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Sen. Kamala Harris put Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on edge with a surprise question at his confirmation hearing on whether he spoke with anyone about the investigation into Russian election meddling.

It's the only time President Donald Trump's high court pick appeared to stumble.

The California Democrat, who's considering a presidential run, pressed Kavanaugh late Wednesday as the hearing wound down to tell her who, if anyone, he's spoken to at a law firm about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into contacts between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

I don't quite understand the part "the hearing wound down to tell her" in this context. "Wind(wound) down" seems to mean "to slow and near an ending". It may mean "as the hearing wound down(nearly to the end), that question just jumped to her mind(so she asked who ...)"

It looks like the figure of speech, apostrophe or personification(the hearing -> a person).

What's the correct way to understand it?

The full source.

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  • "the hearing was winding down" does mean to start to come to an end.

But the parse is this:

The California Democrat, who's considering a presidential run, pressed Kavanaugh late Wednesday [[as the hearing wound down]]|| to tell her|| who, if anyone, he's spoken to|| at a law firm about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into contacts between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

  • pressed Kavanaugh to tell her

  • as the hearing wound down is an adverbial phrase answering the question when she pressed him to tell her something.

The senator pressed Kavanaugh to tell her as the hearing wound down [etc.]

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I believe your confusion comes from the way that a subordinate clause ("as the hearing wound down") has been placed in the middle of a verb phrase ("pressed Kavanaugh to tell her...") So, the portion that you highlighted is actually not really one unit in the sentence, but part of these two units.

(I'm using "unit" to mean "phrase or clause". Not sure if there's a correct term for that.)

The sentence could be made more clear by moving that clause to the beginning -

As the hearing wound down late Wednesday, the California Democrat, who's considering a presidential run, pressed Kavanaugh to tell her who, if anyone, he's spoken to at a law firm about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into contacts between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

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The insertion of a comma makes the statement clearer.

The California Democrat, who's considering a presidential run, pressed Kavanaugh late Wednesday as the hearing wound down, to tell her who....

So it's saying that it was late on Wednesday as the hearing was concluding that the California Democrat put pressure on Kavanaugh to tell her who he might have spoken to....

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    I thought that too and then realized it does not work. Because: it's pressed K. to tell her, so those commas don't actually work.....pressed Kavanaugh late Wednesday, as the hearing wound down, to tell her. – Lambie Sep 7 '18 at 13:44
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    I think you need to insert a pair of commas: "... Wednesday, as the hearing wound down, to..." – Especially Lime Sep 7 '18 at 15:02
  • As of now ColleenV's comment is gone, so I'd include what you consider informative from his comment in your answer. – Eddie Kal Sep 7 '18 at 16:12

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