Brett Kavanaugh insisted Monday he won’t let his accusers intimidate him into withdrawing his nomination to the Supreme Court, calling a spate of new and as-yet unsubstantiated allegations against him a “grotesque and obvious character assassination.”
President Trump’s pick for the high court also cast his suddenly troubled nomination as a referendum on politics in America, telling senators in a letter that if he can be defeated by a whisper campaign, it will chase other capable people from government service.
“These are smears, pure and simple,” the 53-year-old appeals court judge said, pointing to the lack of public corroboration of any of the allegations made so far.
And Judge Kavanaugh took the unusual step of agreeing to a press interview during the nomination process, going on Fox News to flatly deny the allegations and say that not only was he never part of any sexual misconduct, he was a virgin throughout the time frame of the allegations, forgoing sex or anything close to sex for “years” after high school.
“I know I’m telling the truth, I know my lifelong record, and I’m not going to let false accusations drive me out of this process,” an emotional Judge Kavanaugh said on Fox, his wife Ashley seated at his side.
He repeated his vehement denial that he attempted to sexually assault a 15-year-old girl while at a party in high school, and also rejected new allegations reported in The New Yorker over the weekend that he exposed himself to a fellow Yale University student at an alcohol-filled party in college.
And he indignantly denied the allegation from Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn star Stormy Davis, who is herself engaged in a legal battle with President Trump, who says he has a client who is willing to detail instances of Judge Kavanaugh and a high school friend using drugs and alcohol to try to lure women into sex.
President Trump said he’s standing behind his nominee and hopes he’ll be confirmed.
“It would be sad, indeed, if something happened to reroute that,” the president said, adding that the last-minute surfacing of charges against his nominee dating back three decades or more was “totally political.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to give his strongest statement to date in defense of the judge, and to underscore his determination to give the president’s nominee an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
“This shameful smear campaign has hit a new low,” the low-key Kentucky Republican said in unusually blunt language, accusing Senate Democrats at one point of “trying to destroy a man’s personal and professional life.”
Democrats, though, say the New Yorker allegations now suggest a pattern of bad behavior on Judge Kavanaugh’s part and a Republican rush to confirm the judge has to slow down.
“In the face of multiple allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, the FBI should re-open the background check investigation, and we should conduct a hearing where the appropriate witnesses are called and respect given both to the accuser and the accused,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
The nomination battle has been particularly fierce on both sides as Judge Kavanaugh is widely seen as representing a fifth conservative vote on the nine-justice Supreme Court, replacing the more centrist Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Judge Kavanaugh and his original accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychologist and college professor, are slated to testify separately to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and a key swing vote, told reporters on Monday that she would like the woman who came forward in the New Yorker, Deborah Ramirez, to be interviewed under oath by Senate investigators.
Republican staffers on the committee said they had made an overture to Ms. Ramirez — but pointed out she never brought her allegations to them, instead going to the press. No witnesses have come forward to corroborate either the incident detailed by Ms. Blasey Ford or that alleged by Ms. Ramirez.
Ms. Blasey Ford, in her own letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley over the weekend, said she tried to raise her allegations quietly back in early July after Judge Kavanaugh’s name appeared on the president’s short list but before he was nominated.
“My original intent was first and foremost to be a helpful citizen — in a confidential way that would minimize collateral damage to all families and friends involved,” she wrote.
She said his “actions, while many years ago, were serious and have had a lasting impact on my life,” and said she is ready to testify about it under oath at a hearing.
Mr. Grassley responded to her Monday, saying he only learned of the allegations in September and immediately began evaluating her claim.
“It’s important to me that you personally know how sincere and thorough this effort has been, including my commitment to make sure committee members and other senators are able to hear directly from you,” Mr. Grassley’s letter said.
Judge Kavanaugh, in his Fox News interview, repeatedly refused to speculate on motives behind the allegations, telling host Martha MacCallum that he’s only looking for a fair hearing and an opportunity to defend his integrity.
“I have faith in God and I have faith in the fairness of the American people,” he said.
He also said he wasn’t questioning Ms. Blasey Ford’s experience — but said he wasn’t part of whatever happened.
“And the truth is, I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or otherwise. I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone in some place. But what I know is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or at any time in my life,” he said.
Liberal activists said Judge Kavanaugh’s interview was an attempt to save a sinking nomination.
“He, just like Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley is playing politics with the Supreme Court and women’s lives,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president for the People for the American Way.