Transcript: Sen. Susan Collins on "Face the Nation," October 7, 2018

Full interview: Sen. Susan Collins appears on "Face the Nation"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine that aired Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


JOHN DICKERSON: We begin with Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins who made a dramatic 45 minute speech to the Senate on Friday outlining her decision to vote for Judge Kavanaugh. Welcome senator.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: Thank you, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: You were one of the senators who backed the FBI inquiry. You said it was a very thorough investigation. But Dr. Ford's lawyers said that none of the people they put forward were interviewed. They said there is corroborating evidence and nobody wanted to see it.

SEN. COLLINS: It was a thorough investigation. Keep in mind that there've already been six FBI background investigations that have been done on Judge Kavanaugh and I, along with Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski, insisted that there be a supplemental FBI investigation to look at these allegations because they were so serious. There was a lot of, there were a lot of rumors that only the four people that Dr. Ford mentioned in her testimony would be interviewed. That was not the case. I read 12 different interviews on Thursday.

JOHN DICKERSON: You have said you found her testimony believable in the sense that something happened to her. So, so is it your view something happened to her, to her, it's just it wasn't Judge Kavanaugh, and if that's your view, do you have any corroborating evidence for that?

SEN. COLLINS: I am convinced that Dr. Ford believes what she told us and that she was the victim, a survivor of sexual assault and that that has been a trauma that has stayed with her for her entire life. But we have a presumption of innocence in this country, and when I looked at the lack of any corroborating evidence, including no evidence from her very best friend who was present at the party, I could not conclude that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant.

JOHN DICKERSON: The counterargument is, corroboration doesn't mean eyewitness. In other words, the fact that she told her husband and her therapist long ago is a kind of corroboration and that that should have been part of the inquiry and since it wasn't, that this is really not looking into the nature of sexual assault.

SEN. COLLINS: Well, she had the opportunity to have further interviews with the staff investigators, bipartisan staff investigators of the Judiciary Committee, and I believe that this system has not served either Brett Kavanaugh or Christine Ford well.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned you read 12 interviews. That reported had been nine, but it was 12?

SEN. COLLINS: There were 12 interviews. There was one person who had two different interviews and that, well, I can't go into what was in those because they're classified. But suffice it to say, that the key witnesses whom Dr. Ford named to a person said that they had no recollection of anything like that nor did anybody come forward afterwards to say, 'I was there' or did anyone call and say, 'I was the one who picked you up and drove you home.'

JOHN DICKERSON: Democrats keyed on what they saw as a discrepancy between Judge Kavanaugh's descriptions of his drinking and his time in high school and college and then some of these other reports. Did you find any distance between those two?

SEN. COLLINS: I think that Judge Kavanaugh drank too much in high school. But the background investigations that the FBI conducts always have a question of 'did you drink? Did the nominee drink to excess or use drugs?' That is a standard question that's asked each and every time. And 150 people were interviewed for those background investigations and none of them brought forth evidence to support that.

JOHN DICKERSON: The Democrats seized on was not that somehow his drinking impaired his judicial ability but that he wasn't straight up about it and that you want judges to tell the truth. But you felt in his testimony he was truthful on those questions?

SEN. COLLINS: I did. The question that he was asked was-- I mean, it's clear he drank in high school-- the question that was the important question was, 'was he a blackout drunk?' And he said that that was not the case, and the testimony that we had in, in the interviews did not support that contention.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the question of temperament which your Republican colleague Lisa Murkowski really defined her no vote around that idea.What she keyed in on was the partisan nature-- that when, when accused, he jumped to the most dire partisan framing of what was happening to him.

SEN. COLLINS: I thought Judge Kavanaugh's denial at the second hearing was very powerful. His anger and his anguish-- I think is, are understandable given that he's been accused of being involved in gang rapes of women. I mean, that is a devastating allegation. So I think it was understandable that he was reacting as a human being, as a father, as a father of two young girls. But I will say that I thought his questioning-- with the questioning with the senators-- that he went over the line, and I was glad that he apologized to Amy Klobuchar in particular.

JOHN DICKERSON: But what Senator Murkowski seemed to zero in on here is that he jumped right to the conclusion that all questions that were asked were the result of a partisan Democratic witch hunt-- going right to the partisan weaponry is, is antithetical to the job he's being asked to be elevated to.

SEN. COLLINS: Well, let's look at his history. When he was first nominated it was in 2004, his nomination was delayed for two years by the Democrats. He had very hostile hearings in 2004 and 2006 when he was finally confirmed for the court. And yet that did not affect his performance as a judge for 12 years on the DC Circuit. In addition, 500 people were interviewed about his temperament and did he treat all litigants with respect and to a person they said he did.

JOHN DICKERSON: Senator Murkowski made a second more subtle point which was that the behavior in the actual testimony on that Thursday will change the way in which people have confidence about the court. In other words, by elevating him into the court it, it, it brings partisanship into the court. And that for her, that was going to make the court, which has been less partisan than the presidency or Congress, more so just by the nature of the way he testified.

SEN. COLLINS: Well, I'm very concerned about the court in general already because we have too many five-four decisions. I don't like the idea that there is a liberal bloc, a conservative bloc. I want judges that apply the law and the Constitution to the facts of the case. So I have confidence, having reviewed in depth Judge Kavanaugh's 12 years on the circuit court, that he will do that.

JOHN DICKERSON: Victims of sexual assault have said they would never mistake their attacker. And so by suggesting Dr. Ford is mistaken with her attacker that you and others are making a broader-- that you're essentially denying their experience more than just the specific facts of this case.

SEN. COLLINS: You know when I hear that it causes me huge pain because I have met with so many survivors of sexual attacks, including close friends. And these women have the right to be heard. They have the right to be treated with respect. And I think one of the tragedies of what we've just gone through is Christine Blasey Ford wanted to have her allegations treated confidentially. She did not seek the limelight. She did not want to testify in public and because someone leaked the letter that she sent, her whole life has been turned upside down. I think that was wrong and despicable. The one silver lining that I hope will come from this is that more women will press charges now when they are assaulted.

JOHN DICKERSON: Women have said the reason they don't come and report is because people won't believe them. They'll poke holes in their story. They'll say that the fact they didn't remember certain details, which we know from brain science that sometimes happens in these assaults-- you remember some very deeply but not broadly. All of that was used against Dr. Ford. And so after this process in which these holes in her story were used even by the president that, that will make it actually harder to come forward because people will say, 'well, nobody's going to believe me the way they didn't believe her.'

SEN. COLLINS: Well, I certainly don't believe that's the case because I think that this has been an awakening for this country. I don't think most of us had any idea how pervasive the problem of sexual assault is. Sexual harassment, yes we knew that. But sexual assault. And that's why the Me Too movement has been important. That's why it's been important that so many of these women for the first time ever have come forward. And it is important that we treat people fairly. And that's what we need to do.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you think Democrats who were all, Democrats were working in good faith to try to find out what really happened?

SEN. COLLINS: Well, I can't help but think that there were some who wanted to use Dr. Ford, and that really saddens me because otherwise they would have gone with her express wishes, which is to have been interviewed in private, to have kept her allegations confidential. They still could have been thoroughly explored and I think that's really shameful. I do not think the system treated her well.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Senator Collins, thank you so much for being here.

SEN. COLLINS: Thank you, John.