Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 1, 2018 Guest: Joy Reid, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Ken Dilanian, Frank Figliuzzi, Joyce Vance, Steve Kornacki
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining in this hour.
Rachel has the night off, but she will be back tomorrow. She will be back tomorrow, I promise.
Now, if you were keeping notes on the twists and turns in the ongoing story of the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, your best bet would have been to talk those notes in pencil, because the story has changed directions multiple times since the dramatic testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school, and the angry confrontational testimony of Kavanaugh himself. And that was just this past Thursday.
There has been a ton of breaking news since then, including today. Even just in the last couple of hours. And we have a lot to get to regarding the state of play as it stands tonight.
But first, let`s briefly recap the whiplash that we`ve gone through over the past few days. On Friday, at the moment that the Senate Judiciary Committee was expected to vote quickly along party lines to advance Kavanaugh`s nomination, the process was suddenly thrown into disarray when Republican Senator Jeff Flake made an unexpected last-minute deal with the committee Democrats to secure a one-week delay in the full Senate vote, during which the FBI would look into Dr. Ford`s allegations and possibly into other allegations, too. It was not really clear at the time.
Later that day, we learned that the White House had indeed ordered the FBI to reopen Kavanaugh`s background investigation. But on Saturday, NBC News was first to report that the White House had sharply limited the scope of the FBI`s investigation, telling the FBI it could investigate Christine Blasey Ford`s claims and those of Deborah Ramirez, who has publicly accused Brett Kavanaugh of shoving his genitalia in her face at a party when they were both college students at Yale, but not the claims from Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of engaging in sexual misconduct at parties when he was in high school, a high school student in the 1980s.
"The New York Times" reported that day that the White House was only allowing the FBI to interview four people, Mark Judge, Kavanaugh`s friend whom Dr. Ford claims was an accomplice in the alleged assault, two other people whom she claims were at the gathering where the assault allegedly occurred, and Deborah Ramirez, the Yale accuser.
On Saturday night, Donald Trump tweeted that NBC was wrong, quote, actually, I want the FBI to interview whomever they deem appropriate at their discretion. Please correct your reporting, exclamation point.
But on Sunday, NBC reported that despite those comments, the limits to the FBI`s investigation remained unchanged, and that the FBI had received no new instructions from the White House. Meanwhile, "The New Yorker`s" Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, who broke the story of Deborah Ramirez`s allegation were reporting yesterday that several potential witnesses were attempting to contact the FBI to pass on what they thought might be useful information, but were having no luck.
For instance, one Yale classmate attempting to corroborate Ramirez`s claim, quote, had hoped to convey this to the FBI, but when he reached out to a bureau official in Washington, D.C., he was told to contact the FBI field office nearest his home. When he tried that, he was referred to a recording. After several attempts to reach a live person at the field office, he finally reached an official who said he had no idea what he was talking about. At this point, he went back to the official at the FBI`s D.C. headquarters, who then referred him to an 800 number tip line. He eventually left a tip through an online portal.
Last night, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein asked the White House and the FBI to hand over whatever directive the White House had given the FBI outlining the scope of the investigation. By this morning, she and eight of her Democratic colleagues on the committee had signed on to a letter demanding a full investigation and specifically asking that the FBI look into the claims of Julie Swetnick, as well.
And at a press conference in the Rose Garden this morning, the president seemed to agree.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the FBI should do what they have to do to get to the answer.
REPORTER: Just for clarity, will you instruct the White House counsel Don McGahn to give the FBI free rein to interview whomever they feel is necessary?
TRUMP: Well, I have so instructed him, and I did it again over the weekend.
REPORTER: So just to be clear, should the FBI interview all three of Brett Kavanaugh`s accusers?
TRUMP: It wouldn`t bother me at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And at that point, it still seemed to be this strange case of Donald Trump saying one thing and his White House continuing to instruct the FBI to do something else. Until finally a couple of hours later, "The Times" reported that a new directive had come down from the White House walking back the restrictions and telling the FBI to interview anyone necessary for their investigation. Got all that?
Now, this would all be confusing enough if everyone involved wasn`t racing against an artificial clock that runs out this Friday. The latest the Republicans have agreed to postpone the vote on Kavanaugh`s nomination. And by the way, as for that timeline, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor today to make it clear that there be no delay in that timeline, that the Senate will vote on Brett Kavanaugh`s nomination by the end of the week, come hell or high water, and also pre- scolding Democrats for what he insists will be a cynical, disingenuous argument at the end of the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: So, soon, I`ll expect that we`ll hear that the conclusions of the expert prosecutor who questioned both witnesses at last week`s hearing aren`t reliable, or what the FBI`s investigation was not infinite or endless enough for their liking. Maybe we`ll hear the real issue is not these uncorroborated allegations of misconduct after all but rather the fact that Judge Kavanaugh -- now listen to this -- drank beer in high school and in college.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Well, now that you mention it, the drinking is, in fact, a major sticking point for a lot of people, and not just Senate Democrats. Several of Kavanaugh`s college classmates have come forward to allege that he was a heavy, sloppy drinker in college. And no, the issue is not whether or not Kavanaugh drank a lot in his youth, something that pretty much everyone including the Senate Democrats appear willing to forgive. It`s that they claim he has repeatedly blatantly lied about it.
Most recently, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh`s named Chad Ludington issued a statement saying that while he has, quote, nothing to contribute about what kind of justice he would be, in recent days, I have become deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterization by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale.
Quote, Brett was a frequent drinker and a heavy drinker. I know because especially in our first two years of college I often drank with him. On many occasions, I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer.
When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive. On one of the last occasions I purposely socialized with Brett, I witnessed him respond to a semi-hostile remark not by diffusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man`s face and starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail. I do not believe that the heavy drinking or even loutish behavior of an 18 or even a 21-year-old should condemn a person for the rest of his life, but, quote, I can unequivocally say that denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth.
Chad Ludington ended his statement by saying that he would, quote, take my information to the FBI.
And that brings us to the first bit of late-breaking news tonight, something that may give us a bit of the window into the scope of the FBI information now that the restrictions have been ostensibly been taken off by the White House. That altercation that Mr. Ludington described in which Brett Kavanaugh allegedly threw a beer at someone and started a fight, well, tonight, "The New York Times" reports that there is indeed a police report documenting that incident and Judge Kavanaugh`s involvement.
Quote: The incident which occurred in September 1985 during Mr. Kavanaugh`s junior year resulted in Mr. Kavanaugh and four other men being questioned by the New Haven police department. Mr. Kavanaugh was not arrested, but the police report stated that a 21-year-old man accused Mr. Kavanaugh of throwing ice on him for some unknown reason. A witness to the fight said that Chris Dudley, a Yale basketball player who is friends with Mr. Kavanaugh, then threw a glass that hit the 21-year-old man in the ear, according to the police report.
The report said that the victim was bleeding from the right ear and was later treated at a local hospital. Mr. Dudley denied the allegation, according to the report, but for his part, speaking to the officers, Mr. Kavanaugh did not want to say if he threw the ice or not, the police report said. The police report referred to the altercation, which occurred at a bar called Demery`s, as an assault. It did not say whether anyone was arrested, and there is no indication that charges were filed.
"The Times" also reporting tonight that Chad Ludington, who first described this incident said that he has been in touch with the FBI. And the other thing that`s worth noting about this story tonight, Chris Dudley, the Kavanaugh friend and classmate who was accused by a witness of throwing a glass and injuring another bar patron in this fight, an accusation he denies, Chris Dudley is one of two people who issued statements distributed by the White House today attesting to Brett Kavanaugh`s character.
In a statement today, Chris Dudley said that he and Kavanaugh, quote, drank in college. I was with Brett frequently in college, whether it be in the gym, in class or socializing. I never saw Brett black out, not one time.
And in all the years I`ve known him, I`ve never seen him to be disrespectful or inappropriate with women. I would also like to point out that going out never came before working hard and maintaining our focus on our goals. The person sometimes being described in the press is not the Brett Kavanaugh that I have known as a good friend for 35 years.
All of which may be true, even if the two of them were involved in an ill- advised bar fight. But as you can see, new information is coming out fast and furious, so that`s one piece of breaking news.
And here`s another. Earlier this evening, Senator Susan Collins, one of the key Republican votes Kavanaugh needs to be confirmed, joined Democrats in calling for the FBI to investigate. Not just the claims of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, but also Julie Swetnick, the woman who alleges that she was at parties in the early 1980s where she saw Brett Kavanaugh engage in sexual misconduct and who claimed that she herself was gang raped at such a party, though she does not accuse Kavanaugh of being one of her attackers.
Now, we still don`t know at this point whether the FBI is looking into those claims, but Julie Swetnick has given her first sit-down interview to NBC News`s Kate Snow. And let`s show you a little club of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATE SNOW, NBC NEWS: Can you describe to me what you saw him do?
JULIE SWETNICK, KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: He was very aggressive, very sloppy drunk, very mean drunk. I saw him go up to girls and paw on them, try to get a little too handsy, touching them in private parts. I saw him try to shift clothing.
SNOW: Are there people alive today?
SWETNICK: Yes, yes.
SNOW: Who would say yes, I went to that party with you?
SWETNICK: Yes, there are people who know about those parties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, I do need to tell you tonight that tonight, NBC News has not been able to independently corroborate Swetnick`s claims.
And when NBC News asked Swetnick`s attorney, Michael Avenatti, for any witnesses who could back up Swetnick`s account, he provided four names of friends who Swetnick says went to parties with her. One of them says that he does not recall anyone named Julie Swetnick. Another of the friend is deceased. NBC News has reached out to the other two and has not yet heard back. Swetnick`s mother`s name was also provided but she, too, is deceased.
So, that`s where that part of the story stands tonight. And we have one more bit of news breaking news for you, another scoop from NBC News. The headline, quote: Text messages suggest Kavanaugh wanted to refute accuser`s claim before it became public. This is from NBC`s Heidi Przybyla and Leigh Ann Caldwell.
Quote: In the days leading up to a public allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to a college classmate, the judge and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim, according to text messages obtained by NBC News. Kerry Berchem who was at Yale with Kavanaugh and his accuser, Deborah Ramirez, has tried to get those messages to the FBI for its newly reopened investigation into the matter, but says she has yet to be contacted by the bureau.
The texts show Kavanaugh may need to be questioned about how far back he anticipated that Ramirez would air allegations against him. Berchem says in her memo that Kavanaugh and/or his friends may have initiated an anticipatory narrative as early as July to conceal or discredit Ramirez. Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath that the first time he heard about Ramirez`s allegation was in the September 23 article in "The New Yorker."
And joining us now is NBC news political reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell, one of the reporters on this brand new story.
Leigh Ann, thanks so much for joining us.
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Thank you, Joy.
REID: So, just walk us through. How early do these text messages go back? Do they go back to July?
CALDWELL: Sure, Joy. So, what we`ve seen -- we`ve not seen all of the text messages. We`ve only seen the text messages that were outlined in this memo that Kerry Berchem wants to submit to the FBI.
And this is, again, one more instance of someone who wants to talk to the FBI but hasn`t been able to. She is part of a group of friends who went to Yale undergrad with Kavanaugh and Ramirez. They`re in the same group of people, and she says that she has reached out to the FBI three times and has not heard back. Now that the FBI says that they`re going to expand this investigation, she`s more hopeful that they will reach out, but as of a couple of hours ago, they have not yet.
So, what she wants to do, she wants to present up to 51 text messages that she has between her and her friend Karen Yarasavage. So, Karen and Kerry, they both went to Yale with Kavanaugh, and these text messages ranged from July to September. And what they do show around September when this "New Yorker" story was coming out that Karen saying that Brett and/or Brett`s guy has reached out, anticipating that the Ramirez allegations would come out.
And we talked to an expert on this, someone, Brett Bower (ph), who is a former White House counsel in the Obama administration, and says it is just very strange that they would allow Brett to reach out on his own, because usually when there`s nominations like this, they have a team of people to do it. They say it`s bad PR and that they don`t recommend that the nominee itself do their own bidding.
And so, that`s one thing that`s strange. Berchem says that she wants to talk to the FBI and is hoping to be able to do that before the investigation closes by the end of this week.
REID: And do we have any way of knowing whether this was Brett Kavanaugh going back through his life and saying hmm, this might be something that happened that I need to clean up, let me have my friends reach out? Or, whether this was a result of him being, you know, maybe reached out to for comment by "The New Yorker" and responding to that? Is there a way of knowing sort of how he knew that this story might be coming?
CALDWELL: Yes, well, we have we don`t know. We don`t know which it is. It could be either or.
And, but we do know is that Ramirez and Kavanaugh, they knew each other more than what was previously reported. We did publish a photo of Kavanaugh and Ramirez from -- they were in the same wedding party in 1997, ten years after they graduated.
And Berchem said that in her text messages, that when she was talking to her friend Karen, saying that it now makes a lot of sense why Ramirez was acting so strange at that wedding. She seemed like she was kind of the fish out of water, and that she was trying to stay as far away from Kavanaugh as possible.
And so, again, I want to bring this back to this is something that she wants to tell the FBI and she`s hoping the FBI does its due diligence and is talking to everyone that should be talked to in this scenario, Joy.
REID: Yes, indeed. Well, Leigh Ann Caldwell, thank you very much for your reporting. NBC News reporter, really celebrate you tonight. Thank you.
CALDWELL: Thank you.
REID: And joining us now, Ken Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for the NBC News investigative unit, which has really been leading the way on the reporting on the scope of the FBI investigation and the restrictions the White House put on it.
Ken, great to talk to you tonight.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Good to be with you, Joy.
REID: So, let`s go back and actually, let`s start at the end here. So that we now have this new reporting from NBC News that Brett Kavanaugh or Brett and others around him may have been trying to reach out to try to get people to maybe buck up his side of the story or become sort of character witnesses in advance of the story that "The New Yorker" was going to put out about Ms. Ramirez. Do we know whether the FBI has now actually contacted those would-be witnesses or do we have any reporting on why it seems to be so difficult for witnesses who want to be in touch to actually get through to the FBI?
DILANIAN: We have nothing to suggest yet that the FBI has contacted those witnesses, but today`s announcement, or today`s reporting that the White House is going to allow the FBI to slightly expand its inquiry suggests that they may well contact those witnesses. But that`s a far cry from where we started here, Joy, which is, I think on Friday, when this FBI investigation was announced, a lot of people had this idea that hundreds of agents were going to be fanning out across the country, interviewing every witness they could to get to the bottom of not only these sexual assault allegations, but also the allegations that Kavanaugh had misrepresented his drinking in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and that he had lied about entries in his yearbook.
And that just wasn`t the case. And what we reported on Saturday was that there was a very limited witness list. There were severe constraints on the FBI`s investigative steps that they would take. And experts told us that`s unprecedented.
It is normal that the White House sets the parameters of a background check, because the White House is the client here, the FBI is working on their behalf. It`s not a normal criminal investigation. But former agents and former prosecutors told us they had never seen before the White House dictating which witnesses people could talk to, and we learned there was a witness list of four people, as you said before. Three of whom would have been at the party that Dr. Ford alleges, where the sexual assault happened, and the fourth would be Deborah Ramirez, the accuser.
But it wasn`t clear that they could talk to anyone else that for example Deborah Ramirez said could corroborate her story.
DILANIAN: And that really -- that started to stick in the craw, we understand, of some of these key senators, including Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, who were looking at this and wanting to believe that there was a serious FBI investigation, as Flake said today, not just a fig leaf, not just a cover so we can vote for this guy. And that`s I think led us to where we are today, which is a slightly expanded inquiry.
REID: And just to be clear, just for the audience to be clear, at the time that Donald Trump sent and then tweeted that no, the FBI could do whatever they want and said verbally that that was the case, was that the case?
DILANIAN: No, that was total disinformation, and senior administration officials have confirmed that to NBC News. At the time he tweeted that, there were severe restrictions on the FBI investigation. It`s not clear to me that when he made his remarks today at the news conference where he said I want the FBI to interview everyone, whether the decision had already been made and transmitted to the FBI that they were going let the FBI slightly expand the inquiry.
But just to be clear here, Joy, we`re talking about slightly. As far as I understand it, the FBI is still not going to be able to examine this question of did Kavanaugh lie about his drinking. And so, these people who have come forward to say that and say they want to talk to the FBI, the White House cannot stop that from happening, but it`s not clear what`s going to happen with that information, other than the FBI agent who takes the interview will write it up in a report and send it up the chain.
As far as I understand, that is not really the subject of their inquiry right now, even though many Democrats would like it to be because they think it goes to Kavanaugh`s creditability.
REID: Yes, indeed. Ken Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
DILANIAN: You bet, Joy. Thanks.
REID: All right. Thank you.
Our next guest spent 25 years inside the FBI. You are going to want to hear what he has to say about this new investigation into Brett Kavanaugh.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Will you continue to say you`ll vote no if the FBI investigation is not to your liking?
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Well, we`ll certainly in the next couple of days having dialogue with the White House counsel`s office, making sure that it is up to standard. It does no good to have an investigation that just gives us more cover, for example. We actually need to find out what we can find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: This weekend, there were only four people on the list of witnesses the FBI was allowed to interview. Kavanaugh`s friend Mark Judge, Christine Blasey Ford`s friend Leland Keyser, Kavanaugh acquaintance PJ. Smyth and the second named Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez. That was it. Those were the parameters that were set out by the White House.
That is, until today, when the White House widened the scope of it, after news reports starting with NBC about those strict limitations, and Donald Trump freestyling on television that the FBI can investigate whatever they want.
According to "The New York Times," the administration is now allowing the FBI to interview, quote, anyone it deems necessary, as long as the review is finished by the end of the week. So far, the FBI has contacted Mark Judge, Leland Keyser, P.J. Smyth, Deborah Ramirez, and the latest is that Kavanaugh`s college classmate Chad Ludington says that he has been in contact with the FBI, as well. They`ve got four more days to go.
And joining us now is Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence.
Frank, it`s great to have you on tonight.
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Thanks, Joy. Glad to be here.
REID: Thank you.
So, I have really been transfixed by your commentary on this case. I listened to you this morning talking about the restrictions that the FBI was under and the unprecedented nature of them. Just to clarify, when the FBI gets these parameters of what they`re allowed to do, is it a presidential directive that is verbal from the president or from Don McGahn, the White House counsel, or is it actually written down guidelines that they can read?
FIGLIUZZI: In almost every case, there is a written follow-up to a verbal discussion where collegially, the White House works out with an FBI official where they want to go, what`s logical. The FBI has great input into what`s logical. They are the professional investigators. But then there is follow-up in writing. So there is clarity and no confusion.
REID: So if the president were to say no, no, no, no, they can do whatever they want, would that then change what an FBI agent was able to do?
FIGLIUZZI: Let me assure you, the FBI doesn`t operate by presidential tweet or presidential press conference announcing a Canada trade deal. They need a directive from the White House, and they need something in writing.
And, Joy, right now, we are not seeing evidence that that`s happened. There are three ways we can tell that something`s happening that is different.
First, reliably, most reliably, the FBI would come out and confirm, we`ve received new instructions. That`s unlikely to happen. The FBI never wants to get in the middle or become the story in a background investigation.
Secondly, we see evidence that new people, new people we didn`t think would be interviewed are having their doors knocked on by FBI agents. And we`re not really seeing that.
And then lastly, we would see evidence of people coming forward saying I was interviewed, and we wouldn`t think they would have been interviewed. They weren`t on the original list. None of those three things has happened yet tonight, Joy.
REID: I think you kind of hit on the point that I wanted to make with you, because the concern, I think, for a lot of people is that if this is just an investigation that leads to a foregone conclusion, not only does that taint the nominee, it actually taints the FBI, which is kind of a problem when the FBI is also involved in investigating the president.
FIGLIUZZI: Yes, look, I would not be surprised if part of the plan here is to be able to finger-point. We`ve already seen the president point to the Senate, right, and say well, whatever they want. They`re coming up with the instructions. I`m just passing it on to the FBI.
Now, the next step logically would be to say well, I gave the FBI a week and they`ve not come up with anything new. It`s important for the public to understand they might not come up with anything new if they`re not allowed to do what they do best, which is to thoroughly investigate this.
REID: And is a week enough time, four more days enough time to do that?
FIGLIUZZI: So the FBI does amazing things in one week. I can name case of after case where they surged hundreds of agents and their resources are phenomenal, but they have to be allowed to do that. There`s incredible things they can do. They can reconstruct scenes.
FIGLIUZZI: They can find the house in Bethesda, Maryland. They can pull all the dorm records at Yale.
FIGLIUZZI: But none of that will happen until they`re told they`re allowed to do that.
REID: Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, just the man I wanted to talk to about this tonight, thank you very much.
FIGLIUZZI: You`re welcome.
REID: Thank you.
And if you`re wondering happened to the Arizona prosecutor who Republican senators hired to be their proxy during last week`s hearing, you know, the one who seemed to all be vanish during Judge Kavanaugh`s questioning, we have an answer for you, and that is next.
REID: Last week, we saw Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee outsource their question time to a woman, Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. According to the ground rules, she would interview both Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the professor accusing Donald Trump`s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault when the two were in high school, and she would also interview Brett Kavanaugh. The Republicans on the committee and would listen and, I don`t know, maybe take notes.
And Ms. Mitchell did indeed interview Dr. Ford, taking each senator`s time and Q&A-ing her in five-minute increments. But the prosecutor was benched by Republicans abruptly in the middle of Judge Kavanaugh`s part of the hearing, so we would wind up hearing less from her than expected.
But now, we are hearing from her again. In a report obtained by NBC News, Ms. Mitchell told Republicans that she has, in fact, reached a conclusion. Quote: Analysis of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford`s allegations, the prosecutor writes that, quote, in the legal context, here is my bottom line. A he said/she said case is incredibly difficult to prove, but this case is even weaker than that. I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the committee.
Ms. Mitchell sets out various reasons for why in her view this is not a prosecutable case. She takes issue with Dr. Ford`s timeline, with her memory and her assertions that she has suffered psychological after effects from the assault. But in setting out all of that, Ms. Mitchell spends zero time in this memo on what Brett Kavanaugh said in Thursday`s hearing, which is a little curious, considering she did ask him on Thursday about one specific date on his calendar, shortly before Republicans took over the questions.
That date, Thursday, July 1st, 1982. The entry for that date in Brett Kavanaugh`s calendar, which he claims helped to prove that he did not assault Christine Blasey Ford. That calendar includes two of the people who Dr. Ford says were at the party in question on that day, July 1st, 1982.
Reporters have homed in on that day as possibly supporting Dr. Ford`s timeline for the assault, and it seemed prosecutor Rachel Mitchell was at least somewhat interested, at least on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MITCHELL, PROSECUTOR: Judge, do you still have your calendar -- calendars there?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I do.
MITCHELL: I would like you to look at the July 1st entry.
MITCHELL: The entry says, and I quote, go to Timmy`s for skis with Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie and Squi?
KAVANAUGH: Squi. It`s a nickname.
MITCHELL: Did you in your calendar routinely document social gatherings like house parties or gatherings of friends in your calendar?
KAVANAUGH: Yes. It certainly appears that way that`s what I was doing in the summer of 1982. And you can see that reflected on several of the -- several of the entries.
MITCHELL: If a gathering like Dr. Ford has described had occurred, would you have documented that?
KAVANAUGH: Yes, because I documented everything, those kinds of events, even small get-togethers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So, on Thursday, Rachel Mitchell was moving in on that July 1st timeline, and then Judge Kavanaugh steered away toward another date, and the prosecutor never got another turn.
For some reason she was sidelined for the rest of the hearing. And in her assessment of Dr. Ford`s allegations against Kavanaugh, July 1st, 1982 does not get brought up at all.
We have reached out to the office of Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to ask if there is some other memo that Rachel memo wrote specifically concerning her questioning of Brett Kavanaugh. We have yet to hear back.
But if the takeaway from the prosecutor who the Republicans hired to do their questioning for them is that this is a hopeless matter of he said/she said, is that the only reasonable conclusion? Might other prosecutors see it differently? And would a more thorough investigation possibly reach a different conclusion?
Joining us now is Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in Alabama.
Great to have you here, Joyce.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Hey, Joy.
REID: All right. So, let`s go through a couple of things. The thing number one, Ms. Mitchell says that this is a hopeless case of he said/she said, and that a reasonable prosecutor would not have moved forward with a case based on what she saw at that hearing. Do you, as a former prosecutor, agree?
VANCE: Well, two things. First, this is not a he said/she said, at least as Dr. Ford teased this up. There are two hes in the room and, of course, Dr. Ford.
And so, the first thing that I would do before making a prosecutive decision or a decision about whether to charge the case is, I would want to go and talk to the third person in the room. And the fact that that had not yet happened here would seem to indicate that it would be premature to say that the case couldn`t be prosecuted.
And then, there`s this entire idea that any prosecutor would have an intake interview with the victim, which is essentially what this hearing was, getting a first look at the victim`s story, and then make a decision not to prosecute the case before doing any sort of investigation. And there`s a lot of investigation that could be done here, key among that would be the fact that Dr. Ford had shared her story with people before Judge Kavanaugh had been nominated.
At a bare minimum, as a prosecutor, I would want to hear what those folks had to say. But there is a lot of other information here too that would need to be pursued before a reasonable prosecutor could reach a reasonable decision about whether or not the case was a go.
REID: And wouldn`t the prosecutor have had to talk to the accused? I mean, in this case, right, Ms. Mitchell talked to him for maybe two of her five-minute increments. She didn`t really talk to him. So, is it odd to you, as it is to many who are looking at this, that she reached a conclusion without ever having delved into that July 1st, 1982 entry which seems to corroborate that there was a party that at least merits looking into whether that was the party.
VANCE: You know, prosecutors in criminal cases don`t always get to talk to defendants before they make a charging decision. Of course, we know that this is not a criminal case, but Mitchell in her memo says I`m a prosecutor, this is what I know best. So I`ll talk about criminal standards.
So, you and I both know that that`s never before been the standard for whether or not a nominee should be confirmed, but let`s just take it at face value for a minute. This is a prosecutor who did have access to a quote/unquote defendant. She could have heard a lot more of Kavanaugh`s story. And the fact that she didn`t would at least seem to indicate that she might have had some caution that she would have inserted into this memo, saying, I simply don`t have enough information yet to form a judgment about whether or not this is a case that can be prosecuted.
REID: Yes, not to mention that the prosecutor is usually not hired by the jury who already wants to acquit the defendant, if we want to take that analogy.
VANCE: That is unusual. Yes.
REID: Thank you very much Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in Alabama.
REID: Appreciate your time.
And coming up, remarks from the president`s press conference today that you might not have noticed, and this one is a thinker.
Stick with us.
REID: So the Brett Kavanaugh nomination has clearly not gone as planned for the Trump White House, and Donald Trump presumably has thoughts about that, which he has struggled to keep to himself, particularly when a certain kind of reporter asks him about it. This is how last week`s Trump presser went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: If I could just actually ask any question, Mr. Trump.
TRUMP: Go ahead, please.
REPORTER: You didn`t let me ask the question.
TRUMP: You`ve been asking the question for ten minutes. Please sit down. Please. Go ahead.
REPORTER: How did those impact your opinions on the allegations --
TRUMP: Well, it does impact my opinion. And you know what?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was an exchange last week with CBS White House correspondent Weijia Jiang. And here is how today`s presser went.
(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Yes, go ahead. Sure. She`s shocked that I picked her. She is in a state of shock.
REPORTER: I`m not. Thank you, Mr. President.
TRUMP: I know. I know you`re not thinking. You never do.
REPORTER: I`m sorry?
TRUMP: No, go ahead, go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Hmm. That was ABC`s White House correspondent Cecilia Vega. I know you`re not thinking. You never do, says the president, as a group of mostly men snicker and smirk behind him.
Now, I know this is not surprising. I mean, this is Donald Trump, right? But given what we`re going through as a country right now, where the Senate Judiciary Committee had to bring in an outside woman to question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford last week so the all-male Republican Senate Judiciary Committee members didn`t have to do it themselves, you would think like, maybe, maybe the president would avoid these unforced errors.
Well, let`s just say I can`t imagine why the Republican Party is having so many problems with women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: That`s OK. I know you`re not thinking. You never do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Mr. President, I am grateful beyond measure for the confidence you have placed in me, and I will strive with all that I have to live up to your expectations in making this appointment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nominated for the Supreme Court, it was 1993. Bill Clinton was six months into his presidency. The country was just two years past from the highly contentious nomination of Clarence Thomas. And while President Clinton himself took some heat for the way his White House had been running nominations in general, the choice of Ginsburg was super popular with the public. She would go on to be confirmed by the Senate, 96-3.
And to this day, Justice Ginsburg, the only justice with a nickname, the Notorious RBG, not to mention her own "Saturday Night Live" character, holds the record for highest public approval rating among Supreme Court nominees. At the other end of the spectrum, one Brett Kavanaugh of Georgetown Prep and Yale, who Republicans are determined to rush onto the court as soon as possible, despite the fact that his historically low polling numbers continue to get worse and worse.
A new poll today from Quinnipiac finds him dropping even further after last week`s Senate hearing, now 48 percent of voters say he should not be confirmed, a rise of six points from that same poll last month.
And joining me now is Steve Kornacki, national political correspondent for NBC and MSNBC and author of the new book, "The Red and The Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism."
Congratulations on the book.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Joy.
REID: I`ve got my copy now. Very excited about it for you. And this is ten years of work.
KORNACKI: It`s almost a decade. The 1990s feels like when I started writing the book.
REID: It`s interesting and we wanted to start back in the `90s, because you think about that 96-3, it`s impossible to image any Senate, whoever was in charge of it, Democrats or Republicans, voting through any nominee of their opposite party 96-3. What happened?
KORNACKI: So, that moment, you`re seeing 1993, Ginsberg, the next year, Stephen Breyer, similarly lopsided, that was the very brief lull between, there was the storm with Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, two extremely contentious nomination fights, late ` 80s, early `90s. You had those sail through under Clinton early on, but then there was a partisan war building throughout the `90s. It`s where the title of this war comes from, red America, blue America, those concepts were born. And think about what ends the decade, what starts the new century.
The near perfect tie presidential election of 2000, the protracted 36-day recount in Florida and what settles that election finally, that highly disputed election, the Supreme Court in what looked like a very ideological, very partisan in a lot of ways decision. And I think the court wars that we have seen since, you put that chart up a minute ago, some of the most contentious -- you don`t have 96-3 votes anymore. To sail through now is to have 40 no votes. And that`s the new reality.
REID: And the new reality is that the Supreme Court is now part of it, right? The Supreme Court is the same kind of divided body that the Senate and the House are. They behave the same way. But I wonder if going back to this era, to the Clinton era, was it Bork before or was it Gingrich during the 1990s, during the Clinton presidency who kind of kick started this hyper partisan world we now live in?
KORNACKI: There were so many thing -- I mean, look, the name Bork, you ask conservatives about the court wars, you ask them about the rise of partisanship in Washington and Robert Bork, 1987, is something they go back to. They say, that guy was qualified and the Democrats took him down on ideological grounds and took him down with unfair attacks.
You look, though, at the style of Newt Gingrich, and a lot of the book, when I talk about the rise of red America in this book, that`s the rise of Newt Gingrich. That`s the Newt Gingrich takeover of the Republican Party, the creation of a Republican Party that sort of -- he has that vision of, he calls it definition in contrast, but it really means it`s partisan warfare.
You`re not going to win by compromising. You`re going to win by drawing a deep and bright line between your party and the Democratic Party. You don`t compromise with them, you don`t take 5 percent of what they`re offering you. You go after them that way.
And Newt Gingrich takes Republicans in 1994 to the peak of their post-war sort of moment. 1994, the Republican revolution, but when Republicans get some power under Newt Gingrich as the speaker of the House, there`s a backlash to that, and that`s the birth of blue America. And then what you have is red and blue, and you have polarization and really I think a generation later almost tribalism has come from that.
REID: Is it a product of geography that the Republicans were becoming the party of the South? Is it that or literally just Newt Gingrich had this vision that we`re not doing deals, we`re doing annihilation?
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, you got to remember, what Newt Gingrich was looking at was -- the Republicans themselves, the leadership of the Republican Party, through the 1980s into the `90s believed they were a permanent minority party in Congress. They could win the White House, but not the Congress.
So, Gingrich`s thing was, you know, this is because we`re compromising. It`s because we`re not creating these contrasts. He picked fights, he took down a speaker of the house, took him out on ethics charges in 1989.
In `94, he had Republicans believing, this guy`s a genius.
KORNACKI: This guy has this vision of history that starts with Goldwater in `64, he`s now got Republicans in control of the House. The next phase is, they get the White House. They get everything.
And what happened, though, was that face, that, Gingrich as the face of the Republican Party that emerged from 1994, this was more southern, more strident, it was more conservative. A lot of religious conservatives now part of the front and center in the Republican Party. That caused the backlash.
The government shutdown in 1995, the fall of `95, Gingrich designed that, the idea is, this is where we finish off Bill Clinton and the modern Democratic Party. Instead, that was where bill Clinton and the modern Democratic Party sort of made their stand, got new definition, got new meaning, got re-elected in `96 in large part because of that. They`ve been fighting that war for three decades since.
REID: Ever since. Not to mention they impeached Clinton and then we get here and Ted Cruz is shutting down the government. It is a fascinating topic, a fascinating story. The origin story of hyperpartisanship, the man to write it is Steve Kornacki.
Thank you very much.
KORNACKI: Thank you, Joy.
REID: Can`t wait to watch you on election night. You`ll have a lot of coffee going.
We`ll be right back.
REID: On Friday, September 14th, special counsel Robert Mueller got a new recruit. Paul Manafort, Donald Trump`s campaign chair.
Manafort was convicted of eight felony charges in august in a federal court in Virginia. His second felony trial was about to get under way in federal court in Washington, D.C. And that`s when Paul Manafort blinked.
On September 14th, Donald Trump`s campaign chair Paul Manafort agreed to cooperate fully with special counsel Robert Mueller. Nothing is off limits. Manafort agreed to, quote, be fully debriefed and to attend all meetings at which his presence is requested. He agreed to hand over, quote, all documents and other materials that may be relevant to the investigation.
He agreed to go undercover, although I have to believe there are better candidates to go undercover than Paul Manafort. He agreed to testify at trial or before grand juries. So, Manafort agreed to be grilled by Mueller and his team in that plea deal from September.
And then today, an eagle eyed reporter from "Politico" spotted these three guys huddled outside Bob Mueller`s office in D.C. On the left, that`s Andrew Weissmann, one of Mueller`s pop prosecutors. Those two guys on the right, those are Paul Manafort`s lawyers.
Not seen here, Manafort himself. Maybe because as "Politico" reported, he was inside meeting Bob Mueller. The lawyers were later seen grabbing lunch and heading back in.
Maybe it was just lunch break. But I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall.
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back in the chair tomorrow, don`t tweet me.
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