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Mitch McConnell predicts Kavanaugh confirmation by October 1

(CNN) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that he expects confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh to begin "in late August or early September" and that Kavanaugh, who he described as an "all-star," would be confirmed in time to be on the court for its new term on October 1.

"I think we will succeed, yes," the Kentucky Republican replied when asked at a news conference in Louisville if he thought Kavanaugh would be confirmed.

McConnell said he believes there are "only a fairly small number of people who are genuinely undecided" and that key Republican senators -- like Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- whose votes are needed if no Democrats support Kavanaugh, won't make up their minds until after the hearings.

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He said he expects interest groups will undertake a massive effort -- including spending millions of dollars -- to persuade senators in both parties who might be on the fence.

"Both sides believe the stakes are big and put a lot of energy and effort into prevailing," he said.

McConnell addressed recent protests he's encountered over immigration policies of the Trump administration.

"I don't know what about my career makes them think I'm easily intimidated," McConnell said, adding that the protesters were not trying to simply persuade him. "I will not be intimidated by this group of socialists who apparently want open borders."

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On John Schnatter, who was forced out as head of the Papa John's pizza chain and subsequently the University of Louisville board of trustees for using racial insults, McConnell said, "There is no place for racism in this country."

He said he personally supported removing Papa John's name from the university's stadium but that there could be contractual issues that would complicate it.

Finally, McConnell reiterated his concerns about the tariffs President Donald Trump imposed in recent weeks. He said they could hurt Kentucky.

"I'm concerned about getting into a trade war, and it seems like we may actually be in the early stages of it," he said.

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