Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on Friday lambasted an allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh committed potential sexual misconduct when he was a teenager, arguing Democrats are recklessly throwing out the unsubstantiated claim at the last minute to halt his confirmation.
Kavanaugh has “categorically” denied the allegation, which surfaced in a letter to a California congresswoman that was later sent to the authorities by Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The committee is set to vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination next week.
The letter, whose author did not want her name to be made public, says that Kavanaugh and a male friend trapped her in a bedroom during a high school party and attempted to assault her, The New York Times reported.
Under oath, Kavanaugh told the Judiciary Committee last week that he'd never been involved in “any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature” as an adult.
Hatch, who has been one of Kavanaugh’s most vocal supporters, said the letter is simply a ploy by Democrats bent on derailing or at least delaying his inevitable confirmation.
“I do not intend to allow Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to be stalled because of an 11th-hour accusation that Democrats did not see fit to raise for over a month,” Hatch said in a statement. “The senator in the best position to determine the credibility of these accusations made the conscious decision not to take action on them, and the authorities to whom the accusations have been referred have decided not to take action either.”
“Every accuser deserves to be heard,” Hatch said. “But a process of verification is also necessary. In this case, the accusations were made in a private letter, which has been misrepresented in a number of media stories, from an accuser who has declined to go public and has asked for privacy. The letter sent to investigators has had her name redacted, meaning no further investigation could take place.”
The claims, Hatch added, are “wholly unverifiable” and come at the end of a confirmation process that has been “marred by ugly innuendo, dishonesty” and nastiness.
Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge who, if confirmed, would take the seat of retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, issued a statement through the White House saying the alleged incident never happened.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” Kavanaugh said. “I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
The appointment of Kavanaugh is likely to turn the high court to the right since Kennedy was often seen as a moderate on the bench, an expected shift that has prompted most Democratic senators to work against his confirmation.
The allegation against him, surfacing now, has galvanized left-leaning groups urging his defeat.
“A woman’s identity should not have to be revealed to take her story seriously and pursue justice on her behalf,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The charge of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh is disqualifying and we call on him to immediately withdraw his nomination for the Supreme Court.”
The White House said Kavanaugh has been thoroughly vetted and chalked up the anonymous letter as a fulfillment of a promise by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to “oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have.”
“Throughout his confirmation process, Judge Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators —including with Senator Feinstein — sat through over 30 hours of testimony, addressed over 2,000 questions in a public setting and additional questions in a confidential session,” said White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec. “Not until the eve of his confirmation has Senator Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him.”
The White House noted that Kavanaugh has been through – and passed — FBI background checks for some 25 years.