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Kavanaugh allegations scramble confirmation outlook

President Trump defended nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Monday from allegations by Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her decades ago, but also said Ford should be heard out. Democrats have been quick to call for a delay, and a handful of Republicans have also voiced concern. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor share developments with Judy Woodruff.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Christine Blasey Ford's allegation has scrambled the picture for senators considering whether Kavanaugh is fit to join the highest court in the land and for the White House, who sees this nomination as a key priority.

    We cover both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue now with Lisa Desjardins, who continues her reporting from Capitol Hill, and Yamiche Alcindor, who's been tracking developments at the White House.

    Lisa, we just heard your reporting. And in the last few minutes, we have heard senators are now confirming a public hearing next week. What do you know?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    We can confirm that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on this exact matter next week. We have confirmed it will be within a week. Others are reporting it will be on Monday.

    The reason we're finding out now, Judy, is because Republican members of the Judiciary Committee are just walking out of Senator McConnell's office after meeting together to figure out their plan and after, we're told, having a phone call with Brett Kavanaugh himself.

    This is not something every Republican agrees on. Some think that an open hearing could be a show trial by Democrats. But others have won that argument and say, let's put this out in the public and do it soon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now, Yamiche, you have been talking to people at the White House all day long. The president obviously standing by Judge Kavanaugh, but at the same time saying he wants this story out.

    So how do you explain his thinking, their thinking right now?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president is really trying to be reserved, but is also deeply frustrated at the fact that this nomination is now being hampered.

    He said that he praised Judge Kavanaugh today. He said that he was a great judicial mind. But he also said that everyone should be heard in this instance.

    And that's very in some ways uncharacteristic for this president, because there are times where he lashes out when he gets angry and tweets about Democrats. He hasn't — he hasn't at all attacked the accuser. Instead, he said that he's sticking by Judge Kavanaugh, but wants to know more.

    Judge Kavanaugh just a few minutes ago released a statement saying that he was happy to speak before a hearing, that he wanted to clear his name. All that is happening, but the president still says that this nomination is on track.

    There are a lot of Republicans who disagree.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And back to you, Lisa.

    You have been talking to a number of senators one by one, especially the ones who haven't announced yet what they're going to do on Kavanaugh. What are they now saying? What sense are you getting?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think, by and large, those undecided senators — we're talking about Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski especially on the Republican side — have said that they do want to hear more under oath from both Brett Kavanaugh and from his accuser, Ms. Ford.

    It looks like they're going to get that opportunity. And I think we have to pay attention especially to what the format of this hearing is precisely, who speaks. Both sides right now are trying to gather corroborating evidence for both of these individuals who are concerned.

    But, also, Mr. Kavanaugh is saying things in private to senators that I think is going to be important. Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican close to the White House, told me and other reporters today that in a phone call with Brett Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh insisted not only did this never happen, but he said he was never at this party.

    And that is something is unclear, how would he know because the details of this party are vague in and of themselves? In addition, there's questions about, if he was inebriated, how did he know that he wasn't there?

    So the details — he is being very firm that this story is not remotely like anything that ever happened to him. However, he's telling senators more details in private that I think will indicate — we're going to hear a lot more in the hearing and his story will be tested, as well his accuser's.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just very quickly, finally, Yamiche, the White House,no question they know the political stakes involved here.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    They absolutely understand the political stakes involved here.

    Brett Kavanaugh spent several hours at the White House today. Sources wouldn't say who he was meeting with. President Trump said he hadn't spoken directly with Brett Kavanaugh. But we do know that there are at least $2 million dollars in political ads.

    On the left, there's a group called We Demand Justice. It's an anti-Kavanaugh group that said it's going to spend more than $700,000 on ads fighting this — fighting his nomination. But the Judicial Crisis Network, which is a group of conservatives, say that they're going to put $1.5 million behind defending Brett Kavanaugh.

    So there's a lot of money and a lot at stake.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor at the White House, Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, we thank you both.

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