Kavanaugh vows to fight misconduct allegations as Trump, Republicans dig in
President Trump and fellow Republicans dug in Monday in their support for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, as the Supreme Court nominee vowed to fight back against additional allegations of sexual misconduct, which he called a coordinated smear campaign.
In a defiant letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh said he would "not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process."
"The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out," said Kavanaugh, who will testify Thursday before the committee. "The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. The last-minute character assassination will not succeed."
Kavanaugh reiterated that he won't bow out in an interview with Fox News scheduled to air Monday night. Speaking with his wife, Ashley, at his side, the nominee said, "I'm not going anywhere" and dismissed what he called "false accusations." The network released excerpts in advance."
The truth is I've never sexually assaulted anyone, in high school or otherwise," Kavanaugh said. "I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. (Christine Blasey) 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."
Trump and other Republicans loudly echoed that assessment Monday, with the president saying he is looking forward to a confirmation vote.
In comments to reporters, Trump vowed to support his nominee "all the way," calling Kavanaugh "a man with an unblemished past" and characterizing the allegations swirling around him as "totally political."
"There's a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen for a candidate for anything," Trump said.
His comments, made as he entered United Nations headquarters in New York, were his first since a report Sunday night on a second allegation of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lashed out at Democrats, accusing them of throwing "all the mud they could manufacture" and decrying a "shameful smear campaign." He strongly defended Kavanaugh and vowed that this "fine nominee" will receive a vote in the Senate.
On Sunday, the New Yorker magazine reported that Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh's at Yale University, said he exposed himself at a party when they were both first-year students.
As the day wore on Monday, it became increasingly clear that Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were moving in opposite directions over how to proceed with Kavanaugh's nomination.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee, called late Sunday for a delay in further consideration of it until the allegations of sexual misconduct can be thoroughly investigated.
The committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday with Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while both were teenagers in Maryland.
On Saturday, Ford sent a personal letter to the Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in which she asked for "fair and respectful treatment" and said she had "one motivation in coming forward - to tell the truth about what Mr. Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge did to me."
"Mr. Kavanaugh's actions, while many years ago, were serious and have had a lasting impact on my life," she wrote in the letter, released to media organizations on Monday. "I thought that knowledge of his actions could be useful for you and those in charge of choosing among the various candidates."
Ford also wrote that she has hired security and has spent a "considerable time managing death threats." She said that although she is frightened, "my fear will not hold me back from testifying and you will be provided with answers to all of your questions."
Several Republican senators pressed for a quick vote after the hearing.
"What we are witnessing is the total collapse of the traditional confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a string of tweets Monday morning. "It is being replaced by a game of delay, deception, and wholesale character assassination."
What we are witnessing is the total collapse of the traditional confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee.
It is being replaced by a game of delay, deception, and wholesale character assassination.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) September 24, 2018
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Judiciary Committee, referred to Ramirez's allegation as "phony," and when pressed on why he characterized it that way, Hatch responded: "Because I know it is. That's why."
"I don't see any reason why he shouldn't be," Hatch said of Kavanaugh being confirmed.
Besides the new allegation from Kavanaugh's college years, Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, has claimed to be representing another accuser from the judge's high school years.
"This is starting to feel like a vast left-wing conspiracy," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Monday on "CBS This Morning" as part of a coordinated effort to play down the accusations.
The White House distributed talking points for its supporters in an attempt to discredit the New Yorker story, saying that Democrats had embraced a "new standard of guilty until proven innocent."
At the Russell Senate Office Building on Monday, scores of anti-Kavanaugh protesters - mostly women - wearing Yale and "Believe Women" shirts, gathered in the building's rotunda. The group loudly chanted, "We believe the women." U.S. Capitol Police arrested several who refused to leave the premises.
Trump also praised Kavanaugh's character and intellect in a radio interview that aired Monday morning, calling him "a fantastic, fantastic man" and again casting doubt on the credibility of the first woman who accused him of sexual misconduct.
"I think he's got an outstanding record, very smart, top-of-the-line education, the best student no matter where he went and honestly the best character, unless she can prove otherwise, and we're going to give her a chance to do that," Trump told host Geraldo Rivera in an interview conducted Sunday.
The interview, which was broadcast on the debut of Rivera's new show on WTAM radio in Cleveland, took place before the New Yorker report was published.
In the interview, Rivera asked Trump whether Kavanaugh should still be confirmed if people come to believe the allegations made by Ford.
"Number one, I don't think that will happen, and number two, I want her to have her voice," Trump said. "Let her have her voice. Let her say whatever she has to say. Let him say what he has to say. And at the end, the senators will make a choice."
In a tweet Friday, Trump had directly attacked Ford's credibility, writing: "I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents." Aides to several Senate Republicans working closely on the Kavanaugh nomination said they were caught off guard by the allegation detailed in the New Yorker. A spokesman for McConnell said that his office was not aware of the allegations before Sunday evening - and that specifically, Senate Democrats did not inform Republicans about the accusation.
Spokesmen for Grassley and several other committee Republicans, including Cornyn, Graham, Hatch and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, also said they were unaware of the allegations before the New Yorker story was published. There are also questions as to how wide the reports of the potential new allegation were spread among Senate Democrats.
This article was written by John Wagner, a reporter for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis, Emma Brown and Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.