Kavanaugh denies Boulder woman’s accusation of sexual misconduct

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Editor’s note: Content pulled from Tribune News Service. The original article appeared in the Los Angeles Times 

WASHINGTON _ The White House and Brett M. Kavanaugh issued swift denials Sunday night after an explosive new account emerged of alleged sexual misconduct by the Supreme Court nominee when he was in college, adding greater disarray to a nomination already sullied by an earlier charge of sexual abuse.

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The new allegations, reported by The New Yorker, date back to Kavanaugh’s freshman year at Yale University, when a classmate named Deborah Ramirez from Boulder, CO, says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at close range at a drunken dormitory party, forcing her to bat him away.

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett is representing as Ramirez as her lawyer.

The White House quickly distributed a vehement denial from Kavanaugh, who also had strongly denied a California professor’s claim that he had sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school, a charge that abruptly turned his once near-certain confirmation into a pitched partisan battle.

“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple,” Kavanaugh said of the latest allegation, adding that he would defend himself at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Thursday.

The new allegations, reported by The New Yorker, date back to Kavanaugh’s freshman year at Yale University, when a classmate named Deborah Ramirez from Boulder, CO, says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at close range at a drunken dormitory party, forcing her to bat him away.

In a separate statement, a White House spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, denounced the report as a Democratic-inspired effort to “tear down a good man” and said the White House “stands firmly” behind what increasingly appeared an embattled nomination.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called for an immediate postponement of proceedings related to the nomination, and urged the FBI to reopen its investigation and “gather all the facts, interview all the relevant witnesses and ensure the committee receives a full and impartial report.”

Several Democrats called on Kavanaugh to withdraw his name from consideration.
But Kavanaugh’s fate in the closely divided Senate is almost certain to rest with three moderate Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona, none of whom weighed in publicly Sunday night. If two of them defect, his confirmation is probably doomed.

Senate Republicans denied knowing about Ramirez’s claims before Sunday, and some said they were shell-shocked by the allegations and the dramatic turn the confirmation battle has taken.

The latest controversy erupted only hours after Christine Blasey Ford agreed to testify to the Senate committee on Thursday about her claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s, when they were teenagers. 

brett kavanaugh
Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. (Christy Bowe/Globe Photos/Zuma Press/TNS)

The chaos enveloping the nomination was heightened when Michael Avenatti, the California lawyer representing pornographic actress Stormy Daniels, announced that he was representing a client with “credible information” about Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, the high school classmate who Ford said was present during her alleged assault.

In a statement from his lawyer, Judge has told the Judiciary Committee he does not recall the party and that he “never saw” Kavanaugh in the manner Ford described.

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The New Yorker article, carrying the bylines of prize-winning investigative reporters Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, did not name or cite eyewitnesses Ramirez said were present at the Yale party.Ramirez acknowledged that her own recollections were faulty because she was highly intoxicated during the party. She said she remembered having a penis thrust in her face, seeing Kavanaugh pulling up his pants immediately afterward, and hearing another student shout out what had just happened, calling Kavanaugh by his full name.

Her allegations, if borne out, potentially could carry heavier legal ramifications than the assault described by Ford.
During his Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked Kavanaugh under oath _ her usual practice with judicial nominees _ whether he had ever committed sexual assault as a legal adult, and he denied it. Kavanaugh was over 18 when he was at Yale.

Earlier Sunday, Ford’s attorneys, after a lengthy phone call with committee staffers, said she would testify to the panel ahead of Kavanaugh _ not after, as she had sought _ to present their opposing memories of a drunken party more than three decades ago where she says she was nearly raped.

“We’ve made important progress,” Ford’s attorneys Debra S. Katz, Lisa J. Banks and Michael R. Bromwich said in a statement. “Dr. Ford believes it is important for senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her. She has agreed to move forward.”

Depending how the confrontation plays out, the Senate showdown could provide the capstone to a painful political drama that has riveted Washington and has threatened to derail Kavanaugh’s expected confirmation to the nation’s highest court.

Depending how the confrontation plays out, the Senate showdown could provide the capstone to a painful political drama that has riveted Washington and has threatened to derail Kavanaugh’s expected confirmation to the nation’s highest court.

Ford’s allegations turned a partisan fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination into one of the most consequential such clashes in a generation, casting a shadow over November’s midterm elections, jeopardizing President Donald Trump’s vow to cement conservative control of the Supreme Court, and providing more fuel for the wide-ranging cultural reckoning that is the #MeToo movement.

It still wasn’t clear Sunday who will ask the questions after Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, takes the oath.
Republicans reportedly want to use an outside female counsel to question Ford and Kavanaugh. All 11 Republicans on the committee are men, and they are anxious to avoid grilling a woman claiming sexual abuse on live TV in the #MeToo era. They also could use staff attorneys, rather than ask the questions themselves.

“We were told no decision has been made on this important issue, even though various senators have been dismissive of her account and should have to shoulder their responsibility to ask her questions,” Ford’s lawyers said.

Ford’s lawyers reportedly have pushed the committee to call other witnesses, including a former FBI agent who conducted a polygraph of Ford, and trauma experts who could testify to her long delay in coming forward.

The committee has decided it will not subpoena Kavanaugh’s classmate, Mark Judge, who Ford has said was in the room during the alleged assault at a Maryland house party in the early 1980s. Judge has said he does not recall the incident.

On Sunday, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asserted the panel’s control over the proceedings, saying only its members would decide who to put on the stand, and who would question them.
“The committee determines which witnesses to call, how many witnesses to call, in what order to call them, and who will question them,” Grassley wrote to Ford’s legal team. “These are non-negotiable.”

The unexpected blow-up over a nomination that had been expected to sail through the Senate has also posed a challenge for politically ambitious women in the Trump administration, including Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations.
Interviewed on CNN, Haley was careful not to criticize Trump or fellow Republicans, but also said Ford should have her say before the committee.

“What I have said very clearly is: ‘Every accuser always deserves the right to be heard,’ ” she said. “But at the same time, I think the accused deserves the right to be heard. … The Senate has a huge responsibility here.”