Brett Kavanaugh: What was he accused of and what happened at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing?

Three women have come forward with accusations. Mr Kavanaugh has categorically denied the veracity of each

Megan Sheets
New York
,Clark Mindock
Monday 21 March 2022 13:33 EDT
Brett Kavanaugh tells Fox News: 'I'm not going anywhere' over sexual misconduct allegations

Early in the congressional hearing to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, many references have already been made to the treatment Justice Brett Kavanaugh received as he went through the same proceedings over three years ago.

Soon after then-President Donald Trump announced Mr Kavanaugh as his nominee to the high court, Dr Christine Blasey Ford contacted her local lawmakers in California with her claim that Mr Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her nearly three decades earlier when they were high school students in the early 1980s.

Her claims - combined with similar allegations against the nominee by at least two other women - sent Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation process into a tailspin as Ms Ford elected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee herself.

Mr Kavanaugh categorically denied all allegations of sexual misconduct and was ultimately approved to take a seat on the Supreme Court. Three years later his whirlwind confirmation process has been thrust back into the spotlight by Republicans during the hearing to confirm President Joe Biden’s latest pick, Ms Jackson.

Here’s a look back at the allegations against Mr Kavanaugh and what went down during his confirmation hearing in September 2018:

What are the accusations, and who has accused him of what?

Mr Kavanaugh faced accusations from at least three women that he sexually assaulted them, or that they witnessed him sexually assaulting others.

Ms Ford alleged that Mr Kavanaugh drunkenly forced her down onto a bed during a house party in 1982 in Maryland, and then groped her, attempted to remove her clothes, and held his hand over her mouth so that she could not scream for help. A second male, Mark Judge, was said to have been in the room at the time, and was allegedly amused by what he saw before toppling into the two and stopping the assault. All three would have been teenagers at the time, and both went to schools somewhat close to one another.

Both Mr Kavanaugh and Mr Judge have denied such an incident occurred, and Mr Judge has denied memory of any such incident.

"I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” Mr Kavanaugh said in a statement.

Brett Kavanaugh is pictured at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2018

The second accusation came from Deborah Ramirez, who said that Mr Kavnaaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm party at Yale University when they were both freshmen. She said that Mr Kavanaugh and a group of other students were play a drinking game, and that she became intoxicated. Mr Kavanaugh, she alleged, then shoved his penis in her face.

Ms Ramirez told The New Yorker that she was initially reluctant to come forward with her accusation because she was drunk at the time and her “memories contained gaps”.

In response to Ms Ramirez's accusations, Mr Kavanaugh said the following in a statement: "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. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name -- and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations".

The third accusation came from Julie Swetnick, who graduated from a Montgomery County, Maryland public high school. Mr Kavanaugh and Ms Ford both attended schools in the county, but went to private schools.

Ms Swetnick — who said she had received security clearances while working for the State Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security — claimed that she witnessed Mr Kavanaugh and his former classmate, Mark Judge, attempt to get teenage girls “inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys”.

She said that she was the victim of one of those gang rapes, but did not single Mr Kavanaugh or Mr Judge out as one of her assailants.

In response to the Ms Swetnick's accusations, Mr Kavanaugh said the following in a statement: "This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone. I don't know who this is and this never happened".

What happened at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing?

On 19 September 2018, Ms Ford emotionally recounted to senators the night Mr Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her while the pair were still in high school.

The professor said she was not giving evidence because she wanted to, but she felt it was her “civic duty” to give her account of the incident.

“Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very inebriated and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothing,” she told senators.

“I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help, when I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling.

“This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.”

Dr Christine Blasey Ford describes alleged sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing in 2018

Ms Ford rejected a theory devised in some Republican circles that she had mistaken the identity of the men who assaulted her at the party.

When asked by Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein “How are you so sure that it was [Mr Kavanaugh]?” who carried out the assault, she replied: “The same way that I am sure I am talking to you right now.”

Deploying an often aggressive and combative tone, Mr Kavanaugh refuted the allegations made against him by Ms Ford, branding several Democratic members of the committee an “embarrassment”.

“The constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy,” he told the hearing.

“Since my nomination in July, there has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything, to block my confirmation,” he added.

Describing his confirmation process as a “national disgrace”, Mr Kavanaugh said the allegations against him were the latest in a line of “last-minute smears” to prevent his appointment.

In a tense exchange with Democrat senator Dick Durbin, Mr Kavanaugh refused to say he would welcome an independent FBI investigation into claims of sexual assault by Ms Ford.

The minority whip argued such a probe would exonerate the nominee and put an end to the matter if there was no truth to allegations made against him.

Mr Kavanaugh repeated the assertion he was innocent and said he would do “whatever the committee wants”.

But, he sat silent when Senator Durbin pushed for an answer as to whether he personally believed an investigation into the allegations was the best course of action.

Mr Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed with 50 “yes votes” and 48 votes against him. The accusations angered plenty of conservatives at the moment and many of them have not forgotten the experience.

Why has Kavanaugh come up at the latest Supreme Court confirmation hearing?

More than three years into his tenure on the highest court in the nation, Mr Kavanaugh’s treatment during his confirmation hearing has been dragged back into the spotlight during a hearing to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Sen Ted Cruz cited the allegations against Mr Kavanaugh during his opening remarks at Ms Jackson’s hearing, calling them “teenage dating habits”.

Mr Cruz pledged to Ms Jackson that her hearing would not feature any “disgraceful behavior” akin to the allegations against Mr Kavanaugh.

“No one is going to inquire into your teenage dating habits,’ he told the judge. “No one is going to ask you with mock severity ‘do you like beer?’”

Sen Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who gave a furious tirade in 2018 on the committee at the time of Ms Ford’s allegations, specifically cited the Kavanaugh hearings when he said he would give Ms Jackson a fair hearing and said what that meant.

“It means that no Republican Senator is going to unleash on you an attack about your character when the hearing is virtually over,” he said. He also alluded to fellow committee member Sen Dianne Feinstein of California, who was the ranking Democrat at the time of the hearings, for not initially revealing the allegations Ms Ford made about Mr Kavanaugh.

“None of us, I hope, have been sitting on information about you as a person for weeks or months,” he said.

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