WASHINGTON — Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday angrily and emotionally denied all sexual assault accusations against him, calling them “false and vile” and decrying that they have “totally and permanently destroyed” his family and name.
Before a national audience, Kavanaugh sought to salvage his scarred nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court with strong denials and accusations that Democrats had been “lying in wait” with Ford’s allegations if they failed to “take me out on the merits.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee morning session’s calm, sensitive questioning of Professor Christine Blasey Ford about her allegations that Kavanaugh tried to rape her gave way to an explosive, contentious afternoon hearing fueled by a combative Kavanaugh’s counterattacks.
“I will not be intimidated from withdrawing from this process. You tried hard. No one can question your effort,” Kavanaugh told committee Democrats in a 45-minute opening statement that showed his outrage.
“I never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever,” Kavanaugh declared.
At the end of the hearing, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) asked Kavanaugh to swear to God whether the accusations by Ford and two other women were true, one by one, and Kavanaugh denied them all. Asked if he was sure, Kavanaugh said, “I’m 100 percent certain. I swear to God.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a committee member, said majority Republicans intended go ahead with a committee vote Friday to approve and send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote that could come as early as next week.
Kavanaugh launched the charges that turned the hearing into a partisan fight.
Addressing Democrats, particularly Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who sent a Ford letter detailing her accusations to the FBI after the confirmation hearings had ended, Kavanaugh said, “You have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.”
He called the hearings a “national disgrace,” and excoriated comments by some Democratic committee members that he was “evil” and would destroy women’s lives if confirmed. He blamed them for death threats to his family, saying that “millions of Americans listen carefully to you.”
Kavanaugh batted away Democrats’ efforts to lure him into requesting an FBI investigation, and boldly talked over many of their questions. He also denied sinister and salacious interpretations of his Georgetown Prep high school yearbook page.
Republicans on the committee, who sat quietly as prosecutor Rachel Mitchell asked Ford questions, jumped in to defend Kavanaugh and attack Democrats for what President Donald Trump has called a “smear” and a “con job.”
But Democrats said the question of who told the truth is not settled.
They said they still believed Ford’s assertion that when she and Kavanaugh were in high school 36 years ago, Kavanaugh at a small house party pinned her to bed, groped her, tried to disrobe her and put his hand over her mouth when she yelled for help.
“Dr. Ford’s testimony was courageous, difficult to hear, and grounded in the facts. Judge Kavanaugh was angry, defiant, and partisan,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted.
“While I strongly believe Dr. Ford, the way to clear this up would be to have the FBI reopen the investigation, actually interview potential witnesses, and get to the truth before the Senate is required to vote on whether to elevate Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court," Schumer said.
But Graham said forcefully, "What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life and hold this seat open.” Noting he had voted for Democrats’ Supreme Court nominees, Graham said, “I would never do to them what you have done to this guy. This is the most unethical sham I’ve seen in politics.”
Graham also issued a warning to the four or five wavering Republicans, saying if they don’t vote to confirm Kavanaugh they are supporting this “despicable” thing.
But Kavanaugh and Republicans avoided attacking Ford — a move that would worsen their growing gender gap as women voters, especially those in the suburbs, swing to Democrats ahead of the crucial midterm elections. “I intend no ill will to Dr. Ford and her family,” he said.
Democrats reminded Republican colleagues of the death threats Ford had experienced after she came forward, and Feinstein later denied she had leaked Ford’s letter to reporters and said she had always protected the confidentiality that Ford had requested.
Democrats insisted that Kavanaugh could best clear his name through an FBI investigation into the accusations by Ford as well as Deborah Ramirez, who said he exposed himself to her at a Yale party, and Julie Swetnick, who accused him of involvement in drugging and allowing women to be gang-raped.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) challenged Kavanaugh to ask White House counsel Don McGahn to suspend the confirmation process and have an FBI investigation, saying it was the only way to get to the bottom of the claims and clear his name.
Kavanaugh said he would do “whatever the committee wants to do,” but said the FBI does not reach conclusions in background investigations. Durbin asked if there is no truth to the charges why resist an FBI investigation? Kavanaugh replied, “You know that’s a phony question.”
Democrats also repeatedly asked Kavanaugh if had ever drunk so much that he blacked out.
“I drank beer with my friends . . . sometimes I had too many beers,” Kavanaugh said. “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.”
Kavanaugh based his denials of Ford’s allegations on the lack of corroboration and the calendar he kept in high school that he said showed that in the summer of 1982 when the attacks allegedly happened he was out of town or too busy playing basketball or being with friends.
“All four people allegedly at the event, including Dr. Ford's longtime friend, Ms. Keyser, have said they recall no such event,” he said.
“If the party described by Dr. Ford happened in the summer of 1982 on a weekend night, my calendar shows all but definitively that I was not there,” he said.
Kavanaugh also said the allegations never came up as he went through six FBI background checks, two tough confirmation hearings to become a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and underwent intense opposition research as a lawyer in the President Bill Clinton’s independent investigation.
“A lifetime of public service and a lifetime of high-profile public service at the highest levels of American government and never a hint of anything of this kind,” he said, “and that's because nothing of this kind ever happened.”