Chris Cuomo; Kellyanne Conway (AP/Michael Zorn/John Minchillo)

Kellyanne Conway threatens to walk off CNN amid heated argument about Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh

"I can leave, and we can watch him get confirmed next week. Are you ready for that?" Conway told CNN's Chris Cuomo


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Rachel Leah
September 21, 2018 4:31PM (UTC)

CNN's Chris Cuomo and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway had a heated exchange Thursday over the sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Much of the debate resulted in the two interrupting and talking over each other, but things boiled over when Conway threatened to walk off during the live segment.

While Kavanaugh denies the allegation and says he is ready to testify, he has not advocated for an FBI investigation into her claims, as Ford has done. Cuomo questioned that logic, as well as why President Donald Trump had not himself requested a thorough, impartial investigation to ensure the American people of Kavanaugh's character ahead of a lifetime appointment.

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As soon as Conway appeared, she emphasized that, not only does Kavanaugh deny sexually assaulting Ford when the two were in high school in the 1980s, but he also says he was not at the party where Ford alleges that the assault took place. She continued to affirm the White House's position, which is shared by Senate Republicans: Ford and Kavanaugh should be given an opportunity to testify, which Kavanaugh has said he is prepared to do but an FBI investigation is not necessary.

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Cuomo pushed back, asking why lawmakers would not want to make "best efforts" to get to the truth given such a serious allegation.

"Here's what you need to know: These are best efforts," Conway replied. "Excuse me, the FBI has vetted this man completely – six different times."

"They haven't vetted this," Cuomo added. Ford's allegation surfaced after the FBI's background checks of Kavanaugh. After Ford came forward, the FBI added the allegation to Kavanaugh's file, which was shared with the White House and then made available to senators. The FBI has not investigated For's specific claims and would need the White House to make the request, since it does not fall under the jurisdiction of a federal crime.

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"You don't know that," Conway shot back. "Excuse me, you don't know that." The counselor to the president said that, if Cuomo wanted to assign blame, he should assign it to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democratic lawmaker on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who received a letter from Ford describing the alleged assault earlier this summer. Ford requested that her allegations remain confidential; Feinstein kept her promise, but the contents of the letter was leaked to the press last week.

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When Cuomo interjected to question what that had to with the validity of the allegation against Kavanaugh or the process for hearing his or Ford's testimony, Conway said, "Don't interrupt me, Christopher . . . You just think you can talk over me. I'll walk away. You guys begged me to come on, and then you want to interrupt me."

"As I’ve said many times, you’re always welcome to come on," Cuomo replied, "But I have to stop you, and check what you put out there."

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"No! No! No! I didn’t say ― nothing came out of my mouth yet," Conway said. "You’re just talking."

"Lot of noise coming for nothing coming out of your mouth," Cuomo said. "I heard something."

"I can leave," Conway threatened. "I can leave, and we can watch him get confirmed next week. Are you ready for that?"

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If the special hearing scheduled for Monday — which Ford has said she will be unable to make, but is willing to testify later next week — is truly about taking her accusation seriously and in the interest of truth and justice, then how could Conway be so sure Kavanaugh would be confirmed?

Aside from Ford's disclosure Sunday in the Washington Post, no one has heard her full testimony yet. But committee Republicans had indicated that they would move forward with Kavanaugh's confirmation vote whether she testified on Monday or not.

"How can you know right now that's going to happen?" Cuomo asked Conway about Kavanaugh's confirmation. "How can you know he's going to get confirmed before she's even testified? Where does your confidence come from?"

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Thursday, Ford's lawyers laid out conditions for Ford's testimony, saying that the only "non-starter" would be her testifying on Monday, as she needs adequate time to prepare. Republicans are expected to respond to her requests as early as Friday.

Trump weighed in Friday morning on Twitter, claiming without evidence that Kavanaugh was "under assault by radical left wing politicians." In a follow up tweet, he cast doubt on Ford's claim, because she did not file charges.

 

 

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Rachel Leah

Rachel Leah is a culture writer for Salon. You can follow her on Twitter: @rachelkleah.

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