NBC Frets Kavanaugh Wanted to Ask Clinton Tough Questions About Lewinsky Scandal

On Tuesday, NBC’s Today show devoted a full report to hand wringing over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, while serving as one of Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s lead investigators in the 1990s, wanting to ask then-President Bill Clinton accurate, detailed questions about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The supposed “journalists” were aghast at the prospect of Clinton being held accountable.

“In the meantime, the president’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is facing questions this morning after a newly-released memo revealed the graphic questions he thought prosecutors should ask then-President Clinton 20 years ago, during the Starr investigation,” declared co-host Savannah Guthrie as she introduced the story. “Kavanaugh vs. Clinton; SCOTUS Nominee Pushed for Graphic Questions,” the headline on screen announced.

 

 

Starting off the over three-and-a-half-minute-long segment, correspondent Hallie Jackson fretted: “In this two-page document, Kavanaugh advocated very strongly for a tough approach to questions to Bill Clinton. And I’m told now that Kavanaugh stands by that overall approach of trying to hold the president accountable.”

She teed up a clip of an unidentified reporter shouting a question at Kavanaugh: “You wanted very graphic questions asked of him [Clinton], is that appropriate?” Jackson followed: “The president’s pick to sit on the Supreme Court simply smiling after being asked about a memo, just released, packed with explicit questions for then-President Bill Clinton.”

Seeming to be shocked that someone investigating the president would want to ask a series of direct questions, Jackson described the memo just unearthed by The Washington Post and The New York Times:

At the time, Brett Kavanaugh was an attorney working for Kenneth Starr, investigating Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. And Kavanaugh wanted the team to take an aggressive approach. In the 1998 memo, he writes, “I am strongly opposed to giving the president any ‘break’ in the questioning unless he either resigns or confesses perjury.” Kavanaugh adding, “The president has disgraced his office, the legal system, and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles.”

Kavanaugh lays out a list of graphic questions he thinks Clinton should be asked, including, “If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her [...] while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?” And, “If Monica Lewinsky says that you had phone sex with her on approximately 15 occasions, would she be lying?”

A predictable soundbite followed from Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons using the issue to attack Kavanaugh: “I’m troubled by some of the things that have been reported about his role in the Starr investigation and the materials that he pressed for inclusion in the final report.”

Jackson only briefly noted a defense of Kavanaugh:

An official close to the nomination process tells NBC News, while Kavanaugh, given years of hindsight, might change some of the words he used in that memo, he stands by the overall approach of holding a president accountable for inappropriate conduct. Quote, “Among all the weighty issues to be discussed at next month’s hearings, we doubt that this is very high on the list.”

The reporter then warned: “Kavanaugh has long-time links to Ken Starr, working as the lead author of the controversial Starr Report, looking at Clinton’s scandals. And praising Starr at an appreciation dinner in 1999.”

Following the taped portion of the report, Guthrie asked: “And Hallie, what else can you tell us about Kavanaugh and what we should be watching?” Jackson replied:

Well, a big day today for him, Savannah, particularly a big morning. He is going to have what maybe the most important meeting of this whole confirmation process so far, the one with Senator Susan Collins of Maine. She, of course, is a moderate Republican, considered a pivotal swing vote in his confirmation.

And I’ll tell you, it seems like everybody on both sides of this understands the stakes here. The official familiar with this process says that the entire part of it has been designed partly to appeal to Collins to try to show that Kavanaugh is a qualified judge and not a partisan figure.

CBS This Morning also covered the newly-released Kavanaugh memo on Tuesday, but only in a seconds-long news brief from co-host Norah O’Donnell:

The New York Times reports Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s Supreme Court pick, urged graphic questions in the inquiry of President Bill Clinton. According to a memorandum released by the National Archives, he pushed prosecutors to question then- President Clinton in graphic detail about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Kavanaugh worked on the report that led representatives to vote to impeach Mr. Clinton.

On Monday, Brian Flood of Fox News detailed the list of failed media attempts to smear Kavanaugh since President Trump nominated him to the high court. Flood even highlighted the latest effort: “Kavanaugh’s years working for independent counsel Ken Starr are also under the microscope. In the latest article on that era, the Post ran a piece Monday titled, ‘Brett Kavanaugh memo detailed explicit questions for Clinton.’”

NewsBusters recently compiled a video montage displaying how the press savaged Starr as a “partisan” and “peeping Tom” for his investigation of Clinton. It appears journalists are now  reviving the same tactic to go after Kavanaugh.   

Here is a full transcript of Jackson’s August 21 report for the Today show:

7:11 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: In the meantime, the president’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is facing questions this morning after a newly-released memo revealed the graphic questions he thought prosecutors should ask then-President Clinton 20 years ago, during the Starr investigation. NBC’s chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson is on that story for us. Hallie, good morning.

HALLIE JACKSON: Hey, Savannah, good morning to you. Brett Kavanaugh has not said anything publicly recently about this memo, but he may be asked about it during his meetings on Capitol Hill. In this two-page document, Kavanaugh advocated very strongly for a tough approach to questions to Bill Clinton. And I’m told now that Kavanaugh stands by that overall approach of trying to hold the president accountable.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Kavanaugh vs. Clinton; SCOTUS Nominee Pushed for Graphic Questions]

The president’s pick to sit on the Supreme Court...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [REPORTER]: You wanted very graphic questions asked of him, is that appropriate?

JACKSON: ...simply smiling after being asked about a memo, just released, packed with explicit questions for then-President Bill Clinton. At the time, Brett Kavanaugh was an attorney working for Kenneth Starr, investigating Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. And Kavanaugh wanted the team to take an aggressive approach. In the 1998 memo, he writes, “I am strongly opposed to giving the president any ‘break’ in the questioning unless he either resigns or confesses perjury.” Kavanaugh adding, “The president has disgraced his office, the legal system, and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles.”

Kavanaugh lays out a list of graphic questions he thinks Clinton should be asked, including, “If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her [...] while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?” And, “If Monica Lewinsky says that you had phone sex with her on approximately 15 occasions, would she be lying?”

SEN. CHRIS COONS [D-DE]: I’m troubled by some of the things that have been reported about his role in the Starr investigation and the materials that he pressed for inclusion in the final report.

JACKSON: An official close to the nomination process tells NBC News, while Kavanaugh, given years of hindsight, might change some of the words he used in that memo, he stands by the overall approach of holding a president accountable for inappropriate conduct. Quote, “Among all the weighty issues to be discussed at next month’s hearings, we doubt that this is very high on the list.”

Kavanaugh’s position on investigating sitting presidents seems to have evolved over the years. In 2009, he wrote that lawsuits or investigations “take the president’s focus away from his or her responsibilities to the people.”

BRETT KAVANAUGH [C-SPAN/1999]: Ken Starr is, in fact, a hero.

JACKSON: Kavanaugh has long-time links to Ken Starr, working as the lead author of the controversial Starr Report, looking at Clinton’s scandals. And praising Starr at an appreciation dinner in 1999.  

KAVANAUGH: And maybe I’m an optimist, but one day, I, for myself, hope to be able to call him Mr. Justice Starr.

GUTHRIE: And Hallie, what else can you tell us about Kavanaugh and what we should be watching?

JACKSON: Well, a big day today for him, Savannah, particularly a big morning. He is going to have what may be the most important meeting of this whole confirmation process so far, the one with Senator Susan Collins of Maine. She, of course, is a moderate Republican, considered a pivotal swing vote in his confirmation.

And I’ll tell you, it seems like everybody on both sides of this understands the stakes here. The official familiar with this process says that the entire part of it has been designed partly to appeal to Collins to try to show that Kavanaugh is a qualified judge and not a partisan figure. So we asked Senator Collins about that. She says, well, that is certainly part of what she wants to see, she’s also looking for somebody who respects judicial precedent. Bottom line, a lot of eyes will be watching that face-to-face later on today, Savannah.  

GUTHRIE: It’s a biggie. Hallie, thank you so much.

NB Daily Appointments Judiciary Kavanaugh Nomination Trump Impeachment Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Political Scandals Sex Scandals NBC Today Video Savannah Guthrie Hallie Jackson Bill Clinton

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