Kavanaugh Denies Sexual-Misconduct Claim, Keeps White House Support
(Bloomberg) -- Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh “unequivocally” denied a reported allegation that during a party in high school he held a girl down and tried to force himself on her.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” Kavanaugh said in a statement released by the White House on Friday.
The White House isn’t considering pulling Kavanaugh’s nomination over the allegation, White House spokesman Raj Shah said. The Senate Judiciary Committee will proceed with its planned vote on Sept. 20 to advance the Kavanaugh confirmation to the full Senate, said Taylor Foy, a spokesman for panel Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Details of the allegation were reported Friday by the New Yorker magazine. The initial disclosure Thursday by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein that she had provided unspecified “information” to the FBI threw the already contentious confirmation fight into confusion.
Kavanaugh has appeared to be on track for confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate, and the White House and Senate Republicans accused Democrats of making a last-ditch effort to block the appointment. Republicans control the Senate 51-49, and no GOP members have opposed confirmation, although two abortion-rights supporters, Maine’s Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, haven’t yet said how they’ll vote.
High School Party
The New Yorker cited a letter written by the woman that said the encounter occurred at a party when Kavanaugh was a high school student during the early 1980s. The woman contended that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his had been drinking, and turned up music that was playing in the room to drown out her protests. The woman said Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand, but that she was able to free herself, according to the New Yorker.
The magazine quoted Kavanaugh’s classmate as saying he had no recollection of such an incident. Kavanaugh attended all-male Georgetown Preparatory School, and the magazine said the woman attended a nearby high school. The magazine said the woman, whom it didn’t identify, declined a request for an interview.
The letter was sent to California Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo and to Feinstein, also of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee that’s considering Kavanaugh’s high court nomination. Feinstein turned the letter over this week to the FBI, which said it’s not investigating though it included the letter in his background file.
The New Yorker said Feinstein received the letter weeks before last week’s Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing, and declined requests to share it with other Democratic committee members because she thought the incident was too far in the past to be discussed publicly and the woman didn’t want to be identified.
Foy said no allegations of sexual misconduct have surfaced in any of six previous FBI background checks spanning 1993 to 2018 of Kavanaugh, a former White House aide and a federal appeals court judge since 2006.
Feinstein didn’t raise the matter during the Judiciary Committee’s public questioning of Kavanaugh last week, nor in written questions submitted to Kavanaugh after the hearing. Foy said Feinstein didn’t attend a closed-door meeting of committee members with Kavanaugh on Sept. 6 where senators could discuss sensitive issues with him.
The claims are "wholly unverifiable," partly because the accuser’s name has been redacted from the letter sent to investigators, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a senior GOP member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Friday. "I do not intend to allow Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to be stalled because of an 11th hour accusation that Democrats did not see fit to raise for over a month," he added.
Feinstein’s office issued a statement that said after she received the information through a third party, "The senator took these allegations seriously and believed they should be public."
"However, the woman in question made it clear she did not want this information to be public," Feinstein’s office said. "It is critical in matters of sexual misconduct to protect the identity of the victim when they wish to remain anonymous, and the senator did so in this case."
Grassley released a letter Friday from 65 women who said they knew Kavanaugh when he attended high school. “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect,” the letter said. “He has always been a good person.” The letter was put together Thursday by Kavanaugh’s former law clerks, Foy said.
Collins had an hour-long phone call with Kavanaugh Friday that had been previously scheduled, the senator’s spokeswoman Annie Clark said. She gave no details.
Kavanaugh, who is President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, was questioned for two marathon days last week at a Judiciary Committee hearing. He sidestepped Democratic efforts to pin him down on abortion and investigations of Trump.
GOP leaders plan for a full Senate vote on confirming Kavanaugh before the high court starts its new term on Oct. 1. Democrats have accused Republicans of rushing Kavanaugh’s nomination to a vote and hiding documents from his time as Bush’s staff secretary and in the White House counsel’s office.
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