Impressions From The Testimonies Given By Christine Blasey Ford And Brett Kavanaugh

Sep 27, 2018
Originally published on September 27, 2018 7:34 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We turn now to NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. She's been following the hearing all day. And, Nina, to start, let's just put this in context. What were your impressions?

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Well, Christine Blasey Ford started off the day - she was shaking like a leaf and looked quite stricken as she sat there listening to the opening statements from the chairman and the ranking member. But she was an understated and firm witness telling what she could remember and what she couldn't remember and not speculating. She said she has a hazy memory on some things, but she talked with specificity about many other - for instance, when Senator Leahy asked her, what was the single thing that stuck in her memory the most.

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CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense.

PATRICK LEAHY: 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 underneath one of them while the two laughed - two friends having a really good time with one another.

TOTENBERG: And then Senator Richard Durbin put the - this question to her.

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DICK DURBIN: With what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?

FORD: One hundred percent.

CORNISH: Now, Republicans took the unusual measure of turning over all their questions to an outside counsel. It was Rachel Mitchell. She's a sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona. Was she able to poke any holes in Ford's testimony? And what's been the reaction to her performance?

TOTENBERG: Well, she tried to go through a number of areas where Ford's recollections are hazy - for example, the distance from her home to the neighborhood where the party allegedly took place. Let's take a listen to that.

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FORD: I would describe it as somewhere between my house and the country club in that vicinity that's shown in your picture.

RACHEL MITCHELL: OK.

FORD: And the country club is about 20 - a 20-minute drive from my parents' home.

MITCHELL: A 20-minute drive - and of course I've marked as the crow flies.

FORD: Yes.

MITCHELL: Would it be fair to say that somebody drove you somewhere, either to the party or home from the party?

FORD: Correct.

MITCHELL: OK. Has anyone come forward to say to you, hey, remember; I was the one that drove you home?

FORD: No.

MITCHELL: OK.

TOTENBERG: Mitchell also seemed to suggest that Ford might have been used by the Democrats as a last-minute weapon to discredit Kavanaugh. She questioned her about who recommended her attorneys, who paid for the polygraph which she passed. But ultimately the sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona seemed to have a difficult time building a case largely because of this very odd format in which she got to speak for five minutes and then the Democrats would get to speak for five minutes. And you don't get to really have a clear line of interrogation that way.

CORNISH: We've been hearing from Brett Kavanaugh. How did he answer these allegations?

TOTENBERG: He blamed the Democrats. He said the allegations were a calculated political hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRETT KAVANAUGH: Since my nomination in July, there has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation.

TOTENBERG: And he said he would not be forced out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAVANAUGH: I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. You've tried hard. You've given it your all. No one can question your effort. But you're coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy my family will not drive me out.

CORNISH: Now, because Republicans deferred their questioning to Mitchell, you didn't hear from them very much except for Lindsey Graham, right?

TOTENBERG: He just broke, basically. He broke the Republican line and delivered this thundering defensive of Kavanaugh. Let's listen to what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDSEY GRAHAM: What you want to do is destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020. You've said that, not me. You've got nothing to apologize for. When you see Sotomayor and Kagan, tell them that Lindsey said hello 'cause I voted for them. I would never do to them what you've done to this guy.

CORNISH: Nina, have you seen anything like this in your time covering confirmation hearings?

TOTENBERG: No, not exactly. There was Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. This is different. It's a different time. And the process really does seem to be shattered. At least in those hearings 27 years ago, the Republicans and Democrats did some level of cooperation. There has been none from the get-go from Republicans hiding the ball on the Democrats to the Democrats not telling them about this allegation. And this is very ugly. The - I don't know how the committee gets back to any sense of comity - C-O-M-I-T-Y. I don't see what the path forward is.

CORNISH: That's NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.