Sen. Lindsey Graham explodes in defense of Kavanaugh: This is an 'unethical sham'

Key Points
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham accuses Democrats of orchestrating a "sham" against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to hold a court seat open.
  • The explosion comes as Kavanaugh testified about Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault accusation against him.
  • Kavanaugh angrily denies the allegation, which Ford emotionally testified about earlier in the day.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during testimony by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. 
Andrew Harnik | Getty Images

Brett Kavanaugh came out angry Thursday, and Sen. Lindsey Graham matched his tone.

The South Carolina Republican lashed out at his Democratic colleagues and accused them of orchestrating an "unethical sham" against the appeals judge to keep a seat on the top U.S. court open. The remarks, made during an extraordinary Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, came as Graham has emerged as one of Kavanaugh's most ardent defenders from a sexual assault claim.

In emotional testimony earlier in the day, college professor Christine Blasey Ford accused the appeals judge of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school in 1982. Her testimony was widely considered sober and credible, and she repeatedly said she had no political motivations.

Sitting in the same seat before the panel later Thursday, Kavanaugh angrily defended his honor as Republicans aimed to push forward with his confirmation. He denied the accusation and made his own claims about a Democratic conspiracy that raised questions about his political independence.

Brett Kavanaugh: I have been a good judge
Brett Kavanaugh: I have been a good judge

A sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, Rachel Mitchell, started the day questioning Ford before GOP senators led by Graham took back their time during most of Kavanaugh's testimony. Graham exploded at his Democratic colleagues, alleging that they want to stop the GOP from filling a Supreme Court seat.

"What you want to do is destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open and hope you win [the presidency] in 2020. You said that! Not me," the South Carolina Republican shouted at Democrats.

"Boy, y'all want power. God, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham," he continued.

Graham said Ford — who says she was sexually assaulted — is "as much of a victim" as Kavanaugh is. The senator, who has recently grown closer to President Donald Trump, also challenged his GOP colleagues to support Kavanaugh.

"To my Republican colleagues, if you vote no, you're legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics," Graham continued.

Two GOP senators can sink Kavanaugh's confirmation if they oppose him. Multiple Republican lawmakers have stayed mum on whether they will vote for him as they monitor the testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh.

While Kavanaugh's angry denials may appeal to Trump, it remains to be seen whether they win over undecided GOP senators such as Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Democrats have called for the GOP to delay the confirmation process and urged the FBI to reopen an investigation into Ford's allegations. The party's Judiciary Committee members call Ford a serious and credible accuser whose accusations, combined with other sexual misconduct claims against Kavanaugh, warrants the judge's withdrawal from the confirmation process.

The judiciary panel could advance Kavanaugh's nomination as early as Friday. Kavanaugh's high school friend Mark Judge, who Ford says was an eyewitness to the assault, did not testify on Thursday. He has said he did not remember the incident in a statement to the panel.