- Lisa Gravesco-director of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy. She is the former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. Her recent article for Slate is titled “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About.”
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has lied under oath about his drinking habits and sexual references in his high school yearbook. That’s according to Lisa Graves, a former aide to Senator Patrick Leahy. She says Kavanaugh does not have the integrity necessary to join the Supreme Court, for an appointment likely to last several decades. This is Part 2 of our conversation with Graves, co-director of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy. To watch Part 1, click here.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. The FBI is in the midst of its reopened investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in 1982.
President Trump ordered the FBI investigation Friday after Republican Senator Jeff Flake surprised his colleagues; after he voted for the confirmation of Kavanaugh, he said he would not vote for him again on the Senate floor unless there was a new FBI investigation before the full Senate vote. He joined his fellow Republican senators in that committee vote, 11-to-10 party-line vote, to advance Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.
Democrats say the FBI’s probe is too limited, and critics say Kavanaugh committed perjury, lying during his testimony about a number of topics.
This is Senator Flake speaking Sunday on 60 Minutes about the vote.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Some of our colleagues said that.
SEN. CHRIS COONS: Yeah.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE: “We’ll be back here one week from now; it will be worse. There will be other outrageous allegations that come forward. The FBI will talk to people that won’t want to talk anymore. We won’t be any better off.” There is a chance that that will happen. I do think that we can make progress.
SEN. CHRIS COONS: I think we’ll be in a different place, because lots of survivors around the country will feel that Dr. Ford’s story was heard and respected and further investigated. We may well be in a different place a week from now, because Judge Kavanaugh and his family may well have had exculpatory evidence brought forward.
SCOTT PELLEY: If Judge Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination’s over?
SEN. JEFF FLAKE: Oh, yes.
SEN. CHRIS COONS: I would think so.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Senators Chris Coons and Jeff Flake. They are friends. On Saturday night at the Global Citizen concert in Central Park, they both walked out together on the stage.
For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re continuing with our conversation with Lisa Graves, co-director of Documented, which investigates corporate influence and democracy, former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. Her recent article for Slate is headlined ““I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About.”
And we’re going to get to those in a minute, but I want to start on Thursday’s testimony. Lisa Graves, you have said he perjured himself once again. And you say this is after a series of perjuries, which we’ll get to, in the past. But what were you most struck by, what you feel he lied about on Thursday during this historic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing?
LISA GRAVES: It was really surprising to see Brett Kavanaugh take the oath again and continue to lie and mislead the Senate. I think he was—he was very deceptive and deceitful in his talking about his history of drinking. You know, one of the issues here, in some ways, is you have a compelling statement by Dr. Ford that she was attacked by him, that she was in fear of her life because he was grinding on her and holding his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t breathe, that he was very inebriated, in a room with a mutual friend of theirs, in essence, Mark Judge, who has written a book about the extensive inebriation of Mark Judge and his buddies at Georgetown Prep, and then you had testimony by Brett Kavanaugh that again conveyed this sort of choirboy narrative that he’s constructed to deny that he was drunk or drunk often or drunk enough to have engaged in this behavior, this despicable behavior. And so, in some ways, Brett Kavanaugh cannot apparently bring himself to admit the degree to which he had a drinking problem or may still have a drinking problem. I don’t know about in the present sense, but certainly the evidence from people in high school, as well as people in college, seems to indicate that he is certainly not being truthful about the degree that he drank.
AMY GOODMAN: Lisa, I wanted to go to two friends of Brett Kavanaugh’s from Yale University who say he was not being honest when he testified about how much Brett drank. This is his former classmates Liz Swisher and Lynne Brookes speaking on MSNBC.
DR. ELIZABETH SWISHER: I was appalled. He was clearly lying. And it was incredibly disturbing to see somebody perjuring themself who’s in line to be a Supreme Court justice.
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: And, Lynne Brookes, your reaction to what you heard?
LYNNE BROOKES: I agree. The reason that I decided to speak out was when he gave the Fox News interview and, as I said in The Washington Post, tried to paint himself as a choirboy, where all he did was study and play sports, and every once in a while he would have a beer. And that’s simply not consistent with the Brett Kavanaugh that I knew in college.
AMY GOODMAN: And this is Brett Kavanaugh himself, Judge Kavanaugh, testifying about his drinking and high school before he went to Yale or for his undergraduate and law degrees.
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Yes, we drank beer. My friends and I, boys and girls, yes, we drank beer. I liked beer, still like beer. We drank beer. The drinking age, as I noted, was 18. So the seniors were legal. Senior year in high school, people were legal to drink. And we—yeah, we drank beer. And I said, sometimes—sometimes probably had too many beers, and sometimes other people had too many beers.
RACHEL MITCHELL: What do you—
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: We drank beer. We liked beer.
RACHEL MITCHELL: What do you consider to be too many beers?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I don’t know. You know, we—whatever the chart says on—blood-alcohol chart.
RACHEL MITCHELL: When you talked to Fox News the other night, you said that there were times in high school when people might have had too many beers on occasion. Does that include you?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Sure.
RACHEL MITCHELL: OK. Have you ever passed out from drinking?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Well, passed out would be no, but I’ve gone to sleep. But I’ve never blacked out. That’s the—that’s the allegation. And that—that—that’s wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: His Yale classmate, Ludington, also said it wasn’t just beer that he drank. He was the one who talked about his extreme belligerency when he drank, and he drank with him. He went out with him socially. This is the questioning that Senator Klobuchar, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota—her question to Brett Kavanaugh.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: OK. Drinking is one thing, but the concern is about truthfulness. And in your written testimony, you said sometimes you had too many drinks. Was there ever a time when you drank so much that you couldn’t remember what happened or part of what happened the night before?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: No, I—no. I remember what happened. And I think you’ve probably had beer, Senator. And so—
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: So you’re saying there’s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before or part of what happened?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: It’s—you’re asking about, yeah, blackout. I don’t know. Have you?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? I just—so, you—that’s not happened. Is that your answer?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Yeah, and I’m curious if you have.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I have no drinking problem, Judge.
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Yeah. Nor do I.
AMY GOODMAN: This was an amazing moment, Lisa Graves. He called for a break at this point, went away for five minutes, came back and apologized to Senator Klobuchar. It seems that both drinking and his rage, he loses control. He would not answer this question, as he would not answer a question when he was repeatedly asked whether there should be an FBI investigation, threw the questions back at the senators. Amy Klobuchar had just revealed that her father was an alcoholic and he still goes to AA at the age of 90. The significance of this?
LISA GRAVES:Well, I think you did see Brett Kavanaugh behaving belligerently to the Senate. It was actually extraordinary, the degree to which he was completely disrespectful and contemptuous of the senators who were asking genuine questions about how to reconcile his claim that this never happened with the testimony of Dr. Ford that it did and that he was drunk when it happened. And so, when you look at that testimony, although he got some credit for apologizing to Klobuchar, the underlying circumstance of that whole set of statements was that he was dodging and denying his conduct. And he would answer some questions by, in essence, saying it couldn’t have happened because he got into Yale. It couldn’t have happened because he sometimes worked out that summer. He tried to put the events clearly on a weekend, somehow claiming that he could never have been drunk on a weekday, or he had never—he never did any drinking on a weekday, when there were, you know, information in the calendar that showed that there were parties on weekdays, and it was the summer, after all.
But I think that when you look at his statements, what you see is a man, in some ways, in deep denial about who he was and who he may still be. This appeal to beer drinkers of America, I think, was aimed squarely, deliberately, politically toward some subset of the Trump voters. And I think that it was deceptive in the way he described it. He certainly wasn’t looking at the blood alcohol level charts for 1982 in determining how much beer he drank. In his yearbook, he was—he, himself, wrote that entry, according to the people who edited that yearbook, and his entry said that he wanted to be part of that—he was a treasurer and wanted to be part of the 100 Kegs Club, to drink—help drink and clear through a hundred kegs of beer with his buddies. That’s not all. There are other references to drinking there, and not just beer. There’s a reference to Malibu rum, or at least Malibu, which came out the year before, the new product of coconut-tasting rum. I’m from that era. I remember that, as well. He also has made statements in that—in both Fox News and in his testimony, about how his drinking was legal. In fact, in Maryland at the time, where he lived and where many of his friends lived, the drinking age was never legal for him. The drinking age was raised in 1982 to 18 when he was 17. He wasn’t grandfathered in. And even in college it wasn’t legal for him to drink until his senior year of college in Connecticut. But that didn’t stop him from drinking.
Now, people drank in high school; doesn’t make them a rapist, obviously. But in this instance you have someone who’s lying about a substantial matter at issue here, which was Dr. Ford’s testimony that he was drinking, that they were drunk when he attacked her. And he’s doing everything he can to claim that that never happened, couldn’t happen, didn’t happen. And yet his classmates have said, in fact, he did. He drank to excess repeatedly, and he behaved belligerently when he did so. And as James Comey stated in a tweet and then reiterated, in essence, in a column for The New York Times yesterday, the question of truthfulness is a significant one. It’s a significant one in ordinary federal cases because, under the law, there’s a jury instruction that if you lie about one matter, you can be presumed to be lying about the whole matter at issue. Your entire testimony can properly be discounted.
And, in fact, I would say to you, Amy, that it’s not just lying in some sort of “he said, she said” way as some have sought to portray this. This is about a man who is currently a judge and who is being promoted—attempted to be promoted to the highest court in the country. The question of whether this man can state accurately the facts and the law is essential to whether he can actually function as a judge worthy of that job. One of the most essential components for being a judge is that you be honest about the facts and the law. And I think we’ve seen time and time again that Kavanaugh is not honest about the facts or the law.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Lisa Graves, we’ve had you on before earlier, during his earlier hearing, where you alleged he perjured himself earlier. You see a trajectory here. Can you talk about your experience with him over a decade ago?
LISA GRAVES: Yes. So, when I was working for Senator Leahy, I was the chief counsel for nominations for the Senate Judiciary Committee during most of George W. Bush’s first term, and so that meant that I was reviewing the nominees that George Bush was nominating for the federal bench for the circuit courts and the district courts. I had a team of attorneys who I worked with on these nominations. And George W. Bush, at the—with the advice of Brett Kavanaugh and others in the Counsel’s Office, was nominating some very extreme judges to the bench, people like Charles Pickering, who was a Mississippi judge who was—pardon me—nominated for the 5th Circuit, who was tough on all criminal defendants except for a cross burner, convicted cross burner. Suddenly he showed leniency there, among other things. There were also nominees like like William Pryor, who was nominated by George Bush, and William Pryor was a nominee who had made a number of extreme statements about Roe, but also had been embroiled in other scandals.
And so, we were in the midst of these enormous battles over the bench. The Republicans had blocked nearly 70 of Clinton’s nominees to the courts, and then they turned around and tried to pack those vacancies with people who weren’t moderates but were chosen, in some ways, for their extreme backgrounds. And so, in 2003, the Democrats ended up filibustering a number of judges on the floor, including Miguel Estrada, who had been nominated for the D.C. Circuit.
And I’m telling you this because the history is important. It turned out, later that year, in 2003, we learned that files had been stolen from the Senate, my files and other files of staffers of Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee. They’d been stolen by a former Hatch staffer, a staffer who was the Majority Leader Bill Frist’s main person on nominations. There was a Senate investigation into that. The Senate sergeant-at-arms, a Republican, brought in forensic experts to examine the Senate servers, find out what happened. And in March of 2004, that sergeant-at-arms determined in his report that this person named Manuel Miranda, who was Frist’s staffer, was the primary culprit, that he and a buddy of his had stolen more than 4,000 files from the server. And Manny Miranda refused to say who his White House contacts were, who he was in touch with at the White House. But it was clear that he was taking information that would be of value to the White House in fighting for these nominees.
And then, in April 2004, immediately after that Senate investigation was announced and concluded, Brett Kavanaugh came for his first hearing, and he was asked whether he received any of those documents from Manny Miranda, whether he received anything or anything was referred to that might have been a confidential Democratic file or letter or memo. And he denied it absolutely. Turns out, based on some of the emails that came out this summer and in September, that he was lying. He in fact did receive confidential information, confidential memos, including my own—one of my own memos, from Manuel Miranda. And so that was the beginning of my story in Slate.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain again how you have irrefutable proof of this.
LISA GRAVES: Well, so, the White House, as many know, has been trying to prevent most of the materials from Brett Kavanaugh’s tenure in the White House Counsel’s Office and as White House staff secretary from being provided to the Senate. But a small portion of those emails were provided. And within that small portion includes communications that were directly from Manuel Miranda, the person who’s the culprit orchestrating the thefts of these documents, directly to Brett Kavanaugh.
Brett Kavanaugh was the only White House counsel included in those emails; there was another person over at the Justice Department named Don Willett who was included in those emails. But when Manuel Miranda was transmitting this secret information, he was transmitting it only to a very small number of people, that included specifically Brett Kavanaugh, and they were directed to Brett Kavanaugh. And they told him, “This is confidential. Please don’t share it.”
And it included specific references to confidential material for the Democrats, including a memo that I wrote. Manny Miranda says to Brett Kavanaugh, “Here are their talking points.” He then pastes in page after page after page of one of my confidential memos. It was compared by The Washington Post to the original memo that I wrote, a 4,000-word memo, and line after line after line is identical. It was my memo.
And it wasn’t just an ordinary memo. This was the strategic memo setting forth the strategic research about the nomination of Miguel Estrada. That was the first nominee of George Bush that was filibustered on the floor. The White House was desperate to break that filibuster. The only issue in that nomination on the floor was the precedent for turning over memos by a nominee like Miguel Estrada from his time at the Justice Department. My memo went through the scope, both the positive part of the precedent and the limits of that precedent in terms of past nominations of William Rehnquist, Robert Bork, William Bradford Reynolds and others. And so, at the time that Brett Kavanaugh got that memo was at the heart of that fight over that nominee, and it was the sort of soup to nuts of the scope of the precedent in our favor, much of which we had not revealed and that was never revealed until it was published this past month as part of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.
And, in fact, The Washington Post reviewed this matter and found that Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony warranted three Pinocchios for his deceitfulness about this issue of him receiving stolen documents, stolen memos, memos from the Democrats that were clearly, plainly confidential, seeking information that we would never have given to him willingly.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Senator Patrick Leahy questioning Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Why would you ever be asked to keep secret Democratic talking points if they were legitimately obtained?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I am looking at these, Senator, and it says, for example, it looks like—it looks like Biden staff is asking him not to attend the hearing. I don’t know why that—
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: But look how you received it.
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I know. Highly—I don’t why that’s even remotely confidential, because it—
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Whether it is or not, would you consider that somewhat unusual to be receiving from a Republican staff member, something marked “highly confidential,” telling him what he’s found out that a Democrat is going to do?
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Well, as I explained yesterday, Senator, my understanding of this process is that the staffs do talk with one another, that they’re not camps with no communication.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Judge Kavanaugh being questioned by Senator Patrick Leahy earlier, in the second week of September, when the original confirmation hearings were taking place. Can you respond to what he said, Lisa Graves?
LISA GRAVES: Yes. I helped write an op-ed, that was published in Time magazine this past month, that refuted that. It is the case that when lawyers on both sides of that committee were working on legislation, that there would be communications, for example, about how one of their bosses might view a particular provision in a piece of legislation, with the aim of making that piece of legislation better. Information would be shared sometimes—not everything, but sometimes—in order to try to improve a piece of legislation.
The nominations world was completely not like that, and Brett Kavanaugh knows that. We were basically at war with them. They were attacking us. Their buddies, in sort of a predecessor to the Judicial Crisis Network, were actually running ads against the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, calling them anti-Catholic. The White House was calling the members of that committee anti-Catholic, anti-woman, anti-African-American, and anti-immigrant, anti-Latino. They were at war with the Democrats for daring to block some of these very controversial nominees.
The material that Manny Miranda was taking was very valuable to the White House in preparing their defense and attacking the Democrats and trying to anticipate the lines of—the lines of inquiry into some of these nominees or the advocacy of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats were united. There wasn’t a breach at all. They voted all unanimously on each of these nominees. And so, the idea for Brett Kavanaugh to come forward and assert that this was just normal, he didn’t think anything of it, is completely bogus.
And quite frankly, even if you were to credit that notion that at the time he was receiving such confidential information, information marked “Don’t share, don’t disclose,” even the name of a whistleblower about one of the Bush nominees who was very controversial, a woman who put her career at risk in coming forward to the Democrats, the idea that he didn’t think at the time it was a problem is outrageous. But after the fact, after he learned from the investigation that Manny Miranda had stolen information, there’s no excuse for him to say, oh, that there was nothing he received that was problematic.
AMY GOODMAN: Final words, Lisa Graves, as you sum up, having dealt with Brett Kavanaugh from when he was an assistant to President George W. Bush through to these hearings, the two sets of hearings, from September 10th, that period, to what happened on Thursday? Your final thoughts?
LISA GRAVES: Well, Brett Kavanaugh, I think, has shown that he is willing to lie to get ahead. He showed that in 2004 and 2006 to become a D.C. Circuit judge, and he’s shown it this past month in both of his sets of testimony. He lied about his drinking, most recently. He lied about sexual references that are, you know, really irrefutable in his yearbook. He lied about substantive matters in terms of the digital Watergate of Democrats’ files, as well as the nominees he worked on.
But I think, most importantly for these purposes right now, he lied about what happened to Dr. Ford. I think her testimony was credible. I think that his accusations that this is some sort of Clinton conspiracy are completely baseless and ridiculous. And he’s shown himself to be a man who doesn’t have the integrity, in my view, to be entrusted with a lifetime job on the courts and, in particular, to be entrusted with an elevation to the highest court in our country as a 53-year-old man perhaps for the next 20, 30 or even 40 years.
AMY GOODMAN: Lisa Graves, I want to ask you one last question, which goes to this issue of his charges in the hearing last Thursday, when he attacked the Democrats, when he talked about a Clinton conspiracy, a conspiracy of the left, when he talked about the left pouring millions into a campaign to defeat him. He didn’t say that the right has also done that with all of their ads on television—clearly taking a side, a judge, who could become a justice, a Supreme Court justice. What about taking this position now? Does this mean that if progressives go before the Supreme Court, people that he calls a part of this left that tried to defeat him, that he would have to recuse himself?
LISA GRAVES: Well, I don’t think that he would recuse himself. But the fact is, is that his performance this week unmasked him to be the political operative, the hardcore partisan, the win-at-any-cost, by-any-means-necessary guy that he actually has been throughout his career. He has concocted this idea that Dr. Ford’s testimony was somehow part of a Clinton conspiracy. She named him to her therapist years before he was nominated for the Supreme Court. She talked about him to her friends before Donald Trump named him as his choice, when he was on the shortlist. The idea that this is some sort of revenge fantasy by the Clintons is ridiculous. What that does is denigrate, contemptuously and deceitfully, the very clear and compelling testimony of Dr. Ford, who has no motive to lie. She has everything to lose by telling the truth. And Brett Kavanaugh has shown that—has everything to gain by lying. And, in fact, he has gained by lying.
I think there is a serious risk that if this man were confirmed, that he would in fact do everything that they want him to do—the Judicial Crisis Network, the people who are spending millions to try to install him on the court. The reason they want him so badly is because they think he’ll be a sure thing in their in their wishlist for changing our U.S. Supreme Court, for changing our precedents, in order to serve the very narrow interests of the very special interests that are secretly bankrolling him into this position through these ads.
And I think it was very disingenuous of him to call out groups that are opposing him on the merits for his record on environmental issues, his record on women’s rights issues and more, calling them out while he knows that his buddies over at the Federalist Society—Leonard Leo and the gang—has raised millions of dollars to try to put him on the bench, through these ads running across the country. And we don’t know who the donors are. We know only some retrospective information, but not all of it, and we know the Koch brothers are enmeshed in these sorts of operations, and they have a definite political and legal agenda to try to change our precedents to serve their own interests to the disadvantage of Americans everywhere.
AMY GOODMAN: Lisa Graves, we want to thank you so much for being with us, co-director of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy, former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. We’ll link to your piece in Slate, “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About.”
And you can go to Part 1 of our conversation with Lisa Graves at democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.