A defiant Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh took the dramatic step of going on nationwide television Monday to address the sexual misconduct allegations that have put his confirmation at risk of unraveling.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Kavanaugh said in an excerpt aired on Fox News, which plans to show the full interview later. He added, “I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter.” The women aren’t claiming he had intercourse with them.
The interview with Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley, comes a day after new claims against him surfaced and three days before he and his primary accuser are set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The move is without parallel, as every Supreme Court nominee in recent memory has avoided media interviews during the Senate confirmation process.
Fox News is President Donald Trump’s favorite network, and he often critiques his aides when they appear there. Martha MacCallum, the anchor who interviewed Kavanaugh and his wife, wrote on Twitter late Sunday, “‘Sickening’ was the word I heard most often this weekend to describe what is happening. Innocent until proven guilty is how we do this in America.”
Earlier Monday, Kavanaugh denounced the allegations as “smears, pure and simple” and said in a letter to leaders of the Judiciary panel, “I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process.”
Kavanaugh and California college professor Christine Blasey Ford 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. GOP Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a strong Kavanaugh backer, told reporters he expects the committee to vote on Kavanaugh by the end of the week.
On Sunday, the New Yorker magazine said Senate Democrats are investigating an incident that allegedly took place during Kavanaugh’s years at Yale University, involving Deborah Ramirez, 53, also a Yale student at the time, who says he exposed himself to her at a drunken party. Kavanaugh denied the allegation.
Bipartisan Judiciary Committee staff will interview Ramirez privately about her allegation, said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a moderate 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.
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.
Ford said she has turned down numerous requests to appear on television programs to discuss her claims.
Sexual Assault Denied
Kavanaugh, in written excerpts released by Fox News, said he was “never at any such party” like the one described by Ford.
“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,” Kavanaugh told the network.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the hearing will be “fair and open” and called Sunday’s new allegation a “last-minute hit on the nominee.” He said that in the near future Kavanaugh “will be voted on here on the Senate floor, up or down.”
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.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York again called for an FBI investigation 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.”
Separately, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stephanie Clifford, who says she had an affair with Trump before he was elected president, said on Twitter that he represents a woman “with credible information regarding Judge Kavanaugh.” Avenatti, who has said he’s considering running for president as a Democrat, said his client isn’t Ramirez.
Avenatti said Monday it’s “highly likely” his client will go public with sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh in the next 48 hours. “This is a very dynamic situation. We need to make sure our ducks are in a row and adequate security precautions are in place,” Avenatti said in an interview. He declined to provide more details.
Trump said he backs Kavanaugh “all the way” and dismissed the new sexual misconduct allegations as “unsubstantiated statements.”
“There’s a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything,” Trump said as he arrived at the United Nations in New York Monday. “In my opinion, it’s totally political.”
Hatch and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both senior GOP Judiciary panel members, said in separate statements Monday that the hearing with Ford should go ahead Thursday as planned, and then the committee should vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“Everything is an excuse for delay, no matter how unsubstantiated,” Hatch said.
Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, in messages on Twitter Sunday night, called on Kavanaugh to withdraw his nomination.
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 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.
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.