The U.S. Senate’s partisan brawl over President Donald Trump’s embattled Supreme Court nominee intensified Tuesday, fewer than 48 hours before Judge Brett Kavanaugh and one of his accusers were expected to give contradictory testimony on whether the nominee committed sexual assault as a teenager.
Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky accused Democrats of rushing to convict Kavanaugh and “destroy his good name” with unproven allegations, abandoning any presumption of innocence - a bedrock principle of American jurisprudence.
“Justice matters. Evidence matters. Facts matter,” McConnell said. “This is America here … Everyone deserves better than this, not just Judge Kavanaugh.”
Senate Democrats countered that, if Republicans wanted to learn the facts about the nominee’s past behavior, they would not have rejected calls for an FBI investigation of the allegations against him.
Democrats also accused Republicans of treating Christine Blasey Ford dismissively at a time when victims of sexual crimes are speaking out across the nation. Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party in the 1980s, a charge the nominee has repeatedly denied.
“Labeling this a partisan smear job demeans not only the senators in my caucus,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said. “It demeans many, many women who have come forward … to share their stories.”
Schumer added, “Leader McConnell should rethink what he said in the heat of the moment and apologize to Dr. Ford.”
The sharp exchanges on the Senate floor came one day after Kavanaugh appeared on U.S. cable television - an unprecedented move for a Supreme Court nominee - to refute all allegations of sexual misconduct.
"I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. Not in high school. Not ever," Kavanaugh told Fox News, adding that he has no intention of bowing out of the nomination.
Also Tuesday, Republicans on the committee announced they had hired an outside female counsel to question Ford. The lawyer was not identified.
In New York, President Trump accused Democrats of mounting “a con game” and heaped scorn on a second accusation leveled against Kavanaugh, that he exposed himself at a college party decades ago.
The new allegation, reported Sunday by The New Yorker magazine, prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, to call for a postponement of Thursday’s highly anticipated hearing where Kavanaugh and Ford are to testify.
Republicans have rejected any further delays in the confirmation process, which includes a committee vote followed by consideration by the full Senate.
Kavanaugh, a judicial conservative and Trump’s second Supreme Court pick, was nominated to fill the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.
His confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate had seemed all but assured until allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced nearly two weeks ago.