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Jeff Flake says he WILL vote to confirm Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination was set to get a major boost from the Judiciary Committee after holdout Republican Sen. Jeff Flake announced his support. 

‘I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,’ Flake said in a brief statement, arguing that ‘fairness and due process’ applied to the apply’ to his situation.

The development came hours after Kavanaugh testified during an emotional Judiciary panel hearing, after accuser Christine Blasey Ford delivered emotional testimony accusing him of a decades-old sexual assault. Kavanaugh issued his own tearful and emotional denial, then attacked panel Democrats of being part of a conspiracy to bring his nomination down. 

Even with Judiciary approval, which now seems likely on a party-line vote, a handful of Republican and Democratic centrists hold Brett Kavanaugh’s fate in their hands after an electrifying day of testimony which saw him fight for his professional life and Christine Blasey Ford repeat her detailed claim that he once sexually assaulted her.

The White House still would not say Friday it has the votes to prevail on the floor.

Flake issued a definitive statement after leaving both sides guessing with his vague speech at Thursday’s tense hearing.

After hearing more than 30 hours of testimony from Judge Kavanaugh earlier this month, I was prepared to support his nomination based on his view of the law and his record as a judge. In fact, I commented at the time that had he been nominated in another era, he would have likely received 90+ votes,’ Flake said.

When Dr. Ford’s allegations against Judge Kavanaugh surfaced two weeks ago, I insisted that she be allowed to testify before the committee moved to a vote. Yesterday, we heard compelling testimony from Dr. Ford, as well as a persuasive response from Judge Kavanaugh. I wish that I could express the confidence that some of my colleagues have conveyed about what either did or did not happen in the early 1980s, but I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty.

What I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence. That is what binds us to the rule of law. While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the Senate’s advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the constitution’s provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well.

I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

 

Within minutes of the conclusion of the riveting Senate hearing, Republicans announced that the Judiciary Committee would meet Friday morning for a vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Kavanaugh is expected to clear a committee roll call. But even if he doesn’t, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will start turning the Senate’s wheels with a procedural floor vote as early as Saturday.

Key holdouts huddled in the Capitol on Thursday evening, including SusanCollins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, facing a difficult re-election fight in a deep-red Trump state, has sent signals that he could vote with Republicans.

If not, Republicans could withstand just a single defection if they want to confirm Kavanaugh, who has emphatically denied Ford’s allegations.

Republican senators say the Judiciary Committee plans to vote Friday morning on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court

The news comes after a nearly 8-hour day that saw both Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh take the stand in what was an emotional hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee

The news comes after a nearly 8-hour day that saw both Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh take the stand in what was an emotional hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee

The committee is likely to recommend Kavanaugh be approved on Friday. It will then be for the a full Senate vote to decide his fate

The committee is likely to recommend Kavanaugh be approved on Friday. It will then be for the a full Senate vote to decide his fate

Other Democrats sitting on the fence as of Friday morning included Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida. All three are looking to avoid alienating Republican voters in advance of the midterm election just weeks away. 

Flake, a retiring Arizona lawmaker who has crossed swords with Trump, failed to question wither Kavanaugh or Ford during Thursday’s Judiciary Committee hearing – instead delivering an equivocating speech.

‘I’m sorry for what’s happened to you and your family. I’m sorry for what has happened to hers. This is not a good process, but it’s all we’ve got,’ Flake said.

After the hearing Flake said it was a ‘tough call’ on whether he would support Kavanaugh, saying Ford’s account was ‘compelling’ but lacked ‘corroboration from those who were there.’

Asked how he would vote, Flake only said ‘let me process it.’ 

 I watched with tears as Dr Ford bravely shared her experience with the Senate,’ Judge Kavanaugh, who didn’t demonstrate honesty or temperament, is asking senators for a seat on the highest court in the land – which he did not deserve today.’

‘There have been no decisions,’ Manchin reportedly said outside the hearing room. ‘There are some concerns that people have, and we’re going to try to close the loop.’  

While Flake is the only senator among the four who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, all are considered key to determining Kavanaugh’s ultimate fate if his nomination were to reach a full vote in the Senate.

They talked for around 30 minutes before Thursday night’s GOP conference meeting.

Former President George W. Bush personally reached out to all four senators, including Manchin, hoping to help sway them to Kavanaugh’s side, according to The Washington Post. 

The former president has a long history with Kavanaugh, who worked for him during the crucial Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election. Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2003.

Meanwhile, moderate Democratic Sen. Doug Jones revealed Thursday night that he would oppose Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court bid.

The Alabama senator, who defeated right-winger Roy Moore in a bellwether special election last year, called the nomination process ‘flawed from the beginning’ and said he found Ford to be both credible and courageous. 

Jones added that he was concerned voting ‘yes’ on Kavanaugh’s nomination would send a bad message to sons, daughters, and victims of sexual assault.   

Several Senate Republicans likewise acknowledged Ford’s ‘credibility.’ But GOP leadership from still scheduled a Judiciary Committee meeting and Friday vote immediately after the end of Kavanaugh’s testimony.

Three Republicans (Collins, Murkowski and Flake) and five Democrats (Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, Nelson and Tester) are thought to be 'in play' and could switch sides when a final Kavbanaugh vote is called on the Senate floor

Three Republicans (Collins, Murkowski and Flake) and five Democrats (Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, Nelson and Tester) are thought to be ‘in play’ and could switch sides when a final Kavbanaugh vote is called on the Senate floor

Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, hold hands as they leave a holding room after the hearing on Thursday 

Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, hold hands as they leave a holding room after the hearing on Thursday 

Supporters: Kavanaugh had a team of loyal supporters backing him for the hearing including his parents and wife

Supporters: Kavanaugh had a team of loyal supporters backing him for the hearing including his parents and wife

While the GOP swiftly decided on a Friday vote to decide if Kavanaugh will be recommended to the Senate, it remains too close to be sure whether the party will be able to get the 50 votes needed to officially confirm him 

While the GOP swiftly decided on a Friday vote to decide if Kavanaugh will be recommended to the Senate, it remains too close to be sure whether the party will be able to get the 50 votes needed to officially confirm him 

Trump tweeted his support for Kavanaugh just minutes after the 8-hour hearing came to an end on Thursday night

Trump tweeted his support for Kavanaugh just minutes after the 8-hour hearing came to an end on Thursday night

But partisans on both sides were already rallying factions in the brutal fight over replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was the critical ‘swing vote’ on the high court for years, following a hearing where Kavanaugh tore into Democrats for what he claimed was merely a conspiracy to bring him down.

‘I will never personally or professionally support any Democrat who votes to confirm Kavanaugh,’ tweeted Guy Cecil, head of the liberal superpac Priorities USA.

Kavanaugh himself lit partisan fires during his angry pushback on the assault charges, accusing panel Democrats of a ‘calculated and orchestrated political hit’.

Judiciary Republicans rallied around Kavanaugh after his emotional appearance, which followed Ford’s vivid description of her own suffering during an attack she says happened at a house party decades ago.

Graham tore into Democrats for what he called an ‘unethical sham’ saying: ‘Boy, y’all want power and I hope you don’t get it.’ 

But panel Democrats blasted the charge, saying they believed Kavanaugh’s accuser or at least wanted the FBI to investigate to discern more information and interview Mark Judge – a witness to the alleged attack.

‘We believe her,’ Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted, joining the likes of Judiciary Committee members Kamala Harris and Richard Blumenthal, who both told Ford during they hearing that they believed her. 

Warren called for a full FBI investigation on Thursday, while fellow Democratic Sen Patty Murray said Kavanaugh should ‘withdraw immediately’. 

‘I watched with tears as Dr Ford bravely shared her experience with the Senate,’ Murray tweeted on Thursday. 

‘Judge Kavanaugh, who didn’t demonstrate honesty or temperament, is asking senators for a seat on the highest court in the land – which he did not deserve today.’  

‘Kavanaugh should withdraw immediately. If GOP leaders continue to rush this nomination, women & men across the country will stand up & fight back. The Senate failed Anita Hill & all women in 1991. 27 years later—we must do better.’   

Like Murray, several Democrats found Kavanaugh’s combative testimony to be disqualifying.

‘Judge Kavanaugh exhibited temperament Americans do not want in fair judges,’ said Democrat Sen Sheldon Whitehouse. 

Jeff Flake is one of the senators who could stop Kavanaugh's nomination. He said he was undecided after Thursday's hearings

Jeff Flake is one of the senators who could stop Kavanaugh’s nomination. He said he was undecided after Thursday’s hearings

‘He was discourteous, lashing out at senators raising legitimate questions, and made unfounded conspiracy allegations about imagined plots by political enemies.’

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also questioned why Republicans weren’t demanding the White House order the FBI to reopen their background investigation if they were ‘so certain’ of Kavanaugh’s story.

‘Hold off on a vote for several days so all the facts can come out,’ he proclaimed.

The American Bar Association has likewise demanded a full FBI investigation, calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to halt the vote until one is completed. 

ABA President Robert Carlson wrote a letter to both Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein in which he said it was crucial that the FBI investigate Ford’s claims.

‘The basic principles that underscore the Senate’s constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI,’ he wrote. 

‘Each appointment to our nation’s Highest Court (as with all others) is simply too important to rush to a vote.’ 

‘Deciding to proceed without conducting additional investigation would not only have a lasting impact on the Senate’s reputation, but it will also negatively affect the great trust necessary for the American people to have in the Supreme Court.’ 

Carlson’s letter came just hours after Kavanaugh himself noted during his hearing that he had received the ABA’s highest rating of unanimous ‘well-qualified’ for the Supreme Court before Ford’s sexual assault allegations came to light.

But Kavanaugh’s angry denials, as well as his tearful account of the threats and harassment against his family, seemed to unite and energize Republicans.

‘I don’t know how you can listen to him and not realize that he’s what he says he is,’ Sen Orrin Hatch said, adding that he believes Kavanaugh will be confirmed. 

News of Friday’s vote comes after Kavanaugh delivered a fighting end to his Senate testimony Thursday when asked directly if he was innocent of claims he tried to rape Ford or had any doubts about his integrity.

‘100 per cent. Not a scintilla. Swear to God,’ he said. 

Kavanaugh gave an emotional and furious testimony in defense of his name when he took his place before the Senate on Thursday afternoon

At some points Kavanaugh was visibly in tears as he delivered his 45-minute long opening statement

Kavanaugh gave an emotional and furious testimony in defense of his name when he took his place before the Senate on Thursday afternoon, at some point visibly in tears

Kavanaugh claimed the entire hearing - spurred by Ford's emotional recollection of a horrific assault - was actually an 'orchestrated political hit' by the Democrats 

Kavanaugh claimed the entire hearing – spurred by Ford’s emotional recollection of a horrific assault – was actually an ‘orchestrated political hit’ by the Democrats 

The forceful declaration capped an angry and emotional afternoon in which Kavanaugh fought for the Supreme Court seat – and got immediate approval from the president. 

‘Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him,’ Trump tweeted just moments after the hearing ended.

‘His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!’  

The embattled nominee began with a 45-minute, 5,200-word opening statement, throwing away a far briefer statement he had already submitted as he instead launched into conspiracy theories that the hearing was the Democrats’ ‘revenge for the Clintons’.  

‘This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election,’ Kavanaugh claimed.

‘Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.’

But that testimony was challenged head-on by Democratic senator Cory Booker, who later asked if Kavanaugh believed Ford was a political operative and if he wished she had ‘never come forward’.

‘Are you saying Dr Ford’s efforts to come forward to prepare for the difficult testimony she gave today, have all been part of an orchestrated hit? Are you calling her a political operative?’ the senator asked.

‘All allegations should be taken seriously…I don’t know her, but I also said [my family and I] have no ill will towards her,’ Kavanaugh said.

‘Do you think that people who believe Dr Ford are legitimizing despicable things?’ Booker continued. ‘Do you think we’re somehow engaging in something that’s despicable?’ 

‘She is not a political pawn, she is not part of the Clinton’s effort to get some kind of revenge,’ the senator went on in a rousing defense of Ford. ‘She’s a woman who came here with corroborating evidence to tell her truth.’ 

Kavanaugh later admitted at the end of the hearing that he did not watch Ford’s testimony.

The judge choked up and took deep, heaving breaths in his opening statement as he talked about what his youngest daughter told his wife the night before he testified.

‘Little Liza said to Ashley, we should pray for the woman. That’s a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old,’ he said. 

Kavanaugh was emotional again when talking about his yearbook. ‘For one thing, our yearbook was a disaster,’ he said, in reference to the reports of what was written inside.

‘Some people wanted the yearbook to be a combination of Animal House, Caddyshack, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which were all recent movies at that time,’ he noted, adding ‘many of us went along with the yearbook to the point of absurdity.’

He added: ‘This past week my friends and I have cringed when we talked about it to each other.’

Kavanaugh specifically referenced – without mentioning her name – Renate Schroeder Dolphin, who The New York Times reported on earlier this week, noting a ‘Renate’ reference appeared 14 times in Kavanaugh’s yearbook with Kavanaugh listed as a ‘Renate Alumni.’

Many on social media noted Kavanaugh's emotional outbursts, including his frequent interruptions during questioning by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee  

Many on social media noted Kavanaugh’s emotional outbursts, including his frequent interruptions during questioning by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee  

‘It was not related to sex,’ he said bluntly. ‘I’m so sorry for her for that yearbook reference,’ he added, choking up as he proclaimed: ‘She was and is a great person.’

Sen Richard Blumenthal brought up the yearbook statement again later in the hearing, referencing Dolphin’s own quote to the Times that the ‘Alumni’ joke was ‘horrible, hurtful, and simply untrue’.

‘Renate Alumni clearly implied some boast of sexual conquest,’ Blumenthal added.   

Kavanaugh became agitated at the senator’s suggestion, instead trying to claim it was Blumenthal who was doing ‘great harm’ to Dolphin, despite the fact he was referencing her own direct quote regarding the yearkbook.

‘You’re just dragging her through the mud,’ Kavanaugh said. 

What was not addressed during the hearing was the fact that Kavanaugh’s lawyer claimed he shared a kiss with Dolphin after an event, to which she specifically told the New York Times never actually happened.

On Thursday Kavanaugh also reiterated a claim he made during his Fox News interview on Monday that he was a virgin in high school and for years afterward.

‘This is not a topic I ever imagined would come up in a judicial confirmation hearing,’ he said. ‘I never had sexual intercourse or anything close to it during high school or for many years after that.’

Kavanaugh also admitted he liked beer and still likes beer, but added it doesn’t mean he sexually assaulted anyone.

‘I liked beer. I still like beer. But I never drank beer to the point of blacking out and I never sexually assaulted someone,’ he said.

He then issued a warning that attempted to tie his sexual assault allegations to the fate of any young American who enjoys beer.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin  exits after meeting privately with Republican Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski following the hearing. The four are considered the key holdouts that could block Kavanaugh's nomination

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin exits after meeting privately with Republican Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski following the hearing. The four are considered the key holdouts that could block Kavanaugh’s nomination

Manchin, of West Virginia, is surrounded by reporters after meeting privately with his fellow moderate Senators. He remained silent on his thought process following the emotional day 

Manchin, of West Virginia, is surrounded by reporters after meeting privately with his fellow moderate Senators. He remained silent on his thought process following the emotional day 

Democratic Senators Kamala Harris questioned why Kavanaugh wasn't demanding an FBI investigation, while fellow Democrat Sen Cory Booker asked the judge if he believed Ford was a 'political pawn' in their tough line of questioning 

Democratic Senators Kamala Harris questioned why Kavanaugh wasn’t demanding an FBI investigation, while fellow Democrat Sen Cory Booker asked the judge if he believed Ford was a ‘political pawn’ in their tough line of questioning 

‘If every American who drank beer in high school is suddenly presumed guilty of sexual assault we are in a new place in this country,’ he proclaimed. 

Whether Kavanaugh had ever blacked out from drinking was a frequent topic of discussion during the hearing, as he continued to claim he was far too focused on his football practice to ever do such a thing on weekdays in the summer.

Yet later in the hearing, Kavanaugh had to concede to Booker that on July 1 – a weekday – he had ‘brewskis’ with his friends after a football practice. The proof was in his much-discussed calendar. 

‘You drank on weekdays, yes or no?’ Booker asked. 

‘Well, yes…on July 1,’ Kavanaugh replied. 

Blumenthal also brought up how Kavanaugh had once described needing to ‘piece things back together’ after ‘falling off the bus on to the front steps of the Law School at 4.45am’ while he was a law student at Yale. 

Kavanaugh repeatedly interrupted Blumenthal, shouting ‘I know what happened!’ and then described a night of ‘great camaraderie’ at Fenway Park for a baseball game. 

Questions about Kavanaugh’s alcohol habits became especially contentious when he was asked by Sen Amy Klobuchar if he had ever drank to the point of blacking out after she referenced her own father’s struggle with alcoholism.

‘I don’t know. Have you?’ he shot back in an incredible moment that was criticized by many on social media. 

After a brief recess, Kavanaugh apologized to Klobuchar and said: ‘I’m sorry I did that. This is a tough process.’  

Meanwhile, Feinstein focused her efforts on grilling Kavanaugh about the FBI’s lack of involvement in investigating Ford’s allegation.

‘I’ll do whatever the committee wants,’ Kavanaugh responded. ‘I wanted a hearing the day after the allegation came up! Whatever the committee decides, I’m all-in immediately.’  

Much was made of Kavanaugh's high school yearbook (being held by Democratic Sen Patrick Leahy). In his opening statement Kavanaugh said he was 'sorry' for a joke about a friend - Renate Dolphin - that had been interpreted as crude 

Much was made of Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook (being held by Democratic Sen Patrick Leahy). In his opening statement Kavanaugh said he was ‘sorry’ for a joke about a friend – Renate Dolphin – that had been interpreted as crude 

Kavanaugh's mother Martha was near tears throughout the hearing

Both Kavanaugh's mother Martha and wife Ashley, looked upset as they listened to his testimony

Both Kavanaugh’s mother Martha, left, and wife Ashley, right, looked visibly upset as they listened to his testimony Thursday

Martha Kavanaugh began crying during the hearing as she sat beside her husband, Kavanaugh's father Edward

Martha Kavanaugh began crying during the hearing as she sat beside her husband, Kavanaugh’s father Edward

Democrat Dick Durbin likewise demanded to know why Kavanaugh wasn’t asking for an FBI investigation to prove his innocence.

‘Turn to Don McGahn and tell him it’s time to get this done,’ Durbin told him, referring to Trump’s White House counsel in the front row.

He then asked McGahn himself to suspend Kavanaugh’s nomination until the FBI could carry out its own probe.

‘If there is no truth to her charges,’ Durbin said, referring to Ford, ‘The FBI investigation will show that. Are you afraid that they won’t?’

Chairman Grassley interjected that Durbin didn’t need Kavanaugh’s permission to spring the FBI into action. ‘If you want an FBI report, you can ask for it yourself!’ he barked. 

Sen Kamala Harris then directly asked Kavanaugh if he would call on the White House to ask for the FBI to investigate, as his three accusers have already done.

‘All three of the women who have made sworn allegations against you have asked for an independent FBI investigation, you’ve been asked by four different members at least eight times and on national television whether you would call on the White House to authorize the FBI investigation,’ she began.

‘Are you willing to ask the White House to authorize an investigation into the claims that have been made against you?’ 

‘I will do what the committee wants,’ Kavanaugh said. 

‘I heard you say that,’ Harris continued, not backing down. ‘Are you willing to ask the White House to conduct an investigation by the FBI to get whatever you believe is the bottom of the allegations that have been levied against you?’ 

When Kavanaugh once again tried to pivot from the question, Harris shot back: ‘I don’t want to debate with you’. 

‘Are you willing to ask the White House to conduct such an investigation?’ she repeated.

Democratic Rep Carolyn Maloney broke into tears during Ford's testimony at the Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday

Democratic Rep Carolyn Maloney broke into tears during Ford’s testimony at the Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday

Republican Sen Orrin Hatch,  a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was one of Kavanaugh's most staunch supporters following his testimony 

Republican Sen Orrin Hatch, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was one of Kavanaugh’s most staunch supporters following his testimony 

When Kavanaugh refused yet again to directly answer the question, Harris replied: ‘I’m taking that as a no and we can move on’. 

Kavanaugh was visibly angry when he started talking on Thursday, demanding senators to think about the facts and his willingness to testify in the wake of the allegations against him as they weigh whether or not to confirm him to the Supreme Court.

Practically shouting into the microphone, Kavanaugh blasted the Senate Judiciary Committee for waiting 10 days to let him give his side of the story, noting he denied the allegations as soon as they were made public.

‘My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations. The 10-day delay has been harmful to me and my family, to the Supreme Court and to the country,’ he said.

‘The day after the allegation appeared, I told this committee that I wanted a hearing as soon as possible to clear my name,’ he noted. ‘I demanded a hearing for the very next day.’

He slammed the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, claiming they had failed in their role in the confirmation process.

‘This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy,’ he said.

Kavanaugh also charged Democrats with a political plot to destroy him with the unwitting help of Ford. And, he alleged, it was their way of attacking Trump and getting revenge for what happened to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

‘This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn’t take me out on the merits,’ he proclaimed. 

‘When it was needed, this allegation was unleashed and publicly deployed over Dr Ford’s wishes. And then, as no doubt was expected, if not planned came a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process before any hearing occurred.’ 

Feinstein directly hit back at Kavanaugh and multiple Republican senators’ claims that she had leaked Ford’s story or held onto her allegations as long as possible for political gain. 

‘Let me be clear, I did not hide Dr Ford’s allegations,’ the senator said in a fiery defense. ‘I did not leak her story. She asked me to hold it confidential and I did as she asked.’ 

‘She was stalked by the press, she felt she was forced to come forward, and her greatest fear was realized. She’s been harassed, she’s had death threats, and she’s had to flee her home.’ 

Feinstein also hit back at claims that her office had not been cooperating with the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary committee. 

Kavanaugh was visibly angry when he started talking on Thursday, demanding senators to think about the facts and his willingness to testify in the wake of the allegations against him as they weigh whether or not to confirm him

Kavanaugh was visibly angry when he started talking on Thursday, demanding senators to think about the facts and his willingness to testify in the wake of the allegations against him as they weigh whether or not to confirm him

L-R: Kavanaugh's mother Martha, family friend Laura Cox Kaplan, and wife Ashley Kavanaugh, listen as Kavanaugh testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary committee regarding sexual assault allegations

L-R: Kavanaugh’s mother Martha, family friend Laura Cox Kaplan, and wife Ashley Kavanaugh, listen as Kavanaugh testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary committee regarding sexual assault allegations

‘While the majority has reached out to several people, they did not notify me or my staff that we were doing this,’ she said. ‘To argue that we were not participating, but did not tell us what they were up to is disingenuous.’ 

‘I was given information by a woman who was very much afraid, who asked it be confidential, and I held it confidential until she decided she would come forward.’ 

Feinstein also denied that her staff had leaked Ford’s letter, even turning around to ask her aides right then and there in court.

‘I’m telling you I did not, I was asked to keep it confidential and I’m criticized for that too,’ she added.

Ryan Grim, the bureau chief at The Intercept, later confirmed via tweet that it was not Feinstein’s staff who leaked the letter to the publication.   

During the hearing Kavanaugh vowed he would stay in the confirmation process no matter what.

‘You may defeat me in the final vote but you’ll never get me to quit – not ever,’ he bodly proclaimed. 

‘I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. You have tried hard. You given it your all. No one can question your effort.’

Kavanaugh, who has been accused by three women of sexual assault, also vehemently denied ever committing sexual assault on anyone.

‘I’m here today to tell the truth. I have never sexually assaulted anyone – not ever,’ he said. ‘Not in high school, not in college, not ever.’ 

‘I’m not questioning that Dr Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done this to her or to anyone. That’s not who I am, it is not who I was. I am innocent of this charge. I intend no ill will to Dr Ford and her family.’ 

Kavanaugh also claimed he may have never met Ford during high school.

‘It’s possible we met at some point at some events, although I do not recall that,’ he said. ‘To repeat, all of the people identified by Dr Ford as being present at the party have said they do not remember any such party ever happening.’

Kavanaugh ended his opening statement with dramatic words: ‘I swear today under oath before the Senate and the nation, before my family and god I am innocent of this charge.’ 

Donald McGahn, White House Council, watches as  Kavanaugh testifies on Ford's sexual assault allegations

Donald McGahn, White House Council, watches as Kavanaugh testifies on Ford’s sexual assault allegations

Sarah Sanders praises Lindsey Graham’s furious finger-pointing denunciation of Democrats 

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham angrily defended Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday, charging Democrats with using a Supreme Court nomination to try to win the midterm elections and saying Kavanaugh was no Bill Cosby.

Graham, who has been one of Kavanaugh’s biggest defenders in the Senate, pounded on his desk, tossed papers and yelled at his Democratic colleagues across the dais, ending his tirade with a dramatic plea to his GOP colleagues to vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The outburst was an instant viral moment for conservatives – with two of Donald Trump’s most senior aides tweeting their approval.

Explosion: An emotional Lindsey Graham made himself an instant hero to conservatives as he attacked Democrats, accusing them of painting Brett Kavanaugh like ‘Bill Cosby’

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s press secretary tweeted: ‘Lindsey Graham has more decency and courage than every Democrat on the committee combined. God bless him.’

He argued if Kavanaugh was the type of sexual predator as he’s been charged with, he would probably still be attacking women.

‘You’re supposed to be Bill Cosby when you’re a junior and senior in high school, and all of a sudden you got over it. It’s been my understanding that if you drug women and rape them for two years in high school, you probably don’t stop,’ he said.

Graham interrupted prosecutor Rachel Mitchell’s questioning of Ford to requested time to speak.

He then promptly used it to lash out at Kavanaugh’s treatment at the hand of Democrats, saying President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee had been put through hell.

‘This is not a job interview. This is hell. This is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward because of this crap!’ he said. ‘You have interacted with professional women all your life, not one accusation.’

He also charged Democrats with playing politics with Kavanaugh’s career in the hopes of winning control of the Senate in the 2018 midterms and then winning the 2020 presidential election for their party.

‘What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat hope and hope you win in 2020. You’ve said that,’ he yelled.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham angrily defended Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday in an impassioned address 

He also said Democrats used Ford for their own political purposes and that she was their victim – as was Kavanaugh.

‘Boy, y’all want power. Boy, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham, that you knew about it and you held it. You had no intention of protecting Dr. Ford, none! She’s as much of a victim as you are,’ he noted.

He pivoted between yelling at Democrats and praising Kavanaugh, telling him he belonged on the court.

‘When you see Sotomayor and Kagan tell them that Lindsey said hi because I voted for them,’ he said referring to Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

‘I would never do to them what you’ve done to this guy! This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics, and if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you have done to this guy,’ he said, returning to release his ire on Democrats.

Graham also apologized to Kavanaugh, saying the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing wasn’t the place for a fair process.

‘God, I hate to say it because these have been my friends, but let me tell you when it comes to this. You’re looking for a fair process. You came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend,’ he said.

Graham concluded his remarks with a plea to his colleagues to confirm Kavanaugh and get in a few final shots at Democrats.

‘To my Republican colleagues, if you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics. You want this seat. I hope you never get it. I hope you’re on the Supreme Court. That’s exactly where you should be. And I hope that the American people will see through this charade. And I wish you well. And I intend to vote for you and I hope everybody who is fair-minded will,’ he concluded.

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who was up next for questions, offered a bit of light heartedness.

‘Should we let things settle a little bit after that,’ he said.

The nominee had arrived for the make-or-break evidence session hand-in-hand with his wife Ashley after hours of testimony from Ford, the woman who says he tried to rape her when she was 15.

Neither smiled as they walked into the Senate committee room for his testimony after Ford was called ‘credible’ and thanked for her testimony by sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who was brought in to avoid the appearance of a group of older men questioning an alleged sexual assault survivor.

In emotional testimony, Ford, 51, came close to tears as she repeatedly said that she knew Kavanaugh was the man who tried to rape her.

‘No and I would like to reiterate again that I was trying to get the information to you while there looked to be a list of other credible qualified candidates,’ she told senators when asked to clarify if she came forward for political reasons.

Ford ended almost three hours of testimony with even Republican senators saying her testimony was credible. 

‘I found no reason to find her not credible,’ GOP Senator John Cornyn said. 

Ford said earlier in her testimony that she wanted to get information about her allegation to the White House before Trump formally nominated Kavanaugh to the high court – but had been unsure how to proceed.

Ford's yearbook photo

Kavanaugh's yearbook photo

Ford (left in her 1984 yearbook photo) claims the assault took place when she was 15 and Kavanaugh (right in his yearbook photo) was 17 years old

She said she contacted her local member of Congress – Democratic Rep Anna Eshoo – and The Washington Post’s tip line.

The research psychologist and professor at Palo Alto University said Eshoo’s office contacted her on the day Trump nominated Kavanaugh, which was July 9.

Ford, who was questioned personally by the 10 Democratic senators on the panel while all 11 Republican senators deferred their time to Mitchell, addressed questions of her credibility, her belief that it was Kavanaugh who was behind the attack, and her motive in coming forward so many years after the incident in question took place.

She said it was ‘absolutely not’ possible she mistook another teenage attacker for Kavanaugh, saying she was ‘100 percent’ certain he was the man she says sexually assaulted her in 1982 when she was 15.

Dismissing claims of a ‘Kavanaugh lookalike,’ Ford told Senators he was certainly her attacker at age 17 – ‘very much so.’

And when asked her degree of certainty it was Kavanaugh, Ford leaned down into the microphone and said: ‘100 percent.’ 

Throughout her questioning, Ford revealed how she came to her decision to go public and howshe left her grandmother’s funeral to take a polygraph test on the incident. 

‘I had left my grandmother’s funeral at Fort Lincoln Cemetery that day and was on a tight schedule to get a plane to Manchester, New Hampshire, so [Jeremiah Hanafin, the polygraph administrator] was willing to come to me, which was appreciated,’ she said.

Ford looked frustrated and appeared to be struggling to keep her composure as she explained it was 'absolutely not' possible she mistook another teenage attacker for Kavanaugh 

Ford looked frustrated and appeared to be struggling to keep her composure as she explained it was ‘absolutely not’ possible she mistook another teenage attacker for Kavanaugh 

Questioning began with sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell (pictured) acknowledging that Ford was 'terrified'

Questioning began with sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell (pictured) acknowledging that Ford was ‘terrified’

‘So he administered a polygraph on the day that you attended your grandmother’s funeral?,’ Mitchell asked.

‘Correct,’ Ford replied. ‘It might have been the next day. I spent the night in the hotel.’

Ford said her primary memory of taking the test was ‘crying a lot.’  

Asked why she took it, Ford said: ‘I didn’t see any reason not to do it. I found it extremely stressful. Much longer than I anticipated. I told my whole life story, I felt like. I endured it. It was fine.’ 

In one of the more emotional moments of the morning, Democratic Sen Patrick Leahy asked Ford what stuck out to her in her memory.

‘Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,’ Ford said, her voice breaking up. ‘The laughter, the upraised laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense.’

‘You never forgot that laughter?,’ Leahy asked as Ford nodded and one of her lawyers patted her back for reassurance.

‘I was under one of them while they laughed. Two friends having fun together,’ Ford said. 

At several moments throughout her time before the panel of 21 senators, Ford grew emotional, fighting back tears and struggling to keep her composure. 

Ford was also almost in tears at another point in the questioning when Blumenthal praised her courage.

Blumenthal quoted from the 2015 book My Story from Sen Graham, who sat a few seats down from him on the judiciary panel, in his praise from Ford.

The senator noted Graham wrote that it takes ‘courage from a deep and hidden place for a rape victim or sexually abused child to testify against their assailant’ as Ford held back tears.

Ford’s morning began with her own testimony where, over deep, shaky breathing, she said Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge had been ‘extremely inebriated’ on a summer night in 1982.

Later in the hearing, Kavanaugh had to concede to Sen Cory Booker that on July 1 - a weekday - he had 'brewskis' with his friends after a football practice, despite claiming he never drank on weekdays. The proof was in his calendar

Later in the hearing, Kavanaugh had to concede to Sen Cory Booker that on July 1 – a weekday – he had ‘brewskis’ with his friends after a football practice, despite claiming he never drank on weekdays. The proof was in his calendar

Ford revealed that she had first mentioned her allegations to her husband during a major renovation of their home in Palo Alto, California (pictured). Ford said that she had wanted two front doors as a result of the anxiety and nervousness she had been left with as a result of the alleged attack

Ford revealed that she had first mentioned her allegations to her husband during a major renovation of their home in Palo Alto, California (pictured). Ford said that she had wanted two front doors as a result of the anxiety and nervousness she had been left with as a result of the alleged attack

Mitchell, a prosecutor from Arizona, gestured to a map as she asked Ford questions about the night of the alleged assault

Mitchell, a prosecutor from Arizona, gestured to a map as she asked Ford questions about the night of the alleged assault

Why Republicans BENCHED sex-crimes prosecutor in the middle of the hearing

Tiring of sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell’s dry approach, Senate Republicans benched their star surrogate on Thursday and asked their own questions of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were pilloried for weeks for not having any women among the members trying to discern the truth of a ‘he said, she said’ situation.

They chose a female expert to grill Kavanaugh’s sex abuse accuser instead of playing their own brand of hardball. The gambit backfired, and shortly after Kavanaugh took his seat in the hearing room, Mitchell’s day was over.

‘She was not exactly a rock star,’ one Republican Senate aide told DailyMail.com. ‘We would have been better off doing just about anything else.’

The aide said two Republican committee members grumbled to chairman Chuck Grassley during a hearing recess about Mitchell’s soft-glove approach.

Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor from Arizona, quizzed Christine Ford on Thursady but didn't land a punch; shortly after Brett Kavanaugh took his place at the witness table, committee Republicans took over the questioning themselves

Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor from Arizona, quizzed Christine Ford on Thursady but didn’t land a punch; shortly after Brett Kavanaugh took his place at the witness table, committee Republicans took over the questioning themselves

While a line of Democrats drew a stream of emotional memories out of Christine Ford, Mitchell drew consistent sneers from Kavanaugh partisans for her dry questions and seemingly pointless digressions.

Ultimately Mitchell thanked Ford for taking part in the exercise and shook her hand – ending the session more colleague than adversary after never once directly challenging her recollection of being groped and pinned to a bed at a high school party in 1982.

Mitchell came back for a few 5-minute rounds of Q-and-A with Kavanaugh, but her day was quickly ended. 

The president fielded phone calls in the White House reisdence from outside allies while watching the hearing, a White House official told DailyMail.com, and most of the calls left him feeling pessimistic.

‘The consensus wasn’t good,’ the official said. 

Ford, observed Fox News Channel legal expert Andrew Napolitano, ‘is extremely credible and Rahel Mitchell is not laying a glove on her.’

With president Trump watching, Fox News Channel host Chris Wallace pronounced Mitchell's portion of the hearing a disaster for Republicans

With president Trump watching, Fox News Channel host Chris Wallace pronounced Mitchell’s portion of the hearing a disaster for Republicans

Fox legal expert Andrew Napolitano (top right) also slammed Republicans for letting Mitchell have control of the hearing

Fox legal expert Andrew Napolitano (top right) also slammed Republicans for letting Mitchell have control of the hearing

Donald Trump has praised Napolitano for his on-screen analysis in the past. With Trump almost certainly watching, the former judge said: ‘The president cannot be happy with this.’

What Trump saw on his White House television was a dais of his Republican allies sitting silently and not defending Kavanaugh while Mitchell carried on a superficial line of questioning.

‘Fox News Sunday’ host Chris Wallace, too, gave Mitchell a thumbs-down during a break in the hearing.

‘This is a disaster for the Republicans,’ Wallace said. ‘She is treating this like a deposition, like a court hearing.’

Unlike in a courtroom, Mitchell was not permitted to grill Ford at length. Instead she had disjointed five-minute segments, the slices of time alloted to her by Republicans who chose not to interrogate her themselves.

That kept her from building momentum and gave Ford consistent intermissions to soak in praise from Democrats who invited her to describe her decades of psychological pain.

Mitchell shook Ford's hand after questioning her in a forum that allowed her no chance to build momentum

Mitchell shook Ford’s hand after questioning her in a forum that allowed her no chance to build momentum

One rare positive for Mitchell came when she established that Ford chose to fly to Hawaii, Costa Rica and French Polynesia on vacations.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee had postponed a hearing last week because Ford said one effect of her sexual-assault trauma was a fear of flying.

But most of the prosecutor’s work consisted of finding minor inconsistencies in Ford’s story.

She focused on Ford’s description testimony about the distance between home adolescent home and the house that hosted the party, and her lack of a driver’s license at the time.

The veiled suggestion was that whoever drove her home after her alleged sexual assault might not remember events the way Ford does.

But with only intermittent chances to swing daintily at her, Mitchell never drew blood.

In her last five-minute back-and-forth, Mitchell seemed to complain about how the hearing’s format put her at a disadvantage.

Talking about the standard practices for people who interview trauma survivors, she said that no stufy whose ‘that this setting, in five-minute increments, is the best way to do that.’

Instead she recommended having ‘a trained interviewer talk to you one-on-one in a private setting, and to let you do the talking’ at greater length.

‘That makes a lot of sense,’ Ford replied.

Mitchell noted that Ford had turned down such an interview proposed near her California home.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill agreed that Mitchell was likely doomed from the start, but said she would have little chance of tripping Ford up no matter the format.

‘She has a tough job,’ McCaskill told reporters during a hearing recess. ‘I can’t imagine doing either a direct examination or a cross examination in five minute increments.’

‘And,’ the Missouri Democrat added, Mitchell is ‘not used to cross examining people who tell the truth.’

Her voice quavered as she described her trauma following the house party where she claims Kavanaugh attacked her as Judge watched.

‘I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to,’ she said. ‘But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.’ 

‘When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me.’

‘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 screaming,’ she recalled.

‘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.’

She added: ‘Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time.’ 

Ford also addressed questions in her opening statement about why she did not report the assault at the time.

‘For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details. I did not want to tell my parents that I, at age 15, was in a house without any parents present, drinking beer with boys,’ she said.

‘I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened.’ 

 In her testimony, Ford said she came forward because she thought it was her duty to offer her knowledge about a nominee to the Supreme Court

 In her testimony, Ford said she came forward because she thought it was her duty to offer her knowledge about a nominee to the Supreme Court

Since Ford has come forward, both Julie Swetnick (pictured) and Deborah Ramirez have accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault

Ramirez claims that Kavanaugh placed his penis in front of her and caused her to involuntary touch it during a party at Yale University

Since Ford has come forward, both Julie Swetnick (left) and Deborah Ramirez (right) have accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Ramirez claims that Kavanaugh placed his penis in front of her and caused her to involuntary touch it during a party

In her testimony, Ford also explained why she came forward when she did, saying she thought it was her duty to offer her knowledge about a nominee to the Supreme Court. 

‘I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr Kavanaugh’s conduct so that those considering his potential nomination would know about the assault,’ she said.

Ford recounted how she wanted to keep her name confidential so she would not have to put her family at risk. 

The professor and her family have since had to leave their home after her name became public and she began receiving death threats.

‘My hope was that providing the information confidentially would be sufficient to allow the Senate to consider Mr Kavanaugh’s serious misconduct without having to make myself, my family, or anyone’s family vulnerable to the personal attacks and invasions of privacy we have faced since my name became public,’ she said.

But, Ford said, that changed when reports emerged Feinstein had a letter about a ‘#Metoo’ situation involving Kavanaugh.

‘Reporters appeared at my home and at my job demanding information about this letter, including in the presence of my graduate students. They called my boss and coworkers and left me many messages, making it clear that my name would inevitably be released to the media,’ she said.

‘I decided to speak out publicly to a journalist who had responded to the tip I had sent to The Washington Post and who had gained my trust. It was important to me to describe the details of the assault in my own words.’  

Ford also spoke of her fear at being before the panel of 21 senators as she prepared to retell the story of the most traumatic night of her life.

‘I am here today not because I want to be,’ she said. ‘I am terrified.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk