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Sen. Susan Collins undecided on Kavanaugh

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 21. 2018 10:16PM
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, left, said she is undecided on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Collins was interviewed by former NHPR host Virginia Prescott at Saint Anselm College on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Staff photo)

The Senate Judiciary Committee should hear the testimony of the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, but it need not subpoena other potential witnesses, Sen. Susan Collins said Friday.
She spoke at the annual William Treat lecture of Constitutionally Speaking, a civics effort.
The Maine Republican, along with a handful of other senators, remains undecided on Kavanaugh, she told an audience at Saint Anselm College, but she declined to elaborate on what it would take for her to reach a conclusion. Even before the accusations of sexual assault became public last week, she had not made up her mind.

Collins said that when she spoke to Kavanaugh recently he categorically denied the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford, who claims that he and another classmate, Mark Judge, drunkenly held her down and attempted to take her clothes off when they were in high school. But Collins also acknowledged that she has spoken to law enforcement officials over the past week about how to judge a person’s credibility, and as yet doesn’t believe the Senate has the information it needs to determine whether Ford is telling the truth and if Kavanaugh is fit for the bench.

“To me it makes sense to hear from the two principals. I believe that both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford should come before the committee, be placed under oath, and asked a series of questions,” Collins told reporters after the event, adding “I have had conversations with (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell as well as with other members of leadership and the judiciary committee and I have made clear that I believe that we should accommodate Dr. Ford’s request that she testify later in the week.”

While Democrats have called for other witnesses to be subpoenaed, Judge and another person Ford named in a letter conveying her allegations against Kavanaugh have already been interviewed by Senate investigators and “It seems to me that that is likely adequate,” Collins said.

Senate Republicans had imposed a Friday morning deadline on Ford to declare whether or not she would testify, but their negotiations with her lawyers continued into Friday night with no resolution.

Collins also reiterated her criticism of President Donald Trump’s tweet on Friday, in which he stated that “if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with the local Law Enforcement Authorities.”

Having already called the comment “appalling” earlier in the day, Collins said: “Regardless of what the facts of this allegation turn out to be, the fact is that sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes. So to say that because something wasn’t reported it didn’t happen … it’s not something I would say.”

Most of the senator’s frank, 45-minute talk at the college — under the theme “civility, cooperation, and compromise” — centered on the Kavanaugh nomination.

Protestors have gathered outside her house, she said, constituents have flooded her office with phone calls and messages, and she and her staff have been called a litany of unrepeatable names. A group has even crowdfunded over $1 million and promised to donate it to Collins’ election opponent if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh.

“Threats are the worst way to approach me,” Collins said.

During his campaign, President Trump promised that he would nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion ruling.

As a vocal supporter of the decision, and by most accounts the most bi-partisan member of the Senate, Collins’ vote on the nominee will be critical. Republicans hold a razor-thin margin in the Senate.

Without stating it outright, Collins seemed to suggest that Kavanaugh had convinced her in their private conversations that he respected precedent and was not already committed to overturning Roe v. Wade.

When she asked him if he thought it was appropriate for five justices who believe a previous Supreme Court decision was incorrect to overturn that decision, he responded that he didn’t, although the age of the case might factor into his thinking, she said.

Though the debate over Kavanaugh is an example of the polarization that, over the last several years, has reached what Collins described as unprecedented levels, she spoke optimistically about the prospects for bipartisanship and cooperation.

“I think it goes beyond being able to influence the outcome of legislation,” she said. “It’s how we ought to operate. It is fundamental to our democracy to try and find common ground.”

Constitutionally Speaking is sponsored by NH Institute for Civics Education, N.H. Humanities, Institute of Politics at St. Anselm, N.H. Supreme Court Society and Rodman Center at UNH School of Law.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, was interviewed by former NHPR host Virginia Prescott at Saint Anselm College on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Union Leader File Photo/Thomas Roy)

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