WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh accused Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats of seeking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” with the “circus” of probing allegations of sexual misconduct against the judge.
Committee Republicans who employed outside counsel Rachel Mitchell, chief of the Special Victims Division of the Maricopa County attorney’s office in Arizona, to question Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford in the first round of the hearing let Mitchell question the nominee for a couple of rounds before shutting her out of the process beginning with an angry Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
And Kavanaugh questioned Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who had described her alcoholic father and asked the judge if there had been instances “where you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before,” about whether she had ever gotten “blackout” drunk.
After a short recess, Kavanaugh apologized to Klobuchar.
“When you have a parent that’s an alcoholic, you’re pretty careful about drinking,” the senator replied, accepting his apology.
Kavanaugh angrily told lawmakers at the outset of his half of the hearing that “this confirmation process has become a national disgrace.”
“The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy,” he said. “Since my nomination in July, there’s been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation.”
Kavanaugh called his previous appearance before the senators for his confirmation hearing “just a good old-fashioned attempt at Borking” and asserted that the sexual assault allegations were “a new tactic” from Dems.
He said the allegations have “destroyed my family and my good name, a good name built up through decades of very hard work and public service at the highest levels of the American government.”
“The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country,” he added.
As in previous statements, the judge declared he would not be “intimidated into withdrawing from this process,” adding, “You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit.”
Ford alleged in the first part of the hearing that, when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, he pinned her on a bed and tried to take off her clothes while clapping a hand over her mouth.
Kavanaugh told the committee, “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. Not in high school, not in college, not ever.”
“This onslaught of last-minute allegations does not ring true. I’m not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done this. To her or to anyone. That’s not who I am. It is not who I was. I am innocent of this charge,” he said.
Kavanaugh described various entries on the calendars that he marked up as a teen — he told Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) that certain references alluded to puking and passing gas — and described weekend parties in suburban Maryland.
“I drank beer with my friends. Almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer. But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I never sexually assaulted anyone,” he said. “There is a bright line between drinking beer, which I gladly do, and which I fully embrace, and sexually assaulting someone, which is a violent crime. If every American who drinks beer or every American who drank beer in high school is suddenly presumed guilty of sexual assault, will be an ugly, new place in this country. I never committed sexual assault. As high school students, we sometimes did goofy or stupid things. I doubt we are alone in looking back in high school and cringing at some things.”
Under the GOP line of questioning, Mitchell asked, “What do you consider to be too many beers?”
“I don’t know,” Kavanaugh replied. “You know, we — whatever the chart says, a blood-alcohol chart.”
Senate Dems pressed the nominee on whether he would acquiesce to delaying his confirmation process for a week to allow FBI investigators to reopen his background check and probe allegations from Ford and other women. “I think an FBI investigation will help all of us on both sides of the issue,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
“I’ve said I wanted a hearing …I’m innocent. This thing was held when it could have been presented in the ordinary way. It could have been held and handled confidentially at first, which was what Dr. Ford’s wishes were, as I understand it. It wouldn’t have caused this — like, destroyed my family like this effort has,” Kavanaugh said.
Taking over for Mitchell’s questioning, Graham declared that Republicans who vote “no” on the nomination would be “legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”
“I can’t think of a more embarrassing scandal for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “…So this is not a job interview. You’ve been accused of a crime. If you have lied to the committee and the investigators, that is a crime in and of itself, correct? So in order to vote against your nomination, we would have to conclude that you are a serial liar.”
Cornyn predicted Kavanaugh would come out on the “right side” of the proceedings. “Your reputation is on the line, and I hope people understand the gravity of the charges made against you, and what a fair process looks like.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) asked how Kavanaugh could consider the allegations against him a conspiracy when Justice Neil Gorsuch didn’t face such allegations during his confirmation process.
“I did a rough kind of analysis of similarities — you both attended Georgetown Prep, you both attended very prestigious law schools, you both clerked for Justice Kennedy, you were both circuit judges, you were both nominated to the Supreme Court, you were both questioned about your record — the only difference is that you have been accused of sexual assault,” she said.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a possible swing vote on Kavanaugh, didn’t ask any questions of the nominee but called both his and Ford’s testimony compelling.
“I would just urge my colleagues to recognize that, in the end, we are 21 very imperfect senators trying to do our best to provide advice and consent. And in the end, there is likely to be as much doubt as certainty going out of this room today,” Flake said. “And that, as we make decisions going forward, I hope that people will recognize that. And in the rhetoric that we use and the language that we use going forward that we’ll recognize that, that there is doubt, we’ll never move beyond that. And just have a little humility on that front.”
Ford said she was 100 percent certain she was attacked by Kavanaugh; Kavanaugh told the committee he was 100 percent certain he did not attack Ford. “I swear to God,” he said at the conclusion of the hearing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after the daylong hearing, “No evidence corroborates Dr. Ford’s allegation. No evidence was presented today to back it up. And all existing evidence refutes it.”
“It would be imprudent, unfair, and unjust to delay proceedings even further on the basis of uncorroborated allegations which have been weaponized by others at the last minute for political purposes,” he said. “I am glad Chairman Grassley has scheduled a committee vote for tomorrow. I will be proud to vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh when the full Senate votes on his nomination in the coming days.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Kavanaugh “angry, defiant, and partisan.”
“If our Republican colleagues are so certain of Judge Kavanaugh’s story, they should immediately demand that the White House order the FBI to reopen the background investigation, and hold off on a vote for several days so all the facts can come out,” Schumer said.