Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 24, 2018 Guest: Lisa Graves
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And, of course, I had to watch every minute of our hour tonight beginning with the Michael Avenatti interview.
So, I want to get your reaction. What do you make of what Michael Avenatti has where he promised the kind of full version of the revelation of it within 48 hours, which I guess is the day before the Thursday hearing?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": If -- yes, I mean, if that 48-hour window is correct and he and his client or clients are going to stick to that, that would put the public revelation of these allegations, it would put it out ahead of that public hearing on Thursday morning.
Now, we know something about the character of what Avenatti is alleging because of the written communication he`s had with the Senate Judiciary Committee about this, which Mr. Avenatti has published. He`s publicized that.
So we know something about the character of the allegations and the time frame. The real mystery is, who is his client and who are his clients? He says he has a client who can be described as both a witness and a victim and a number of other clients he would describe as corroborating witnesses.
So, when he says he`s going to come forward not just with specific allegations but with evidence about them, we assume that`s going to come from the people who he`s representing as witnesses. Now, what the Senate is going to do with that, what the exact nature of those claims is going to be, we don`t know, but it does mean between now and now and Thursday morning, we`re expecting a lot more news on this subject, which is exactly what the Senate does not want.
O`DONNELL: And he told you the woman he`s representing as a victim has herself passed an FBI background check for presumably a federal government job.
MADDOW: Right, security clearance. He said she`d been cleared for multiple security clearances in the past. So, you know, I mean, Senator Klobuchar was just here saying, you know, as a former prosecutor and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I`m putting words in her mouth, but she was essentially saying I can`t believe that we`re not having an FBI background check expanded to take account of these new allegations.
I feel like when the White House decided they weren`t going to let the FBI look into this first allegation from Christine Blasey Ford, that they might have thought they would be able to sort of fudge that, but now there`s a second named accuser and I think we`re about to get a third, again with corroborating witnesses, I think the White House is either going to have to change their mind on that or they`re going to regret having decided the FBI can`t look into this, because it looks like they`re giving absolutely no process to these allegations at all. And already by a 20-point margin, the country thinks these allegations need to be heard before there`s any vote on this guy.
O`DONNELL: Yes, the polling is stunning but there`s also a conceivable White House incentive not to do the FBI investigation because they were aware of the possibility of these mushrooming accusations. And if the FBI goes in on Dr. Blasey Ford`s allegation, starts investigating that while they`re in that investigative mode, they could have come across this Michael Avenatti information.
MADDOW: It`s so shortsighted, though. They`re not deciding to give him, you know, an award of some kind, you know? They`re going to put him on the Supreme Court and he`s going to be sitting there on the Supreme Court if they confirm him.
And the Supreme Court is a place from where you can be impeached. I mean, there`s no reason if these allegations are seen as credible, both by relevant law enforcement authorities and by senators and by the public, and they`re not investigated and they ram through his confirmation without actually giving them due process and due diligence, there`s nothing that will stop these allegations from being investigated and pursued even potentially as criminal matter or a subject of impeachment hearings once he`s on the court. I mean , they think they`ve got a nightmare on their hands with this confirmation foundering the way that it is. What kind of a nightmare is it going to be if they get a Supreme Court justice impeached and that`s the back half of Donald Trump`s first term?
I mean, I think the shortsighted decision to try to push him through without vetting and without investigating this stuff has got to be something that they`re ruing right now.
O`DONNELL: Lisa -- I mean, Lisa -- Rachel, I`m going to begin tonight junking any scripts I have to go straight to Lisa Graves and other experts to talk about what you just dealt with Michael Avenatti because Lisa used to be part of a team on the Senate Judiciary Staff on the Democratic side working these kinds of things. We`ll get her reaction to what Michael Avenatti had to say tonight.
But let`s just remember something I think the Republicans are pretending is not true. I mean, Orrin Hatch has been say, gee, the Democrats are good at bringing this into the confirmation process. No, they`re not. It is extremely rare. Extremely rare.
And let`s give Neil Gorsuch some credit. He went to exactly the same high school that Brett Kavanaugh went to, which is reportedly drowning in beer and wild parties according to all accounts, including Brett Kavanaugh`s best friend, Mark Judge`s book. Neil Gorsuch went to that high school. No one came out -- no one came out and said anything like this about Neil Gorsuch.
So, no, this doesn`t happen every time.
MADDOW: And also the idea that this is -- you know, that there`s these generic allegations that Democrats keep on tap to fling at anybody who comes along who they want to derail and they have no connection to reality, I mean, it`s, A, you`re right it doesn`t account for the Gorsuch factor here. But also as these allegations continue to mount, if they`re so, so sure there`s absolutely nothing here, refusing to allow the allegations to be investigated is not the way to disprove them.
O`DONNELL: I mean, it can only be that you refuse to have an FBI investigation because the FBI investigation can only make this worse, can`t make it better for Brett Kavanaugh.
O`DONNELL: I can`t see any other rationale.
Rachel, thank you for a great hour. Thank you for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
O`DONNELL: And we are going to begin right now with Lisa Graves, the former chief counsel for nominations for the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She was also a deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice. Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and MSNBC legal contributor, and John Heilemann, national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He`s co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus", where John Heilemann was able to get Susan Collins on the record this weekend about her vote and we will come to that in a moment, John.
I want to start with Lisa.
And, Lisa, what we learned from Michael Avenatti in this last hour, which by Wednesday if not possibly sooner, he will be presenting what he calls both a witness and a victim of Brett Kavanaugh. It sounds like he means during Brett Kavanaugh`s high school years because he says that what she will describe took place over a number of years.
Rachel read in detail an e-mail that Michael Avenatti sent to the staff members, who you know the Republican staff members on the Senate Judiciary Committee about what information he has because they inquired of him what information he has.
I`m going to do a short reading of it, Lisa, and I want to get all of your reactions to how you would expect the committee to deal with this.
Michael Avenatti suggested to the committee that they ask Brett Kavanaugh even in private as preparation for this, the following questions. Did you ever target one or more women for sex or rape at a house party? Did you ever assist Mark Judge or others in doing so?
Did you ever attend any house party during which a woman was raped or used for sex by multiple men? Did you ever witness a line of men outside a bedroom at any house party? Where you understood a woman was in a bedroom being raped or taken advantage of?
Did you ever participate in any sexual conduct with a woman at a house party who you understood to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs? Did you ever communicate with Mark Judge or anyone else about your participation in, quote, a train, end quote, involving an intoxicated woman? Did you ever object or attempt to prevent one or more men from participating in the rape or taking advantage of a woman at any house party?
And, Lisa, those are the questions that Michael Avenatti suggests that the Judiciary Committee staff ask Brett Kavanaugh right now.
LISA GRAVES, FORMER STAFFER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, those questions are highly detailed and certainly indicate Michael Avenatti feels confident that he has a witness and corroborating witnesses to make that sort of specific line of questioning public. I think that what this shows, again, is the reckless process that Senator Grassley and Senator McConnell have engaged in this nomination, reckless for perhaps Brett Kavanaugh himself, but also for the United States Supreme Court.
While they`re trying to rush this thing forward they`re refusing to call even to this moment Mark Judge to testify, subpoena him. They`ve refused to have the FBI go back and investigate the matters that have already come before, and there are new matters breaking almost every day now about Brett Kavanaugh. And I think that in this circumstance where the Senate has basically created a kangaroo-type court where Grassley has had his counsel interview Kavanaugh, which he touted on Fox News tonight, that interview is utterly in violation of the standing rules of that committee of rule 10 that requires a bipartisan deposition if there were one by staff for that to be under oath.
There`s no indication that Grassley`s staff has any authority to supposedly put -- put Brett Kavanaugh under oath, and that should be given any weight at all. There`s no transcript. There`s nothing there that gives it any credence. And I would just say it`s important to remember here when you`re looking at credibility of witnesses, you have one witness this Thursday, Brett Kavanaugh who now has a documented record of the misleading the committee and he has every incentive to lie and you have a witness who has come forward at great costs, risking death threats to tell the truth in Dr. Ford.
And so, I think when you`re weighing motive, that`s important. And we know from recent history and most of history that the most predictable reaction to an allegation of rape or attempted rape is for the man to deny it and for those denials to be false. And so, I think it`s important for the real process to happen, which is that for this to go back to FBI and not proceed in this hearing that excludes key witnesses, whether its` Mr. Avenatti`s witnesses or Mr. Judge himself, along with others who come forward this weekend.
O`DONNELL: And, Jill Wine-Banks, let me get your reaction from what you heard from Michael Avenatti tonight basically confirming to Rachel that what we will be hearing when these accusations are eventually made public does coincide with the questions he was asking the committee ask Brett Kavanaugh.
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I think what we learned about Michael Avenatti is that he produces what he promises. And I think that if the Senate continues to ignore all of the witnesses, that people will vote based on that and that the Republicans will be ousted in much bigger numbers than is even being predicted now. It is outrageous that these witnesses are not being given a chance to testify publicly.
The list of questions that Michael Avenatti presented is a great start, but there are a lot of other questions. One is why hasn`t the FBI gotten into this and started to investigate and interview all of his classmates in high school, in college, in law school, his clerks, the people he clerked with. Why aren`t they talking about the Kozinski chambers, and why Azar who proceeded Kavanaugh as the clerk for Kozinski, why did he leave? And how can Kavanaugh say he didn`t know about the sexual misconduct in those chambers?
There are so many things. How did he pay off this debt, and was the debt really for gambling? I think we also have to look at given everything we now know as to whether he was then or is now an alcoholic, whether he`s recovered or not. There was clearly a drinking problem that`s been brought out. So there are a whole lot of questions that as a trial lawyer I say, you can`t ignore those and as a voter, I will not ignore them.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to some of what Michael Avenatti told Rachel in the last hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER: I`m representing one client who I can describe as a witness and victim as well as additional corroborating witnesses to what she is going to allege publicly within the next 48 hours. As it relates to her particular allegations, we`re not going to provide additional information beyond that, which is contained within the e-mails that I exchanged with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But let me say this: This woman when she does surface will be found to be 100 percent credible by the American public. I would not be representing her if I did not believe her. And if anyone has been paying attention over the last six to seven months, they know that I do not traffic in nonsense or rumor.
I utilize facts and evidence. And this woman will prove to be credible, and she is believable, and we are hopeful that the committee will launch an FBI investigation forthwith. We have also asked she be permitted to take a polygraph examination, which she`s agreed to do provided that Brett Kavanaugh does the same. And we have yet to hear back from the committee on a host of issues that I raised over 10 hours ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: John Heilemann, how do you suppose that interview landed in the White House and Chuck Grassley`s office tonight?
JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "THE CIRCUS": You know, first with a big, loud thud and then sort of with a kind of like shock to the solar plexus of all those folks. Look, I mean I think that you as others have said this evening and over the course of the last couple of days, as you know, I`ve spent a fair amount of time with Avenatti, making some television with him back in the context of the early Stormy Daniels period.
I -- you know, he has his critics, he has his fans, but the one thing as Jill has said a second ago is that he produces results. And he boasts about the facts that the things he`s predicted to come true have generally come true, and things he`s proven to be facts have generally proven out. So, if I were them, I`d be very concerned about the situation.
I do think the -- it was a ridiculous previously that Mark Judge was not being subpoenaed before Michael Avenatti`s e-mail to the committee. The fact that Mark Judge is not being subpoenaed now if he`s not subpoenaed now going forward is not just ridiculous, it`s a travesty.
This is a person who strangely who I had some acquaintance with in like in 1987, 1988, when I first moved to Washington, D.C. where he was a frequenter at a bar in Georgetown where I tended bar, and he was everything you can imagine him to be from the book he wrote. He was an obnoxious, slovenly, disrespectful thuggish drunk and someone who under these circumstances must be subpoenaed to appear before this committee.
If there`s any pretense or even the faintest whiff of a pretense of getting at the truth of what actually happened around Brett Kavanaugh and around the various accusations that now cloud his nomination.
O`DONNELL: The evidence comes from the most surprising places. John Heilemann`s days as a bartender now become relevant here at our discussion.
John, let me ask you quickly. I know you spent some time with Susan Collins. I saw it on your show "The Circus" Sunday night. What day was it when you managed to interview her, because this story has been moving so fast, and what I heard her tell you was that she was as close to a decision on the vote, but that was clearly before anything that we`re talking tonight?
HEILEMANN: It was on Friday night. She did an event off at St. Anselm in New Hampshire where we caught up with her. That interview took place around 7:00 or so on Friday night. So, all of the Kavanaugh and Professor Ford related stuff that had happened last week was all known to her. What was not known to her was the reporting by "New Yorker" and Michael Avenatti allegations from the weekend.
I will say to me the most telling thing about it was her flat out declaration, something she`d not done before I don`t believe anywhere, that she was certain that Brett Kavanaugh would not overturn Roe v. Wade. And we all understand that was one of the important things for Senator Collins ostensibly where she stood in this nomination. She said Dr. Ford needed to be heard, but she said she was at that point -- again, this was before these new allegations.
But at that point, she said she was about 95 percent of the way towards a yes for Brett Kavanaugh. She firmly implied that. She felt she had reviewed all of his materials. She spent a lot of time with him by her standards.
And again, she`d come to a firm conclusion that he would not, not overturn Roe v. Wade which, of course, is not the conclusion of an awful lot of people in the world, including some Republicans. So I thought this was a woman just knowing the body language and knowing Susan Collin`s history, this was a woman who did not know.
O`DONNELL: And, Jill, I want to get a quick one with you, before you go to a break, and I`m going to discuss this also with Lisa a little bit later, but in Dr. Ford`s lawyer`s letter to Chuck Grassley tonight, one of the things they were talking about is the committee`s intention to bring in what they`re calling a former apparently experienced sex crimes prosecutor to ask the questions for the Republicans. And the attorneys for Dr. Ford are objecting to that saying there is no precedent for this committee to bring in outside counsel for the sole purpose of shielding members of the committee from performing their responsibility to question witnesses.
They also mention that the committee was using the Watergate model as a justification to which Dr. Ford`s lawyers say the Watergate hearings lasted for months resulting over 319 hours being televised. A completely different situation. We`ve never seen this kind of practice before in a confirmation hearing.
WINE-BANKS: There is no equivalency to anything in the Watergate hearing to this. And I don`t know how they think that they will protect the men who are on this committee, the Republican men, from any kind of consequence by calling in a female to do the questioning. That is insulting to both men and women. Men can ask civil questions and can get the truth, but it`s clear from everything we`ve learned today and over the last week that the one thing the Senate does not want is the truth.
O`DONNELL: It sounds like an admission tat the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are incapable of doing their jobs.
Lisa Graves, please stay with us. We`re going to take a break here.
Jill Wine-Banks and John Heilemann, thank you very much for starting us off tonight.
And when we come back, the question that Brett Kavanaugh did not allow his wife to answer in their interview with Fox News tonight.
And later, Ezra Klein will join us with his view of what could be the constitutional crisis that we would see if Donald Trump fires Rod Rosenstein.
O`DONNELL: Brett Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley spoke to Fox News tonight in an interview with Martha MacCallum, but Brett Kavanaugh did not let his wife answer the single most important question that was addressed directly to his wife, as we`ll show you in just a moment.
The interview came after a very bad weekend for Brett Kavanaugh and the Republicans who are trying to make Kavanaugh a Supreme Court justice. The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley repeatedly embarrassed himself with his Republican Senate colleagues by issuing tough sounding deadlines to the lawyers representing Professor Christine Blasey Ford who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault and attempted rape when they were in high school.
And every time Dr. Ford and her lawyers ignored Chuck Grassley`s deadline, Chuck Grassley then set a new deadline for Dr. Ford to decide if she would testify to the committee on Wednesday, a date and time set by Chuck Grassley. In the end, Dr. Ford agreed to testify but forced Chuck Grassley to delay the hearing until Thursday, which is one of Dr. Ford`s original demands.
While that deadline kept moving, Chuck Grassley`s Judiciary Committee staff showed once again just how biased and unprofessional they are. On Saturday, Garret Ventry (ph) was forced to resign from the committee staff when NBC News asked the committee about, quote, evidence he was fired from a previous political job in part because of a sexual harassment allegation against him.
That was after the Republican`s chief counsel for confirmations tweeted last week that nothing Dr. Ford could say about Brett Kavanaugh would stop him from confirming Judge Kavanaugh. He wrote, unfazed and determined, we will confirm Judge Kavanaugh.
The very bad weekend for Judge Kavanaugh ended late Sunday night with the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, tweeting: Thursday`s hearing should be canceled in light of a disturbing new allegation of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh. The FBI must investigate all allegations.
The new allegations that Senator Feinstein was referring to was reported in "New Yorker" by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer. Deborah Ramirez told them that when she and Brett Kavanaugh were freshman at Yale, she remembers that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a dormitory drunken party and throughout thrust himself close to her face so that when she pushed him away, she had to touch him in a way that horrified her. Full, specific graphic details of that are included in the "New Yorker" article.
And so, with the Kavanaugh nominations sinking fast by Sunday night, Donald Trump apparently decided that Monday morning was the day for a show of confidence by Republicans, even though Republicans are not confident that Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything. But I am with Judge Kavanaugh, and I look forward to a vote.
(END VIDEO CLI)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump and all Republicans are always conveniently forgetting the historic unfairness that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans delivered to Merrick Garland, Barack Obama`s nominee for the Supreme Court who was never even given a hearing.
Republicans left that Supreme Court seat vacant for over a year. The mastermind of the Republican`s Merrick Garland strategy said this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I want to make it perfectly clear, Mr. President, Judge Kavanaugh will be voted on here on the Senate floor, up or down, on the Senate floor. This fine nominee to the Supreme Court will receive a vote in this Senate in the near future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Voted on up or down. So maybe down, but voted on.
That`s actually a very big step back from what he said last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: Here`s what I want to tell you, in the very near future: Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court. So, my friends, keep the faith. Don`t get rattled by all of this. We`re going to plow right through it and do our job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: They are rattled, make no mistake about it. They are trying to sound confident, but every day that passes is bringing new trouble for the Kavanaugh nomination including what Michael Avenatti claims is more evidence that will come out within the next two days, evidence from a woman who Michael Avenatti is describing, as you heard previously in this hour, as a witness and a victim.
A victim of what could be possible rape scenarios during what appears to be the high school years. We`re going to wait for the details of that to come out as Michael Avenatti promises they will.
If Republicans were actually confident, they would not be sending Brett Kavanaugh to do an interview on Fox News. Supreme Court nominees never do interviews during the confirmation press, never. Sending Brett Kavanaugh and his wife to Fox News was a desperate move by desperate people.
And what we saw was Brett Kavanaugh at his most mechanical, in a thoroughly rehearsed performance with none of the relaxed extemporaneous speaking that he did at his confirmation hearing when he was being questioned by friendly Republicans. It was a very different Brett Kavanaugh that we saw tonight.
Brett Kavanaugh did about a 15 minute interview in which he only said a few things, very few things. But he said them over and over again. Here was talking point number one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: No, I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone. Not in high school, not ever. I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or otherwise. I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or otherwise. I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or at any time -- I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone. I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He was only asked that question once, but he kept using that answer as a way of not answering other questions.
Here is Kavanaugh talking point number two.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAVANAUGH: I am looking for a fair process, a process where I can defend my integrity and clear my name. And all I`m asking for is fairness and that I`d be heard in this process. All I`m asking for is a fair process. Again -- again, just asking for a fair process.
Again, I`m just asking for a fair process. I want a fair process where I can defend my integrity. I want a fair process. I just want a fair process. I just want a fair process. I just want an opportunity, a fair process. We`re looking for a fair process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He was never actually asked if he wanted a fair process. That was just the language that he kept pumping in instead of answering some of the questions.
And when Martha MacCallum asked Brett Kavanaugh was asked why the process didn`t include an FBI investigation, he simply refused the question and replayed his talking points.
Talking point number three was about those 65 women who miraculously produced a letter of support for Brett Kavanaugh as soon as the sexual assault allegation first became public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: The 65 who overnight signed a letter from high school saying I always treated them with dignity and respect. Sixty-five women who knew me in high school, 65 women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK, so much for the talking points. Now, here`s the most important in the Fox News interview of Brett Kavanaugh and his wife. It was when his wife, Ashley, was asked a question that the Kavanaugh talking points did not anticipate. The question was directed quite reasonably directly to Brett Kavanaugh`s wife and Brett Kavanaugh would not allow Ashley Kavanaugh to answer that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA MACCALLUM, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: Do you believe there should be an FBI investigation into these allegations and that a pause should happen, and you know, sort it all out? If there`s nothing to worry about and nothing to hide, why not have that process, Ashley? And then I`ll ask you that, Brett.
KAVANAUGH: I`ve said all along and Ashley, too. I want to be heard. I want a fair process where I can defend my integrity and clear my name as quickly as I can in whatever form the Senate deems appropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I really wanted to hear Ashley Kavanaugh`s answer to that question. I`m sure I`m not the only one but Brett Kavanaugh was not going to let that happen. And then tonight after that interview, "The New York Times" broke a new story about Brett Kavanaugh. And joining us now to report that story is "The New York Times" reporter Kate Kelly joining us by phone. And Kate, what are you reporting tonight in "The New York Times"?
KATE KELLY, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Lawrence, thanks for having me on to discuss this. We are reporting a story about the yearbook, the senior high school yearbook in which Brett Kavanaugh had a personal page and was in other photograph as did good friends of his who were graduating at the same time.
And the group of boys -- it was an all-boys school -- had a series of references to a young woman named Renada Shroeder, although they only referred to her by her first name, Renada. And they seemed coded Renada alumni was something you would see a lot. It was on Brett Kavanaugh`s page which said "Renada Alumnious" actually with a misspelling. There were the group photographs that said Renada Alumni and there were other illusions to this Renada Club, Renada Alumni Network.
And the upshot of it is, Lawrence, that these were references to what we understand to have been an ongoing sort of banter among those boys at that time and overheard by other boys at the school, in their class and in other classes that got around that they had had physical contact, romantic-type contact with this woman Ronada Shroeder, who was a friend of theirs and was in their social circle, but the reality was that there was no sexual contact with any of them and it was just a lot of bragging.
O`DONNELL: And it turns out Renada is one of the names on that list of 65 who signed a letter of support for Brett Kavanaugh. She did that before she knew. She`s only discovered through your reporting that this theme exists within that yearbook. Isn`t that correct?
KELLY: That`s right. She did not know about the yearbook until recent days or the past week or so and was furious, quite frankly, when she heard about it and disturbed and disappointed. She gave us a strongly worded statement noting that this was news to her about the yearbook references and also the nature of the banter that took place at that time concerning her.
She said that -- I`m paraphrasing here -- but she said she prays that these men never have their daughters talked about that way and the innuendo here is very hurtful and painful. She declined to discuss directly how she felt about signing that letter or what she would do now. But the inference is clear and from what we understand, she`s none too pleased with him and the situation.
O`DONNELL: And Kate, quickly before we go. I want to give some credit to some of the young -- the now-adult men who were boys at the time.
KELLY: The little graduates.
O`DONNELL: Yes. The boys in that school were not all on board with this kind of treatment of women and some of them knew at the time that Renada was being mistreated this way, verbally and they objected to it. They told you they objected to it at the time.
KELLY: That`s right. And we were fortunate to be able to speak to some of those schoolmates and classmates on the record about what they observed, what they heard, the nature of the behavior that they saw. And one of them quite frankly registered his complete disgust at the time. And now -- and this is someone who was described as a friend of theirs at least back in the day.
So I think that was I think courageous in this environment and interesting and helpful to hear. I also got a very affecting e-mail from one of the people we interviewed just saying that he was surprised and very disturbed by some of the allegations, not just the Renada material but other allegations that have come up including, of course, those around Christine Blasey Ford and really quite ashamed to know that this may have been happening at the time.
O`DONNELL: Kate Kelly, thank you for your reporting. Thanks for joining us tonight.
And when we come back we`re going to have more on the Kavanaugh nomination and Rod Rosenstein`s future. Will Donald Trump fire Rod Rosenstein on Thursday?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAVANAUGH: And yes, there were parties and the drinking age was 18, and yes the seniors were legal and had beer there. And yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion and people generally in high school, I think all of us have probably done things we look back on high school and would rather cringe a bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Drinking age was 18 he says when he was a senior. He`s reported to have done an awful lot of drinking before that. The idea that he might have had too many beers, in his high school yearbook he stated ambition is a hundred kegs. He`s in the group of boys who want to consume a hundred kegs of beer senior year and may have succeeded in doing it.
If Brett Kavanaugh is going to be reckless enough to understate his drinking when the evidence indicates that it was a massive amount of drinking, he is in very serious trouble under oath in the Senate judiciary committee. That is an easy way to get in trouble there.
Joining our discussion now, Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor of "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor and back with us Lisa Graves.
And Ruth, after a book has been written, no book was ever written about my high school drama and beer. Most high schools have been spared that book. But with the image that we already have, very reliably delivered about what was going on at that school for Brett Kavanaugh to try to understate his ambition to be part of the team that drinks a hundred kegs. He`s walking into serious trouble under oath in the judiciary committee.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think there`s a lot of interesting questions that he could be asked in the judiciary committee and not just about how much he drank in high school. But, for example, I`m interested in what knowledge he had of Ed Whalen at the ethics and public policy center and the tweets that Ed produced identifying a potential other high school classmate and suggesting that that person was the one who was actually was the attacker.
There`s so many avenues for serious, respectful but legitimate questioning of Brett Kavanaugh. And also, you know, you did a very good job of showing Brett Kavanaugh talking about the need for a fair process. Well, a fair process would include questioning relevant witnesses. And clearly, one relevant witness is the other person besides Dr. Ford who was alleged to be in the room at the time. Just because he says he doesn`t remember anything doesn`t mean there aren`t questions to be asked and a reasonably fair process as Judge Kavanaugh puts it would include that as well.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump is weighing in with his set of lies on Twitter at the moment. The Democrats are working hard to destroy a wonderful man, a man who has potential to be one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices ever with an array of false acquisitions -- that`s interesting.
So he doesn`t know how to either say or spell the word accusations. I`m going to assume that the twisted mind of Donald Trump means accusations but you know what, maybe he means acquisitions. He`s done some false acquisitions in his life. The likes of which have never been seen before. I didn`t even want to read that tweet at all because it`s junk and there`s nothing in it but that was worth it, discovering that he doesn`t know the word accusations.
Lisa Graves, there are reports tonight that Republicans are very concerned with the Deborah Ramirez accusations, this new round of accusations. The reporting of Brett Kavanaugh as a freshman at Yale exposing himself to a woman in a very aggressive and forceful and terrible way, according to her. Susan Collins is quoted tonight as saying, "I believe that the committee investigators should reach out to Deborah Ramirez in order to question her under oath about what she is alleging happened." Lisa, if Susan Collins insists on that, we are probably not having a hearing this week.
LISA GRAVES, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Well, it`s not clear what`s going to happen between President Trump`s claims and (INAUDIBLE) assertions on the floor. It`s only a case that Deborah Ramirez should have an opportunity to testify before the committee. I actually think that she should be interviewed along with Brett Kavanaugh`s roommate, James Roche who had said that he believes Deborah Ramirez`s statements about what happened to her and that the actions she describes are fully consistent with the Brett Kavanaugh he knew at Yale.
And so really the process should be that this should go back to the FBI the way it has gone in every other judicial nomination, every other U.S. attorney nomination, every other nomination of the Justice Department that`s come to this committee probably going back to the time of Senator James Iselin in the 1960s where there are matters of this importance, then there`s a process of referring this back to the FBI to fully investigate, interview any witnesses that might be relevant, take that information, put it in the FBI file and present that back to the Senate.
That`s what a full and fair and thorough investigation would involve. It wouldn`t involve the sort of kangaroo court that Senator Grassley is trying to construct. This Thursday outsourcing the questioning to an outside lawyer. There`s more that`s been outsourced with nomination that I can remember in history. They outsourced the choosing of it to the federal society.
They apparently have outsourced the communications to a Grassley staffer who was working with the firm, that`s been working with the judicial crisis network to run ads from mysterious special interests backing Kavanaugh. Now they want to outsource the questioning of this hearing to another outsider. Everything`s been outsourced.
O`DONNELL: And Ruth Marcus, we now see why the Republicans were in such a rush last week. They knew and anybody who`s worked in the Senate knows that everyday something doesn`t get done is a day that`s probably worse for getting it done. You now have the Deborah Ramirez accusation and you now have Senator Susan Collins saying we should hear from Deborah Ramirez.
MARCUS: I thought it was very significant that Senator Collins, you know, John Heinemann made this point earlier, she really wants to vote for Brett Kavanaugh. It`s been clear from the start that she wanted to credit Brett Kavanaugh`s assertion that he sees Roe V. Wade, a settled law, as an absolute take it to the bank. You don`t have to worry about this judge to be Justice overturning Roe V. Wade.
She is well disposed toward Brett Kavanaugh so for her to say -- earlier she said she thought we needed to hear from Dr. Ford, now she says she wants to hear from additional witnesses. That is very significant. Let`s slow this down sentiment from the Senator. And I think it`s a legitimate one because, you know, we don`t have to go through months of investigation. We don`t have to go through weeks of investigation.
But we are going to go through a lifetime of Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court if he`s confirmed and we should do the work that`s needed to make sure that the right decision`s being made with the necessary information.
O`DONNELL: Ruth Marcus, Lisa Graves, thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
MARCUS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, will Donald Trump fire Rod Rosenstein on Thursday as reclined?
O`DONNELL: Will he or won`t he? Will he or won`t he fire Rod Rosenstein? That is the reality show Donald Trump has scheduled for Thursday to distract from the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing on Thursday if there is one. Today was a day full of conflicting reports about whether the man who oversees the Russia investigation would quit or get fired by Donald Trump.
But as of tonight, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein still has his job at least until the meeting with the president on Thursday. Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations meeting right now. So Rosenstein visited the White House this morning after reports that Rosenstein suggested secretly recording the president and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump from office.
That report was in "The New York Times" last week and caused this current flurry. The flurry of reports immerging earlier today about Rosenstein telling the White House officials over the weekend that he was planning to resign because he expected to be fired on Monday but then NBC News reported that in a phone call with White House Counsel Don McGahn. Rosenstein made clear that he would only accept his termination if it came directly from Donald Trump and not from Chief of Staff John Kelly which is, of course, Donald Trump`s preferred method of firing.
Donald Trump is afraid of doing it face to face or directly with people. When asked about whether he had plans to fire Rod Rosenstein, Donald Trump said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you going to fire Rod Rosenstein?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to fire Rod Rosenstein?
TRUMP: I have a meeting with Rod Rosenstein on Thursday on Thursday when I get back from All of these meetings. We`ll be meeting at the White House and we`ll be determining what`s going on. We want to have transparency. We want to have openness. And I look forward to meeting with Rod at that time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: "Vanity Fair" reports that according to a source briefed on Trump`s thinking, Trump decided that firing Rosenstein would knock Kavanaugh out of the news potentially saving his nomination and Republicans` chances for keeping the Senate.
Joining our discussion now Ezra Klein editor at large at Fox and the host of the podcast The Ezra Klein show. And Ezra, there is the president strategizing both the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh with the firing of Rod Rosenstein.
EZRA KLEIN: So I`m going to be a little careful. I genuinely do not feel like I know what happened today. There are a lot of very conflicting reports. People giving different motivations what happened. Did Rosenstein offer resignation? "The New York Times," says he did, other people say he didn`t, he will only be fired. Whatever`s going on here, it`s not great.
And one of the things that I think is very very salient is that this should not be the big deal it is. We have not in general been glued as a nation to the fate of deputy attorney generals. The only reason it`s a big deal is that the rest of the Trump administration appears so corrupt. The people don`t trust that Trump does get rid of Rosenstein. If there`s anybody in justice department who can really be trusted to oversee the Mueller investigation, that isn`t something that should be rusting at this point on the Trump administration.
Congress could pass a bill tomorrow, making sure the Mueller investigation is protected no matter who is in that deputy attorney general spot. They haven`t and that is on them. The reason we are in this sort of moment of crisis and alarm is because Congress is not doing its duty to actually oversee the executive branch.
O`DONNELL: And Era, even the Republicans who some months ago seemed protective of both Rosenstein and Mueller have all backed off. They were also protective of Jeff Sessions. I`m thinking of Lindsay Graham now who seems to be of the position the president can fire anyone he wants at any time and no one in the Senate will object.
KLEIN: There is something very strange here. I`m trying to even think about how to say it. So it is clearly the case that the president of the United States should be able to have people he has faith in around him, right. That is how it has always worked. It is a case I grew centered around that the president should be able to fire people he feels not living up to what he needs from them.
At the same time, the president has said that the reason he does not like his attorney general is he believes the attorney general`s job is to protect him personally which is not the attorney general`s job. So we`re in a position where on the one hand, yes, of course, the president should have people around him who he trusts. On the other hand, the president has said that the reason he wants people around him is for reasons we cannot trust.
And that`s the fundamental tension we`re in this country right now. This is not a man who should be president. It is not a man whose motivations in the presidency can be trusted. And so the normal way that things should operate for the country being run well, for the executive branches being run well, it can`t be left to run that way. And so we end up in this strange place where we have Senator Graham saying, "Well, the president should get an attorney general who he has faith in but by that very nature, given what Donald Trump himself has said no attorney general who he can have faith in is an attorney general we can have faith in.
O`DONNELL: And these are Donald Trump has set up basically competing TV shows for Thursday. He`s going to have the TV show of Rod Rosenstein arriving at the White House. And it seems to me the only way he can, in any way, reduce any of the coverage if Kavanaugh is actually by firing Rosenstein, just having the meeting won`t do it.
KLEIN: I have honestly no idea. It could reduce coverage. On the other hand, you could have a Thursday where the hearing is terrible for Kavanaugh and Donald Trump fires Rosenstein and what you have is a dual crisis around the rule of law and Me Too and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court all at once. Donald Trump is very good at grabbing headlines. He`s not very good at making sure these headlines are actually good for him. So I`m not sure if there is any three-dimensional chess being played here and I don`t know. I really don`t know.
O`DONNELL: We will find out what dimension we are in on Thursday. Ezra Klein, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
KLEIN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s last word is next.
O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, KENTUCKY: Numerous witnesses testified before the judiciary committee that he is a trusted mentor, a loyal friend and a lifelong champion of women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: OK. Men, let`s stop using that phrase lifelong champion of women. Let`s not have men bestowing the champion of women, title on men especially Washington men giving that title to other Washington men. Stop. Just stop.
That`s tonight`s last word. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.