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Kavanaugh had different tune on lie detectors in the past

September 28, 2018

Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh played down the importance and reliability of lie detector tests during his confirmation hearing. But he had a different tune just two years ago.

As Kavanaugh’s testimony was winding down Thursday, Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, asked Kavanaugh whether he had taken a polygraph examination after being accused of sexual misconduct.

Kavanaugh said he’d be willing to do whatever the Judiciary Committee wanted, but added that polygraphs can’t be used in federal court because “they’re not reliable.”

But the judge wrote in 2016 that polygraph tests were an “important law enforcement tool.”

Kavanaugh wrote the unanimous opinion for the three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., finding that the Defense Department could withhold reports about whether lie detector tests were effective under the federal public records law.

“The Government has satisfactorily explained how polygraph examinations serve law enforcement purposes,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Lie detectors tests are generally not accepted as direct evidence in criminal trials, but their use varies by state. Some ban them outright, others allow them if all parties consent, and some allow them as supporting, rather than direct, evidence.

“As a judge on the D.C. circuit, Judge Kavanagh ruled they are in fact meaningful,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said Friday. “By refusing to take a polygraph, Judge Kavanaugh has failed that test.”

Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct by three women, putting his nomination for the high court at risk. He and one of the accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers, testified publicly before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday. He vehemently denied the allegations.

Ford attorneys sent the Judiciary Committee a report on an Aug. 8 lie detector test she took that states her account of what happened was “not indicative of deception.”

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Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.

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