THE DRAMA GOES ON: GOP, Dems battle over FBI’S report on Kavanaugh

WASHINGTON (AP) — A high-stakes partisan row quickly broke out Thursday over a confidential FBI report about allegations that Brett Kavanaugh sexually abused women three decades ago, with Republicans claiming investigators found “no hint of misconduct” and Democrats accusing the White House of slapping crippling constraints on the probe.

The battling commenced as the conservative jurist’s prospects for winning Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court remained at the mercy of five undeclared senators, with an initial, critical vote looming Friday. It followed the FBI’s early-morning release of its investigation, which President Donald Trump reluctantly ordered under pressure from a handful of senators.

“There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a written statement. He said he based his view on a briefing from committee aides and added, “This investigation found no hint of misconduct.”

In a potential sign of momentum for Kavanaugh, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told CNN that “we’ve seen no additional corroborating information” and said the investigation had been comprehensive. Flake, who’s not stated his position on the nomination, was among three Republicans who pressed Trump to order the renewed FBI background check.

Another GOP lawmakers who has publicly taken no stance, Susan Collins of Maine, called the probe “a very thorough investigation” and said she’d read the documents later. Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski said she’d read the report.

Other Republicans who’d already voiced support for Kavanaugh echoed Grassley, saying after a briefing that there’d been no corroboration of wrongdoing by Kavanaugh. Said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., “The senators who requested the supplemental background check got what they requested, and I am ready to vote.”

Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have also not declared how they will vote.

Top Democrats fired back at Grassley after getting their own briefing.

The Judiciary panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, said it appeared that the White House had “blocked the FBI from doing its job.” She said that while Democrats had agreed to limit the probe’s scope, “we did not agree that the White House should tie the FBI’s hands.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already started a process that will produce a crucial test vote in his polarized chamber Friday on Kavanaugh’s fate. Should Republicans get the majority of votes they need — and Vice President Mike Pence is available to cast the tie-breaker, if necessary — that would set up a decisive roll call on his confirmation, likely over the weekend.

Several senators said 10 witnesses were interviewed for the report. One senator said it was about 50 pages long.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said agents reached out to 10 but spoke only to nine. He said five were witnesses connected to accusations by Christine Blasey Ford and four involved a separate claim by Deborah Ramirez.

Feinstein complained Thursday that agents had not interviewed Kavanaugh or Ford, who has testified that he sexually attacked her in a locked bedroom during a high school gathering in 1982. Feinstein also said attorneys for Ramirez, who’s claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when both were Yale freshmen, had no indication the FBI had reached out to people she’d offered for corroboration.

Grassley said the FBI could not “locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations,” and he said there is “no contemporaneous evidence.” He provided no specifics.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats’ fears that the “very limited process” laid out for the investigation would restrain the FBI “have been realized.”

He also said, “I disagree with Sen. Grassley’s statement that there was no hint of misconduct.” Neither side provided any detail about what the report said, constrained by years-old arrangements that require the results of FBI background checks to remain confidential.

Earlier, White House spokesman Raj Shah rebuffed Democrats’ complaints, saying, “What critics want is a never-ending fishing expedition into high school drinking.” He said the FBI reached out to 10 people and interviewed nine, including “several individuals at the request of the Senate, and had a series of follow-up interviews … following certain leads.”

While the FBI interviews were to focus on sexual assault allegations, Democrats have also questioned Kavanaugh’s drinking habits during high school and college and dishonest comments they say he has made about his background. Kavanaugh has said stories of his bad behavior while drinking are exaggerated.

Three women have accused him of sexual misconduct in separate incidents in the 1980s. Kavanaugh, 53, now a judge on the powerful District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, has denied the claims.

The White House received the FBI report around 3 a.m. Thursday.

Trump weighed in hours later in a tweet in which he denounced what he called “the harsh and unfair treatment” of Kavanaugh. “This great life cannot be ruined by mean” and “despicable Democrats and totally uncorroborated allegations!”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois told reporters Thursday that time slots for reading the FBI file are so full that senators are being told they might have to wait until Friday to read it. “They’re so swamped,” she said.

The report arrived at a Capitol palpably tense over the political stakes of the nomination fight and from aggressive anti-Kavanaugh protesters who have rattled and reportedly harassed senators. Feeding the anxiety was an unusually beefy presence of the U.S. Capitol Police, who were keeping demonstrators and frequently reporters at arm’s length by forming wedges around lawmakers walking through corridors.

Barring leaks, it was unclear how much of the FBI report, if any, would be made public. While senators from both sides have expressed support for revealing at least parts of the findings, FBI background checks on nominees are supposed to remain confidential.

With Republicans clinging to a razor-thin 51-49 Senate majority and five senators — including three Republicans — still publicly undeclared, the conservative jurist’s prospects of Senate confirmation could hinge largely on the file’s contents.

Underscoring rising tensions, Democrats suggested that previous FBI background checks of Kavanaugh may have unearthed misconduct by the nominee.

Democrats wrote to Grassley challenging a Tuesday tweet by GOP aides saying prior investigations never found “a whiff of ANY issue — at all — related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse.” Democrats wrote that the GOP tweet contained information that is “not accurate.”

Committee Republicans tweeted in response that their prior tweet was “completely truthful” and accused Democrats of “false smears.”

Ford, now a California psychology professor, has testified that when the drunken Kavanaugh attacked her, she believed he was trying to rape her.

The FBI interviewed several people, including three who Ford has said attended a 1982 high school gathering in suburban Maryland where she says Kavanaugh’s attack occurred, plus another Kavanaugh friend. The agency has also spoken to a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, who has claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a Yale party when both were freshmen.


Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo, Catherine Lucey, Zeke Miller, Padmananda Rama, Matthew Daly, Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking contributed to the contents of this report.

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‘JUST PLAIN WRONG’: Three Senators holding Kavanaugh’s fate condemn Trump’s criticism of Ford

WASHINGTON — Three Republican Senators who have still not committed to a vote to confirm embattled nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court came out swinging Wednesday against comments made by President Donald Trump in which he criticized Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey-Ford.

During a Mississippi rally on Tuesday night, Trump mocked Ford, who has accused the president’s nominee of sexual assault, citing the professor’s inability to remember key facts to support her claims.

“I had one beer.” “Well do you think it was… ‘Nope. It was one beer,'” the president said, mimicking Ford’s voice. “Oh good. How did you get home? ‘I don’t remember.’ How did you get there? ‘I don’t remember.’ Where is the place? ‘I don’t remember.’ How many years ago was it? ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.'”

“What neighborhood was it in? ‘I don’t know,'” the president continued. “Where’s the house? ‘I don’t know. Upstairs. Downstairs. I don’t know. But I had one beer that’s the only thing I remember.'”

“The President’s comments were just plain wrong,” Maine Sen. Susan Collins told reporters before heading into a hearing of the Senate aging committee, which she chairs.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski echoed Collins’ comments as she spoke to reporters Wednesday before walking out to the Senate floor.

“I thought the President’s comments yesterday mocking Dr. Ford were wholly inappropriate and in my view unacceptable,” Murkowski said.

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who through the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing into an uproar last week after asking for an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations called the president’s comments “appalling” after being swarmed by the press.

Although Flake at first refused to say whether the president’s comments would sway the outcome of his vote, he later said that Trump’s remarks would have no bearing on his decision either way.

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REPORT: FBI still hasn’t interviewed Kavanaugh or Ford citing lack of White House ‘approval’

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) — The FBI hasn’t interviewed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford because it doesn’t have clear authority from the White House to do so, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Instead, the White House has indicated to the FBI that testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford, who has accused him of attempting to rape her when they were in high school, before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week is sufficient, said the people, who asked to not be identified discussing the sensitive matter.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation is trying to force the issue and seek explicit approval from the White House to interview Ford and Kavanaugh. And it wasn’t clear why the FBI hasn’t yet talked to other people who have been recommended by lawyers or who have voluntarily come forward — or if the bureau would need explicit approval to talk with them as well.

Confusion has now beset the investigation, fed by conflicting signals over what constraints have been placed on the bureau despite President Donald Trump’s comment Monday that “the FBI should interview anybody that they want, within reason.”

In the absence of a resolution about interviewing more people, the FBI could close the probe as early as Wednesday and submit its findings to the White House, the people said. The FBI declined to comment on the investigation or its timing.

A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the White House views the FBI inquiry as a supplemental background investigation, with its scope limited to the sex-assault allegations. That suggests its view is that agents don’t need to go back over ground already covered by last week’s Senate Judiciary hearing or delve into allegations about Kavanaugh’s past drinking habits that may contradict his testimony.

“We’re going to allow the Senate to make the determination of the scope,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday. Officials have said the White House is relying on a request from the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee setting out the terms for the FBI inquiry.

On Monday, three days into the probe, the White House gave the FBI approval to interview more people, but the bureau is still constrained by an initial directive to investigate only credible allegations of sexual misconduct, the person said. Those restrictions are still limiting the number of people the bureau can interview and agents have only talked to a small number of individuals, the person said.

FBI field offices also lack a clear understanding of what they can do when people come forward voluntarily with information that could be relevant to the investigation, the person said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray is documenting what’s happening behind the scenes in order to help ensure the bureau’s activities in the politically charged investigation are captured and perhaps made public one day, the person said.

Among those who have been interviewed by the FBI are Kavanaugh’s high school friends Mark Judge, who Ford said witnessed and encouraged the attack on her, Chris Garrett and Patrick J. Smyth. Agents also have talked with Deborah Ramirez, who claims Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a drunken party when they were freshmen at Yale University.

The bureau hasn’t interviewed Julie Swetnick, who accused Kavanaugh of taking part in efforts at parties during high school to get girls intoxicated so that groups of boys could have sex with them, according to her attorney Michael Avenatti. Kavanaugh has denied all of the allegations of sexual impropriety.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had accurately predicted earlier that Democrats would say that the “supplemental background investigation for which my friends had clamored would suddenly become insufficient.”

“It’s time to put this embarrassing spectacle behind us,” said McConnell, who reiterated his plan to hold at least a preliminary vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation this week.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “We have no idea if the FBI is doing a real investigation or simply preparing a fig leaf at the direction of the White House for Republicans to vote yes.”

Regarding Wray, Schumer of New York said, “If he’s being constrained by the White House, he has an obligation to let us know.”


Bloomberg’s Chris Strohm, Shannon Pettypiece Laura Litvan, and Arit John contributed to the contents of this report.

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FORD TESTIFIES: Christine Blasey- Ford’s prepared testimony and opening remarks regarding alleged assault by SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Washington — Written Testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford United States Senate Judiciary Committee September 26, 2018

Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, Members of the Committee. My name is Christine Blasey Ford.

I am a Professor of Psychology at Palo Alto University and a Research Psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine. I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina and earned my degree in Experimental Psychology in 1988. I received a Master’s degree in 1991 in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. In 1996, I received a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Southern California. I earned a Master’s degree in Epidemiology from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2009.

I have been married to Russell Ford since 2002 and we have two children. 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. I have described the events publicly before.

I summarized them in my letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, and again in my letter to Chairman Grassley. I understand and appreciate the importance of your hearing from me directly about what happened to me and the impact it has had on my life and on my family.

I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I attended the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, from 1980 to 1984. Holton-Arms is an all-girls school that opened in 1901. During my time at the school, girls at Holton-Arms frequently met and became friendly with boys from all-boys schools in the area, including Landon School, Georgetown Prep, Gonzaga High School, country clubs, and other places where kids and their families socialized.

This is how I met Brett Kavanaugh, the boy who sexually assaulted me. In my freshman and sophomore school years, when I was 14 and 15 years old, my group of friends intersected with Brett and his friends for a short period of time. I had been friendly with a classmate of Brett’s for a short time during my freshman year, and it was through that connection that I attended a number of parties that Brett also attended.

We did not know each other well, but I knew him and he knew me. In the summer of 1982, like most summers, I spent almost every day at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland swimming and practicing diving. One evening that summer, after a day of swimming at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in the Chevy Chase/Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember being there: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth, and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I remember my friend Leland Ingham attending. I do not remember all of the details of how that gathering came together, but like many that summer, it was almost surely a spur of the moment gathering. I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked about how I got to the party, where it took place, and so forth.

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.

When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom.

I couldn’t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music already playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room.

I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. 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 screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop.

A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not. During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. The last time he did this, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room. Directly across from the bedroom was a small bathroom. I ran inside the bathroom and locked the door. I heard Brett and Mark leave the bedroom laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairs, pin-balling off the walls on the way down. I waited and when I did not hear them come back up the stairs, I left the bathroom, ran down the stairs, through the living room, and left the house. I remember being on the street and feeling an enormous sense of relief that I had escaped from the house and that Brett and Mark were not coming after me.

Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details. I did not want to tell my parents that I, at age 15, was in a house without any parents present, drinking beer with boys. I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened.

Over the years, I told very few friends that I had this traumatic experience. I told my husband before we were married that I had experienced a sexual assault. I had never told the details to anyone until May 2012, during a couples counseling session. The reason this came up in counseling is that my husband and I had completed an extensive remodel of our home, and I insisted on a second front door, an idea that he and others disagreed with and could not understand.

In explaining why I wanted to have a second front door, I described the assault in detail. I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be on the U.S. Supreme Court and spoke a bit about his background. My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh. After that May 2012 therapy session, I did my best to suppress memories of the assault because recounting the details caused me to relive the experience, and caused panic attacks and anxiety.

Occasionally I would discuss the assault in individual therapy, but talking about it caused me to relive the trauma, so I tried not to think about it or discuss it. But over the years, I went through periods where I thought about Brett’s attack. I confided in some close friends that I had an experience with sexual assault. Occasionally I stated that my assailant was a prominent lawyer or judge but I did not use his name. I do not recall each person I spoke to about Brett’s assault, and some friends have reminded me of these conversations since the publication of The Washington Post story on September 16, 2018.

But until July 2018, I had never named Mr. Kavanaugh as my attacker outside of therapy. This all changed in early July 2018. I saw press reports stating that Brett Kavanaugh was on the “short list” of potential Supreme Court nominees. I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh’s conduct
so that those considering his potential nomination would know about the assault.

On July 6, 2018, I had a sense of urgency to relay the information to the Senate and the President as soon as possible before a nominee was selected. I called my congressional representative and let her receptionist know that someone on the President’s shortlist had attacked me. I also sent a message to The Washington Post’s confidential tip line.

I did not use my name,but I provided the names of Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. I stated that Mr. Kavanaugh had assaulted me in the 1980s in Maryland. This was an extremely hard thing for me to do, but I felt I couldn’t NOT do it. Over the next two days, I told a couple of close friends on the beach in California that Mr. Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted me. I was conflicted about whether to speak out. On July 9, 2018, I received a call from the office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo after Mr. Kavanaugh had become the nominee. I met with her staff on July 11 and with her on July 13, describing the assault and discussing my fear about coming forward.

Later, we discussed the possibility of sending a letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, who is one of my state’s Senators, describing what occurred. My understanding is that
Representative Eshoo’s office delivered a copy of my letter to Senator Feinstein’s office on July 30, 2018. The letter included my name, but requested that the letter be kept confidential. My hope was that providing the information confidentially would be sufficient to allow the Senate to consider Mr. Kavanaugh’s serious misconduct without having to make myself, my family, or anyone’s family vulnerable to the personal attacks and invasions of privacy we have faced since my name became public.

In a letter on August 31, 2018, Senator Feinstein wrote that she would not share the letter without my consent. I greatly appreciated this commitment. All sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves whether their private experience made public.

As the hearing date got closer, I struggled with a terrible choice: Do I share the facts with the Senate and put myself and my family in the public spotlight? Or do I preserve our privacy and allow the Senate to make its decision on Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination without knowing the full truth about his past behavior? I agonized daily with this decision throughout August and early September 2018. The sense of duty that motivated me to reach out confidentially to The Washington Post, Representative Eshoo’s office, and Senator Feinstein’s office was always there, but my fears of the consequences of speaking out started to increase.

During August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation
was virtually certain. His allies painted him as a champion of women’s rights and e
empowerment. I believed that if I came forward, my voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters. By the time of the confirmation hearings, I had resigned myself to remaining quiet and letting the Committee and the Senate make their decision without knowing what Mr. Kavanaugh had done to me. Once the press started reporting on the existence of the letter I had sent to Senator Feinstein, I faced mounting pressure. Reporters appeared at my home and at my job demanding information about this letter, including in the presence of my graduate students. They called my boss and co-workers and left me many messages, making it clear that my name would inevitably be released to the media.

I decided to speak out publicly to a journalist who had responded to the tip I had sent to The Washington Post and who had gained my trust. It was important to me to describe the details of the assault in my own words.

Since September 16, the date of The Washington Post story, I have experienced an outpouring of support from people in every state of this country. Thousands of people who have had their lives dramatically altered by sexual violence have reached out to share their own experiences with me and have thanked me for coming forward. We have received tremendous support from friends and our community. At the same time, my greatest fears have been realized– and the reality has been far worse than what I expected.

My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats. I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying to receive and have rocked me to my core. People have posted my personal information on the internet. This has resulted in additional emails, calls, and threats. My family and I were forced to move out of our home. Since September 16, my family and I have been living in various secure locales, with guards. This past Tuesday evening, my work email account was hacked and messages were sent out supposedly recanting my description of the sexual assault. Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and have seen my life picked apart by people on television, in the media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me. I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives. Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one’s pawn.

My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed. It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth.

I understand that the Majority has hired a professional prosecutor to ask me some questions, and I am committed to doing my very best to answer them. At the same time, because the Committee Members will be judging my credibility, I hope to be able to engage directly with each of you. At this point, I will do my best to answer your questions.

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KAVANAUGH TESTIFIES: Prepared opening remarks for SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony on allegations of sexual misconduct

Washington — Prepared Written Testimony of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh Nomination Hearing to Serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court September 27, 2018 (submitted September 26, 2018)

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Members of the Committee: Eleven days ago, Dr. Ford publicly accused me of committing a serious wrong more than 36 years ago when we were both in high school.

I denied the allegation immediately, unequivocally, and categorically. The next day, I told this Committee that I wanted to testify as soon as possible, under oath, to clear my name. Over the past few days, other false and uncorroborated accusations have been aired. There has been a frenzy to come up with something—anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious—that will block a vote on my nomination.

These are last-minute smears, pure and simple. They debase our public discourse. And the consequences extend beyond any one nomination. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination—if allowed to succeed—will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country.

As I told this Committee the last time I appeared before you, a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure. That is the kind of judge I am and will always be. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. This effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. I am here this morning to answer these allegations and to tell the truth. And the truth is that I have never sexually assaulted anyone—not in high school, not in college, not ever.

Sexual assault is horrific. It is morally wrong. It is illegal. It is contrary to my religious faith. And it contradicts the core promise of this Nation that all people are created equal and entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.

Allegations of sexual assault must be taken seriously. Those who make allegations deserve to be heard. The subject of allegations also deserves to be heard. Due process is a foundation of the American rule of law. Dr. Ford’s allegation dates back more than 36 years, to a party that she says occurred during our time in high school. I spent most of my time in high school focused on academics, sports, church, and service. But I was not perfect in those days, just as I am not perfect today. I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now. But that’s not why we are here today.

What I’ve been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehavior. I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes. The allegation of misconduct is completely inconsistent with the rest of my life. The record of my life, from my days in grade school through the present day, shows that I have always promoted the equality and dignity of women. I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford. I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford. I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done that to her or to anyone.

I am innocent of this charge.

<> on September 6, 2018 in Washington, DC.

REPORT: GOP hires female attorney to question Kavanaugh accuser

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Politico) — Senate Republicans have hired an attorney to use as a questioner of Christine Blasey Ford at Thursday’s high-stakes hearing on a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but are declining to name her.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told POLITICO on Tuesday as he entered the Capitol for a weekly GOP meeting that “we aren’t announcing the name for her safety.” Asked if Republicans have received any indication of threats to the attorney they’re preparing to use, Grassley said: “I don’t know, but I guess we’re just being cautious.”

Grassley responded Monday to a personal letter he received from Ford over the weekend in which she vowed that “fear will not hold me back from testifying,” Grassley told the 51-year-old California-based professor that he is “committed to fair and respectful treatment of you” during Thursday’s make-or-break hearing on her claim against Kavanaugh.

Although Ford’s attorney wrote to Grassley on Monday night that his staff “still has not responded to a number of outstanding questions” about the hearing, including more details on how the female attorney would be engaged to speak on behalf of Judiciary Republicans’ all-male roster, the Iowan made clear that he views the hearing as locked in.

Heeding Ford’s desire to avoid a “circus-like environment,” Grassley said, he has agreed to limit the press presence in the hearing room and give her security protection through the Capitol Police. “I don’t know what else we can do,” Grassley said, adding that “I don’t know of any problem” remaining.

GOP leaders signaled on Tuesday that the Senate may stay in session over the weekend to confirm Kavanaugh quickly. The new Supreme Court term starts on Oct. 1

“There’s no reason to delay this more, unless something new comes out of the hearing on Thursday,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. “As you can tell, people are coming out of the woodwork making incredible, uncorroborated allegations and I think you can just expect that kind of nonsense to continue.”

Senate Republicans have hired an attorney to use as a questioner of Christine Blasey Ford at Thursday’s high-stakes hearing on a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but are declining to name her.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told POLITICO on Tuesday as he entered the Capitol for a weekly GOP meeting that “we aren’t announcing the name for her safety.” Asked if Republicans have received any indication of threats to the attorney they’re preparing to use, Grassley said: “I don’t know, but I guess we’re just being cautious.”

Grassley responded Monday to a personal letter he received from Ford over the weekend in which she vowed that “fear will not hold me back from testifying,” Grassley told the 51-year-old California-based professor that he is “committed to fair and respectful treatment of you” during Thursday’s make-or-break hearing on her claim against Kavanaugh.

Although Ford’s attorney wrote to Grassley on Monday night that his staff “still has not responded to a number of outstanding questions” about the hearing, including more details on how the female attorney would be engaged to speak on behalf of Judiciary Republicans’ all-male roster, the Iowan made clear that he views the hearing as locked in.

Heeding Ford’s desire to avoid a “circus-like environment,” Grassley said, he has agreed to limit the press presence in the hearing room and give her security protection through the Capitol Police. “I don’t know what else we can do,” Grassley said, adding that “I don’t know of any problem” remaining.

GOP leaders signaled on Tuesday that the Senate may stay in session over the weekend to confirm Kavanaugh quickly. The new Supreme Court term starts on Oct. 1

“There’s no reason to delay this more, unless something new comes out of the hearing on Thursday,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. “As you can tell, people are coming out of the woodwork making incredible, uncorroborated allegations and I think you can just expect that kind of nonsense to continue.”

Their comments come as President Donald Trump and White House officials launched a blistering attack on Democrats over the misconduct claims against Kavanaugh, calling them a “con game.”

Trump and Senate Republicans have lambasted Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, for not coming forward sooner with the allegation made by Ford against Kavanaugh. Feinstein knew of Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her back in July, yet Republicans say they were not told of the accusation until it was reported in the press two months later.

Now, with Ford set to appear before the Judiciary Committee this week, Trump on Tuesday mocked claims by a second Kavanaugh accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself while they were both students at Yale University more than 30 years ago.

During an appearance at the United Nations General Assembly with Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez, Trump launched into a defense of Kavanaugh and called the allegations against him “unsubstantiated.”

“Charges come up from 36 years ago that are totally unsubstantiated? I mean, you as watching this, as the president of a great country – Colombia – you must say, ‘How is this possible?’ Thirty-six years ago? Nobody ever knew about it? Nobody ever heard about it? And now a new charge comes up,” Trump said.

“And [Ramirez] said well it might not be him and there were gaps and she said she was totally inebriated and she was all messed up. And she doesn’t know it was him, but it might’ve been him. ‘Oh gee, let’s not make him a Supreme Court judge because of that.’ This is a con-game being played by the Democrats.”

With Kavanaugh’s nomination in trouble, the White House P.R. offensive is designed to shift the blame for the Kavanaugh debacle onto Democrats while trying to shore up GOP support. Yet right now, Kavanaugh doesn’t have the votes to be confirmed, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the White House know full well.

“Both families have been drug through the mud when they didn’t have to be because Dianne Feinstein could have done this in a much-structured process and instead waited until the 11th hour and is playing political games with people’s lives,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Ford and Kavanaugh during a Tuesday appearance on “Good Morning America.”

Sanders singled out Feinstein for harsh criticism, blaming the California Democrat for the entire controversy. “I find that to be disgraceful and disgusting, and she certainly needs to shoulder a lot of the blame for what’s going on right now,” she said. Sanders’ comments followed a tweet by Trump on Monday night rejecting claims of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh brought by Ford and Ramirez.

But despite Trump’s tweet, Sanders said the White House is open to Ramirez testifying. Senate Republicans have said they will determine the witnesses and said repeatedly they would limit it to Ford and Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh himself gave an extraordinary interview to Fox News on Monday night, an unprecedented move for a nominee still under consideration by the Senate.

Yet with his selection for the nation’s highest court in serious trouble, the White House banked that Kavanaugh’s appearance could help rally conservatives to his cause. Feinstein, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats have countered the GOP push on Kavanaugh by demanding the White House should allow the FBI to investigate Ford’s allegations, which the Trump administration has refused to agree to.

The FBI has also said it has completed its background investigation of Kavanaugh and has no further role in this nomination fight.

“There is one simple way to get to the bottom of this, without the he-said, she-said, without the finger-pointing and name-calling: a quiet, serious, thorough background check by the FBI. That’s the logical way to go,” Schumer said on Monday. “The FBI is not biased. The FBI is professional. It’s a crime to lie to them so people have a large incentive to tell the truth.”

With the partisan attacks from party leaders continuing — and likely to get even more pointed as Thursday’s hearing gets closer — key questions about Ford’s appearance still remain, with the identity of the GOP’s outside questioner chief among them. The use of that outside counsel or staffer to ask questions of Ford and Kavanaugh won’t preclude GOP lawmakers from also asking questions, Republicans have said.

On Tuesday morning, Democrats said they hoped to find out what the rules of the hearing on Thursday will be, including how long they would be allowed to question Ford and Kavanaugh. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) decried the secrecy shrouding the GOP’s use of an outside or staff attorney as part of the majority’s “stonewalling.”

Democrats said they were unsure whether they would have as few as five minutes to ask questions or as many as 20. And some are still running down new leads about Kavanaugh as they prepare for the landmark hearing.

“We got a phone call yesterday morning, ‘there’s another hot tip’. We’re trying to be careful. So you basically say: We need more before we consider it credible,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who serves on the Judiciary Committee.

Ford attorney Michael Bromwich wrote in his Monday night letter to Grassley that the hearing “is not a criminal trial for which the involvement of an experienced sex crimes prosecutor would be appropriate.”

“Neither Dr. Blasey Ford nor Judge Kavanaugh is on trial. The goal should be to develop the relevant facts, not try a case,” Bromwich wrote, demanding an opportunity for Ford’s legal team to meet with the unknown attorney on Tuesday.

With all that jockeying going on around Thursday’s hearing, Senate Republicans have quietly begun to game out how soon there could be a floor vote on Kavanaugh — if it actually happens. The earliest that confirmation vote on Kavanaugh could take place would be Tuesday of next week, according to GOP lawmakers and aides. That would require the Senate to stay in session over the weekend. Otherwise, the vote would slip to later in the week.

———-

Politico’s Elana Schor, John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett contributed to the contents of this report.

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DELAY TACTICS: Feinstein calls for postponement of Kavanaugh vote, FBI investigation of alleged assaults

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Sunday sent a letter to Chairman Chuck Grassley calling for an immediate postponement of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination and a federal investigation into the sexual assaults being alleged toward Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court.

The full context of the letter reads as follows:

September 23, 2018

Honorable Charles Grassley
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Grassley:

I am writing to request an immediate postponement of any further proceedings related to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. I also ask that the newest allegations of sexual misconduct be referred to the FBI for investigation, and that you join our request for the White House to direct the FBI to investigate the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford as well as these new claims.

Today, Deborah Ramirez came forward with serious allegations of sexual misconduct by Judge Kavanaugh. The New Yorker article recounting her experience states that there are witnesses who can corroborate her claims and who challenge Mr. Judge’s account. An investigation needs to be conducted as part of Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation by career professionals at the FBI – not partisan staff of the Committee. We need a fair, independent process that will gather all the facts, interview all the relevant witnesses, and ensure the Committee receives a full and impartial report. Should the White House continue to refuse to direct the FBI to do its job, the Committee must subpoena all relevant witnesses.

It is time to set politics aside. We must ensure that a thorough and fair investigation is conducted before moving forward.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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FORMER SCALIA LAW CLERK: ‘Compelling evidence’ will exonerate Kavanaugh soon

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Law & Crime) — At least one defender of President Donald Trump‘s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh believes it won’t be long until the embattled judge is exonerated of wrongdoing and confirmed to his post. Kavanaugh has, of course, been named by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person who attempted to sexually assault her at a party in high school.

Kavanaugh has categorically denied this and we are still waiting to see what will happen with a hearing that was scheduled to take place before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. Ford and her legal team have requested an FBI investigation of her allegation in advance of a hearing.

Irrespective of all the hearing speculation, Ed Whelan, the president of conservative think tank the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), made a bold prediction on Twitter that “compelling evidence” would exonerate Kavanaugh next week.

“By one week from today [it was Sept. 18] I expect that Judge Kavanaugh will have been clearly vindicated on this matter. Specifically, I expect that compelling evidence will show his categorical denial to be truthful,” Whelan tweeted on Tuesday. “There will be no cloud over him.”

Whelan, a Kavanaugh defender, later added a couple of cryptic tweets.

“It’s precisely b/c sexual assault is so terrible that it is deeply unjust when someone is mistakenly (even good-faith mistakenly) accused of having committed it,” he said. “Everyone should rejoice when the mistake is found.”

Is Whelan implying that Christine Ford has mistaken Kavanaugh for someone else? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently suggested, to the dismay of some, that this might be the case when he said Ford might be “mixed up.”

Whelan did link to a Yahoo story saying this may be a case of “mistaken identity.”

He said that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) would “soon be apologizing” to Kavanaugh and that Kavanaugh’s “suffering […] will be shown to have been deeply unjust.”

It is notable that Whelan is opposed to the requested FBI investigation, opposed to a subpoena of alleged witness Mark Judge, and opposed to the delay of Monday’s planned hearing.

It’s also notable that Whelan once clerked for deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Whelan’s also a long-time friend of Kavanaugh’s.

Here’s how he has described his relationship with the SCOTUS nominee:

“I’ll add here that I am grateful to count Brett Kavanaugh as a friend. I’ve known him for some 25 years and have worked with him both in the private sector and in government, including in the early years of the George W. Bush administration, when I was principal deputy in DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel and Kavanaugh worked in the White House. My high regard for him gives me additional motivation to refute the smears against him. But as you will see, my arguments stand on their own and do not depend on my personally attesting to his character.”

According to Politico, Whelan has told “at least three associates” that he is “close to 100 percent” confident that what he says is true.


Matt Naham of “Law & Crime” contributed to the content of this article. 

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DON’T COUNT HIM OUT YET: Conservative group launches $1.5M campaign to defend Kavanaugh on sexual assault allegations

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A high power conservative group announced Monday that it plans to launch a new ad campaign geared toward defending Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from sexual assault allegations stemming from the 1980’s.

The Judicial Crisis Network announced that it will spend $1.5 million to air television ads featuring a 35-year friend of Kavanaugh who says he can repudiate allegations that Trump’s pick for Supreme Court nominee assaulted a female during a high school party as a teenager.

“We are not going to allow a last-minute smear campaign destroy a good and decent man who has an unblemished personal record,” a spokesperson for the group said Monday in a statement.

Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, claims a druken Kavanaugh backed her onto a bed and tried to tear off her clothes during a party in the 1980s. Ford claims Kavanaugh also covered her mouth when she tried to scream for help.

In a statement Monday Kavanaugh called the allegations against him “completely false” and said he is willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to prove his innocence.

Democratic leaders on the judiciary panel have called for Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, originally scheduled for this Thursday, to be delayed until his accuser has had time to testify.

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