We're Confident Brett Kavanaugh Will Be Confirmed, Kupec Says
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
One meaningful fact about the U.S. Capitol is that for all the post-9/11 security, it is still a public building. All kinds of people get in to look upward in awe at the inside of the dome or watch the proceedings or sometimes confront senators in elevators. Last week, protesters memorably confronted Jeff Flake, who was undecided on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Yesterday, they confronted 84-year-old Senator Orrin Hatch, who has supported the nominee.
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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Why aren't you brave enough to talk to us and exchange with us? Don't you wave your hand at me. I waved my hand at you.
ORRIN HATCH: When you grow up, I'll be glad to.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: When I grow up?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: You - how dare you talk to women that way? How dare you? How dare you?
INSKEEP: This morning, people will be in the gallery and watching TV - and listening on NPR, by the way - as senators make some final statements and then vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, vote whether to end debate and move it forward. Kerri Kupec joins us next. She's a White House spokesperson following this story. Good morning.
KERRI KUPEC: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Do you have the votes?
KUPEC: We believe we do. We're confident that Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed.
INSKEEP: You believe that after the FBI supplemental background check was shown to senators yesterday - we should remind people, for those who haven't heard, that it's - there's a single copy of this report. Senators have been allowed to see it. It's not public, but it's been described as a fairly limited look over the last several days. I think nine people were interviewed. Why was the background check so limited?
KUPEC: Well, the Senate set the scope. We were accommodating their request, and the scope was focusing on credible, current allegations. From my understanding, the FBI interviewed people who had firsthand knowledge as witnesses for these credible allegations. And I believe they reached out to 11 people, interviewed 10, which was twice the amount that the Senate originally requested.
INSKEEP: Oh, so they went beyond what the Senate asked for, but still, it was not an...
KUPEC: That's correct.
INSKEEP: ...Obviously, not an unlimited investigation. And we don't know exactly what was said. We heard earlier from Richard Blumenthal, Democratic senator from Connecticut, who raised that point. Let's listen.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: This report should be made public so you and I can engage in a real conversation and so that the contentions I'm making can be supported by pointing to parts of the report.
INSKEEP: Will the White House make this report public?
KUPEC: Due to the Privacy Act, there are certainly no plans to do so. And the Privacy Act is something, obviously, that the White House is not the only ones abiding by, but also the Senate as well. And Senator Blumenthal, with all due respect, certainly knows that.
INSKEEP: Meaning that we can't find out what Mark Judge said. And we'll remind people that Mark Judge is the man who is alleged to have been in the room when Christine Blasey Ford was, by her account, sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh when they were both in high school.
KUPEC: Well, we have to remember, too, what this is. This is a back - you know, I think the word investigation can be a little confusing to people. This is still a supplemental update to a background check of background clearance, you know, for this particular position. That's covered by the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act is - as you know, it's critical to ensure that this process remains confidential so that the FBI can continue to do their job and thoroughly vet folks in the future so they know that when they speak, they can speak with candor, and they can be forthright. It would not be appropriate - in fact, you know, it would be a violation of the law for anyone to reveal the contents of this background investigation, not just for Judge Kavanaugh, but for any kind of process like this.
INSKEEP: Kerri Kupec, let me ask about the way that Judge Kavanaugh has defended himself because that, as you know very well, has become a subject of some criticism. He was so passionate and so angry in his public testimony. John Paul Stevens, former Supreme Court justice, said at an event in Florida that he no longer believes Kavanaugh should be confirmed to the Supreme Court because of the way that he spoke in public. Let's listen to some of that.
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JOHN PAUL STEVENS: He's a fine federal judge, and he should have been confirmed when he was nominated. But I think that his performance during the hearings caused me to change my mind.
INSKEEP: And let me ask about that. Should we have a Supreme Court justice who declared in sworn testimony, with no evidence to back it up, that he was the victim of a revenge plot on behalf of the Clintons and the Democrats should be punished for this?
KUPEC: Well, if we're going to talk about allegations with no evidence to back it up, we can certainly talk about the allegations that have been made against Judge Kavanaugh. You know, doctor...
INSKEEP: Well, let's not do whataboutism here. He's the guy who's about to go onto the Supreme Court. Should we have a Supreme Court justice who's made those partisan statements?
KUPEC: I think Judge Kavanaugh, very rightfully so, was upset at being accused of being a gang rapist. So you have to remember, the first set of hearings, that was the job interview. This second hearing - that was Judge Kavanaugh defending his reputation, defending his family. I think any human being who has been falsely accused of a range of things, including gang rape, has a right to be upset, has a right to be angry, and that's what we saw last week.
INSKEEP: Now, he has penned an op-ed - penned, as they say.
KUPEC: That's correct.
INSKEEP: He wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.
KUPEC: He did.
INSKEEP: ...Didn't quite apologize, but did say that he got angry. And he said, quote, "I said a few things I should not have said," not specifying what they were. What did he say that he shouldn't have said?
KUPEC: Well, I think if you remember at the hearing last week, he and Senator Klobuchar got into a little discussion - a little heated discussion about drinking, and I know Judge Kavanaugh regretted the way he interacted with Senator Klobuchar, which is why he apologized to her on the spot. But look; this is a man who has been accused by people who do not have any evidence to back up their accusations. He was put before the American people to defend himself against really egregious charges.
INSKEEP: Well, let's...
KUPEC: It made complete sense that he was upset. And considering the many, many women who have come out in his defense, saying what an incredible person he is, not just as a judge, but his treatment of women - and these are women who start in high school.
INSKEEP: Let me just be clear, very quickly, on two things you said. No evidence - we have to note there is sworn testimony by a person who says she's the victim, so we can't truthfully say no evidence.
KUPEC: Corroborating - corroborating evidence.
INSKEEP: You can say no corroboration.
INSKEEP: The other thing - are you - you said he takes back his statements to Amy Klobuchar, meaning he doesn't take back...
KUPEC: No, he...
INSKEEP: ...The Clinton conspiracy theory part.
KUPEC: Well, he certainly apologized to Senator Klobuchar. I don't want to get into the ins and outs of Judge Kavanaugh's thoughts on his testimony, but he certainly apologized there in public. And again, the way Judge Kavanaugh's been treated during this process has been a disgrace.
INSKEEP: Kerri Kupec is a White House spokesperson. Thanks for joining us this morning, really appreciate it.
KUPEC: Thanks for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.