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Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin Discusses Latest With Kavanaugh's Supreme Court Nomination

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And we're joined now by one of the senators who voted no this morning. Dick Durbin is a Democrat from Illinois and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thanks for joining us this afternoon.

DICK DURBIN: Good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: To start, how are you feeling about today's developments?

DURBIN: Well, I'm disappointed. I respect Susan Collins very much. We are friends. But I respectfully disagree with her. I was one of the few Democrats who sat on the floor for her entire statement out of respect for her and because I wanted to hear her thinking on it. I thought there were at least two elements I would raise. First, she said, as so many Republicans have said, how credible and how convincing that Dr. Ford was. And yet, they reached a conclusion that there was no credible evidence to suggest her statement, with 100 percent certainty, that Brett Kavanaugh was her attacker was a fact. When Susan said yesterday at the end the FBI investigation she thought it was a thorough investigation, I knew we were in trouble. They interviewed eight, 10 people - no more. They ignored eight witnesses produced by Dr. Ford, 20 witnesses produced by Miss Ramirez. It was not a fulsome and complete professional investigation by any means.

SHAPIRO: I also want to ask about Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia because part of your job as Democratic whip is to wrangle votes in your party. Why do you think you were unable to get him onboard?

DURBIN: You know, most people when they hear this title whip and use the word wrangle think this is like a wrestling match to bring these senators to bay. It doesn't work that way at all. It's more like a high-level respectful debate with very few threats ever issued. And I knew that Joe was being cagey, in one respect, careful, in another. He was back home every weekend. He was measuring his vote. We didn't put him in either column for the longest time - waiting to see. We knew that he was in conversation with Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski. And so as it unfolded today, I understood it. But to say that he could have been persuaded earlier - you know, this is too personal. Each of us has to make an independent decision on these important votes.

SHAPIRO: I'd like to ask whether you think Judge Kavanaugh has compromised his ability to be a fair objective judicial voice on the Supreme Court. And elsewhere in the program, we spoke with John Malcolm, of The Heritage Foundation, who supports Kavanaugh. Here's part of what he had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JOHN MALCOLM: Obviously Ruth Bader Ginsburg had some harsh statements to say about Donald Trump before he went on the all - you know, became president. I don't hear too many people questioning her integrity. And I certainly won't either.

SHAPIRO: Senator Durbin, what do you think? Can Judge Kavanaugh be a credible voice on the Supreme Court now?

DURBIN: That remains to be seen. I mean, we can take a look at Clarence Thomas. After what he went through, he went through a period of 10 years of silence on the court. It was kind of hard to figure out where this man was coming from in terms of his service in the highest court of the land. And now if this goes through, as it apparently will, Brett Kavanaugh will have to make his own place on the court. He will have to really - I hope he'll read Susan Collins' statement today. She has a lot of faith in him - the things she said about him as being a moderate. If he takes those to heart, and that really marks his service on the court, it will be a departure from what his critics expect.

SHAPIRO: Do you think that Democrats miscalculated by shining a spotlight on a victim who originally wanted to remain anonymous, opening an FBI investigation that ultimately provided cover for senators on the fence to support the candidate and doing long-term harm to the reputation of someone who is now likely to sit on the Supreme Court for decades?

DURBIN: How could we walk away from a credible charge of sexual assault against a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States? How could we ignore that? We couldn't. And there was an effort made by Senator Feinstein to deal with the calls for confidentiality and protecting her identity. Eventually, it came out. And I'm glad that Susan Collins made it clear that Senator Feinstein should not be accused of leaking this. I don't believe for a second that she would have ever considered that. But the fact is it became a public fact, a public issue, on a critically important and timely issue. We couldn't walk away from it. And to ask for an investigation, to ask for a hearing, those are just normal requests on Capitol Hill.

SHAPIRO: Just in our last 30 seconds or so, do you think that this bitter divisive fight will have long-term consequences for the Senate?

DURBIN: I hope not. I think what we need to do after this is finished - next week, roll up our sleeves and find a bipartisan measure to work on. We've been doing things, like the opioid bill and the federal FAA reauthorization bill. They are not getting much attention to this issue. We need to get back to business. Roll up our sleeves. Be bipartisan. Show that we can work together and restore some confidence in this body.

SHAPIRO: Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, thanks for joining us here on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

DURBIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.