WASHINGTON (Circa) — President Donald Trump said Thursday Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's defiant testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding sexual assault allegations "showed America exactly why I nominated him."
"His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!" Trump tweeted after Kavanaugh and his accuser submitted to hours of interrogation by the committee.
Trump did not immediately comment on Christine Blasey Ford's testimony, in which she asserted she is "100 percent" certain Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her decades ago.
After ceding their time to a professional prosecutor during questioning of Kavanaugh's accuser, Republicans took over during the judge's testimony to defend him and slam Democrats for their handling of the allegations against him.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., lashed out, calling their attacks on Kavanaugh " the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics."
“What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020,” he told Democrats, noting that he had not treated Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan similarly when they were under consideration.
Graham warned his Republican colleagues they would be legitimizing these tactics if they vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation.
"Are you a gang rapist?" Graham asked Kavanaugh directly.
"No," he responded, adding that "I've been through hell and then some" over the allegations.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asserted that Kavanaugh had been treated worse than past Republican nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.
Kavanaugh also sparred with Democrats over the allegations that he attempted to sexually assault Ford in the 1980s, complaining that the claim was sprung on him late in the process.
“I will do whatever the committee wants,” Kavanaugh said as Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pressed him to ask White House Counsel Don McGahn for an FBI investigation.
Asked why he would not support a delay in the hearing to allow such an investigation, Kavanaugh asked, “You know how long the last ten days have been for us?... Every day has been a lifetime."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the committee, later defended her decision not to reveal Ford's allegations until after Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing this month.
“Let me be clear: I did not hide Dr. Ford’s allegations. I did not leak her story. She asked me to hold it confidential and I kept it confidential as she asked,” she said.
Earlier in the hearing, Kavanaugh harshly and emotionally criticized Democrats for seizing up "vicious smears" in their effort to try to block his confirmation, calling allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct “a calculated and orchestrated political hit.”
"This confirmation process has become a national disgrace," he said.
Kavanaugh insisted he will not be pressured into withdrawing from consideration, despite allegations that he said have "totally and permanently" destroyed his family and his reputation.
"You have replaced advise and consent with search and destroy," he said.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford. I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford. I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done that to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in his prepared opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Kavanaugh became choked up at times, warning of the consequences for the nation and the judiciary if he is defeated because of these claims and attacks he blamed on "apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election" and "revenge on behalf of the Clintons."
"You sowed the wind for decades to come. I fear the whole country will reap the whirlwind,” he told senators.
Christine Blasey Ford spent hours before the committee detailing the assault that she claims occurred at a party in the summer of 1982 and responding to inquiries from Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor Republicans brought in to question her.
“I am here today not because I want to be,” Ford said at the start of her statement. “I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school. I have described the events publicly before.”
Ford alleges Kavanaugh pushed her into a bedroom, held her down, and tried to remove her clothes. Two other women have also come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when he was in high school and college, but he has denied their claims as well.
“I intend no ill will to Dr. Ford and her family,” Kavanaugh said Thursday, although he stressed that alleged witnesses she identified have not supported her story.
Kavanaugh argued a calendar from 1982 he has submitted to the committee "all but definitively" prove he could not have attended the party if it occurred on a weekend, and he suggested he was too busy on weeknights too. He also asserted he did not have sex with anyone during high school or "many years after."
Kavanaugh stressed letters of support submitted by women who knew him in school and throughout his career. He also noted that a majority of his law clerks since becoming a judge have been women.
"That is who I am. That is who I was," he said.
He later lamented that the cloud of suspicion around him could prevent him from teaching or coaching his daughters' basketball teams in the future because of “what those of you on this side of the committee have unleashed.”
"I ask you to judge me by the standard you would want to apply to your father, your husband, your brother, or your son," he implored senators.
Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell initially handled interrogation of Kavanaugh on behalf of Republicans on the committee, as she did with Ford, but GOP senators took over as the hearing progressed.
Sen. Feinstein questioned why Republicans did not pursue an FBI investigation of the allegations, but Kavanaugh stated he would have supported that.
“Senator, I’ll do whatever the committee wants...," he said. “I wanted a hearing the next day. My family has been destroyed by this, senator.”
Although he repeatedly said he does not doubt that Dr. Ford was assaulted by someone, Kavanaugh dismissed unsubstantiated allegations by another woman that he was involved in a series of gang rapes as "a farce."
Kavanaugh later argued with Sen. Leahy over his high school behavior and quotes from his yearbook, at one point accusing the senator of mocking him.
Kavanaugh's final questioner, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., asked him directly, “In front of god and country, I want you to look me in the eye: are Dr. Ford’s allegations true?”
"They’re not accurate as to me,” Kavanaugh replied, adding again that he does not dispute that she was assaulted by someone else at some point.
Democratic senators devoted much of their questioning time with Ford to praising her bravery and her willingness to speak out about her trauma. Although she acknowledged gaps in her memories, she asserted that she is “100 percent” certain Kavanaugh assaulted her.
Several Republicans said after Ford’s testimony that they found her credible, but they still see a lack of evidence that Kavanaugh was the one responsible for the attack on her. The Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination on Friday morning.
"I believe that you're going to be on the bench," Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told Kavanaugh late in the hearing.