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Kavanaugh exhibited troubling ‘partisanship’ last week, says Sen. Coons

With only a few more days before the Senate is expected to vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, Judy Woodruff talks with Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., of the Senate Judiciary Committee, about the progress of the FBI investigation, questions he’d like to see answered and his perception of Kavanaugh’s demeanor during last week’s hearing.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we return to new questions about Judge Brett Kavanaugh's past and the future of his confirmation battle in the Senate.

    Senator Chris Coons is a Democrat from Delaware, and he serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Senator, thank you for joining us again.

    What do at this point about the state of the FBI investigation, this supplemental investigation?

  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:

    Judy, I know that it's ongoing. I know that agents have been investigating and interviewing people over the last couple of days.

    I do not know what the exact scope is of this investigation or when they intend to bring it to a close.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, as our Lisa Desjardins reported a few minutes ago, there's now a letter from Dr. Blasey Ford's attorneys to the FBI saying that none of their — the information they have offered — their phone calls have not been returned. The information they have offered to turn over has not been — the FBI hasn't taken them up on that.

    What's your understanding of their efforts to seek any further information from Dr. Blasey Ford?

  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:

    I don't have direct knowledge of this from the FBI, obviously.

    But I think that both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford should have been questioned early in this process, and then the other individuals who have made allegations against Judge Kavanaugh a documents that were brought forward in last week's Senate Judiciary Committee testimony last Thursday should be used as the basis for further investigation.

    I was concerned, Judy, last Sunday, when there were press reports that the entire investigation was going to consist of questioning for individuals, and that would be it.

    I certainly had imagined a broader, more open, more fulsome investigation this week. And I was encouraged when President Trump said that he had directed the White House counsel, Don McGahn, to say that the FBI should be free to pursue all reasonable investigatory leads this week as they pursue the credible claims in front of the Judiciary Committee.

    I don't think we will know exactly how many people were interviewed and by whom until Friday. But I also have tried to refer forward to the FBI people who have contacted my office. I'm not vouching for the credibility of their claims. I'm just trying to make sure that we're doing our job in passing them forward promptly. And I have found that process a little difficult.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So how will when you see — or, at some point, you will see the results of the FBI's work. How will that they have done the thorough investigation that you believe they should have?

  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:

    Well, to be clear, this is in the nature of a compromise, Judy.

    If I were designing an FBI follow-up background investigation to the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, it would last much longer, be much broader than what I suspect will be accomplished this week.

    But I asked, I implored my good friend and colleague, Senator Jeff Flake last Friday to consider a one-week pause, and to allow the FBI to investigate the allegations that were right in front of us at that point. That's what I have worked hard in the last couple of days to make sure happens.

    That's what I believe Republican senators are working to make happen. And the FBI has a lot of resources and a lot of agents. They're capable of pursuing parallel investigations. They should be able to interview dozens of people in a week.

    But I don't know exactly how broad the scope will be. And I'm not sure what will be in the final report that the Senate should receive this Friday.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What is your read on your Republican colleagues who have not declared themselves yet on Judge Kavanaugh, on whether they're — whether they are open to not supporting his nomination if they don't — if they don't feel satisfied by the results of this investigation?

  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:

    Well, Judy, I'm not going to characterize recent conversations.

    But I will say that, publicly, last week, they said — a few key Republican senators — that if there were not a one-week pause for the FBI to investigate the allegations in front of the committee, then they weren't comfortable voting for cloture, voting to move ahead with his confirmation.

    So it's my expectation that's what precipitated this week. I did publish an editorial today in a newspaper here in Washington that lays out what I would expect would be in that FBI background investigation. But I think what has moved this forward and what I'm — what I'm grateful for is the assertion by a few undecided Republican senators that they thought there were allegations in front of the committee that deserved to be investigated, either to clear Judge Kavanaugh of these allegations or to corroborate the allegations made by Dr. Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and others.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, as you know, there's more conversation now about truth and temperament, about whether Judge Kavanaugh adhered to what is known to be the facts, the truth when he was testifying about his own — his own past and the temperament that he displayed.

    Are those going to be part of senators' decisions when they decide whether to confirm or not?

  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:

    I think they should be, because I think temperament, fitness goes to our advice-and-consent role. Different senators, I think, will reach different conclusions.

    In the very long, very heated, very emotional hearing that we had last Thursday, Dr. Ford came forward with riveting testimony. I am convinced that she believes she was assaulted. And I am convinced that Judge Kavanaugh believes he didn't commit that assault.

    But it's very difficult to reconcile those two competing narratives. I do think that Judge Kavanaugh was aggressive in the ways he interacted with several members of the committee, and came up to or even crossed the line in terms of the partisanship of his accusations against the Senate committee and the Democrats on the committee.

    I think Judge Kavanaugh would have been better served to leave those arguments to his partisan defenders on the committee, rather than making those arguments so forcefully himself in that setting.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just to be clear, you have definitely decided to vote no?

  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:

    I concluded at the end of the previous round of confirmation hearings that, because of Judge Kavanaugh's extreme views on presidential power and on substantive due process and individual liberty, that I would vote against his nomination.

    That was before Dr. Ford's allegations were the subject of a lengthy hearing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, we thank you.

  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:

    Thank you.

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