Friday, September 28: Who's to Judge
It's Friday, September twenty. Eighth to people went under oath. Only one can be telling the truth. We start here. Christine. Blasi four goes in front of the nation and says, there are some things you never forget. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Brett cavenaugh tells Democrats, you wanna get ugly. Let's get ugly. You may defeat me in the final vote. You'll never get me to quit. Never and no senators hours after hearing from both of them say, we're ready to vote. From ABC news. I'm Brad milkey. There's only one story to talk about this morning. A special edition of start here in just a second. Are you hiring with indeed you can post a job in minutes set up screener questions than zero in on your shortlist of qualified candidates using an online dashboard. Get started today at indeed dot com slash podcast that's indeed dot com slash podcast. This was not just a hearing about whether a judge should become a supreme court Justice. This was a national moment and across the country men and women tuned in live to decide what happened. One night thirty six years ago now reporting George Stephanopoulos good morning and welcome to our special coverage of the most consequential and dramatic congressional hearing of our time. A Terry, Brad ABC senior national correspondent Terry Moran covers the supreme court force. And remember Brett Cavanaugh had been cruising to confirmation until rumors started to circulate that there was someone out there accusing him of sexual assault. But soon it wasn't just a rumor anymore. It was an interview with Christine Blasi Ford in the Washington Post, but she had never told her story to the public, not out loud. And so today we are going to take you through her hearing and the response of cavenaugh moment by moment with the people who were there for it. Okay. So let's start at the beginning. She arrives on Capitol Hill. What are people looking for? Well, the main point is her demeanor. That's what people were looking for because that's the key to credibility for people. And she came out quietly. And sitting at a table that's over on the democratic side of the hearing room and sort of a hush came over the room. ABC's Trish Turner spent all day inside that room in the Dirksen Senate office building wasn't sure quite sure what was happening. And then suddenly Dr Ford was walking straight toward me out of an anti room that was behind the hearing. So Ford arrives, blonde glasses, fifty one years old about the same as Cavanaugh. She looks like everybody, you know, she looks like the girl next door. ABC news, political analyst, Cokie Roberts. She was clearly terrified as who wouldn't be. Ford started to speak haltingly slowly, but she pressed on and didn't stop. My name is Christine Blasi Ford. I am a professor of psychology at Palo Alto university with great effort. Clearly a struggle for her to speak her truth to this committee and here today, not because I want to be am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanagh and I were in high school and then she did when I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room, family 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. She said she'd been swimming as she often did at the country club, which was wearing a one piece swimsuit and wind. She went upstairs 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 was pushed into a rent pushed down on a bed. She said by Brad Kavanagh, 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. Groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very naive rated 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, stopped me from yelling. This is what terrified me the most and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that was accidentally going to kill me. So Trish. What was it like in there? You could have heard a pin drop in the room. I have really never seen senators, pay attention this way and a hearing Ben Sasse. He was Republican on the committee was facing me. He was on the edge of his seat literally and perched forward Jeff flake head just kind of a pained look on his face. His jaw was resting in his hand. She went on to say that this really had affected her life anxiety phobia. Impe TST like symptoms are the types of things that I've been coping with. She was genuinely traumatized by it in such a way that it wasn't easy for years before she spoke about it. And when she did speak about it, it came out once again in a way that you almost couldn't make up. She was renovating our house and I insisted on a second front door because she said she could not be trapped in such a place. Again, it was a very, very powerful statement and later for. Zest, what would she always remember? What stuck with her? She says they went away. They were laughing, and that's the memory that stuck with her. I felt I felt almost like the room was holding its breath. And so at this point, if you're a Republican on the judiciary committee, all of them are white men. What do you do? Chairman, Chuck Grassley had made the choice earlier this week. You can't just start hammering away. So rather than give each member his five minutes, the hired a prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell who specializes in sex crimes in Arizona to ask all the questions on their behalf. She took almost a maternal or just a a very slow and deliberate and friendly approach with Dr Ford that I think a lot of us didn't expect. We haven't met. My name is Rachel Mitchell. I just wanted to tell you the the first thing that struck me from your statement this morning was that you are terrified and I just wanted to let you know I'm very sorry that's not right. She smiled at her repeatedly as she was asking her questions and telling her she could take her time, and there's one obvious thing skeptic here could point to Ford has readily admitted. There are lots of things she does not know. She doesn't remember. I don't know if she's, I can't recall whether she saw them directly or if I by trade Ford uses psychologist. So when she was asked about the gaps in her memory, she didn't say, I'm sorry, I'll try harder. She went to the science neurotransmitter and codes. Memories into the hippocampus. And so the trauma related experience then is kind of locked there. Whereas other details kind of drift. Let's go back to this prosecutor though, because as the questions go on, they're not exactly cutting Ford's legs out from under her. Never clear to me what the purpose, what for purposes, what her charges, if she's there to undermine or poke holes in Dr Blasi Ford's account, Kate Shaw is a law professor and a supreme court contributor for ABC. It's not a very effective presentation in part because of the format, right? She has these five minute blocks of time and she's never able to get much traction in raising doubts about various holes. Dr Blasi Ford's memories said that you do not remember how you got home. Is that correct? I do not remember. So you know she, she makes gestures in that direction, but she's never able to get much traction in with any of them. So that's one possibility that she's there to undermine Dr Blasi Ford's testimony. And I don't think it's very effective if in fact, that's the goal. The other thing she did. She has a number of questions that seemed to go to at least imply that there. Was maybe degree of collusion between the ranking member of the committee, Dianne Feinstein, and Dr Blasi Ford. You ask Senator Feinstein to maintain confidentiality until we have had further opportunities speak and in many ways. And in mandate some fertile ground to anyone that distrusts democratic contentions here. But without the questioning was over Christine, lousy Ford was done. Her story imprinted on millions maryalice parks is our deputy political director and said, overall, she did come across so credible and human and relatable. She didn't hesitate with her answers. She didn't hesitate with her answers even when some of them made her not look. So you know, I'm sorry. I just realized that I said something that was inaccurate. I said she didn't hesitate to say things that she didn't remember. She didn't hesitate to talk about her relationship with her lawyers and the polygraph, and there was this understanding of where she was coming from that made her really captivated and with every break thus far. The question had become more and more pointed, how does Brett cavenaugh survived this Mary? Where are you camped out right now? I'm currently huddling just around the corner from the hearing room where we have been trying to catch lawmakers. They come and go from hearing all day long. Mary BRUCE'S, ABC senior congressional correspondent. What was really remarkable Brad was to look at the face, especially the Republican members leaving the committee room during all of these breaks. They were solemn. They were stone-faced. We had a quick juiced up Pennsylvania Avenue. The mood was not much better. Alex. What's that noise? I'm currently on the Northland drive way at the White House red. It's raining now White House troops like Alex melon were saying it's not going great here. There's no marine in fun of the west wing right now, which means it's been that way all day, which means that the president is currently not in the west wing. He's been as we know up in the residents watching all the developments on TV. We know the president watches a lot of Fox News. We'll right at that moment. Here's what people on Fox News were saying, but it is a totally different thing after you hear it. This was extremely emotional, extremely raw. This is a disaster for the Republicans. ABC's Johnson Tucci is constantly going back and forth with sources in and around the White House. So he's on his phone and the president from a source that spoke directly to him. After the testimony said, he was a bright how well he did and also was very dismissive, Brad of the prosecutor that Republicans brought in Bubba. She was very ineffective. They didn't like her. They did not like her by the time she was finished. There was a sense that Cavanaugh was sunk and then that all changed. We'll be right back. Start here is brought to you by indeed dot com. And when it comes to hiring, you don't have time to waste. You need help getting to your shortlist of qualified candidates fast. That's why you need indeed dot com. Get started today at indeed dot com slash podcast, that's indeed dot com. Slash podcast. By mid-afternoon is Brett Kavanagh entered. The building. Republicans weren't just worried about his chances. Some were beginning to wonder if the senators had deliberately sandbagged him. I think Republicans have been in the Senate more prepared than anyone at the White House to dump red Cavanaugh. He became a political liability senators weren't about to stick their necks out. ABC's political director. Reclined said the only person who could turn the ship around was Brett Cavanaugh. A couple of aides told me, look you. We're really fearful like that was an incredible performance by Dr four, but they were worried about emotion. Again, that's ABC's, Trish Turner. Judge cavenaugh isn't an emotional person. He doesn't seem it and he's a judge. He doesn't do emotion for a living, but all of a sudden doors, open Cavanaugh strides into the room, takes a seat and starts to speak, and he's mad crazy stuff, gangs, illegitimate children fights on boats in Rhode Island. All nonsense. This confirmation processes become a national disgrace. It was almost like the anger was. It was just you could feel it, and that is what judge cavenaugh clearly wanted. He came into his statement roaring with rage. At the Democrats, there's Terry Moran and if Republican senators were afraid to tell Christine, Blasi Ford, something's amiss Cavanaugh was fabric. The woman is wrong and I'm not angry at her. He said, I'm angry at all of you. You. So the wind. For decades to come. I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind in accused them of plotting essentially just spring this on him when I did at least okay enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed a new tactic was needed and that it had destroyed him. You could hear his agony your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy. My family will not drag me out and he denied it. Absolutely categorically. I have never done this to her or to anyone. And he just stopped and you could see that he was just fighting back tears. I could see tears. Well, up in his eyes, Ashley and my daughter lives said their prayers and little lies all ten years old. Said to Ashley, we should pray for the woman. It's a lot of wisdom from ten year olds. Those tears came again and again to the point where Cokie Roberts said, what's with all the crying. Women were constantly tweeting. Suppose a woman were crying like that. It would have been a disaster, but he was allowed to get away with it. But within minutes and I mean minutes are White House. Reporters were calling me back and then now up to four sources, they think that this was a home run for cavenaugh the it was affected. He was strong. The mood has completely shifted. It was completely empty. Earlier today of aids have now since returned the communication staff is currently huddled in Sarah Sanders office and she sent his Cavanaugh brought the defiance Rachel Mitchell. The prosecutor whose day job is investigating, sex crimes was told by Republican senators. We don't need you anymore. Senator Graham, the change strategies midstream. I think they fed off of the energy that we saw. In the in the defiance of of judge Kavanagh's denials. It's entirely ethical is a really decent person. He is warm friendly unassuming. He's the nicest person. That's why midway through the questioning, suddenly that women that they brought into the question and she disappeared, you should never heard from her again. She was mute for the rest of the time because Lindsey Graham steps in and he calls out the Democrats never do to them what you've done to this guy, and it allowed them to fall back into a partisan groove. Hope that the American people will see through this charade was it good for the country? Probably not to have everyone back to their default positions, but it wasn't more comfortable place for Republicans to be. And that's why you saw the committee begin to begin to fall back on in the default position, which is this is a partisan exercise and a partisan showdown. But our supreme court contributor Kate Shaw reminds us Democrats had a new job to do now after denials thoughts, interview and his blistering statement. They finally had a chance to cross examine cavenaugh himself. So the democratic senators had their chance to question him. They spent a lot of time asking about yearbook entries. One is center. What are you? What. Have you? I don't know if it's booked or boost. How do you pronounce that. John refers to flatulence. We were sixteen okay. The Democrats I Reggie was the cabinet. They wanted him to admit some inconsistency over admit that he got really blackout drunk ever passed out from drinking. Pastel would be now, but I've gone to sleep, but I never blacked out. That's the ones that avenue began to close. They shifted gears to focus on accountability and transparency and the investigation itself, and they tried to box him in any way they could on the question of an FBI investigation. Kind of investigation. I welcome. I wanted the hearing last week. I'm asking about the FBI, invest the committee figures out how to felt like if they could trap breath Cavite on into conceding, the FBI should get involved. That would do two things. First of all, it would open up the investigation with the potential of more witnesses. It would also delay the process. It would force a delay of at least several days is the FBI got involved. But there was one moment where Kavanagh's frustration seemed to verge out of control. Senator klobuchar had just finished talking about how she has experienced very personal experience and her family with alcoholism. She understands it again, our deputy political director, maryalice parks. She's asking him whether or not he's ever had times in his life where he drank to excess, you're saying there's never been a case where you drank so much that you didn't remember what happened the night before. Are part of what happened you're asking about blackout, I don't know. Have you sort of trying to flip the roles and put her in the hot seat, set your answer? I'm curious if you have. I have no drinking. Do I. Okay. Thank you. And this is to a woman who just told him alcoholism rain into her family a while later he apologized. But besides Brad Kavanagh, the most pivotal person in the room had yet to speak. All is all day were on Jeff flake. ABC senior congressional correspondent Mary. Bruce have been watching flake all week and on a committee of eleven Republicans. Ten Democrats, one defection could tank Cavanaugh flake insisted on hearing from Ford herself. He's not running for reelection, so everyone's wondering what's flake. Gonna do. Thank you. Mr Chairman finally spoke up and it was a very carefully worded statement in the end, there's likely to be as much doubt as certainty going out of this room today. Everyone filed out and Republicans held a closed-door meeting to get a sense of how everyone's feeling. They've decided to vote today at nine thirty a. m. less than twenty four hours after Christine. Blasi Ford raised her right hand. I think in general, even beyond that, people will look back at another failure of our institutions. There must be a better way to pick supreme court justices, and there must be a better way of determining the truth or falsehood of charges against them and other nominees. This was a failure of institutions, and I think that's how people look at one thing is certain if Brett Cavanaugh is confirmed, it'll take a long time to see him on that bench and not think of a very long Thursday in September of two thousand eighteen. And one last thing. It's easy to think these hearings were solely about a supreme court nominee TC to focus on the maneuvering, the politicking, the red versus blue in this country, but near the end of the hearing, the rape, incest, and abuse, national network rain, put out a statement saying that during this hearing calls to their hotline were up one hundred forty percent seventy six year old woman who was sexually molested in the second grade on c. span phone lines, usually filled up with complaints about tax policy and gerrymandering were suddenly flooded by ordinary Americans giving their own tales of sexual assault. Thought I was over until I heard that happen to someone else and it's just it is such a shame and this right here might be the real legacy of September twenty seven, twenty eighteen Cokie Roberts told me she could feel it inside a sparse TV studio as an older women sitting on a set the number of. Tweets that I got from women telling of their own assaults was really striking. Yes. So my name is Alissa leader. I'm originally from Louisiana, but I'm currently in North Carolina olas in her twenty s I'm currently a law student and I became interested in law when I had my own experience of sexual violence in college. Were you watching the hearing? I was, I watched the whole hearing. I woke up in the morning and turned it on washed until seven pm. So what was going through your mind? It was a really difficult thing to watch. She said she instantly saw bit of herself up there. Christine Blasi Ford front and center in front of strangers, judging whether she was telling the truth, I've had to testify in court about my own experience of sexual assault, and I know how nerve wracking and how difficult that was for me. And that's nothing like testifying in front of the Senate on national television. She said, by the end of the day, there was no doubt in her mind who she believed. Kevin, I used sentences and excuses and explanations for his actions that were exactly the same ones that my abuser had used, and I asked her how she would feel if Brett cavenaugh is in fact confirmed if it might be even the same vote. It would have been a couple of weeks ago. She said she'd be disappointed, but the bigger lesson she said is the people like her are recognizing their own strength now, and they're finding each other. I think the first emotion that I had was just feeling so Ford and astounded and greet foil for Dr Christine, plac- Ford and the courage that she demonstrated in that whatever comes her way she'll survive. And Elizabeth says she plans to represent survivors of sexual assault as a lawyer, some huge stories playing out today heading into the weekend. We will keep you up to date with all of them start here is produced by David Rhind, Josh Cohen, Suzy Lou Kelly. Tarez Tara Gumbo made you an Laszlo Toth. Thanks to able as Jason taunts, Maria, Kim, Elizabeth Rousseau, and Jeffords, Gerald, editorial help from Lauren Ephron, Andrew Evans special, thanks this week to ABC's Janice McDonald and Brad hill from radio and internet news along with our partners, Scott networks and amplify media are executive producers are Steve Jones and infantile. I'm Brad milkey Monday. Are you hiring with? Indeed you can post a job in minutes set up screener questions than zero in on your shortlist of qualified candidates using an online dashboard. Get started today at indeed dot com slash podcast that's indeed dot com. Slash podcast.