December 15, 2018
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As Senate vote looms, Kavanaugh foes in Maine turn up heat on Susan Collins

Alex Brandon | AP
Alex Brandon | AP
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, arrives to view the FBI report on sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018 in Washington.

As Maine Sen. Susan Collins sat in a room in Washington, D.C., for nearly two hours Thursday afternoon reading confidential testimony compiled by FBI investigators who have spent the past week probing sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, resistance among her constituents states away continued to brew.

The latest notes of opposition arrived in the form of a letter to Collins on Thursday evening from more than 100 current and former law clerks for state and federal judges in Maine. The 125 clerks join the ranks of abortion-rights advocates and sexual assault survivors in calling on Collins to oppose Kavanaugh.

The clerks argue Kavanaugh’s lack of judicial comportment and “belligerent testimony” during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing a week ago should disqualify him from serving on the nation’s highest court, according to the letter.

“He explicitly and repeatedly revealed blatant partisanship … he behaved with inappropriate and open hostility to the [committee],” the letter reads. “His volatile behavior calls into serious question his ability to approach cases before him with fairness and neutrality. His elevation to the Supreme Court will undermine public faith in the Court and the judiciary as a whole.”

“As former judicial clerks, we are acutely aware of how important public trust in the judiciary is to the stability of American society,” they wrote. “We expect you to hold any Supreme Court nominee to the same high standard of integrity that we were required to meet as law clerks.”

The clerks, like many others, also warned of the message a lifetime appointment would send to survivors of sexual assault. Kavanaugh has been accused of drunkenly pinning down and trying to disrobe Christine Blasey Ford when the two were teenagers in the early 1980s.

“A vote for Judge Kavanaugh would send the message to the American public — and women in particular — that sexual assault is not serious and the voices of survivors do not matter,” the letter states.

It’s unclear what the FBI report, which has been compiled over the past week, will yield — or if it will become fully public — but up to now, the only public evidence of the incident is that of Ford’s testimony last week before the Judiciary Committee.

The Maine-based push for Collins to vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been more subdued. However, text messages urging Mainers to call her to “thank Senator Collins for her thoughtful leadership” and urge support for the nominee went out to registered Republicans on Thursday afternoon.

Kavanaugh’s nomination is teetering in part because of public indecision on the part of Collins and fellow Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who called for the FBI to investigate Ford’s allegations last week. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, is also undecided. A successful confirmation of Kavanaugh, likely to come over the weekend, will require Republicans to persuade at least one of these key swing votes.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, who had previously been undecided in her support of Kavanaugh, announced Thursday she would not be voting no.

The preliminary vote on the Senate floor is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday. Collins, who has never opposed a Supreme Court nominee who has made it to the Senate floor, gave virtually no reaction to the FBI report after she saw it for the first time Thursday.

“It appears to be a very thorough investigation,” Collins said late Thursday morning, indicating she would return later in the day to “personally read the interviews.”

She did, spokeswoman Annie Clark said, and finished reading around 6:15 p.m., but Collins declined to say how that testimony will affect her decision.

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