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CNN "State of the Union" - Transcript: Interview With Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono

Interview

Date: Sept. 23, 2018

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TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

CNN has learned that a fourth person whom Professor Christine Blasey Ford says was at that party in 1982 where Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted her, this fourth person has come forward and said that she believes Ford, but she has zero memory of the incident or even ever being at a party with Brett Kavanaugh.

Questions remain as to how Ford will tell her story to the U.S. Senate this week, but a hearing appears to be on track for Thursday. And a source tells CNN that Ford is in favor of a public hearing.

One Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee has been making headlines this week for her fiery defense of Ford, Democrat Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

And she joins me now.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

HIRONO: Sure.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

HIRONO: Good morning, Jake.

TAPPER: So, it looks like the hearing will be this week. What specifically do you plan on asking Brett Kavanaugh?

HIRONO: There are a lot of issues around Brett that -- involving what was happening in high school, et cetera.

But, even before all of this happened, he had credibility issues in his testimony, three days of testimony. He's very outcome-driven in terms of how he views cases before him. And so I had issues with his credibility and how he went about things way before this even happened.

TAPPER: But you're not going to talk to him about policy at this hearing. This hearing is about specifically the allegations.

HIRONO: We want to hear -- I would be wanting to hear what kind of environment it was in high school. Apparently, there was a lot of drinking and partying going on.

This is why we need an investigation. We need an independent investigation that lays all of that out for us, so that there's at least some chance of some outside entity like the FBI doing an investigation.

This is totally untoward, because, remember, during the Anita Hill days, there was an investigation, perfunctory as that was. But Dr. Ford is not even afforded that.

Meanwhile, she's coming forward and very bravely saying, I will tell my story.

So I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that she can tell her story free of intimidation, fear and the kind of threats that she's already getting for even coming forward with it.

TAPPER: The "Wall Street Journal" editorial board wrote a piece about the presumption of guilt, they say.

They quoted you directly to argue that a core tenet of American law is not being applied to Kavanaugh.

They write -- quote -- "The Democratic standard for sexual assault allegations is, they should be accepted as true merely for having been made. The accuser is assumed to be telling the truth because the accuser is a woman. The burden is on Mr. Kavanaugh to prove his innocence. This turns American justice and due process upside down."

What's your response?

HIRONO: If "The Wall Street Journal" really cares about due process, I would say that they should care that there is no independent investigation of these allegations.

I think that this kind of attitude is what makes it really difficult for victims and survivors of these kinds of traumatic events to even come forward.

You know, we don't seem to have come very far from the Anita Hill days. But, as I said, for "The Wall Street Journal" to come out and talk to us about, talk to me about due process, or all the women out there that I'm hearing about who never came forward, it is really important, not only for these survivors to be heard, but if their stories are credible, as Dr. Ford's story is, they need to be believed.

TAPPER: So, four people said to be at the party Ford described have denied knowledge of the incident, Brett Kavanaugh, obviously, Mark Judge, who she says was in the room, P.J. Smith, and even Ford's longtime friend Leland Keyser.

So there hasn't been a law enforcement investigation, but there are these statements from the four people she remembers being there who don't remember the incident or don't even remember being at the party in question, according to her friend Leland Keyser, who says she believes her...

HIRONO: Yes.

TAPPER: ... but doesn't have any memory of it.

HIRONO: Yes.

TAPPER: Doesn't Kavanaugh have the same presumption of innocence as anyone else in America?

HIRONO: I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases.

[09:20:02]

As I said, his credibility is already very questionable in my mind and in the minds of a lot of my fellow Judiciary Committee members, the Democrats.

So he comes, and -- when I say that he's very outcome-driven, he has an ideological agenda, is very outcome-driven. And I can sit here and talk to you about some of the cases that exemplifies his, in my view, inability to be fair in the cases that come before him.

This is a person that is going to be sitting on our Supreme Court, making decisions that will impact women's reproductive choice. He has a -- he very much is against women's reproductive choice.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

HIRONO: And I can tell you two very important cases in which he applied the same standard, but came to totally different results to make it much harder for women to get this kind of coverage.

So there's -- there are so many indications of his own lack of credibility. And I put that in a context.

TAPPER: It sounds to me like you're saying, because you don't trust him on policy and because you don't believe him when he says, for instance, that he does not have an opinion on Roe v. Wade, you don't believe him about this allegation about what happened at this party in 1982? Is that fair?

HIRONO: Well, without -- this is why it is so important that there be at least an investigation, so that there's some effort at collaboration.

And we think that there was a lot of drinking going on. As far as the friend, his friend Mark Judge, not even testifying, that is astounding to me. He was right there in that room. He refuses to testify.

TAPPER: Well, he says he doesn't remember an incident. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

HIRONO: So, then he says a lot of drinking going on. This is the environment with this school, apparently.

And, meanwhile, Dr. Ford has come forward and said, I would like...

TAPPER: You think Kavanaugh is lying, though, is what you're saying?

HIRONO: Well, I believe her. Let's put it that way.

There's credibility to her story. And I'm going to make sure that I and others -- the Democrats, at least, want to make sure that she is able to come forward.

And there's nothing for her to gain by even coming forward with this.

TAPPER: I want to ask you a question, because I have heard a lot of people saying that Democrats would be more credible about this issue if they were similarly outspoken when allegations like this are made about Democrats.

And one example is the Democratic Congressman and Deputy Chairman of the DNC Keith Ellison, who's been accused of emotional and physical abuse by an ex-girlfriend named Karen Monahan.

In a debate on Friday, Ellison was asked if he's confident there won't be any more allegations against him. Take a listen.

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TAPPER: He's running for attorney general of Minnesota.

Wouldn't the concern about Kavanaugh and Professor Ford be more credible if Democrats were also condemning similar charges against Democrats in their midst, including Congressman Ellison?

HIRONO: I have been very clear that I make no excuses for anybody who engages in this kind of behavior.

And, as far as Keith Ellison, these allegations need to be investigated, and appropriate action taken.

Meanwhile, we have -- within the next week or so, we have before us a nominee that is under a cloud. There's not even a modicum of investigation. And so we are left with basically he said/she said.

This happens a lot in the context of sexual assault. We know this.

So, for example, when the person who is running against my sister Heidi Heitkamp, when he says, oh, nothing happened, really? I don't think North Dakota should be electing somebody who does not think that attempted rape is a crime.

But this is the context, this is the environment in which we are having this discussion. So, I want to be very laser-focused on the fact that this person, who already has credibility issues, he will misstate the holding of a case, of cases that I'm very familiar with. He will misapply the case.

And I said at his hearing I do not want to have a person on the Supreme Court who doesn't seem to be able to apply the facts in ways that do not meet his outcome-driven agenda.

At the same time, we now have this cloud. You know, we already have one person on the Supreme Court who got there under this cloud. We should not have another.

TAPPER: I want to ask you, the last you questioned Brett Kavanaugh, you asked whether he'd ever committed sexual harassment or assault as a -- quote -- "legal adult."

HIRONO: Yes.

TAPPER: I know you ask every Trump nominee this question. He replied no.

This allegation took place when he was supposedly 17 years old.

HIRONO: Yes.

TAPPER: Why do you caveat the question with legal adult, because that would have excluded, obviously, this incident, which he denies anyway?

HIRONO: Well, of course, 17-year-old is no child, is not a baby.

I ask that question because juvenile records are sealed.

TAPPER: Oh, it's as simple as that?

HIRONO: Pretty much. Yes, that is why.

TAPPER: Because it does seem to delineate behavior 18 and older and behavior under 18.

HIRONO: Generally, we hold adults responsible for their behavior. And it's that reason.

But these are questions that have never been asked before of any nominee. At this point, I have probably asked this of about 100 nominees. And I ask this to both men and women, the same two questions, because we need to change the kind of environment that says that women who and men who suffer from this kind of trauma are not in a supportive environment where they can come forward, because, when you think about it, this is very underreported.

[09:25:10] Why? Because, so often, the victims and survivors, when they come forward, they're not believed. They're vilified.

All of the things that are happening to Dr. Ford happens...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: So, we only have a little bit of time, but I just want to ask you.

Sheldon Whitehouse told me, the senator from Rhode Island, told me this week that, if Democrats win back the Senate or the House, when you guys get gavels back, as he put it, there will be an investigation against Kavanaugh, even if he is a Supreme -- sitting Supreme Court justice.

Does that set the stage for an attempted -- a potential impeachment of Kavanaugh?

HIRONO: Frankly, I have such concerns about this person getting to the Supreme Court.

But, on the other hand, we know that -- I know that Maryland has eliminated the statute of limitations for kidnapping and for sexual assault of a minor. And I think that is still out there.

And so there may be an investigation along those lines. So, I think that this is a situation that is not going to go away. The court- packing is going on big time, with people from the Federalist Society anointed, The Heritage Foundation.

And they have spent decades and millions of dollars to lay the groundwork for people like Judge Kavanaugh and everybody else to get on the court with their very outcome-driven agenda that will not support women's right to choose, that, basically, for Judge Kavanaugh in particular, very expansive views of protecting a sitting president from either criminal or civil proceedings.

And I think this president in particular is aware of that, because you know what? His mission is self-preservation every second, minute, hour of the day.

TAPPER: Senator Mazie Hirono, thank you so much for being here.

HIRONO: Thank you.

TAPPER: We really appreciate it.

HIRONO: Aloha.

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