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Republicans push back on new Kavanaugh allegation as Democrats call for delay

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his allies in the White House are pushing back against a new allegation of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh’s former classmate at Yale University told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during their freshman year. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins update Judy Woodruff on the latest developments.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    An unclear future for two men in the spotlight.

    First, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his allies in the White House are pushing back against a new allegation of sexual misconduct. As some Senate Democrats call for a delay, Senate Republicans are pressing forward with plans for the nominee and one of his accusers to testify on Thursday.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    Judge Kavanaugh will be voted on here on the Senate floor, up or down. On the Senate floor, this fine nominee to the Supreme Court will receive a vote in this Senate in the near future.

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.:

    There is simply no way in good conscience, no way that the United States Senate can vote on this nomination of Brett Kavanaugh without a full, fair investigation and without an opportunity to be heard for these sexual assault survivors.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And on a second front, questions swirled about the future of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

    Our Capitol Hill correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, and our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, have both been covering these stories. And they join me now.

  • And a note:

    This and the next conversation will contain some explicit language.

    Hello to both of you.

    So, Lisa, I'm going to start with you.

    Summarize for us what these new allegations are against Brett Kavanaugh.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    These appeared in "The New Yorker" last night. And these are from a woman who says — named Deborah Ramirez.

    She says she went to college, to Yale College with Kavanaugh. And at a party, at a dorm, this is a quote. She remembers Kavanaugh "had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent."

    That is the accusation in this article. Now, there are no eyewitnesses that were able to corroborate that story. There is one person that "The New Yorker" spoke with who said he remembers hearing about this incident.

    But The New York Times soon after "The New Yorker" did its reporting came out with its own story. And The New York Times wrote — quote — "The Times had interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate Ms. Ramirez's story and could find no one with firsthand knowledge."

    So this is a new accusation, but there are no eyewitnesses. And The New York Times said it didn't report because it didn't feel it had enough information.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we should say we're going to be — I'm going to be talking in a few minutes with Ronan Farrow, who is one of the authors of the "New Yorker" story.

    So, Yamiche, the White House has been dealing now for over a week with accusations from one woman. Now comes an accusation from another woman.

    How are they defending? What are they saying?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, first, Brett Kavanaugh's also defending himself, which is why the White House is sticking by him.

    Brett Kavanaugh says that he didn't do this, that there is nothing in his past that would even suggest that he would do something like this. He revealed something very personal today when he was sitting down. He sat down with FOX News to do an interview with them.

    Let me listen — let me — let me play for you a little bit about what he talked about with FOX News.

  • Brett Kavanaugh:

    I have never sexually assaulted anyone. I didn't have sexual intercourse course or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter.

  • Question:

    Through all these years that are in question, you were a virgin?

  • Brett Kavanaugh:

    That's correct.

  • Question:

    Never had sexual intercourse with anyone in high school?

  • Brett Kavanaugh:

    Correct.

  • Question:

    And through what years in college, since we're probing into your personal life here?

  • Brett Kavanaugh:

    Many years, many years after. I will leave it at that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, Brett Kavanaugh is saying that because he was a virgin, that should be part of his defense that — against Professor Ford.

    He's also saying that these are false accusations, that he's not going to withdraw, that he is saying that he has a good reputation, and that he is not going at all push back or fall back on that.

    Of course, Professor Ford is also standing by her ground. She's saying that this did happen, that it impacted her life. And I want to read to you a little bit of a letter that she wrote to Senator Grassley, who, of course, is on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    She writes — quote — "Mr. Kavanaugh's actions, while many years ago, were serious and have had a lasting impact on my life. While I'm frightened, please know my fear will not hold me back from testifying. I ask for fair and respectful treatment."

    So you have now two people coming out, saying that this was — and revealing personal things about themselves, saying that they are telling the truth. So it's going to be very hard, of course, for people to weigh these two things.

    All that's — while all that is happening, the White House this is on Mr. Ford's (sic) side — on Judge Ford's (sic) side. The president today came out and supported him. He praised him. And while he's at the United Nations in New York, the president was asked about this.

    And let me — let me play for you a little bit of what the president said today.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It would be sad, indeed, if something happened to reroute that. This is a fine man. And we certainly hope is going to be confirmed and quickly. His family has suffered. His family has suffered.

    What's going on is not something that should happen. Brett Kavanaugh is an absolute, outstanding person. Hopefully, he will be confirmed quickly.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, again, the president's calling Brett Kavanaugh a fine person.

    I have talked to people who knows Professor Ford. They're saying that she's a fine, incredible woman. So a lot on both sides there.

    The White House also is sending out information and e-mailing reporters on almost a daily basis, saying, we are standing by Judge Kavanaugh. And, as Lisa was talking about, there's The New York Times vs. "The New Yorker" in this new allegation. And the White House is capitalizing on that.

    They sent out an e-mail that said, look, The New York Times didn't want to print this woman's story. And that should mean something to the people that are trying to assess this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, meantime, Lisa, what are — you're talking to people on the Hill, on Capitol Hill, Republican, Democrats. There were protests today. What are you hearing?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    First of all, protesters have swarmed all around the Senate office buildings in particular last week, but even more today. And they have a new sort of tactic. Look at some video here.

    In some cases like this, they are blocking hallways. But, Judy, more often, what I saw today was protesters going into offices and women telling their individual stories of sexual assault to Senate staffers one at a time. So that is taking up more office space, taking longer amounts of time. They're taking up more hallway space.

    It certainly is rising tensions on the Hill. But I think let's get down to the bottom line. Where are we tonight? It does look like this Thursday hearing is going forward. Both Republican and Democratic sources on the Hill tell me they expect this to happen. The only thing that could change it is if there can't be a final agreement on some details, especially about who asks the questions to Dr. Ford, or if she for some other reason is not able to come.

    I also think Republicans feel that "The New Yorker" article may have helped them, because they do not feel that that reporting was as strong as the previous allegations, and they think it raises questions about the accusations in general.

    That's just Republicans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right.

    If that weren't enough news, we're also dealing today, Yamiche, with this reporting that there was an — that the deputy attorney general went to the White House today. There were speculation he was going to step down.

    Where does that stand?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Where that stands, according to the president, is, we will see.

    The president was asked whether or not he would he would fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And he said, I talked to him for a long time today, but we will see on Thursday how I feel and whether or not this is something that is — I'm going to move forward with.

    So the president isn't backing down. There a lot of times when we hear things about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, where the president's — where they're reporting where the president is about to fire him, in the president says, no, I'm not going to do that.

    He didn't say that in this case. I talked to a Republican source who said, this is a problem for this president, it's a political problem, because Republicans all across the country, they want to be talking about the tax cuts. They want to be talking about how great this economy is doing.

    And instead they're having to answer all these questions. So, on the Hill, it's going to be hard, because when the president wants to push something forward, Hill Republicans have to answer all these questions about what's going on in the — in the political sphere.

    Then you go to the midterms, and there are candidates that want to be talking about things that aren't political scandals dealing with President Trump. And a Republican source also told me that Republican donors have a problem with this, because when you have tension, and you don't know whether or not the deputy attorney general is going to be fired, donors are saying, well, how do I give to this party if I don't know that things are going to be settled?

    All that, and there's — there's also some talk that John Kelly personally walked out on Rod Rosenstein today after he came from the White House.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The chief of staff.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The chief of staff of the president came out and actually was seen with him.

    So there are people there say that's a signal that this White House is sending that maybe he's going to be OK. But, really, as with this administration, we will have to see what happens on Thursday.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will watch this play out.

    Yamiche — Yamiche Alcindor.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thursday.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thursday is a big day.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thursday is a big day. We're marking it on the calendar.

    And Lisa Desjardins.

    Thank you both.

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