POLITICS

Here Is What Brett Kavanaugh Said About Sexual Misconduct In His Hearings

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked him whether he had engaged in such behavior as a "legal adult."

Brett Kavanaugh is facing an allegation that he attempted to sexually assault a woman when they were both in high school, a revelation that has shaken what appeared to be his smooth confirmation path to the Supreme Court. 

On Sunday, Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward and said she is now willing to go public with her accusations. She alleges that when she was 15, she was at a house party when Kavanaugh, who was then 17, and a friend of his locked her in a room. They turned up the music, and Kavanaugh, who was drunk, held her down and tried to remove her clothes, she alleges. At one point, she said, he put his hand over her mouth so she would be quiet. Ford said she was able to get away from them. 

Kavanaugh has denied the accusations.

In his hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee a couple of weeks ago, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), specifically asked Kavanaugh about whether he had ever engaged in sexual misconduct ― although she limited her question to when he was a “legal adult,” which would not have applied to the situation with Ford.

HIRONO: Judge Kavanaugh, Chief Justice John Roberts has recognized that, quote, “The judicial branch is not immune,” end quote, from the widespread problem of sexual harassment and assault and has taken steps to address this issue.

As part of my responsibility, as a member of this committee, to ensure the fitness of nominees for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, I ask each nominee two questions.

First question for you, since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?

KAVANAUGH: No.

HIRONO: Have you ever faced discipline or entered into a settlement related to this kind of conduct?

KAVANAUGH: No.

HIRONO: I started asking these questions about sexual harassment because it’s so hard to hold lifetime appointees to the federal bench accountable and because I did not want the Me Too movement to be swept under the rug.

“As I said during the hearing, this is why the #MeToo movement is so important, because often in these situations, there is an environment where people see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing. That is what we have to change,” Hirono said in a statement Sunday.

Kavanaugh was also a clerk for Alex Kozinski, who resigned as a federal appeals court judge over allegations of sexually harassing and mistreating law clerks. Kavanaugh has said he never remembered witnessing Kozinski sexually harass anyone. 

In a written response to a follow-up question from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) after the hearings, Kavanaugh said he supported ensuring that workplaces were free from such behavior. 

35. Should judges who engage in the kind of sexually harassing behavior that Judge Kozinski allegedly engaged in resign?

RESPONSE: Following the allegations against Judge Kozinski, he resigned from the bench. I fully support Chief Justice Roberts’ call for “a careful evaluation of whether [the federal judiciary’s] standards of conduct and its procedures for investigating and correcting inappropriate behavior are adequate to ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee.” 

Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, first approached lawmakers and The Washington Post in July, when it looked like Kavanaugh could get a Supreme Court nomination. She decided not to go public when it seemed that speaking out about Kavanaugh, whom President Donald Trump nominated on July 9, could ruin her life and not affect whether he was confirmed. 

But rumors of a letter from a woman who was harassed by Kavanaugh started circulating on Capitol Hill in recent weeks. Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) ― under pressure from the media and her fellow Democrats ― acknowledged receipt of a letter and said she had kept it confidential at the request of the author. She had forwarded it to the FBI, who added it to Kavanaugh’s background file ― but said it had no plans to investigate the allegation further.

Ford had been contacted by at least one reporter since the news started to come out, and she said she wanted to fully tell her story rather than see it leak out in pieces. She said she now feels like her “civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.” 

Last week, Republicans said they still planned to move forward with the scheduled Sept. 20 vote on whether to advance Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Committee Republicans also released a statement Sunday dismissing the new revelations as “uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago.”

In a statement Sunday after Ford went public, Feinstein said she supports Ford’s decision to share her story and wants the FBI to conduct an investigation before the Senate moves forward. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said that at a minimum, the vote should be postponed until Ford’s claims are investigated. 

Ford took a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent in early August. She also told a therapist in 2012 about a “rape attempt” when she was in her teens, although she didn’t name Kavanaugh.

“I think it derailed me substantially for four or five years,” she told The Washington Post, saying she struggled academically and socially. “I was very ill-equipped to forge those kinds of relationships.”

Republicans have attempted to quickly get Kavanaugh confirmed, before the start of the new court term and the midterm elections. Democrats have objected to the timeline, noting that the National Archives has not been able to complete a full review of the documents from his time serving in President George W. Bush’s White House. 

John Dean, the Watergate whistleblower, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the final day of the Kavanaugh hearings. He said such a rushed process could lead to a situation such as what happened with Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed to the bench despite sexual harassment allegations from Anita Hill. 

Thomas’ truthfulness vis-a-vis Professor Anita Hill’s claims of sexual harassment have never been fully resolved, nor has the controversy ever ended. ...

This controversy has received renewed attention with the Me Too movement, which is growing stronger and it’s not going to disappear. In fact, Justice Thomas’ truthfulness is an issue in this year’s midterm election. A Democratic candidate in Massachusetts has made impeachment of Thomas for his false claims during his confirmation one of the planks of her campaign. In closing, Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination has raised issues about the truthfulness of his confirmation to become a judge on the D.C. Circuit.

His answers to this committee have not resolved the issue. Frankly, I’m surprised that Judge Kavanaugh is not demanding that every document that he’s ever handled be reviewed by this committee. Unless of course there’s something to hide.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Chuck Schumer’s title. He’s the Senate minority leader.

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