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Senate Republicans Apologize … to Brett Kavanaugh

A group of GOP leaders showed pity for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee as they prepare to vote for his confirmation

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (3rd L) joins Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including (L-R) Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), to discuss this week’s FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol  October 04, 2018 in Washington, DC.  Calling Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh “outrageous,” GOP senators hope to move forward with a confirmation vote this weekend.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (3rd L) joins Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including (L-R) Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), to discuss this week’s FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Poor Brett Kavanaugh has been abused, maligned, mistreated — and the only way to rectify the wrongs that have been visited upon Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is to give him a lifetime appointment. That was the message Senate Republicans sent to their base on Thursday in a hastily arranged press conference delivered as their colleagues read the findings of a hastily prepared FBI background investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.

The press conference, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassely (R-IA), as well as committee members Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Tillis (R-NC), was a pity party to rally support for the nominee ahead of a planned confirmation vote this weekend.

The judge has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct. But GOP senators insisted on Thursday that Kavanaugh is the real victim.

Kavanaugh, Lee told reporters, had been the subject of “embarrassment and humiliation.” Cornyn bemoaned the “unacceptable character assassination” to which the judge had been subjected.

In what appeared to be a direct appeal to his process-minded colleagues like Sen. Jeff Flake, Cornyn said more is at stake than just Kavanaugh’s nomination. “The Senate itself is on trial here,” he said. A vote against Kavanaugh, Cornyn added, without irony, would be “a vote for abusing the confirmation process. And it will be a vote for the shameful intimidation tactics that have been employed.”

Hatch struck a similar note, telling reporters that Kavanaugh’s “confirmation would be a victory for the Senate as an institution, [and] a reminder that the politics of baseless personal destruction has no place here.”

“I apologize to him for the way he’s been treated,” Hatch added.

As for the questions that have arisen about Kavanaugh’s temperament after last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Tillis believes his anger was justified. “Last week, I saw Brett Kavanaugh. I wasn’t judging him as a judge — I was judging him as a human being who’s having his life destroyed before his very eyes.”

The press conference took place as senators examined the findings of the brief FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. The FBI sent its completed report to the Senate early Thursday morning. Republican and Democratic senators have been allowed to view the single copy of the report on alternating hours on Thursday, inside a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) on Capitol Hill.

Neither Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while they were both in high school, nor Kavanaugh, himself, were interviewed by the FBI. Ford’s lawyers sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday listing a number of potential witnesses who were also not interviewed, including Ford’s husband, the polygraph examiner who interviewed her and individuals she told about her attack in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The letter also references a New Yorker report listing additional witnesses — Kavanaugh’s roommate and Yale classmates — who alerted the FBI that they had relevant information to share, but were not interviewed.

Several of the key GOP votes seemed satisfied with the FBI’s results. On Thursday morning, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said it “appears to be a very thorough investigation,” adding that she had yet to read all of the witness interviews. Flakesaid it turned up “no additional corroborating information.”

A procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination is scheduled for Friday, with a confirmation vote expected on Saturday. 

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