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What’s the most important thing Kavanaugh should answer?

What can we expect from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford? Judy Woodruff talks with Julie Goldscheid of CUNY School of Law -- one of several law professors who wrote a letter urging the senators to further investigate the claims of sexual misconduct -- about “the many complex questions” that remain to be probed.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you are going to want to know what to expect from the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow in the questioning of Judge Kavanaugh and Professor Blasey Ford.

    For that now, I'm joined by Julie Goldscheid. She is a professor of law at the City University of New York, where she teaches classes on gender and law. She is one of several law professors who wrote a letter today urging the Judiciary Committee to further investigate the claims made by Blasey Ford and these other women.

    Professor Goldscheid, let me just start by asking, the letter to the committee, what was the point you were making in that letter, which is critical of how the committee is structured tomorrow?

  • Julie Goldscheid:

    Yes, thank you.

    The point of the letter is really to ask the senators to do what we would expect any fact-finder to do, which is to pause, to get a full investigation, and to assess all of the evidence in the context that's before the committee.

    This is not a criminal case. It's not a civil case. It's not about evidence that's going to be assessed based on a preponderance of the evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt standard.

    This is a question about whether or not somebody should be nominated and appointed to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country. And for that, there are many complex questions that I would think the senators should be interested in.

    They should be interested in assessing the very serious allegations that have been made and hearing the nominees reflections on those allegations. Not only do they raise very serious concerns, but they also raise complex questions that are of the type of issue — that reflect the type of issues that the court deals with all the time.

    And the senators should be interested in how the nominee reflects on that kind of complicated allegation and complicated dynamic.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I know that you and the others who were signing this letter were calling for an investigation to take place, just as Dr. Blasey Ford and her attorney were calling for.

    But we know that there will be, there has been no, and won't be an FBI investigation. They have been talking to her.

    What will be missing then? I mean, what is it — what is it — what will be the role of Rachel Mitchell, who will be asking question for the Republicans, and then of the Democratic senators in getting to the bottom of this, as best they can, when there has not been an FBI investigation?

  • Julie Goldscheid:


    Well, your point is a very good one. Without a full investigation for background, and without all the witnesses who can speak to the allegations, there's really an incomplete picture that will be painted at the hearings, by definition, unless the senators decide to open up the hearings to more witnesses who can talk about their — the accounts that they heard about the allegations before the — before these hearings.

    So, the task for the — for the hearings tomorrow is to paint as clear and as complete and as neutral a picture as possible about what Dr. Ford experienced and what the nominee, Judge Kavanaugh, experienced, and to hear his reflections on these very delicate details and difficult allegations.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we have been — her opening statement, Christine Blasey Ford's opening statement, has been released, we know. We have been able to take a look at that.

    She's pretty much giving the same description of what happened that night at that party in 1982 in that summer that we have been told, with a little more detail.

    Given that, and given that Judge Kavanaugh is saying he wasn't at the party, doesn't know her, how does any — how does a questioner get to some evidence, some information that's going to advance our understanding of what really happened?

  • Julie Goldscheid:


    Well, one thing that the questioner can do is can ask about both witnesses' understandings of some of the other information that has come to come to light.

    So, for example, if Judge Kavanaugh says he has no recollection, he can be probed about some of the other accounts that have come forward about the details of some of the parties and the atmosphere and the culture that at least many people think took place at that school at the time that he was there.

    So, she can get his reactions to those — those accounts of what was going on at the time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Are questions about how much drinking did he do, how much partying, I mean, are those kinds of general questions going to bring us closer to understanding whether this happened or not?

  • Julie Goldscheid:

    I think part of the task is to come to as clear an assessment of what happened as possible.

    And we know that, in many cases like this, there are competing versions, competing accounts of what happened. So, the task for the senators is really to listen very carefully and closely to the answers to try to hear how much consistency or inconsistency there is in the respective witnesses' reports and to make their own assessments, both about what happened, but about how the nominee's responses bear on his ability to serve as a Supreme Court justice, because I really can't underscore enough that that's what's at issue here.

    This is more akin to a job interview than any kind of criminal or civil proceeding. It's really about his qualifications for this very, very important position.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Professor Goldscheid, finally, just one question.

    If you were asking questions of Judge Kavanaugh tomorrow, what's the most important thing you would want to know from him?

  • Julie Goldscheid:

    Yes, good question.

    I might want to know his view, if the allegations were true, what he — what his views would be about them and what he would think about them.

    I really want to hear his thoughts about the seriousness of sexual assault. We know that sexual assault is pervasive. It continues to be pervasive, despite all of the gains and progress that's been made, and I want to hear what his assessment is of those accounts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Julie Goldscheid, she's a professor at the City University of New York.

    We thank you.

  • Julie Goldscheid:

    Thank you.

    CUNY School of Law.

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm sorry.

    Thank you very much.

    And a reminder, we will have full live coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford tomorrow.

    That is starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. You can check your local PBS station listings for more information, or you can watch us livestreaming.

    That's online at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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