The rancor over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court justice roiled Washington again Sunday, hours after he was sworn in to fill the vacancy on the country’s highest court.
Senator Susan Collins, the Maine Republican whose support for Kavanaugh was key to him winning Senate approval by a 50-48 count, told CNN she concluded that Kavanaugh did not sexually assault a teenage girl more than three decades ago, an explosive allegation by university professor Christine Blasey Ford against Kavanaugh that threw his nomination into turmoil in the last three weeks.
“I do not believe Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant,” Collins said.
“I’m not saying she was not assaulted,” the lawmaker said. “I believe she was assaulted by someone.”
But Collins contended there “was no corroborating evidence” that it was Kavanaugh, a claim that drew a sharp rebuke from Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democratic opponent of Kavanaugh, who called Collins’s conclusion about lack of corroborating evidence “insulting” to Ford.
Contemporaries of Ford and Kavanaugh whom Ford alleged were at the 1982 suburban Washington house party where she says the attack occurred said they had no recollection of the incident. But Hirono said that Ford, years before President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, had told her husband and a therapist about the attack and passed a lie detector test about the incident.
Ford told lawmakers two weeks ago she was “100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh who had attacked her, while Kavanaugh said he was equally certain he had never attacked Ford or any other woman.
One of Kavanaugh’s most vocal supporters, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told Fox News, “I’m happy because the effort to railroad and humiliate this man failed…Those who tried to destroy his life fell short…I had never been more pissed [angry] in my life.”
Kavanaugh could give conservatives a solid 5-4 ideological edge on the country’s top court and shape rulings for decades.
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to the 53-year-old Kavanaugh in a private ceremony just hours after the Senate voted in favor of his life-time appointment to the nine-member court.
Kavanaugh’s nomination, one of the most contentious in U.S. history, had captured the U.S. political scene for weeks. He appeared headed to certain confirmation until Ford made her allegations against him in a Washington Post story in mid-September. But in the end her accusations did not derail the appointment of the appellate court judge one level up to the high court.
The narrow Republican majority in the Senate nearly unanimously supported his appointment to become the country’s 114th Supreme Court justice while all but one Democratic lawmaker opposed his nomination.
President Donald Trump, who now has won Senate approval for two appointments to the court, said on Twitter, “I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court…. Very exciting!”
On Saturday night, Trump portrayed his successful confirmation vote on Kavanaugh as a reason voters should elect Republicans in next month’s nationwide congressional elections, when the political control of Congress is at stake.
“You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry left-wing mob,” he said. “Democrats have become too EXTREME and TOO DANGEROUS to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law – not the rule of the mob. VOTE REPUBLICAN!”
Kavanaugh replaces retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative jurist who often cast the deciding swing vote on ideologically divisive issues, upholding abortion and gay rights and the use of affirmative action aiding racial minorities in college admissions. But independent court analysts say Kavanaugh is likely to lean toward more conservative rulings, giving the court’s four-member conservative bloc a 5-4 edge over the court’s four liberals.
As the senators voted, protesters in the Senate gallery screamed, “I do not consent,” and, “shame,” forcing Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the chamber, to repeatedly call for order.
The Senate narrowly voted Friday to limit debate on Kavanaugh’s nomination, advancing it to Saturday’s final confirmation vote. Senators have been confronted by protesters who oppose the Kavanaugh nomination and police at the U.S. Capitol have arrested hundreds of demonstrators.
Another woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his time at Yale, Deborah Ramirez, said in a statement Saturday that the senators discussing the impending vote brought her back to the moment of the alleged misconduct.
“As I watch many of the Senators speak and vote on the floor of the Senate I feel like I’m right back at Yale where half the room is laughing and looking the other way. Only this time, instead of drunk college kids, it is U.S. Senators who are deliberately ignoring his behavior,” Ramirez said. “This is how victims are isolated and silenced.”
Shortly before the vote, Trump said Kavanaugh “will be a great justice of the Supreme Court.”
“He’s just an extraordinary person… and I think he’s going to make us all very proud,” Trump added.