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Dems focus on misdeeds of Kavanaugh the adult, not the teen

October 3, 2018

WASHINGTON — With the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh hurdling toward an uncertain conclusion, Senate Republican and Democratic leaders exchanged salvos on who is to blame for delay while the FBI investigates charges of sexual abuse leveled at the 53-year-old federal appeals court judge.

“There’s been no real delay,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that held confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh and heard testimony last week from him and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. “We should take whatever time is necessary for this important Supreme Court seat. We ought to be approaching this decision with consummate care and caution.”

Blumenthal accused President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of trying to hurry the nomination along so the Supreme Court would have its full complement of justices on its opening day Monday.

Blumenthal said he walked by the Supreme Court opposite the U.S. Capitol on his way to work Tuesday.

“As far as I can tell, those marble pillars are still there,” he said with a laugh.

But even though it was a Republican member of Judiciary, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who forced a week-long delay in Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote for the FBI to investigate the abuse charges, McConnell saw Democratic fingerprints all over the confirmation battle’s rocky culmination.

“If you stop and listen, you can practically hear the Democrats trying to move the goalposts on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” McConnell said Tuesday.

He accused Democrats of seizing on the accusation of Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh groped her and held his hand over her mouth at a high school gathering after previous attempts to derail the nomination failed.

“The floodgates of mud and muck opened entirely on Brett Kavanaugh and his family,” McConnell said. “Out of the woodwork came one uncorroborated allegation after another, each seemingly more outlandish than the last.”

Meanwhile, the FBI continued its investigation of not only Ford’s claim but that of Deborah Ramirez, the Shelton native who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while both were Yale undergraduates. And a swirl of new witnesses and accusations continue to surface, including one in which Kavanaugh is said to have thrown ice at another patron in a fight at the now-closed Demery’s bar in New Haven.

In response to Democratic charges that Republicans wanted a cursory and inconclusive investigation, Trump said Monday he had called for a thorough FBI probe that is “within the bounds of what the Senate wants.”

“We don’t want to go on a witch hunt,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y, on Monday complained of McConnell’s “gall” in criticizing confirmation delays when the Republican leader held up President Obama’s nomination for 10 months in 2016 so that the new president — a Republican, it turned out — could choose the nominee.

“It’s staggering, just staggering,” he said. “He ought to look in the mirror.”

McConnell promised a Senate vote on confirmation this week, which he would only call if he is assured virtually all Republicans would vote for confirmation. But that result is far from guaranteed.

Moderate Republican Sens. Flake, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and perhaps others may shape up as “no” votes if they view the FBI investigation as cut off prematurely.

A developing part of Democratic strategy appears to be a new emphasis on misstatements Kavanaugh may have made to the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath rather than the allegations of sexual abuse that are decades old and allegedly occurred when Kavanaugh was in high school and college.

Untruthful statements to the Judiciary Committee “would be disqualifying and perhaps more readily provable because they are more recent,” said Blumenthal, who announced opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation virtually from the moment Trump nominated him on July 9. “But in no way would I accept diminishing (the) value of Ford’s testimony or its value as a teaching moment on sexual assault.”

Among the possible misstatements under oath Blumenthal and other Democrats point to are an NBC News report that undermined Kavanaugh’s sworn testimony last week that he first learned of the Ramirez allegation when the New Yorker published a story Sept. 23. In fact, text messages involving another Yale classmate, Kerry Berchem of Fairfield, suggest he knew of them weeks earlier.

Berchem is a law partner at the Akin, Gump firm in New York City, as well as a Democratic member of Fairfield’s Representative Town Meeting from District 8.

Berchem told NBC she was attempting to get the messages to the FBI.

Other potential conflicts include the extent of Kavanaugh’s drinking. Kavanaugh said at the hearing last week, “I like beer.” While some in his circle occasionally drank too many beers, he said he never drank to the point where he blacked out or couldn’t remember what had happened.

But several classmates at Yale have stepped forward to say Kavanaugh was a frequent drinker who became belligerent when under the influence of alcohol.

“Brett was a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker,” said a Yale classmate, Chad Ludington, who now lives in North Carolina. “On many occasions, I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer.”

“He was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and … he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk,” said James Roche, a Wilton native who was Kavanaugh’s freshman roommate and a friend of Ramirez. “I did not observe the specific incident in question (involving Ramirez), but I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.”

On Tuesday, Trump defended Kavanaugh, calling him a “high-quality person” and “a top intellect.”

He told reporters at the White House that he hoped McConnell could bring the confirmation vote to the Senate floor this week, “but it will be dependent on what comes back from the FBI … They’re working very hard. And let’s see what happens.”

dan@hearstdc.com

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