Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 26, 2018 Guest: Chris Coons
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: So, thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
So, the first one was reported out by "The Washington Post." Dr. Christine Blasey Ford contacted her member of Congress in California, and then ultimately her senator, who was a senior member on the Judiciary Committee, which is considering the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. At the same time she reached out to those members of Congress, she also contacted "The Washington Post`s" anonymous tip line.
The first time that we, the public, learned of her name is after "The Washington Post" got in touch with her thanks to that call to the tip line. "The Post" vetted her story, and published an interview with her by investigative reporter Emma Brown. So, that was the first one.
The second one was reported out by "The New Yorker" magazine, which contacted Deborah Ramirez themselves after they were told by other Yale classmates of Judge Kavanaugh, about an alleged incident at a Yale college party. Investigative reporter Ronan Farrow at "The New Yorker" contacted and interviewed the alleged victim. He and his fellow investigative reporter Jane Mayer spoke to corroborating witnesses. They investigated her account, and then they published this piece this weekend.
Then there was the third one, the third one, unlike the first two was not vetted by news organizations before it became public. Attorney Michael Avenatti, who has become sort of a Trump White House nemesis because of his representation of Stormy Daniels, in a scandal that has resulted in the president`s personal attorney pleading guilty to multiple felonies, and implicating the president in those crimes, for the third one, it wasn`t a news organization, it was Michael Avenatti announcing himself, publicly, that he had a new client, and in addition to his client, he had other corroborating witnesses lined up who could support her account of another alleged incident, from when Brett Kavanaugh was in high school.
Now, those corroborating witnesses have thus far not been produced. But today, Mr. Avenatti released online a sworn statement from his client describing what she says she went through. She said that she was the victim of a gang rape in 1982, at which she says that Brett Kavanaugh was present, although she didn`t accuse him of being one of her rapists.
Well, now, tonight, there`s a fourth one. This one reported out by NBC News. You see the headline here: Senate probing new allegation of misconduct against Kavanaugh. This was reported tonight just after 6:30 Eastern Time by Kasie Hunt, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Heidi Przybyla and Frank Thorp.
Quote: The Senate Judiciary Committee is inquiring about at least one additional allegation of misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, according to a letter obtained by NBC News and according to multiple people familiar with the process. According to an anonymous complaint sent to Republican Senator Corey Gardner of Colorado, Brett Kavanaugh physically assaulted a woman he socialized with in the D.C. area in 1998 while he was inebriated. The sender of the complaint described an evening involving her own daughter, Brett Kavanaugh, and several friends in 1998.
Quote: When they left the bar under the influence of alcohol, they were all shocked when Brett Kavanaugh shoved her friend up against the wall very aggressively and sexually, and there were at least four witnesses, including my daughter.
Now, importantly, the writer of the letter provides no names, but says the alleged victim was still traumatized and had recently spoken about the incident to somebody else who knew about it and had decided to remain anonymous herself. NBC further reports, quote: Republican Senate investigators asked Kavanaugh about the new complaint during a phone call yesterday between Kavanaugh and committee staff. Sources told NBC News that Kavanaugh denied this latest allegation in the letter.
Quote: While Republican staff posed questions to Kavanaugh about this allegation, the Democratic counterparts were also on the call, but did not ask Kavanaugh any questions about this matter. Quote: A Democratic source said the minority, meaning the Democrats on the committee, were not satisfied with the Republican`s questions about this incident during the call, calling them cursory. They believe this matter should be investigated more deeply.
So, again, NBC News reporting this tonight just after 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Shortly thereafter, very shortly thereafter, the Senate Judiciary Committee published transcripts of two phone interviews they conducted with Judge Kavanaugh about these various sexual assault allegations. It was one conversation from yesterday, and it was one conversation from last week. And, in fact, the NBC reporting is born out by the transcript of the Kavanaugh calls/committee interview from yesterday.
I`ll show you bits from that transcript here. You can see there are black boxes here. Those are redactions which I think removed the names of the questioners. So, we can`t see the names of the committee staff who are asking Brett Kavanaugh these questions. We do know from NBC`s reporting that this is -- these are Republican staffers from the judiciary committee who are asking Kavanaugh these questions. That`s what we think these black boxes are.
Here`s the relevant section of this transcript, which was just released tonight moments ago. A Republican staffer says: Thank you, judge. This is -- redacted again. I`m going to jump to the next set of questions unless you have anything to add on that topic. Judge Kavanaugh says: That`s fine by me, thank you.
Redacted staffer name says, OK, Judge Kavanaugh, on September 22nd of this year, Senator Corey Gardner received an anonymous letter apparently sent from Denver, alleging that you engaged in certain conduct in 1998. Have you had an opportunity to review that letter? Judge Kavanaugh, I did look at that, I believe, yes.
Redacted Republican staffer`s name again, says: OK, I`m going to read from it. The letter states, I will remain anonymous but I feel obligated to inform you of this 1998 incident involving Brett Kavanaugh. And then the punctuation gets a little bit weird here. This Republican staffer said he or she is just going to read from the letter, but apparently the staffer stops quoting apparently, and in any case, this is how it goes in the actual transcript, which is what we have to go on.
It says, quote: I will remain anonymous, but I feel obligated to inform you of this 1998 incident involving Brett Kavanaugh. Then, there`s a closed quote, and then the staffer continues. When you were the author of the Starr report, the author`s daughter from Boulder, Colorado, occasionally socialized with Brett Kavanaugh. She and a group of four, including Kavanaugh, met in a Washington, D.C. bar.
Quote: Her friend was dating him and they left the bar under the influence of alcohol. They were all shocked when Brett Kavanaugh shoved her friend up against the wall very aggressively and sexually. There were at least four witnesses including my daughter. Her friend still traumatized called my daughter yesterday, September 21st, 2018, wondering what to do about it. They decided to remain anonymous, end quote.
Then the staffer then asks, did the events describe in the letter occur? Judge Kavanaugh: No. And we`re dealing about an anonymous person, anonymous friend, it`s ridiculous. Total twilight zone, and no, I`ve never done anything like that.
Redacted Republican staffer name then follows up: Just a few more specific questions. At any point while you were involved in the Starr investigation, did you ever shove a woman up against the wall very aggressively or sexually as you left a bar? Judge Kavanaugh: No.
At any point while you were involved in the Starr investigation, did you ever behave violently toward a woman? Judge Kavanaugh: no.
All right, just one moment please. The transcript says, pause. And there`s another question from the staffer. When you were involved in the Starr investigation, do you recall socializing with a woman from Boulder, Colorado? Judge Kavanaugh: No.
While you were involved in the Starr investigation, do you recall ever dating a woman who would fairly fit the description in the letter provided to Senator Gardner? And then I think another Republican staffer jumps in and says: the anonymous letter. Judge Kavanaugh says: What`s the description? The staffer says, just based on what I --
Judge Kavanaugh says: Describe her appearance. The staffer says: No, it`s all we have is what I read. Judge Kavanaugh says: Well, then, I don`t know what I`m responding to then.
And that`s the extent to which that allegation is addressed by the committee in that call yesterday with Judge Kavanaugh, that call of which we now have a transcript. Again, NBC News reporting tonight that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee believe that Republicans treated this allegation in a cursory matter, and they believe it should be investigated more deeply.
So, a couple of things. First of all, we`re going to speak with one of the reporters who wrote that story for NBC News in a few minutes. We`re going to get more information on this accusation, such as it exists.
But in general, I do want to say the next 24 hours is probably going to be a little bit nuts. The next 12 hours are probably going to be a little bit nuts. I include the overnight hours in my expectation how nuts the news is going to be.
We are expecting the Judiciary Committee to still hold their planned hearing tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Republicans are sticking with their plan that they will not ask any questions of the two witnesses who are scheduled for that hearing, Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. Republican senators have instead hired a prosecutor from Arizona to fly in and ask their questions instead, which I imagine will be awkward and it will at least be unbalanced. I mean, the format of the questioning is each senator gets five minutes to ask questions with no second round, no follow-ups.
But we do think that all of the Republican questions will be asked by the same person, who is not a Republican senator, while all the Democratic senators ask their questions.
In addition to the NBC reporter who is going to be here in a moment on this latest allegation tonight, we`re also going to be speaking with one of the senators who is on the Judiciary Committee coming up in just a moment. So, we`ll be talking about what`s expected tomorrow.
The developments in this story have been rolling out fast and progressively. Sort of with increasing speed as today has rolled into tonight and tonight has gotten later. So, I am fully cognizant of the risks that what I`m telling you might be overtaken by new events, as I speak.
My basic understanding of where we`re at right now is that in addition to Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who are going to be testifying tomorrow, Deborah Ramirez, who is the woman who made the allegation against Brett Kavanaugh from that college party at Yale, she also has now offered to testify at tomorrow`s hearing. We spoke with her attorney on this show last week, and that wasn`t clear. He`s now making clear she would testify to that committee.
Michael Avenatti`s client, Julie Swetnick, has also offered to testify at tomorrow`s hearing. Both of those women have stated it`s their preference that they`d like the FBI to investigate their allegations as part of a reopened background check into Brett Kavanaugh. The White House and Senate Republicans appear to be unwilling to let the FBI reopen its background check. Republicans also appear unwilling to allow either Deborah Ramirez or Julie Swetnick to testify tomorrow, alongside Christine Blasey Ford. So, we don`t know how their allegations will be handled, if at all, by the committee that`s making the decision on Judge Kavanaugh`s nomination.
I also should tell you that the two allegations that have been made against Judge Kavanaugh that date to his time in high school, both of those high school era accusations make reference to a high school friend of his named Mark Judge. There have been calls from multiple Democrats on the committee and attorneys for both of those high school era accusers for Mark Judge to testify to the committee tomorrow. He will also not be called to testify before the committee.
As of tonight, though, Mark Judge`s college girlfriend is offering to testify to the committee herself. She says Mark Judge confided to her that when he was in high school, he participated in sexual misconduct. That falls very much along the lines of what has been alleged in this new sworn statement by Michael Avenatti`s client, Julie Swetnick.
But, again, Republicans are not plans on allowing that testimony either. So we have offers of testimony from multiple accusers. We have requests for testimony from multiple witnesses, particularly one witness who was a close friend of Brett Kavanaugh`s in high school.
We also have an offer of testimony from somebody who is -- had a close association with that witness, who wants to testify about what he told her. Senate Republicans are not planning on hearing any of that testimony, they do not want to hear from anybody tomorrow except for two people, Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford.
In advance of the testimony from those two people tomorrow, attorneys for both of them, attorneys for Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford have now both released prepared remarks that will be the basis for opening statements for each of them tomorrow.
Now, Judge Kavanaugh`s opening remarks, as prepared, they -- those remarks roughly follow the same contours of the public statements that he`s made thus far. He`s basically saying in unequivocal terms he denies all of these allegations about all forms of sexual misconduct. He does add a little bit of detail to his previous public denials.
Quoting from his prepared statement, which we have obtained today, because his lawyers released it, quote: Dr. Ford`s allegation dates back more than 36 years, to a party she says occurred during our time in high school. I spent most of my time in high school focused on academics, sports, church, and service.
But I was not perfect in those days, just as I am not perfect today. I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many.
In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now. But that`s not why we are here today. What I`ve been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehavior. I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes.
So, again, that denial from Judge Kavanaugh, he will apparently issue in his opening statement tomorrow. That`s roughly in keeping with the denials that he`s issued thus far, both to Dr. Ford`s allegations and the other allegations that have since followed.
In the opening statement that will be delivered by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, however, there`s quite a bit of new detail and information that we have not had before. And we`ve got that prepared statement from her, as well. I`m not going to read all of it. It would take me 15, 20 minutes to do that.
But you`re going to want to watch it tomorrow. And we -- I do want to read you some of it now. Again, this may not be what she says. These are her remarks prepared for delivery. But you should know this is some of what she`s going to say.
Starting at the top: Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, members of the committee, my name is Christine Blasey Ford. I`m a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina and earned my degree in experimental psychology in 1988.
I received a Master`s degree in 1991 and clinical psychology from Pepperdine University.
In 1996, I received a PhD in educational psychology from the University of Southern California.
I earned a Master`s degree in epidemiology from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2009.
I have been married to Russell Ford since 2002 and we have two children.
I am here to day not because I want to be. I am here -- excuse me. I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.
I understand and appreciate the importance of your hearing from me directly about what happened to me and the impact it has had on my life and on my family. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I attended the Holton Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, from 1980 to 1984.
Holton Arms is an all-girls school that opened in 1901. During my time at the school, girls at Holton Arms frequently met and became friendly with boys from all-boys schools in the area, including Landon School, Georgetown Prep, Gonzaga High School, country clubs and other places where kids and their families socialized.
This is how I met Brett Kavanaugh, the boy who sexually assaulted me. In my freshman and sophomore school years, when I was 14 and 15 years old, my group of friends intersected with Brett and his friends for a short period of time.
I had been friendly with a classmate of Brett`s for a short time during my freshman year and it was through that connection that I attended a number of parties that Brett also attended.
We did not know each other well, but I new him and he knew me. In the summer of 1982, like most summers, I spent almost every day at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, swimming and practicing diving.
One evening that summer, after a day of swimming at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in Chevy Chase, Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember being there, Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth, and one other boy whose name I can`t recall. I remember my friend Leland Ingham attending.
I do not remember all of the details of how that gathering came together, but like many that summer, it was almost surely a spur of the moment gathering. I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked about how I got to the party, where it took place and so forth. I don`t have all the answers and I don`t remember as much as I would like to.
But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult. When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk.
Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bathroom. I couldn`t see who pushed me.
Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music already playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. I was pushed onto the bead and Brett got on top of me.
He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes.
I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. That was what terrified me the most and has had the most lasting impact on my life.
It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time.
Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop. A couple of times, I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.
During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. The last time he did this, we topped over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room. Directly across from the bedroom was a small bathroom. I ran inside the bathroom and locked the door.
I heard Brett and Matt leave the bedroom laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairs, pin-baling off the walls on the way down. I waited and when I did not hear them come back up the stairs, I left the bathroom, rand down the stairs, through the living room and left the house.
I remember being on the street and feeling an enormous sense of relief that I had escaped from the house and that Brett and Mark were not coming after me.
Brett`s assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details. I did not want to tell my parents that I, at age 15, was in the house without any parents present drinking beer with boys. I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened.
Over the years, I told very few friends that I had this traumatic experience. I told my husband before we were married that I had experienced a sexual assault. I had never told the details to anyone until May 2012, during a couples counseling session.
The reason this came up in counseling is that my husband and I had completed an extensive remodel of our home and I insisted on a second front door, and idea that he and others disagreed with and could not understand.
In explaining why I wanted to have a second front door, I described the assault in detail. I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me, excuse me, I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be in the U.S. Supreme Court and spoke a bit about his background. My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh.
Now, at this point in her testimony, Dr. Ford goes on to explain who else she has told over the years about this alleged assault, and under what circumstances. Her lawyers today released affidavits from people, including her husband, who Dr. Ford told about the assault before Kavanaugh was named to the Supreme Court. Those are sworn statements filed by her lawyers today.
In her testimony, she goes on to talk about how her allegations became public, how she decided to convey them to the Congress, how she`s interacted with the Senate since then. You`ll want to watch her full remarks tomorrow. It`s not necessarily, according to her, the way it`s been portrayed in the press thus far. I`m just going to read one other piece of it. This is how her prepared testimony ends.
Quote: apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I`ve had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and have seen my life picked apart by people on television and the media and in this body, meaning the Senate, who have never met me or spoken with me. I have been accused of action out of partisan political motives. Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one`s pawn.
My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about who Mr. Kavanaugh`s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed.
It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth. I understand that the majority has hired a professional prosecutor to ask me some questions, and I am committed to doing my vest best to answer them.
At the same time, because the committee members will be judging my credibility, I hope to be able to engage directly with each of you. At this point, I will do my best to answer your questions.
So, again, that`s not the complete opening statement from Christine Blasey Ford, but that is some of what`s in her prepared remarks, what her prepared remarks will say to open this hearing tomorrow. We do expect news on this story to continue to develop through the night, including this latest allegation, a fourth allegation from 1998, which has just been reported for the first time tonight from NBC News, in which the Senate has subsequently released new information about. One of the reporters who broke that story will join us, as well one of the senators on the Judiciary Committee where this hearing will be held tomorrow.
Lots to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Ahead of tomorrow morning`s reopened confirmation hearings on the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, this is a hearing where senators will hear details of a serious sexual assault allegation. On the eve of that hearing, all ten Democrats on that committee today wrote to President Trump asking the president to direct an FBI investigation of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, or withdraw Kavanaugh`s nomination in the face of these allegations.
Joining us now is Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware. He`s a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Senator, thank you very much for being here. I know this is an incredibly busy and intense time.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you, Rachel. Good to be on with you again. I`m struck as we are preparing for tomorrow`s hearing, that there are even more accusations against Judge Kavanaugh that have come out today.
So, we`ve got Dr. Ford, who will be testifying tomorrow. But we`ve got Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick who have also offered to be interviewed by the committee or the FBI, or both. And I think it`s more urgent than ever, given this latest accusation that there be a full FBI investigation before we come to any sort of a final vote on Judge Kavanaugh.
MADDOW: As new allegations have come forward, and, again, NBC News tonight is reporting on a letter that was received through Senator Corey Gardner`s office, which makes another anonymous a allegation against Judge Kavanaugh that dates to 1998. As these allegations have come forward, they all have different allegations, they`re all different character, they all have different levels of corroboration, if any, has there been any sign that the White House or the Republican leadership on the committee is budging at all on this issue of whether the FBI should look into these allegations?
COONS: No, Rachel. To the best of my knowledge, Senator Grassley, who is the chairman of the committee, is driving forward. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he intends to have Judge Kavanaugh seated on the court by next week. And I frankly have not heard any indication that they are softening on their position that we will have all the evidence we need to make a final vote here on Judge Kavanaugh.
I strongly disagree. These are compelling and very disturbing allegations by each of the additional women who have come forward. And I would think in the interest of the integrity of the Supreme Court, frankly even in Judge Kavanaugh`s interest, to have a chance for him to present any more evidence that he might have to clear his name.
They should want the FBI to investigate. I certainly feel strongly that without the FBI looking at the corroborating evidence that Dr. Ford has come forward with, folks that she disclosed this history, this alleged violent, terrifying sexual incident she had with Judge Kavanaugh as a teenager, without those being examined, corroborated, and put in front of the committee, we`re not doing our job, and this is not a full and fair process.
MADDOW: In terms of how the process is going to go tomorrow, you raised sort of an alert about the fact that this is essentially going to be sort of a lightning process tomorrow, that senators will be given five minutes to ask questions, and that`s it. No follow-up, no second round.
How do you expect this to up fold tomorrow, particularly given this unusual situation where your Republican colleagues prepare to be outsourcing their own questions to an external prosecutor, who has been brought in from Arizona to ask questions instead of the senators themselves.
COONS: Well, Rachel, if the majority -- if the Republicans on the committee think that by hiring an outside prosecutor, they can hide behind that and not be held accountable, if her tone is prosecutorial, if she tries to put Dr. Ford on trial, I think they`re sadly mistaken. I`ll remind you that it was 27 years ago, just 100 feet from me right now, that Professor Anita Hill came forward to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And in the response nationally, many women who ran for office were elected, including Senator Feinstein, who is now the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and Patty Murray, one of our leaders in our caucus. 1992 was a significant year for women, electorally in this country. I think this attempt to rush through a single round of questioning just five minutes each for Judge Kavanaugh and for Dr. Ford is a significant mistake and will be taken by the people of the United States as an attempt to rush to judgment on Judge Kavanaugh.
MADDOW: Senator, obviously those -- the political fallout from what happened 27 years ago at the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas hearings is never far from anybody`s mind in terms of covering Washington dynamics, the political dynamics here are real. Obviously, the seriousness of these allegations is also very resonant. I think both for male senators and female senators who are looking at these matters fairly.
As this process gets under way, as we get closer to this hearing tomorrow with the kind of speed that we`re expecting, all these allegations to be handled tomorrow, and not hearing from all these other witnesses, I just -- I wonder if within the Senate you are hearing about or having conversations either among just your Democratic colleagues or across the aisle, where people have misgivings about this process or are thinking about some off ramp to not end this confirmation hearing the way this looks like this is going to end tomorrow, is there anything going on in terms of senators talking to one another that makes it seem like people might be looking for a third way?
COONS: Rachel, I`ve had several conversations with colleagues, both Republican and Democrat today, and in recent days, who are deeply uncomfortable, unhappy with this process on the committee, and are trying to find a way to get some brief but appropriate and professional process in place. Twenty-seven years ago, then President George Bush, Republican president, directed the FBI to investigate her allegations, and in just four days, they came back to the committee and the committee had 20 witnesses. That included witnesses who were experts in the dynamics of sexual assault, as well as folks who were there, both to support Judge Thomas` story and to corroborate some of professor hill`s allegations.
The idea that in several weeks we haven`t been able to get that done here, I think is very frustrating to both Democrats and Republicans.
Look, Republicans face a real risk here. If they vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, if they push him through on Friday and then seat him on Monday or Tuesday of next week, and any of these four allegations that are now out there publicly turn out to be true, they will bear the cost of having sent someone to the Supreme Court who is a known sexual violator of young women or who has been sexually aggressive when drunk at different points in his life. Nobody wants to take that risk.
And by the same token, I think -- I`ve heard concern from Republicans that they think we`re simply trying to drag this out past the midterm elections. I don`t think that`s true. I do think it`s possible for us to have the FBI do a prompt and appropriate professional questioning of some of the core people here.
I`ll just raise one. Mark Judge. Why are we not hearing from Mark Judge tomorrow? Dr. Ford puts him in the room during her sexual assault when she was 15.
If she was making this up, why would she say that it was Brett Kavanaugh`s best friend, who was in the middle of this with her? And why has he not been questioned by the FBI and why is he not testifying to us tomorrow? Why is Deborah Ramirez who has offered to testify tomorrow not in front of us?
This has to be on the minds of those still undecided and weighing this important moment tomorrow carefully.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Coons, Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who will see at tomorrow`s hearing, thank you for talking to us tonight, sir. Good luck tomorrow.
COONS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. More to get to. Busy night. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Senator, can we grab you for a second before you head in?
Senator, can I grab you very quickly? Have you made up your mind how you`re going to vote on Judge Kavanaugh?
Have you made up your mind on Judge Kavanaugh?
SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: I`m going to keep moving. I`ll just very briefly say that I want to hear what everybody has to say. And then I`ll have to go from there. Thank you very much.
REPORTER: Senator Gardner, have you decided how you`re going to vote on Judge Kavanaugh?
Senator, can I get you for a second?
Senator, very quickly, have you decided how you`re going to vote on Judge Kavanaugh?
SEN. JERRY MORAN (R), KANSAS: Excuse me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: NBC reporter Garrett Haake doing his best.
The rank and file Republican senators were suddenly super busy and late for everything today on Capitol Hill, at least when inquiring reporters were nearby.
And that was before tonight`s news of a fourth, this time anonymous allegation, that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh physically assaulted a woman in Washington, D.C. area in 1998.
This fourth allegation followed Julie Swetnick`s accusation earlier in the day that Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, were overly aggressive with girls, including grabbing them without their consent at parties in the 1980s and that Kavanaugh may have been present when Swetnick says she was raped at a house party.
That allegation had intensified on senators who are facing the most heat on the Kavanaugh vote, like Alaska`s Lisa Murkowski and Maine`s Susan Collins. Tonight, CNN had this report about Senator Collins in a meeting with other Republican senators.
Quote: Multiple sources familiar with the private meeting tells CNN that Collins appeared unnerved by the latest allegation, citing in particular that it was a sworn statement sent to the panel, which carries with it the possibility of perjury for lying to Congress.
The sworn statement, Collins told the senators, brought the allegations to a new level, and raised concerns that enough wasn`t being done to address their veracity. Collins said, given the weight of the allegations, it made sense to subpoena Kavanaugh`s friend Mark Judge, an alleged witness to the incident, to bring him in for testimony.
Again, that`s CNN reporting about what Republican Senator Susan Collins is saying to other Republican senators behind closed doors about the Kavanaugh nomination, and about how these allegations against him are being handled.
This afternoon, we also got this remarkable picture. Look at that, of Lisa Murkowski, Senator Lisa Murkowski on the right and Senator Dianne Feinstein on the left, having what one reporter described as an intense conversation. Yes, no kidding, in the Capitol basement. These two senators reportedly hugged before Dianne Feinstein waved everybody else away and the two began whispering out of earshot of nearby reporters.
We just heard Senator Chris Coons say he`s having multiple conversations not only with his Democratic colleagues but also with Republican senators across the aisle. He said many of whom are expressing misgivings about the way this process is being handled.
We don`t know what`s going to happen with senators at that committee hearing tomorrow. We don`t know what`s happening among senators tonight as they all prepare for that hearing tomorrow. But we can at least be sure that whatever is happening right now, it is fairly intense. That we can tell with our own eyes.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is the letter that Republican Senator Corey Gardner`s office says arrived in their Denver office earlier this week, on Monday of this week. As you can see, this letter is unsigned. Unsigned anonymous allegations are hard to assess, of course, for obvious reasons.
But somebody felt compelled to convey this to the U.S. Senate. The anonymous sender of this letter relays an adult daughter`s claim about being at a bar in Washington, D.C. in 1998 with Brett Kavanaugh and a woman dating Kavanaugh at the time.
Quote: When they left the bar under the influence of alcohol, they were all shocked when Brett Kavanaugh shoved her friend up against a wall very aggressively and sexually. Her friend, still traumatized, called my daughter yesterday, September 21st, 2018, wondering what to do about it. They decided to remain anonymous.
In a call yesterday with Senate Judiciary staffers, Judge Kavanaugh denied this allegation reported through Senator Gardner`s office, in fact called it ridiculous. NBC News is reporting tonight that Senate Democrats believe this alleged incident deserves further investigation.
Joining us now is Leigh Ann Caldwell, one of the NBC News reporters who first wrote about this allegation.
Leigh Ann, thanks for your time tonight. I know this story is not slowing down in terms of breaking news and developments tonight. Thanks for being here.
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Of course, thank you.
MADDOW: So, this is, of course, an anonymous letter, an unsigned allegation, claims to be the parent of a young woman who was witness to this alleged incident.
Do we know if this claim is being vetted? If so, how it`s being vetted?
CALDWELL: Sure, Rachel. Well, they decided to ask Brett Kavanaugh about it. That was one level of inquiry.
One thing that`s interesting about this letter is that it was sent to a Republican senator, Corey Gardner, and the Republican sent it to the committee. They -- that`s causing some Republicans to pause because this was sent to a Republican. It`s not in what they are saying is the Democratic operative playbook.
As far as whether they are going to inquire more about it, do more investigation, the committee doesn`t really have the resources to do it. It`s on the eve of this major hearing tomorrow with Dr. Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. They`re focused on that.
And also, that`s why the Democrats keep saying this is appropriate for the FBI. We as a judiciary committee do not have the resources to take each individual allegation and go and investigate them. And so, they want to hand this over to the FBI but it`s already been said that the -- that the FBI is not going to go ahead and do it.
And the committee is -- the Republicans on the committee are saying, look, this is anonymous. We don`t know where this came from. We don`t even know where to begin. But he was asked about it, Brett Kavanaugh anyways.
And another thing I want to point out that is pretty interesting is this was a different time in his life. The other allegations were from high school and college. This is from 1998 when he was a professional living in Washington, D.C. and working for the Ken Starr investigation.
And so, it could, you know, if they were able to investigate this, be part some sort of pattern, but we don`t know where it`s going to go yet, Rachel.
MADDOW: The Senate also tonight released transcripts of two calls/interviews that they`ve done with Judge Kavanaugh, one last week and one yesterday. And just as you reported, the transcript from the yesterday call with Judge Kavanaugh does show what appears to be Republican Senate staffer asking Kavanaugh about these allegations.
The way they stack up their question to him on this matter shows them repeatedly referencing his work for Ken Starr, his work for the Starr investigation at the time. The way they teed up all their questions to him about it, they seemed very much focused on the fact that he was working for Ken Starr at the time.
Is this clear that this was exactly when he was working for Ken Starr? Is there any other indication why Senate Republican staffers would be so focused on that being relevant to asking him questions about this?
CALDWELL: Yes, I`m not really sure. I do know that I was warned when the transcripts did come out, because they were expecting -- you know, everyone was talking about that they might release the transcripts tonight, to pay close attention to the questions that were asked and how the questions were asked. Almost to set some sort of testimony on behalf of Kavanaugh and against these accusers.
And so, as you read through these pages and pages of transcripts, you know, it`s only the Republican committee staff who are asking these questions. The Democrats did not ask those questions. So, it`s something to be aware of as you`re reading through these and we head into the hearing tomorrow.
But what I will also will say is that, you know, Republicans on Capitol Hill, they had a very, very long lunch today. They -- Vice President Mike Pence was there. Their lunch usually lasts about an hour. It was an hour and a half in and they were still holed up in there.
And we do know that they were discussing Brett Kavanaugh in the hearing tomorrow. So, I know a lot of Republicans are struggling with this, even if they haven`t been super vocal about it.
MADDOW: In terms of what you were just saying there about the questioning of Brett Kavanaugh about this latest allegation, do you have any understanding why Democratic staffers might have chosen not to participate in that questioning?
It`s interesting. You report that Republican staffers asked him about it. Democratic staffers and Democratic senators believed that it was handled in a cursory manner and it deserves more investigation, but yet Democrats didn`t question Judge Kavanaugh about it when they had the chance.
CALDWELL: Yes, it`s not completely clear, actually. Those questions by the time we got ahold of this, most of senators, it was about 5:30, and most of the senators had left for the day. The last votes were about 1:45. So, we haven`t had a lot of chance to follow up and ask people that.
But it is a very interesting question, and I think that Democrats have been complaining about the process and how Republicans are handling this investigation. They think it`s stacked for Brett Kavanaugh and against Dr. Ford. When the committee interviewed Dr. -- Brett Kavanaugh a few days ago, Democrats didn`t participate at all. They didn`t even listen to the call.
So, this time they listened. And both sides are complaining about how the other side is handling the process. There is not a lot of trust at all. And so, they`re going into this hearing thinking that the other side is completely political and not doing what`s in the best interest of Dr. Ford or for Republicans, Brett Kavanaugh -- Rachel.
MADDOW: Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News political reporter who has been very aggressive on this story and turning in a lot of scoops on this. Leigh Ann, thanks for being with us tonight. Much appreciated.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It`s Wednesday, and I can`t even remember the beginning of the week at this point. But I`m told that the week started with President Trump heading to New York for the U.N. General Assembly.
This week, of course, also started with a national three-hour fire drill with conflicting reports about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein being summoned to the White House while the president was away. For a few hours, it seems like maybe Rosenstein who oversees the Russia investigation was going to be fired, but then wasn`t.
Tomorrow, Rod Rosenstein was supposed to be heading back to the White House again, this time while the president was there. But then at a long, long, rambling solo press conference today, the president said without really committing that maybe that won`t happen either, maybe no meeting with Rosenstein at all. Maybe not tomorrow. He`ll do it in a few days. Who knows?
Ask me more questions. Let me keep you pinned to your seats for another few hours so you all stop reporting new things about Brett Kavanaugh.
We don`t know what`s going to happen with Rosenstein and Trump tomorrow, but Dr. Christine Blasey Ford will testify before the Senate tomorrow at 10:00 about her allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. Our coverage of the hearing starts here on MSNBC tomorrow morning at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time. Brian Williams, Stephanie Ruhle in the anchor chairs.
Tomorrow`s going to be a big day. Take your vitamins. Stay hydrated. This is the news but buckle up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Couldn`t end the show without a little more breaking news. Seung Min Kim from "The Washington Post" just reported that the Senate Judiciary staff just held another calls/interview with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tonight. This time, it was about new allegations against Brett Kavanaugh leveled by Julie Swetnick who`s being represented by attorney Michael Avenatti.
According to Seung Min Kim, again, both Republicans and Democrats were on the call with Judge Kavanaugh, but only Republicans asked questions because Democrats, quote, strongly objected to these allegations being handled piecemeal by committee staff and not by a thorough and nonpartisan FBI investigation.
A thorough and nonpartisan FBI investigation is something that Republicans and the White House apparently committed to not happening here at the beginning of this confirmation process, or at least the part where it started to go off the rails. You have to wonder if they are regretting that decision now.
That does it for us tonight. It`s going to be a big day tomorrow.
We`ll see you again then.
It`s time for now "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