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Ind. Sen. Donnelly calls for delaying Kavanaugh vote

Posted: 12:58 PM, Sep 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-17 16:58:56Z

INDIANAPOLIS -- With recent allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) has called for a delay in the Senate Judiciary Committee's vote to confirm him. 

Democrats like Donnelly and some Republican senators have expressed concern over Christine Blasey Ford's private-turned-public accusation that a drunken Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party when both were teenagers at high schools in suburban Maryland.

Donnelly released a statement Monday morning, saying:

“The allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh are serious and merit further review. Given the nature of these allegations, and the number of outstanding questions, I believe the Judiciary Committee should hold off on Thursday’s scheduled vote."

Debra S. Katz, the attorney for the accuser, said Ford was willing to tell her story publicly to the Judiciary panel but no lawmakers had yet contacted her, as of 12:30 p.m. Katz denied that Ford, a Democrat, was politically motivated.

Currently a judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, widely viewed as the nation's second most powerful court, Kavanaugh seemed to be on a smooth confirmation track until the new allegation emerged.

Kavanaugh, 53, "categorically and unequivocally" denied the allegation when it came out anonymously last week.

"This has not changed," said White House spokesman Kerri Kupec on Monday. "Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement."

Still, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said of Ford: "She should not be insulted. She should not be ignored. She should testify under oath, and she should do it on Capitol Hill."

Conway, who said she had discussed the situation with Trump, said both Ford and Kavanaugh should testify, but made clear it was up to the Judiciary Committee. She said Sen. Lindsey Graham had told her it could happen as soon as Tuesday and the White House will "respect the process."

Stressing that Kavanaugh had already testified and undergone FBI background checks, Conway said: "I think you have to weigh this testimonial evidence from Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh along with the considerable body of evidence that is already there about the judge's temperament and qualifications and character."

Initially the sexual misconduct allegation was conveyed in a private letter, without revealing Ford's name. With a name and disturbing details, the accusation raised the prospect of congressional Republicans defending Trump's nominee ahead of midterm elections featuring an unprecedented number of female candidates and informed in part by the (hash)MeToo movement.

Ford said Kavanaugh and a friend -- both "stumbling drunk," she says -- corralled her in a bedroom at a Maryland party in the early 1980s when she was around 15 and Kavanaugh was around 17. She says Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes, grinded his body against hers and tried to take off her one-piece swimsuit and the outfit she wore over it. Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand when she tried to scream, she says, and she escaped when the friend, Mark Judge, jumped on them.

Kavanaugh attended a private school for boys in Maryland while Ford attended a nearby school.

A split over the nomination seemed to be emerging among the GOP.

Two committee Republicans -- all 11 on the GOP side are men -- Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said they wanted to hear more from Ford. Flake went as far as to say he was "not comfortable" voting for Kavanaugh for the time being.

A potential "no" vote from Flake would complicate the judge's prospects. And a Republican not on the committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee, said the vote should be postponed until the committee heard from Ford. Contacted Sunday by CNN, Republican Susan Collins of Maine wouldn't say if the vote should be postponed.

A committee spokesman said late Sunday that Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa was trying to arrange separate, follow-up phone calls with Kavanaugh and Ford, but just for aides to Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., before Thursday's scheduled vote.

The allegation against Kavanaugh first came to light late last week in the form of a letter that had been for some time in the possession of Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee and one of its four female members. On Sunday, the Post published an interview with Ford.

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," said Ford, 51, a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."

In the interview, Ford says she didn't reveal what had happened until 2012, when she and her husband sought couples therapy. Ford's husband, Russell Ford, said he recalled his wife using Kavanaugh's last name and expressing concern that Kavanaugh -- then a federal judge -- might someday be nominated to the Supreme Court.

Grassley could invite Ford to testify, likely in closed session before Thursday. Kavanaugh would also probably be asked to appear before senators. The panel would also likely seek testimony from Judge, Kavanaugh's friend and classmate who Ford says jumped on top of her. Judge has denied that the incident happened.

With Republicans narrowly controlling the Senate 51-49, the views of Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska would be key.

Both are under enormous pressure from outside groups who want them to oppose Kavanaugh on grounds that as a justice he could vote to undercut the Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion.

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