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Sen. Mazie Hirono On Kavanaugh Hearing


Senators hearing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, include our next guest. Mazie Hirono is a Democrat from Hawaii. She will listen and question the nominee and the woman who says that he sexually assaulted her in 1982. Senator, welcome back to the program.

MAZIE HIRONO: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Who, in your mind, has the burden of proof today, the accuser or the accused?

HIRONO: This is not a court of law. This is a job application for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, where if Judge Kavanaugh is there, he will be able to make decisions that will impact our lives for decades.

INSKEEP: You know, I've heard that analogy to a job application. I mean, it's not even an analogy. It's literally true. And yet, what does that mean if he says he never did this at all, he's merely been accused? Is that enough to disqualify him?

HIRONO: This is why so many of us, all of the Democrats, as well as the three women who have come forward have said, there needs to be an FBI investigation. So under normal times, there would be an FBI investigation. There would be other witnesses called. There would be senators asking their own questions as opposed to hiding behind prosecutors hired for one day so that that person can ask the questions. And under normal circumstances, we would have access to all the documents that we need.

So clearly, these are not normal circumstances. So what we're left with is, without an FBI investigation, what really will be focused on is, as far as I'm concerned, Judge Kavanaugh's credibility, character and candor. And before all this began, I already questioned his credibility.

INSKEEP: Which I want to ask about. There's several things now to follow up on. First, you noted that Republicans are bringing in a veteran sex crimes prosecutor to ask the questions of Ford. Republican senators and Democrats, of course, may ask their own questions as well. But there will be a professional there. It's been much noted that a woman is being brought in. And the 11 Republicans on the committee are all men. But she's also a professional. She's somebody who knows how to ask questions, has experience asking questions on this topic. Isn't that actually a positive thing to do?

HIRONO: As a prosecutor, she's used to asking questions in a criminal setting. This is not a criminal case. It's not a criminal proceeding. And so for the Republican senators to bring this person onboard - by the way, they have to hire her for one day - it just shows that they do not want to reveal themselves to the American public. So these are definitely not normal circumstances.

INSKEEP: Although - forgive me, Senator - I mean, for the millions of people who tell pollsters in an NPR poll just the other day, they don't know who to believe. They're trying to get information. They're trying to figure this out. Couldn't it actually be a good thing that a pro is asking the questions?

HIRONO: The crux of the matter is not really at this point who's asking the question, although I think it's very questionable that they have to hire someone. It is, at bottom, why do we not have an FBI investigation? That would be what would happen under normal circumstances.

INSKEEP: President Trump was asked about that yesterday and refused again to authorize an FBI examination of this. And his explanation for it was that it wouldn't change a single Democratic vote. The Democrats would be against Kavanaugh regardless. Is he right about that?

HIRONO: Well, isn't that odd that it's all the Democrats who are asking for an FBI investigation, not to mention the three women who are wanting to talk with the FBI? Isn't that odd to you that other people who say, we are the ones who have already made up our minds, but they are the ones who will not authorize or call for an FBI investigation, which at least gives us the possibility of corroborating information?

INSKEEP: Now, you also said that you do not believe Kavanaugh. You do not find him credible. And you gave a reason for that when talking to CNN the other day, Senator. And I'll just read the quote here. "I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases. His credibility is already very questionable." Do you really mean to suggest, as some Republicans have felt, that you believe he is lying simply because you disagree with the way he has ruled from the bench?

HIRONO: His credibility is what we're going to be reviewing in this job interview that he is about to undertake. So in all of the weeks of review that I did of his decisions and the three days of questioning, where I know for a fact that he testified under oath where he miscited the case, misapplied the case. So I would say that his credibility with regard to how he approaches cases where he is very outcome-driven, where he has written more dissents than anybody else sitting on the circuit court at this point, where his dissents are so, I would say, outrageous that his fellow judges have called him to task for the lack of application of the law in his dissents. So I'd say that his credibility is very questionable. So I'm saying that in the context...

INSKEEP: You're saying that you don't think he applies the law honestly and therefore you don't believe in his honesty. Is that what you're saying?

HIRONO: Well, how else can I deal with this? Because I think the entire hearing today, without the benefit of any corroborating evidence and without the testimony of Marc Judge, who was there, who's a really close friend of Judge Kavanaugh. We are left with deciding who is a more credible person. Is it Dr. Ford or is it Judge Kavanaugh?

INSKEEP: You're not going to hear from two other accusers to whom you've referred. One of them, Julie Swetnick, who released a sworn statement through her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, yesterday. And the other, Deborah Ramirez, who said that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her. You won't hear from them. Do you intend to ask Kavanuagh about them?

HIRONO: I think that as the hearing proceeds, he will be asked a number of questions, and a lot, in my view, will depend on - a lot will depend on just the circumstances. You know, this is very fluid. I'm sure he will be asked all kinds of questions that go to his credibility. And what - basically, he is denying everything. And we know from other witnesses that, in high school, he seemed to be with a group of people who drank a lot and where sexual activity was occurring, but he denies it all.

INSKEEP: Senator, thanks.

HIRONO: How credible is that?

INSKEEP: Senator, thanks very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

HIRONO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Mazie Hirono is a Democratic senator from Hawaii and one of the lawmakers who will be questioning Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.