A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clerk will call the roll.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): Judge Kavanaugh now Justice Kavanaugh, confirmed by a two-vote margin.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’re very, very proud of him and what he and his family had to endure.
KARL: The vote coming down to the wire…
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: This is one vote that I won’t know until the votes are actually cast.
KARL: Revealing a fractured Senate.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: We have forgotten the common values that bind us together as Americans.
KARL: And a deeply divided country.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: We believe survivors! We are the future!
KARL: Kavanaugh says he will be even-keeled, open-minded and independent. Will he live up to that promise? How will he be received by his fellow justices? And what message does his confirmation send to survivors of sexual assault?
From Justice Kavanaugh to Professor Ford, the MeToo movement, and the Supreme Court, we’re covering all the bases with Kellyanne Conway and a key Democrat who fought to block the nomination.
Plus, capitalizing on the Kavanaugh vote.
TRUMP: Their rage-fueled resistance is starting to backfire at a level that nobody has ever seen before.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KARL: The confirmation battle is galvanizing voters on both sides. But which party benefits? A powerhouse roundtable takes that on.
What’s fact, what’s fiction and what matters THIS WEEK?
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK.
Here now, chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.
Less than 24 hours ago, the Senate voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh, cementing a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh was officially sworn in yesterday, making him the 114th justice on the high court.
You see him there, his hand on his family Bible, chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath. Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito and Kagan were all in attendance.
It caps what “The New York Times” says may be the best week yet for the Trump presidency, including a big new trade deal, the lowest unemployment rate since 1969, and signs that the political momentum has shifted for Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.
Take a look at this from our colleagues at 538. Just a week ago, Democrats had a one in three chance of taking back the Senate. Now it’s scaled back to just over one in five.
And at a rally last night in Topeka, Kansas, President Trump was in his element, boasting about his accomplishments and touting Kavanaugh’s confirmation, a victory that ensures the president’s influence and legacy will last long after his time in office is over.
Yes, Trump has made his mark on the Supreme Court, but at what cost?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: November is coming! November is coming!
KARL (voice-over): Protesters stormed Washington this week, determined to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Kavanaugh has got to go!
KARL: Bringing their anger right to the senators before the vote.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Shame! Shame! Shame!
KARL: And continuing to shout their disapproval even as the gavel came down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sergeant at arms will restore order in the gallery.
KARL: It follows a messy and bitter confirmation process, highlighting the deep divide in Congress, the country, and now the court.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: One of the saddest, most sordid chapters in the long history of the federal judiciary.
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: As a Nebraska woman put it a little more bluntly to me two nights ago, “What the hell is happening in my country?”
GRASSLEY: This is almost rock bottom. I would like to have the future mending things, so we can do things in a collegial way that the United States Senate ought to do.
KARL: Kavanaugh’s new colleagues are trying to stay above the fray. But some are expressing concern.
ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: Part of the court’s strength and part of the court’s legitimacy depends on people not seeing the court in the way that people see the rest of the governing structures of this country now.
KARL: And hanging over it all, the implications for the MeToo movement.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: What message does that send across the country today to other women who are so bravely now telling their story, so it will not happen to anyone else? What does it say to them? They’re going to get away with it, so be quiet, because it’ll only ruin your life, not theirs.
QUESTION: What is your message today to the women across this country who are feeling devastated, feeling like the message that has been sent here…
TRUMP: I don’t think they are.
QUESTION: … is that they’re not being believed?
TRUMP: I don’t think they are.
Women — women were outraged at what happened to Brett Kavanaugh, outraged.
QUESTION: Are you 100 percent certain that…
TRUMP: I’m 100 percent.
QUESTION: … Ford named the wrong person or…
TRUMP: I’m 100 percent. I have no doubt.
KARL: And joining me now is counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway.
Good morning, Kellyanne.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Good morning, Jon.
KARL: I want to ask you.
This is clearly a victory for the president, a big victory for the president. But, as you yourself said, this was — could be seen as an apocalyptic fight, this confirmation battle.
How concerned are you that, given all that went down and the way this went down, that Brett Kavanaugh will be seen as a tainted justice by roughly half of the country?
CONWAY: Justice Kavanaugh should not be seen as tainted.
He should be seen as somebody who went through seven FBI investigations, including just in this last week, another one that was completed this past July, had answered 1,200 written questions, had produced about a million pages of documents, submitted himself to about 33 or 35 hours of sworn testimony to the Senate, including denying the allegations that were put before him.
And they should look at his entire record the way Senator Susan Collins did. Her speech and her vote were remarkable, but don’t forget what she said in that stem-winder of a speech before she cast her affirmative vote.
She said she had been briefed by 19 attorneys, that she had read his opinions. She quoted from those opinions. She said she’s very concerned that we’re giving up on basic principles that make America so wonderful, including fairness and due process and the presumption of innocence.
The Supreme Court, thank God, is a sacrosanct institution that can withstand much. And it will withstand the fact that there were a lot of political machinations. You have people preening for the cameras already out there in Iowa running for president in 2020 on the heels of this vote and who were raising money for their presidential campaigns during a Senate confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court.
So I think there should be a lot of soul-searching. But let’s not forget who should be doing that. You’re about to have a Democratic senator from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, on your show.
She told you and the men of America to just shut up several weeks ago. This has been a very low point for many people whose job it was to advise and consent the president on judicial nominations.
They wanted — they wanted…
KARL: But, Kellyanne…
CONWAY: … America to look up and see Brett Kavanaugh as a gang rapist.
And a lot of women, including me in America, looked up and saw a man who was — is a political character — a political — political character assassination. And, also, we looked up and saw in him possibly our husbands, our sons, our cousins, our co-workers, our brothers.
And this was — this was unfair. Had they shown Brett Kavanaugh the grace and dignity that his 10-year-old daughter showed Dr. Ford, that we all showed her in her testimony and in the FBI supplemental investigation…
CONWAY: And I think there should be some soul-searching, but it’s not the Supreme Court.
KARL: So, Kellyanne, you heard what Elena Kagan said about the court’s legitimacy depending on it being seen as — as apart from the politics that we see in the other two branches. I assume, based on your comments, you agree with that.
KARL: … regardless — regardless of anything you just said, there are clearly questions in the minds of a great many people in this country, again, roughly half the country, about Justice Kavanaugh’s objectivity.
How would you advise him to overcome those questions that so many people in this country have about whether or not he can truly be an objective justice?
CONWAY: You have already tried this for weeks now, respectfully.
KARL: Tried what? I’m just asking you how he’s going to overcome doubts that half the country has.
CONWAY: Oh, we’ve had this conversation for three weeks.
KARL: I’m not trying anything. I’m just asking a question.
CONWAY: No, no, no, excuse me. We have had this conversation for three weeks, including under sworn testimony.
There’s been no Supreme Court justice in the history of this country, Jon, that has been more picked apart, with the possible exception of Clarence Thomas, who is in his 27th year on the bench.
And we have had this conversation for three weeks. I think what Justice Kavanaugh should do is what he’s done for 12 years on the second highest court in the land, having authored over 300 judicial opinions.
He should go to work. He should do his job. He should look at the document. He should listen to the cases in front of him. He should read the briefs. And then he should apply the law, not make it up as he goes along.
That’s why President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in the first place and 26 other U.S. Circuit Court judges that have been confirmed…
CONWAY: … because this — this country is sick and tired of people who make up the law as they go along to fit political agendas or to fit personal predispositions.
He — he should do that. But I’m telling you, we also — we — you’re talking about the country and polling. Look at the Harris — the Harvard-Harris poll that came out this week, two data points I will quickly review.
One, 75 percent of Americans, according to the Harvard-Harris poll, say that Senator Feinstein should not have sat on that letter for six weeks. She should have revealed it immediately.
In a separate question, 69 percent in the Harris — the Harvard-Harris poll — excuse me — said that they thought the whole process was a — quote — “national disgrace.”
And you have to put all of those data points together and recognize that there was profiles in cowardice by many people. They were not trying to get to the — the — let’s stop pretending that there’s moral authority by some, including many in your industry.
I didn’t say you, but many in your industry have lost their moral authority to pretend that they were looking for the truth, that they were on some kind of fact-finding mission, when they were — they’re not even covering his testimony that he has denied under oath that this has happened and they want every woman to be a victim, every woman to lock arms and every other woman — every man is a perpetrator.
We can’t live in a country where democracy and the first amendment and due process —
KARL: So —
CONWAY: — and fairness and the presumption of innocence thrive and have that as the backdrop by United States senators.
KARL: But let me ask you — Kavanaugh in his — after the hearing was over, he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and he said — let me read a section of this. “I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp. I said a few things I should not have said”.
We know he apologized for the way he spoke to Senator Klobuchar but what are the other — what — what — what are the rest of those few things. What does he regret saying in that second round of confirmation hearing?
CONWAY: I think Senator Collins answered that question best, and I’ll echo it, where she said she can understand — as can I, as can many people, including women, across this country — millions of them, Jon — that when you are being unjustly attacked, when people are sending death threats and vile e-mails to your own wife, to your 13 and 10 year old daughters, when they’re trying to destroy the reputation and the good name (ph) of someone in the public circle —
KARL: But what he regret that he said? What — what — what are the few things that he says he should not have said?
CONWAY: Well he apologized to Senator Klobuchar for —
KARL: What else?
CONWAY: — getting a little bit hot, but I think we all — but I think we all can appreciate that. I don’t think — look, I don’t think that what Judge Kavanaugh said under oath in that testimony for 35 hours, all told, comes anywhere near the hysteria and the hashtags and the — and the spitting and the chasing people out of restaurants and down senate halls. Nothing that he said comes even close to approximating that type of conduct.
KARL: Well — well let’s —
CONWAY: And America’s watching. I’m glad the cameras were on. He said he apologizes.
KARL: So let’s —
CONWAY: He apologized to the — the senator. And — but remember, he’s under oath as he’s been for 28 years as a public servant, seven FBI investigations, many times —
KARL: So — so let’s move beyond the hearings —
KARL: Let’s move on beyond the hearings to what’s going to happen. We — we — I want to play something that candidate Donald Trump said during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we — we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that’s really what’s going to be — that’s will happen and that’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So did the president keep his promise? He now has two justices on the court. Will Roe v. Wade be overturned? Is that the expectation?
CONWAY: There are many people in this country who are thrilled that it’s President Trump and not president — the person who lost the election last time putting these justices on the United States Supreme Court so we can get back to the constitution and its four corners. Having said that — and Senator Collins again echoed this in her speech. Justice Kavanaugh — Justice Kavanaugh, I love that — said during his testimony that he believes Roe versus Wade is — is settled law.
I would refer you back to October 19, 2016 when then candidate Trump in the final debate in Las Vegas turned to Hillary Clinton and did something that pro-life candidates had not done for decades and should have. He turned to her and said excuse me, you’re the extremist on abortion, you would rip the baby out of its mother’s womb before the last hour before its birth. That was Donald Trump.
A lot of the country flexed (ph) because he said ew (ph) and then they started to look at it and say wait a second, to be pro-choice in 2018 means that you are for sex selection abortion, that you are for late term abortion, taxpayer funded abortion, abortion after —
KARL: But — but — but —
KARL: — to get back to my question (ph), the question is do you expect —
CONWAY: — is the issue here. Those babies will get —
KARL: But do you expect Roe v. Wade will be overturned? Is that — the president promised that he was going —
CONWAY: You know what —
KARL: — to appoint justices that would get Roe v. Wade overturned. Is that the expectation now? Has he fulfilled his promise? Are we now going to see — does the president now expect that we are going to see Roe v. Wade overturned?
CONWAY: So as Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh, in their respective Supreme Court hearings — nomination hearings, excuse me, said that Roe is settled law. I’m making the point to you that —
KARL: But the president promised to appoint justices — so that was a broken promise?
CONWAY: No, it’s not a broken promise. He’s appointing people — he’s nominating people — 26 to the U.S. circuit courts and two to the United Supreme Court who are going to apply the law. Most Americans don’t actually know what Roe provides and does not provide because we’ve surveyed this in the past. They think that there are limits to — to having abortions.
That is not what Roe did. Roe talked about a word that we’ve never heard since, penumbra, and they talked about trimesters, but they never really – excuse me, but we’re talking about trimesters now.
People are going to look at state law and the circuit law and they’re now going to look issues like late term abortion, they’re going to look at sex selection abortion, they’re certainly going to look at abortion after non-partisan scientists and doctors a fetus can feel pain.
This matter on the whole left of abortion any time, anyone, anywhere on demand with absolutely no common sense applied to it whatsoever, the fact that Planned Parenthood gets a half a billion dollars a year in taxpayer funding and then turns around and uses it to support Democrats is not what most Americans think of when they think of Planned Parenthood.
KARL: Kellyanne, we – we just heard –
CONWAY: Ask (ph) the United States Supreme Court, we’ll see what cases – but I know – look, I know the mainstream media wants to boil the Supreme Court down to only abortion or guns, this week they’re going to deal with asbestos claims, they’ll probably deal with the commerce clause in this term.
KARL: Let me ask you about some news that just – that just came in, we —
KARL: — Senator – Senator –
CONWAY: — constitutions that they document.
KARL: Senator Collins has just said that the president was not respectful of Christine Blasey Ford during this process. Your reaction.
CONWAY: Well Senator Collins was referring I believe also to a particular comment from a rally last week that really showed a lot of rank and file people who care the Supreme Court and care about people being unjustly accused, that he was showing that he would stand by this.
KARL: So was the president being disrespectful, because the president blatantly misrepresented –
The president blatantly in that rally misrepresented what’s – what was said.
CONWAY: Jon, here’s where – here’s where you’re going – you’re going to respectfully here’s where you’re always going to be talking about last week and we’re moving forward including to the –
KARL: Well I’m asking you about right now Senator Collins said the president was disrespectful and I’m asking for you to respond to that. Was the president disrespectful to Christine Blasey Ford?
CONWAY: I respectfully – I respectfully – I don’t know what’s – excuse me, the White House and the entire process, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the president, his counselor, all of us were very respectful to Dr. Ford in saying let her be heard, don’t ignore her, don’t insult her, and we did hear her.
She got to testify 11 days after Justice Kavanaugh was willing to testify, 11 days after her identity was first revealed. And let’s review why was her identity revealed? Who really disrespected this woman and made her a household name and a face?
That would be the Democrats, that would be Senator Dianne Feinstein who sat on that letter from her for six weeks and then some Democratic staffer somewhere, and let’s get to the bottom of that, let’s not let that go.
I hope they will investigate who leaked Dr. Ford’s identity. She requested anonymity, she didn’t want to be known.
KARL: Kellyanne –
CONWAY: You know, excuse me, and then they recommended these Democratic lawyers for her who – who maybe didn’t even tell her that she could testify privately in California.
She didn’t have to come to Washington and face the cameras –
KARL: OK Kellyanne, we’re just about out of time. I want to – I want to get one question more about the vote, the actual vote. Lisa Murkowski obviously voted no. We head from the president in the Washington Post say, quote, “I think she will never recover from this. I think the people of Alaska will never forgive her for what she did.”
So you’re the political expert over there, what – do you agree with that? Is – is Lisa Murkowski safe (ph) fate sealed? Did she make a fatal political mistake with that vote?
CONWAY: Alaska is a safe bet (ph) the president won by 15 points last time around. It is certainly a safe bet (ph) that keeps (ph) elevating Republicans to state-wide office. And I think the president’s entire point is you’re stuck between the will of your own people in this case and – and also I think some of the other considerations that really didn’t grip people like Senator Collins or Senator Flake or Senator Manchin.
Everything that the swing – that the swing voters wanted was done. There was a supplemental FBI – FBI investigation that lasted a week. I think that people were high fiving themselves on the left and actually helped Justice Kavanaugh to have that supplemental investigation, because there’s still no corroboration for these allegations.
The people that Dr. Ford mentioned by name were then interviewed by the FBI and could not corroborate. They couldn’t refute – couldn’t corroborate her allegations. Senator Murkowski is up again in 2022, I think what a disgrace is is that people are raising millions of dollars to go against Senator Collins.
Instead of raising money and hashtagging themselves on Twitter, go and read her whole speech. It is one for the ages. She did what Senators are supposed to do, advise and consent.
Look at all the facts –
KARL: Kellyanne, thank you.
CONWAY: — and make a decision based on that. Thank you, Jon.
KARL: Thank you, Kellyanne.
CONWAY: And congratulations to Justice Kavanaugh and President Trump. Thank you.
KARL: Thank you. Let’s bring in Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee who helped lead the opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination. So you called –
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Good morning.
KARL: Good morning. You called this process a sham. He is now Justice Kavanaugh. Do you view Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a legitimate justice?
HIRONO: He’s going to be on the Supreme Court with a huge taint and a big asterisk after his name. And the partisanship that he showed was astounding. And the conspiracy theory that he accused us of behaving in was bizarre.
So prior to his testimony I had already decided, having gone through his record and his dissents that there was a pattern which showed that he was not for women’s reproductive choice, that is sure. And a number of other patterns that were very troubling. And I had already decided.
But with regard to this sham FBI investigation, everyone knows that when you just interview a small number of people and not the dozens of others who wanted to be interviewed by the FBI, that is a sham. And it raises more questions than it answers.
KARL: So even before the final vote on the confirmation, we heard from the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, the possible future chairman of that committee say this about the confirmation process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If he is on the Supreme Court, and the Senate hasn’t investigated, then the House will have to.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: You’ll investigate.
NADLER: We would have to investigate any credible allegations, certainly, of perjury and other things that haven’t been properly looked into before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: OK. So this confirmation battle is over. He is Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Do you really think the Democrats, should they win control of the House, should continue an investigation absent some new revelations?
HIRONO: The confirmation battle may be over but the court-packing (ph) is definitely not over. So the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, these two ultra-conservative organizations have spent decades preparing their people, like Judge Kavanaugh, for the Supreme Court and every other court for life.
And in fact, just next week we’re going to hear from two more for the Sixth Circuit. These are potential nominees…
KARL: But do you want the investigation — do you want to continue an investigation…
HIRONO: Jerry Nadler will do what Jerry Nadler will do. But I’m totally focused with all the angry women and the men who listen to women and support the credible accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which is very under-reported, that I’m focused like a laser beam on the elections.
Because all of these angry people out there, they know that it is the people who are sitting in the Senate that they’ve elected who are making these decisions. And they’re going to go to the polls and they’re going to vote differently.
KARL: Can you rule out this idea of impeaching Kavanaugh?
HIRONO: Well, it all starts with the House. So, you know, I view so many of these things as basically — Jon, I don’t blame you for wanting to ask these questions because I know as you tried to talk to Kellyanne, it’s really hard to get a word in edgewise with her.
But with this whole impeachment thing, you know what, I’m very focused on the here and now, which is that all of these very angry women, mainly, out there who saw what was going on and how the Senate was not able to deal fairly with the entire issue of sexual assault, clearly this idea that Dr. Ford was given, you know, all accommodation is really, I have to say, baloney.
KARL: But you won’t rule out impeachment. We’ve only had one justice…
HIRONO: Jerry Nadler is not ruling out impeachment, but…
KARL: Is that a mistake though? I mean, do we really want — after we just went through all this go through…
HIRONO: I’m more focused on what we need to do which is we need to get to the polls, truly.
KARL: OK. Also you heard Kellyanne raise the issue of the protests. I want to show you something Marco Rubio tweeted just a short while ago. “Can you imagine what Democrats and many in media would be saying if it was conservatives ambushing them at restaurants, confronting them at home, disrupting Senate hearings and votes with primal screams, now literally banging on the door of the Supreme Court building. They would call it a mob.”
So let me ask you, you mentioned the anger, the anger is real, but are these tactics…
HIRONO: Well, they’re very…
KARL: Do you approve of these tactics?
HIRONO: The anger is real. There are a lot of people who feel very, very strongly. And the Republicans seem to forget what happened during the passage of the Affordable Care Act where, believe me, the Democrats were the focus and the brunt of screams, coffins being left on our doorsteps, all of that. So I…
KARL: Yes, but do you approve of those tactics, whether they’re — whether it’s the tea partiers or whether it’s the resistance?
HIRONO: People are making their own decisions because, as you know, in our country, civil disobedience is very much a part of our country. And of course, if you go over the line, then you have to be held accountable.
But people feel very strongly. That’s what happens in our country. People felt very strongly about the Affordable Care Act back then.
KARL: Sure. Let me ask you about what Mitch McConnell had to say about all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: They made a tactical mistake that really helped me unify my conference and turn all the Republican base going into the election. Maybe I ought to say thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So was this a political mistake? You lost the confirmation battle. He’s on the Supreme Court, and now all the indications are Republicans are more energized than they were two weeks ago.
HIRONO: With (ph) Mitch McConnell, everything is political, starting from after President Obama got elected and he said my goal in life is to make sure that he’s a one-term president, that there was not going to be a Supreme Court seat filled by — with Merrick Garland. Everything with Mitch McConnell is political and I have to say, he’s very ruthless about it. Now, I had major concerns about Judge Kavanaugh, even before —
KARL: You were against him before the hearing started.
HIRONO: Because I actually studied his cases and I read his — particularly his dissents, which are very telling, very much against reproductive choice. So it doesn’t matter to me, frankly. Yes, of course it matters if they go over there and actually overturn Roe v. Wade, which I doubt they’re going to do. But as KellyAnne said, the states are very busy passing all kinds of laws that would limit a woman’s right to choose. It’s those things that will go before a justice.
KARL: And you doubt they will overturn Roe v. Wade. Mazie Hirono —
HIRONO: Even if they don’t —
KARL: — thank you —
HIRONO: — they will nullify it, pretty much.
KARL: Thank you for joining us on THIS WEEK.
KARL: I appreciate it. When we come back, how will Justice Kavanaugh change the direction of the Supreme Court? Our experts debate that next. And later, the powerhouse roundtable breaks down what it all means for the midterms, now just 30 days away. We’ll be right back.
KARL: Let’s bring in our Supreme Court panel, Carrie Severino, Chief Counsel and Policy Director of the Judicial Crisis Network which backed Kavanaugh’s nomination, Elizabeth Wydra, the president of the Constitutional Accountability Center which opposed Kavanagh, and ABC’s Terry Moran who has covered Supreme Court for decades and decades.
So – so sorry – so Carrie, let me start with you. You fought hard for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. What kind of a justice is he going to be?
CARRIE SEVERINO, CHIEF COUNSEL AND POLICY DIRECTOR, JUDICIAL CRISIS NETWORK: I think the best way to tell that is to look at his 12 years on the D.C. circuit.
This is someone who comes in with a lot of experience and he was known for being someone who is very diligent, gets all the details, very solid questioner, someone who’s very even handed and this is why you saw so many people from both sides of the aisle stepping forward and saying look, I don’t agree with his results, but I always knew that every side was going to get a really fair shake going – going in.
KARL: Well I mean – I mean in the end, most people on the other side of the aisle came out very strongly against him. One – one question that I (ph) –
SEVERINO: Well true (ph), but the people who’ve actually practiced before him, I’m talking about his – his actual reputation as a judge I think was, you know, one of the highest reputations on both sides of the aisle of the federal judiciary.
He was very – very widely respected. I mean this is why the Supreme Court so many times had gone to his opinions and vindicated his reasoning. He’s got a, you know, a singular level of recognition among the – the federal court.
KARL: I’ve heard some conservatives uneasy with his op-ed that he wrote in the Wall Street Journal saying essentially that he showed that he cares how he’s perceived, whereas when Clarence Thomas went through what he went through, you know, it was – it was I am charging ahead and he had no apologies.
Do you – do you think that this whole experience will effect how Kavanaugh will behave on the court? Will he try to do something to kind of address the concerns that so many in the country have about him?
SEVERINO: Well I think the number one thing he can do is, again, go back to the kind of judge he has always been, which is someone who is known for his even headedness. He had a – he had a very controversial confirmation process the first time around.
This is right in the middle of the filibuster where they were filibustering all these judges. He was filibustered, he had to have a whole second confirmation hearing. So this isn’t like oh, he had an easy time before and so that was – it was easy to be bipartisan.
No, he was – he has always had that target on his back and yet was able to go through and make sure he was – he was putting his oath first to the constitution, to the law. I think he’ll go back and do that and that will be best vindication against those who are now, you know, trying – as Senator Hirono said, trying to put an asterisk behind his name.
I clerked for Justice Thomas, I think he’s got no asterisk, he can stand on his own two feet and I know Justice Kavanaugh will as well.
KARL: You were dead set against this nomination. Any chance he surprises you?
ELIZABETH WYDRA, PRESIDENT, CONSTITUTIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY CENTER: I hope he surprises me. You know, look, first of all I practiced before Judge Kavanaugh and, you know, my organization, the Constitutional Accountability Center, opposed him after very carefully looking at his record, listening to his answers at the hearings.
And this was just based on the substance, even before all of these sexual assault allegations came out and the incredibly moving and credible testimony of Dr. Ford, because when you look at his record on the D.C. circuit, he is incredibly conservative on issues that will be very important in the next coming years before the Supreme Court issues like reproductive rights, issues like the access to healthcare, especially when you’re talking about women accessing contraception coverage, and as well as environmental regulations, consumer protection.
And even some of his conservative colleagues have called him out for going too far and not respecting precedent on some of those opinions. So I don’t know this centrist is that Senator Collins was talking about in her speech, because if he were that centrist, President Trump wouldn’t have nominated him and I doubt we’d see all these Republicans celebrating him.
And so once we see these decisions start to come down, especially if he helps fulfill President Trump’s promise to overturn Roe versus Wade, we’re going to see the energy that all of these protesters poured into opposing the nomination really come out even further, I think, when they start to feel the effects of the decisions of this very conservative Supreme Court.
KARL: (Inaudible) when he was sworn in by John Roberts last night, I thought it was interesting that Elena Kagan was there, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was there. How does he — how does he kind of fit in with this — this —
MORAN: Well, that was a huge statement and an important statement, because with this nomination, whether Kavanaugh likes it or not or deserves it or not, he brings onto the court the poisonous political polarization that divides the country right now and he’s got that on the court. Some of that’s unfair, it’s just the circumstances, some of it is his own doing. When he got angry — anger was understandable in that situation, but when he got angry it’s as if the mask slipped and this rabid partisan worldview came out, accusing the Democrats and — and liberals with millions of dollars (inaudible).
KARL: And we’ve never seen anything remotely like that in a confirmation.
MORAN: No. No. Not when Clarence Thomas got angry in a very different way — not that everybody does it the same way. That said, his colleagues understand the constitution put him there. Right? The constitutional process put him there. They will treat him as — as a justice. I think they’re going to look to — for ways to reduce the temperature around the court maybe a little bit.
And I would think that the key relationship on the court right now is between Chief Justice John Roberts, who is an institutionalist, he loves that place, and Justice Elena Kagan, who has a similar view of the court. Can they find ways in the cases they take, in the way they’ve fashioned decisions, to — to — to lower the temperature? The problem is, there’s (ph) going to be tremendous amount of pressure because conservative lawyers around the country — the candy store is open now for conservative activists.
KARL: And — because — because — the tradition is the — the new justice closes the door and there’s all of this. But — but will Roberts, like, steer him away from writing decisions for a while? There’s been some speculation you won’t see him anywhere near a — you know, writing a decision on, for instance, a sexual harassment issue that would come up.
MORAN: I think John Roberts will have — the — the court has no authority in the country except the confidence of the people, and I think that will be in his mind.
SEVERINO: Well, I — well traditionally the youngest justice or the (inaudible) justice gets kind of a few easy unanimous decisions right out the gate. So I’m sure we’ll see that as well. But I think — you know, he — he is a full-fledged member of the court and they are — you know, much to — to my — my relief, not the polarized group that we see the rest of America is. He said there aren’t — there aren’t aisles there. It’s not — it’s not one justice on one side and one justice on the other.
People don’t realize how much unanimity there is. About 40 percent of the cases every year are in fact unanimous —
SEVERINO: — on the court.
KARL: And a lot of the 5-4 decisions are actually not — not as —
SEVERINO: They’re not — they’re not all — they’re not all (inaudible) —
KARL: We’re really out of time, but I just have to ask you — we — we — we heard Hirono say — Senator Hirono, she doesn’t think that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. Do you?
WYDRA: I think that — you know, probably Chief Justice Roberts is a little too savvy to let the words Roe versus Wade is overturned appear in opinion, but I think the court very easily — and I sadly expect it to — gut the meaning of the right to access abortion by chipping away, by upholding restrictions on that fundamental right. And that’s only — you know, I think for progressives, the question is when we get the next Supreme Court battle, are they going to keep this energy. Because that will only further entrench this conservative majority.
KARL: All right. Carrie, Elizabeth, Terry, thank you for joining us. The roundtable is coming up next. How will the Kavanaugh confirmation shake up the fight for the Senate? We’ll have a new forecast when we come back.
KARL: We are less than a month away from the midterm elections, and this morning a new forecast from our colleagues at FiveThirtyEight shows the Kavanaugh nomination is galvanizing support among Republican voters.
In the FiveThirtyEight forecast, Republican chance of retaining control of the Senate has improved by 10 points over just the last week. They are closing the enthusiasm gap with Democrats, particularly in red states.
Case and point, North Dakota, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp’s standing has weakened dramatically. FiveThirtyEight now gives Heitkamp just a one in three chance of reelection in North Dakota, a state which Trump won by 36 points in 2016.
Heitkamp voted against Justice Kavanaugh. Contrast that with Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He was the only Democrat to vote for Kavanaugh. And despite the fact that West Virginia is the seventh most Republican state in the country, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast gives Manchin a seven in eight chance of winning reelection.
So will this polarizing moment allow Republicans to turn the tide on the midterm elections? We’ll discuss that and more with the powerhouse Round Table coming up next.
KARL: Back now with the Round Table. Former New Jersey governor and ABC News contributor Chris Christie, ABC News Political Analyst Matthew Dowd, Shawna Thomas, Washington Bureau Chief for Vice News, and a THIS WEEK debut, Rachael Bade, Congressional Reporter for Politico. Thank you for being here.
So best week of the Trump Presidency is what the New York Times is calling it, but we’ve seen some self destructive tendencies on the part of the president in the past. How does he blow this?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, CONTRIBUTOR, ABC NEWS: Well I – listen, I think that the president will continue to be who he is, and – and no one – and I actually say this (ph) to folks all the time, and I’ve known this guy for 16 years.
He has been exactly the same person for those 16 years, and so he will go out and he will campaign, he will do the rallies like you saw him do just last night in Kansas, and some people will love it and some people will hate it, and that’s the hallmark of this administration.
But it’s not really disputable that this week as the – if the New York Times is saying it, I’m going to echo the New York Times, one of the few times I’ve stand (ph) to do that. A trade agreement that people didn’t think he was going to get done, lowest unemployment in nearly 50 years and now a second justice on the Supreme Court.
This has been a great week for the president and he deserves to crow a little bit.
KARL: And I’ll tell you one thing he’s done, Matthew, is he’s united Republicans in a way that I have not seen them united at all since the beginning of the Trump era. George W. Bush, who you helped get elected, worked for on two campaigns, he made three phone calls to Susan Collins, just to Susan Collins, urging a vote yet on Kavanaugh.
So I mean does the president – does he solve some of his problems with the – the never Trumpers now seem to be maybe sometimes Trumpers.
MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: Well yes, and governor – I mean Governor Bush, President Bush was very close to Brett and Brett worked very close – Brett Kavanaugh worked very close – and Ashley Estes who worked for then President Bush in this (ph).
I think that one of the things that a (ph) step back, and I obviously saw the odds that FiveThirtyEight has done, I’m not necessarily a big believer in those after what happened in 2016.
DOWD: And also as a – I think that we often – we often in polling, this is a problem that we do, is that we take a temperature test in a moment and then a week, two weeks, three weeks from now it’s very different.
And I think this is one of those moments, and I would advise everybody before we speculate what’s going to happen in November on the Senate races, in the House, in governor’s races and all of that is give it a week or 10 days to settle out.
Because I remember all the polls after the Access Hollywood tape came out, the race was over, it was a 10 point race, she was going to win overwhelmingly, and within a week or eight days, it was right back to a close race.
So I would say we – we don’t know what the enthusiasm is, but more importantly we don’t know what size of each party’s base is. Those are two important factors, enthusiasm and the size of the base.
We’ll know more in a week.
SHAWNA THOMAS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, VICE NEWS: But how people – but how people, especially men talk about this moment, putting – Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court justice, we can all agree that that happened.
But how they talk about it and I think Senator Mitch McConnell referring to those women on the hill as a mob, their rage as something that should be contained, that is going to change how we see things in 10 days or 30 days.
And I think at certain people’s peril, trying to diminish what those women feel about this is a problem. And that – and that is what we are going to see or what we might see play out in the midterm election.
KARL: So Vice News actually spent a lot of time with the protesters over this past week. We saw the president say these are professional protesters paid by George Soros, et cetera, et cetera.
What – what – what – who were these people? What was going on?
THOMAS: So a lot of them were — were normal people who were mad. We — we hung out with a group from Alaska who was very specifically talking to Lisa Murkowski. A lot of them were Native Americans, which also played into Lisa Murkowski’s decision. They felt a lot of respect for her because she brought them into their office, she had a real conversation with them. And we also saw people who were organized. And that moment with Jeff Flake on the Hill where he talked to one woman who works for UltraViolet, who was paid, she helped steer people in the right ways to be able to — to confront senators.
KARL: So there were paid —
THOMAS: There were people who were paid by organizations like UltraViolet, to — to try to harness that energy in a way that would make the viral moments that we ended up seeing.
KARL: So Rachel, McConnell says this is going to be a passing moment in terms of this opposition. What’s your sense?
BADE: Watch the House, especially if Democrats take the chamber on November 6. Right now I’m hearing from House Democrats who are already saying that they are going to investigate Kavanaugh and the White House’s handling of this investigation process. Let’s dispel the notion right now that they’re going to impeach him and remove him, right? It takes 67 votes in the Senate to actually remove a judge from the bench. Republicans are not going to go for that. But Democrats, should they take the House, can really make his life, you know, miserable. They’re talking about —
KARL: And they’re really going to continue to — to fight this?
BADE: They are. They are from what I — from what they’re telling me. They’re — they want the FBI investigation, they want to make that public. There’s a huge stack of tips that the FBI received that they did not chase that Democrats are going to look into. They’re going to talk to potential witnesses that some of these women told the FBI to speak with that they did not, they’re going to look at his statements to the committee and see if he perjured himself.
But I will say that this is a Pandora’s box for them, right? I mean, Nancy Pelosi and the establishment Democrats, they are very wary of Democrats overplaying their hand with impeachment, especially they’re already going — going to go after the president on his tax returns, on the Russia investigation, on potential obstruction of justice, they’re going to investigate him on that —
KARL: There’s dozens of topics.
BADE: So how do they — you know, do they overreach on this? Could that undercut them?
CHRISTIE: I can’t wait. I really can’t. Because we should put that — that speech just then, your reporting on this and Jerry Nadler, who I know well from New York, who’s out there saying absolutely we’re going to impeach Brett Kavanaugh. Republicans should be running that as TV commercials for the next four weeks. Because if what the American people believe is that by electing Democrats they’re not going to get a counterbalance or a check on President Trump, but what they’re going to get is two years of investigations and impeachment hearings on Brett Kavanaugh and on Donald Trump, then you’re going to get ready for a Republican House and a Republican Senate.
So I think the — the very best allies Republicans have right now are those Democrats like Jerry Nadler and others who are out there saying they’re going to become the impeachment House. —
DOWD: I think — I think — here’s — here’s a — here’s a stink (ph). Take a step back and — and then whether or not the Democrats are going to take revenge or not and what they’re going to do and all of that, is we’re in a very troubling moment in America — in American history right now. A very troubling moment. And a previous president, President Lincoln in the second inaugural address in the midst of a bitter and bloody war — and the end of a bitter, bloody war talked about let’s bind up the nation’s wounds and let’s have malice towards none, charity to all.
And we’re now in a moment where even the side that won can’t help themselves but to rub the faces of many people in — in the dirt and basically bully them in the process and celebrate by saying beers for Brett. And I hope — I hope Brett Kavanaugh, who I said — as I — I know Brett Kavanaugh and I know Ashley, his wife in this. And I — and he’s — Brett’s a man of faith, a man of religion, a thoughtful person and he cares deeply about the country.
I hope he takes some of his (inaudible) founded the society of Jesus, the Jesuits, where he went to high school, takes a moment of discernment in this process and realizes his role and maybe surprise both sides in this and (inaudible) and take it upon himself to possibly – and through (ph) language and action, help bind the nation’s wounds because we’re in a very wounded period in American history.
KARL: And Rachel, if you look at it, immediately after the vote — I mean — I mean in real time, we saw two Republican women targeted. One, we saw Sarah Palin suggesting that she may run against Lisa Murkowski and we saw Susan Rice, Obama’s former national security advisor suggest she may run against Susan Collins in Maine.
BADE: Right. No, it’s — it’s interesting. You know, it’s the year of the female candidate right now. There are record numbers of women running and expected to be elected to Congress. But we’ve seen this energy mostly with the left. And when it comes to Republican women, they’ve been put in this really sort of awkward situation. And you’re — and you’re right, the two top targets from this vote were both Senate Republican women but for opposite reasons.
You have Murkowski in Alaska, the president telling the Washington Post that Alaskans are never going to forgive Murkowski and that, you know, Sarah Palin thing, potentially she might challenge her. And then — and that was all because she voted against Kavanaugh.
Now across on the other end of the country, you had Collins who voted with him, and Democrats are already saying that they’re pulling their money together, they’re looking for the best candidate, and they’re going to go after Collins, but again, for the opposite reason.
THOMAS: And those outside groups, the Maine People’s Alliance, the ones that started that crowd PAC fundraiser, on Friday night, their server crashed because they were getting so many donations against Collins for an unknown candidate in 2020.
And, you know, yesterday we were with them as they pushed the button and actually collected those donations. What they’re going to do with that money, it will be interesting to see who controls that. But people may not forget this moment. And liberals may not forget this moment.
And the point about women running and so many women running is that that energy, as you said, is on the Democratic side. But there are some women in the middle. And the way consultants are approaching those women, the women in the middle who also went for Trump, there is an argument to be made for them because of this moment that we are currently in.
CHRISTIE: You need someone to beat someone too, remember, Jon. You know, Susan Collins is a pretty formidable political figure in Maine. And, you know…
KARL: Murkowski has withstood a lot before.
CHRISTIE: Write-in victory in Alaska. So you’ve got to have somebody to beat somebody.
KARL: Can I ask about the other senator that crossed party lines, Joe Manchin? Donald Trump Jr. tweeted quite a response after the vote, after the lone Democrat voted for the president’s nominee, Donald Trump Jr. voted (sic): “A real profile in courage from Lyin (sic) liberal Joe Manchin. Waited for Kavanaugh to have enough votes secured before he announced his support. I bet he had another press release ready in case it went the other way.”
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I know Joe Manchin. I served with him when I was governor, Joe was governor of West Virginia for a period of time before he came to the Senate. Joe is a really thoughtful guy and a smart guy. And I believe that Joe made his vote based upon in his heart what he believed was best for West Virginia and best for the country.
So I would disagree with Donald Jr. on the characterization of Joe. I know Joe really well. And I also know his opponent really well in West Virginia too.
BADE: Manchin also told the White House that he was leaning towards supporting Kavanaugh well before Collins came out.
KARL: Any chance he ultimately switches parties?
THOMAS: Well, it doesn’t seem like he has to. We were in West Virginia doing a focus group on Friday night. And multiple people — and there were conservatives and liberals in the focus group, and multiple people said Joe Manchin is finally doing his job, he’s representing his constituency…
DOWD: This moment is not going to pass. This moment is with us for a while.
KARL: On that note, we are out of time. We will be right back.
KARL: That’s all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out “World News Tonight.” And this Friday, be sure to tune in for the first interview with first lady Melania Trump. ABC’s Tom Llamas, it’s an ABC News special “Being Melania, the First Lady.” Have a great day.