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What's Next For Kavanaugh


Ron Elving joins us, NPR's senior Washington editor.

Thanks so much, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Marked difference in tone between President Trump's comments that we just heard and the tweet he posted just after Judge Kavanaugh's testimony on Thursday - what happened?

ELVING: You could say it was an incredible difference, Scott. Earlier in the week, the president had scoffed openly at Dr. Ford's story. Now the president seems deeply impressed, calls her testimony very compelling. Some of this could be the different ways the president gets information. He apparently watched her on television. Or it could be about the different ways he communicates - on Twitter, on one hand, versus TV coming from the Oval Office. And as to which are his true feelings, as the president says, we'll have to see.

SIMON: Reports are that, at any given time, 20 percent of U.S. households were tuning in. And that, of course, doesn't count people who watched in airports, at work and public places. Used to be, we all tuned in for moon landings. This week, it was for a symbolic event, that it's become for many, but also the story of two people and what happened one night in 1982.

ELVING: So those numbers you describe are not moonshot numbers in the sense of another generation. That was the era of three broadcast networks all showing the same thing and little or no competition from other media. But as you say, this was a daytime event on a weekday. People watched. Obviously, many of them believed Dr. Ford. And while many also liked or liked in contrast Kavanaugh's fiery response, the impression left by the visuals of that response - the tone of it, the aftertaste from the highlights we've all seen again and again - that was far less positive for the nominee. And the White House has access to immediate polling information. And while it has not made any such data public, we can see some of it in the president's change of attitude.

SIMON: Ron, realistically, what can the FBI uncover, determine in a week? Are we really going to know what happened in that bedroom in 1982, or will it be on smaller, less consequential details?

ELVING: I doubt we'll ever have an account that satisfies everyone. But we have heard that at least one potential witness, Mark Judge, who was at the scene according to Dr. Ford, is willing to cooperate with the FBI. And that may help turn up some other potential witnesses. Democrats also think there may be some more to learn from those calendars that the judge has made public. But at this point, it's mostly a matter of interviewing people we already know about. And whatever other cases the FBI considers a credible charge will also be investigated in this week.

SIMON: Ron, events were changed by a bipartisan compromise on an intense and emotional issue with deep political consequences. That's not supposed to happen these days, is it?

ELVING: No, no. It isn't supposed to happen. But maybe we can see this as a ray of light in a dark season. And maybe that offers some hope.

SIMON: This time last week, we were talking about Rod Rosenstein. I don't want him to think we've (laughter) forgotten about him. Is the professional fate of the deputy attorney general also on pause?

ELVING: There are parallels. The president is clearly unhappy with the story about Rod Rosenstein's comments after the president fired FBI Director Jim Comey, talking about wearing a wire to get evidence against the president. But he's clearly unhappy with the Mueller investigation that Rod Rosenstein set in motion after the Comey firing. So he's an obvious target for a person who is known for firing folks, and lots of Trump allies want him fired. But the midterms are right around the corner - first week in November. And the last thing the White House needs is another high-profile personal controversy or another reason for the media to keep talking about the Mueller investigation.

SIMON: And as we speak, the U.S. government is open. That was not necessarily a given just a few days or weeks ago - was it?

ELVING: No. The president signed legislation, though, yesterday that keeps appropriations flowing at least through December 7. And that would be past the midterms again. And even though most of the dozen appropriations bills they have to do every year have yet to be passed and the federal fiscal year does end this weekend, it hasn't been a given now, for years, that the government will stay open past the end of the fiscal year, given the partisan differences and the wars between the House and the Senate and the threat of a presidential veto. And Trump's been saying for weeks at his rallies that if he doesn't get all the money he wants for the border wall with Mexico, he'll shut down the government. Well, he hasn't gotten the money yet. The Senate won't give it to him. The House would. But this temporary bill will keep the lights on at least until after the midterm elections in November.

SIMON: An extraordinary week - hasn't it been, Ron? - which began with a lot of despair about the system and then, at least this moment, there is some thought - well, people can affect the system.

ELVING: Yes. And let's keep the positive thought from the end of the week going forward into what will be, doubtless, another difficult one.

SIMON: Senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving.

Thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
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