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FBI report on Kavanaugh raises protests by Democrats

Outside the Supreme Court on Thursday, some 3,000 protesters demanded the Brett Kavanaugh nomination be rejected, while inside the Capitol, senators read the FBI's report on the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats said the report was incomplete, but all eyes were on key votes like Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Susan Collins. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff for more.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The results are in from the FBI report on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and recent allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. Now a handful of senators have to decide.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Outside the Supreme Court, some 3,000 protesters demanded the Kavanaugh on nomination be rejected.

  • Man:

    We will take a look at the report and study it through.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Across the street, inside the Capitol, senators trooped to a secure room to read the FBI's report on the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

    All eyes were on key voters, like Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who helped force the reopening of the FBI probe.

  • Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.:

    And now we're in the process of reviewing it. But thus far, we have seen no new credible corroboration, no new corroboration at all.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Another closely watched vote, Susan Collins of Maine. She said the new investigation appeared very thorough.

    For his part, President Trump tweeted that the allegations against Kavanaugh were totally uncorroborated. But Democrats argued the report resolved nothing. Dianne Feinstein is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

    The most notable part of this report is what's not in it. It looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation that was limited, perhaps by the White House.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford, who's accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, complained she and other witnesses were never interviewed.

    In a statement, they too blamed the president, saying "Those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth."

  • Question:

    Mr. President, did you put any limits on the FBI investigation?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Mr. Trump ignored shouted questions about the probe as he left the White House on a political trip. But Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insisted the White House didn't micromanage the process.

  • Sarah Sanders:

    We accommodated all of the Senate's requests. The president was very clear about that and allowed the FBI to make those decisions and interview who they thought they needed to do so.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Democrats also argued there's not enough time for all senators to view the documents before a key procedural vote tomorrow.

  • Virginia Senator Tim Kaine:

  • Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.:

    There is now a report, one copy. They're letting senators come in for hour-long blocks. Guess what? There's not 100 hours between when they made it available at 8:00 a.m. and when they want to do the vote. So they don't want 100 senators to read it.

    I'm not allowed to discuss it. The public can't see it. It's a complete sham.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But one previously undecided Democrat, North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, announced she will vote against confirming Kavanaugh.

    And pressure mounted on others. Supporters of Kavanaugh showed up at the office of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who remains undecided.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins me now, along with White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

    So, Lisa, what do we know about this report? What are senators saying? And is it changing any votes?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We know the supplemental report itself is something like 50 pages or so. And it included interviews with at least nine people, and apparently the FBI reached out to at least a 10th person who may not have spoken to them.

    Senators are not supposed to speak about it, but I know Senator Kennedy told me the whole Kavanaugh file is now about — let me show the camera — about this big, is what he said.

    And what happened then behind those closed doors — you heard Senator Kaine reference this — senators had to split up the supplemental interviews and pass them around one by one. At one point, they had staff reading out loud the entire supplemental report.

    I think, in the end, though, I didn't hear any senator indicate that what they found in today's report is something substantially new. That is good news for Republicans who support Mr. Kavanaugh. But, of course, Democrats are complaining that this report was stacked in that direction from the get-go. That's their feeling.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, what are they saying at the White House? What's the state of play there?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House and President Trump are very happy and they want this vote to happen quickly. The fact that there was no new information seemingly innocent in this FBI investigation is not only good news for Republicans.

    As Lisa said, it's good news for the White House, who was a little worry about what they could find. And Sarah Sanders today gave a very vigorous defense of Brett Kavanaugh. She said that he's given more than any other nominee, included — and she was referring to his interviews, to the document that he handed over.

    She's also referring to the testimony that he gave. And really what she's saying there is that enough is enough. Brett Kavanaugh needs to get a vote. Everyone should be able to just have an opinion right now.

    I was at the White House today when the president walked by, our reporters screaming, and really asking all these different questions. I myself wanted to ask him about mocking Dr. Ford and whether or not he feels like he has the votes to confirm his nominee.

    He didn't say anything to us. But he did tweet, as the president often dead. And what he said was "This is a very important time in our country. Due process, fairness and common sense are now on trial."

    So that's the White House's take.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, you have also been talking to the other side. What are critics of Brett Kavanaugh and defenders of Christine Blasey Ford, her legal team, what are they saying?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The number one complaint is that the FBI should have done more. They should have talked to more people. They should have had more time to conduct this investigation.

    Everyone thinks that the White House — or at least the critic of this think that the White House somehow limited the FBI, told them that you can only speak to these people and don't speak to Dr. Ford and don't speak to Brett Kavanaugh.

    The White House, of course, vigorously denies that. And Dr. Ford's legal team put out a four-page letter today. Now, usually, they have been giving statements with a couple paragraphs. But this is four pages. And what they really are saying in here is that there are a number of people that the FBI should have talked to. They said that the FBI should have talked to the polygraph examiners, talking — and really had him explain what the results of that polygraph were they say that she passed.

    They also say the FBI should have talked to Dr. Ford's husband. They said that they should have talked to Dr. Ford's friends that she told about the idea that she had been sexually assaulted long before Brett Kavanaugh was the nominee.

    So that's really what people are saying, that the White House did this on purpose. But the White House again is saying, we didn't limit this. We didn't micromanage this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Lisa, we're down to just a few votes. What does it look like in the Senate?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All of these segments we have done, what Brett Kavanaugh has ruled in the past, his past hearing, all of it comes down to tomorrow now, Judy.

    The Senate has scheduled the key vote, which is a procedural vote called cloture, for 10:30 tomorrow morning. And, first of all, we know that Democrats got a no vote that they wanted today from Heidi Heitkamp.

    And I want to point out why she voted no. She's significant because she was a yes vote on Justice Gorsuch. She said today "I voted for Justice Gorsuch because I felt his legal ability and temperament qualified him to serve on the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh is different."

    Then she went on to talk about the stories of sexual assault that people have told her in the last week. And she wrote "Our actions right now are a poignant signal to young girls and women across our country."

    She is running for her life in North Dakota to keep her job, and she has voted no. That's significant. Also, the senators now to watch — so she's a no vote. There's four senators to watch, how they vote in the next day, of course, Maine Senator Susan Collins, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

    Jeff Flake was a yes at one point. He's never indicated otherwise. Joe Manchin, one of the last senators to read the report today, I'm told he will return tomorrow morning to look at it again, hours before the vote.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So much interest in what these senators are doing.

    Lisa, Yamiche, thank you both.

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