Kavanaugh Confirmation Process Encounters More Uncertainty
*Kavanaugh Denies Fresh Allegation of Sexual Misconduct by Yale Classmate
*Kavanaugh Cites ‘grotesque and obvious character assassination’
WASHINGTON—Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process entered the week in turmoil, with Democrats calling to delay a hearing so the FBI can investigate a new allegation of sexual misconduct, while Republicans resolved to push ahead with the Thursday session.
President Trump, in New York for a United Nations meeting Monday, reiterated his support for Judge Kavanaugh, saying, “I am with him all the way.”
In a nod to the uncertainty engulfing the nomination, he added, “We’ll see how it goes with the vote. There’s a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate. But I am with Judge Kavanaugh and look forward to a vote.”
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were pushing to postpone a hearing that had just been set for 10 a.m. on Thursday to hear Judge Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of assaulting her when they were in high school.
Given the new allegation, from Judge Kavanaugh’s college classmate Deborah Ramirez, Democrats said the session should be postponed. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, showed no signs of taking such an action.
Ms. Ramirez told the New Yorker in a story published Sunday that she recalled Judge Kavanaugh exposing himself to her at a drunken party when they were both students at Yale University.
Judge Kavanaugh denied the allegations, which couldn’t be independently verified by The Wall Street Journal. Ms. Ramirez and her lawyer didn’t return requests for comment.
GOP lawmakers and aides pushed back on the new allegations Monday, saying that without stronger corroboration, Ms. Ramirez’s account shouldn’t be used to derail Judge Kavanaugh. At least in the Senate, where Republicans are currently expected to retain control of the chamber in November, the latest allegations appeared to prod many Republicans to circle the wagons around Judge Kavanaugh.
“What we are witnessing is the total collapse of the traditional confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), a member of Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Monday. “It is being replaced by a game of delay, deception, and wholesale character assassination.”
Mr. Graham said there was no reason to delay Thursday’s hearing and that a vote should be held soon afterwards.
Still, it will be the opinions of the critical undecided Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who will determine Judge Kavanaugh’s fate. Republicans control the Senate with a slim 51-49 majority, so Judge Kavanaugh can afford no more than one GOP defection, assuming all Democrats vote against him.
The new allegation surfaced just as lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, reached an agreement with Judiciary Committee Republicans to appear at a hearing Thursday.
Details of the high-stakes hearing are still being negotiated after days of wrangling and partisan positioning, but it appeared likely to happen as of Monday morning. It is shaping up as a high-stakes spectacle, with the nominee and his accuser speaking in personal terms on an emotional subject on national television as 21 senators look on.
Democrats at the hearing plan to go beyond Dr. Ford’s specific allegation to press Judge Kavanaugh, 53 years old, on his teenage drinking habits. Dr. Ford has said she believes he was drunk when he pinned her to a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothing when she was 15 and he was 17.
Republicans are insisting that outside lawyers, in addition to senators, be allowed to question the two witnesses. Dr. Ford’s lawyers have said this would create an inappropriate trial atmosphere.
Republican lawmakers and White House officials say privately they are worried about the optics of the 11 male GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee questioning a woman who is alleging she was sexually assaulted.
Mr. Grassley has also rejected the idea of bringing in other witnesses to the hearing, as Dr. Ford’s lawyers have requested.
The dispute over Dr. Ford’s allegations, and the broader debate over sexual assault and the fairness of the confirmation process, could play out in unpredictable ways in the days leading up to the hearing and beyond.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), a member of the Judiciary panel, hasn’t said if he will vote to approve Judge Kavanaugh in the committee, which is made up of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats. There are four women on the committee; all are Democrats, including the top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.).
Even if the committee were to vote against Judge Kavanaugh, his nomination could still be sent to the full Senate. In the broader chamber, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are waiting until after the hearing to say how they will vote.
On Monday, Republicans were grappling with a news report that Montgomery County police, which has jurisdiction over Georgetown Preparatory School, had received new information regarding the judge. The department said it had received no such information. “As of this time, we have not received information from any victim or witness,” a spokesman said.
Ms. Ramirez’s allegation, which surfaced late Sunday, introduced a new element of uncertainty at a time when the process appeared to be moving forward.
Ms. Ramirez told the New Yorker that while playing a drinking game in college, Judge Kavanaugh pushed his genitals in her face and forced her to make contact with them. Others cited in the article disputed Ms. Ramirez’s account.
Judge Kavanaugh categorically denied the accusation, as he has Dr. Ford’s. The White House questioned the credibility of the new accusations, noting that they were not corroborated by other publications.
“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen,” Judge Kavanaugh said in a statement. “The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple.”
Grassley aides said they only learned of Ms. Ramirez’s allegations from the New Yorker report.
“Yet again, Senate Democrats actively withheld information from the rest of the committee only to drop information at politically opportune moments,” said Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy. “It increasingly appears that they are more interested in a political take-down than pursuing allegations through a bipartisan and professional investigative process.”
He added, “Of course, we will attempt to evaluate these new claims.”