Brett Ka­vanaugh: Hun­dreds ar­rested in Supreme Court protest

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

Hun­dreds of protesters against US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh have been ar­rested in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

Co­me­dian Amy Schumer and model Emily Rata­jkowski were among 302 peo­ple held for demon­strat­ing against the nom­i­nee.

They protested af­ter an FBI re­port which Repub­li­cans say ex­on­er­ates him of sex­ual as­sault claims, with Democrats com­plain­ing it is too lim­ited.

The like­li­hood of Judge Ka­vanaugh win­ning a full Se­nate vote to­day ap­peared to in­crease af­ter two Repub­li­cans whose back­ing will be es­sen­tial gave a pos­i­tive ac­count of the FBI in­quiry.

But the con­fir­ma­tion is not a cer­tainty, with sev­eral sen­a­tors un­de­cided and one at risk of miss­ing a vote be­cause he is at­tend­ing his daugh­ter's wed­ding.

If con­firmed to the life­time po­si­tion on Amer­ica's high­est court, the 53-year-old is ex­pected to help con­ser­va­tives dom­i­nate the nine-mem­ber panel, which has the fi­nal say on is­sues such as abor­tion, gun con­trol and vot­ing rules.

As the vote neared, the judge de­fended his neu­tral­ity in a Wall Street Jour­nal ed­i­to­rial ti­tled, "I am an in­de­pen­dent, im­par­tial judge".

Ad­dress­ing his an­gry tes­ti­mony to the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, where he branded the al­le­ga­tions against him an "or­ches­trated po­lit­i­cal hit", he wrote: "I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said."

Thou­sands of mainly fe­male de­mon­stra­tors marched through the na­tion's cap­i­tal on Thurs­day, start­ing at the ap­peals court where Judge Ka­vanaugh cur­rently pre­sides.

They con­verged on Capi­tol Hill and held a rally out­side the Supreme Court, chant­ing: "Ka­vanaugh has got to go!" Po­lice rounded the protesters up in a Se­nate of­fice build­ing af­ter they sat down and re­fused to budge.

There was an­other protest in front of Trump Tower in New York City.

Pres­i­dent Trump and his fel­low Repub­li­cans de­clared the FBI re­port had cleared their nom­i­nee, as they sounded in­creas­ingly con­fi­dent Judge Ka­vanaugh would win con­fir­ma­tion.

Sen­a­tors said the FBI had spo­ken to five wit­nesses con­nected to ac­cu­sa­tions by Chris­tine Blasey Ford, who al­leges a drunken Brett Ka­vanaugh sex­u­ally as­saulted her in 1982.

Fed­eral agents are also said to have spo­ken to four other wit­nesses in­volv­ing a sep­a­rate ac­cu­sa­tion by Deb­o­rah Ramirez, who claims the nom­i­nee ex­posed him­self to her when they were both at Yale Univer­sity. He de­nies both al­le­ga­tions.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans planned a pro­ce­dural "clo­ture" vote at 10:30 on Fri­day (14:30 GMT), which is re­quired to move to a fi­nal vote, sched­uled to­day at around 17:30.

But Demo­cratic Sen­a­tor Dianne Fe­in­stein said the FBI re­port was "the prod­uct of an in­com­plete in­ves­ti­ga­tion", say­ing key cor­rob­o­rat­ing wit­nesses had been snubbed.

An­other Demo­cratic Sen­a­tor, Richard Blu­men­thal, told re­porters it was a "white­wash".

White House spokesman Raj Shah said: "What crit­ics want is a never-end­ing fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion into high school drink­ing."

One Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor, John Cornyn, raised eye­brows by telling his party this was "our At­ti­cus Finch mo­ment", a ref­er­ence to the lawyer in clas­sic novel To Kill A Mock­ing­bird who re­futes a false rape al­le­ga­tion.

Given that Repub­li­cans have a ra­zor-thin 51-49 mar­gin of con­trol in the Se­nate, the party can po­ten­tially only af­ford one de­fec­tion if it wants to con­firm Judge Ka­vanaugh to the Supreme Court, as­sum­ing Democrats vote the same way. His nom­i­na­tion has been at the mercy of three wa­ver­ing sen­a­tors, but two of those - Jeff Flake and Su­san Collins - ap­peared to re­spond pos­i­tively to the FBI re­port.

An­other wa­ver­ing Repub­li­can sen­a­tor, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, re­port­edly met sex­ual as­sault sur­vivors in her of­fice on Thurs­day.

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters, the of­fice of Repub­li­can Steve Daines said he was plan­ning to at­tend his daugh­ter's wed­ding in Mon­tana to­day — mean­ing he might not be around to vote, or that the vote might be held open un­til he can re­turn to take part.

An­other Repub­li­can, Cory Gard­ner, who pre­vi­ously said he would back Judge Ka­vanaugh, is yet to de­cide how he will vote, the Den­ver Post re­ported.

A pre­vi­ously un­de­cided Demo­cratic Sen­a­tor, Heidi Heitkamp, said she would vote against Judge Ka­vanaugh, cit­ing "con­cerns about his past con­duct".

And Sen­a­tor Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia, the only Demo­crat who re­mains un­de­cided, said he would fin­ish read­ing the FBI re­port on Fri­day morn­ing.

Anti-Ka­vanaugh protesters rally out­side the US Supreme Court.

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