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“They Did Not Care”: How the GOP Dismissed Assault Accusations & Confirmed Kavanaugh

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Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in Saturday as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, just hours after the Senate voted to confirm him amid massive protests outside the Capitol. He will begin hearing cases Tuesday and could vote as early as Tuesday or Wednesday on a case that tests how much power courts would wield over the executive branch. His nomination came under intense public scrutiny after accusations of attempted rape and sexual assault surfaced. We begin our coverage with Jodi Jacobson, president and editor-in-chief of Rewire, who wrote a piece this weekend headlined “A 'Titanic Fraud': Susan Collins, the 'Moderate' Who Never Was.” Senator Collins “went on the floor of the Senate to literally gaslight the entire nation about both the process and the nominee himself,” Jacobson says, responding to Collins’s vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in Saturday as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, just hours after the Senate voted to confirm him amidst massive protests outside the Capitol. Kavanaugh will begin hearing cases Tuesday and could vote as early as Tuesday or Wednesday on a case that tests how much power courts would wield over the executive branch.

His nomination came under intense public scrutiny after accusations of attempted rape and sexual assault surfaced. One of his accusers, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Kavanaugh’s alleged rape attempt when she was 15 and he 17. Attorney Debra Katz told MSNBC Dr. Blasey Ford is still living in hiding after her testimony.

DEBRA KATZ: This has been terrifying. Her family has been through a lot. They are not living at home. It’s going to be quite some time before they’re able to live at home. The threats have been unending. It’s deplorable. It’s been very frightening. And she’s also received extraordinary letters of support and encouragement. But these threats are extremely distressing.

AMY GOODMAN: Brett Kavanaugh has denied allegations of sexual assault made by Dr. Blasey Ford, as well as two more women: Julie Swetnick and his former Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a party. In a statement released Saturday, Ramirez said that by their vote, the senators were, quote, “deliberately ignoring Kavanaugh’s behavior,” adding, quote, “I feel like I’m right back at Yale where half the room is laughing and looking the other way. This is how victims are isolated and silenced,” Ramirez said.

The Senate voted Saturday to confirm Kavanaugh’s lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court by a vote of 50 to 48. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the lone Republican to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. She voted “present” so that Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana could attend his daughter’s wedding without voting. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat to break ranks and back the judge. Vice President Pence was in the Senate gallery to oversee the vote as protesters shouted their opposition.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Sergeant-at-arms will restore order in the gallery.

PROTESTER 1: I do not consent! I do not consent! Where is my representation? I do not consent! I do not consent!

UNIDENTIFIED: Is there a sufficient second?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Is there a sufficient second?

UNIDENTIFIED: There is a sufficient second.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: There is a sufficient second. The clerk will call the roll.

CLERK: Mr. Alexander.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: Aye.

PROTESTER 2: I am a mother, and I am a patriot! I will not be silent!

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The sergeant-at-arms will restore order in the gallery.

PROTESTERS: [inaudible]

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The sergeant-at-arms will restore order in the gallery.

AMY GOODMAN: Saturday’s vote came after Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine announced Friday, after weeks of suspense, she would vote to confirm.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court, so that we have far fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our judiciary and our highest court is restored. Mr. President, I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

AMY GOODMAN: During Collins’ speech, so many users logged onto a crowdfunding website to raise $4 million to support her opponent in Maine that it crashed. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday on Fox the vote could help Republicans in November.

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL: We stood up for the presumption of innocence. We refused to be intimidated by the mob of people that were coming after Republican members at their homes, in the halls. … These things always blow over. … Our base is fired up. We finally discovered the one thing that would fire up the Republican base, and we didn’t think of it. The other side did it.

AMY GOODMAN: Senate Majority Leader McConnell also said he was prepared to take up another nomination to the Supreme Court by President Trump in 2020, even though he blocked President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 because it was an election year.

This comes as President Trump is already touting Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court as a major victory. Speaking Saturday at a rally in Topeka, Kansas, he urged voters to support Republican candidates, saying Democrats had become, quote, “too extreme and too dangerous to govern.”

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry left-wing mob. And that’s what they’ve become.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by three guests in Washington, D.C. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, was part of the protests in front of the Supreme Court Saturday against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Also with us, Jodi Jacobson, president and editor-in-chief of Rewire. She wrote a piece this weekend headlined “A 'Titanic Fraud': Susan Collins, the 'Moderate' Who Never Was.” And Soraya Chemaly, longtime writer and feminist activist and author of the new book Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger. She’s also director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project and organizer of the Safety and Free Speech Coalition.

We welcome you all back to Democracy Now! So, that moment, at 3:00 on Friday, when Susan Collins announced that she would vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice of the United States, Jodi Jacobson, that’s what you focused on in your column. Talk about the significance of this. Of course, Senator Murkowski of Alaska announced she would not support Judge Kavanaugh. In the end, she simply voted “present” to balance out her colleague, Senator Daines, who went home to his daughter’s wedding. But Senator Collins, Jodi, why do you call her a fraud?

JODI JACOBSON: Well, Senator Collins has often been portrayed as a moderate, but that portrayal is really an inside-the-Beltway portrayal. It’s a convenient tool for media pundits to use in order to have someone on the Republican side they can use to frame up with Joe Manchin, for example. But Susan Collins is not a moderate. She has voted with Mitch McConnell and with now President Trump most of the time.

She has taken a step here—it’s really beyond just a vote. She went on the floor of the Senate to literally gaslight the entire nation about both the process and about the nominee himself. She took Republican talking points about the process of the FBI investigation, for example, which was far from complete and far from thorough and did not even include an interview with either Brett Kavanaugh or Dr. Blasey Ford, and called it a complete investigation. It didn’t have—there were many, many witnesses that were not called and many leads that were not followed. It was really the epitome of window dressing. So she tried to tell us that a full investigation had been carried out, that she had, you know, examined his record and found it to be far more centrist or liberal than other people—mostly all of us—have deemed it to be, or have read it to be, rather.

And then, also, she then went on to tell Dr. Blasey Ford that she did not know what she was talking about. And there’s this Republican line that goes, “Well, we believe Dr. Blasey Ford, but we don’t think she really knows what happened to her.” And if that is not the definition of trying to gaslight someone, I don’t know what is. It was deeply, deeply painful, really. I mean that [inaudible].

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to the fact that neither Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh was interviewed by the FBI—a very different situation than being questioned at the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is what Dr. Blasey Ford had called for, an FBI investigation. The criticism at the beginning, once it was going forward, is don’t just interview the two of them; go beyond that. But I think very few people thought—maybe Mitch McConnell did—that the two of them weren’t going to be interviewed.

And it’s particularly significant when it comes to Brett Kavanaugh, because he would be under oath. It wouldn’t be the Democrats asking questions, and he could attack them for being Democrat, and then the Republicans simply supporting him. He would—having to directly answer FBI questions. Can you explain how it was possible that the FBI investigation didn’t include interviews with these two primary people?

JODI JACOBSON: [inaudible] investigation was controlled by the White House in conjunction with the Republican side of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and they decided together what would happen in the investigation. And literally, there were people that were—that the FBI was not allowed to interview, and among those were Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford. So, you have a situation where Kavanaugh, who lied under oath numerous times outside the scope of this issue of the sexual assault, but on many other issues, was not being put under oath by the FBI. And if you watched the hearing, when he was questioned repeatedly—I think it was by Dick Durbin and several others—”Would you call for an FBI investigation?” he remained silent. So he clearly did not want to be put under oath, and he did not want other people to be interviewed.

And let’s face it: He spent the better part of the two weeks, before the FBI investigation, in the White House with Don McGahn. So, there’s no way there was going to be a fair and thorough FBI investigation, because he was part of the group calling the shots. I think the key thing here to realize is, if you wanted justice and if you wanted to really understand if Dr. Blasey Ford had merit and credibility and her claims were credible, then you would want to do a thorough investigation, and you would want to remove any question. But the reality we have to grapple with is they did not care, and they did not want to understand. And that is what’s so—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, clearly, clearly, they deeply cared about putting him on the Supreme Court.

JODI JACOBSON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring in Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who spoke on Thursday, making a new claim about the contents of the FBI documents on Kavanaugh that were reviewed by senators in the Senate basement, one after another, not being able to bring in a pen, not being able to take out any notes. This is what she said.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Senators have been muzzled. So, I will now say three things that committee staff has explained are permissible to say without violating committee rules, statements that I have also independently verified as accurate. One, this was not a full and fair investigation. It was sharply limited in scope and did not explore the relevant confirming facts. Two, the available documents do not exonerate Mr. Kavanaugh. And three, the available documents contradict statements Mr. Kavanaugh made under oath.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Senator Warren. And this is extremely significant, Jodi, because people don’t know what were in those documents that these senators reviewed, and she’s saying they were not exonerating.

JODI JACOBSON: Right, because—I think it was very critical for her to say that clearly and loudly, because what you’ve got is spin on the other side of the aisle saying, “Well, these documents show that, you know, there was no evidence for Dr. Blasey Ford’s claims.” And if you know what it’s like to be gaslighted when you’ve been attacked—and I do—it’s the most dehumanizing kind of experience to have something happen to you, to try to press for help, and to have people dismiss you. I can’t tell you how collective—the collective pain of this episode has touched so many women, not only, of course, the women who were there throughout the two weeks protesting at the Capitol, giving their all, but women throughout this country who have been in this situation and have been gaslighted about it. And so, it’s really deeply painful.

AMY GOODMAN: Jodi Jacobson, president and editor of Rewire.News, wrote a piece this weekend headlined “A 'Titanic Fraud': Susan Collins, the 'Moderate' Who Never Was.” A crowdfunding website was set up after she said she was voting for Brett Kavanaugh. Four million dollars was immediately raised for whoever her opponent will be in Maine. Among the names that were bandied about was Susan Rice and Cecile Richards. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’ll be back with reaction in the streets and in the Senate chamber in a moment.

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