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Sen. Rob Portman gives reasons for backing Brett Kavanaugh after reading FBI report: watch his speech

October 5, 2018

Sen. Rob Portman gives reasons for backing Brett Kavanaugh after reading FBI report: watch his speech

WASHINGTON, D. C. - Reading a new FBI report that examined whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh did sexually inappropriate things in his youth only confirmed what Ohio’s U.S. Senators already thought about Kavanaugh, the pair said Thursday night after examining the much anticipated document.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican who is friends with Kavanaugh, delivered a U.S. Senate floor speech that declared the probe and prior examinations of Kavanaugh’s background found “no evidence to support the serious allegations against Judge Kavanaugh,” and urged his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 “In following the facts, as I am obligated to do, I will support this nomination, and I will be proud to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court,” Portman concluded.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, released a brief statement that criticized the new investigation as fraught with political pressure and restrictions. Several U.S. Senators had said they’d await the report’s conclusions before deciding how to vote, but Brown had already decided he’d vote against Kavanaugh before claims of sexual improprieties arose.

My statement on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh: pic.twitter.com/exZcK78JtF— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) October 4, 2018

 “While I’ve already announced my opposition to Kavanaugh because he has sided with corporations over workers and Wall Street over consumers, I strongly supported a thorough investigation and I believe the FBI should have been allowed to do its job without political pressure or restrictions,” Brown’s statement said.

Portman’s speech defended Kavanaugh and decried the “poisonous” confirmation process that divided the country. He stressed “there is a presumption of innocence when there is no evidence to corroborate a charge,” and noted 65 women who knew Judge Kavanaugh in high school sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee that said Kavanaugh “always treated women with decency and respect.”

“These are women who knew Brett Kavanaugh,” Portman said.“They knew him in high school. Importantly, that’s the Brett Kavanaugh I have known for more than 15 years.”

He also said it will take time for the nation to heal from the “ugly” dispute over whether Kavanaugh should be confirmed after several women accused him of drunken behavior in high school and college that ranged from sexual assault to indecent exposure.

“This confirmation debate could have, and should have, unfolded very differently. The process has become poisonous, and it’s up to us in this chamber to change it. ... For the state of this institution and the country we have to step back from the brink and do better.”

Here’s the full text of Portman’s remarks:

“Today I want to talk about my vote on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court.

“Sadly, over the past couple of weeks, the confirmation process has become a bitter partisan fight that has deeply divided this body—and has divided our country. In the midst of all of the passion, anger, and emotion, from both sides, tonight I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about the facts. I want to talk about the facts as I know them.

“First, I know Brett Kavanaugh, I have known Brett and his wife, Ashley, for more than 15 years, since we worked together in the George W. Bush White House. I have seen them in tough situations, I have seen them tested, and I’ve seen their character. I have known Brett not so much as a legal scholar, or a judge, or a professor, but as a colleague, and a friend, a husband, and a father. And I have known him as someone who is smart, thoughtful, and compassionate. Among White House colleagues, I know that he was universally viewed that way then as he still is today—as we’ve seen from the testimony of the so many men and women who worked with him.

“I also know that Brett Kavanaugh has been a widely-respected public servant for nearly three decades, including the last 12 years as a judge on the D.C. circuit court—what most view as the second highest court in the land. I know that he has received praise from his fellow judges, his many law clerks—the majority of whom have been women—the students in his classes at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown law schools. Students from across the political spectrum. Also the litigants who have been before him—including Lisa Blatt, a self-described liberal who has argued more cases before the Supreme Court than any other woman.

“When Lisa Blatt joined Condoleezza Rice and me in introducing Brett Kavanaugh before the committee, she said, ‘He is unquestionably qualified by his extraordinary intellect, experience, and temperament.’ All this seems to have been lost in the past couple of weeks.

“I also know that Brett Kavanaugh is highly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. In fact, I have heard that from some of my Democratic colleagues, who are quick to say they don’t support him for other reasons, but they don’t question his legal experience and his qualifications. And you really can’t. The American Bar Association, not known for being friendly to conservatives, has given Brett Kavanaugh its highest rating, unanimously.

“I know that, in more than 32 hours of testimony before the Judiciary Committee, he showed an encyclopedic knowledge of the Constitution, of Supreme Court cases, an appreciation for Supreme Court precedent, and, overall, an impressive grasp of the law. Only a couple of weeks ago, he had successfully navigated the arduous process of meetings, interviews, and tough questions during 32 hours in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As a result, he had the votes in the committee and seemed to be headed toward confirmation here on the floor of the Senate.

“After 12 weeks of consideration and five days of hearings—by the way, more days of consideration and more days of hearings than we had for any confirmation for any judge for the Supreme Court in recent history—the committee was ready to vote. But just before the vote in committee came the allegations of sexual assault and calls for delay.

“As wrong as it was for members of the U.S. Senate to keep the allegations of Dr. Ford secret until after the normal process had been completed then spring it on the committee, the Senate, and the country, I thought that because of the seriousness of the allegations it would also have been wrong not to take a pause and hear from Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. And we did. Chairman Chuck Grassley of the Judiciary Committee was accused by some on my side of the aisle of bending over backwards when he should’ve pushed ahead. But he reopened the process and allowed the painful ordeal to play out, as I think we were compelled to do. Painful for Dr. Ford, painful for Brett Kavanaugh, the Senate, and the country.

“I believe sexual assault is a serious problem in our nation, and many women, girls, survivors, and victims choose not to come forward, choose not to report it for understandable reasons. Therefore, we must take allegations of sexual assault very seriously, and I do. Dr. Ford deserved the opportunity to tell her story and be heard, and of course, Judge Kavanaugh deserved the opportunity to defend himself. That is why I supported not only having the additional committee investigation and hearing, but also taking another week to have a supplemental FBI investigation after the normal Judiciary Committee process was completed.

“I watched that additional Judiciary Committee hearing and I listened carefully to both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony. I’m sure many Americans did. And I have now been briefed on—and read—the supplemental FBI report, which arrived earlier this morning. I went to the secure room here in the Capitol to do so, I went three times today to be able to be sure I could be fully briefed on it and read it. Again, my job—my obligation—is to assess the facts. And the fact before us is that no corroboration exists regarding the allegations. No evidence presented before or in the supplemental FBI investigation corroborates the allegations. None. Judge Kavanaugh has adamantly denied the allegations. His testimony is supported by multiple other statements.

“Simply put, based on the hearings, the Judiciary Committee investigation, and the FBI supplemental investigation, there is no evidence to support the serious allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. Of course there have been six previous FBI investigations also in his 25 years of public service. In America there is a presumption of innocence when there is no evidence to corroborate a charge.

“And just one day after Dr. Ford’s allegations were made public, 65 women who knew Judge Kavanaugh in high school sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee in defense of his character. These 65 women put this letter together with a day’s notice. The letter stated, and I quote, ‘Through the more than 35 years we have known him, Brett has stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity. In particular, he has always treated women with decency and respect. That was when he was in high school, and it has remained true to this day.’ These are women who knew Brett Kavanaugh. They knew him in high school. Importantly, that’s the Brett Kavanaugh I have known for more than 15 years.

“This confirmation debate could have, and should have, unfolded very differently. The process has become poisonous, and it’s up to us in this chamber to change it. It’s going to take a while for the Senate and the country to heal from this ugly ordeal. But for now, let me make a modest suggestion. Let’s take a step back from the brink.

“Let’s listen to each other. Let’s argue passionately but let’s lower the volume. Let’s treat disagreements like disagreements, not as proof that our opponents are bad people. Let’s see if we can glorify quiet cooperation—at least every once in a while—instead of loud confrontation. Some may say this is trite or naive. But my colleagues, we have crossed all these lines in recent weeks. And for the state of this institution and the country we have to step back from the brink and do better. “The way this process has unfolded risks candidates with the kind of qualifications and character we would all want deciding to think twice before entering into public service. If the new normal is eleventh hour accusations, toxic rhetoric like calling a candidate ‘evil,’ and those of us who support him ‘complicit in evil,’ and guilt without any corroborating evidence, who would choose to go through that? How many good public servants have we possibly already turned away by this display? How many more will we turn away if we let uncorroborated allegations tarnish the career of a person who has dedicated 25 of the past 28 years to public service—and done so with honor?

“These are questions the Senate is going to have to grapple with for possibly years to come—but, again, right now I want to focus on something that hasn’t gotten as much attention in the past couple of weeks: and that is what is known.

“I know Judge Kavanaugh as someone with a deserved reputation as a fair, smart, and independent circuit court judge. I know him as someone who is universally praised for his work ethic, his intelligence, and his integrity by his colleagues. I know him as someone who respects women—someone whose first introduction to law came from listening to his mom practice closing arguments at the dinner table. An perhaps most importantly, I know him as someone who has the humility to listen—something we need more of in this country and on the court during these turbulent times.

“In following the facts, as I am obligated to do, I will support this nomination, and I will be proud to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court.”  

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