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WASHINGTON — Brett Kavanaugh cried. He yelled and he argued. His face twisted with rage.
Then he attacked Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, for using allegations that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford as a political tool to derail his U.S. Supreme Court nomination.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” Kavanaugh said. “You have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.”
“This whole two-week effort,” he said, “has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”
The committee heard eight hours of testimony Thursday from Kavanaugh and Ford, who was questioned by a criminal prosecutor and Democratic senators rather than by the 11 Republicans on the committee. Both Democrat and GOP senators also questioned Kavanaugh.
Hirono has been prominent in the confirmation process from the beginning. She sits on the Judiciary Committee and has been one of the Democratic Party’s most outspoken opponents of President Donald Trump and his picks for the federal bench, including Kavanaugh.
On Thursday, she questioned Kavanaugh about his temperament and reminded him that he was seeking a lifetime appointment for one of the most important positions in U.S. government.
“There’s certainly no entitlement for you to be confirmed to the Supreme Court,” Hirono said. “Are credibility, character and candor of a nominee things for us to consider in your job interview?”
“I think my whole life is up for consideration,” he responded.
Hirono criticized Kavanaugh for blaming the airing of Ford’s allegations on partisan politics.
She said the attempts by Kavanaugh and Republicans on the committee to accuse Democrats of “some sort of political conspiracy” was only meant to distract from Ford’s testimony.
“What happened here this morning is we heard from Dr. Christine Ford, who spoke to us with quiet, raw, emotional power about what happened to her,” Hirono said. “She said she was 100 percent sure it was you who attacked her and she explained how she came forward, how she struggled with her decisions, how she wanted the president to know so that he could make a better choice.
“So when you and my colleagues on the other side accuse us of ambushing you with false charges I think we all have to remember Dr. Ford’s testimony and her courage.”
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is forcing us to look the question square in the face: does character matter? I believe it does. And I believe the reaction we have seen to Dr. Blasey Ford’s courage shows us that we’re not alone. pic.twitter.com/W5attSESYh
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) September 27, 2018
Ford, who testified first, detailed the assault in which she said Kavanaugh pinned her down and tried to remove her clothes during a high school gathering more than 30 years ago. She said he held his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.
But she told the committee what she recalled most of all was the reaction of Kavanaugh and his friend in the room.
“The laughter. The uproarious laughter,” she said.
Ford also said that since she came forward with her allegations, her family has been forced to move, hire a security detail and contend with intrusive reporters.
Hirono is no friend of Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh argued in a 1999 legal brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Rice v Cayetano that they should not. He reiterated that stance in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in which he said granting special status to Hawaiians would open the door for more race-based privileges.
Hirono also pressed him on his relationship with former 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski, who he worked far as a law clerk and who introduced him to the Judiciary Committee in 2006 when he was first nominated to the federal bench by then-President George W. Bush.
Kozinski retired amid accusations of sexual misconduct involving a number of law clerks.
Among Hirono’s questions to Kavanaugh was whether he believed the allegations against Kozinski from the women who had come forward. Kavanaugh replied there was “no reason not to.”
The federal judge finds himself in a different position today now that Ford and others, including Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, have accused him of sexual misconduct as a high schooler and college student.
On Thursday, he repeatedly refused to say whether he’d want the FBI to conduct a more thorough background check to investigate Ford’s accusations as well as those of at least three other women who have come forward with stories of his past sexual misconduct.
After Ford’s allegations surfaced, Hirono announced publicly that she believed them.
She then made national headlines during a press conference with fellow Senate Democrats in which she told men all across the country it was time to “just shut up and step up. Do the right thing, for a change.”
When Hirono had the opportunity to question Ford on Thursday, she took issue with Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor who committee Republicans — all of them white men — tapped to question Ford.
The format didn’t matter much. Rachel Mitchell didn’t matter much. To call Dr. Ford credible is a massive understatement. She was extraordinary.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) September 27, 2018
Hirono pointed out that the hearing was not a criminal proceeding and that Mitchell’s narrowly tailored questions about what happened before and after the alleged assault only served to undermine Ford’s credibility.
“But we all know Dr. Ford’s memory of the assault is very clear,” Hirono said.
“I think I know what (Mitchell is) trying to get at so I’ll just ask you very plainly,” Hirono said. “Dr. Ford, is there a political motivation for you coming forward with your account of the assault by Brett Kavanaugh?”
“No,” Ford replied. “I’d like to reiterate again that I was trying to get the information to you while there was a list of other equally qualified candidates.”
That was the only question Hirono asked during her allotted her five minutes.
She used the rest of her time to attack Trump and discuss the role human decency plays in American life.
“We should look the question square in the face,” Hirono said. “Does character matter? Do our values, our values about what is right and what is wrong and whether we treat our fellow human beings with dignity and respect, do they matter any more? I believe they do.”
She said Kavanaugh “stands credibly accused of a horrible act” and that the American public is “disgusted and sick and tired of the way basic human decency has been driven from our public life.”
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