Kavanaugh Tells Fox He's ‘Not Going Anywhere’ as Fight Heats Up
(Bloomberg) -- A defiant and sometimes emotional Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said Monday he "never sexually assaulted anyone," defending himself in a televised interview against allegations that threaten to unravel his confirmation.
Republicans are scrambling to save Kavanaugh’s nomination as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised he will get a floor vote soon. Kavanaugh, interviewed with his wife on Fox News, said President Donald Trump called him Monday afternoon "and he said he’s standing by me." Kavanaugh said he’s not withdrawing his nomination and that "I want a fair process where I can defend my integrity."
The interview gave Kavanaugh a chance to make his case in advance of Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that will listen to testimony from him and his principal accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. She says he sexually assaulted her during a Maryland house party when they were in high school.
"I was never at any such party," he said on Fox News. He said he may have met Ford, who went to a different school, but he added, "We did not travel in the same social circle. She was not a friend, not someone I knew."
A second woman, Deborah Ramirez, was quoted by the New Yorker magazine as saying that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a drunken party at Yale University when they were students. Bipartisan Judiciary Committee staff will seek to interview Ramirez privately about her allegation, said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican.
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GOP Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a strong Kavanaugh backer, told reporters he expects the committee to vote on confirmation by the end of the week. It’s not clear how soon a vote by the full Senate would follow. The Supreme Court begins its new term on Oct. 1.
Separately, Michael Bromwich, a lawyer for Ford, wrote to Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley Monday to object to the committee’s plan to hire an "experienced sex crimes prosecutor" to question Ford for the GOP members at Thursday’s hearing. Ford wants senators to conduct the questioning.
The plan is "inconsistent with your stated wish to avoid a ‘circus,’" Bromwich wrote. "There is no precedent for this committee to bring in outside counsel for the sole purpose of shielding the members of the committee from performing their responsibility to question witnesses." He asked for the prosecutor’s identity and requested a meeting with the prosecutor on Tuesday.
Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said he believed Ford as well as Ramirez. He said Kavanaugh should submit to a lie-detector test, as Ford says she has done.
"If Judge Kavanaugh wants to set this record straight, there are easy ways for him to come forward," Coons said on CNN. "An interview on Fox News doesn’t quite rise to that standard."
The Fox News interview with Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley, while his nomination is pending is without parallel, as every Supreme Court nominee in recent memory has avoided media interviews during the Senate confirmation process. Fox News is Trump’s favorite network, and he often critiques his aides when they appear there.
The new allegations raised broader questions about a nominee whose confirmation seemed all but certain two weeks ago.
Seating Kavanaugh on the nation’s top court -- or not seating him -- could affect the fight for control of Congress in the Nov. 6 election. Republicans are looking for Kavanaugh to cement a conservative majority on the court, while Democrats say he could provide the fifth vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Kavanaugh and Ford, a California college professor, are set to testify Thursday on her claim that he pinned her down and tried to remove her clothes at a high school party three decades ago.
Kavanaugh told Fox News, "I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone at some place, but what I know is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”
He said other allegations by lawyer Michael Avenatti were "totally false and outrageous." Kavanaugh he didn’t have "anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter."
He did acknowledge that high school seniors drank beer at the time, when the legal age was 18, and "people might have had too many beers on occasion" and might "regret or cringe a bit." But he said he never was unable to remember what had happened.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, whose vote is critical to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, wouldn’t say Monday whether she’s closer to a decision. "There’s a hearing on Thursday," she said. Fellow GOP moderate Susan Collins of Maine also said she hadn’t made a decision.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Judiciary Committee member, said, "unless something new breaks I’m not going to take this guy down." He rejected calls by Democrats for an FBI investigation, saying, "This is ridiculous to say you’re going to find something by the FBI we don’t already know."
Hatch, asked by reporters if Ford’s allegations were phony, said, “I think she’s sincere, at least I hope so. But I think she’s sincerely wrong.”
Ford said in a letter to Grassley she’s willing to meet with senators one-on-one in addition to Thursday’s testimony.
"I will answer any questions you have," Ford said in the letter. "I have one motivation in coming forward -– to tell the truth about what Mr. Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge did to me." Judge was a classmate of Kavanaugh who Ford said witnessed the incident, an allegation he has denied.
Ford said she has turned down numerous requests to appear on television programs to discuss her claims.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York again called for an FBI inquiry for the allegations -- a step Trump and the GOP have rejected -- and said on the Senate floor that McConnell "is afraid of what might come out, what the truth is."
Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said, "They continue to want to get this person on the court as soon as possible, regardless of any facts, nothing."
Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stephanie Clifford, who says she had an affair with Trump before he was elected president, said on CNN that within 48 hours he plans to announce detailed allegations about what a female client of his "witnessed and experienced" regarding Kavanaugh and his high school friend, Judge, during the early 1980s. Avenatti has said he’s considering running for president as a Democrat, said his client isn’t Ramirez.
"I’m highly confident in the accusations that are going to be made," Avenatti said on CNN. He said his client has had a number of federal security clearances, and that he also would have corroborating witnesses. Avenatti said his client is both a victim and a witness, though he declined to give further details.
Republicans stepped up their attempts to discredit Ford’s story. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, in a conference call Monday with GOP donors and supporters, defended Kavanaugh by saying he hadn’t used his position to get sexual favors like ex-movie mogul Harvey Weinstein or former CBS Corp. Chairman Les Moonves, according to a person on the call.
The claim reported by the New Yorker dates to the 1983-84 academic school year, when Kavanaugh was a freshman at Yale. Ramirez said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a dormitory party.
The New Yorker said Ramirez had hesitated to speak publicly, partly because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged episode and there were “gaps” in her memory. She decided to come forward after “assessing her memories” and consulting with her lawyer, the magazine said.
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