Ka­vanaugh de­nies al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual mis­con­duct

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - LISA MASCARO ERIC THAYER/NYT

In­ci­dent in­volv­ing U.S. Supreme Court nom­i­nee al­legedly took place dur­ing high school

Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett K avan aug hon Fri­day de­nied an al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual mis­con­duct from when he was in high school, seek­ing to defuse a po­ten­tial threat to his con­fir­ma­tion as a hand­ful of key se­na­tors re­mained silent on whether they would vote for him.

In a state­ment re­leased by the White House, Mr. Ka­vanaugh said: “I cat­e­gor­i­cally and un­equiv­o­cally deny this al­le­ga­tion. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Se­nate Repub­li­cans in­sist Mr. Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion re­mains on track. But the al­le­ga­tion has in­flamed an al­ready in­tense po­lit­i­cal bat­tle over U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee. It also pushes the #MeToo move­ment into the court fight, less than two months be­fore con­gres­sional elec­tions that have seen a surge of fe­male Demo­cratic can­di­dates.

The New Yorker mag­a­zine re­ported that the al­leged in­ci­dent took place at a party when Mr. Ka­vanaugh, now 53, was at­tend­ing Ge­orge­town Prepara­tory School. The woman mak­ing the al­le­ga­tion at­tended a nearby school.

The mag­a­zine says the woman sent a let­ter about the al­le­ga­tion to Democrats. A Demo­cratic aide and an­other per­son fa­mil­iar with the let­ter con­firmed Fri­day to the As­so­ci­ated Press that the al­lega- tion is sex­ual in na­ture. Two other peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter con­firmed it con­cerned an in­ci­dent al­leged to have oc­curred in high school. They were not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The AP has not con­firmed the de­tails of the in­ci­dent al­leged in The New Yorker’s ac­count. The New Yorker did not name the woman.

Ral­ly­ing to Mr. Ka­vanaugh’s de­fence ,65 women who knew him in high school is­sued a let­ter say­ing Mr. Ka­vanaugh has “al­ways treated women with de­cency and re­spect.” The let­ter was cir­cu­lated by Repub­li­cans on the Se­nate ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee.

“We are women who have known Brett Ka­vanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he at­tended high school be­tween 1979 and 1983,” wrote the women, who said most of them had at­tended all-girl high schools in the area. “For the en­tire time we have known Brett Ka­vanaugh, he has be­haved hon­ourably and treated women with re­spect.”

The show of sup­port for Mr. Ka­vanaugh was or­ga­nized by his for­mer law clerks. Three women reached by the AP said they were first asked to sign the let­ter on Thurs­day.

Sen­a­tor Or­rin Hatch of Utah, a Repub­li­can mem­ber of the Se­nate ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee, said he won’t let Mr. Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion be stalled by the al­le­ga­tion, which he called “wholly un­ver­i­fi­able.”

“Ev­ery ac­cuser de­serves to be heard. But a process of ver­i­fi­ca­tion is also nec­es­sary,” Mr. Hatch said.

The swift push back comes af­ter the com­mit­tee’s top Demo­crat, Di anne F ein­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, no­ti­fied fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors about in­for­ma­tion she re­ceived on the nom­i­nee.

Ms. Fe­in­stein won’t dis­close the in­for­ma­tion pub­licly, but the FBI con­firmed it has in­cluded it in Mr. Ka­vanaugh’s back­ground file at the com­mit­tee, now avail­able con­fi­den­tially to all se­na­tors.

Mr. Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion has divided the Se­nate, and the new in­for­ma­tion com­pli­cates the process, es­pe­cially as key Repub­li­can se­na­tors, in­clud­ing Su­san Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, are un­der enor­mous pres­sure from out­side groups seek­ing to sway their votes on grounds that a Jus­tice Ka­vanaugh might vote to un­der­cut the Roe v. Wade rul­ing. One ac­tivist group favour­ing abor­tion choice, NARAL, called on Mr. Ka­vanaugh to with­draw from con­sid­er­a­tion.

The ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee, which has fin­ished con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings for Mr. Ka­vanagh, still plans to vote next Thurs­day on whether to rec­om­mend that he be con­firmed by the full Se­nate, a spokesman said.

The White House called Ms. Fe­in­stein’s move an “11th hour at­tempt to de­lay his con­fir­ma­tion.”

Ms. Collins held an hour-long phone call with Mr. Ka­vanaughon Fri­day, her spokes­woman con­firmed. It had been a pre­vi­ously sched­uled fol­low-up to an ini­tial visit that Mr. Ka­vanaugh made to her of­fice in Au­gust. It was not im­me­di­ately clear if they dis­cussed the new in­for­ma­tion.

If Ms. Collins or Ms. Murkowski should vote for Mr. Ka­vanaugh, he is likely to be con­firmed. Ev­ery other Repub­li­can in the Se­nate is ex­pected to vote yes – and some Democrats from Trump-won states may join them – though it re­mains to be seen if the mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tion will cost him any sup­port.

Ms. Fe­in­stein said in a state­ment Thurs­day that she “re­ceived in­for­ma­tion from an in­di­vid­ual con­cern­ing the nom­i­na­tion.” She said the per­son “strongly re­quested con­fi­den­tial­ity, de­clined to come for­ward or press the mat­ter fur­ther, and I have hon­oured that de­ci­sion.”

The FBI con­firmed that it re­ceived the in­for­ma­tion Wed­nes­day evening and in­cluded it in Mr. Ka­vanaugh’s back­ground file, which is main­tained as part of his nom­i­na­tion. The agency said that is its stan­dard process.

Ms. Fe­in­stein’s state­ment that she had “re­ferred the mat­ter to fed­eral in­ves­tiga­tive au­thor­i­ties” jolted Capi­tol Hill and threat­ened to dis­rupt what had been a steady path to­ward con­fir­ma­tion for Mr. Ka­vanaugh by Repub­li­cans ea­ger to see the con­ser­va­tive judge on the court.

A spokes­woman for Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Anna Eshoo, a Demo­crat from Cal­i­for­nia, de­clined to con­firm re­ports that the congress woman had for­warded a let­ter con­tain­ing the al­le­ga­tions to Ms. Fe­in­stein. The spokes­woman said the of­fice has a con­fi­den­tial­ity pol­icy re­gard­ing case­work for con­stituents.

A White House spokes­woman Kerri Ku­pec said the FBI has vet­ted Mr. Ka­vanaugh “thor­oughly and re­peat­edly” dur­ing his ca­reer in gov­ern­ment and the ju­di­ciary.

Brett Ka­vanaugh at­tends his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing be­fore the Se­nate ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee in Wash­ing­ton on Sept. 4.

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