As the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick seemed to be headed for easy approval by the full Senate. Now, his nomination has hit rough waters after two women came forward publicly with accusations of sexual misconduct. The allegations, which Mr. Kavanaugh strenuously denies, stem from his time in high school in one case and his freshman year at Yale in the other.
Christine Blasley Ford, now a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University, says that at a high school party 36 years ago, an inebriated Mr. Kavanaugh held her down, attempted to remove her clothing and held his hand over her mouth to prevent her from shouting. Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale University, claims that Mr. Kavanugh exposed himself to her during a night of heavy drinking at a dorm room party their freshman year. Mr. Kavanaugh emphatically denies that these incidents, or anything like them, ever occurred.
“I have never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not ever,” Mr. Kavanaugh said in an interview with Martha McCallum of Fox News Channel on Monday night. “I’ve always treated women with dignity and respect.”
Thus far, no third party with direct knowledge of the events in question has corroborated either claim.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary committee is scheduled hold a hearing to consider the Ms. Ford’s allegations. Both she and Mr. Kavanaugh are expected to appear. From what we know so far, it will be her word against his.
Ms. Ford says she is unable to recall details of exactly where the alleged attack occurred or when it happened. All of the people she says were present, including one of her close friends, Mr. Kavanaugh, and two others have said they could neither recall the party in question nor the alleged attack.
Mark Judge, the friend of Mr. Kavanaugh whom Ms. Ford said was in the room when he allegedly attacked her flatly denied any such thing happened. “It’s just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way,” he said in an interview with the Weekly Standard.
Patrick Smyth, whom Ms. Ford said was at the party, also disputed her account. “I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh,” Mr. Smyth said in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Personally speaking, I have known Brett Kavanaugh since high school and I know him to be a person of great integrity, a great friend, and I have never witnessed any improper conduct by Brett Kavanaugh towards women.”
Leland Ingham Keyser, a longtime friend of Ms. Ford since high school whom Ms. Ford said was there, couldn’t recall this, or any party at which Mr. Kavanaugh was pesent. Ms. Keyser’s lawyer, Howard Walsh, told CNN that “Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford,” he said in a statement.
A second accusation, reported by the New Yorker last week, threw an additional monkey-wrench into the works. It was made by a Yale classmate of Mr. Kavanaugh’s, Deborah Ramirez, who said he exposed himself to her at a dorm room party at a dorm party during his Freshman year.
However, Ms. Ramirez acknowledged that her memory of the event was fuzzy. According to the New York Times, which passed on the story, Ms. Ramirez acknowledged to Yale classmates she spoke with last week that she could not say for certain that it was Mr. Kavanaugh. However, by this past weekend she grew more confident in her recollection.
While she could not recall directly whether Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself to her — she acknowledges that she had been drinking heavily at the time — Ms. Ramirez says she does remember specifically seeing him laughing and making a motion that seemed to her to be pulling his pants up.
“Brett was laughing,” she told the New Yorker. “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants.” She also says that she heard another student yelling down the hall that “‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’ ” she said.
The New Yorker and The New York Times contacted dozens of Mr. Kavanaugh and Ms. Ramirez’s Yale classmates over the past week. None could directly confirm Ms. Ramirez’s account. A male classmate whom Ms. Ramirez said was in the room denied any memory of the party. “I don’t think Brett would flash himself to Debbie, or anyone, for that matter,” he told The New Yorker. The other classmate Ms. Ramirez also said, “‘I have zero recollection.”
Most Republicans view the accusations against Mr. Kavanaugh as thin on evidence and heavy on politics — a last-minute tactic on the part of Democrats to stall and potentially derail Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination based on dubious claims from three decades ago.
Democrats counter that the burden of proof is on Mr. Kavanaugh to clear his name. “It is Judge Kavanaugh who is seeking a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and who I think now bears the burden of disproving these allegations rather than Dr. Ford and Deborah Ramirez who should be dismissed with slanderous accusations,” said Chris Coons, a Democratic Senator from Delaware in an interview with MSNBC.”
Both Ms. Ford and Ms. Ramirez depict the alleged incidents in varying degrees of detail. However, to date, no one who they say were there has corroborated either account. Neither can recall much detail that could be externally verified. With so little to go on, the Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to break along party lines in a vote that could come as soon as Friday to recommend Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate.
Democrats like Mr. Coons were almost certainly going to vote against Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination before the allegations emerged. The more important task now is to keep wavering Republican Senators on-board. Susan Collins, the Senator from Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, the Senator from Alaska, remain uncommitted. With a bare 51 vote Senate majority, Republicans cannot afford to lose any votes.