Kavanaugh hearing engulfed in high-stakes drama and emotion
Washington – Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh angrily lashed out at Democrats who oppose his candidacy, calling a rash of accusations of sexual misbehavior from women a “calculated and orchestrated political hit.”
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he said. “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”
Often fighting back angry tears and sipping from a glass of water to regain his composure, Kavanaugh also warned Democrats that “what goes around comes around.”
The nominee testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday after a tearful Christine Blasey Ford told a harrowing story of being assaulted at a teen party decades ago where she said she was afraid Kavanaugh “was going to rape me.”
The allegations against Kavanaugh by Ford and two other women has deepened the bitter partisan divide in the Senate — and the nation. The halls of the Dirksen Senate Office Building were filled with Ford supporters with signs and t-shirts that said “No Kavanaugh” and “Believe Survivors.”
Kavanaugh supporters were also on Capitol Hill, sometimes clashing with the nominee’s opponents in shouting and shoving matches.
Kavanaugh began his testimony by furiously lashing out at Senate Committee Democrats who he said would go to any length to derail his nomination to the high court, which would give it a conservative edge for decades. He said those senators “replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.”
He also said they would promote “any kind of allegation to blow me up and take me down.”
Democrats, however, said the allegations should be taken very seriously and should have been investigated by the FBI, an idea President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans have rejected.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Ford’s testimony was “powerful and credible.”
“I believe you, Blumenthal said. “You have given Americans a teaching moment.”
Blumenthal also said Trump’s failure to reopen an FBI background check on Kavanaugh after the allegations Ford and two other women brought to light “is tantamount to a cover up.”
Ford said she spoke out about the alleged attack because she believed it was her “civic duty.” But she said she wavered about making the issue public because she said she knew Kavanaugh was “popular” and on his way to being confirmed to the Supreme Court.
“I thought I might be stepping in front of a freight train,” she told Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
Republicans on the committee have hired Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor from Maricopa County, Ariz. who has decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes, to help them question Ford.
Ford said Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge pushed her into a bedroom when she went upstairs to use the bathroom. She said a drunken Kavanaugh pushed her on a bed, groped her and tried to take off her clothes, but he had difficulty doing so because she had on a one piece bathing suit under her clothes.
She said she tried to summon help, but “when I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life.”
Ford also said “it was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time.”
Ford said there were things about the assault she could not remember, but she was firm about she could remember.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, asked Ford “with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?”
Ford responded “100 percent.”
Kavanaugh dodged Democratic questions about whether he wanted Judge to have testified before the committee, saying his friend had already submitted a sworn affidavit that said he had no recollection of the party Ford has described.
He also referenced 36-year-old calendars that showed he spent time at the beach, working out ,playing sports, and attending parties with his friends in the summer of 1982, but denied being at any party like Ford described.
Kavanaugh said he demanded a hearing to clear his name the day after Ford’s allegation became public, and that his reputation has been ruined during the 10-day delay.
“My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations,” he said.
The nominee’s drinking habits as a youth were often the subject of debate Thursday.
Kavanaugh said he “liked beer…but did not drink beer to the point of blacking out.”
In an often heated exchange, Blumenthal asked Kavanaugh what he meant in a speech when he referenced a trip to Fenway Park when he was a third year Yale Law School student. In his speech, Kavanaugh said the students who went on the trip “fell out of the bus'” when they returned to campus in the early hours of the morning and he “tried to piece things back together to figure out what happened that night.”
Kavanaugh denied that he was making reference to an alcoholic blackout.
“I know exactly what happened,” Kavanaugh said. “It was great camaraderie and it was great fun.”
Blumenthal also asked Kavanaugh if he believed Ford was involved in a “left-wing conspiracy” or campaign for revenge from those who are upset about Trump’s election, which the nominee said in his opening statements fueled the accusations against him.
Kavanaugh deflected that question.
But the nominee was angriest when Blumenthal asked Kavanaugh about entries in his Georgetown Prep high school year book that said he and others were members of the “Renate Alumni,” a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school.
Blumenthal said references to the Renate Alumni “decidedly implies some sexual conquest.”
“That’s false,” Kavanaugh said.
He cut Blumenthal off when he tried to continue his line of questioning.
“Don’t bring her up,” an animated Kavanaugh said. “We never had any sexual intercourse…if you bring this up you are just dragging her name through the mud.”
During her testimony, Ford said it would help her pin down the date of the assault if she knew when Judge worked for a local Safeway supermarket, since she had seen him there some weeks after the alleged assault.
Blumenthal said an FBI investigation would help determine the timing of Judge’s employment at the Safeway. He asked Ford if she had wanted Judge to testify at the Judiciary Committee hearing.
“That would be my preference, but I don’t know if it’s up to me,” Ford said.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the committee, said the FBI would not be able to make recommendations to the judiciary panel, and would be limited to reporting “he-said, she-said” allegations.
Republicans have also declined to call other women who have made accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh to testify at a public hearing.
Deborah Ramirez, a Shelton, Conn., native, says Kavanaugh exposed himself during a dorm party at Yale University when they were both freshmen. A third woman, Julia Swetnick, said when she and Kavanaugh were in high school, the nominee lined up with other boys, including Judge, who were waiting to “gang” or “train” rape inebriated girls at many parties — and that she once became a victim herself.
“These allegations are absolutely breathtaking — a gut punch,” Blumenthal tweeted on Wednesday. “Julie Swetnick presents compelling, specific evidence of a pattern of vile & predatory behavior. There is absolutely no way Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination can proceed to a vote without an FBI investigation.”
Kavanaugh called Swetnick’s accusations “a joke” and “a farce.”
Blumenthal and other Democrats are also objecting to the Judiciary Committee vote on the nomination scheduled for Friday morning, saying Republicans are trying to ram through Kavanaugh’s confirmation even though there are many questions still unanswered.
But there was no indication from Republicans that they will delay the confirmation process any further.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee vigorously defended Kavanaugh, even as they carefully avoided attacking Ford.
GOP wrath was instead focused on their Democratic colleagues, whom they accused of manipulating Ford and destroying Kavanaugh’s reputation.
“This is not a job interview, this is hell,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
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