Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Sunday said Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee made her question whether then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh should withdraw from consideration.
But Kavanaugh’s “forceful denial” to the committee of Ford’s sexual assault allegation against him ultimately led her to vote in his favor, ensuring his confirmation to the highest court in the land, she told CNN’s “State Of The Union.”
“I was certainly undecided,” Collins told CNN. “And after hearing Christine Ford’s very compelling and painful testimony, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, he perhaps needs to withdraw.’”
She continued: “But then when he came back with such forceful denial, and the anger and anguish that he showed, and then the lack of corroboration (for Ford’s claims) led me back to the fundamental issues that are fundamental to our legal system of presumption of innocence and fairness.”
Collins was one of four senators ― along with Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) ― who during the confirmation process were widely viewed as potentially breaking with their political parties on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
On Friday, a day before the Senate voted on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Flake and Collins announced they would likely vote in his favor, all but guaranteeing him a seat on the bench.
The Senate on Saturday narrowly confirmed Kavanaugh, 50-48. Every Republican but Murkowski voted in favor of him, and every Democrat but Manchin voted against him. Hours later, Kavanaugh was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice as hundreds of Me Too activists protested outside the Capitol.
Three women in recent weeks have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during the early 1980s. Ford, in powerful testimony on Sept. 27 to the Judiciary Committee, alleged Kavanaugh pinned her down, groped her and tried to remove her clothing at a small party in suburban Maryland when they were both high school students.
Kavanaugh vehemently denied ever sexually assaulting anyone in his weepy, defiant testimony to the panel following Ford’s appearance. At one point, Kavanaugh claimed the mounting sexual misconduct allegations he faced were part of a left-wing “political hit” sparked by “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”
Kavanaugh was part of the special counsel team whose investigation led to then-President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in the late 1990s.
Collins on Sunday conceded that Kavanaugh “stepped over the line” at times during his eyebrow-raising testimony.
“I did believe that he should not have take the shot at the Clintons and that in his questioning with certain senators, responding to their questions, particularly Amy Klobuchar, that he stepped over the line,” Collins said.
Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had asked Kavanaugh if his drinking as a youth had ever caused him to black out, prompting the nominee to angrily reply, “I don’t know. Have you?”
Despite Ford testifying that she was “100 percent” sure Kavanaugh assaulted her, Collins in her Sunday comments cast doubt on the woman’s memory.
“I do believe that she was assaulted,” Collins said. “I don’t know by whom and I’m not certain when, but I do not believe that [Kavanaugh] was the assailant.”
Following the committee hearing, the White House had directed the FBI to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh. But the inquiry was limited in scope and failed to interview either him or Ford, as well as several people claiming to be able to corroborate allegations against him.