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The Week In Politics: Brett Kavanaugh, Rod Rosenstein

Sep 23, 2018
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Las Vegas.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne in Washington, which will be host this week to more testimony on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh's been the main story these past days, which is saying something, considering this past week also saw conflicting reports that the deputy attorney general mused about wearing a wire while talking to the president. So let's start this hour with NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And let's get to Brett Kavanaugh first. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, something he denies altogether, has now agreed to tell her story to the Senate judiciary committee. Was that actually, in the end, inevitable?

LIASSON: Well, nothing's inevitable. But there were plenty of Republicans who were asking her to come forward and hoping she didn't. But I do think once her identity was known and Blasey Ford began talking to the press, she really did have to come forward, as difficult as that might be for her. So it now looks like her lawyers and the Senate judiciary committee are talking about a possible Thursday hearing. Nothing formally announced yet. Details are still under negotiation.

MONTAGNE: And, Mara, you were NPR's congressional correspondent when Anita Hill testified that Clarence Thomas, then-President George H.W. Bush's nominee, sexually harassed her in their workplace. How much of this Ford-Kavanaugh story is a reprise of the Hill-Thomas story?

LIASSON: Well, it's eerily similar. But it's so different because we live in the #MeToo era. Remember how Anita Hill was called a little nutty and a little slutty?

MONTAGNE: Yeah.

LIASSON: That won't happen now. There was a backlash back then against how Hill was treated that led to lots of women being elected to Congress. That backlash is continuing. You know, after President Trump attacked Blasey Ford's credibility in a tweet asking, why didn't she report this 36 years ago? There was an outpouring of stories - #WhyIDidntReport - from women and from some men who were abused by priests explaining why they didn't report at the time, including a testimony from Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter.

MONTAGNE: And what do you think? Is this worth the political peril for Republicans, I mean, backing this particular nominee?

LIASSON: Absolutely, it's worth it. This is the top goal of Republicans - to cement a conservative majority on the court that could last a generation or more. And politically, short term in terms of the midterms, there are risks depending on how credible she is when she testifies, depending on how the all-white, older-male panel of Republicans on the judiciary committee treat her. They do risk making suburban, college-educated women more angry than they already are. But Republicans are also worried about infuriating and disappointing their social conservative base. Evangelical voters expect Donald Trump to deliver. And if Kavanaugh fails, these voters could stay home in disgust. And that's why you hear Mitch McConnell saying, quote, "we will plow through this" and confirm Kavanaugh.

MONTAGNE: And to another part of this last week's news, what do you make of The New York Times report that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, talked about covertly recording his conversations with the president and that he wanted to gather cabinet members together to invoke the 25th Amendment?

LIASSON: Well, this was an explosive story in a string of explosive stories. But it was disputed by Rosenstein, who said it was inaccurate. It was false. One person told The Washington Post that if this was discussed, it was discussed sarcastically. In other words, Rosenstein might have said, what do you want to do, wire the president?

But the most fascinating part of this story has been the reaction of the president's supporters. First, there was a chorus of, Rod Rosenstein must be fired. Then people started saying, no, don't fire him. Sean Hannity went on television and said, Mr. President, this is a setup. Don't fire anyone. So I think we're back to where we've been. At least through the November elections, it seems unlikely that Trump will fire Rosenstein or Sessions after Election Day.

MONTAGNE: OK. NPR's Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.