Sen. Kamala Harris pressed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday about why he called a sexual assault accusation against him a "political hit" — when another man President Donald Trump chose for the highest U.S. court faced no such claims.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the appeals judge angrily denied college professor Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that he assaulted her when they were in high school in 1982. Earlier in the day, Ford emotionally recounted the alleged encounter. She repeatedly said she had no political agenda but felt a "civic duty" to come forward.
Asked later about his claim of a political smear, Kavanaugh said he did not think Ford herself had political motivations, but alleged Democrats used her claim for their own purposes. Harris, D-Calif., pressed Kavanaugh about why Justice Neil Gorsuch — whom the Senate narrowly confirmed last year — never faced an assault accusation despite a similar background.
"I did a rough kind of analysis of similarities. You both attended Georgetown Prep, you both attended very prestigious law schools, you both clerked for Justice [Anthony] Kennedy, you were both circuit judges, you were both nominated to the Supreme Court, you were both questioned about your record," Harris said. "The only difference is you have been accused of sexual assault. How do you reconcile your statement about a conspiracy against you with the treatment of someone who was before this body not very long ago?"
Kavanaugh argued that he "explained that in [his] opening statement." He pointed to calendars he provided from the summer of 1982, when the alleged assault happened, and statements from potential witnesses who said they did not remember the incident happening.
None of the people who Ford said attended the gathering where Kavanaugh assaulted her were witnesses at the hearing Thursday. Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge, who Ford said was in the room at the time of the alleged assault, was not questioned at the hearing.
Some Republican lawmakers joined Kavanaugh in alleging a Democratic smear campaign. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., angrily argued his colleagues wanted to "destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open and hope [they] win [the presidency] in 2020."
During a committee meeting on Friday, Graham attempted to explain why Kavanaugh faced misconduct claims when Gorsuch did not. He claimed Democrats cared less about Gorsuch because he was replacing the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, while Kavanaugh is nominated to take the spot of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sometimes served as a swing vote.
"It's the Kennedy seat. You don't get that, you're not paying much attention," he said. "Gorsuch is an even swap for Scalia. But this is high stakes stuff. Right? This is the seat where the guy in the middle is at risk."
The judiciary panel will vote on whether to advance Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate on Friday afternoon.