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Controversy brews around the White House as senators question Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, which touched on the Mueller probe and Roe v. Wade, was overshadowed by the controversy around possible dissent within the White House on a week when The New York Times published an unsigned op-ed by a Trump administration official. Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Joining us now from Santa Barbara is our weekend special correspondent Jeff Greenfield. Jeff there are always dissenters within administrations between the Woodward book and the op-ed piece, is there something different?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Yeah I think the difference is staggering you're quite right. There are always people who will try to challenge a policy from the inside by leaking often to Bob Woodward. But the nature of these statements the fact that a high-ranking aide takes a piece of paper off the president's desk to keep him from executing a disastrous policy. The endless accounts of people at the highest level calling the president idiot unhinged that this is crazy town. We have never seen anything like this before. And also what makes us interesting to me is how many of Trump's fiercest critics are also criticizing the anonymous op-ed. Their argument is look if you feel this strongly the president is a danger to the nation your job is to resign and say it publicly. But that's you know that's really not what's going on here. For all kinds of reasons. And as far I hear the vice president saying this might be criminal, reminds me of a joke from the old Soviet Union of a dissident calling Khrushchev an idiot and being thrown in jail for revealing a state secret.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So why do these people stick around? I mean there was a famous now famous resignation by a person that ran the student loan section of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just a little while ago, a week or two ago, that resignation letter with his name on it carried away. So why stick around and try to do this?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Some of it is the belief that well I can do more from the inside and preventing disasters. Some of it is just sheer careerism. I've got a job I got a White House car. I like it. But I think the other reason to be fair is a lot of people are asking well what good would it do? Because in normal times the resignation of high-ranking aides would have a huge impact even on the president's own party. But again and again we've seen in this case as Republican Senator Ben Sasse has said the Republicans have made a Faustian bargain they're willing to accept behavior that is otherwise unacceptable in return for tax cuts for regulatory reform and for the wholesale revamping of the federal bench. And so in that case the argument may well be from the inside. Well if I resign it's not going to have any impact anyway.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You know in any normal week the big story that we'll be talking about now is the third story is the confirmation hearings. You watched them for Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. What did you think?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Well when she was a young law professor Elena Kagan now on the Supreme Court called the confirmation process a vapid charade and boy was she confirmed this week. I thought this became a parody. You have the allies of the nominee. They didn't start with Kavanaugh by the way you have the allies of the nominee throwing tough questions like, well it do you believe. No one is above the law. Yes. No one is above the law one day. All right I want to see a guy come in and say you know what if you have enough money and power yeah you are above the law. Let's start with the Wall Street CEOs who crashed the economy. And then the Democrats all of whom are opposed to him anyway. Are you going to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Come on. Why don't you tell us you're really going to overturn Roe versus Wade and the response is Well Roe vs. Wade is a precedent which means the same thing as water is wet. All that means is it's a precedent. Until the court overrules it. And so what you've got then you've got others on the committee who are using this to run their launch their presidential campaigns. I think we got from this subtraction rather than in addition to what we need to know about what makes a good judge and I'm not sure this this process has any more validity maybe in the future they can figure out a different way to vet these folks.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Jeff Greenfield joining us from California. Thanks so much.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    OK.

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