Just days before the Senate Judiciary Committee was set to recommend President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for confirmation, Christine Blasey Ford came forward to allege the judge had sexually assaulted her when they were both high school students.
Both Kavanaugh and the White House have denied the allegations against him, but the accusations still throw the process that could flip the high court to the right into turmoil. The #MeToo movement has already taken down high-profile politicians from both sides of the aisle over the past several months, and even a few Republicans have said his confirmation should be postponed.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, however, is still planning to hold its confirmation vote on Thursday. Once the panel votes, their recommendation gets passed along to the full Senate.
“I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity,” Kavanaugh said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.
Ford came forward to the Washington Post over the weekend. Since then, her lawyer has said she’s also willing to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her assault.
Ford and Kavanaugh were at a summer party in high school in the early 1980s when he pinned her to a bed, groped her, and tried to remove her one-piece bathing suit, Ford told the Washington Post. She added that a friend, Mark Judge, was watching in the room, although he was “stumbling drunk,” as was Kavanaugh, Ford told the Washington Post. She tried to scream, but she said Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth.
Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, said her client doesn’t have a firm position on whether Kavanaugh should withdraw from his confirmation proceedings. And Ford was reluctant to come forward. Instead, she sent a confidential letter through her congresswoman, Anna G. Eshoo, to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in late July.
Last week, Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the committee, said she passed along that information to federal investigators but still kept Ford’s identity confidential in the cryptic statement she released about her actions. Feinstein said only that she'd “received information from an individual concerning the nomination” of Kavanaugh.
Ford struggled on whether she should come forward for months and had decided in August that she’d keep her identity a secret. She believed that her story wouldn’t matter to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. She later decided to come forward after it seemed clear her identity would eventually be made public.
“She should not be ignored”
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counselor, said on Fox News Monday that “this woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored; she should be heard.” She added that Trump supports letting senators hear additional testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh alike. She didn’t, however, agree with altering the confirmation schedule for Kavanaugh from Thursday.
But not all conservatives share Conway’s view. Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a potential swing vote in Kavanaugh’s rise to the Supreme Court, told the New York Times that the Democrats weren’t being fair in bringing these allegations to light so close to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“What is puzzling to me is the Democrats, by not bringing this out earlier, after having had this information for more than six weeks, have managed to cast a cloud of doubt on both the professor and the judge,” Collins said.
Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake also said the Senate panel should postpone Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing until everyone has a chance to speak.
Democrats were already trying to postpone Kavanaugh’s confirmation over 42,000 pages of documents released hours before his hearings started, and many re-upped their calls for pause after the Washington Post’s report.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, appeared to make light of the assault accusations in an Instagram post of a crayon-drawn note that reads, “Hi Cindy, will you be my girlfriend? Love Bret."
Politico also asked the 65 high-school acquaintances of Kavanaugh who signed an open letter vouching for him last week whether they still stood by him now that Blasey has come forward and given more details. Two women said yes; more than two dozen women didn’t respond.
Cover image: President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, listens to a question during the third round of questioning on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)