Senate to hear testimony about attempted rape allegation against court nominee
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is getting a second look in the Senate next week after an allegation surfaced about a sexual assault.
Christine Blasey Ford told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her, and began to grind his body against hers. She was able to escape but described the incident incident as a trauma with a lasting impact on her life. She was 15 and a student at an all girls-school and Kavanaugh would have been 17 years old. "I thought he might inadvertently kill me," Ford told The Post. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing." Ford is professor and psychologist at Palo Alto University.
Kavanaugh said: "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or any time." The White House said in a statement that Kavanaugh “looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation.”
This charge comes a week after several Native American groups, including the Alaska Federation of Natives, raised serious legal concerns about the nomination.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said Ford’s story deserves to be heard. “Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard,” Grassley said. “So I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner.”
He said “the standard procedure for updates to any nominee’s background investigation file is to conduct separate follow-up calls with relevant parties. In this case, that would entail phone calls with at least Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. Consistent with that practice, I asked Senator Feinstein’s office yesterday to join me in scheduling these follow-ups. Thus far, they have refused. But as a necessary step in evaluating these claims, I’ll continue working to set them up.”
But later Monday Grassley said there would be a hearing on Monday where Ford and Kavanaugh would speak.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee want an FBI investigation. A statement from the 10 members, including the ranking minority member, California Democrat Diane Feinstein, said: “The FBI has the resources and know-how to conduct an objective, independent evaluation of these sensitive allegations with appropriately trained investigators. This isn’t just about an interview, it’s about analyzing information and gathering the facts. That’s what the FBI does, and that’s why they’re in charge of the background review process.”
On the floor of the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Feinstein for mishandling the allegation, he said, “an accusation of 36-year-old misconduct, dating back to high school, (that) has been brought forward, at the last minute, in an irregular manner. It is an accusation which Judge Kavanaugh has completely and unequivocally denied. Quote: ‘This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone.’ It is an accusation which the ranking member on the committee of jurisdiction has known about for at least six weeks, yet chose to keep secret until the 11th hour.”
Senator Feinstein had a letter from Ford in July as did the Washington Post. But the letter was confidential. It was only this week that Ford agreed to go public and tell her story. However Ford’s lawyer said Feinsten handled the information appropriately.
Meanwhile on Monday, another Alaska Native organization issued a news release calling for a no vote on Kavanaugh. The Native People’s Action said, among other reasons, Kavanaugh is hostile to efforts to preserve Native cultures.
“Kavanaugh filed a “friend of the court” brief that shows he is no friend to indigenous peoples. He attacked an office created under Hawaii’s Constitution to preserve the culture and administer benefits to Native Hawaiians, describing the program as a ‘racial voting set-aside’ that was ‘infused with explicit racial quotas, exclusions, and classifications to a degree this Court has rarely encountered in the last half-century.’ Kavanaugh ignored the lengthy history of discrimination Native Hawaiians have faced, arguing that efforts to secure their equality were nothing more than ‘an extraordinary racial patronage and spoils system,’” the release said. “In a separate op-ed piece, Kavanaugh denigrated any consideration of the unique cultures of indigenous peoples, including Native Hawaiians, Alaska Natives and American Indians, approving Justice Scalia’s statement, ‘Under our Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race … In the eyes of the government, we are just one race here. It is American.’”
Last week the Alaska Federation of Natives and the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes called on the Senate to reject the nomination. (Previous: Are Native issues enough to sink the Kavanaugh nomination?)
Sen. Murkowski has not said whether the concerns raised by AFN and other Alaskans would determine her vote. However Monday Murkowski told CNN that while she is careful not to prejudge anyone, she does take allegations of sexual assault seriously. "I am someone who takes seriously allegations of sexual assault," shei said. "I don't know If there's any 'there' there but it’s my job along with 99 other members to determine if there is."
In Albuquerque, Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives, said the Senate should cancel the hearings immediately. "I believe Christine Blasey Ford, and I believe women. Brett Kavanaugh's personal history make him unqualified to serve on the Supreme Court & rule on issues that affect women's lives and bodies," she tweeted. "I commend Ms. Ford for speaking her truth, & for sacrificing her privacy to ensure our daughters & granddaughters inherit a more just world than we have now. Women and girls deserve better than Brett Kavanaugh."
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter -@TrahantReports
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