RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Thirty years after Anita Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a similar scene will play out again. This time, a woman named Christine Blasey Ford will sit in front of that committee and accuse the current nominee to the court, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault. Kavanaugh will also testify about the allegation under oath. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is a Democrat who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a committee he has chaired in the past, and he joins us now. Senator, thanks for being here.
PATRICK LEAHY: I'm happy to be with you. Thank you.
MARTIN: So you have heard Christine Blasey Ford's allegation as reported in The Washington Post, and you have heard Brett Kavanaugh's unequivocal denial of this. What more do you need to know? What questions will you ask?
LEAHY: Well, for one thing, I think Dr. Ford has shown incredible courage in coming forward. We shouldn't lose sight in how hard these things are on victims. You mentioned the Anita Hill matter. As you recall, I was one of the ones who publicly said I believed Anita Hill, and I still believe Anita Hill. But these are serious allegations. I think they have to be, first, fully investigated by nonpartisan professionals who are trained on trauma-informed investigations. They're still trying to rush this thing through. This is what happens when you try to just jam a nominee for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.
MARTIN: Well, let me ask you - it sounds as if you have made up your mind.
LEAHY: Well, certainly, everything that Judge Kavanaugh said earlier has bothered me, and I've said that. He has not been - I feel he has not been forthcoming. We've asked him about the stolen emails from Democrats.
MARTIN: These are scandals that erupted in the Bush administration.
LEAHY: That's right.
MARTIN: And you've taken issue with how he has characterized his involvement in that.
LEAHY: Yeah. He's said that he never received any stolen Memogate documents. Well...
MARTIN: So you have questions about his overall integrity and honesty.
LEAHY: I did, but I think on this one now something this explosive should be heard. Certainly, Judge Kavanaugh should have a chance to respond, but Dr. Ford should be able to and we should have a thorough background done. This might take a week or two to get all of this together, but what difference does one or two weeks make when you're talking about a lifetime appointment?
MARTIN: Although this is essentially his word against hers. How will you be able to make a determination about what happened in that house more than 30 years ago?
LEAHY: That's a very good question, but I was a prosecutor, and in a case like this if it came before me, I'd have the professionals go in there, seek corroborating evidence, talk to the people involved, certainly talk to the third person they claim was there, and that hasn't been done. There's no way that's going to be done before a Monday hearing. And so the Republican leadership is afraid of what might be said and want to get this done and tucked under the table as soon as they can.
MARTIN: Let me play a clip of President Trump. He has sustained his support for Brett Kavanaugh. Let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I wish the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner because they had this information for many months, and they shouldn't have waited until literally the last days. They should have done it a lot sooner.
MARTIN: May I ask, Senator, when you were first made aware that there was an allegation of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh?
LEAHY: I was made aware of it late last week just about the same time this matter became public. And I said at that time let's turn it over to the professionals. That could be in the FBI or elsewhere. Let them find out about this. But I was - also once Dr. Ford said she was willing to come forward publicly, I said that shows enormous, enormous courage. And I've certainly dealt with enough people who've had experience like this. They've been afraid to come forward. And when they do, like Anita Hill, I think you have to give them a lot of credibility.
MARTIN: We should just clarify the president's clip there suggesting Democrats had this information for months, which is incorrect. It was July 30 that Ms. Blasey Ford sent a letter to Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat on the committee.
LEAHY: Well, she actually sent it to another congresswoman, and then it came to Dianne.
MARTIN: Anna Eshoo first, a representative in California, over to Dianne Feinstein. But what would you say to critics who allege that Democrats are obstructionist here, looking for any justification to stop this nomination?
LEAHY: When the Republicans have held back 90 percent of everything Brett Kavanaugh did in the White House, it's hard to call us obstructionists. I compare it to Elena Kagan, where we gave them 99 percent of everything she wrote in the White House.
MARTIN: You're talking about documents Democrats have...
LEAHY: That's right.
MARTIN: ...Have requested and that has been denied.
LEAHY: And they've held - they've held automatically 90 percent of it away. And then even what they've given, they've held back a lot of that by marking it committee confidential. No, I - they - when they hide so much, when they hold back so much, my instinct is what are you trying to hide?
MARTIN: OK. We'll have to leave it there. Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, thank you, sir.
LEAHY: Thank you very much.
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