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The Broader Implications Of The Latest Kavanaugh Developments


President Trump is defending his Supreme Court nominee.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Judge Kavanaugh is one of the finest people that I've ever known. He's an outstanding intellect, an outstanding judge, respected by everybody - never had even a little blemish on his record.

INSKEEP: But it will, at a minimum, take more time before Brett Kavanaugh gets a vote before a Senate committee. Lawmakers delayed that vote to allow time to hear testimony under oath from Christine Blasey Ford. She accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault decades ago when both were in high school. Kavanaugh has denied this allegation, though that denial alone was not enough for key senators, including Republican Susan Collins.


SUSAN COLLINS: Both Judge Kavanaugh and professor Ford will be testifying under oath in a public hearing next Monday. That's exactly the outcome that I hoped for and advocated for.

INSKEEP: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is covering this story. She's on the line. Tamara, good morning.


INSKEEP: So would you lay it out for us? What happens in what order on Monday?

KEITH: I think that a lot is yet to be determined exactly how this will go to be negotiated in the days ahead - who would do the questioning and how this will spool out, whether other people might be called to testify as well, in addition to Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford.

INSKEEP: So the only thing we know so far is that Ford comes, she takes questions - maybe from senators, maybe from lawyers, who knows? But she takes questions. She tells her story. She's under oath. And then Kavanaugh is allowed to respond before the same forum, right?

KEITH: That's right. And the issue here, or - basically, this is not an exact repeat of what happened in 1991 where, when Clarence Thomas was nearing a vote, Anita Hill was sort of forced to come forward and discuss sexual harassment allegations against Thomas. But there - a lot of people remember the history, and there is a lot of concern among senators and others of reliving a history, which was an all-male - all-white male panel of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioning Anita Hill about very personal matters and throwing doubt at her. And, you know, that led direct straight line to the following year being called the year of the woman because so many women ran for and won seats in the Senate and in Congress.

INSKEEP: OK. So here we are in an election season, as a matter of fact, and you have a lot of Republicans - they're all male Republicans on the Judiciary Committee - facing the prospect of, possibly, if they're the ones asking the questions, questioning both of these witnesses. There are some women on the Democratic side this time. One other thing I want to ask about very briefly, Tamara Keith - in that 1991 case, in the Anita Hill case, Joe Biden, then chairman of the Judiciary Committee, according to our own Nina Totenberg, brought in the FBI to interview Hill and Thomas. Is something like that going to happen this time?

KEITH: It doesn't look like it. Democrats want it. They are strongly pushing to have the FBI do a full investigation on this charge before a hearing. But the Trump administration and the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee do not intend for that to happen. The Justice Department came out with a statement late yesterday saying that this does not involve a potential federal crime, and the FBI's only job is to forward the information along, not to investigate it.

INSKEEP: OK - high-stakes battle ahead. Tamara Keith, thanks very much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.