Conservative Group Defends Kavanaugh Nomination Carrie Severino of the conservative organization the Judicial Crisis Network tells Steve Inskeep why her group stands by Judge Brett Kavanaugh after he was accused of a sexual assault decades ago.
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Conservative Group Defends Kavanaugh Nomination

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Conservative Group Defends Kavanaugh Nomination

Conservative Group Defends Kavanaugh Nomination

Conservative Group Defends Kavanaugh Nomination

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Carrie Severino of the conservative organization the Judicial Crisis Network tells Steve Inskeep why her group stands by Judge Brett Kavanaugh after he was accused of a sexual assault decades ago.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford say, slow down. Senators considering the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh say, in essence, no. Ford is the woman who says the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her when both were in high school. She has said she is willing to tell her story under oath. But after a hearing was scheduled for this coming Monday, lawyer Lisa Banks told CNN that she wants an FBI investigation first.

(SOUNDBITE OF CNN BROADCAST)

LISA BANKS: There is no reason that we should have a public hearing on Monday given what has occurred and when it has occurred. This is being rushed through, and it's too important to be rushed through. It's not a game. This is a serious situation.

INSKEEP: Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said last night the hearing should proceed on Monday. And by the way, other senators, such as Jeff Flake who called for Ford to be heard, have said the hearings should go ahead as well, Flake imploring her to show up. Those advocating for Brett Kavanaugh's nomination include Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, which promotes conservative judges and bought ads supporting Kavanaugh - just saw one a few minutes ago on cable TV. She's on the line.

Good morning.

CARRIE SEVERINO: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Why not take a little more time to see what happened here and what evidence might be found?

SEVERINO: Well, what we're hearing here is a shifting story, not just from Ms. Ford's lawyer but also from the Senate Democrats. On Monday, her lawyers were saying unequivocally yes, she will testify. She wants to do whatever it takes to get the story out there. And then suddenly, we have a complete change. And I think it tracks a little what's happening with the Democrats. First, they were insisting there must be a public hearing. Senator Grassley said, yes, we can make that available. As soon as he said they could have a hearing, suddenly we saw a change. The Democrats - and now Ms. Blasey Ford as well - have said no, no, there has to be a FBI investigation. The problem is the FBI says, we've already completed our investigation.

INSKEEP: Well, they did an investigation before these allegations were fully known. But it is fair to ask the question - what is the point of a she-said, he-said hearing where one will make assertions, the other will deny them, and it's hard to have any independent information to judge that?

SEVERINO: Yes, well, the FBI says getting that independent information isn't actually their job. And one of the key parts of that is exactly what a hearing would provide, the opportunity for all of those parties to speak under oath. And the senators, then, effectively would be doing that investigation. The FBI has issued statements saying it's not our job to make assessments of the credibility and of the significance of allegations. Effectively, what we're seeing here is the Democrats are introducing a whole new standard. The standard that they normally do is there is actually an update to the FBI background check, and that is dealt with in a confidential call among Senate Judiciary Committee members. They had that call. There was an opportunity to go into that with those doing the FBI background check. But you know what? On Monday, when they had that call, none of the Senate Democrats even participated.

INSKEEP: I think you're suggesting the Democrats are trying to draw this out and delay things. Let me ask about the flip side of that, though. Are Republicans desperately trying to get this done before the election?

SEVERINO: No, I think what they want to do is find a...

INSKEEP: Did you just say no? I mean, come on. You're trying to get this done before the election.

SEVERINO: I guess I'm saying no to the desperately part because...

INSKEEP: Oh, OK. That's fine.

SEVERINO: ...This has been on a track for a while. We had Democrats that were - that had these delegations since July, intentionally buried them for that entire time. I understand respecting her confidentiality. Of course, that's important. But there are ways where they could have had this opportunity to investigate without exposing her to the public issues that her lawyer says she's had a problem with. The Democrats are the ones who did not follow those confidential procedures. Instead, this came out, leaked seven weeks later at the eve of the hearing.

INSKEEP: We should be clear. When you say intentionally, I don't know that that was the motive of Dianne Feinstein or anybody else to intentionally bury this. She was trying to respect confidentiality, even if you disagree with how it was done. Let me ask, though, the bottom-line question here. You've now heard Christine Blasey Ford's story, at least through an interview in The Washington Post. Do you find her credible?

SEVERINO: You know, I think the question is going to be to have this opportunity to speak, not just to the news media but the American people to hear it. What I see is a pattern that we've seen in Brett Kavanaugh's life where you have women from every era - you know, from high school, from college, law school, his earliest jobs, to his clerks - saying we know this man, and this does not sound anything like the Brett Kavanaugh we knew, including women he dated during high school, women he knew in this exact period.

INSKEEP: But do you find her credible? You're saying that you find him to be an upstanding person. But do you find her credible?

SEVERINO: You know, it's very hard to judge from a newspaper portrayal. I'm saying that the information doesn't jibe with anything that we know about Brett Kavanaugh. And that when you have someone who's undergone this many background checks but no other hint of any other kind of allegation ever came up in those - all of those go together to say this seems very out of place. I think it's important to have the opportunity to...

INSKEEP: To have a hearing.

SEVERINO: ...Look into that.

INSKEEP: Let me just ask one other question very quickly. Can you answer what a lot of well-meaning voters think - and perhaps you've heard from some of them. These are people who disagree with you. And they note - they observe that the president of the United States has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. He's been surrounded by people who've now pleaded guilty to a range of crimes. Now you even have a Supreme Court nominee who faces this accusation. And there are people who watch all that and think that people on your side just don't care - literally don't care because you're getting the judge you want. What do you say to them?

SEVERINO: Not at all. Sexual assault allegations are very serious. And as Kellyanne Conway said recently, this woman deserves to be respected and listened to. This isn't something to be dismissed out of hand. However, we also have to take seriously there's another person here, too, whose reputation has been probably irreparably damaged by these allegations. We owe it to him and to her to have a hearing and find out what this is, not to simply say, use this as a political football, which the Democrats have been doing to try to stall. You know, so this seems like the next step in that, unfortunately.

INSKEEP: Carrie Severino, policy director and chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, thanks for joining us.

SEVERINO: Have a great day.

INSKEEP: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson has been listening along with us here.

Mara, what'd you hear there?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: I heard her working very hard not to answer your question, do you find her story credible? And I think that after a bout of initial nervousness, Republicans and supporters of Brett Kavanaugh feel pretty confident now that they have landed on a politically defensible place, which is give Dr. Ford a chance to testify, but don't delay much longer than Monday. Keep on working to get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed as soon as possible.

INSKEEP: And give Kavanaugh that chance to deny the charges under oath.

LIASSON: Yeah. I think the big question now is, does Ford testify in public on Monday? Does she testify in private? I don't think that his nomination is going to be derailed, but this whole episode might have political ramifications for the midterms.

INSKEEP: Mara, thanks very much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Mara Liasson.

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