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How The Judicial Crisis Network Is Reacting To The Kavanaugh Hearings And Allegations


We're going to bring in now Carrie Severino. She's the chief counsel and policy director for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network. The group spent about a million and a half dollars in ads supporting Judge Kavanaugh's nomination. Welcome to the studio.

CARRIE SEVERINO: Great to be here.

CORNISH: So in the past, you've said that you have been against this call from Democrats to reopen the FBI investigation. Now you have Republican Jeff Flake and others supporting this idea. Do you think it's a good idea at this point to pause the process and let the FBI do something limited in scope?

SEVERINO: Well, I think the important thing here is that Judge Kavanaugh today did move one step closer to his nomination. He's out of committee. And, you know, if Senator Flake and - is more comfortable by having that - you know, it seems like has always been something the White House and the Senate were going to have to cooperate in doing. They've said they're going to do it. I don't think really we're going to find a difference in outcome here, especially with the Ford allegations. The Senate Judiciary Committee has already interviewed all the people relevant to it. So the FBI will essentially be retreading that ground, interviewing some of the same people.

CORNISH: But there's also people who have come out in reports we've heard about on paper but that the committee has not spoken to directly. Wouldn't agents be able to talk in more detail to them, figure out bystanders?

SEVERINO: Right, well, as I just said, if people don't want to talk to the FBI, it's the same procedure as the Senate Judiciary Committee. So they aren't going be able to force people to speak who before were submitting written testimony. They - but they could of course submit that same testimony to the FBI. It's the same criminal penalties - would apply for speaking to the FBI as for speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee or under oath.

So they're - in all cases is equivalent in terms of their - you know, their criminal penalties. But so I think especially with respect to those ones, it should be pretty easy. We have a good sense of where all those people are in terms of they've already been talked to and located about this.

CORNISH: So you're fine with this happening at this point. Now that it's open, you're fine to let it go forward.

SEVERINO: I'm glad to see that it's limited in time and scope because I think that was a concern - that it's going to become an indefinite fishing expedition - and that it's being limited to the credible allegations 'cause we're seeing some - you know, some people coming out of woodwork who then hours later are recanting this. So I think that it's...

CORNISH: That's not clear. I just want to note we don't...

SEVERINO: Oh, that was - no, that was last week. There were some allegations that were recanted by the individuals within hours of being made. So I think this will rule out some of those issues. But, you know, they're going to move forward I think. And now, again, a week I think should be probably more than enough time. With Anita Hill's investigation, it took three days. So...

CORNISH: Let me ask you about the president then. He said that today, that professor Ford was very - a very compelling witness, that he's leaving this up to the Senate. So what concerns do you have then when you see Lisa Murkowski backing up this? You see Susan Collins backing up this idea of further investigation. As the process goes on further, do you have worries about this vote?

SEVERINO: No, I actually - I think this is going to probably give them that added level of comfort they need to go forward 'cause what we saw at the hearing - it was yesterday - was they have - you know, Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford both had very compelling, emotional testimony. But when you look - when you start digging into the evidence and the contemporary corroboration, et cetera, it's simply not there. Everyone she put at that party and said was there says they don't remember it. Some say they can't imagine Brett Kavanaugh behaving the way that she described. Her own friend...

CORNISH: Though none of those people have said they don't believe it happened. They just said that they...

SEVERINO: No, I didn't say they...


SEVERINO: I just said they can't corroborate that it did. And so I think that we're going to see some of that. And, you know, if the senators are more comfortable having the FBI make the - that determination rather than the Senate Judiciary Committee, they're going to do that. At the end of the day, we'll be in the same place. I think we'll have a vote within a week and that that will be their opportunity to say, are we voting for someone who is the most, you know, qualified nominee and respected nominee I think we've had in - of many of our Supreme Court nominees, or are we going to vote for a last-minute really vicious campaign by some of the Senate Democrats, certainly not all of them?

CORNISH: Well, let me jump in. I want to play a clip for you from our program yesterday because we spoke to a law professor, Joshua Blackman, about the impact that this process altogether will have on the court itself. Here it is.


JOSH BLACKMAN: The biggest loser in this entire process is the Supreme Court. No matter what happens - if Kavanaugh is confirmed, if his nomination is withdrawn, if someone else is put up - the Supreme Court turns out looking very bad.

CORNISH: Your take on that?

SEVERINO: Well, you know, I think the - actually the people who look the worst here are the Senate, not the Supreme Court itself 'cause one of the things that I loved - and I worked there 10 years ago. I think it was - one of the inspiring things is that you have justices across the aisle. You know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Scalia's friendship was famous for being two of the most extreme - on extreme ends of the court, and yet they can come together. These are people who know they're going to be working together for their life.

And I don't think those partisan hot-button issues that happened during the confirmation hearing are going to necessarily taint the relationship on the court. You had Justice Ginsburg, you know, just a couple weeks ago saying her frustration with this process, though, and she - her saying that the way it was was right; the way it is is wrong.

And so I think they're - they are also frustrated with the way the process goes. But I think you're going to see them continue to be respecting Judge Kavanaugh the same way that they did, you know, the dozen times and more times that they have cited his opinions and vindicated his decisions as well.

CORNISH: That's Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director for the Judicial Crisis Network. Thank you for speaking with us.

SEVERINO: Great to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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