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Kavanaugh, Ford And The Midterms

Sep 20, 2018
Originally published on September 20, 2018 7:57 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How could Christine Blasey Ford testify, if she testifies at all? Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee say they have offered options to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser. She can testify publicly. She can testify privately. She can talk with Senate staff in California, where she lives. Here's Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican who has not yet said whether she will vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

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SUSAN COLLINS: I don't think that she can reject all those options because, otherwise, there are these very serious allegations hanging over the head of a nominee who has emphatically denied them. And that's just not a good way for us to end.

INSKEEP: That's Collins talking with WVOM, which is a radio station in Maine. Now Christine Blasey Ford's lawyer has said that she wants a full FBI investigation before she testifies. NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro is covering this story. Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What makes Republicans reluctant to slow down?

MONTANARO: Well, look. You know, Republicans really wanted to get Brett Kavanaugh on the court before the October term begins for the Supreme Court, but more importantly, before the November midterm elections. You know, Democrats certainly have an outside chance, anyway, of taking back the Senate. That chance has grown a bit in the last couple of months. And if Democrats were to take over the Senate, you know, forget Brett Kavanaugh. Any nominee would likely be derailed.

INSKEEP: Well, what makes Christine Blasey Ford reluctant to just get the story on the record in some fashion?

MONTANARO: Well, she and her attorneys don't want this turning into a he said, she said battle. They want to have a shared set of facts that both sides have to agree on and that she can start from. Otherwise, they feel like this is setting her up for something that's going to bring all this attention to her and not really change the outcome.

INSKEEP: Well, you say, she said, he said. Here's what makes it so. It's such an old case that there wouldn't be physical evidence. And so far, there's an absence of other witnesses, which seemed to change for a minute yesterday...

MONTANARO: Right.

INSKEEP: ...Because a former high school classmate of Ford's - her name is Cristina King, and she wrote in a Facebook post saying this incident did happen. And then she talked with our own Nina Totenberg.

MONTANARO: Right. Well, she walked that back. She didn't exactly continue to say that this incident did happen definitively. Instead, she said this. Take a listen.

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CRISTINA KING MIRANDA: That it happened or not, I have no idea. I can't say that it did or didn't. In my post, I was, you know, empowered, and I was sure it probably did. I had no idea that I would have to now, you know, go to the specifics and defend it before 50 cable channels and have my face spread all over MSNBC news and Twitter.

MONTANARO: Well, and, you know, you can hear there, she's a little, you know, struck by the spotlight. I mean, once you write something like that, a whole lot of people in media outlets, obviously, descended to say, hey, did this happen? What happened? Tell us more. What have you heard? And certainly, she walked it back quite significantly.

INSKEEP: Well, yeah. She essentially says, I have no facts. I have no contemporaneous knowledge, is what she seems to be saying.

MONTANARO: Right. But she...

INSKEEP: And you realize what - go ahead, Domenico.

MONTANARO: Yeah. But she broadly does confirm the culture of drinking and partying. She talked about how she did know Mark Judge, in particular, and someone had a crush on him and stood her up for the prom, and that she broadly knew Brett Kavanaugh. And again, you know, she talks to the environment and the atmosphere, but she wasn't at the party. And she'd only heard the rumors what may have happened.

INSKEEP: And we'll remind people Mark Judge is now a conservative writer. He's someone who is alleged to have been in the room for this incident, although he has also denied having any such experience. When we listen, though, to that interview, what I hear her saying about the Facebook post and about the aftermath, about backing away from what she knew, what she essentially means is, I support Christine Blasey Ford.

MONTANARO: Yes. She says explicitly she continues to support her. That's right.

INSKEEP: And that seems to be a revealing reaction because it suggests how strongly people feel about the broader issues here, as well as the specific facts. Our colleague Asma Khalid is on the program elsewhere today interviewing voters in a congressional district in Michigan. And she reports that what you think of the facts here largely depends on what you already thought of the Supreme Court nominee. If you already opposed him, you think he's probably guilty. If you supported him, you think maybe he's being smeared.

MONTANARO: Absolutely. Partisanship and gender are two things that have largely colored a lot of our politics, and certainly views of what - of whether or not one person's telling the truth or the other. And this is exactly why Christine Blasey Ford and her attorneys want a shared set of facts to go off of.

INSKEEP: Domenico, always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much.

MONTANARO: Same to you. Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In a previous version of this report, we incorrectly referred to a post written by Cristina Miranda King. Her name is Cristina King Miranda. She also goes by Cristina King. ] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.