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September 21, 2018

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) says she is "appalled" by President Trump's Friday tweet attacking Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, by name, Politico reports. Speaking to reporters in her native Maine, Collins says she "thought that the president's tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong."

Trump's tweets early Friday morning questioned the seriousness of the alleged assault because Ford didn't file charges at the time of the incident. Ford has said she didn't tell anyone about the alleged assault when it happened, but that she did discuss it with a therapist in 2012. Kavanaugh has denied Ford's claims.

Collins is considered to be one of two Republican swing votes, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who may break party lines to vote against confirming Kavanaugh, CNBC reports.

Collins has previously spoken out against the president, penning an op-ed before the November 2016 election detailing why she wouldn't vote for Trump. She also notably voted against his effort to repeal ObamaCare. But since Trump took office, Collins has voted in line with his preferences 79.2 percent of the time — including casting a yes vote to send Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench. Marianne Dodson

September 21, 2018

Former Vice President Joe Biden still has regrets over the way Anita Hill was treated by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While speaking to Today on Friday, Biden addressed Christine Ford's sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying that Ford "should not have to go through what Anita Hill went through." Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991 and was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biden was the chairman of the committee at the time, and he has been criticized by his fellow Democrats for not putting a stop to questions that impugned Hill's character, as well as for not bringing in witnesses who could have backed Hill's claims, Politico reports.

"What the devil have we learned [from the Hill hearings]?" Biden asked rhetorically. He pointed to "some of the questions [Hill] was asked" and the way her integrity was questioned as mistakes not to be repeated in the Senate's handling of Ford's allegations.

Biden didn't totally let himself off the hook for his handling of the Hill hearings, either, saying, "I wish I could've done more to prevent" senators from engaging in "character assassination" when Hill came forward. "I hope my colleagues learn from that," Biden said. "[Ford] deserves to be treated with dignity."

Watch Biden's full appearance on Today below. Brendan Morrow

September 20, 2018
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On Thursday night, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford spoke to Senate Judiciary Committee staffers as they continue to try to come to an agreement on Ford testifying before the committee, Politico reports.

Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) scheduled a hearing on the matter for Monday, inviting Ford and Kavanaugh to appear. Kavanaugh formally accepted the invitation on Thursday. Ford's attorneys requested an FBI investigation before the hearing, and earlier on Thursday, they said their client is willing to testify, but not on Monday.

During Thursday night's call, they discussed possible scenarios for an appearance, two people familiar with the matter told Politico, including holding the hearing next Thursday. It was a "positive" phone call, one person told Politico, with Ford's lawyers also letting the staffers for Grassley and ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) know that Ford wants Kavanaugh to testify at the hearing first, does not want to be questioned by outside counsel, would like just one camera in the room during the hearing, and would like witnesses to be called. A spokesperson for Grassley said he is now consulting with colleagues on how to move forward. Catherine Garcia

September 20, 2018
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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sent Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) a letter Thursday accepting his invitation to attend a hearing on Monday regarding a sexual assault accusation made against Kavanaugh.

"From the moment I first heard this allegation, I have categorically and unequivocally denied it," Kavanaugh wrote in the letter. "I remain committed to defending my integrity." He also said he wanted the hearing to take place as soon as possible so "that I can clear my name."

Christine Blasey Ford, a professor living in California, accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both teenagers. Grassley announced the hearing on Monday, before Ford and Kavanaugh agreed to attend, and Ford's lawyers have been negotiating with the committee on whether she will appear. Her lawyer said Thursday that it's "not possible" for Ford to testify in front of the panel on Monday, and "the committee's insistence that it occur then is arbitrary." That being said, if senators agree to "terms that are fair," Ford "would be prepared to testify next week." Ford had requested an FBI investigation before testifying. Catherine Garcia

September 20, 2018
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One of the red-state Democrats thought to have been a potential "yes" vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has come out against his nomination, though it's not because of the recent sexual assault allegation made against him.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in a news release Wednesday that although the "recent allegations against [Kavanaugh] are troubling," she's voting "no" because of his positions on a few important issues, namely campaign finance. McCaskill expressed her disagreement with what she called Kavanaugh's "bias against limits on campaign donations," saying she thinks he'll "give free reign to anonymous donors and foreign governments" to influence elections.

While specifying that Christine Blasey Ford's recent allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were both in high school is not the reason she's voting no, the senator did say this claim should receive a "fair examination by the Senate Judiciary Committee." Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.

McCaskill's opposition to Kavanaugh is noteworthy because she's up for re-election this November in a state that President Trump won in 2016, so there was some speculation she would vote to confirm the president's pick, as Talking Points Memo points out. Still, Republicans have a 51-seat majority in the Senate, so if all of them stick together, Kavanaugh will still be confirmed without needing any Democratic support. Brendan Morrow

September 20, 2018
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Publicly, Republicans and the White House are increasingly confident they can win confirmation for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, despite the allegations from Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school. "But privately, discussions about the political fallout gripped the party, with Republican lawmakers and strategists unnerved by the charged, gender-infused debates that have upended this campaign season," Robert Costa reports at The Washington Post.

At the same time, The Wall Street Journal reports, "it wasn't clear how committed Mr. Trump is to the nomination. A person close to Mr. Trump said the president views Judge Kavanaugh as the pick of outgoing White House Counsel Don McGahn and 'won't lose any sleep if he has to choose someone else.'" One reason "Trump hasn't gone to the mat for Kavanaugh is that he's said to be suspicious of Kavanaugh's establishment pedigree," and "one source says Ivanka Trump has told her father to 'cut bait' and drop Kavanaugh," Gabriel Sherman reports at Vanity Fair, adding:

"'He's a Bush guy, why would I put myself out there defending him?'" Trump told people. ... "Trump wants this guy on the court, but Trump knows there are five other people he could put on the court if this falls apart," a former official said. [Vanity Fair]

Senate Republicans want to seat Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 for the beginning of the Supreme Court's term, and also to hedge against losing the Senate. But "the real Brett Kavanaugh question facing Senate Republicans is this: Do they really need this nominee, given that he hasn't fired up their base for the midterms?" asks David Weigel at The Washington Post. "Social conservatives wanted an antiabortion female nominee," Amy Coney Barrett, not Kavanaugh, and "the most realistic way to turn this into a motivating Republican issue, ironically, would come if Kavanaugh dropped out and yet another court seat hung on the results of an election." Peter Weber

September 19, 2018
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Christine Blasey Ford's lawyer released a statement Wednesday night reiterating her client's request for an FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before she testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has scheduled a hearing Monday, giving Ford and Kavanaugh the opportunity to speak about the allegation. Grassley also said he'll send staffers to California to interview Ford privately there if she prefers.

On Tuesday, Ford, through her lawyers, asked for an FBI investigation, and on Wednesday, lawyer Lisa Banks criticized the committee for only inviting Ford and Kavanaugh to testify. "The committee's stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding," Banks said. "The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the committee discovering the truth." Grassley asked Ford's lawyers to let the committee know by Friday if she will attend Monday's hearing; Banks did not mention in the statement if Ford will be there. Catherine Garcia

September 19, 2018
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Two new polls suggest that support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is plummeting, and it probably hasn't hit rock bottom yet.

On Wednesday, Reuters published the results of a poll conducted from Sept. 11 to Sept. 17, largely before sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh came to dominate the news. The New Yorker only reported on Sept. 14, three days into the survey, that an anonymous woman was accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. The woman came forward publicly on Sept. 16, the day before the poll wrapped up, to allege Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were both in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

Yet even still, 36 percent of those surveyed by Reuters said they do not want Kavanaugh to be confirmed, with just 31 percent supporting his confirmation. These numbers are even lower than they have been in most polls over the past few weeks, with Reuters reporting that the percent who disapprove has climbed six points since last month. Additionally, only 64 percent of Republicans said they support Kavanaugh's confirmation. In a poll released by CNN last week, 74 percent of Republicans wanted the judge to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, YouGov also released a new poll on Wednesday with a similar result: Thirty-two percent of respondents said they approve of Kavanaugh's confirmation. But in that same poll, only 26 percent of those surveyed said the Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations are credible, while a plurality said they haven't heard enough to say for sure.

The YouGov poll was conducted from Sep. 17 - 18 and reached 1,000 Americans online. The margin of error is ± 3.9 percentage points. Reuters' poll was similarly conducted online, but it reached about 2,000 adults and the credibility interval is ± 2 percentage points.

Read the full results at HuffPost and Reuters. Brendan Morrow

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