office at the time?

HILL: No.

BIDEN: Was the door closed?

HILL: I don`t recall.

BIDEN: Are there any other incidents occurred in his office, just in his office, period?

HILL: There is -- I recall at least one instance in his office at the EEOC where he discussed some pornographic material, or he brought up the substance or the content of pornographic material.

BIDEN: And again, it`s difficult, but for the record, what substance did he bring up in this instance in his -- at EEOC in his office? What was the content of what he said?

HILL: This was a reference to an individual who had a very large penis, and he used the name that he had been referred to in the pornographic material.

BIDEN: Do you recall what it was.

HILL: Yes, I do. The name that was referred to was Long Dong Silver.

BIDEN: Let`s go back to the first time that you alleged Judge Thomas indicated he had more than a professional interest in you. Do you recall what the first time was, and with as much precision as you can, what he said to you?

HILL: As I recall, it either happened at lunch or it happened in his office when he said to me very casually, you ought to go out with me some time.

BIDEN: You ought to, or you are to?

HILL: You ought to.

BIDEN: With regard to the other incidents that you have mentioned in your opening statement, can you tell us how you felt at the time or were you uncomfortable? You`re embarrassed? Did it not concern you? How did you feel about it?

HILL: The pressure to go out with him I felt embarrassed about because I didn`t -- I had given him an explanation, that I thought it was not good for me as an employee working directly for him to go out. I thought he didn`t take seriously my decision to say no and that he didn`t not respect my having said no to him. I -- the conversations about sex, I was much more embarrassed and humiliated by.

The two combined really made me feel sort of helpless in a job situation because I really wanted to do the work that I was doing. I enjoyed that work. But I felt that that was being put in jeopardy by the other things that were going on in the office. And so, I was really, really very troubled by it, and distressed over it.

BIDEN: Can you tell the committee what was the most embarrassing of all the incidents that you have alleged?

HILL: I think the one that was the most embarrassing was his discussion of -- of pornography involving these women with large breasts and engaged in variety of sex with different people or animals. That was the thing that embarrassed me the most and made me feel the most humiliated.

BIDEN: If you can, in his words, not yours, in his words, can you tell us what on that occasion he said to you? You have described the essence of the conversation. In order for us to determine, well -- can you tell us in his words what he said?

HILL: I really cannot quote him verbatim. I can remember something like you really ought to see these films that I`ve seen or this material that I`ve seen. This woman has this kind of breasts or breasts that measure this size, and they`ve got her in there with all kinds of things. She is doing all kinds of different sex acts, and, you know, that kind of -- those were the kinds of words where he -- he expressed his enjoyment of it and seemed to try to encourage me to enjoy that kind of material.

BIDEN: Professor, at your press conference, one of your press conferences, you said that the issues that you raised about Judge Thomas you refer to as an ugly issue. Is that how you view these conversations?

HILL: Yes, they were very ugly. They were very dirty and they were disgusting.

BIDEN: Were any one of these conversations -- this is my last question. My time is up. Were any one of these conversations other than being asked to go out, were any one of them repeated more than once? The same conversation, reference to --

HILL: They`re reference to his own physical attributes was repeated more than once, yes.

BIDEN: Now, again, for the record, did he just say I have great physical capability and attributes, or was he more graphic?

HILL: He was much more graphic.

BIDEN: Can you tell us what he said?

HILL: Well, I can tell you that he compared his penis size. He measured his penis in terms of length, those kinds of comments.

BIDEN: Thank you. My time is up under or agreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: This is 1991. Professor Anita Hill had not sought this out. She had not sought to testify, but she told what she said was the truth about her experience with her former employer, Clarence Thomas, when he was being vetted for the U.S. Supreme Court.

They had finished his confirmation hearings, but she had this tale to tell. Her story came out. She ended up testifying. And years later, 25 years later, she said the single hardest thing about that testimony was not being able to protect her elderly parents in that room from hearing what they had to hear.

After Chairman Biden went first there, Republican Senator Arlen Specter went right after a Joe Biden, and he had some very specific follow-ups he needed to ask Professor Hill, stuff he urgently needed to clear up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: You testified this morning in response to Senator Biden that the most embarrassing question involved -- this is not too bad -- women`s large breasts, that`s a word we use all the time. That was the most embarrassing aspect of what Judge Thomas had said to you.

HILL: No. The most embarrassing aspect was his description of the acts of these individuals, these women, the acts that those particular people would engage in. It wasn`t just the breasts. It was the continuation of his story about what happened in those films with the people, with this characteristic, physical characteristic.

SPECTER: With the physical characteristic of?

HILL: The large breasts.

SPECTER: Well, in your statement to the FBI, you did refer to the films, but there`s no reference to the physical characteristic you describe. I don`t want to attach too much weight to it, but I had thought you said that the aspect of the large breasts was the aspect that concerned you, and that was missing from the statement to the FBI.

HILL: Then I have been misunderstood. It wasn`t the physical characteristic of having large breasts. It was the description of the acts that this person with this characteristic would do, the acts that they would engage in, group acts, acts with animals, things of that nature involving women.

SPECTER: Professor Hill, I`d like you now to turn to page 3 of your statement that you submitted to the committee we got just this morning. And the last sentence on the first full paragraph, you again make on that statement a very serious allegation as to Judge Thomas, and I would ask you why you didn`t tell the FBI about that when they interviewed you.

HILL: I suppose my response would be the same. I did not tell the FBI all of the information. The FBI agent made clear that if I were embarrassed about talking about something, that I could decline to discuss things that were too embarrassing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You thought that was too embarrassing? Well, how do you feel now, professor hill? How is this going for you now? How do you feel about having come forward now? Tell me more details about that.

That was 1991. Which is a long time ago, right? Twenty-seven years ago.

Senator Biden, of course, moved on from the Senate, became vice president. Senator Specter has since died. Senator Orrin Hatch was on that committee. He literally at one point waved around a copy of the book "The Exorcist" at the hearing and accused Anita Hill making up scenes by adopting them from scenes in "The Exorcist."

Senator Chuck Grassley was on that committee back then 27 years ago. He is now chair of that committee today. It was an all male roster on the Judiciary Committee today. It is still now an all male roster on the Judiciary Committee on the Republican side.

But now, we`re to be get a second chance as a country. Some of those senators from back then are going to have a second chance themselves to figure out how we as a country should hear out allegations of sexual misconduct by a nominee to the United States Supreme Court. Except this time, it`s not lurid and extensive allegations of sexual harassment on the job. This time the accuser of the Supreme Court nominee is alleging attempted rape.

Reporter Ryan Grim at "The Intercept" was the first to report a serious allegation had been made about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. That was late Wednesday. By Friday morning. Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer at "The New Yorker" were reporting on the rough nature of the allegation, which they dated back to Kavanaugh`s time in high school at an elite private academy called Georgetown Prep.

By yesterday, Professor Christine Blasey Ford had come forward, saying that although she had tried to protect her anonymity through this process, numerous reporters had apparently learned of her identity, and so, she decided that she would come forward on her own terms, and she spoke with "Washington Post" reporter Emma Brown. We`re going to speak with reporter Emma Brown in just a couple of minutes.

Professor Blasey has not spoken to anybody other than "The Washington Post" at this point, though someone leaked the contents of the letter she initially wrote to Senator Feinstein detailing her allegation. That letter has now been published by CNN, and the details in that allegation track with what "The Washington Post" was able to report based on their interview about the content of Professor Blasey`s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

Now, the nominee is denying the allegation vehemently. He is denying specifically having been present at the party at which Professor Blasey says Brett Kavanaugh drunkenly tried to rape her. Republicans on the committee initially tried to handle this development today by just scheduling a call with Judge Kavanaugh. So, staffers working for senators on the Judiciary Committee could ask him questions about the allegations. They thought that`s how they`d handle it.

Democrats immediately said that was ridiculous. They were not going to join in something like that. So Republicans could say the allegations had been looked into.

Then Republicans started telling reporters that if there was going to be any looking into these allegations, surely it would happen, quote, in a closed session. But then after 6:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, Republican senators met in the office of the top Republican on the Senate, Mitch McConnell, and they emerged from that meeting to announce their decision, which was that, in fact, and they will be reopening the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, specifically to hear this allegation against the nominee.

Christine Blasey Ford says through her attorney that she will testify under oath. Judge Kavanaugh has also offered to do the same.

And so number one, we now have another week in which more reporting will be done on this story and during which Christine Blasey Ford will presumably continue to bear the slings and arrows that are now being flung at her from the right for having come forward with this accusation. Number two, this means that the vote that was due to take place on Thursday of this week on Kavanaugh`s nomination, that will now not take place on Thursday of this week. But number three, there`s now a live issue concerning the FBI.

Senator Feinstein, you will remember, referred this attempted rape allegation to the FBI. We learned of that late last week. The FBI did not investigate this allegation. They just added the letter laying out the allegation to the background file they had prepared for the White House on the occasion of Kavanaugh`s background check.

Now, Bloomberg News reported this afternoon that in order for the FBI to further investigate this allegation as part of Kavanaugh`s background check, they would need the White House to request that the FBI do that. The White House has not requested that the FBI should do that. And so now tonight, Senate Democrats have made a formal request to the White House counsel Don McGahn, formally requesting that the White House through him should make that request, should ask the FBI to do due diligence on this allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, and that Senate Democrats want that done now. They want that done before they hold this open hearing on this allegation next week.

This is actually just from tonight. We just got this audio in from MSNBC congressional reporters Leigh Ann Caldwell and Frank Thorp.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REPORTER: Did you ever get a chance to meet with him?

SEN. DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA: I have not yet. We have requested several times, many times. I wanted to wait until after the hearings --

REPORTER: Well, the hearing ain`t done yet.

JONES: Well, as of today they weren`t.

REPROTER: Some Democrats are concerned because they would prefer the FBI to investigate before the hearing. Is that --

JONES: Well, there needs to be some -- you know, look, I`m an old prosecutor. I mean, the way this should go is there should be some level of investigation to prepare the question, in my opinion, whether that`s the FBI or whoever it is to update background checks and to do some level of investigation. That just makes sense to me.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think there does need to be a public hearing. There is no question about that. I do think there needs some investigation first. And I`m not sure that this allows for that.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: There is only one path forward, and it`s absolutely crystal clear, a complete FBI investigation. If there is a hearing before that investigation, the committee`s going to be shooting in the dark with questions. In fact, we are blind, working in the dark.

The FBI has to interview those witnesses under oath, all of them, and you know, as a former prosecutor and state attorney general, there is no way I would put a crying survivor on the stand in front of a jury, let alone the American people without a full investigation so that I know what the facts are before I start asking questions. And that`s why going ahead on Monday without an FBI investigation (INAUDIBLE) is just a sham and a charade.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Democrats want the FBI to investigate this allegation that has been referred to them. They need the White House to ask the FBI to do that. Senator Blumenthal saying going ahead on Monday in this open hearing without an FBI investigation is a sham and a charade. Senator Blumenthal will be joining us live in just a moment.

But basically, this is a fast evolving story now, right? This has changed 90 degrees and another 90 degrees and another 90 degrees, and then it took off on another axis all just since this afternoon. So do not check out on this story. We are living through history here.

And, of course, this comes in the midst of an absolutely wild and hugely consequential news environment. I mean, the storm that started as Hurricane Florence will not quit. The death toll now in the Carolinas is up to 31 Americans as of tonight. This devastating flooding continues and continues to spread, even though the storm made landfall late last week, some rivers in the worst affected areas will not crest until tomorrow night.

So the flooding is continuing to get worse even now. We`re going have more on that coming up, including the latest on a really serious pollution problem and even a nuclear alert in North Carolina just today because of this flooding.

Also, we learned today that Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn is finally going to be sentenced. He pled guilty in the Russia investigation and signed an agreement to Cooperate with prosecutors in -- sorry, signed an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors in the special counsel`s office. We now know in the last week of November, so after the midterm elections, they now plan to finally sentence Mike Flynn for the felony charge to which he plead guilty.

That means among other things that in court filings between now and then, between now and his sentence, we`re going to learn how much Cooperating Mike Flynn has actually been doing. We will get a description of the extent and the helpfulness of his cooperation from prosecutors in the special counsel`s office starting relatively soon now, now that they have scheduled his sentencing.

We also just got this statement from the White House tonight announcing that the president has ordered the declassification of a whole bunch of internal FBI and Justice Department documents from the ongoing Russia investigation. He is going to start making public, more text messages among FBI and DOJ officials and specific pages from the applications for search warrants and FBI materials related to Bruce Ohr, who was the top Justice Department official working on Russian organized crime and its connections to the Russian government. Bruce Ohr is now the next senior law enforcement or intelligence official who the president seems intent on destroying.

We have not yet seen any of these documents that the president tonight has ordered declassified, but they`ll reportedly start pumping them out over the next few days. We`ll have more on that coming up as well, including a very stark warning from one well-informed Democrat who was very alarmed about this turn of events.

So there has been a world of news breaking over the course of today, and particularly into tonight. But if you have a sense right now as an American that you are living through history, it`s because you are. You are living through nearly unprecedented scandal and drama surrounding a very troubled presidency. You are living through the most consequential counterintelligence and criminal investigation of a sitting U.S. president ever.

Right this second tonight, you are living through one of the most controversial and unpopular Supreme Court nominations ever in the history of this country. This is history.

But just because it`s history doesn`t mean it can`t sometimes rhyme with some of the most traumatic political and cultural events we have already lived through. We`ve got the reporter who broke the story open on these allegations against Brett Kavanaugh here with us live next. We`ve got Senator Blumenthal joining us live in just a few minutes.

Big night tonight. We`ll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: My name is Anita F. Hill, and I am a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma.

I was born on a farm in Okmulgee County, Oklahoma in 1956. I am the youngest of 13 children. I had my early education in the Okmulgee County.

My father, Albert Hill, is a farmer in that area. My mother`s name is Irma Hill. She is also a farmer and a housewife.

My childhood was one of a lot of hard work and not much money, but it was one of solid family affection as represented by my parents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It broke at 1:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon. We`d known that some allegation was circulating. Its basic nature had been reported.

But now, thanks to this reporting, now we know. Quote, she contacted "The Post," "The Washington Post" through a tip line in early July when it had become clear that Kavanaugh was on the short list of possible nominees to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, but before Trump announced his name publicly. Speaking publicly for the first time, Christine Blasey Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend, both stumbling drunk, Ford alleges, corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers, at a house in Montgomery County.

Quote: While his friend watched, she said Kavanaugh pinned her to the bed on her back, and groped her over her clothes. Grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

Quote, I thought he might inadvertently kill me, said Ford. He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing. For weeks, Ford declined to speak to "The Post" on the record as she grappled with concerns about what going public would mean for her and her family and what she said was her duty as a citizen to tell the story. But, quote, as the story snowballed, Ford said, she heard people repeating inaccuracies about her. And with the visits from reporters, she felt her privacy was being chipped away. Her calculation changed.

Quote: These are all the ills that I was trying to avoid, she said. Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.

And now, she is due to testify at the Senate under oath in a public hearing on Monday as the confirmation proceedings for Brett Kavanaugh are reopened because of her claims. The reporter who broke the story open, who first reported these details of the allegation against Judge Kavanaugh, as well as the identity of the accuser, that reporter is Emma Brown.

She is an investigative reporter at "The Washington Post."

Ms. Brown, thanks very much for joining us this evening. Congratulations on breaking this incredibly consequential story. It`s nice to have you here.

EMMA BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: So, as you write, "The Post" was first contacted by Christine Blasey Ford through the tip line at the paper. Can you tell us anything about how you and "The Post" took steps to vet the details of her story, and how she changed her mind over time about coming forward and allowing you to use her name?

BROWN: Yes, well, what I can tell you is when she first contacted us and I spoke with her, she was terrified at the prospect of anyone knowing who she was, but she really wanted somebody to know her story. So we talked off the record.

You know, at the same time she had a confidential conversation with her congresswoman, and she just -- she felt like she need somebody to know, but she knew that going public would come at a great cost to her and her family. So, she -- she grappled with that over the summer. That was a -- you know, I think it dominated her summer, probably, trying to figure out what she was going to do.

She took steps in case she decided to come forward. So she engaged a lawyer, Deb Katz, who has expertise in sexual harassment cases. She -- on the advice of her lawyer, took a polygraph exam. But really, by the end of August, she had concluded that looking at all the factors, she wasn`t going to come forward because as she put it, she didn`t want to risk her own annihilation if it wasn`t going to mean anything, and she felt at that point that her story wouldn`t mean anything when it came to Kavanaugh`s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

MADDOW: If she had left it at that point as of late August, what led to her telling you finally that it was OK to use her name?

BROWN: Well, things really began to shift last week. You showed the sort of procession of stories that started on Wednesday with the publication and the intercept of a story about a secret document that Feinstein hadn`t shown other Democrats. That secret document was a letter that Ford, Dr. Ford wrote to Feinstein expressing her expectation of confidentiality.

The letter outlined the -- her allegation, and Feinstein did keep it secret. But that story about that did kick off the procession of other stories, each of which found more details about the allegation. And reporters did show up to Dr. Ford`s House. One came to her workplace. One called her colleagues, and she just felt like -- she felt like her name was probably going to come out one way or the other because people were finding out who she was.

So, that shift led her to decide to tell her story herself.

MADDOW: Now that this decision has been made in the Senate that they will essentially reopen the hearings on Judge Kavanaugh, that there will be an open hearing on Monday at which we are expecting Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh to testify, he of course is, as you`ve heard, he is vehemently denying this allegation from Dr. Ford.

I understand from the way you reported this that it sounds like she provided you essentially some corroborating information. The results of that polygraph exam that you mentioned, also some medical documents, notes from therapy. Were you able to review those as primary documents and assess those as potentially corroborating materials?

BROWN: She -- she provided those through her lawyer. So I saw portions of her therapy records that I reported on in the story. You know, the first time she told this story was many, many years after it occurred. She told -- the first time she told it in any detail was in therapy session with her husband. Her husband talked to me on the record. He said he recalled her telling the story, recalled her using Kavanaugh`s last name, and even recalled her speculating that he might some day be elevated to the Supreme Court.

And the therapy records show that she described an assault and that it was carried out by boys from -- the quote was elitist boys` school who went on to become high-ranking members of Washington society. The notes don`t say Kavanaugh`s name. The next year, she went to individual therapy, and the notes from that session also reflect that she reported an attempted rape in her late teens.

MADDOW: Emma Brown, investigative reporter at "The Washington Post" who broke the story wide open with this remarkable interview, gaining the trust of Dr. Ford in order to make her name public after that long period of resistance when she did not want that to happen.

Remarkable, remarkable reporting on your part, Emma. Thanks for helping us through it tonight. Appreciate it.

BROWN: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: All right. Lots more to get to on this busy news night, including one of the senators on that committee where they`re to have that new open hearing on these allegations. That`s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Ever since late last week when we first learned of the existence of sexual assault allegation -- a sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, the chairman, has been steadfast that, quote, there`s no plan to change the committee`s consideration of Judge Kavanaugh`s nomination. Then he said, quote, Judge Kavanaugh`s nomination will proceed as scheduled with the vote on Thursday.

By yesterday, though, after the woman who brought these allegations broke her anonymity, Senator Chuck Grassley was still continuing to insist that the scheduled vote would still happen on Thursday, although you could almost sense him starting to crumble.

Now, that Thursday vote is no longer happening. Instead, Judge Kavanaugh`s confirmation vote in the committee has been postponed. A new hearing has been scheduled at which Judge Kavanaugh and the woman who is alleging he sexually assaulted her back in high school will be invited to testify under oath in an open hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He is a member of that committee.

Senator Blumenthal, it`s good to have you with us tonight. Thank you very much for being here.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you.

MADDOW: What is your top-line reaction to the news that we now have this public hearing scheduled with both Brett Kavanaugh and with Dr. Ford, who has alleged that he attempted to rape her?

BLUMENTHAL: My strong belief is that there has to be a full, fair FBI investigation before that hearing so that we know facts and we`re not just asking questions in the dark, and that investigation has to involve sworn interviews with not only Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, but also other witnesses who should be at that hearing.

There is a lesson in the Anita Hill experience, which is that an abbreviated and inadequate FBI investigation there lasting only two days resulted in many of the abusive questions and insensitive inquiries, and second, corroborating witnesses were not called. And we need to avoid those mistakes in this hearing, have the investigation, do the fact finding, and know what we`re doing. You know, as a former prosecutor, there is no way that I would put a crime victim on the stand without an investigation, let alone a witness before the entire American people. It`s a disservice to her and a disservice to Judge Kavanaugh.

MADDOW: As you mentioned, you are a former prosecutor. You`re also a senator serving on the judiciary committee. I am neither of those things, and I am just looking at this as a layman, but given the nature of the allegation, why would it make sense that it would be the FBI doing this kind of investigation now ahead of the hearing rather than local authorities in the jurisdiction where the assault is alleged to have happened?

BLUMENTHAL: The FBI can cooperate and work with those local authorities. Very good question. If they have documents or evidence or if there was any report at the time, it should be made available. The polygraph report, as well as the polygrapher perhaps should be there, the therapist whose notes were done as well as those notes. So, there are a variety of source of information.

The FBI is the one who began the background check on Judge Kavanaugh. It has responsibility to complete that investigation. It would investigate this kind of crime that bears on the credibility of a Supreme Court justice, highest court in the land, lifetime appointment, far-reaching consequences for decades and generations to come.

MADDOW: Senator, Bloomberg News reported this afternoon, early this evening that the FBI hasn`t done any further investigation of this matter since the allegation was initially forwarded to them by Senator Feinstein. The way that Bloomberg News reported it was basically said that the FBI can`t make a decision on their own to start an n investigation like that. They have to be directed to do it. In this case, by the White House because of the way investigations like this are administratively structured.

Is that your understanding as well, that it has to be the White House that would direct the FBI to open this investigation? Or could the FBI on their own terms decide to do this? Or, again, sorry, either on their own terms or at the request of the Senate?

BLUMENTHAL: Technically, probably a White House request is necessary, but the chairman of the committee, Senator Grassley, could easily ask for it as well. And the FBI on its own initiative might feel that their credibility is at stake and they might have an obligation to complete an investigation where there`s an outstanding criminal act and the credibility of a witness before a Senate committee is at stake.

And I just want to be very emphatic. I believe the survivor, Dr. Ford. There is every reason to believe a woman who has come forward at great personal risk, facing the anguish and terror, as she put it, of a nightmare, of vicious and hostile scrutiny, and there are a lot of reasons to disbelieve Judge Kavanaugh after his evasive and seemingly misleading responses to our questions at the judiciary committee hearing just a week or so ago.

And I think we need to have a full and fair FBI investigation, learn from the history that you have so dramatically and graphically reminded us of.

MADDOW: Senator Blumenthal, while I have you here tonight, there is actually another story that broke late this evening that I would like the ask you about that is right in your wheelhouse. If you could just stay with us for a moment, have I one more question for you when we come back.

BLUMENTHAL: Sure.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: I mentioned at the top of the show tonight at the president has this evening ordered the declassification of a whole bunch of FBI and Justice Department documents from the ongoing open Russia investigation. These are sensitive and classified documents related to Carter Page and DOJ official Bruce Ohr, text messages from Justice Department and FBI officials including former FBI director James Comey.

The top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, had fast and furious response to that announcement from the White House. If you have not seen this tonight, check this out.

He said, quote: President Trump, in a clear abuse of power, has decided to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative.

And now, check this, with respect to some of these materials, I have been previously informed by the FBI and Justice Department that they would consider their release a red line that must not be crossed as they may compromise sources and methods.

A red line that must not be crossed that the president has just crossed.

Joining us once again is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Senator, thank you for staying with us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

MADDOW: As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Justice Department and FBI, of course, are in your purview, I wonder if you share the concern here as expressed by Congressman Schiff that this move to declassify all these documents and communications about this ongoing investigation is potentially quite dangerous.

BLUMENTHAL: It is extraordinarily dangerous. This selective review of sensitive and classified documents puts at risk our sources and methods, which means it endangers the very core means of our gathering intelligence. It also demonstrates total contempt for law enforcement and rule of law. It verges on obstruction of justice itself because he is continuing the assault on the investigation of himself as president, and he is abusing and misusing his authority to declassify documents.

He has that power, but there`s no justification for his abuse and misuse of that power, putting in danger brave men and women of law enforcement and our intelligence community.

MADDOW: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, I really appreciate your time tonight, sir, on both of these stories. Thanks for being with us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

MADDOW: I should tell you, one quick programming note: Congressman Adam Schiff is going to be Lawrence O`Donnell`s guest tonight on "THE LAST WORD," which is coming up right after me. But I`m not going away yet.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: As of tonight, the hurricane then Tropical Storm Florence has caused at least 31 deaths, most of them in North Carolina. Storms inundated huge swaths of that state.

City of Wilmington, North Carolina, basically an island now. It is inaccessible. Some already flooded rivers are due to crest tomorrow night. So, severe flooding danger remains and may in fact get worse over the next 24 hours.

One major concern in the state is North Carolina`s many toxic coal ash dumps. These are dumps and landfills full of the toxic leftovers from coal burning power plants. Some of these sites have already been breached by flood waters. There are also numerous North Carolina hog farms all but under water and at the risk of spilling over. That`s dangerous because hog farms have basically giant pits of basically toxic waste from animal effluent.

Eastern North Carolina has 3,300 of those hog waste pools. The state tonight confirms spills from two of them, with another 20 or so that are close to overflowing. The nuclear power plant south of Wilmington were flooding from Florence has caused what officials are calling an unusual event.

That`s the lowest level of nuclear emergency and Duke Energy, which owns the plant, they say so far, there`s no threat to public safety. They say the plant remains safely shutdown, but the floodwater means it would be impossible to evacuate that nuclear plant if anything further went wrong.

So, we have a lot to watch out for tonight for our fellow Americans in the Carolinas and Virginia as waters continue to rise. We`re entering day five of this storm and clearly, there`s a good way to go yet.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

And now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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