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Will the Senate have enough time to review the FBI’s Kavanaugh findings?

Following Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony last week, some Democrats in the Senate are raising questions about the nominee’s truthfulness and demeanor--and worrying they won’t have enough time to reflect on the FBI’s findings. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest developments on the investigation, the temperature in the Senate and what the president is saying.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The United States Senate is another day closer to a showdown over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But the outcome is still anything but clear.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage of this day's development.

  • Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.:

    I was stunned.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In the Senate, the Brett Kavanaugh debate on the floor took a backseat to the real action elsewhere, namely, the FBI's ongoing background investigation of alleged sexual assault and misconduct, this as Democrats stress questions about the Supreme Court nominee's truthfulness.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    Judge Kavanaugh or repeatedly tiptoes around the truth, doesn't tell the truth in many instances, it seems, to paint his nomination in a favorable light. We want a Supreme Court nominee, whatever their politics, whatever their party origins, to be a shining example of someone who tells the truth.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Kavanaugh's opponents and multiple Yale classmates say that at last week's Senate hearing he whitewashed his drinking and his conduct as a young man.

    Last night, The New York Times and other media outlets reported Kavanaugh was involved in a 1985 bar fight during his time at Yale. Today, the New Haven Connecticut Police Department confirmed that Kavanaugh was accused of throwing ice at someone, but he wasn't arrested.

    On the Senate floor, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell mocked the story as a new low.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    Talk about a bombshell. One can only imagine what new bombshell might be published today or tomorrow.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Outside the White House today, President Trump said he thinks his nominee is doing great, but he also addressed the importance of honesty.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I don't think you should lie to Congress. And there have been a lot of people over the last year that have lied to Congress. And, to me, that would not be acceptable.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The president pointed to a larger cultural question that he sees.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It's a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of. In this realm, you are truly guilty until proven innocent.

  • Brett Kavanaugh:

    All this nonsense.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Kavanaugh's display of anger and antagonism at last week's hearing also fueled continuing questions.

    Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who asked for the reopened FBI probe, spoke at a Washington forum.

  • Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.:

    And I tell myself you give a little leeway because of what he's been through. But on the other hand, we can't have this on the court. We simply can't.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But most Republicans took aim at the Democrats.

  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas:

    Well, if you were accused falsely of committing a crime, wouldn't you be angry too? Wouldn't you want to clear your good name? Well, that's exactly what Judge Kavanaugh did.

  • Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.:

    They called him a lying drunk, sexual predator, and the man defended himself. And as a result, they say he didn't have the demeanor to be on the Supreme Court. I think that's drivel.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Democrats said today they want an FBI briefing at least 24 hours before any vote.

    California Senator Dianne Feinstein is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

    We have to put all the facts together, yes. And this is — this is — I guess it's my 10th Supreme Court hearing that I sat on, and there's never been one like this, with the issues like this.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But a key undecided Republican, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, said she is not concerned that the process is moving too quickly.

    This as Leader McConnell vowed again to hold a Kavanaugh vote this week. Meantime, a lawyer for Kavanaugh's high school friend Mark Judge said today the FBI has now completed his interview.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins me now, along with our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    Hello to both of you. Another busy day.

    Lisa, what do we know right now about timing, about when this FBI investigation will finish and when there could be a final vote on Kavanaugh in the Senate?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    The FBI was given up to one week — that ends Friday — to do this investigation. They could finish earlier. Some Republican senators think they may finish earlier. That could be Wednesday, Thursday.

    In the meantime, there are some key witnesses that have not yet been interviewed. In particular, Christine Blasey Ford's team sent out a letter tonight saying they have been trying to get in touch with the FBI. They have not heard back since one phone call on Friday. And they say they are concerned that the FBI may not interview her at all.

    We're not really sure. The FBI is not really obviously revealing what their plan is. Sometimes, key witnesses are interviewed last. We have to wait and see on that, how that goes.

    Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell would like to have this final vote this week. This week means Saturday, FYI. And the way that would work, because of the Senate rules, there's a series of procedural hurdles they have to clear. The big vote is a procedural vote called cloture.

    In order to have that cloture vote, Judy, McConnell must file that motion, and then you wait two days for that vote. So if he files that motion tomorrow, as we expect, the Senate could have that key procedural vote on Friday. That's what McConnell wants.

    Now, what happened is, you have to watch these key undecided senators to see if they want more time to read the FBI report. McConnell said he wants them to read it quickly once they get it. I don't know that they will want to do that. Also, will that report be made public? Another question unanswered right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Number — a number of questions.

    Meantime, Yamiche, the president does seem to be sticking with Brett Kavanaugh. Why?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    This political nomination has really become a cause celebre for a lot of Republicans. The president said that he went to a rally this week in Tennessee and that he heard from so many people, Republicans, people who support him, who want him to keep fighting for Brett Kavanaugh.

    And President Trump loves to go to these rallies around the country and really listen to his base and really check what they're thinking. It's kind of the way that he looks at polling. So the fact that he could — is continuing to hear from people who say he should stick by Brett Kavanaugh — and the president really feels this way personally, because he feels as though the Democrats could then embarrass him if he has to withdraw this nomination.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, picking up on that, give us more of a sense of the temperature in the Senate. Are Republicans feeling — we heard what McConnell and — Senator McConnell, Senator Kennedy and others are saying.

    Are they feeling pressure in any way to rethink this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    They are feeling frustration that they think the conversation has changed from whether this person can be proven to have sexually assaulted someone, which they say he absolutely — that cannot be proven, to a question of, has he — did he lie about his drinking, and does he have the temperament?

    They don't think those are appropriate questions to judge this nominee by. However, that's the conversation right now. But, on the other hand, Judy, I'm not sure that matters at all. All that matters is what three senators, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, think of all of this.

    They are taking it in. And I think they're honestly waiting for this report to come out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's those three Republicans.

    And, finally, Yamiche, we heard the president say today, among other things, he said, these are scary times for young men. What's the background there?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The background is that the president and other people are wondering if MeToo has gone too far and whether or not young men are now in a position where they might be accused falsely of things that they didn't do and then have to be essentially said that they were — that they're guilty until proven innocent.

    Donald Trump Jr., who has been very vocal, the president's son, has said that he's more concerned about his sons than his daughters after hearing about Brett Kavanaugh's allegations, because he thinks that there are young men out there who have been — could essentially have their lives ruined by false allegations.

    Of course, add to that the fact that the president's dealing with his own sexual assault allegations. There are dozens of women who said the president acted inappropriately sexually to him and to them, and that the president has done something that should have really had a reckoning.

    But, unfortunately, the president is really saying that's going to color the way that I look at Brett Kavanaugh. So, the president is himself feeling aggrieved. And, as a result, he's sticking by Brett Kavanaugh and also looking at it through that lens.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, feelings running strong, and we're just two days into this week.

    Lisa, Yamiche, thank you both.

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