Trump nom­i­nee de­nies sex mis­con­duct

U.S. Supreme Court can­di­date ac­cused of in­ci­dent dat­ing back to high school

Times Colonist - - World - LISA MASCARO

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh has 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 on Fri­day, 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 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 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 to the As­so­ci­ated Press that the al­le­ga­tion 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.

Ral­ly­ing to Ka­vanaugh’s de­fence, 65 women who knew him in high school is­sued a let­ter say­ing 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 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.

Sen. Or­rin Hatch of Utah, a Repub­li­can mem­ber of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, said he won’t let 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,” Hatch said.

The swift push­back comes af­ter the com­mit­tee’s top Demo­crat, Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, no­ti­fied fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors about in­for­ma­tion she re­ceived on the nom­i­nee.

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

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 pro-choice ac­tivist group, NARAL, called on Ka­vanaugh to with­draw from con­sid­er­a­tion.

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

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

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

If Collins or Murkowski should vote for 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 might join them — though it re­mains to be seen if the mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tion will cost him any sup­port.

Fe­in­stein said in a state­ment 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 Ka­vanaugh’s back­ground file, which is main­tained as part of his nom­i­na­tion..

The al­le­ga­tion against Ka­vanaugh prompted a pub­lic state­ment from Anita Hill, who ac­cused Jus­tice Clarence Thomas of sex­ual ha­rass­ment dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings in 1991. He de­nied those al­le­ga­tions and was con­firmed.

Hill, who is now a pro­fes­sor at Bran­deis Univer­sity, urged the Se­nate to put in place a process for peo­ple to come for­ward.

“Even in the #MeToo era, it re­mains in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to re­port ha­rass­ment, abuse or as­sault by peo­ple in power,” she said.

AP

U.S. Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh tes­ti­fies be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee this month in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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