Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 26, 2018 Guest: Michael Avenatti, Lisa Graves, Mieke Eoyang, Dahlia Lithwick
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And Michael Avenatti appeared on your program this week where he previewed what happens today. Michael Avenatti will be my first guest tonight, taking us through what happened today and some of the accusations made against him by President Trump, Lindsey Graham and others.
But, Rachel, at this time tomorrow night, we will be wondering if there is a Republican who believes that we need to hear more or there needs to be an FBI investigation now that they`ve heard this testimony. And that Republican could be Jeff Flake.
If it is Jeff Flake, then this whole thing stops because Jeff Flake is on the Judiciary Committee. They need every Republican vote on that committee in order to move that confirmation out of the committee. So if they don`t have Jeff Flake on the committee, Jeff Flake is empowered now to stop the whole thing.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": And, you know, it`s interesting. I should tell you that Chris Coons was just on my show this past hour live. And it was interesting. I asked him whether or not there were not sort of off camera discussions happening among senators and if it`s just among Democrats or Republicans happening, too.
And he said, I`ve had conversations with Democrats and Republicans who are deeply uncomfortable and unhappy with this process on the committee and are trying to find a way to get a brief but appropriate process in place.
You have been saying this for a long time, Lawrence, that if any one of these Republican senators, particularly Jeff Flake on committee, just says, listen, I`m not going to tell you how I`m not going to vote, I don`t know yet, I`m just telling you, I`m not going to vote until there`s an FBI investigation, that is sort of a third way out here. That is sort of a way to get through this process with some dignity and process. And that could absolutely be the off ramp here.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and, you know, people have been saying, well, you know, it`s 51-49, so you need two Republicans to stop this or slow it down. I think you only need one. I think Jeff Flake is the one positioned most powerfully to stop what`s happening single-handedly.
But I believe if Susan Collins were to come out and say I need an FBI investigation before I can cast my vote, then she would get her FBI investigation or Lisa Murkowski, any one of them would say that. And I suspect that if one of them said it, another one would immediately back up that senator.
MADDOW: Right, and that as -- I mean, just thought experiment, that as a reasonable response to tomorrow`s hearing, if what we hear at tomorrow`s hearing is anything short of crazy town, right, if those allegations brought forward elucidated tomorrow from Dr. Ford and all make sense and seem credible, it would be a rational and reasonable response for Republicans to say, Republicans who are uncomfortable pressing ahead to say, listen, I`m not going to tell you no, but I do think we should look at this before we vote.
That seems like where we might be tomorrow night if anyone`s going to tap the brakes here.
O`DONNELL: I`ve got my panel of Senate confirmation experts joining us, Lisa Graves and Dahlia Lithwick and others.
MADDOW: I`ll get off your show.
O`DONNELL: But, of course, we`re going to begin with Michael Avenatti.
Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, let`s go right to it. We`re joined now by Michael Avenatti. He`s the attorney for Julie Swetnick, the third woman now to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
And, Michael Avenatti, I want to get into the particulars of exactly what your client, Julie Swetnick, is accusing Brett Kavanaugh of. I want to go straight to the point of is she accusing Brett Kavanaugh of specifically sexually assaulting her?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: Well, Lawrence, good evening. Thanks for having me on.
I`m not in a position tonight to fill in the blank or answer that question. My client is going to answer that question to hopefully FBI agents, because we`re demanding an FBI investigation proceed forthwith. My client is prepared to meet with FBI agents. As you know, lying to an FBI agent carries a very serious potential criminal sentence associated with it.
She`s willing to sit down with FBI agents, answer any questions they have about all of these allegations, provide additional witnesses, provide additional facts and information. And for the life of us, Lawrence, we can`t understand why the chairman, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Mitch McConnell and the president and Brett Kavanaugh are all trying to avoid that at all costs.
O`DONNELL: What reason -- it`s kind of a simple yes or no question, was she the victim of a sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh? Did he sexually assault her?
We`ve heard Dr. Christine Blasey Ford say yes to that and give her story about that. What is difficult -- what`s the problem in not answering that simple question?
AVENATTI: Well, I know it may appear to be a simple question, Lawrence, but it`s not, and here`s why -- because my client was effectively drugged at the time. And so, she has things that she observed, associated with that gang rape that we believe lend credence to the fact that Brett Kavanaugh was involved. There`s other facts that may lend credence to the fact he was not involved.
So, it`s not as simple as just a yes or no answer. Otherwise I`d be happy to answer it for you.
O`DONNELL: OK, that does clarify a bit. And I just want to read this passage of the sworn statement that she`s made so that the audience understands clearly what we`re talking about. It says in approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these gang or train rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present.
It doesn`t say they actually were involved in this particular one. Shortly after the incident I shared what had transpired with at least two other people. During the incident I was I incapacitated without my consent and unable to fight off the boys raping me. I believe I was drugged using Quaaludes or something similar placed in what I was drinking.
And that`s the passage everyone`s been concentrating on today to try to figure out today what she means by simply saying that Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present. You seem to be saying she`s not sure whether or not they actually participated in the assault on her.
AVENATTI: Well, correct, Lawrence. I point to the answer that I just gave that there are facts that lend themselves to -- to a belief that in fact they were present and did participate. There`s other facts that lend one to an opposite conclusion.
But, look, I want to focus on the other paragraphs also under sworn declaration under penalty of perjury. Those paragraphs alone would substantiate a conclusion, a determination that Brett Kavanaugh is not fit to sit on the highest court of the land for a lifetime, and at a minimum, there should be a thorough and fair investigation, and there should not be a rush to confirm this man to a lifetime position on the U.S. Supreme Court with all of these women coming forward, Lawrence.
They`re not all lying. They`re not all fabricating. And the idea that somehow all of these women got together and conspired to derail this nomination is absurd.
O`DONNELL: The Judiciary Committee Republican staff actually asked Brett Kavanaugh all of the questions that you (AUDIO GAP) this was going on because they weren`t fully communicating with you about what they were doing. But they did ask every single one of those questions.
The first one and I`m quoting from their transcript of the conversations, Brett Kavanaugh, did you ever target one or more women for sex or rape at a house party? Judge Kavanaugh, no. And it goes straight through every one of your suggested questions. Then did you ever object or attempt to prevent one or more men from participating in a rape at a house party, and Judge Kavanaugh said I never saw such a thing.
Your client seems to indicate that Brett Kavanaugh was absolutely present at parties where things like that took place and more than one party.
AVENATTI: That`s correct, Lawrence. And I`m going to go back to Brett Kavanaugh`s interview of two nights ago on Fox News. I`m sure you saw it, I`ve seen it a number of times.
Brett Kavanaugh lied on that interview. I`m going to call it like I see it because you know that`s what I do. He absolutely lied on that interview.
He expects the American people to believe that the same boy who wrote those passages in that yearbook relating to drinking and all those other references, that that same boy was focused on basketball, getting good grades, and as he said being a good friend to boys and girls. I mean, Lawrence, it was laughable. The only thing he left out was helping little old ladies cross the street and bringing an apple to every teacher of every class every day.
It was an absolute joke. The American people are smarter than that. And for this guy to try to sell that bill of goods to people, it`s a disgrace.
O`DONNELL: Brett Kavanaugh was asked about this term "devil`s triangle." It appears apparently in the yearbook. He said he`s never heard that word referring to sexual behavior. They then asked him why did you include the devil`s triangle entry in your yearbook, and Judge Kavanaugh said I don`t know, we were 17.
That`s all from questions you wanted asked. They also talked generally to Brett Kavanaugh in their interview with him, the Republican staff, about the possibility of him ever being involved in or witnessing drug induced gang rape or taking advantage of girls at parties that way. And he said, I`ve never participated in sexual activity with more than one woman present, and me, he said, in other words, I`ve never had a threesome or more than a threesome.
So, he is very definitively in his language refuting all of the accusations that are in Julie Swetnick`s sworn statement.
AVENATTI: Lawrence, as you know from your past experiences and as I know and as any good trial lawyer knows, it`s not a question how you answer questions on direct examination where it`s basically your side asking you the questions. I mean, anybody can spoon-feed you questions and have you regurgitate the answers. The rubber meets the road, if you will, upon cross-examination, when you have an adverse party asking the questions and follow-up questions.
That did not occur today as you noted because the Democrats object to the process. They don`t believe the process is fair. We don`t believe the process is fair. That`s why you have to have the FBI involve. That`s why you have to have a thorough and fair investigation, and that`s why ultimately you have to have a cross-examination.
Lawrence, I said this earlier and I`m going to say it again, if Brett Kavanaugh`s attorney would like to cross examine my client under oath for eight hours, we will allow that tomorrow, provided that I get the same amount of time, you know what? I`ll take half the amount of time to cross- examine Brett Kavanaugh. We`ll make that trade right now.
In addition, my client is prepared to take and I`m sure pass a polygraph examination provided that Brett Kavanaugh will take and pass a polygraph examination. I`m confident they won`t take us up on that either.
O`DONNELL: You got Donald Trump`s attention today. He`s always been more than reluctant to attack you when you`re representing Stormy Daniels, who he tried to apparently keep as a girlfriend for about a year. He tweeted this morning saying Avenatti`s a third-rate lawyer who`s good at making false accusations like he did on me.
I don`t know why he doesn`t seem to notice that all the accusations you made about him have been proven true. He goes onto say that he calls you a total lowlife, and then in a presidential press conference today, you got yourself in the presidential press conference history books by getting attacked by the president. Let`s look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then you have this other con-artist, Avenatti, come out with another beauty today. I just heard about one a little while ago. I can tell you her lawyer is a lowlife, OK? So I don`t know about today`s person that came forward. I do know about the lawyer, and -- and you don`t get much worse, bad reputation to take a look at his past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Your reaction?
AVENATTI: Well, Lawrence, I want to make sure that I get this straight. I`m a lowlife and a I`m a third-rate lawyer, and meanwhile the hand picked lawyer for Donald Trump for 10 to 12 years, Michael Cohen, just pled guilty to multiple felonies including at least two of which involved direct conduct by the president of the United States.
And I`m a lowlife and a third-rate lawyer? Well, Lawrence, if this third- rate lawyer has been able to accomplish what he`s been able to accomplish over the last six to seven months, imagine if I was a first-rate lawyer.
O`DONNELL: I want to get reaction to what Lindsey Graham said because apparently Lindsey Graham has decided he wants to go to war with you. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I`m very suspicious of this coming out before the confirmation vote, I`m very suspicious of Michael Avenatti. I`ve been a prosecutor, a judge, a defense attorney.
Here`s what I think: that if you`re a serial rapist during high school, you don`t stop. He`s not Bill Cosby. He`s led an incredible life. He`s had power over women in the workplace. Everybody said he`s very respectful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Your reaction to Lindsey Graham?
AVENATTI: Well, I guess Lindsey got it memo that the Republican Party must have sent out this afternoon with the talking points how to attack Michael Avenatti. I find this to be very curious, Lawrence. They want to make me the issue.
And the reason is because they have no answer for all of these allegations by all of these women. I`d be happy to go up against Lindsey Graham, Donald Trump or any of the other Republican hacks they happen to trot out. I noticed earlier tonight, in fact, Don Jr. got in the mix by calling me a porn star lawyer. Evidently, he forgot that his father was the one that had unprotected sex with my, quote, porn, close quote, client, while his stepbrother was 4-months-old at home with his stepmom.
O`DONNELL: Michael Avenatti, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
AVENATTI: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: When we come back, Lisa Graves, Mieke Eoyang, Dahlia Lithwick will all join us with their reaction to today`s developments in this story.
And Donald Trump had a very specific audience for his press conference today. The Republican senators who have not said they will vote for Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump as usual made the situation much, much worse for Brett Kavanaugh.
O`DONNELL: The Kavanaugh confirmation was rocked with another allegation today from an accuser who remains anonymous. Republican Senator Cory Gardener received an anonymous letter that he passed along to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The letter says: I will remain anonymous but I feel obligated to inform you of this 1998 incident involving Brett Kavanaugh when he was author of the Starr report. My daughter from Colorado, Boulder, occasionally socialized with Brett Kavanaugh. She and a group of four, including Kavanaugh, met in a Washington, D.C. bar. Her friend was dating him.
When they left the bar under the influence of alcohol, they were all shocked when Brett Kavanaugh shoved her friend up against the wall very aggressively and sexually. There were at least four witnesses including my daughter, her friend still traumatized, called my daughter yesterday September 21, 2018, wondering what to do about it. They decided to remain anonymous.
Joining our discussion now, Lisa Graves, former chief counsel for nominations for the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former deputy assistant attorney general, Mieke Eoyang, former staff member for the House Armed Services Committee, House Intelligence Committee, that is, and former chief of staff to Congresswoman Ana Eshoo, who was the first member of Congress who Dr. Ford communicated with about her sexual assault charges. And Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate.com.
Lisa Graves, I want to go to you first about this anonymous letter that the Judiciary Committee has and has been reading. What can the Judiciary Committee do with a communication like that?
LISA GRAVES: Well, it`s certainly possible for senator gardener to reach back out to that person assuming that it`s anonymous in the letter, but perhaps they know the identity of that person, or there could be an appeal for that person to come forward. I think what you`re about to see tomorrow is a hearing that has a number of people who should be in the room missing from that room, including a Mark Judge, including two other women and perhaps this person who comes forward this week, including the girlfriend of Mark Judge perhaps, and perhaps this person who comes forward from 1998.
Because there`s a pattern emerging here and right now, the hearing is stacked not to reveal that. In fact, to reveal the opposite. To have someone come forward, Dr. Ford, and then have Brett Kavanaugh say a bunch of denials to the American people when a denial is the most predictable thing to hear in this case. It`s what you almost always hear when someone is accused of rape or sexual misconduct.
O`DONNELL: And, Mieke Eoyang, we`re seeing it play out in real-time. The reasons why the people who are trying to move something forward in the Senate or the House always want to do it as quickly as possible because every day, it doesn`t move is another day for something to get in its way. Every day, something bigger seems to be getting in Brett Kavanaugh`s way.
The Republicans knew about some of these accusations that had not yet become public when they were trying to force this thing forward to a vote this week.
MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT, THIRD WAY NATIONAL SECURITY: Yes. The stakes are very high here. The Supreme Court term starts at beginning of October. They`re in a big rush to try and get this resolved.
But the risk here is that you put someone who is a serial sexual predator on the highest court in the land. And so, from that perspective they need to get to the bottom of these allegations and not just hear cursorily from one witness but from others who might have been present at some of these parties and hear from a whole range of people because the stakes are very high.
This is about someone who will sit in judgment of the entire nation and they should be held to the highest moral standard.
O`DONNELL: And the Republican staff of the Judiciary Committee has been jumping on the phone almost every day with Brett Kavanaugh, conducting a new interview which they then responsibly produced as a transcript which we now have tonight, and they said to him about this accusation from yesterday they asked him -- at any point while you were involved in the Starr investigation did you ever shove a woman up against a wall very aggressively or sexually as you left a bar? Judge Kavanaugh said no. At any point while you were involved in the Starr investigation did you ever behave violently toward a woman? And Judge Kavanaugh said no.
And, Dahlia, it is odd that they limited that question to when you were involved in the Starr investigation. It`s very easy and I understand the specificity of it because that`s included in the accusation. But when you finish that form of the question it is customary to say did you ever do that, did you do it at any other time?
They very specifically and deliberately it seems left that out.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR, SLATE.COM: Yes, I mean, I think I keep remember, it feels like 100 years ago, but I was here a week ago talking to you about process and what kind of process you would do if you really were on a genuine authentic fact-finding mission as opposed to a sort of conveyer belt move it along, move it along.
And I think so much of what we`re seeing, you know, Lisa makes the point, there`s a third person. This isn`t a he says/she says. Mark Judge presumably in the room. We have contemporaneous accounts from other people, names of all sorts of people who are willing to testify.
And the idea we`re going to narrow these questions and shoot them out and hope for the outcome we want and move this along, it`s the antithesis of fact finding.
O`DONNELL: And, Lisa, we got a fascinating report about Senator Susan Collins today. She was in a meeting of Senate chairs of committees apparently, and she voiced very strong concerns about the way this process was working. She seems to think that not having an FBI investigation is a mistake, according to this report of what she had to say in that meeting.
But so far, Mitch McConnell has been able to contain every Republican senator and manage to get every single Republican senator to join publicly in the idea that we do not need an FBI investigation.
GRAVES: Well, it`s an enormous mistake to proceed without an FBI investigation, that supplemental review, to go interview a number of witnesses, get them on the record speaking directly with the FBI, what all the consequences that entails and have that information come back to the Senate or perhaps have Brett Kavanaugh withdraw.
I hear people talking about this as a job interview of the significant consequence. It almost feels like a really bad reality TV show where you get married after just meeting someone but the consequences of real life are really horrible, because in this instance, it`s like you can`t really get divorced from this person once they`re on the court without extraordinary means. I don`t know any reason why the American people would go along with this, and let someone who has these types of very serious allegations, along with his very credibility problems, his history as a political operative, his lies and misleading the Senate and extraordinary set of circumstances of woman after woman coming forward saying he sexually assaulted them or attempted to do so.
This is unprecedented and unworthy of our Supreme Court. It just cannot stand. I don`t think the American people are going to stand for it, and the American women across this country are certainly not going to stand for it.
O`DONNELL: And, Mieke, I know all Republican staffers have seen things said in these closed door sessions that they will not say publicly. But what Susan Collins is reported to have said is really a giant leap away from what she said publicly. Apparently, she brought the affidavit, Michael Avenatti`s client, Julie Swetnick`s, sworn affidavit to this committee. And this committee today had nothing to do at all with the judiciary committee investigation. So Susan Collins was forcing this subject on a room that didn`t want to hear about it. It was more organizational for what they`re doing on other legislative fronts.
And apparently, according to this report, Senator Collins said that the fact that it was a sworn affidavit gave real weight to the allegations, and in her mind it now made sense to subpoena Brett Kavanaugh`s friend Mark Judge. Now, that is a strong position that all of the Democrats have been holding publicly. And the notion that Susan Collins has that position herself, but so far is unwilling to say it publicly, must be pretty scary for the Republicans that she`s possibly a breath away from saying it publicly.
EOYANG: That`s right. And she may not be the only one. I`ve seen many times in closed door meetings among senators, they`re much more willing to share their doubts away from the cameras, away from the reporters. And what we saw Senator Coons speaking about was that many more senators are uncomfortable with this process. They don`t like this rush to judgment. They don`t like the idea that they will be perceived as railroading Dr. Ford, not listening to her story, ignoring these other very serious allegations.
Look, it`s very complicated when you have whistleblowers coming in, but you do need to get to the bottom of these things.
O`DONNELL: And, Dahlia, one of things that always happens when a nomination is hanging out there for an extended period of time is that the supporters of the nominee will invariably end up saying crazy things. We - - the star of that now is Lindsey Graham. We thought it was going to be the older senators. We thought it was going to be Orrin Hatch, but Lindsey Graham today said, this is his defense of Brett Kavanaugh -- he`s not Bill Cosby.
Lindsey Graham, the guy who thinks he`s the best guy in the Senate came up with quote "he`s not Bill Cosby" defense.
LITHWICK: Republicans are in a tough spot because absolutely a handful of them who are willing to say she`s a galactic liar.
LITHWICK: And some of them are willing to say, and it seems like Donald Trump is willing to say not only are they liars but they`re also being paid and they`re con-artists. The rest of them are trying to thread this needle between saying things like that and saying, let`s hear her out, even though we`re still going to vote against her.
So, he`s not being Bill Cosby, you know, I guess that`s on the pantheon of things I wouldn`t say if I thought, you know, an appearance of neutrality even mattered, but I think it`s a lot better than those things we`re hearing Donald Trump say.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it was funny to watch Donald Trump try to thread the needle today at his very peculiar way where he did some real damage to Brett Kavanaugh. We`re going to look at that later.
Lisa Graves, Mieke Eoyang, Dahlia Lithwick, thank you for starting our conversation tonight in the panel.
And when we come back, Donald Trump has taken over the strategy to save Brett Kavanaugh`s nomination and that so far is the worst thing strategically that has happened to Brett Kavanaugh.
O`DONNELL: Since Donald Trump himself has taken charge of the strategy to save the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, of course, the Brett Kavanaugh nomination has just gotten in more and more trouble every day. And today, President Trump did it again by deciding to have a press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`ve had a lot of false charges made against me, really false charges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s the guy you really don`t want to hear from if you`re Brett Kavanaugh and you are trying to hold onto your Supreme Court nomination. The guy who has now appointed himself Brett Kavanaugh`s defender in chief. The president forgot to mention today that he hasn`t just been accused of sexual assault, he has admitted to it, and he has bragged about his favorite methods of sexual assault upon meeting women. The whole country has heard Donald Trump describe exactly where he likes to grab women when he meets them.
So with defenders like sexual assaulter Donald Trump, the Kavanaugh nomination is now on life support. Someone told Donald Trump that he should not call all of the women making accusations against Brett Kavanaugh liars as he always does with any woman who makes an accusation against him. And so the president tried to shift focus. He tried to do that. He tried to avoid attacking the women, and he tried instead to shift the focus to attacking Democrats.
Donald Trump`s job today was to try to hold onto the votes of Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski and possibly Senator Jeff Flake, the three Republican Senators who might, just might not vote for Brett Kavanaugh`s confirmation. And Donald Trump did not say one word to solidify those votes. He shifted the focus as much as he could from the women making the accusations to the Democrats in the Senate, calling the Democrats what Donald Trump has been called his whole life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They`re actually con-artists, and they know it`s a big, fat con job. This is a big con job, a big fat con, and then you have this other con-artist, Avenatti. Schumer and the con-artists. These are con-artists. It`s a con job. Yes, it`s a con job and it`s not a bad term. It`s not a bad term at all. It`s a con game.
FEMALE: When you use language like con job in relation to allegations with sexual assault --
TRUMP: I`ve used much worse language in my life than con job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Yes, he has and America has heard him say it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Grab them by the [bleep].
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump did the worst thing he could possibly do as a defender of Brett Kavanaugh today. He openly entertained the possibility that at the end of tomorrow`s testimony, he will believe Brett Kavanaugh`s accuser Professor Christine Blasey Ford. And then he`ll get rid of Brett Kavanaugh and find a replacement. He actually talked about finding a replacement at one point and he admitted that he might just withdraw Brett Kavanaugh`s nomination. Everyone involved in trying to get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed surely wishes that Donald Trump did not say a word about Brett Kavanaugh today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEMALE: It sounds like what you`re saying is there is a situation, there is a scenario under which you would withdraw Brett Kavanaugh`s nomination. Is that correct? Have you talked about that?
TRUMP: If I thought he was guilty of something like this, yes, sure.
FEMALE: And you will wait until tomorrow to make up your mind?
TRUMP: I want to watch. I want to see. Hopefully, I won`t have to do it as a replacement because hopefully, this is going to go very well on Thursday. They`re giving the women a major chance to speak. Now, it`s possible I`ll hear that and I`ll say, hey, I`m changing my mind. That is possible. We want to give them a chance to speak.
MALE: Do you think all three should have a chance?
TRUMP: Well, whoever is given a chance. We`ve delayed it a long time but they`re going to have a big shot at speaking and making their case. And you know what, I can be persuaded also. OK. I can always be convinced. I`d have to hear it. I can be convinced of anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What a defense lawyer he would have been. Donald Trump couldn`t get through his defense of Brett Kavanaugh today without sharply disagreeing with Republican Senator Jeff Flake about a point very important to Jeff Flake. And Jeff Flake is one of the Senators who Brett Kavanaugh needs to survive. He`s one of the Senators who Donald Trump was trying to convince today but he did some real damage today. Donald Trump did.
Up next, exactly how much damage did Donald Trump do to Brett Kavanaugh today?
O`DONNELL: Jeff Flake is one of the Republican Senators who worked behind the scenes to make sure that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford would be heard by the judiciary committee before they vote on the Kavanaugh nomination. Here`s what Senator Flake said today followed by what Donald Trump said today a few hours later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: I do not believe that the claim of sexual assault is invalid because a 15-year-old girl didn`t promptly report the assault to authorities.
TRUMP: By the way, I only say this, 36 years, no charge, no nothing --
MALE: But that happens often.
TRUMP: People are going to have to make a decision. Thirty-six years is no charge, all of a sudden the hearings are over and the rumors start coming out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, an expert Senate strategist Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to Senator Harry Reid and Dahlia Lithwick is back with us.
Adam, there`s Jeff Flake taking the Senate floor saying a bunch of reasonable things about where we are now and about how to consider this evidence. And there`s Donald Trump trying to hold onto Jeff Flake`s vote contradicting Jeff Flake.
ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO SEN. HARRY REID: Yes. I think if Republican Senators had their way, especially the ones who are wavering on Brett Kavanaugh`s nomination, they would just prefer if the president leaves the scene entirely and not worry about Brett Kavanaugh for the duration of this confirmation fight. I mean every time he opens his mouth, every time he associates himself with the nomination, every time he reminds people of how many women he himself has been accused by is not helpful to the cause of confirming Brett Kavanaugh.
O`DONNELL: And Dahlia, of course, the president could not get through today`s press conference without having Roy Moore come up, which is one of the 500 reasons not to do the press conference today. And he said, "I wasn`t happy with Roy Moore, let`s get that straight." And so he was trying to pretend, what, that he didn`t endorse Roy Moore who was accused of child molestation?
DAHLIA LITHWICK, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, NEWSWEEK: Yes. I think his answer was something like, "Well, had to be a Republican so I went with the child molesting Republican." It was a very strange moment. He also kind of deflected a question about Rob Porter, his former staffer who he defended right until to the bitter end. So I think definitely the thru line here has to be that he really does overwhelmingly take the side of the accused over the accuser, and it unerringly is something that trips him up later when they get caught.
O`DONNELL: And Adam, the president took over strategy this week. Everything`s gone wrong. He was very much in favor of sending Brett Kavanaugh and his wife to "Fox News". That interview has turned out to be a disaster. And Brett Kavanaugh has made the mistake of telling the judiciary committee that he incorporates, that he accepts their incorporation in effect of the "Fox News" interview into his prehearing testimony. Which now risks the possibility of the "Fox News" interview, in effect, being considered under oath, where we know he did not tell the truth about his own experience with the drinking age in the State of Maryland when he was in high school, when he did not have one legal drinking day in high school.
JENTLESON: Yes, that interview was a very strange choice. I mean he unprompted seemed to say a lot of things that appear to be pretty easily to demonstrate as lies. And he didn`t have to go there, you know. And sorry, why he chose to do that will always be a mystery. He also I think might have committed the unpardonable sin in Donald Trump`s eyes of coming across as bad on television.
It`s been reported widely that this is something that Trump takes extremely seriously. It was reported that one of the reasons he liked Justice Gorsuch so much when he was nominated was that he came across really well on television. Whatever you think of Judge Kavanaugh`s answers during that interview, he didn`t come across well and for Trump, that`s something that matters a lot.
O`DONNELL: And Dahlia, that interview was Donald Trump`s strategist at work. The press conference today was Donald Trump`s strategist at work. Let`s have an accused and admitted sexual assaulter get up there and defend Brett Kavanaugh against sexual assault charges but at the same time say, "Well, you know, maybe he did it and maybe I`ll change my mind."
LITHWICK: Yes, it`s strange. It`s sort of a weird amalgam of deny, deny, deny which we now know is how he has always thought he has to deal with this. And at the same time, not wanting to make the ladies too mad. And it just seems as though on both fronts, it`s kind of an awkward mash-up of two messages that are not really salient.
O`DONNELL: Well, this strategy is something that really politicians do all the time and that is thread a needle. They want to say something that`s supportive to this but they don`t want to offend something that`s over here. And real politicians are doing that all day long. This guy has no idea how to do that on any subject.
LITHWICK: Right. I mean Jeff Flake really masterfully I think both parodied a lot of the White House talking points today and also was very careful to protect the dignitary interests of women. This with the op-ed sort of the White House talking points plus some crazy on the side.
O`DONNELL: Dahlia Lithwick, Adam Jentleson, thanks for joining our discussion tonight.
And when we come back, a preview of tomorrow`s hearing, and we already know what Brett Kavanaugh is going to say about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: We know what Brett Kavanaugh is going to say tomorrow about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford`s accusation of sexual assault against him. "I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford. I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford. I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time but I have never done that to her or to anyone. I am innocent of that charge."
That is what Brett Kavanaugh said the first time he was asked about it on a telephone interview with the Republican staff of the Senate judiciary committee. Lisa Graves and Adam Jentleson are back with us.
Lisa, what are you looking for in tomorrow`s hearing?
LISA GRAVES, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Well, I hope that Dr. Ford will have a chance to really tell her story fully, both in her opening statements and in her answers to the questions. I think the deck is stacked against her in terms of the way the questions have been so limited for Brett Kavanaugh, for them both in some ways with these five-minute rounds. But I think that one of the things that`s going to be clear at the end of this is that Dr. Ford has no doubt that Brett Kavanaugh is the man who assaulted her, the young man who put his hand over her mouth and had her fear for her life.
This idea that it`s someone else, that she`s mistaken, that it had to be some other guy, that was the sort of scheme orchestrated by Brett Kavanaugh`s buddy Ed Whalen I think will be completely repudiated by Dr. Ford, and then you`ll be faced with a repeated series of denials by Brett Kavanaugh, who has been practicing how to deny what happened with umbrage or with calmness depending on the circumstances.
I think at the end of the day the American people are going to be left with a woman who is 100 percent certain that it was Brett Kavanaugh who attacked her, and that`s going to be what the American people are going to hear, I believe.
O`DONNELL: Yes. I guess that`s going to be the big issue, Adam because Brett Kavanaugh is allowing for the possibility that it is a mistaken identity, and that was the early report, the very first conversation that Brett Kavanaugh had with a Republican Senator. The Senator said, "Oh, he says it`s a mistaken identity." And so it will be a matter of how convincing is Dr. Ford.
JENTLESON: Yes, I think that`s right. I think what Republican Senators really want to be able to do is to -- when the hearing is over to say she is mistaken or that they -- give some credence to the idea that she was assaulted but say that fundamentally they believe Judge Kavanaugh over her. But I think that reading her testimony, it`s extremely compelling. It`s heart-wrenching. And I think what people will see tomorrow is a woman who knows exactly what happened to her, who knows exactly who did it, and I suspect she`ll be very compelling and she will put Republican Senators in a very tough spot.
O`DONNELL: Lisa, in a legal setting, it usually matters if one witness has never been previously caught in a lie and one witness has repeatedly been caught in a lie. We have a video of Brett Kavanaugh lying in his very first words as a Supreme Court nominee saying that Donald Trump, who doesn`t read anything, did more research and spoke to more people and considered more possible candidates for the Supreme Court than any previous president.
Donald Trump`s never read a legal opinion by a judge in his life, as other presidents do in this situation. Just a screaming outright lie. You have convincingly made the case that he lied to the committee when you were working on the committee about stolen e-mails from the Democrats on the committee that he used when he was in the White House. There is no such record for Dr. Ford lying in a process like this or lying to this committee.
GRAVES: Well, that`s right. And I think that while the Republicans are trying to say that this is an innocent until proven guilty and in essence, the burden of proof is on her, that`s not really how it should work in the Senate judiciary committee. This is not about Brett Kavanaugh going to jail. This is about whether he gets one of the rare seats on our U.S. Supreme Court, on whether he`s worthy of it.
And I think his lies demonstrated that he`s not. He`s lied about things both big and small. As you said, the first words out of his mouth about this nomination were a lie. And I think that when you have a credibility issue like that, you have to take that into account in terms of what he is going to say to deny. A denial is what an accused rapist or someone who`s accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment almost always says. And I think that you can`t give much weight to that denial.
O`DONNELL: And Adam, it seems that Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake are going to have to be able to say after the hearing that settles it, we absolutely do not need an FBI investigation in order for them to support this nomination going forward.
JENTLESON: That`s right. That`s the place they want to get to in order to say yes. But I thought Senator Murkowski`s comments recently were very interesting because she expressed a much deeper concern about this entire process saying this is about whether a woman is going to be believed that I think demonstrate a deeper level of concern than just sort of something that can be papered over by process.
It also raises the question of whether the other accusers who have come forward are going to be asked to testify, whether Mark Judge will be called to -- subpoenaed and asked to testify under oath. It`s very hard to see folks coming away from this one hearing tomorrow being able to credibly say that this was a thorough process that truly made an effort to get to the end.
O`DONNELL: At 10:00 A.M, we will all be watching. Lisa Graves, Adam Jentleson, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
And tonight`s last word is next. And the last word is Con Artist.
O`DONNELL: Today Donald Trump`s favorite word was "Con" as in con artist, con man, big fat con job. And when Donald Trump does something like that, we feel compelled to do something like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: He`s a con man. I think it`s time to unmask him for what he is. A con artist by the name of Donald Trump. Con artist. This guy is a con artist. Guys, we have a con artist as the frontrunner in the Republican party. Friends do not let friends vote for con artist. The con artist. Be the con artist. This is a con job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Marco Rubio gets tonight`s last word and that word is con job.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.