Political battle erupts over Kavanaugh confirmation

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," September 4, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, D-MINN.: Nearly 102,000 pages of documents from Judge Kavanaugh's work in the White House counsel's office are being withheld from a committee.

SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-N.J.: We are asking to evaluate a candidate, to have intelligent questions and insights into his record, but we only have 10 percent of that record.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.: What is the administration afraid of showing the American people?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: It is hard to take seriously their claim that somehow they can't do their job because they've been denied access to attorney-client or executive privilege documents when they've already made up their mind before the hearing.

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: A judge must be independent and must interpret the laws, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. A judge might interpret the Constitution as written.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The first day is supposed to be boring. It was not. A lot of fireworks this morning in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing. Speeches, Democrats saying they didn't have enough documents. And a lot of fights yet to come as questioning is tomorrow.

The president weighing in: "The Brett Kavanaugh hearings for the future dressers of the Supreme Court are truly a display of how mean, angry, and despicable the other side is. They will say anything and are only looking to inflict pain and embarrassment to one of the most highly renowned jurists to ever appear before Congress. So say to see."

With that, let's bring in our panel and start there: David Brody, chief political analyst for the Christian Broadcasting Network; national security analyst Morgan Ortagus, and Jonathan Swan, national politics reporter for Axios. David, obviously Democrats felt they don't have enough yet to make their decisions or form their questions.

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCAST NETWORK: Right, and so therefore the document dump narrative, Bret. And I think that is what we saw today. I kind of felt like we were about on our way to a Taiwanese parliament brawl to a degree. But it stopped short of that.

But I think Democrats clearly, they believe they've won today. And honestly, it a 24-hour news cycle, they did. But here's the thing, in baseball, if they hit a home run of the first inning, that is what they did today. But it's a nine-inning game and Democrats -- excuse me, Republicans clearly playing for the long haul.

BAIER: So Jonathan, Democrats saying they needed more documents, but there really isn't a doubt how each one of those Democrats and the Judiciary Committee is going to vote. They've already come out and said they're going to vote no.

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Look, just to pull back the lens a little but, I spoke to a senior Democrat prominently involved in this effort to stop Kavanaugh's confirmation. They admitted to me privately that they need one of two things. They need some explosive piece of paper, a document that just from his time in the White House or whatever, that reveals something horrendous about him.

BAIER: An "aha" moment.

SWAN: An aha moment. Or him to have a complete meltdown in his hearing. And without that, he is going to get confirmed. So you are seeing the frustration from Democrats there, because really this thing is pretty cooked.

BAIER: And that may actually tell you a little bit more about the vote counting, what happened today, Morgan.

MORGAN ORTAGUS, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think anything happened today to lose a single Republican vote. And I still think there is a really good chance that you can get up to 55 votes. If there was something explosive about him, it would have happened. The Democrats tried most of the day to disparage his character, and I think it's difficult with Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh looks like the guy who organizes the office coffee clutch. He doesn't look like he is the person that's going to take down the rights for all women everywhere. So it was a little disingenuous.

What I said last night on your show is that I really was looking for what the Democrats who are likely going to run for president in 2020 on this committee, how would they react. The thing that surprised me today is that they must be under more pressure from their base then I realized because I knew it would be theatrical. It was overly theatrical. And at the end of the day, it doesn't move the needle.

BAIER: Some breaking news from The New York Times, just reporting, special counsel Robert Mueller will accept written answers from President Trump on questions related to his campaign and with Russia's election interference. Mr. Mueller's office telling Trump lawyers in a letter that they will accept written answers. Didn't say whether he would on the obstruction of justice investigation, but the tone of the letter suggests that's what they are headed toward, written answers, not giving up on the overall interview. Jonathan, thoughts on that?

SWAN: I am very curious to read this story now. My immediate question would be, is it for some parts of what he wants to know, or is he carte blanche or agreeing to written answers, which I would be stunned if he is actually giving up on interviewing Trump in person?

BRODY: And this becomes, really, at this point, what we are learning now, a victory for the president. If you're going to do written answers, this is, really, if you think about, best-case scenario for that middle ground that we heard so much about and I think that we are going to see it play out potentially right here.

BAIER: Morgan, this comes as Bob Woodward's book has dropped, and now we're getting all the details of some really salacious quotes and some quotes that people in the book who are quoted I think from other sources -- Bob Woodward doesn't say where the sources are -- are pushing back on whether they actually said what they said. But there are some interesting things that have already dropped here in Washington.

ORTAGUS: For me, color me unimpressed. It seems like a typical new cycle on these books. The Trump administration officials come out to denied all the salacious things that the author of the book said. It continues with some of the same big picture narratives about the president and his competency that the left likes to attack him on.

I think -- I was thinking about it today at the Applebee's in Florida, no one is talking about the Bob Woodward book tonight. No one. And that is the bottom line for how this relates to everybody watching the show.

BAIER: The suggestion is that aides are doing things and protecting from what the president's instincts are and, for example, that Secretary Mattis had said we are not going to follow an order directly from the president as far as killing Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Now Mattis has put out a statement saying the contemptuous words about the president attributed to me in Woodward's book were never uttered. He said "While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility." Each one of the people, John Kelly, John Dowd, has put a pretty detailed statements pushing back.

SWAN: So the Mattis one is interesting because, firstly, there are some important nuances. One is that it wasn't a direct order, even as presented in the book. It was a suggestion. It was never from what we can tell memorialized, gone down through the process. So it is quite possible, Mattis did not specifically denied that, that Trump said, why don't we take out Assad? What Mattis is objecting to are the words put in his mouth when he is ridiculing the president.

BAIER: He's a fifth grader or a sixth grader.

SWAN: Right. I have no way of knowing -- I haven't been able to confirm that. I don't want to cast doubt on someone else's reporting. I haven't been able to confirm it.

BAIER: Most times, though, David, in books past with Woodward, he has transcripts and tapes and things of interviewing different people, whether they are the source or not.

BRODY: Yes, but he doesn't have names. And when I say names, I'm talking about specific names that are attributable to certain people in certain situations. We also have to remember, sources have an agenda, and the timing when the sources are telling you information is also very important. So there is context here.

I don't think this book will have any impact for sure on the Trump voter. I think that is clear. But even beyond that, those moderate suburban, Philadelphia type voters, they knew what they were signing for when they voted for Trump, and unconventional, Trump doing this, yes, makes a lot of sense.


BAIER: We will see. There will be fallout for days. Panel, thank you.

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