Meet the Press - October 7, 2018

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, confirmation fallout. Brett Kavanaugh wins a seat on the Supreme Court in the closest vote since 1881.

MIKE PENCE:

The ayes are 50. The nays are 48.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump celebrates the win.

DONALD TRUMP:

I stand before you today on the heels of a tremendous victory for our nation, our people.

CHUCK TODD:

This after angry testimony.

BRETT KAVANAUGH:

This whole-two week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit.

CHUCK TODD:

Angry debate.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics.

CHUCK TODD:

Anger at the F.B.I. investigation.

ROBERT MENENDEZ :

If that's an investigation, it's a bull(BLEEP) investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

Angry protesters.

PROTESTORS:

We believe survivors.

CHUCK TODD:

And a Senate speech that sealed the deal.

SUSAN COLLINS:

I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

CHUCK TODD:

What effect with this nasty battle have on the court, the Senate, and the November elections? Joining me this morning, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. Plus, the Kavanaugh fight and Me Too.

This morning, I'll talk to the civil rights activist who founded the Me Too movement, Tarana Burke, and actor and activist, Alyssa Milano, who's post-Harvey Weinstein tweet inspired millions of women to speak out. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent Kasie Hunt, Republican strategist, Al Cardenas, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, and NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. In the end, a closely divided country elected a closely divided Senate, which took a closely divided vote that has left the country, you guessed it, closely divided. Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate, 50 to 48 late yesterday, and sworn in later, after the closest Supreme Court vote since Stanley Matthews. You, of course, remember him. He was confirmed in 1881. The vote came after an ugly confirmation battle that pitted Republicans against Democrats, men against women, the accused against the accuser, and Trump loyalists against Trump detractors. And though the confirmation fight is over, the bitterness and mutual resentment it created is likely to endure, and so are the questions we're left with. Will Kavanaugh's confirmation create an even bigger blue wave than anticipated among angry Democrats? Will the attempt to derail the nomination backfire, generating a Republican comeback? Will the Supreme Court's legitimacy be permanently damaged by the manner in which Kavanaugh made it across the finish line and by his behavior at that Senate hearing last week? And will Kavanaugh find himself the target of future investigations, if Democrats do win back control of Congress? In the end, it was a triumphant week for just one person, President Trump. But almost everything and everyone else involved in this episode is worse off than before: the Supreme Court, the United States Senate, Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford, the F.B.I., red-state Democrats, swing-district Republicans, and ultimately, confidence in the integrity of our political process.

MIKE PENCE :

On this vote, the ayes are 50. The nays are 48.

CHUCK TODD:

The closest Supreme Court confirmation vote in 137 years.

PROTESTORS :

We believe survivors.

CHUCK TODD:

Ends a bitter fight over Kavanaugh's nomination.

CHUCK GRASSLEY:

They have encouraged mob rule.

ROBERT MENENDEZ:

If that's an investigation, it's a bull(BLEEP) investigation.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Why don't we dunk him in water and see if he floats?

FEMALE VOICE:

He's thinking about left-wing conspiracies.

CHUCK TODD:

Ultimately, the vote was decided by a shrinking group of self-proclaimed centrists.

SUSAN COLLINS:

I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

MALE VOICE:

This is a difficult decision for everybody.

LISA MURKOWSKI:

I could not conclude that he is the right person for the court at this time.

REPORTER:

Do you think that there's still a place in the Democratic Party for you after this?

JOE MANCHIN:

I'm just a West Virginian. I'm just a good-old West Virginian.

CHUCK TODD:

The division and rancor are only likely to deepen in the final weeks of the campaign. At a rally in Kansas last night, President Trump declared victory.

DONALD TRUMP:

Radical Democrats launched a disgraceful campaign to resist, obstruct, delay, demolish, and destroy. Brett Kavanaugh is a man of great character and intellect. He's, like, a perfect person.

CHUCK TODD:

For Mr. Trump, the Kavanaugh vote has presented an opening to launch a new battle in the culture wars just weeks before the midterms.

DONALD TRUMP:

It's a very scary time for young men in America.

CHUCK TODD:

He's ridiculed Dr. Ford.

DONALD TRUMP:

"How did you get home?" "I don't remember." "How'd you get there?" "I don't remember." "Where is the place?" "I don't remember."

REPORTER:

Were these allegations first surfaced you said, "There shouldn't even be a little doubt." Are you 100% certain that Ford named the wrong person?

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm 100%. I have no doubt.

LISA BANKS:

We thought it was bad back in 1991. And it's even worse today, the political climate, and how women are treated.

REPORTER:

Even amid the Me Too climate, you think it's worse now than it was then?

LISA BANKS:

I can only go by what we've seen over the past month.

CHUCK TODD:

The next battle in the fight over Kavanaugh will be decided at the ballot box. Some Democrats are already promising investigations into Kavanaugh, if they win control.

REP. JERRY NADLER:

If he is on the Supreme Court, and the Senate hasn't investigated, then the House will have to.

CHUCK TODD:

Republican Senate candidates in states Mr. Trump won are now running ads, hoping to sustain this base energy the Kavanaugh fight produced.

VOICEOVER:

The liberal smear. Now, they're doing it again. It's what we hate most about Washington.

CHUCK TODD:

Meanwhile, in the house, where many of the toss-up races are in suburban districts, a growing number of democratic candidates are talking about gender. And some are even making the issue of sexual assault part of their campaigns.

CINDY AXNE

I was lucky that I was able to fight my way out of it. But I'm also six feet tall. And I was walking with my keys between my fingers.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Senator Alexander, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

Thank you, Chuck. Good to see you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start by playing something Dr. Ford said at her testimony about her basic initial fear about coming forward and get you to react to it. Here it is.

[BEGIN TAPE]

CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD:

I was calculating, daily, the risk-benefit, for me, of coming forward and wondering whether I would just be jumping in front of a train that was headed to where it was headed anyway.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

That feeling that she was, essentially now, being mowed down by a freight train.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

Yeah. Well, I, you know, I can't put myself in her shoes. But I can imagine that any, anyone who believes they were a victim of sexual assault, first, has that to live with. And second, the difficulty of coming before a public audience, particularly one that large, must be terrifying, as she said. I believe that.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you believe her?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

I thought she was credible. What i had --

CHUCK TODD:

What does that mean to you?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

What that meant was, if listening to her was all I had to do, I would've said, "She, she seems to believe what she believes." But that's not all I had to do. For example, this week, I went down in the secure place, where we could read the F.B.I. reports. I read six F.B.I. reports between 1993 and 2018, 150 people interviewed about Judge Kavanaugh. And in every case, the interviewee was asked, "Do you know of any instance of alcohol abuse?" And the answer, in every case, was, "No." There was no evidence, by any of these people, of behavior that had anything to do with sexual impropriety. So you have to consider that. And you also have to consider the fact that the only person who remembers the alleged incident that Dr. Ford describes is Dr. Ford. The other four said, under penalty of perjury, that it either didn't happen, or they didn't remember it. So you have to be fair about it in a very difficult case. You have to consider that, as well as her testimony.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you think ended up happening? Why is it that you think she remembered it this way? Do you think she just misremembered?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

I don’t know the answer to that.

CHUCK TODD:

She said 100 percent that she was -- 100 percent --

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

Well --

CHUCK TODD:

-- that it was Brett Kavanaugh.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

So did he -- but every -- I'm sure that every sexual assault case is usually “he said, she said,” except in this case it’s "he said, she said, they said.” And the “they” were the witnesses that she said were there all said it either didn’t happen or they didn’t remember it. One of whom is one of her best friends.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play for you something one of your colleagues, Senator Murkowski, who -- she ended up voting no, here's what she said about this whole situation.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI:

I believe he is a good man. It just may be that, in my view, he's not the right man for the court at this time. I also think that we're at a place where we need to be thinking, again, about the credibility and the integrity of our institution.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

And this is the, I think the larger concern, I think, a lot of us are wondering about now. And she also, in her floor speech, talked about the issue of public confidence and the concern that she has that Justice Kavanaugh does not have public confidence.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

Well, it'd be hard to have public confidence, if you go through a, a inquisition, like he did, arranged by the Democrats. If you go down and read six F.B.I. investigations of him over 25 years and see not just the bad things that were not said about him but the remarkably good things that were said about him, you would be very glad he would be on the Supreme Court. And it would be fundamentally unfair to allow people to make accusations against someone and, by simply doing that, destroy their reputation and their opportunity to serve in public life.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, in the aftermath of this is when then-Judge Kavanaugh was defending himself, he himself, apparently, admits he went over the line in some of the things that he said. It was interesting to hear Retired Justice John Paul Stevens react that that. I want to play that sound for you and get you to react. Here he is.

[BEGIN TAPE]

JOHN PAUL STEVENS:

He has demonstrated a potential bias involving enough potential litigants before the court that he would not be able to perform his full responsibilities. And I think there's merit in that criticism.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

It’s clear to me Judge Kavanuagh’s concerned – was concerned enough about this that he wrote the op-ed. Is that enough? Or does he need to do more to restore some confidence?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

No I think, I think that’s enough. You know, someone said to me -- my answer to that is, if, if you had a group of people deliberately trying to destroy your reputation with accusations that you know aren't true, and every rumor that comes up about you is the most awful kind of accusation, you're not going to just sit there calmly and take that. You're going to defend yourself against people deliberately trying to damage and destroy you. And I think that's what he did, and I think the fact that he did that is the reason he's on the court. I think if he’d just sat there and taken it, that people would, would've been very suspicious. Go back to those F.B.I. investigations over 25 years --

CHUCK TODD:

So you're saying he was in a box, that if he didn't deny outrageous --

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

Yeah, but all, all of the people who were interviewed over 25 years said his demeanor was excellent. The American Bar Association said his demeanor was excellent. If he's under assault, he fights back.

CHUCK TODD:

Talk to me about the United States Senate. You did something very interesting, I thought, seven years ago, when you said, "I'm going to retire, I'm going to resign from my leadership post." Because you said, "You can't be in leadership and work across the aisle," which was, on one hand, obvious and, on one hand, I thought, a bit disconcerting, when you admitted that reality. Have things really gotten better in the last ten years, or have things gotten worse in the United States Senate?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

They're worse. But you know, I, I look at the Senate like a split-screen television. On one screen, this past three weeks, you would've seen Kavanaugh, Trump tweets, et cetera. On the others, you would've seen 70 senators, half Democrats, half Republicans, passing landmark opioids legislation that affects millions of people. You would've seen record funding for biomedical research, for science, for technology, for supercomputing, the biggest increase for military in 15 years. You would've seen a bill to make flying airplanes safer. This is all in the last three weeks. So, the Senate is doing a pretty good job in its problem-solving capacity.

CHUCK TODD:

But the one place it has a problem is judicial nominations. So let me ask you this. Democrats Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin said, if Democrats get control of the Senate, they would consider restoring the filibuster. I think you were somebody that didn't want to see it go away in the first place. But let me ask you this. If it comes back, will you support keeping it for judicial nominations?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

Well, now, wait a minute. We have never had the requirement. The practice has always been that judicial nominations were approved by 51 votes. There's never been a Supreme Court justice who had to get 60 votes, with the exception of Abe Fortas. Even Clarence Thomas was 52 to 48. Chuck Schumer was the one, under George W. Bush, who insisted that George Bush's nominees get 60 votes.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. So obviously --

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

And I was the one --

CHUCK TODD:

this is one of these times that each side --

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

No it’s not either.

CHUCK TODD:

But, do you want to see --

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

There has never --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you want to see it restored, though, the 60-vote threshold to end debate, which would force more consensus nominees?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

No, not for nominations. Because we never had that. Another example, on federal district judges in the history of the United States Senate, no federal district judge has ever been denied his or her seat by a 60-vote requirement. They've all been majority votes. I know, because Mitch McConnell wanted to do that once. And I stopped him by getting enough Republicans to do it.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think that -- what's the unintended consequence of a judiciary that is made up of judges that were confirmed 51-49, depending on which party controlled the Senate?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

Well if you consider the United States of America as a success, then that's the right way to do it. Because ever since we've had a United States Senate with Thomas Jefferson, judges have been approved by 51 votes. Remember, Clarence Thomas was 52 to 48. You could've required 60 votes, but no one ever did.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Alexander, I'm going to leave it there. Appreciate you coming on and sharing your views.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Good to see you. Joining me now, from Wilmington, for a perspective from the other side, is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. Senator Coons, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Thank you, Chuck. Good to be on with you again.

CHUCK TODD:

This morning, Brett Kavanaugh is associate justice of the Supreme Court. Democrats made a lot of arguments against him to try to stop him. It was an election year. The committee process was flawed. His record was outside the mainstream. He lied under oath, credible allegations of sexual misconduct. Why did Democrats lose all of those arguments?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Well, frankly, I felt like this process was unfair from the very outset, The way that we were prevented from seeing, literally, millions of pages of Judge Kavanaugh's record from his service in the Bush Administration, to the way that the process went forward in the confirmation hearing, to some of how the last week unfolded. And frankly, the challenge I'm focused on, Chuck, is looking forward at how it is we can heal the Senate after this bitter and divisive and very partisan week and how we work to restore or strengthen some of the legitimacy of the Supreme Court now that we have a seated justice who was confirmed by just 50 votes, without allegations against him having really been cleared.

CHUCK TODD:

Were you -- it seems as if you were almost working as a go-between to the undecided members, particularly, obviously, with Jeff Flake. Were you trying to convince him to vote no?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Look, going into this, I knew that Jeff is a conservative. He wants a conservative Supreme Court. And I knew that would likely be the outcome. But I think there are good reasons to have doubts about now-Justice Kavanaugh's candor to the committee and fitness to serve, given his very partisan screed in that last hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee last Friday. So I wasn't trying to persuade Senator Flake or others not to vote their conscience, not to reflect their states and their values, in advancing a conservative judge. I was trying to help them focus on what legitimate questions there were about this particular conservative judge.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me get your response to something Senator Collins said in her floor speech, announcing her yes vote. Here it is.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

I have been alarmed and disturbed, however, by some who have suggested that, unless Judge Kavanaugh's nomination is rejected, the Senate is somehow condoning sexual assault. Nothing could be further from the truth.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Do you agree with her? Or do you think a different message was sent?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Look, I respect Senator Collins. She's a great colleague. We see this a little differently. I think the F.B.I. investigation that Senator Flake and I worked hard together to make sure happened this past week did not go far enough, in only interviewing, according to press reports, ten witnesses who came forward and not interviewing dozens of corroborating witnesses who tried to get in touch with the F.B.I., who Dr. Ford offered to the F.B.I. I don't think this investigation went far enough. And I don't think that the members of the committee and the Senate, who had to make a final decision yesterday, had all the facts in front of them. In that regard, I don't think we did enough. But Chuck, I do think one of the big things that came out of his hearing was that thousands of survivors of assault, who had kept to themselves for years or decades very painful experiences, did come forward. And there are things we can and should do, on a bipartisan basis, to respect and hear and act on the oceans of pain that exist in our country from long-buried, tragic experiences of assault, to try and change our culture and try and change our country.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe that the initial presumption, in a situation like this, is to believe the victim at all times?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

I think it's important that we change our country's culture to one where we believe victims of sexual assault who come forward. That wasn't the case for most of my life. Most victims of sexual assault didn't come forward, because they thought they would be shamed or ridiculed and, ultimately, disbelieved. I think one of the biggest tragedies of this past week was to watch the president of the United States publicly mocking and ridiculing Dr. Ford. His initial response, which was to say that her testimony was credible and compelling, was where he should have stopped. But to instead turn it into a campaign rally event, where he was mocking her, I think, really brought this entire conversation down and really was a low mark in his presidency.

CHUCK TODD:

But you went a little bit further than what others had said. You know, many backing, now Justice Kavanaugh said, he ought to be treated as if he's innocent until proven guilty and you disagreed. You said no, the burden is on him to disprove these allegations against him. There are a lot of people that hear that going woah, wait a minute, so I'm guilty until proven innocent?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Let me speak to that --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Let me speak to that. Let me speak to that Chuck, if I can. This is a confirmation hearing. No one is entitled to a seat on the Supreme Court. It's not a criminal trial, it's more like a job hearing. It's more like a job interview. The president has a whole series of credentialed and qualified, conservative judges from among whom he could choose to put someone forward to the Senate of the United States for confirmation. So if there are credible allegations against this particular nominee, and if this particular nominee in his confirmation process conducts himself in ways that there are real questions about candor, partisanship, fitness, then I think it’s appropriate for the committee, or the Senate, to say perhaps a different nominee is the right one. If you’re considering someone to be, say president of a university, CEO of a company, the host of a Sunday show, and there are credible allegations against them, it would make sense to step back and try and investigate them to see if you can resolve them. That’s why I was thankful that my friend, Senator Flake, took a tough step last Friday and asked for a FBI investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me get you to respond to something Senator Kennedy said to me earlier this week about when he believed things changed in this whole Kavanaugh debate. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY:

I think this process changed dramatically when Mr. Avenatti entered the picture. I think a lot of people, including many of my Democratic colleagues, felt like, at that point, we had gotten into the foothills of preposterous.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

He was referring to lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who is thinking about running for president, who ended up representing somebody whose allegations have not been seen as credible as the other two allegations. Do you agree with his political assessment there, that the -- Avenatti's entrance into this sideshow sort of diluted everything?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Well, I certainly like Senator Kennedy's turns of phrase. "The foothills of the preposterous" is going to end up being a memorable phrase. I do think that he's correct, that there was a widespread response, certainly on the Republican side, that these were not credible allegations.

I tried to focus my questioning of Judge Kavanaugh on issues that were directly related, first, to his judicial philosophy, his extreme views on presidential power and individual liberty, and ways in which I'm convinced he'll overturn Justice Kennedy's most-important recent decision, and then to focus on issues of fitness and candor. So I do think what was important about the last few weeks was trying to find a bipartisan focus on facts. And the larger question, Chuck, here is, how do we move forward? How do we heal the divisions in the Senate?

CHUCK TODD:

So I take it, if you're talking that way -- the House Democrats that are talking about reinvestigating Kavanaugh, if they get control of the House, possibly looking at impeachment, what do you make of those pledges coming from some House Democrats?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

I think that's premature. I think, you know, frankly, we are just less than a month away from an election. Folks who feel very strongly one way or the other about the issues in front of us should get out and vote and participate. There's only ever been one justice that's been impeached and I think talking about it at this point isn't necessarily healing us and moving us forward. Chuck, the Senate's role in our politics is not to just reflect the country, but to help heal and lead the country. And that's the course we should be on.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Coons, Democrat from Delaware, thanks for coming out and sharing your views, as well.

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, is there any way to heal these wounds from this confirmation fight? And how might this all play out in November? The panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, but more importantly, author of the new book, Presidents of War; Danielle Pletka, of the American Enterprise Institute; Kasie Hunt, our Capitol Hill correspondent and, of course, host of Kasie D.C. on MSNBC, and Republican strategist Al Cardenas, who, like me, is much relieved at our Miami Hurricanes this morning. All right, guys. Let me throw up, there's one good piece of good news about our friends in the United States Senate, left and right. They do agree on one thing, a broken Senate. Here are the Republicans, talking about this process. "It was a sad charade," John Cornyn. Mitch McConnell, "An embarrassment to the Senate." Lisa Murkowski, "Horrible process." Chuck Grassley, "Almost rock bottom." John Kennedy, "Hit bottom and started to dig." Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp, "Process has been bad." Kamala Harris, "A failure of this body." Chris Van Hollen, "A sham process." Chuck Schumer, "One of the saddest, most sordid chapters." So there's some unity in the United States Senate, Kasie Hunt.

KASIE HUNT:

Yes, some unity in the fact that it's all a total mess. You know, I've been covering Congress for ten years. And I'm struggling to remember a point that feels lower than this one. And I think that there are some very real questions among even the people who are most committed. And Senator Coons, who you just talked to, is somebody I would put in that category.

There are also, of course, Republicans I would put in that category, as well. People have real doubts about what the role of the Senate is going to be, going forward. And you know, there's a lot of people you could blame for that. But your line of questioning about judicial nominees is really one of them. And it started with the Democrats and Harry Reid, when he took away the filibuster for those circuit court judges. And it got lower when Mitch McConnell did it for the Supreme Court nominations. And I wish I could sit here and say that I thought it was going to get better. But I don't see it.

AL CARDENAS:

Well, look. If you look at the Senate votes, going back to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who received over 90 votes, Nancy (SIC) Day O'Conner, unanimous, Sonia Sotomayor and others, it's obvious that we've moved the bar in terms of, how do we define advice and consent. And that goes both ways. I think in terms of confirmations, we'd better figure out how we're going to redefine advice and consent and live within those parameters. Lastly, you know, I was for a swing- swing vote. I was for somebody to replace Anthony Kennedy, who would be like Anthony Kennedy. And there are some potential candidates for that. But I don't know that advice and consent would allow you, as a senator, to try to enforce that kind of thing. It's complicated.

CHUCK TODD:

Dany, I think the days of a swing justice are gone, right? It's going to be whichever party has the Senate and the presidency is probably going to just put their side on.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Well, at the outset, that's absolutely true. But I do think, as we saw with John Paul Stevens, that there's a lot of growth in office among justices-

CHUCK TODD:

I think the Federalist Society is trying to bring an end to that.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Yeah, but you know, I think we've just been talking about the fact that Chief Justice Roberts is one of those people who I think a lot view as a potential swing vote. Look, these are people of great intelligence, of great integrity, of great legal depth. The notion that they are incapable, for political reasons, of looking at- looking at evidence, of looking at the Constitution, and drawing proper conclusions, is wrong. This process, apart from anything else, has demeaned the court, not by putting Justice Kavanaugh on it, but by discussing the court as if it is a plaything of national politics.

CHUCK TODD:

And Michael, bring an historical perspective to that. Because it's not the first time we've had this with these fights with the court. But I do think now, there is this perception, "Oh, those robes are red and blue. They're not black anymore."

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS:

Yeah, it has gotten really ugly. And you know, I was looking back at Clarence Thomas, 1991, not an exact parallel. And allegations against him were actually milder than those against now-Justice Kavanaugh. But that was a time that, you know, there was huge animosity toward Clarence Thomas. And there was a discussion, actually, at the time, that, perhaps, the court is getting political. And this is, you know, sometimes, history really does rhyme. And the thing I really missed yesterday was, 1991, the day that Clarence Thomas was confirmed, George H. W. Bush, President of the United States, said, "This has been ugly. This is really a time for healing. I'm going to try." Clarence Thomas came out on the front step of his house, said the same thing. "There shouldn't be anger. I think this should be an age of healing."

CHUCK TODD:

You know, let me put up something Amy Walter wrote, my friend over at The Cook Political Report. "This battle isn't unique to the Trump era. It's simply the latest in a never-ending war by both sides to justify their partisan behavior. Meanwhile, voters aren't making the distinctions on policy or procedure or hypocrisy, either. Instead, they rally behind their team. There's no time for nuance. There's only time for war. So war it will be for the foreseeable future." And I want to add something here, Kasie. It seems as if the Republicans in the Senate and, essentially, the body politic, left and right, has actually embraced the Trump style of politics.

KASIE HUNT:

I think that's absolutely true. And I think you saw that when you saw Lisa Murkowski go to the floor after she voted no. And there was nobody, hardly, in the chamber, watching her and nobody to applaud her. She was the one who actually took the stand and said, you know, "We need to be viewing this differently." There aren't many Republicans who are doing that anymore. And even those who are giving lip service to civility, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, first of all, you know, what will they actually do? Will they run against the president? But second of all, would there be any voters, is there a constituency behind that? I’m just- I'm not convinced. I mean, people have embraced this president from top to bottom. And you know, Chuck, I think that, you know, the deeply personal nature of the opposition to this, I just- I truly wonder if the Republican Party realizes how this is going to play out over the longer term, with the way that women have felt about this. Because there were people that I talked to, day in and day out, who really felt as though this was the highest levels of our institution doing exactly what they have been fighting against, which is they came forward. They told their stories. And the institution said to them, "You don't matter."

AL CARDENAS:

Listen. Dysfunction had begun before Donald Trump got to the White House in the Congress. But it's reached new levels. The appeal to people's lower instincts now, by both bases, have caused things like violence in the streets, demonstrations on both sides that go beyond the pale.

You know, there's a recent book that came out about America from 1830 to 1860, A Field of Blood, and how that led to the Civil War in America. I'm not sure we're not leading to a cold civil war. And I'm not too sure, during the Trump era, that things won't get worse. And so we, as a nation, need to figure this out.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm here to promote his book. I have, a book just showed up yesterday at my house. I ordered that book, because I want to read it. Dany?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I think the problem here is, look, Kasie, I understand that there was a lot of unhappiness about the vote. But the notion that one person or one spokesman speaks for all women or that all women were appalled by this-

KASIE HUNT:

I'm not saying that they are.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I can tell you, I was appalled by this. Because the notion that somebody can bring down somebody's career on their word alone is the kind of license in our society that I think is hugely dangerous. For mothers who have young sons, they can look at them going to school. And anybody can bring them down. What kind of a precedent are we setting? What kind of agency are we denying women? What kind of- what kind of action are we taking against people who are survivors of sexual assault and who have been hurt by this, because someone who wasn't really credible stood up and didn't have the corroborating evidence from the people she suggested she had it from?

KASIE HUNT:

I think that the perception, from some of these women, is that-- Chris Coons made this point about the job interview. But you know, for many women, as they grow up, they are sent a message that, "You'd better do it cleaner and better than that guy. Because if you're the one who screws up, you're going to pay the price." And I think there was a sense that Judge Kavanaugh, never in his life, had to face that kind of consequence.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to pause it here. We're actually going to get another side of the discussion of the Me Too movement on the other side of the break. The woman who founded the Me Too movement and the actor who helped turn it into a national phenomenon, Tarana Burke and Alyssa Milano will join me next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It was the tweet heard 'round the world. One year ago, the New York Times ran its front-page story about movie producer Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual assaults, shortly followed by Ronan Farrow's piece in the New Yorker. One of the people reading about Weinstein was the actor, Alyssa Milano. She sent out this tweet and then went to sleep. "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted, write Me Too as a reply to this tweet." Well, she woke up to tens of thousands of responses and the realization she had kick started the, quote, "Me Too" movement, an idea, actually, that was founded in 2006 by the activist Tarana Burke. Well, both Milano and Burke were at the Kavanaugh hearings last week to support Christine Blasey Ford, with Milano easily seen on TV, sitting behind Kavanaugh. And joining me now from southern California is Alyssa Milano and, from New York, Tarana Burke. Welcome to both of you. Thanks for coming on.

ALYSSA MILANO:

Thank you so much for having us.

CHUCK TODD:

Tarana Burke, let me start with you. And you heard me play, earlier, the quote from Christine Blasey Ford, where she talked about her fear of coming out and simply stepping in front of a train that was already headed to its destination. What are the repercussions of that?

TARANA BURKE:

Well, I mean, the repercussions are -- will remain to be seen. But I think her stepping out was something that we needed to have happen in this movement. It's been largely focused on Hollywood and on individual bad actors. And I think her coming forward really set the stage for survivors to have a different role in this movement than we've seen over the last year.

CHUCK TODD:

Alyssa Milano, the journalist Sally Quinn wrote in her memoire last year about an attempted rape by a now-deceased Senator, John Tower, when she was a college student in the '60s. When John Tower was nominated to be the defense secretary in 1989, she was asked about it. And she declined to talk about it with the F.B.I. Well, a reporter at the New Yorker, Susan Glasser, asked her about it. Let me play -- let me show you what Susan Glasser wrote. She said, "I called Sally Quinn the night before Christine Blasey Ford's testimony to ask what she thought about her own experience all these years later. "And she goes, 'I could've been Anita Hill,' she pointed out. 'But I didn't want to. I didn't want to ruin my life. Nothing has changed since Anita Hill, not a damn thing.'" Is she right?

ALYSSA MILANO:

I think a lot has changed. But I also think a lot hasn't changed. And yesterday, we, we may have lost a political battle. But I do think we are winning the cultural battle. And often, I don't fight for the win. I'm fighting, so that generations don't have to deal with the abuses of power that we've had to deal with. So in a respect, I think she is right. But then I do think that there's a lot going on. And I think this, this, this cultural shift that we're feeling, this collective pain that we're feeling from survivors coming forward, is going to be able to be translated into a collective power, to say that we're not going to be silenced any longer.

CHUCK TODD:

Tarana Burke, you know, Susan Collins said that she was really angry at the leaker about this story, that it put -- it forced Dr. Ford into the public square. And maybe she wasn't ready, or maybe it wasn't handled right. Do you think the United States Senate and, in particular, Senator Feinstein, did -- didn't handle this correctly from the outset and made Dr. Ford more vulnerable than necessary?

TARANA BURKE:

I wouldn't say she didn't handle it right. She followed the leadership of the survivor. People shouldn't have to be forced out of -- to tell their story. And so if she asked for privacy, I understand why Senator Feinstein decided to respect that privacy. I think this is really indicative of how we don't understand, in this country, the life cycle of a survivor and what it takes to actually mount up the courage to come forward, particularly in a situation like this. So I think it was handled fine. I think -- I wish that, after it was revealed and after it was leaked, it was handled better.

CHUCK TODD:

Alyssa Milano, I want to get you to respond to what Emily Yoffe wrote in The Atlantic this week. The Problem With #BelieveSurvivors. She writes this. "Even as we must treat accusers with seriousness and dignity, we must hear the accused fairly and respectfully and recognize the potential lifetime consequences that such an allegation can bring. If believing the woman is the beginning and the end of a search for the truth, then we have left the realm of justice for religion."

TARANA BURKE:

That's not what believe survivors means.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, what does that mean?

TARANA BURKE:

I'm sorry.

CHUCK TODD:

No, go ahead, Tarana. Yeah.

TARANA BURKE:

When we say, "belief survivors," it's not believe them without investigation, believe them without interrogation. We have set a precedent in this country of not believing, of thinking that women, in particular, are lying when they come forward with these allegations, when people come forward with these allegations. So the mantra, believe survivors, is about, can we start with the premise that people do not often lie about the pain and the trauma of sexual violence? If we start with that premise, that we believe that it's true, then you can have an investigation. You can have an interrogation of the facts and that kind of thing. This is not to say, "Believe people, blanket, and don't investigate. And don't do anything else, besides believe them."

CHUCK TODD:

Go ahead, Alyssa.

ALYSSA MILANO:

And I also think that, right now, we are defining what due process looks like in this type of situation. Because we've never really defined it before, because women haven't come forward. So we do need to have due process. What does it mean to have a fair investigation in these processes, so that we can move forward, so that we can change the cultural and societal, systemic institutionalization, institutionalization of sexual abuse and assault?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me get you, Alyssa, let me get you to react to something Bret Stephens wrote in the Times. He said this. "'I'd rather be accused of murder,' a friend said, 'than of sexual assault.'" And then he writes, "I feel the same way. One can think of excuses for killing a man, none for assaulting a woman. "But if that's true, so is this. Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. Because it inflicts psychic, familiar, reputational, and professional harms that can last a lifetime." Alyssa, I'll let you answer that first, respond first.

ALYSSA MILANO:

These numbers are so low, as far as false accusations and women coming forward. They're from 2% to 8%. And that's not taking into account that 70% to 80% of sexual assault is actually not reported at all. So what we're looking at is very, very small numbers. Also, there's not, there’s no gray area with murder, right? You don't, like, maybe commit murder or maybe not. You know, there is very distinct lines that are drawn. So what we're trying to do is define what those lines are, so that, you know, we can move forward in a way that is not hurtful and not more in support of people that abuse their power than those that are being abused.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I'm going to leave it there for now. But Tarana Burke and Alyssa Milano, thank you both for coming on. And Alyssa Milano, I know you had to get up extra early on the west coast. So I appreciate that.

ALYSSA MILANO:

You're worth it.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks very much. When we come back, why Democrats have to win a lot more than 50% of the vote in November to win back the House. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. Democrats, of course, hope to take back the House this November. And if they do, they're going to have to overcome the advantage that Republicans have created for themselves through the process of gerrymandering, which, of course, is drawing congressional district lines to create a partisan advantage. There's a couple ways to do it. Districts can be created by packing the opposing party's voters in a smaller number of districts or by fracturing them into many districts to weaken their collective power in any one district. So how does this play itself out? Take the 2016 congressional elections. Of the votes cast by major party candidates, Republicans held less than a one-point edge, 50.4% to 49.5%, that's pretty close, must've been an evenly divided House, right? But on election night, Republicans walked away with 241 seats to the Democrats' 194 seats. That is a 47-seat advantage despite only a one-point or, actually, technically, less-than-one-point edge in the House popular vote. Now, here's how this dynamic unfolded in the state of Pennsylvania in 2016. Republicans had 54% of the overall congressional popular vote and ended up with 13 of 18 seats. The winner of the popular vote still captured a majority of the seats in Pennsylvania, but due to gerrymandering, you could argue, maybe a few too many. But go back to 2012 in Pennsylvania. Democrats actually held an edge in the popular House vote statewide, 51%, 49% over Republicans. And yet, because of gerrymandering, Republicans were still able to capture the same number of seats: 13, to be exact, in the state. But earlier this year, this map was thrown out by the state Supreme Court. So with a new map in place for this November's election, The Cook Political Report rates seven seats currently held by republicans in Pennsylvania as competitive, including four that they rate as actually leaning towards the Democrats right now. If those four flip, the Pennsylvania delegation becomes more evenly split, something the popular House vote will likely support on election night. Look, when Democrats are in power, of course, they do the exact same thing. Just look at the state of Maryland and how they did that. But after the Republicans' 2010 tsunami election, they held the reins of many state capitals around the country and they got to draw most of the lines. That's why we should keep an eye on the elections for state houses and governorships this November. Because these are the folks here in 2018 who, in many cases, will redraw the lines three years from now in 2021. We'll be back in a moment with End Game and the Kavanaugh effect on the midterms.

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CHUCK TODD:

All right, back now with Endgame. And the real obsession in Washington is, what kind of impact does Kavanaugh have on the midterms? Senate is where we might see it. Four Senate races that I want to show you examples of before Kavanaugh and after. First, Missouri. Before the Kavanaugh allegations and hearings, the race was tied. After, the race is tied. Let's look at Montana. Before, Tester with about a two-point lead there. Most-recent polls since, Tester with a four-point lead, so no real change there. But let me go to some darker-red states. Tennessee, Phil Bredesen had a five-point lead before the Kavanaugh hearings. And now, look. The most-recent poll has Marsha Blackburn, the republican, up five, a big swing there. And then of course, North Dakota. Before the Kavanaugh hearings began, she was down four, margin-of-error race. After, it is now double digits, 12-point race. Al Cardenas, is this how your party sees it, that whatever you think of it, this has fired up the base?

AL CARDENAS:

Well, here's how we see it. We see it as having secured the Senate majority in November '18 for all the reasons you've stated.

CHUCK TODD:

You think it's done.

AL CARDENAS:

Yeah, pretty much.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats aren't going to win the Senate.

AL CARDENAS:

Pretty much done. I mean, there are going to be a couple of seats that are going to go one way or the other. But the democrats need five of the seven remaining competitive seats. And I just don't see it happening. In the House, you know, there are 23 seats that republicans hold that Hillary Clinton won. I think that'll help democrats. And you know, instead of a tossup, I think the majority is likely to be democrat in the House or leading democrat and in spite of the things that you stated regarding, you know, Pennsylvania, which is very fascinating.

CHUCK TODD:

Kasie, is that the view on the Hill, that basically, yeah, this is helping republicans in the Senate, and it's only making it easier for the democrats in the House?

KASIE HUNT:

Yeah, that's the emerging conventional wisdom, I think, particularly in a place like Tennessee. You know, I've spoken to both senators, actually, from Tennessee about this briefly. And you know, I think there's a sense that it really helped Marsha Blackburn there. But I do think one thing for democrats to take away from this, as well, Mitch McConnell called the protestors a mob. And he said that, "The mob was able to do what I couldn't do by myself," which is get republicans energized and invested. So what was a clear win for democrats on enthusiasm is now definitely something of a tossup. But I do think, in the House, you could be looking at, instead of a 23-, 24-, 25-seat majority for democrats, you could be looking at much higher numbers, which, I think, actually could have pretty significant implications.

CHUCK TODD:

Dany, we were talking about something else earlier in the break. And I actually want to bring it here. And it's how the president has transformed not just his party but this entire town. Everybody now conducts politics in his image. Fight, fight, fight, deny, deny, deny. Just take it to your opponent, whatever it takes.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Yeah, I mean, it's, I don't think this is a word, but the vulgarization of something that was pretty vulgar to start with, American politics. It's really unbelievable. Because Donald Trump has not been isolated by his style or his manner or his antipathy towards so much of the political landscape. Rather, he has just taken them along with him. The irony here is, just to come back to the midterms for a second, the irony is I think that people, even almost two years into Donald Trump's presidency, don't understand what helps Donald Trump. This Kavanaugh stuff, the reaction to it, helps him.

CHUCK TODD:

He was the big winner here. All right, Michael, I want to transition to your book. Because as you pointed out, we said, "How do we transition to your book?" You said, "Hey, the president's got to do two things: appoint Supreme Court justices and decide whether we go to war." Your book, Presidents of War, and as a historian, when you get a front-page scoop in the New York Times, that's pretty darn good. It sounds like you did some interesting, little, historical digging. This is about a nuclear response. General Westmoreland, as if to add to his legacy, apparently, wanted to bring nukes to the Vietnam War. What happened?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS:

L.B.J., who obviously made so many terrible mistakes in Vietnam, here, in this case, there's this hidden story where he tells Westmoreland, "No, I don't want nuclear weapons in South Vietnam. They could quickly be used. You know, this could be the end of the world. Get them out of here." And it was all secret, until decades later, and the last documents came out, just the last couple of years.

CHUCK TODD:

If the president brought you in to brief him on this book and say, "Why should I read your book? What could I learn from it," what could he learn from it? What do you hope President Trump would learn from your book?

AL CARDENAS:

Number one, he'll get the experience, the saga, of 200 years of what it's like to be a war president, you know, the marriages of these presidents, you know, these emotional breakdowns, where they lied. More important, I think what I would like to say to him is, remember, no president should start a war for political reasons. In President Trump's case, he would send out tweets, in 2011, warning Americans, "Watch out. President Obama is going to start a war to win the next election." Not a great idea for a president to connect those two things.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Michael. The book, Presidents of War. Congrats. Before we go, I want to remind everyone that today, we're excited that we're kicking off the second-annual Meet the Press film festival with the American Film Institute. Tickets are sold out in Washington. But you can see most of the films online on NBCNews.com/MTPFilm. Or you can check out NBC News On Demand, if you've cut the cord here. It's on your cable box, if you haven't cut the cord, or Apple TV, Fire TV, or Roku. That's all for today. Thanks for watching. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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