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Kavanaugh's testimony is starting to look more and more problematic

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh arrives to testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh arrives to testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Sept. 27, 2018.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Two reports last night — from NBC News and the New York Times — appear to contradict some of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee from last week.

On when Kavanaugh first learned about Deborah Ramirez’s allegations against him

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: When did you first hear of Ms. Ramirez’s allegations against you?

KAVANAUGH: In the last — in the period since then, the New Yorker story [published on Sept. 23].

But NBC News's Heidi Przbyla and Leigh Ann Caldwell write that Kavanaugh and his team were trying to refute Ramirez’s allegations BEFORE they became public.

“The texts between Berchem and Karen Yarasavage, both friends of Kavanaugh, suggest that the nominee was personally talking with former classmates about Ramirez’s story in advance of the New Yorker article that made her allegation public. In one message, Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked her to go on the record in his defense. Two other messages show communication between Kavanaugh's team and former classmates in advance of the story.”

More: “In a series of texts before the publication of the New Yorker story, Yarasavage wrote that she had been in contact with ‘Brett's guy,’ and also with ‘Brett,’ who wanted her to go on the record to refute Ramirez. According to Berchem, Yarasavage also told her friend that she turned over a copy of the wedding party photo to Kavanaugh, writing in a text: ‘I had to send it to Brett’s team too.’”

On whether Kavanaugh interacted with Ramirez at a 1997 wedding

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Did you interact with Ms. Ramirez at the wedding?

KAVANAUGH: I'm sure — I'm sure I saw her because it wasn't a huge wedding. And at any wedding, you would see the people that you went to school with. But I don't have a specific recollection.

From Przbyla and Caldwell: “Berchem's texts with Yarasavage shed light on Kavanaugh’s personal contact with friends, including that he obtained a copy of a photograph of a small group of friends from Yale at a 1997 wedding in order to show himself smiling alongside Ramirez 10 years after they graduated. Both were in the wedding party: Kavanaugh was a groomsman and Ramirez a bridesmaid at the wedding. On Sept. 22nd, Yarasavage texted Berchem that she had shared the photo with ‘Brett’s team.’”

On Kavanaugh’s drinking alcohol during his days at Yale

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The quote that jumped out at me was, “Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him.” There’s also, in a separate setting…

KAVANAUGH: I don’t think that — I don’t — I do not think that’s a fair characterization, and Chris Dudley’s quoted in that [Washington Post] article, and I would refer you to what Chris Dudley said. I spent more time with Chris Dudley in college than just about anyone, and I would refer you to what he said.

But the New York Times reports on a 1985 police report (which NBC News has not verified) suggesting that Kavanaugh was involved in a bar fight — with Chris Dudley at his side.

“The incident, which occurred in September 1985 during Mr. Kavanaugh’s junior year, resulted in Mr. Kavanaugh and four other men being questioned by the New Haven Police Department. Mr. Kavanaugh was not arrested, but the police report stated that a 21-year-old man accused Mr. Kavanaugh of throwing ice on him ‘for some unknown reason.’ A witness to the fight said that Chris Dudley, a Yale basketball player who is friends with Mr. Kavanaugh, then threw a glass that hit the man in the ear, according to the police report.”

More from the Times: “The outlines of the incident were first referred to in a statement issued on Sunday by Chad Ludington, one of Judge Kavanaugh’s college classmates and a member of the Yale basketball team. ‘On one of the last occasions I purposely socialized with Brett, I witnessed him respond to a semi-hostile remark, not by defusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man’s face,’ Mr. Ludington said in the statement. Mr. Ludington, a professor at North Carolina State University, said he came forward because he believed Judge Kavanaugh had mischaracterized the extent of his drinking at Yale.”

(White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded to the New York Times story, saying: “Democrats desperately attack Judge Kavanaugh for throwing ice during college.”)

And you can now add these examples to other problematic statements Kavanaugh has made — about “Devil’s Triangle,” “Boofed” and that Georgetown Prep boys didn’t mingle with Holton-Arms girls.

Does the pitched battle over Kavanaugh help the GOP in red states?

While it’s too early to make this conclusion, it’s worth asking whether the fight over Kavanaugh helps out Republicans in red states. We’ve seen the polls — from Quinnipiac and CBS — showing that more Americans/voters oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation than support it. But that’s nationally. How about in North Dakota? Or Indiana? Or Missouri?

Minnesota Dems say their investigation can't 'substantiate' abuse allegations against Keith Ellison

Minnesota's state Democratic Party, the Minnesota DFL, issued a statement saying its outside investigation wasn't able to "substantiate" accusations of physical abuse against Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., by an ex-girlfriend. Ellison, who failed in his 2017 bid to become DNC chairman, is currently running for state attorney general in Minnesota.

"The investigation report, which was released today without our knowledge by someone outside of our organization, was unable to substantiate the claim of physical abuse made by Ms. Monahan," DFL Chair Ken Martin said of the allegations levied by Karen Monahan. Martin also said the state party was handing its finding over to law enforcement. "For the purpose of objectivity and getting all of the facts regarding these allegations, we have decided to forward the information in the investigation to local authorities in order to let them review the contents and determine whether further investigation is warranted," he said.

Ellison's Republican opponent, Doug Wardlow, released a statement calling the investigation a "sham." "As predicted, the sham 'investigation' led by the DFL party attorney's legal partner has concluded in favor of the party's Attorney General candidate. But the publicly available evidence contradicts that conclusion," Wardlow said.

Trump heads to Mississippi

A day after campaigning in Tennessee, President Donald Trump travels to Southaven, Mississippi, on Tuesday, where he holds a rally at 7:40 pm ET.