Fiery Ka­vanaugh de­nies quiet ac­cuser

Bay of Plenty Times - - NATION -

Fu­ture of the high court and pos­si­bly the con­trol of Congress hangs on to­day’s knife-edge vote

USA

In a day like few oth­ers in Se­nate his­tory, Cal­i­for­nia psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Blasey Ford qui­etly re­counted her “100 per cent” cer­tainty that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee for the Supreme Court had sex­u­ally as­saulted her when they were teenagers — and then Brett Ka­vanaugh de­fi­antly tes­ti­fied he was “100 per cent cer­tain” he did no such thing.

That left sen­a­tors to de­cide whether the long day of tes­ti­mony tipped their con­fir­ma­tion votes for or against Trump’s nom­i­nee in a deeply par­ti­san fight over the fu­ture of the high court and pos­si­bly the con­trol of Congress.

Show­ing their own cer­tainty, Repub­li­cans quickly sched­uled a rec­om­men­da­tion vote for to­day in the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, where they hold an 11-10 ma­jor­ity.

In the com­mit­tee’s packed hear­ing room for hour upon hour yes­ter­day, both Ka­vanaugh and Ford said the al­leged as­sault and the storm of con­tro­versy that has erupted 36 years later had al­tered their lives for­ever — per­haps the only thing they agreed on dur­ing their tes­ti­mony, marked by a con­trast of tone and sub­stance.

Ford re­counted for the sen­a­tors and a na­tion­wide TV au­di­ence her long-held se­cret of the al­leged as­sault in a locked room at a gath­er­ing of friends when she was just 15. The mem­ory — and Ka­vanaugh’s laugh­ter dur­ing the act — was “locked” in her brain, she said. Ford de­liv­ered her tes­ti­mony with de­lib­er­ate cer­ti­tude, though ad­mit­ting gaps in her mem­ory as she choked back tears at some points and said she “be­lieved he was go­ing to rape me”.

Hours later, Ka­vanaugh en­tered the hear­ing room fum­ing. He an­grily de­nied her al­le­ga­tion, al­ter­nat­ing a loud, de­fi­ant tone with near tears of his own, par­tic­u­larly when dis­cussing his fam­ily. He de­cried his con­fir­ma­tion op­po­si­tion as a “na­tional dis­grace”.

Democrats pressed the judge to call for an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the claims, but he would say only, “I wel­come what­ever the com­mit­tee wants to do.”

Repub­li­cans are con­cerned, among other rea­sons, that fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions could push a vote past the Novem­ber elec­tions that may switch Se­nate con­trol back to the Democrats and make con­sid­er­a­tion of any Trump nom­i­nee more dif­fi­cult.

Trump made his feel­ings clear that he was stick­ing by his choice. “His tes­ti­mony was pow­er­ful, hon­est and riv­et­ing,” he tweeted. “The Se­nate must vote!”

Trump nom­i­nated the con­ser­va­tive ju­rist in what was sup­posed to be an elec­tion year cap­stone to the Yes­ter­day’s Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing on sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions against Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh riv­eted Wash­ing­ton and the na­tion with hours of fiery, emo­tional tes­ti­mony from the judge and Chris­tine Blasey Ford, the woman ac­cus­ing him of sex­ual as­sault when they were high school­ers.

Ka­vanaugh de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tion.

Here are some take­aways from the ex­tra­or­di­nary hear­ing: HOW DID SHE DO? Ford gave a soft-spo­ken and steady ac­count about what she said hap­pened three decades ago in a bed­room at a small gath­er­ing of friends.

She said she came for­ward not for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, but be­cause it was her “civic duty”.

She de­scribed in de­tail how an ine­bri­ated Ka­vanaugh and an­other teen, Mark Judge, locked GOP agenda, lock­ing in the court’s ma­jor­ity for years to come. In­stead Ka­vanaugh has seemed in peril and yes­ter­day he faced the Se­nate hear­ing amid a na­tional reck­on­ing over sex­ual mis­con­duct at the top of pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tions.

The day opened with Ford, now a 51-year-old col­lege pro­fes­sor in Cal­i­for­nia. The psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor de­scribed what she says was her in a room at a house party as Ka­vanaugh was grind­ing and grop­ing her.

She said he put his hand over her mouth to muf­fle her screams, and tes­ti­fied, “I be­lieved he was go­ing to rape me”.

The 51-year-old mother of two said the in­ci­dent was seared into her mind through trauma, while ad­mit­ting some gaps in her mem­ory around the at­tack.

Ford, a Cal­i­for­nia psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor mak­ing her first pub­lic re­marks about the in­ci­dent, choked up oc­ca­sion­ally de­scrib­ing the al­leged at­tack.

Demo­cratic sen­a­tors ques­tioned her di­rectly, but the 11 Repub­li­can mem­bers on the com­mit­tee in­stead chose to have a fe­male sex crimes pros­e­cu­tor from Ari­zona ques­tion Ford.

Asked how cer­tain she was that Ka­vanaugh was her at­tacker, she de­clared, “100 per cent”. HOW DID HE DO? a har­row­ing as­sault in the sum­mer of 1982: How an ine­bri­ated Ka­vanaugh and an­other teen, Mark Judge, locked her in a room at a house party as Ka­vanaugh was grind­ing and grop­ing her.

She said he put his hand over her mouth to muf­fle her screams. Judge has said does not re­call the in­ci­dent.

Repub­li­can strate­gists were pri­vately Ka­vanaugh ditched his pre­pared re­marks and in­stead is­sued a blis­ter­ing state­ment declar­ing the con­fir­ma­tion process “a na­tional dis­grace”.

He strongly de­nied Ford’s al­le­ga­tion, but said he be­lieved she had been the vic­tim of a sex­ual as­sault.

The fa­ther of two daugh­ters said one of his girls said they should “pray for the woman” ac­cus­ing him.

“That’s a lot of wis­dom from a 10-year-old,” he said, chok­ing up.

Ka­vanaugh’s scorched-earth strat­egy gave Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump what he wanted: a nom­i­nee will­ing to fight back ag­gres­sively and yield no ground to Democrats. Echo­ing Ford, he said he was “100 per cent cer­tain” he did not com­mit the as­sault.

At times, Ka­vanaugh’s frus­tra­tions boiled over. When Demo­cratic Se­na­tor Amy Klobuchar of Min­nesota asked if hand-wring­ing after Ford’s tes­ti­mony. The GOP spe­cial coun­sel Rachel Mitchell, a Phoenix sex crimes pros­e­cu­tor, who Repub­li­cans had hired to avoid the op­tics of their all-male line up ques­tion­ing Ford, left Repub­li­cans dis­ap­pointed.

Mitchell’s at­tempt to draw out a counter-nar­ra­tive — mainly that Ford was co­or­di­nat­ing with Democrats he ever drank so much he blacked out, he snapped, “Have you?” He later apol­o­gised. Mo­ments after the hear­ing fin­ished, Trump tweeted that Ka­vanaugh “showed Amer­ica ex­actly why I nom­i­nated him”. WHAT HAP­PENED TO THE PROS­E­CU­TOR? Repub­li­cans ap­pointed Ari­zona sex crimes pros­e­cu­tor Rachel Mitchell to ques­tion Ford, and she led off the ques­tion­ing of Ka­vanaugh. Then she quickly faded away.

After Mitchell asked Ka­vanaugh sev­eral de­tailed ques­tions about Ford’s al­le­ga­tions, the GOP sen­a­tors took mat­ters into their own hands. Se­na­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham led the way with a scorch­ing de­nun­ci­a­tion of Democrats for rais­ing the al­le­ga­tions against Ka­vanaugh in the fi­nal days of the con­fir­ma­tion process. From — was dis­rupted by the panel’s de­ci­sion to al­low al­ter­nat­ing five-min­utes of ques­tions from Demo­cratic sen­a­tors.

Dur­ing a lunch break, even typ­i­cally talk­a­tive GOP sen­a­tors on the panel were with­out words. John Kennedy of Lou­i­si­ana said he had no com­ment. Texas Se­na­tor Ted Cruz said he was “just lis­ten­ing.” there, each GOP se­na­tor han­dled his own ques­tions, while Mitchell sat silently nearby.

Hours ear­lier, Mitchell opened her ques­tion­ing of Ford by ex­press­ing sym­pa­thy for the pro­fes­sor, who said she was “ter­ri­fied” to tes­tify.

“I just wanted to let you know, I’m very sorry. That’s not right,” Mitchell said.

As her time for ques­tion­ing Ford was com­ing to an end, Mitchell rhetor­i­cally asked Ford about the best way to ques­tion vic­tims of sex crimes.

“Would you be­lieve me that no study says that this set­ting in five-minute in­cre­ments is the way to do that?” Mitchell asked. WHAT HAP­PENS NEXT? Repub­li­cans quickly ex­pressed their de­ter­mi­na­tion to move for­ward. After hud­dling in the Capi­tol, sen­a­tors said the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee will hold a to­day vote on whether to

Then Ka­vanaugh strode into the com­mit­tee room, ar­ranged his name­plate, and with anger on his face started to tes­tify with a state­ment he said he had shown only one other per­son. Al­most im­me­di­ately he choked up.

“My fam­ily and my name have been to­tally and per­ma­nently de­stroyed,” he said.

He lashed out over the time it rec­om­mend Ka­vanaugh for con­fir­ma­tion.

Se­na­tor Or­rin Hatch of Utah, a long­time com­mit­tee mem­ber, said he thinks Ka­vanaugh will get con­firmed by a party-line vote.

Repub­li­cans’ mar­gin for er­ror in the full Se­nate is slim.

If all Democrats op­pose the nom­i­na­tion, just two GOP sen­a­tors would sink Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion if they were to op­pose him as well.

Mul­ti­ple Repub­li­can law­mak­ers haven’t said which way they will vote, in­clud­ing two women with rep­u­ta­tions as mod­er­ates who have been will­ing to buck their party: Sen­a­tors Su­san Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Gra­ham cau­tioned them against vot­ing no.

“To my Repub­li­can col­leagues, if you vote no, you’re le­git­imis­ing the most de­spi­ca­ble thing I have seen in my time in pol­i­tics,” he said. took the com­mit­tee to con­vene the hear­ing after Ford’s al­le­ga­tions emerged, sin­gling out the Democrats for “un­leash­ing” forces against him. He mocked Ford’s al­le­ga­tions — and sev­eral oth­ers since — that have ac­cused him of sex­ual im­pro­pri­ety.

Even if sen­a­tors vote down his con­fir­ma­tion, he said, “you’ll never get me to quit.”

Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh went off script and de­liv­ered an emo­tional de­nial of the claims, while Chris­tine Blasey Ford gave a soft spo­ken and steady ac­count of her al­le­ga­tions.

PHOTO / AP

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