9/26/18: Does Kavanaugh Survive?
Hello and welcome to powerhouse politics. ABC news, political director, recline and I'm Terry Moran ABC's senior national correspondent. And Terry. We are sitting here on Wednesday, less than twenty four hours away from one of the most anticipated moments of the Trump presidency. Maybe one of the most anticipated moments in modern political history today where judge breath Cavanaugh will face down one of his accusers, Christine Blasi Ford before the Senate Judiciary committee, the supreme court hanging in the balance Terry. You've been here before you've been covering a lot of these. A lot of memories and echoes of nineteen ninety one in Clarence Thomas of what what do you see is the stakes coming into tomorrow? Well, the court, obviously, but then there's something the Anita hill Clarence Thomas hearings showed as well, and the need to heal said on good Morning America. The other day, this moment changes the trajectory of two lives. We're gonna get to the politics of it. This is politics powerhouse podcast. But spare a moment for a little bit of sympathy for these two individuals, their lives will never be the same and they have to go forward in trying to remember what happened thirty five years ago between them in front of the country, skeptical questioners on both sides and that's at stake. But more more to the point of this podcast, it's not just the supreme court. It could be the Republican majority depending on how this is handled and the fact that there are more cues coming out makes it even more uncomfortable for Republican and the and the trajectory of the Trump presidency. All three branches of government in a sense on trial under the microscope, a lot to be determined and we went on pack all of that today. But I want to start with the news because just this morning, Michael ovens who's been teasing, big announcement on Twitter appears to have delivered on what he promised, and he has an David that's been submitted to the Senate Judiciary committee that has detailed allegations from. A new woman we hadn't heard from before Julie sweat, Nick who talks about multiple incidents in involving Brett Cavanaugh and his friend Mark judge take a listen to Michael vanity. Also known as the lawyer for stormy Daniels, of course, on the view this morning. The drug women by placing grain alcohol or drugs in basically the punch at these parties that may of these women ended up gang raped. Unfortunately, I mean, the details in this declaration are specific. They are shocking, but above all else, they are true Terry Moran we are now talking about gang rape. Yeah, and and there's a couple of things about this. I duly sweat Nick was in the same social circle. She describes she says she attended about ten parties over a couple of years with Brett Cavanaugh and his friend Mark judge who actually Christine Blasi. Ford alleges was in the room when she was allegedly assaulted by cavenaugh. Judge inciting Cavanaugh on allegedly and Julie sweat. Nick says, she knew these guys and she knew them at these apparently wild parties that were going on the DC suburbs in the early. Nineteen eighties where they were. She said she observed them spiking the punch targeting vulnerable, young women, teenage girls, if you will, and and then take them into a room and she would. She alleged that there were gang rapes going on, boy, young men waiting outside the closed door of the room to take their turn. And she finally alleges she was one of them. Yeah. Yeah. It's it's written to me in a in a slightly of a very careful way. I should say where leaves unclear whether Cavanaugh was in fact one of the attackers at least the my reading of it for her, particularly. She talks about that cultural generally, but it is a stunning allegation that comes on the heels of the initial allegation. Christine Blasi Ford of attempted sexual assault where she says she even feared for her life at one point, the accounts in the New Yorker, the dating from the time that he spent at Yale and Terry. I think one question that emerges to my. Mind and a lot of Republicans. I've been talking to racist point that suddenly this man went in the course of all of this vetting. He went from being a boy scout from being a prep boy nerd to being an alleged gang rapists in the space of ten days or so. What do you make of how this turn and the timing of this turn that all comes after the confirmation hearing? Well, it's the intersection as Clarence Thomas, say, hill hearings were of the deeply personal and the highly partisan political. That's what we've got Democrats want anything to beat this guy. They did a very poor job on the merits in the hearings trying to find some ground to get people to vote against him into pose him. And now they have an exploration of his life as a teenager. In the answer the question, how could this have happened while there's only two, there's only two answers really one. It didn't or two. There's a very deep dark buried black box in his life that he has shut down a longtime ago and covered it up with a with a very devout and apparently exemplary adult life, a guess that's possible. One of the things that is common in both of those and cavenaugh acknowledges it drinking. The one thing that I witnesses confirm whatever they have to say about. About his intimate behavior is in those years. He drank a great deal, and, and another thing that's extraordinarily about this week, Terry, as you know, is that for the first time in history that we know of a supreme court nominee has done in the interview to try to rebut this in advance of additional public testimony on Fox News. So of course, a friendlier outlet than than most, but but take listen to judge Cavanaugh. We should know this specifically his response to the New Yorker allegation that dated from his time at Yale. The women I knew in college and the men I knew in college says it's inconceivable that I could have done such a thing and the New York Times reported that just last week, the person making the accusation was calling. Other classmates saying she was not sure that I done this. So that gets your point about the about the compartmentalization of his life, perhaps the black box of it. What do you make of the way that cavenaugh himself has pushed back on this. This has been a strange ten days to my mind because the initial allegation came out and then another one comes out a week later and now a third. But we still we haven't had a full public accounting from the first allegation yet that's going to happen tomorrow the Senate Judiciary committee, but Cavanaugh Cavanaugh has pushed back in the interim he has, and I think he was in a terrible position. I think from his perspective, what's he supposed to? How do you prove negative? How do you prove that thirty? Six years ago, five years ago, you weren't in a specific room at a party, very, very difficult to prove that especially when there is no direct corroborating contemporaneous evidence from Christine Blasi forty told people of the past five or six years, but not for decades. In between that said, what if Cavanaugh had said, look, you know, I don't remember doing this. I don't think I did. I. It's nothing that I think I would do, but I know that I was a little out of control in highschool drinking too much. And if I. Did this that to this person, Christine, Blasi Ford, I, I'm, I'm sorry. And it is terrible. It doesn't seem like something I would do instead. It became very quickly the position that the president has basically articulated, which is don't believe the women. Yes, and that is a political loser. And and I think that's an important point to make an all of this. And I think we talk about similarities and differences from nineteen ninety one. The fact that we are in this metoo era where there are other women who are coming forward and understand or believe they understand where these women are coming, why they're coming forward decades after the fact and dishes at a president who himself has stood accused of of sexual misconduct in the past and has has used this playbook. Take a listen to help President Trump handle this when he was asked about it while in the at the United Nations in New York are playing a. A con game, is there. No, they know. And they wink each week. They know it's time. So for this to be a con game it, it suggests that Democrats are in cahoots in dropping these allegations. And it also suggests, I think more than suggests it outright says that these three women now are making it up. And the first part of that is kinda undeniable that the Democrats, dine Feinstein had these allegations, didn't share them with Democrats or Republicans, Christine Blasi. Ford is being advised among other people by Ricki Seidman who was I remember was a counselor to Nita hill. She was on the Ted Kennedy staff Senate staff. She worked in the Obama White House. She's a longtime democratic operative as are some of her other advisers and Deborah Ramirez shared her allegations with democratic staff. I and they didn't tell Republicans have so you can understand why Republicans are saying, wait a minute. This is not about a search for the truth as it is a weaponising of. Allegations, that's probably true, but they are there. And at this point I don't see how you don't delay this hearing or have another one, I think of cabinet wants to go through to in order to air out to at least take a look at this worn affadavit from Julie's sweat, Nick and delay means death for this nomination and President Trump those that and his been already saying publicly, they should push forward on this week ago. Regardless of the allegations, his feeling feelings that Republicans have been accommodating enough given too much ground to Democrats. And that is the view among some Republicans unclear at this stage though whether they have the votes. And I think that's that's a critical piece is that strategy only works if you can get that person confirmed. I think as of right now, they do not have the votes that a lot is riding on this hearing for only a relative handful of senators, but but the critical senators. Well, and I wonder and I wanna ask you Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, the majority leader, the Senate has been saying for a week. Now we're gonna. Get this thing done. We're going to get it done fast. We're gonna have a photo maybe by this weekend we've got the votes is going to be on the court at some point. I thought he does protest too much. Is he bluffing a little bit doing his best to a fight, the good fight for the conservative base, but recognizing let's get this thing done one way or another because if we need another nominee we want that sooner because in January, if we lose the Senate and that's a big if but if Democrats take the Senate, it's a different ball game. That's precisely right. He he is bluffing, but he's bluffing knowing that he is called on that bluff. He's got another hand to play, which is a classic McConnell maneuver. What Mitch McConnell is thinking about here is maintaining that Senate majority and getting a confirmed nominee does he care about Brad Kavanagh? A lot of people thinks Pat Kavanagh wasn't even his first or second or fourth choice. He's fine with brecca than I would do the right thing, but he what he really wants to make sure that they have that conservative majority and it's the supreme court, and he really wants is to make sure that his members are max. Political advantage, and the Democrats are on the defensive, which brings us Terry to the spectacle and the extrordinary event that we're expecting on Thursday echoes of nineteen ninety one. The last time we had anything even remotely like this, and it does seem like the Republicans have learned or sought to impose some of the lessons from that in the initial move that they made of of hiring outside counsel of the Mitch McConnell. Somehow, somewhat in artfully though, I think probably accurately is very to her as a female assistant, but she's in accomplished an accomplished investigator and prosecutor out narrow Zona who's gonna come on and handle the questioning. Basically conceding that Republican senators don't trust themselves in the setting. They are openly conceding it that they who Bob corker that look, one of them says something wrong to Dr Blasi Ford, and that's all we'll hear about. So in a somewhat cynical and and self. Denigrating in a way a political ploy. They've hired Rachel Mitchell, but Rachel Mitchell is a serious person. And I'd like this. Somebody had to sit through the Nida hill Clarence Thomas hearings. And here the wretched attempts by senators to get at with the fact they're senators are terrible questioners on both sides, what they do, they give speeches and then they throw a softball or Gotcha bays written by their staff. They don't follow up. They don't understand how to plot a line of questioning trial. Lawyers are trained to think differently and to question differently and what they wanna do is elicit facts that they can you respectfully sensitively, especially somebody with with Rachel Mitchell's decades of experience in this area to elicit facts that they can use in an argument for their case show sees. She's an advocate, but one, the last thing I'd say is people find it very cynical, political point. It is. But Rachel Mitchell comes to this hearing room with a reputation and career at stake as well. If she is seeing to rough up, Dr Christine Blasi. Lord, what victim would ever talk to her again. So I expect her to be very professional and she's going to question Cavanaugh too, and she knows how to do it. So she may be a little bit wildcard for Republicans in this hearing. So you've you this as having the potential to be a serious inquiry as opposed to just the political spectacle that that that that you might expect from very partisan panel? Yeah. If I, if Rachel Mitchell gets to do her job, which spent decades doing one awards to, yes. The problem is that a serious inquiry would also include other witnesses and probably back one of them. She's at a disadvantage and she's a prosecutor and everytime she's questioned witnesses. She will have all already talked to the detectives, who did the investigation that would be the FBI in this case and they didn't do an investigation. So she's flying blind a little bit when she questions. Kristen Blasi Ford or Brett cavern and the politics of course will be everywhere you have as we mentioned these wing seat on the supreme. Court, you have the potential for this to throw control of congress into disarray, and just a few short weeks before the midterms, we've the credibility of the president. You have several twenty twenty contenders were part of this committee both on the democrat and Republican side who will have an opportunity to shine. One thing that strikes be Terry and you're in the room for much of this in nineteen Ninety-one. In the memories of that hearing, nobody looks good. None of those senators. None of the senators. In fact, a lot of the harshest questioning that's come among Democrats. Recently, it's been what Joe Biden's role was all of that back in nineteen ninety. One is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee putting a need hill through that his very explicit rounds of questioning. Is it your sense that this has the potential to be that kind of defining moment for this generation of members of the Senate Judiciary committee? That's a great point. I think it does because senators aren't good at this. They're trying to do this. They make speeches, they make laws that try to shape the national debate. They, they fight it. Out with each other over how to get that debate in their direction, but an inquiry which is which is rigorous and which can at least surface something that we can call facts. They aren't very good at that. And I think they're tendency to speech by their tendency to score political points with a couple of exceptions, comma Harris. Good question. Although she kinda stuck out with cavenaugh about, did you did you ever talk about the Muller probe to member of President? Trump's former lawyers, former lawyers, law firm, and she never delivered on whether or not that ever happened, but she clearly can ask a question properly, so can Sheldon Whitehouse. But for the most part, all of them are up there with different goals than a trial lawyer has or an investigator has. What happened here there after how can I get what happened here to advantage me and my my side very different thing and your sense that anything around the senate's ability to get it. Those. Those questions has changed in the intervening twenty seven years? No, no. In fact, I look when I c- chairman Grassley here. Okay. So chairman Biden gotten a lot of troubled for the way he handled Anita hill. He was in a difficult position and he was as clueless, frankly, as as the rest of the country about the issue of sexual harassment and has been toning for it in some ways, ever since Grassley was on that committee. Right? It was. He's been in the Senate that long. He's eighty five years old. And yet I do feel I don't know if you that. That sense of Grassley. Yes, he's a partisan. Yes. He's trying to get Kavanagh confirmed, but also feel for somebody's been around the Senate that long he knows the Senate is going to be around longer than him or bread Kavanagh or any of this controversy. And he's a little bit of an 'institutionalised. In other words, I don't think he's done the president bidding here, and I think it's quite possible. We'll get a delay in the hearings because I think while he's not an advocate for a neutral inquiry by any means, I think he's got the credibility of the. Mitty and his role as chairman and the Senate more broadly in his mind as well. Not want to overstate that. But I think I think he's doing a little bit good for the country here as as the approaches this now he's declining FBI investigation. So he can take loves off plenty. But there's some Ray of hope in the way Grassley it's been handling. And yeah, there's so much mistrust surrounding this process and be you, can you have to rewind the tape back to Robert Bork if not before then to get to the roots of this and you, you draw that line through Clarence Thomas and then all the way through Merrick, garland, and the failure to even get a hearing on President Obama's final appointment to the supreme court in garland and bring to this moment where it is a purely partisan exercise. And I do think it's extraordinarily and worth pointing out Terry that for all that the nation seems engaged in this. In this question there easily ninety and perhaps ninety five United States senators that right now before hearing a word from Christine, Blasi Ford know how they're going to vote on this nomination. If and when it comes to the floor, this is a universe of about five men and women. Couple of Democrats couple of them Republicans. They are the vanishing if not totally vanished middle of the Senate, and they control whether Brett Cavanaugh guest this lifetime appointment on the supreme court, and they control how history judges this extrordinary moment. That's a great point. Rick. I'm actually old enough to have covered the Bork nomination as well. And that one there were probably twenty or thirty senators. We were all waiting on a lot of the southern Democrats that used to be southern Democrats back in the day and and western Democrats, Dennis deacon senior, which way were they going to go and and you didn't know. But you're right. This is such a narrow, narrow middle in the country as well. Although actually our colleague maryalice parks raised a poll that that shows about a third of the country hasn't made up its mind. My concern is that when they see the testimony, their mind will be made up from their partisan political perspective. The most depressing data that I've seen recently on that is. Allegation of of sexual misconduct against Keith Ellison, the vice chair the DNC and running for attorney general in Minnesota is accused by former partner of domestic abuse sort of recently, and and another woman has come forward as well and Minnesota and National Public Radio ran a poll that showed only five percent of Minnesota Democrats believe the woman, Karen Monaghan is her name and that can't be anything, but don't do it to my guy. Bill Clinton is the most famous example of that. Sure. And and to me in brings us, I think to to, we'll make final final discussion point for today of President Trump, but to me, it is an ultimate manifestation of the red versus blue Mitee versus your team and the way that politics is become that that you could look at the same facts and come to that snap judgment and say, yes, I believe or no, I, I don't believe her. I'm sure some of that is wrapped up in in the socio economics of what of what each party. Is made up of, and they're certainly Democrats that look in act and have different backgrounds and Republicans, but a lot of it is based on that snap judgment you make because he or she is on my team versus the other team. And that does bring us the President Trump because he has lived that he thrived on that sense. He rode to power on that sense of us versus them. He continues to campaign in that way and he is conducted. His campaign is a campaign four breath cavenaugh to sit on the supreme court based on that notion that he has denied tonight. And I of setting this up as the Democrats are out to get the Republicans and we can't fold and he is imposed whether whether or not it was going to happen in this case, that is those are the stakes going into Thursday, and he is re this polarized, his geniuses for polarization. In some ways, he goes for the jugular and get people get people riled up. And in that world that you've just described, Brad Kavanagh has a bit of an outline. Yes, he's on the red team if you will, but he is a, he is well, I guess he's from the elite establishment east coast. You can't get more establishment than bread Cavagnaud and my grandfather actually worked for the Chicago democratic political machine. He was the park district. I'm not sure ever went to any parks, but he did that for years. And they had a saying that when somebody walked into a meeting that they didn't know, they said, who sent you because we don't want nobody nobody sent and there's a, you know, obviously bread Kavanagh's worked in the in the fields of Republican law, conservative law for a long time, but he's not a Trumpy conservative. Right. And I had heard that President Trump had told his, this is the guy you wanted me to pick when this controversy began. Go ahead, get them through, but if you can't, I'm going to pick the one I wanted, which is Amy, Coney Barrett, a woman who was attacked basically by Senator Dianne Feinstein for. For as Feinstein said, you know, I feel that the dogma Catholic dogmas strong and you and that lit up the Christian right for her people fight for people that are on their team. And I think Kavanagh who's lived a, you know, obviously conservative Republican life, but doesn't have that vibe that Trump likes so much and we'll see if it hurts them or not. And it's such such an interesting twist all of this because it is very plausible to my mind to see judge Cavanaugh nominated by president Jeb Bush or president Marco Rubio. It's a very conventional lot of ways choice, and whether this actually results in his withdrawal and the more Trumpy choice as a result would be would be quite an ironic outcome for the Democrats who put so much in the line and finding this nation as it Kavanagh's a judge, they all are and they're all well-qualified, apparently. But one has the says that Amy Conybeare Barrett or somebody. More in in that end of the business might be readier to just flat, overturn Roe versus Wade. Then someone who's more of 'institutionalised Kevin is very conservative judge and he's been running for the supreme court. It seems to me from the court, his appellate court for a long time sending the right signals that he would do the right things. I far conservative jurisprudence is concerned, but I don't think he's a radical and you might get a radical, we might get any sort of outcome out of this next this next couple of news cycles, Terry Moran. Thank you for being here. I know it's been a busy week and you'll be back at it in the hearing room on Thursday for what is going to be an absolutely fascinating day that does it for this edition of powerhouse politics. We will be back. I'm guessing later in the week with a special edition giancarl is on his way up to New York for a presidential news conference this afternoon. So again, our thanks to Terry. Thanks to the whole team. Avery Miller, Angie yack back in the control room, our man, Trevor Hastings. We'll see next time.