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Sunday Politics


The Ford-Kavanaugh hearings were both a moment the country watched together but also one that seemingly drove us further apart. We'll cover reactions to the hearings throughout the show today. President Trump yesterday, before heading to a rally in West Virginia, expressed only support for Brett Kavanaugh as the FBI investigates sexual misconduct allegations into his Supreme Court nominee.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't need a backup plan. We'll have to see what happens. I think he's going to be fine. Again, one of the most respected men and certainly one of the most respected jurists or judges in the United States.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: For more, I'm joined by NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Welcome.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's start with the president. He is still all in for Kavanaugh.

LIASSON: All in for Kavanaugh. Last night at that West Virginia rally, he said, a vote for Kavanaugh is a vote against the mean, obstructionist Democrats. So he painted the vote in very partisan terms. But he also denied reports that he wanted to limit the FBI investigation. He tweeted, actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. He told reporters that the FBI had free rein to do whatever they wanted to do. And he even suggested that the FBI investigation could be a, quote, "blessing in disguise." That's the idea of if you make the process look a little fairer, then there will be less political blowback after Kavanaugh is confirmed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. So where do things stand now, exactly?

LIASSON: Things stand right now - I think Republicans don't yet have the votes. But every Republican I've talked to doesn't expect the FBI investigation to turn up anything new. Even Jeff Flake said, I'm a conservative, he's a conservative. I plan to support him unless they turn up something, and they might. So this all does really depend on what happens this week and with the FBI.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Mara, you've been at this a long time. And...

LIASSON: Gee, thanks for reminding me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. But, you know, what we witnessed this past week was extraordinary, no?

LIASSON: Yes. It was extraordinary. It was a cultural moment. I think it's a day that everyone is going to remember where they were, were they listening to it on their phone on the subway, were they watching it on the screen on the seatback of an airplane. And people saw different things. Men, Republicans saw a man ambushed, treated unfairly. Women saw a credible woman, a kind of everywoman. And many, many women marveled at the double standard on display. If a woman had yelled and screamed and sarcastically interrupted senators who were questioning her, she probably would have been taken out of the room.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what is your biggest takeaway from this past week?

LIASSON: My biggest takeaway is just the pure Trumpism of what Kavanaugh and the Republicans did on Thursday. This was much more than merely accommodating themselves to Trump. This was adopting his slash and burn, hyper-partisan, kind of, scorched-earth politics. You had Kavanaugh talking about a vast left-wing conspiracy, basically. He called it an orchestrated political hit. He blamed the Clintons out for revenge. And he even said what goes around, comes around. Was he threatening retribution to the people who he felt unfairly persecuted him? It sure doesn't look like the demeanor of an impartial judge. It wasn't just Kavanaugh who embraced the kind of Trumpist style of politics. It was also the Republicans on the committee led by Lindsey Graham, turning everything into a partisan bloodbath. That really is the heart of Trumpist style politics, where you do this even at the risk of damaging democratic institutions. And I think that if we are in an ongoing kind of stress test of our democratic institutions, Thursday was a day when those institutions really seemed to buckle under the stress.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you very much.

LIASSON: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.