Christine Blasey Ford Reasserts Her Claims Of Sexual Assault Before Senate
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A day of drama and history on Capitol Hill today. To talk it through, we want to bring in our national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hey, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there.
KELLY: And also our congressional correspondent Scott Detrow, who has been inside that hearing room all day today. Hey, Scott.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey there.
KELLY: What was it like to be in Dirksen room 226 today?
DETROW: It was tense. It was serious. You could tell the whole room knew that the entire country is watching today, and the entire country will be looking back on this for years to come. Republicans are incredibly serious. They're looking - it struck me before the hearing began and it continued. They're looking straight ahead. They're not talking to each other. They're certainly not talking to the witnesses. And the other thing to note is just an incredible buzz around the building and incredibly tight security. The hallways outside the hearing room are lined with police officers. They're checking IDs every few steps. This is clearly the center of the political universe today.
KELLY: All right, I want to walk us through a little bit of how today unfolded. And let me start by playing a long chunk of Christine Blasey Ford's testimony. This is from her opening statement. She describes in graphic detail what she says happened the night Kavanaugh - or Brett, as she calls him - assaulted her.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
CHRISTINE BLASEY 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.
KELLY: Scott Detrow, that is - it goes without saying that's hard to listen to. You know, it...
DETROW: It certainly was.
KELLY: It's also very specific. She got into very specific details. How did Kavanaugh respond when it was his turn to speak?
DETROW: In two parts. First, the same blanket refusal that we've heard since he first started responding to this, saying he wasn't at the party, he's never done anything like this. He doesn't question that she may have been assaulted, but it wasn't by him. The more striking thing from his opening statement was just how angry he was at being accused, saying his life and his reputation have been ruined. And he went after the Democrats saying, this confirmation process has become a national disgrace; the Senate has replaced advice-consent with search and destroy. And he went on to say several things like that during his opening statement.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Scott, I want to bring in national political correspondent Mara Liasson. And, Mara, to that point, can we talk about the tone, the difference between the morning and the afternoon? What did you hear?
LIASSON: Well, what I was really interested in was how Republicans were reacting to the morning testimony of Dr. Ford. And one of the things that the White House certainly will be evaluating is the fact that Donald Trump watched this on television. We assumed he watched it on FOX. That's his go-to network. And commentators on Fox felt that the morning went very bad for the Republicans, that Ford was credible, appealing. She seemed real. And that they faulted the Republicans for the way they set up the hearing. And...
CORNISH: Right. We should note they had Arizona prosecutor...
CORNISH: ...Rachel Mitchell asking the questions on their behalf.
LIASSON: Instead of any of the members of the Republican committee. The afternoon - we saw an angry, tearful, red-faced, extremely emotional Brett Kavanaugh. He clearly took the advice of the president, who thought that he was not strong enough when he did the Fox interview earlier, that he had to be more aggressive and make his own case better. Clearly he was trying to do that.
And I did hear from a couple Republicans who thought that he did better, that Trump would probably stick with him because of that. But the most important thing is what comes out in these questions. No doubt Brett Kavanaugh came out saying he was a victim. He talked about a vast - what really is a vast left-wing conspiracy. He talked about revenge on behalf of the Clintons, who of course he prosecuted with Ken Starr.
KELLY: And I want to jump in, Mara. You're speaking to the tone that was on display there from both witnesses. I want to hear a little bit more of Brett Kavanaugh and how he came out really swinging in his testimony today.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BRETT 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 your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy my family will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. You may defeat me in the final vote, but you'll never get me to quit - never.
KELLY: Scott Detrow, to the point that Mara and Audie just raised about that it was not Republicans asking any of these questions to either witnesses - either of the witnesses - it was veteran prosecutor Rachel Mitchell - how did that play out?
DETROW: You know, Republicans were certainly in a tough spot here. Interrogating her, being skeptical could have been a political disaster. You saw how bad the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings were politically for them a couple decades ago. This is happening just weeks in front of the midterm election. But I think not saying a word, not even adding any comments or talking to Ford at all after Mitchell did her questioning - I think that certainly looks bad as well. I wonder if Republicans are rethinking that approach after that morning session.
CORNISH: Mara, I have a similar question for you. Obviously you watched the Anita Hill-Thomas hearings. And at that time, there was that high-tech lynching comment. Here was there any kind of moment that's going to give his supporters that kind of ammunition?
LIASSON: Well, I thought this was like high-tech lynching on steroids. I mean, he was much hotter and more angry and emotional and saying that he was the victim here than even Clarence Thomas. I do think that he will give something to the base. He looks like he's really fighting for his nomination. But I think that we have to see after today is over the key senators - Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake - are they any more willing to vote for him or less, and then what effect it has on the midterm elections.
CORNISH: We should play one last piece of tape from today. And this is a moment between Senator Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, questioning Christine Blasey Ford. And this is a moment many people have remarked upon in terms of speaking about her tone, emotion and credibility.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
FORD: The uproarious laughter between the two - and they're having fun at my expense.
PATRICK LEAHY: You never have forgotten that laughter. You never have 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.
CORNISH: Mara Liasson shaking your head listening to that. What more questions are raised than answered by today?
LIASSON: Well, we haven't really gotten to any factual conclusions. Did this really happen or not? It is still a he said, she said situation. And the FBI has never investigated this. No other witnesses are going to be called. And I think originally...
KELLY: Do we know that for sure, Mara? That's been ruled out?
LIASSON: Well, so far they haven't.
KELLY: So far.
LIASSON: So far.
KELLY: Not yet. Right.
LIASSON: So far, yeah. And that would depend on Susan Collins or Jeff Flake, who's actually on the committee, saying, I won't vote for this to go forward unless you call other witnesses. I mean, that - those members could force that issue. But I think that Mitch McConnell's idea before today was just as he said. We're going to plow through this, schedule a vote, get it done. The president has been very clear he felt the Senate Republicans delayed too long already. After today, we'll see if that strategy still holds.
KELLY: And, Scott, last word to you. As far as we know, the vote is still scheduled. It's going ahead tomorrow. Scott Detrow.
DETROW: As of right now, yes. We'll see if that changes after the hearing.
KELLY: After the full hearing - all right, that's NPR's Scott Detrow and NPR's Mara Liasson tracking extraordinary, historic testimony that's been underway today on Capitol Hill. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.