How The Kavanaugh Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Might Unfold

Sep 26, 2018
Originally published on September 29, 2018 11:12 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now let's turn to NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. She has been looking at advance copies of tomorrow's testimony and having to think about how the hearing might unfold. Hello, Nina.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: Hi. So Christine Blasey Ford's lawyers have released just a short while ago her written testimony for the hearing tomorrow. What strikes you as new? What strikes you as interesting?

TOTENBERG: Well, the basics of the alleged attack are the same. It's the way she tells the story and the way she talks about her decision to come forward. And maybe most important is the way she talks about Brett Kavanaugh.

Seeking to leave no wiggle room or thought that she is, as one senator put it about a week ago, mixed up about his identity, Kavanaugh was one of the boys she socialized with. She says, we did not know each other well, but I knew him, and he knew me.

She acknowledges that she cannot remember all the details of that night. And she names 3 of the 4 boys at the party and one of her friends who was there. None of these people, I should say, have corroborated her account. All have had lawyers send letters to the committee maintaining that they have no memory of that night, and that includes Mark Judge, the Kavanaugh friend who Ford says was with Kavanaugh at the attack, drunkenly egging him on at times. She says she drank one beer and that Kavanaugh and Judge were visibly drunk before she was pushed into the bedroom.

She says, I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked about how I got to the party, where it took place and so forth. I don't have all the answers, and I don't remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.

KELLY: So what is your read on the tone that she's going to take going into tomorrow's hearing? Based on this written statement she submitted in advance, is she going to come out swinging?

TOTENBERG: It's interesting. It's a tone that varies from terrified to determined.

KELLY: She says she's terrified. She actually uses that word.

TOTENBERG: She says - she uses the word that she's terrified, to also determined that she, in the last analysis, is going to tell this story herself. She said that she had resigned herself, after much back-and-forth, after she read that this was - this nomination was a done deal, that it was going to happen and she was just going to suck it up, basically.

And then it started to leak out. Other people started to get control of the story. And she turned to a journalist she trusted - somebody at The Washington Post, somebody connected to the tip line and the tip she had phoned in in early July.

KELLY: And here we are. OK. Also out today, Judge Kavanaugh's written testimony - his advance testimony. What does he say?

TOTENBERG: His testimony is much shorter and more familiar to all of us in some ways. He, again, flatly denies the charges. And this statement, though, is somewhat more combative. He calls the charges smears, odious, far-fetched, an effort to destroy my good name and says he will not withdraw. So it's only about a page and a half long. Hers is considerably longer.

KELLY: The president has also weighed in tonight. He's giving this press conference at the United Nations. What does he have to say?

TOTENBERG: Well, he talked a good bit about this. And his tone was different, too.

KELLY: Let's hear it.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm going to be watching. You know, believe it or not, I'm going to see what's said. It's possible that they will be convincing. Now with all of that being said, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been, for many years, one of the most respected people in Washington.

KELLY: Nina, briefly, do you hear any softening in his defense of Brett Kavanaugh?

TOTENBERG: Yeah, I do. I think he's saying, I'm going to be watching, and if I think it's not swinging my way, I may pull it. I may pull this nomination.

KELLY: All right. So much to watch for tomorrow. NPR's Nina Totenberg, thanks very much.

TOTENBERG: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.