Sexual assault allegations complicate Kavanaugh confirmation
By Evelyn Archibald
Despite being scheduled to end on Sept. 7, the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings have extended into their fourth week. Sexual assault allegations from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Judge Kavanaugh sparked a reopening of the hearings.
On July 30, Dr. Ford sent Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a letter explaining the alleged sexual assault from Judge Kavanaugh when the two were at a party together in high school. This letter would be kept secret until it was leaked by someone outside of Sen. Feinstein’s staff on Sept. 13.
Immediately, an investigation was conducted. The Senate Judiciary Committee reached out to several people mentioned in the letter who were allegedly at the party where the event happened: Mark Judge, Patrick Smythe, and Leland Keyser. All three denied knowledge of the events described.
Judge Kavanaugh agreed to an interview after Dr. Ford’s letter was made public, and to a public hearing, but he denied any allegations. Dr. Ford agreed to a public hearing after several requests. The public hearing began on Sept. 27.
“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school,” Dr. Ford said in her opening statement. She continued to summarize the alleged event, which she said happened when they were teenagers and in high school together. She said that Judge Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, were “visibly drunk,” and that both were involved in the attempted sexual assault, in which she was allegedly pushed into a bedroom and forcibly pinned onto a bed as Judge Kavanaugh attempted to undress her.
“I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling … It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me,” Dr. Ford said. “Mark seemed ambivalent, at times urging Brett on and at times telling him to stop. A couple of times, I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.”
The Judiciary Committee, assisted by a professional prosecutor hired to question Dr. Ford, continued with their questioning of Dr. Ford before moving on to Judge Kavanaugh.
Throughout his opening statement, Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly denied the allegations and referenced his “[many] female friends.” Judge Kavanaugh also seems to suspect the Democrats and the left as being against him in these investigations. “This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy,” he said.
Judge Kavanaugh went on to deny the assertion that his past use of alcohol led to misconduct. “Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer. But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I never sexually assaulted anyone … If every American who drinks beer or every American who drank beer in high school is suddenly presumed guilty of sexual assault, [it] will be an ugly, new place in this country. I never committed sexual assault,” he said.
The Judiciary Committee brought in a professional prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, to question the witnesses. Ms. Mitchell questioned Dr. Ford in the first half, but she only began to question Judge Kavanaugh before leaving for an unknown reason.
Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh’s respective halves of the public hearing had decidedly different tones. While Dr. Ford’s testimony was collegial in tone with apparent emotion, Judge Kavanaugh’s statements in contrast were harsher in tenor, and included partisan attacks on the Democratic Party.
The confirmation vote was scheduled to be on Sept. 28, but on the day of the vote there was a delay. According to The Washington Post, Sen. Jeff Flake agreed to vote yes on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but insisted that there be an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations. “I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI continue — to do an investigation, limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there,” he said, “and I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding.”
After the conclusion of the FBI investigation, senators were left divided as to how to proceed. A procedural vote is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 5, with a final vote to come possibly as early as Saturday.
Featured image (at the top of this post): Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in for her Senate testimony. PHOTO CREDIT: United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary