Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh – Photo: C-SPAN.
LGBTQ groups and civil rights allies have reiterated their call for senators to vote against President Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh should his nomination be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday morning.
The vote comes after the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Thursday from Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto University professor who alleges the judge attempted to sexually assault her at a get-together at a private residence in 1982, when the two were in high school.
Thursday morning, Ford quietly, yet forcefully, testified that Kavanaugh and a friend had cornered her in a room, got on top of her, and attempted to strip off her clothes, even putting a hand over her mouth and turning up music to prevent her from screaming. Under questioning from Arizona lawyer Rachel Mitchell, who was brought in by the Republican majority, Ford insisted that she was not mistaken about the identity of her attacker, and that she had not been coached by Democratic operatives, senators or staff.
On Thursday afternoon, Kavanaugh issued an emotional, full-throated defense of his reputation, insisting that he had never engaged in a sexual assault. He also accused Democrats on the Judiciary Committee of orchestrating the timing of Ford’s allegation and when it was made public. He argued that he was being denied a fair opportunity to defend himself from multiple allegations lodged against him — by two other women, in addition to Ford — that he had engaged in various forms of sexual assault.
Following Thursday’s testimony, several LGBTQ and civil rights groups praised Ford’s courage for sharing the details of the alleged assault and opined that her testimony seemed credible. They also repeatedly called on the White House to withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination. If the White House refused to withdraw the nomination, the groups argued that senators should vote against Kavanaugh.
“We applaud Dr. Ford’s strength and courage in coming forward today to detail the account of the sexual assault that she experienced at the hands of Judge Kavanaugh. … Her testimony was serious, credible and deeply moving,” Sharon McGowan, the chief strategy officer and legal director at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.
“Through his own words and demeanor, Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated that he is unfit for a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court. … His denials of Dr. Ford’s allegations are not credible, and his refusal to join the calls for a full and thorough investigation by the FBI speaks volumes. … The American people have heard enough to know that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination should be withdrawn, and many Republicans must be feeling the same way after today’s hearing.”
But, McGowan noted, “Judge Kavanaugh has made clear that he will not withdraw his name, and President Trump gives no indication that these credible allegations of sexual assault have given him pause with respect to this nomination. As a result, all eyes are on the Senate, and particularly on those Senators who have the ability to bring this painful spectacle to an end. We urge Republican Senators to state publicly that they simply will not vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”
The Human Rights Campaign also called on senators to reject Kavanaugh’s nomination, citing their concern over the lack of an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations, the decision by Republican leaders to fast-track Kavanaugh’s nomination prior to Ford’s accusations being made public, and their skepticism about Kavanaugh’s trustworthiness.
“Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has bravely come forward, delivered credible and compelling testimony about her sexual assault, and has provided significant detail that would allow the Senate Judiciary Committee to corroborate her allegations,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.
“Despite this, Donald Trump, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to fully investigate her claims or halt the proceedings to gather more information, and have instead fast-tracked Kavanaugh’s confirmation. And today, they despicably attempted to put a sexual assault survivor on trial. This is unacceptable.
“In light of what we have heard, and Senator Grassley’s refusal to pursue an FBI investigation, the Trump-Pence Administration must withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination immediately,” Griffin added. “If they do not, members of the Senate must oppose and vote against his confirmation.”
Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice during the Obama administration, also said she found Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh credible and called for a halt to the nomination process.
On Wednesday, the day before the hearing, President Trump attempted to defend Kavanaugh, attacking claims by Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez that he had exposed himself and forced her to touch his penis without her consent.
Trump dismissed the allegations, saying Ramirez was “totally inebriated and all messed up,” and accusing Democrats of playing a “con game” to scuttle Kavanaugh’s nomination by bringing forth these last-minute allegations.
At the time, the National Center for Lesbian Rights accused the president of “resort[ing] to rank partisanship” by attacking Kavanaugh’s accusers while steadfastly refusing to ask for an FBI investigation into the latest claims. The organization also referenced a third set of sexual assault allegations, in which Julie Swetnick, a research psychologist with a number of high-security government clearances, testified under penalty of perjury that she was aware of Kavanaugh being present at parties where girls were allegedly drugged and taken advantage of by multiple males.
NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter said the third set of allegations should be enough to convince the White House to withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“Those who sit on our nation’s highest court must be committed to the rule of law and fairness for all people,” Minter said in a statement. “Brett Kavanaugh’s refusal to provide a full response to these accusations or to support an investigation is disqualifying.”
Following Thursday’s hearing, Trump praised Kavanaugh’s performance in the hearing, tweeting: “Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!”
Senate Republicans had scheduled a caucus meeting later Thursday night to poll their caucus before moving forward with a committee vote. If there are enough votes to confirm Kavanaugh, the previously scheduled vote on Friday morning will go forward as planned.