SCOTUS showdown

An angry Brett Kavanaugh goes under oath and denies accusation of sexual assault

The embattled nominee told senators his ‘confirmation process has become a national disgrace’

A defiant Brett Kavanaugh came out swinging in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in his opening remarks Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The embattled Supreme Court Nominee appeared on Capitol Hill after his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, gave testimony before the Judiciary Committee, telling senators she is “100 percent” certain that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party in 1982, when she was 15 and he was 17.

“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” Kavanaugh admonished the Judiciary Committee. “You have replaced ‘advise and consent’ with ‘search and destroy’.” Kavanaugh was visibly angry in the early portion of his remarks, saying the accusation by Ford has upended life for his family. “My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed,” he said, with his wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, looking on behind him.

He also vowed not to withdraw his nomination, saying, “You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit, never.”

“I am innocent of this charge,” he added.

Kavanaugh then went on to issue a forceful denial of Ford’s accusations, at times becoming emotional, particularly when he mentioned his 10-year-old daughter having suggested in recent days that the family pray for Ford. Kavanaugh touted his record with women, listing the many he’s been friends with since his teenage years and recalling the numerous women law clerks who have worked for him over the years.

Republicans and Democrats then took turns questioning him, with Rachel Mitchell handling the questions on behalf of the Republican senators as she’d done for Ford. Mitchell briefed Kavanaugh on the definition of sexual behavior and asked direct questions about whether he’d engaged in such behavior with Ford when they were in high school, and whether he’d had consensual sex with Ford. He answered that he had not.

Democrats who questioned Ford wanted to know why, even though he said in his opening remarks that he welcomes an investigation, he has not called for President Trump to open an FBI investigation into the matter.

“Why aren’t you also asking the FBI to investigate those claims? Senator Dianne Feinstein of California asked. Kavanaugh insisted he wanted to immediately defend himself agains the claims and slammed the Judiciary Committee for waiting 10 days to allow himself and Ford the chance to testify under oath. Kavanaugh also insisted that the FBI only investigates and does not reach conclusions, a refrain he returned to several times during the testimony.

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont grilled Kavanaugh on whether he thinks his friend Mark Judge, whom Ford has said was present during the alleged sexual assault in 1982, should be brought before the committee. Leahy also questioned Kavanaugh about whether he is the “Bart O’Kavanaugh” character in Judge’s book, Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, a fictionalized memoir of his hard-drinking years.

“You would have to ask him that,” Kavanaugh said, dodging the question about whether Judge should testify in person.

“I agree with you there,” Leahy responded.

Leahy then showed Kavanaugh an image of his senior yearbook page from high school, and asked him if the description under his photo accurately represents his attitude toward women. Kavanaugh dodged the question.

From that point on, the hearing devolved into theater of the absurd. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina became the first GOP senator to use his time to speak — over-riding Mitchell. He launched into an angry diatribe in which he accused Democrats of trying to destroy Kavanaugh and his family. “To my Republican colleagues if you vote no, you are endorsing the most despicable thing I have every seen in politics,” Graham fumed.

Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic Senator from Rhode Island, grilled Kavanaugh on his high school days, including the meaning of some of the words written in his yearbook synopsis. Kavanaugh ended up testifying about such topics as flatulence and the “F-word.”

Then in a tense and awkward exchange with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who revealed that her 90-year-old father is a recovered alcoholic had asked Kavanaugh if he’d ever drunk so much beer that he’d blacked out, Kavanaugh turned the question around on her. “I don’t have a drinking problem,” she replied.

“Neither do I,” Kavanaugh said, concluding a moment that portrayed him in a bad light. The Judiciary Committee then took a 15 minute break, and when everyone reconvened Kavanaugh apologized to Klobuchar. “She asked me a question that I responded by asking a question. I’m sorry I did that. This is a tough process.”

“I appreciate that. I would like to add, when you have a parent that’s an alcoholic, you’re pretty careful about drinking.” She emphasized that she’s just trying to get to the bottom of the assessments some have made of Kavanaugh’s character, and reiterated her support for an FBI investigation. “I would call it a background check instead of an investigation,” she said.

Moments after the testimony concluded — and after a dramatic outburst by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — in the early evening hours, Trump weighed in with his reaction to the events of the day. Not surprisingly, he approved of Kavanaugh’s angry and aggrieved approach to the proceedings. “His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting,” the president gushed. “The Senate must vote!” Earlier this week, Republican senators set a vote for Friday, which is expected to go ahead despite protests from Democrats at the hearings.

Watch a portion of Kavanaugh’s opening remarks below.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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