Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 27, 2018 Guest: Nina Totenberg, Lisa Graves
ANNOUNCER: This is an MSNBC special presentation.
DR. CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is moment that is going to galvanize the nation.
FORD: I believed he was going to rape me. Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling.
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I am innocent of this charge.
RACHEL MITCHELL, PROSECUTOR: Have you ever covered Dr. Ford`s mouth with your hand?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Judge Kavanaugh will you support an FBI investigation right now?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If you wanted an FBI investigation, you could have come to us.
KAVANAUGH: You have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.
FORD: The details about that night that bring me here today are the ones I will never forget.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Did you watch Dr. Ford`s testimony?
KAVANAUGH: I did not.
DURBIN: Dr. Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?
FORD: One hundred percent.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: This is our special coverage of judgment day in the United States Senate, the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing. Using our team of NBC News reporters and MSNBC news experts to cover this story tonight, including NBC News` Hallie Jackson, Kasie Hunt, Andrea Mitchell, Pete Williams, Jon Meacham, Senate Judiciary Committee expert Lisa Graves, and NPR`s Nina Totenberg.
America stopped and watched history made today in a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office building. When history is made in Senate hearing rooms, it`s almost always ugly history. It is almost always the investigation of scandalous investigations that have rocked Washington and the country.
And so it was today. Every senator goes to Washington hoping to make history by passing landmark legislation, preferably with their name on it, legislation that continues to shape American lifelong after they are gone.
But sometimes, senators are forced to make history in ways that some of them would like to avoid -- as appeared to be the case today with the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee when they handed over their role as questioners for more than half of the hearing to someone who never worked in the Senate before today. Arizona`s Maricopa County sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell took over for every single Republican senator when their turn came to question Dr. Christine Blasey Ford about her accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
That has never happened in a Senate confirmation hearing in the history of the Senate. The Senate has never seen a hearing like the Ford versus Kavanaugh hearing like we saw today. It was the second time inside history the Supreme Court confirmation has been knocked off course by sexual misconduct allegations. But today`s allegations are much worse than what we heard 27 years ago when Professor Anita Hill told the Judiciary Committee about sexual harassment that she said Clarence Thomas committed against her.
Clarence Thomas entered those hearings with the likely support of about 90 senators. In the end, he was confirmed by a vote of 52-48.
Brett Kavanaugh entered today`s hearing with the likely support of only about 51 senators, and it seemed right after Dr. Ford testified today that the Kavanaugh nomination might be a lost cause. There were reports of grim pessimism from the White House, but then Brett Kavanaugh began his testimony with a mix of sharp, loud, anger and tears. And Republican senators started to feel safe enough in that hearing room to actually to ask their own questions, most of which were speeches in support of Brett Kavanaugh.
Twenty-two witnesses testified in the Anita Hill versus Clarence Thomas hearings. Senators agreed then that gathering evidence beyond the testimony of the nominee and one of his accusers was necessary.
Not today. Republicans who control the committee did not seek and would not allow the testimony of anyone other than Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. And so it was from start to finish a credibility contest between two people.
Some Democrats told Dr. Ford, I believe you. And most Republicans essentially said the same thing to Judge Kavanaugh. It takes 11 votes to pass Judge Kavanaugh`s nomination out of the Judiciary Committee. That vote is currently scheduled for tomorrow morning.
There is only one Republican on the Judiciary Committee who has indicated in any way that he might not vote for Brett Kavanaugh. Only one vote is in doubt in the committee. That is Arizona`s retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake. The Judiciary Committee has 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, and so, tonight the committee vote on Brett Kavanaugh is all up to Jeff Flake.
If Jeff Flake votes no along with all of the Democrats, then the Kavanaugh nomination will be defeated in the Judiciary Committee. But that does not mean the end of the road for Brett Kavanaugh. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could still bring the nomination to the Senate floor for a full vote even if the Judiciary Committee has voted against recommending that confirmation.
We will be reviewing the testimony of Dr. Ford and judge Kavanaugh throughout this hour. Here is some of what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORD: Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music playing in the bedroom, it was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding into me.
I yelled hoping that someone downstairs might hear me, and I tried to get away from him but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very inebriated and because I was wearing a one piece bathing suit under my clothing. I believed he was going to rape me.
KAVANAUGH: I was not at the party described by Dr. Ford. This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.
I`m here today to tell the truth. I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever. Sexual assault is horrific.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We begin with reports from Kasie Hunt, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent and host of "KASIE DC" on Capitol Hill, and Hallie Jackson, chief White House correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC at the White House tonight.
Kasie, let`s start with you. I know you managed to speak to Senator Jeff Flake tonight, the key vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee. What do we know?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: That`s right, Lawrence.
We know he`s not saying right now which way he`s going to make up his mind. When I spoke to him, he was visibly in turmoil. He talked a little bit about how he couldn`t decide he`s right, she`s wrong, she`s wrong, he`s right and how that was -- he framed it really as though really it was an impossible choice. And he as you pointed out at the top of the show is really the person who all eyes are going to be on tomorrow in this committee vote because he does sit on this committee.
As you know, he`s not running for re-election. He`s been a sharp critic for President Trump, but there are some Democrats who have criticized him for not taking enough action to oppose the president. So, that`s going to be the vise that he`s in. All his colleagues on the one side versus what are his chances for the future on the other.
And then the other two people that we are still closely watching, and they took very circuitous routes out of this Capitol tonight, Lawrence. I mean, you have been in this building. You know that the basement is something of a maze. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins actually going across the capitol through the House of Representatives to avoid reporters who are trying to find out what they think.
They had met with Flake and with Senator Joe Manchin earlier in the evening before all the Republicans got together to talk about what to do. There weren`t any conclusions coming out of that meeting. And I have to say the sort of ark you described is exactly how the mood unfolded here on the Hill. In the morning I couldn`t find anybody who thought this wasn`t going to sink judge Kavanaugh`s confirmation as Dr. Ford essentially gave credible, emotional, authentic testimony to what she experienced.
But you saw an angry Lindsey Graham come out of that first half of had hearing, into the hallways talking very sharply. And then you saw Brett Kavanaugh, and Lindsey Graham ultimately kind of decided to dispense with that the way they had setup the forum and instead take it directly to a pretty wide audience. And when he walked into the all-Republican conference meeting tonight at the Capitol, he was met with loud applause from his colleagues. And I think that really underscores to you that they have rallied around Brett Kavanaugh.
So I feel like I`ve said this time and time again over the course of the last week or two now, but this really is going to come down to these two women Republican senators. Is this moment, the cultural moment that they`re in, one where they feel like they have to make a different decision from the vast majority of their colleagues who right now are prepared to vote yes on Judge Kavanaugh? This is historic decision for them.
I think Jon Meacham who I think you`re going to talk to later in the show, says this is historic decision that people will think when they look up to your oil painting. And considering the cultural moment, I think that`s weighing very heavily Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Hallie Jackson, what`s the situation at the White House tonight?
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president, Lawrence, finds himself in a position he doesn`t always like, spectator. While the president has made very clear he stands behind Brett Kavanaugh, Brett Kavanaugh is his guy, he will not in fact walk away from this nomination, ultimately, the president can give all the support in the world and it won`t matter unless those three Republicans that Kasie just talked about come onboard, too.
And here`s the problem for the president, I`ve had a couple of conversations over the last 25 minutes or so talking through some of this. The president as you know does not have a relationship with Senator Jeff Flake. That relationship is toast, right? So, that`s gone.
He does not have a particularly positive relationship with Susan Collins or with Lisa Murkowski. It`s not like he`s going to be able to get on the phone, and if he is, they frankly are not going to find that particularly persuasive coming from President Trump. They have other considerations they`re taking in as they decide where they go on this front.
So, the president can get out there, and this the lever that he does have to pull, and try to persuade public opinion by being very vocal to his base, by getting out there like tweeting, like he did about 45 seconds after that hearing wrapped up tonight, blaming Democrats and demanding that senators vote. He can call, for example, Mitch McConnell or Chuck Grassley or his allies over on the Hill and tell them he wants to get this done.
He knows exactly what is riding on this. And I`ll tell you, you talk about the arc that we`ve seen over the last 24 hours and these reports of grim pessimism midway through the day today, that`s because the people I talked to in and around that room were grim and they were pessimistic. They knew that so much was riding on Judge Brett Kavanaugh`s opening statement. I am told the president was particularly pleased with that, that search and destroy line, not advise and consent, you can bet he took notice.
So, at this point, the action is really not at the White House. It`s down Pennsylvania Avenue, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" on MSNBC, and Nina Totenberg, legal correspondent for NPR.
Andrea, I know you`ve seen it all in the United States Senate. And now, you`ve added another chapter to the "you`ve seen it all" memoir.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And really for the senators, for the audience, for the American people, it`s a stomach churning chapter because it`s a he said, she said as it was 27 years ago. There were senators who said as Jeff Flake was saying to my colleague Kasie Hunt, they`re conflicted, they don`t know what to do.
The obvious pressure is on those Republicans and some Democrats from red states who assumed would vote to confirm because their races around the line there. But the fact we saw the senators on the panel going after each other, Lindsey Graham, the cheers he got from the Republican Caucus, but there was a moment there that was shock and applause in the eyes and in the affect of some of the Republicans, but a lot of shock, because usually as you know as a former chief of staff over there, my good friend the gentleman from such and such, and this was none of that.
And even that the -- at the Thomas-Hill hearings 27 years ago that I covered, there was a lot of anger, but it was never this kind of visceral breaking of the system. And the other piece of it is, that his opening statement was so fiery and so clearly exactly what the White House wanted and the president wanted to hear, we first saw a tweet from Don Jr. which was a tip off also to what the president was going to tweet immediately afterwards. But he broke some china there.
And Nina has a better perspective than I, the institutionalist that she is of the court and its history and of the judiciary, but when he -- it`s one thing to come in and accuse the Democrats of holding back, covering up, coming in late. But there are a couple of things he did to bring up the Clintons and the 2016 campaign and the left wing conspiracy in the context of politics.
I know a lot of the justices, I`ve been around Washington long enough, the Republicans, the Democrats they socialize together beyond the legendary Scalia/Ginsberg relationship, it`s hard to imagine if -- and when he is confirmed, and certainly, they could well have the votes, how he fits into the conference, how he fits into their discussions.
Collegiality is terribly important, and he has gone political in his self- defense, a measure of his pain. But it was the high tech lynching moment with Clarence Thomas that did turn public opinion and the momentum in Thomas` favor. And this may well have done the same.
O`DONNELL: Nina Totenberg, you`ve covered the Supreme Court. You`ve seen many a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. This one was unlike any we`ve seen before. There are parallels to Clarence Thomas, but it is different in so many ways.
Your reaction to what you saw today.
NINA TOTENBERG, NPR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was such a more political defense that Kavanaugh undertook on his own behalf. Putting aside his great emotion and passion, which is to some extent understandable if you have been falsely accused, which he maintains he has been falsely accused, that he did not do this, that this never happen. But just for a second, put that aside and remember that he`s going to become, if he`s confirmed, a justice on the United States Supreme Court for decades.
And as much as cabinet appointments can be very political, Supreme Court nominations are political sub-rosa. The nominee isn`t supposed to engage in partisan politics, but he sounded like he was in a campaign, and he in fact said this was the revenge of the Clintons, going back I suppose to his days working for Ken Starr investigating President Clinton, which led to his impeachment.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it was a speech, Andrea, he was very proud of having written himself.
I want to go to a moment here where Dr. Ford testified about what she called the indelible memories of what she says happened to her, and she remained even throughout this testimony, the professional psychological clinician that she is.
Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORD: Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and there having fun at my expense.
SEN. PAT LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You`ve never forgotten that laughter. You`ve never forgotten them laughing at you.
FORD: They were laughing with each other.
LEAHY: And you were the object of the laughter?
FORD: I was, you know, underneath one of them while the two laughed. Two friends having a really good time with one another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Andrea, under that pressure in that question of what do you remember most, she actually references the center of the brain where that information is processed.
MITCHELL: And the reaction -- I was on set at the moment on the air with some of our colleagues, Mika Rocah, and Joyce, both former prosecutors and Dan Goldman -- and their response as former prosecutors was that she was the best witness that they could have imagined because she was an expert witness as well as a fact witness of what she could remember. She didn`t speak beyond what she could remember. She acknowledged what she doesn`t.
But those former prosecutors and some have handled these sex cases said that she remembered the moment, not necessarily as she was being questioned by Rachel Mitchell about what she heard or didn`t hear as she heard them talking as they went down the steps, but she remembered very clearly the laughter and the eye contact with Mark Judge. And what they could not get past in the response was the refusal to call Mark Judge, a witness who was in the room, which is the first thing you would want to do.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Jeff Flake said today in the hearing room. And remember he is the one possible swing vote in the Judiciary Committee. Let`s listen to what he said about doubt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: In the end, there`s likely to be as much doubt as certainty going out of this room today. There is doubt, we`ll never move beyond that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, there`s Senator Flake saying there`s doubt and we will never move beyond that.
Let`s listen to what President Trump said last week about how much doubt there should be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel that the Republicans, and I can speak for myself, we should go through a process, because there shouldn`t even be a little doubt. There shouldn`t be a doubt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Nina Totenberg, that goes to one of the issues never resolved in the Clarence Thomas hearings and that is what is the correct standard of proof in a situation like this. President Trump announced the standard of proof last week should be that there is absolutely no doubt about Brett Kavanaugh, there`s no doubt about the possibility that he did what Dr. Ford says. And there`s Jeff Flake saying he will have doubt, at that meeting tonight that he has doubt about the credibility of Brett Kavanaugh.
TOTENBERG: Well, I think Jeff Flake is probably closer to the truth. People may retreat to their corners with the he said and she saids, but in the end, there will always be doubt among some people and maybe even many people.
I mean, the fact is this hearing today was very much actually in a grand sense like the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill hearing in the sense that after the morning, I was sitting live on the air with -- filling in for the break with a bunch of other observers and journalists, all of whom thought that essentially he was toast. And I reminded them that we thought Clarence Thomas was toast, and he wasn`t.
You can sometimes bully your way through these things if you`re just tough enough and mean enough. And the only question I have is whether 27 years makes enough of a difference. I mean, after all on those days, the Democrats actually controlled the Senate. Today, the Republicans control the Senate.
O`DONNELL: Kasie Hunt, Mitch McConnell has said that he, before we even got to this hearing, he fully intended to ram this through. That was basically the way he talked about it. And tomorrow morning, if Jeff Flake were to say he needs an FBI investigation before he cast his vote, that could stop it in the committee.
HUNT: It could, Lawrence. Although the reality is there`s kind of only one scenario whereby Jeff Flake could stand in the way. They could, essentially, they would force a vote where the whole Senate would have to overrule and strip the jurisdiction of the committee. It`s way down in the procedural weeds, but we have seen Mitch McConnell blow through those rule changes around the Supreme Court nominees. I don`t think there`s a perception that he would hesitate to do that again.
So I would look at the committee as a significant weather vane, and if Jeff Flake is willing to stand up in committee, that could tell you a lot about what could happen on the Senate floor. It could precipitate withdrawal. But I wouldn`t look at it if the committee doesn`t pass it or they don`t send it out with a recommendation, that that`s the end of Kavanaugh.
I mean, Mitch McConnell has devoted his entire political life to executing what you are potentially about to see Republicans do. He has dedicated himself to changing the balance on the court. This seat will do it for a generation. He has called stopping Merrick Garland his greatest, most significant accomplishment.
And that is what you`re seeing a very transparent strategy from McConnell. He`s tried to create an aura of inevitably around Kavanaugh and he is forcing his colleagues to not take much time about this. I do think there`s a perception that the longer people have to sit with the story that Dr. Ford told today, that quite frankly, the way that Kavanaugh approach it might not age well. And so, it`s in their interest to get this done absolutely as soon as possible.
And right now, that`s what they`re talking about. They`re talking about doing the first major procedural vote. You will know the phrase motion to proceed, Lawrence, although our audience should understand it as a key procedural vote. They`re talking about doing that on Saturday.
O`DONNELL: Hallie Jackson, the Republicans in the Senate are hoping that the president stays silent since the odds of the president saying helpful are not particularly good.
JACKSON: Well, the president -- he said a lot already, Lawrence. And if they`re hoping for him to stay silent, they may not want to peek this weekend when the president gets back out on the campaign trail in West Virginia no less. And you have seen those rallies before. It is the very definition of Donald Trump unscripted.
And given this has been such a central focus point for him today, you know that that is what is going to continue for the next 48 hours or so, particularly if things, as Kasie is talking about, come to a head on Saturday. Remember just how much the president was focused on this. He was watching it on Air Force One, 30,000 feet all the way to the residence behind me all day long, clearing his schedule, delaying a meeting with his deputy attorney general, the guy who oversees the special counsel investigation, maybe going to fire him, maybe accept his resignation, maybe keep him on -- that`s been pushed off now a for a matter of days so the president could give his focus to not just watching Christine Blasey Ford, but watching how Brett Kavanaugh did.
The president is pleased, but is that enough? We`re about to find out.
O`DONNELL: Hallie Jackson, Kasie Hunt, Andrea Mitchell, Nina Totenberg, thank you all for starting our discussion tonight.
Today, Judge Brett Kavanaugh began his remarks with a combative opening statements that attacked the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAVANAUGH: The behavior of several of the Democrats members of this committee in my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn`t take me out on it merits.
This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups. And as we all know in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around, comes around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Even more important is whether he could give a convincing defense of Dr. Ford`s allegation. Here`s Senator Dick Durbin asking Judge Kavanaugh if he would support an FBI investigation to try to find out what really happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Judge Kavanaugh, will you support an FBI investigation right now?
KAVANAUGH: I will do whatever the committee wants to --
DURBIN: Personally, do you think that the best thing for us to do? You want to answer?
KAVANAUGH: Look, Senator, I`ve said I wanted a hearing, and I said I`d welcome anything. I`m innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The question of having an FBI investigation is probably the question Brett Kavanaugh was asked more than any other, and every time he was asked if he wanted an FBI investigation he actually refused to answer the question and changed the subject.
Joining our discussion now, NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams.
Pete, what did you see there today that could affect Judge Kavanaugh on the court if he makes it to the Supreme Court?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, if he is confirmed, then obviously this will hang over him, probably never go away. But in terms of his effectiveness as justice, he will still have a vote if he gets on the Supreme Court. Secondly, most of the Supreme Court justices already know him. He`s been a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, so they know him very well. They know his decisions. They`ve reviewed many of his decisions. They know -- some of them know him personally.
And I think in terms of judicial temperament, the justice were probably more interested in what he said at the original confirmation hearing, not this one. Many of the justices share his view that the confirmation hearing has become -- confirmation hearings in general have become too political. They`ve been just through it, although certainly nothing like today and they would never express it the way he did.
So, he certainly came out swinging. What affect that`ll have in terms of getting him confirmed or not, I couldn`t tell you. But in terms of what it will mean as a Supreme Court justice, I don`t think very much.
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Lisa Graves, former chief counsel for nominations for the Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a former deputy assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, and Christine Lucius, a former staff director and chief counsel for the Judiciary Committee on the Democratic is side and former nominations counsel for Senator Patrick Leahy.
Lisa Graves, your reaction to what you saw in that room today?
LISA GRAVES, FORMER STAFFER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I think Dr. Ford testified so compellingly, so authentically that it touched the hearts of millions of people across the country.
And there`s an old saying for trial lawyers which is if you don`t have the facts, argue the law. If you don`t have the law, argue the facts. And if you don`t have the law or the facts, then pound the table and yell like hell. And I think that`s exactly strategy we saw deployed by the Republicans, by Brett Kavanaugh.
I think in some ways what you saw from Brett Kavanaugh was predictable in a sense of his denial. But what you also saw was in some ways the mask of his judicial robes or his judicial robes slipping away and revealing him to be the political operative that in fact he has really always been and that his judicial decisions in many ways reveal. I`ve never seen someone act with such contempt towards the member of that committee, towards the senators, and I think quite frankly his contempt for the advice and consent process is shameful.
You have a woman who has come forward who has testified that he harmed her, that he attempted to rape her. He didn`t bother to listen to her testimony or watch it. He instead comes to that committee and attacks the senators for daring to inquire into that matter.
And also, he completely disrespected the very principle of survivors of sexual assault, which they have a right to say when and who and how they tell their story to. And as he knows from the reporting, Senator Feinstein was holding her name in confidence and her story in confidence at the request of that witness. And so, I think it was a very contemptuous presentation on his part. It was most certainly unjudicial and injudicious. And I think justice were to prevail, his nomination would be rejected but we`ll see if justice can prevail in the United States Senate.
O`DONNELL: You know, Lisa, I think there were varying degrees of contempt in his answers. Some really minimal but trace elements of it there. And that feeling I think pushed him in a strange direction on one question-and- answer and that is of course to the issue of Mark Judge, who Dr. Ford says was in the room during this assault and participated in it and is a very, very, very important witness that the judiciary committee Republicans refused to subpoena into that room.
And so that brings us to Senator Leahy asking Judge Kavanaugh if he is Bart O`Kavanaugh which is the name Mark Judge gave to one of the characters in his memoir about being a blackout drunk in high school. Said he changed the names of some of the real people in the book. Let`s listen to this exchange with Senator Leahy and this answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: Are you, Bart O`Kavanaugh that he`s referring to? Yes or no.
KAVANAUGH: You`d have to ask him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Kristine Lucius, you`d have to ask him, points so clearly to the need to bring Mark Judge into that hearing room. That was the one sentence that you would think Brett Kavanaugh would not say in that room.
KRISTINE LUCIUS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, THE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: Yes. He really walked into it when Senator Leahy asked that question. When Brett Kavanaugh said, "You`d have to ask Mark Judge," Senator Leahy`s response and I`m sure every Democrat on the committee`s response was we want to. They have been asking for additional witnesses to be called before the committee but Chairman Grassley and the Republicans had refused. They had refused to allow any additional witnesses to corroborate either account of what happened that night.
But specifically Dr. Ford in her very credible testimony earlier in the day, very gently but clearly said she didn`t know the date but it could be understood if Mark Judge was called before the committee because of his employment records or if the FBI would interview Mark Judge, they could have determined the date and the year based on Mark Judge`s employment records.
So the Mark Judge piece of this hearing today I think is one of the less focused on things, but it really reveals that Republicans were not actually trying to get to the truth today. They were just trying to check the box and be done listening to her so that they could get on with confirming their guy. And I thought what was really revealing is when Republicans finally started answering questions themselves rather than have this outside prosecutor they hired ask questions. They only were doing it to make political points and political speeches and turn this into a partisan fight rather than trying to get to the truth of the matter. And that was revealing.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to one more moment, the likes of which we really have not seen before, and this is when Brett Kavanaugh actually asks Senator Klobuchar a question along the lines of what Lisa mentioned about the contemptuous attitude. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: So you`re saying there`s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn`t remember what happened the night before or part of what happened?
KAVANAUGH: You`re asking about a blackout. I don`t know. Have you?
KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, judge? So that`s not happened. Is that your answer?
KAVANAUGH: Yes, and I`m curious if you have.
KLOBUCHAR: I have no drinking problem, Judge.
KAVANAUGH: Nor do I.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Pete Williams, have you ever seen a Supreme Court Justice ask a question in a Supreme Court hearing and have the lawyer --
PETE WILLIAMS, FORMER GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL: Well, yes, but it didn`t go quite like that.
O`DONNELL: -- and have the lawyer throw the question back at the Supreme Court Justice?
WILLIAMS: I mean sometimes they get flustered and do ask the Senators a question, often rhetorical, but never quite like that. Couple of things in context. First of all, after a break, Judge Kavanaugh apologized for that and said he shouldn`t have done it. Secondly, the back story is, of course, is Amy Klobuchar`s father had struggled with alcoholism, and that`s one of the reasons why she says she tries so hard to avoid it. And she had said that leading up to the question. So it made it seem odd and insensitive, but, you know, he did apologize for it later.
O`DONNELL: Pete Williams, Lisa Graves, Kristine Lucius, thank you.
When we come back, what happened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in her own words.
O`DONNELL: One of the questions that was not asked in today`s hearing was how long was the attack in that bedroom that Dr. Ford described. We don`t know how long that was. Today, it took Dr. Ford exactly three minutes to describe it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, ACCUSER OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room, family living room-type area on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. Early in the evening, I went up a very narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the restroom.
When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom across from the bathroom. I couldn`t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music playing in the bedroom, it was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room.
I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding into me. I yelled hoping that someone downstairs might hear me, and I tried to get away from him but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very inebriated and because I was wearing a one- piece bathing suit underneath my clothing. I believe he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling.
This is what terrified me the most and it`s had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe and I thought that Brett was accidently going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They seemed to be having a very good time. Mark seemed ambivalent at times urging Brett on and at times telling him to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.
During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. And the last time that he did this, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room. Directly across from the bedroom was a small bathroom. I ran inside the bathroom and locked the door. I waited until I heard Brett and Mark leave the bedroom laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairway, pin balling off-the-walls on the way down.
I waited and when I did not hear them come back up the stairs, I left the bathroom, went down the same stairwell, through the living room and left the house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: When we come back, Barbara McQuade will join Lisa Graves with more analysis of today`s testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: How are you so sure that it was he?
FORD: The same way that I`m sure that I`m talking to you right now, and so just basic memory functions.
FEINSTEIN: So what you are telling us is this could not be a case of mistaken identity?
FORD: Absolutely not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would not mix-up somebody else with Brett Kavanaugh, is that correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or Mark Judge?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?
FORD: One hundred percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. She`s also an NBC News and MSNBC legal contributor. And Lisa Graves is back with us.
Barbara, if you were teaching your law school class tomorrow one lesson about this hearing today, what would that be?
BARARA MCQUADE, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN: Well, it`s that you can`t get to the truth unless you have done the investigation that it takes to get there. I felt a lot of sympathy for Rachel Mitchell today as she was asking questions because she had to ask them in a vacuum. She did not have the benefit of an FBI investigation in advance, to talk not only to the witnesses who were going to be testifying, but to all of those other people around the periphery of it, Mark Judge, the four witnesses who signed affidavits, the other two accusers.
To have their statements, to know what they were saying, you could use that information then to push some of the statements made by both of the witnesses who did testify today to try to either corroborate what they were saying or to refute it. Instead, she really had to ask the questions in a vacuum and I think as a result was not terribly effective.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to Rachel Mitchell asking Dr. Ford about the other people at the party and what they have said about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MITCHELL, PROSECUTOR: Are you aware that they say that they have no memory or knowledge of such a party?
FORD: Yes. I don`t expect that P.J. and Leland would remember this evening. It was a very unremarkable party. It was not one of their more notorious parties because nothing remarkable happened to them that evening. They were downstairs. And Mr. Judge is a different story. I would expect that he would remember that this happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Lisa Graves, Dr. Ford repeatedly referenced seeing Mark Judge after this event working at the Safeway. And one of the things she kept saying was if I knew the dates that he was working at the Safeway, that could help me place this event on the calendar. And that`s exactly what an FBI investigation would have found out, when did Mark Judge work at the Safeway.
GRAVES: That`s right. I mean she clearly was startled when she came into that Safeway and saw him after what had happened. And it`s quite clear that this is exactly the type of information that the FBI would have uncovered had it been permitted to follow the usual practice in nominations and go back and do a supplemental background investigation. To find out more about the facts, to find out dates, to interview any possible relevant witnesses including other witnesses who have come forward to talk about Brett Kavanaugh and say that he was belligerent when drunk, that he was a person who was difficult to handle when he was drunk.
I think that the FBI would have been able to present that information. As Barbara said, all of the people in that hearing, of all the members and the questioner could have had a fuller record to ask questions from.
O`DONNELL: And Barbara, apparently, Rachel Mitchell met with all the Republican Senators tonight and told them that she could not have prosecuted a case like this based on the information that she had in that hearing today. But surely if this was a case she was considering prosecuting, she would have tried to get some kind of statement, some kind of evidence out of Mark Judge.
MCQUADE: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, one really telling moment I thought that concerned me was when Judge Kavanaugh was asked, "Are you going to ask for an FBI investigation? You say you want to clear your name, here`s your opportunity." And he said something that he has to know is inaccurate when he said, "The FBI doesn`t reach conclusions." That is not what we`re asking the FBI to do. The FBI would not be asked to reach conclusions. The FBI would be asked to gather facts, and then those facts could be given to a prosecutor or a Senator who`s asking the questions so that you could have the information that you need.
And the other thing is, of course, this is not a criminal case. This is not a criminal prosecution. We`re not trying to prove Judge Kavanaugh guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the question is, is this person fit to have the privilege and responsibility to serve on our nation`s highest court where he will oversee the criminal justice system. And the court is bigger than any one person. If we`re not satisfied that he is fit to serve, the next man up.
O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, Lisa Graves, thank you both for joining us. Appreciate it.
And when we come back, the story on John Meacham with his perspective on how America and the Senate have changed and in some ways have not changed since the last time a man nominated to the Supreme Court faced accusations under oath from a woman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANITA HILL: Telling the world is the most difficult experience of my life, but it is very close to having to live through the experience that occasioned this meeting.
FORD: Apart from the assault itself, these past couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I have had to relive this trauma in front of the world.
MALE: This is a circus. It`s a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I`m concerned, it is a high-tech lynching.
KAVANAUGH: This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequence will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now John Meacham, presidential historian and MSNBC contributor, author of The Soul of America. And back with us is Andrea Mitchell.
John Meacham, what have we learned in the 27 years between those two hearings?
JOHN MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Precious little. At least in 1991, George H.W. Bush and his counsel Boyden Gray, reopened up the background investigation when new information came to light. They lived up to what really was the most fundamental insight of the American revolution, which was that reason has to have a chance against passion in the arena. And you have to, as Jefferson put it, follow truth wherever it may lead.
What we saw today, in many ways, was the triumph of mindless tribalism over a search for the truth. And it`s as simple as not deciding and insisting cleverly in Judge Kavanaugh`s case, but still I think inexplicably or all too explicably, refusing to try to go after, talk to a third witness, a person in the room. And I think that what we saw was the triumph, again, of a kind of reflexive partisanship.
The other thing I would say is one of the things that happened in those 27 years is the Clinton story, the Clinton saga, the Clinton impeachment. And there will be a lot of monographs written in the coming years about what did one of Ken Starr`s deputies really learned from the Clinton impeachment. And I think what we saw today is that Judge Kavanaugh learned from Clinton to deny, deny, deny, and a lesson that was reinforced by the rise of Donald Trump who embraced the same doctrine.
O`DONNELL: There were three Senators in that room today who were in the room 27 years ago. Patrick Leahy on the Democratic, Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch on the Republican side. Let`s listen to what Orrin Hatch said about today`s hearing and the Thomas hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ORRIN HATCH, (R): I hate to say this, but this is worse than Robert Bork and I didn`t think it could get any worse than that. This was worse than Clarence Thomas. I didn`t think it could get any worse than that. This is a national disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Andrea, that became basically the chorus on the Republican side.
MITCHELL: Absolutely. And to John`s point also about not bringing in Mark Judge, a witness in the room, when he came in today and in a statement he says he wrote himself said, when this allegation first arose, I welcomed any kind of investigation, Senate, FBI or otherwise. Opening himself up to questions and he got at least nine that we counted. Why won`t you welcome an FBI investigation and I think he disingenuously said that`s up to the committee.
He said, "I welcome that." And so that puts it on him if he really does welcome an FBI investigation to resolve doubts about at least whether there are witnesses who could be found or ways to corroborate the testimony, or disprove it and take this cloud from him so that if he ascends to the court, he will not be trailed by all of this doubts and questions about him but he refused that. She and the people around her are welcoming and asking for the FBI investigation, and this White House, this White House Counsel and this committee refuses to go along.
O`DONNELL: John Meacham, the Republican Senators were going to do what seemed to be impossible, and that was sit there and not say anything today, and it turned out to be impossible. They eventually gave up on their hired lawyer and jumped in there themselves. But most of them made speeches instead of asking questions.
MEACHAM: They did. And they fell back on the vernacular of these kinds of hearings which are really talkings. You know, not to call the witnesses, not to tap the brakes and investigate is almost as though you`re going to have the his chambers hearings and not let the pumpkin papers in, or say that Whitaker chambers can`t testify. It`s a very strange and really ahistorical way of going about this.
One of the things that is supposed to set the Senate apart in large, you know this, is it`s supposed to cool the coffee in the saucer as George Washington said. And all they did today was microwave it.
O`DONNELL: Every Senator is capable of slowing down that process if that Senator wants to. John Meacham, Andrea Mitchell, thank you both for joining our important coverage tonight. Really appreciate it.
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