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In hearing showdown, Democrats push for Kavanaugh documents

It took just 10 seconds for the Brett Kavanaugh hearing to get contentious. One by one, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee derailed the plan for opening statements and demanded more time to review the judge's massive public record. Meanwhile, a barrage of protesters kept interrupting the proceedings. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the dramatic start.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It is showdown time in the United States Senate over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

    His confirmation hearings opened today with a donnybrook over unreleased documents and repeated protests from observers.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins our coverage.

    It took just 10 seconds for the hearing to get contentious.

  • Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa:

    I welcome everyone to this confirmation hearing on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve as associate justice of the Supreme Court to the United States.


  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.:

    Mr. Chairman, I would like to be recognized for a question before we proceed.

    Mr. Chairman, I would like to be recognized and ask a question before we proceed.

    The committee received just last night, less than 15 hours ago, 42,000 pages of documents that we have not had an opportunity to review or read or analyze.

  • Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa:

    You're out of order. I will proceed.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    One by one, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee derailed a plan for opening statements and demanded more time to review Brett Kavanaugh's massive public record.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    We believe this hearing should be postponed.


  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.:

    Mr. Chairman, if we cannot be recognized, I move to adjourn. Mr. Chairman, I move to adjourn.


  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.:

    Mr. Chairman, I move to adjourn.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The melee continued for more than an hour.

    Republicans pushed back.

  • Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa:

    How ridiculous it is to say that we don't have the records that it takes to determine if this person qualified to be on the Supreme Court, when all the documents we have add up to more than we have had for the last five Supreme Court nominees.

  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas:

    I would suggest that, if this were a court of law, that virtually every side, every member on the dais on that side would be held in contempt of court.

  • Man:

    At some point, are we going to get to hear from the nominee?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All this amidst a barrage of interrupting protesters inside the room. Capitol Police escorted them out, leaving empty seats in the back and openly frustrated Republicans in front.

  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:

    Frankly, these people are so out of line, they shouldn't even be allowed in the doggone room.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There were more protesters outside the room. This group's outfits referencing the television show "The Handmaid's Tale," a symbol of women's rights and the drama at the hearing itself.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And let's talk to our own Lisa, who was in the hearing room.

    Lisa, it wasn't what everybody expected.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    No, it wasn't. It was really remarkable.

    Judy, I have been to a lot of contentious hearings, especially in the last one-and-a-half years. And this sort of outranks them all, and this is just day one.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's right.

    I think, starting from the beginning, as you saw, the hearing barely got under way, when the Democratic senators — and we knew that there was unrest among Democrats about the failure of the White House to release some documents of a lawyer representing President George W. Bush, in whose administration Brett Kavanaugh worked.

    But what we didn't realize, that we were going to see all 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee ultimately express extreme unhappiness and call for the hearing to stop.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. They took turns. They were clearly unified. They had spent a lot of time strategizing, Judy.

    And in the end, what they were talking about today most specifically where those 40,000-plus pages of documents that they just got last night, but really the bigger issue is just the massive amount of paper in Brett Kavanaugh's history.

    Democrats especially would like to see documents pertaining to the time he spent as White House staff secretary. That's when he saw perhaps millions of pages of documents cross his desk. He may have rung in on them or not. But they do not have access to that at all.

    And they're complaining about that. Those documents will be eventually made public, but they haven't yet.

    Meanwhile, Judy, it was also contentious, of course, in the crowd. And Capitol Police just e-mailed us, said that overall they made some 61 removals from that room. That's really remarkable, because there were just 40 seats for the public.

    So what was happening, protesters were coming in, being taken out, and the next people in line were often other protesters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    At one point, it looked like virtually everybody who was there to watch the hearing was being…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think that's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Was being taken away who wasn't part of the — part of the Kavanaugh group or the press.

    So the day did move on. It moved on to statements by the senators, which is what was planned. And let's take a listen to what happened next.

    Here's more of Lisa's report.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Democrats pressed on specific issues, often the most controversial issues in American life.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

    I want to talk a little bit about one of the big decisions that we have, the belief that, although you told Senator Collins that you believed it was settled law, the question is really, do you believe that it's correct law? And that's Roe v. Wade.

    The president that nominated you has said, "I will nominate someone who is anti-choice and pro-gun."

    And we believe what he said.

  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.:

    The NRA has poured millions into your confirmation promising their members that you will break the tie. They clearly have big expectations on how you will vote on guns.

  • Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.:

    You are aspiring to be the most decisive vote on the Supreme Court on critical issues. Over and above all of those things is this. You are the nominee of President Donald John Trump. This is a president who has shown us consistently that he's contemptuous of the rule of law.

    And it's that president who's decided you are his man, you're the person he wants on the Supreme Court. You are his personal choice. So are people nervous about this? Are they concerned about it? Of course they are.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Kavanaugh listened attentively, but silently. Republicans tried to speak for him, charging that Democrats were inflaming partisan emotions.

  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas:

    And I sincerely hope this week we can all take a deep breath. We're not doing very well so far. And get a grip and treat this process with the respect and gravity it demands.

  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:

    Go ask anyone who practices regularly before the Supreme Court who doesn't have a partisan agenda, and they will tell you Judge Kavanaugh is exactly the kind of person we should have on the court.

  • Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah:

    You are independent. You have written that — quote — "Some of the greatest moments in American traditional history have been when judges stood up to the other branches."

    Everyone knows that you served in the Bush administration. And yet when you became a judge, in only two years, you ruled against the Bush administration a total of eight times. For you, it simply doesn't matter who the parties are.

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