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Watergate Prosecutor On Investigating Kavanaugh Accusations


Republicans have set a deadline for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. If she intends to testify under oath on Monday, she has to let the Senate Judiciary Committee know by tomorrow morning. Ford claims that Kavanaugh drunkenly held her down, groped her, tried to remove her clothing when they were at a party back in high school. Kavanaugh denies these allegations.

Yesterday, President Trump said he is standing by his nominee, but he wants to see what Ford has to say.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want to get it over with. At the same time, we want to give tremendous amounts of time. If she shows up, that would be wonderful. If she doesn't show up, that would be unfortunate.

MARTIN: Ford and her attorneys insist that there needs to be an FBI investigation if she is to testify. The president says the FBI doesn't want to investigate and that this is an issue for the Senate to decide. Joining us now, Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks. She and four other federal prosecutors wrote an op-ed claiming there should, indeed, be an FBI inquiry.

Thanks so much for being with us.

JILL WINE-BANKS: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So there are a lot of lawyers on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They insist that it is sufficient to invite Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh to come explain themselves, to testify under oath. Why do you say that is not sufficient?

WINE-BANKS: No. 1, you don't just invite someone to come. And No. 2, this is not a two-person story. It isn't enough to hear her version and his version. That would make it a he-said, she-said. No. 1, there's a third witness, Mark Strange (ph). He must testify, too.

MARTIN: Mark Judge, I believe.

WINE-BANKS: Mark Judge, yes.

MARTIN: Right.

WINE-BANKS: Sorry - Mark Judge. And he needs to testify. But in addition, there are probably a lot of other corroborating circumstances or witnesses. And what the FBI needs to do is to go and find them. You would interview all of her classmates, all of his classmates. You would certainly have the therapist to whom she told this in 2012. He would be a fourth witness. Her husband is a fifth witness.

MARTIN: So how long would this take, as you suggest that there needs to be these fulsome interviews with more than just the two people directly involved?

WINE-BANKS: It could take a week or two weeks. You can put no timeline on what you would find because, once you start finding things, you have to fully follow up on what they are. There is no rush to have a vote. There was a vacancy for almost a year after Justice Scalia passed. And the Republicans felt no need to fill it when they had a Democratic president and didn't want to even interview his nominee. They did not have the dignity or the proper way of proceeding to even give him an interview.

MARTIN: Well, let me ask you. You have been very public about your criticism of President Trump and his administration on a variety of issues. How can Americans trust that this isn't just a partisan tactic ahead of important midterm elections on the part of Democrats?

WINE-BANKS: Well, in my situation, it is definitely not. I am concerned about the institution of the Supreme Court and the rules of the justice in our country. But what difference does it make whether the vote happens before or after the election? If you don't have the proper facts, then you're going to have to have an investigation afterwards to get those facts out.

MARTIN: Well, I think Republicans are concerned - some will admit privately - that there is a chance the Senate would change hands.

WINE-BANKS: There is a chance that the Senate would change hands. And in that case, there would be more votes against a person who is unqualified to sit on the Supreme Court. We need to know those facts. There are many who will vote one way or the other depending on what we can learn. And this isn't a political appointment. This is a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. And there are other issues with him, if I can just mention a couple. It's not just, did he or did he not attempt to rape Dr. Blasey Ford? It is also, is he lying about it now? It is also, what about the emails that he says, I had no idea there were stolen Democratic emails?

MARTIN: Well, let me ask you. That is beside the point to this immediate issue. Let me ask you about - those who support Kavanaugh say even if this is true, it shouldn't disqualify him from serving on the court - that he was 17, that "he has led a life of decency, integrity, commitment to family." I'm quoting now Dennis Prager from the National Review.

WINE-BANKS: I don't agree that it wouldn't be disqualifying. I think it would be clearly disqualifying. But that's - again, that's up to the Congress to decide when they find out how bad this attempt was.

MARTIN: Do you think Christine Blasey Ford - if an FBI investigation does not happen - just briefly - do you think she should still testify before Congress?

WINE-BANKS: That is the hardest question you will ask me today. I am very torn about that because I know how the Republicans will play this. If she doesn't, they will demean her. And they will say, obviously, she was afraid to come forward. On the other hand, what they are proposing now as an investigation or a hearing is a sham and a hoax, and there is no other way to call it.

MARTIN: Jill Wine-Banks, former prosecutor in Watergate.

Thanks so much.

WINE-BANKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.