Sen. Mazie Hirono on Sunday suggested that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s “outcome-driven” conservative judicial philosophy directly undermines the credibility of his denials that he sexually assaulted California professor Christine Ford more than three decades ago.
Speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union,” Hirono, D-Hawaii, called for an independent FBI investigation of Ford’s claims, before explaining why the presumption of innocence and due process should not apply to Kavanaugh’s case.
“I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases,” Hirono told host Jake Tapper, in response to a question about whether Kavanaugh was entitled to a presumption of innocence. “His credibility is already very questionable in my mind. … When I say that he’s very outcome driven, he has an ideological agenda, and I can sit here and talk to you about some of the cases that exemplify his, in my view, inability to be fair.”
Hirono went on to say Kavanaugh is “very much against women’s reproductive choice,” characterizing his legal views as one of “many indications of lack of credibility.”
The top senator, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, left open the door to impeaching Kavanaugh if he is confirmed — an idea floated by some Democrats, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., last week.
“I know that Maryland has eliminated the statute of limitations for kidnapping and sexual assault,” she said. “So there may be an investigation along those lines. This is a situation that is not going to go away.”
“This is a situation that is not going to go away.”
At a fiery press conference last week, the Hawaii Democrat blasted “the men in this country,” blaming them for sexual assault and urging them to “just shut up and step up.” She added: “I expect the men in this country and the men on this committee, because we all signed onto this letter, to demand an FBI investigation.”
That led Republicans to accuse Hirono and other Democrats of hypocrisy over the case of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who is running for attorney general of Minnesota.
“I’ve been very clear that I make no excuses for anyone who engages in this kind of behavior,” Hirono said. “As far as Keith Ellison, these allegations need to be investigated and appropriate action taken.”
Hirono then pivoted immediately back to Kavanaugh’s case, saying she wants to be “laser-focused” on the ongoing nomination battle.
“I do not want to have a person on the Supreme Court who doesn’t seem to be able to apply the facts in ways that do not meet his outcome-driven agenda,” she said.
A tentative agreement has been reached to have Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, although key details remain uncertain as Republicans continue to accuse Ford’s team of delaying the process.
In a letter last week, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that he “cannot overstate how disappointed” he was that Feinstein had kept Ford’s allegations a secret for weeks after learning about them in July. Ford went public only after news of the allegations leaked to The Intercept — which Republicans have suggested was orchestrated as a last-minute effort to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation just days before a key vote in the Judiciary Committee.
Now that a hearing has been set for Thursday, Hirono told Tapper that she is interested in questioning Kavanaugh about “what kind of environment it was in high school — apparently there was a lot of drinking and partying going on.”
Earlier this month, Hirono pressed Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings at length about whether he was aware of inappropriate behavior by former 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski when he clerked for Kozinski from 1991 to 1992. Kozinski abruptly retired last year after several woman who had worked as law clerks or colleagues accused him of sexual misconduct that included touching, inappropriate sexual comments and forced viewings of pornography in his chambers.
Hirono, who repeatedly has asked other judicial nominees whether they ever sexually harassed anyone, noted that Kavanaugh and Kozinski had kept in touch after his clerkship, with Kozinski recommending Kavanaugh during his 2006 confirmation hearings for his current job on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“You saw nothing, you heard nothing, and you obviously said nothing,” Hirono said, even as Kavanaugh denied being aware of any misconduct by Kozinski and said he would have reported it if he had known.