Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson takes apart Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing testimony. While the media present this as a “he said, she said” case, Robinson argues that Kavanaugh’s testimony is self-incriminating because of his lies

Story Transcript

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network, I’m Marc Steiner. It’s great to have you with us once again.

So much of America and the world were transfixed on the testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh before the Judiciary the other week. When it was over, a lot of the media boiled it down to “he said, she said,” and that meant one could come to no real conclusion about the truth. Well our guess today is among those who thinks otherwise. As he writes, “The existence of a ‘he said, she said’ does not mean it’s impossible to figure out the truth.” He then proceeds in his article for Current Affairs to show how Kavanaugh lied to the committee and to all of America.

He does it by painstakingly taking apart Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony, and he looks at Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony as well. He examines their delivery and how that helps us understand how we can tell truth from lies. Joining us this afternoon is Nathan Robinson; editor of Current Affairs, a PhD student in sociology and social policy at Harvard University, a graduate of Yale Law School who codirected of the Green Haven Prison Project while there and worked for the New Orleans Public Defenders office and the ACLU’s National Prison Project. And all that, he also wrote a children’s book, The Man Who Accidentally Wore His Cravat to a Gymnasium.

And Nathan Robinson, welcome to The Real News. Good to have you with us.

NATHAN ROBINSON: Nice to be with you.

MARC STEINER: So, are we talking about your children’s book? No, I’m just kidding … we might be. In some ways, this is a terrible kid’s book.

NATHAN ROBINSON: I’m happy to. I’d rather talk about that than Kavanaugh, honestly. I think everyone has Kavanaugh fatigue.

MARC STEINER: We’ll see if Kavanaugh’s read it.

But here we go. So what’s really interesting to me is what you posit here about how you … this is not about “he said, she said,” that this is something much deeper and you really can tell truth from lies. I think, as you put it, that it’s not impossible to figure out the truth if you look at this closely as possible. But let me let me play this first clip for you and for all of our viewers. They give us a sense of Kavanaugh refuting Dr. Blasey Ford. We can start there.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: Dr. Ford’s allegation is not merely uncorroborated, it is refuted by the very people she says were there, including by a longtime friend of hers. Refuted.

MARC STEINER: And as you write, you very clearly say he’s lying and Dr. Blasey Ford is not lying. Whether it’s the truth or not, we can argue. So talk a bit about that. What is it that we just heard that’s not true?

NATHAN ROBINSON: Well, he’s said “not merely uncorroborated but refuted,” so not merely that there’s no evidence to support it, but also that there is directly contradictory evidence, we would think, from that. And he cited her friend Leland Kaiser, Ford’s friend. But in fact, that’s not representation of what Kaiser said. Kaiser said, actually, that she believes Ford’s allegation. She told that to The Washington Post. And what she said is that she doesn’t remember any such party. And in fact, another one of the witnesses, P.J., said that he doesn’t remember any such party. But a lack of memory and a denial that it happened, these are two very, very different things.

There are lots of gatherings I went to in high school that if you ask me about them, I might not remember them. But I can’t deny that they happened. And throughout Kavanaugh’s testimony, he said that all of the people Ford says were there denied that the party happened. And that’s just absolutely false. In the case of Kaiser, it’s the opposite of the truth. And so when I say that “he said, she said,” that doesn’t mean you can’t tell what the truth is. What I mean is that even if there’s no corroboration, what you can’t do is examine the consistency of each witness’s testimony with the known facts, even if you don’t have eyewitnesses who can confirm or deny absolutely.

MARC STEINER: So we’re talking about that. Expand on that a bit further. I mean what you mean how you would show that as fact. I mean what is it about the delivery and what he said that says to you or to say to America that he’s not giving us the truth and that what she said probably is. I mean, can you parse out just a bit more for us, more detail?

NATHAN ROBINSON: I actually sort of hesitate to come to a conclusion about the veracity of her testimony. I focus a lot more on his testimony because this is his confirmation hearing. And if it turns out that he’s lying to the Senate, to me that sort of automatically- you don’t even have to prove that she is correct in order to prove that he’s disqualified himself there. But I mean, the thing I did is I go through the testimony, I look at the things he said, and I compare them to things that we actually know. So for example, he cites his calendars from 1982. He meticulously kept calendars to show records of exactly what he did. And he says that according to his calendars, he never attended a gathering with the group of people that Christine Blasey Ford cites. And that’s just wrong.

There’s a date on the calendar in which the people that she cites all attended an event with him. And he is also very manipulative. This should also be very suspicious, because he directed the Senate’s attention away from weeknights. And the event where he attended the gathering with the people she said occurred on a weeknight. And what Kavanaugh does, and I lay it out, and it’s very sneaky, is he goes, “Well, you know, we all had summer jobs and we were working during the week. So presumably this occurred on a weekend, but look at the weekends; I had alibis, I was away, I was out of town most weekends.” But that’s a misdirection. That’s directing the Senate away from looking at the most incriminating date. And he didn’t, in his testimony, deal with that date at all. He just sort of pointed people away from examining it closely and looking at it.

MARC STEINER: So let’s take a listen here. This is a clip of Sen. Leahy interacting with Kavanaugh and goes a bit about your point. Let’s take a look at this.

PATRICK LEAHY: In your yearbook you talked about drinking and sexual exploits, did you not?

BRETT KAVANAUGH: Senator, let me take a step back and explain high school. I was number one in the class freshman year.

PATRICK LEAHY: And I thought –

BRETT KAVANAUGH: No, no, no, no, no, no.

SPEAKER: Let him answer.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: I’m going to talk about my high school record if you’re going to sit here and mock me. I busted my butt in academics. I always tried to do the best I could. I did my service projects at the school, which involved going to a soup kitchen downtown. Let me finish. And going to tutor intellectually disabled kids at the Rockville library with the church. And yes, we got together with our friends.

PATRICK LEAHY: Does this reflect what you are? Does this yearbook reflect your focus on academics and your respect for women? That’s easy, yes or no. You don’t have to filibuster the answer. Does it reflect your focus?

BRETT KAVANAUGH: I already said the yearbook in my opening statement. Yes, we went to parties. Yes, of course, we went to parties and the yearbook page describes that and kind of makes fun of it. And you know if we want to sit here and talk about whether a Supreme Court nomination should be based on a high school yearbook page, I think that’s taken us to a new level of absurdity.

MARC STEINER: So beyond the fact this is in many ways the art of obfuscation, but so he never directly answers the question. And we’ll pick up the clips to show that as well. But why does this make you disbelieve what he says about that night, and not knowing, not remembering, not being there.

NATHAN ROBINSON: Yeah. I mean, it was incredible to me that conservatives, after this testimony came out and said, “My God he really redeemed himself. He took the stand and he gave a passionate.” Because I saw that, and I saw a direct question, “Was there was a mention of alcohol?” He said, “I volunteered at a soup kitchen.” Which is just a hilariously evasive answer. You can say yes, there’s nothing wrong – I mean, you’re in high school. My God, people forget that and it’s very easy. So it’s weird. First, it’s just weird to avoid a question like that because it’s a perfectly forgivable thing to talk about drinking in high school.

The thing is, he was deliberately … he played dumb there. Because he says, “Well, if we’re going to look at a high school yearbook and parse a high school yearbook, I think we’re at a new level of absurdity.” He knows full well that the reason the yearbook is relevant is not because Democrats are trying to prove that you know that it’s bad, that they’re just prudes to try and prove that he once drank in high school or thought about sex in high school. It’s because the defense that he’s laid out of himself is he said Ford’s accusation is essentially crazy, it’s out of touch with reality.

Because the person she describes is an aggressive, belligerent drunk, someone who attacked a woman in a stupor. “I was not that kind of person in high school, I was a churchgoing, studious head of my class, I was the teacher’s pet.” And so that’s his defense. So it bears directly on his own defense and the credibility of that defense whether in fact he was more into alcohol and sex than he describes, because it would mean that he’s trying to draw attention away from facts that actually would support the picture that Ford paints of him and would tend to undermine the picture that he himself has painted in order to exonerate himself.

MARC STEINER: So let’s play this other clip because I want to go to the point of what the heart of the matter is here in terms of the calendar being brought up as evidence that he wasn’t around. This actually comes from his opening statement, I believe, where he talks about his calendar and how he kept things very precisely.

BRETT KAVANAUGH: I did have the summer of 1982 documented pretty well. The event described by Dr. Ford presumably happened on a weekend because I believe everyone worked and had jobs in the summers. In any event, a drunken early evening event of the kind she describes presumably happened on a weekend. If it was a weekend, my calendars show that I was out of town almost every weekend night before football training camp started in late August.

MARC STEINER: But then you have a beautiful piece in your article where referring to this, you talk about there’s July 1, and what happened on that day.

NATHAN ROBINSON: Yeah. Because July 1, he says he’s going to Timmy’s for skis. And I think Cory Booker asked him and didn’t deny that this “skis” meant brewskis, which means that even on his calendar, when he says, “Well we never would have drank in a weeknight.” There’s a calendar entry showing him drinking on a weeknight. And not only that, it shows him drinking on a weeknight with the exact people that he says he never gathered with that Christie Blasey Ford alleges. So I mean, he’s trying to paint, throughout his opening statement and throughout his responses to questions, he’s trying to suggest that essentially, she’s completely out of touch with the reality of his life.

And in fact, turns out that that’s not true. The things she has suggested, they match up pretty well to his life. Now, that’s not proof of his guilt. But the fact that he would deny that, that he wouldn’t admit the facts that actually undermine the case, it’s very, very suspicious. And when you lie to the Senate once, it should cause us to cast doubt on all of your testimony if your testimony is based entirely on the premise that you’re a good, upstanding, honest, religious person.

MARC STEINER: But what about all of this … this is what America is wrestling with right now: is he lying or not? I mean, there’s a piece we’re going to talk about in a couple days in the next broadcast which has to do with Bernie Sanders and his letter to the Senate where he’s saying he lied to this earlier on the confirmation proceedings and lied earlier in the century. But adding to this, what you’re writing about, I mean for our viewers, I mean really lay out your perspective about why you say he was lying. How do you know he was lying? What is it about his delivery, about what he said, that says this man is telling us the truth and obfuscating it for whatever reason?

NATHAN ROBINSON: Well, I mean there’s just so many documented instances where the things he said conflict with facts that he would have known. So he’s asked directly, “Did you ever drink so much that when you woke up the next morning your clothes were different from how you remember them the night before? And he says, “No, never. I never did that.” And I mean, we just had a letter in his own handwriting where he says, “We are prolific pukers and loud drunks.” We have a police report about him getting in a bar fight. The New York Times has a dozen people from Yale, including an oncologist from the University of Washington, highly respected people.

And she says, “He’s just full of it, because I used to drink with him all the time. And we have people who can remember watching specific instances of him drunkenly staggering around the campus during a frat activity. We have his freshman year roommate. We just have a mountain, an absolute mountain of evidence to show that he was … it’s not even that he was evasive, it’s that things he said were directly false and there was no way that he could have not known they was false.

And I documented all these 10,000 words. I mean, I had to stop at a certain point, because it was just getting too much. There’s stuff that I didn’t even put it in there, because it’s just so overwhelming, the evidence that he directly lied to the Senate. So once you’ve proven it, what is there? He can’t be confirmed. You can’t have someone on the Supreme Court who doesn’t respect the sworn oath of congressional testimony.

MARC STEINER: I think it would be really important here. I want to play something that’s not directly related to your article, but that I think is something a lot of Americans are struggling with. And this is something Ben Shapiro, the conservative columnist and writer.

NATHAN ROBINSON: My old friend.

MARC STEINER: This is what he had to say about her testimony, Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony and Kavanaugh’s veracity. And I want you to respond to him, because I think this is the heart of where Americans are completely confused about what’s going on.

BEN SHAPIRO: Then that really is the question. We’ve seen no corroborating evidence, none. The first time this story was ever told to anybody who wasn’t her husband was to a psychiatrist 30 years after the facts. We have no contemporaneous accounts, we have no actual evidence that anybody heard about it at the time. We have no actual evidence that anybody who witnessed an event was actually there or can corroborate her account of the events. We have no date. We have no time. We have no location. On the basis of that, we’re supposed to say that this guy not only should lose his seat on the Supreme Court but probably lose his career on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals? On the basis of that?

MARC STEINER: On the basis of that?

NATHAN ROBINSON: Yeah. So here’s what I’d note about that, which is he’s not actually showing inconsistencies in Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. He’s not showing facts that contradict her. What he’s saying is we don’t have any proof. This is just an allegation and she and she can’t be specific. But even Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor who Republicans called to interrogate Ford, noes in her report to the Senate that it’s actually pretty common for victims of abuse to delay reporting. If we think about – say this was true, what we would expect to see. Well okay, it occurred in a private room. You wouldn’t expect there to be eyewitnesses.

If Christie Blasey Ford didn’t think, as she probably wouldn’t have, that telling anyone would do any good, because she didn’t have any evidence at the time, because it occurred in the room, there’s no physical damage to her body but she could show. We see this all the time, victims just keep this stuff bottled up because they don’t think anyone is going to listen to them because they won’t. Because when it comes out, this is exactly what people say, “Well you have no evidence, the other people in the room denied it.”. And what that means is if we just dismiss everything for which there is no corroboration, it means that basically any time someone abuses someone in private, if they don’t leave a mark, it can never be proven and that’s that.

Because if you didn’t tell someone at the time, then they didn’t really note the event. If the mists of time cloud your memory of the specifics of high school and you try to push it down, that’s it. Sorry. You get to sit on the Supreme Court. But that’s not how we should look at the evaluations. It’s interesting that he doesn’t apply the same level of scrutiny to Kavanaugh’s testimony. Because my argument is that when you start looking at – I mean, you can’t just look at what Ford says, you have to look at Kavanaugh’s defenses. And if Kavanaugh had just kept his mouth shut or he had admitted a bunch of the bad stuff then, then it would have been harder. But Kavanagh just lied. So that really, really makes the whole thing a lot more suspicious.

MARC STEINER: So this has been a really fascinating conversation and I want to have folks kind of look at the current affairs article that will attach to the story here, because it really lays it out in real detail, what Nathan Robinson is positing about the testimony of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. And Nathan Robinson, I do want to thank you so much for taking the time with us here on The Real News. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

NATHAN ROBINSON: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it.

MARC STEINER: And I’m Marc Steiner, here for The Real News Network. We’ll be talking together soon, we’re going to be staying on top of the story. So take care.

Marc Steiner

Managing Editor

Marc Steiner, interim co-Editor at TRNN, is a Peabody Award-winning journalist who has spent his life working on issues of social justice. He walked his first picket line at age 13 and at age 16 became the youngest person in Maryland arrested for Civil Rights protests, in the Freedom Rides through Cambridge. As part of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, Marc helped organize poor white communities with the Young Patriots, the white Appalachian counterpart to the Black Panthers. Early in his career he counseled at-risk youth in therapeutic settings and founded a theater program in the Maryland State prison system. He also taught Theatre for 10 years at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From 1993 through 1997 his signature “Marc Steiner Show” aired on Baltimore’s public radio airwaves, both WYPR – which Marc co-founded – and Morgan State University’s WEAA.