Congress

Sen. Susan Collins dismissed Republican’s effort to scrap Kavanaugh after accuser’s testimony, new book says

Maine Republican wanted to hear Supreme Court justice nominee’s side of the story before moving on from him

Sen. Susan Collins delivered what is considered the decisive vote that sent Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Susan Collins declined to back a Republican colleague’s effort to desert then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh after a woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her gave an emotional account of the alleged incident and the effect it has had on her life, according to a new book.

Collins was confronted by an unnamed Republican senator who had devised a proposal to withdraw his support of Kavanaugh, who was seen as a flawed nominee amid sexual misconduct allegations. In exchange, he would promise to support whomever President Donald Trump nominated in Kavanaugh's place, according to conservative writers Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino, who detailed the story of the newest Supreme Court Justice's confirmation in their new book “Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court.”

Collins, the Maine Republican who eventually cast what many experts consider the decisive vote in favor of confirming Kavanaugh, declined that offer. She wanted to give Kavanaugh a chance to publicly defend himself in the confirmation process, Hemingway and Severino wrote.

Kavanaugh’s defense against the allegations was enough to persuade Collins to vote him onto the Supreme Court.

In a widely televised speech on the Senate floor before the vote to close debate on the nomination and effectively seal Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Collins explained her reasoning for backing him despite the allegations of sexual assault.

“We will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be,” she said. “We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy.”

Collins said that she believed testimony from Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor, was “sincere, painful and compelling,” but noted that the FBI’s limited investigation into Ford’s claims did not turn up evidence to support them. Democrats decried that FBI investigation as purposely limited and hampered by the White House.

Collins’ office did not immediately reply to a request to confirm the accuracy of Hemingway and Severino’s account of the senator’s deliberations on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

But the Maine senator, who has been in the upper chamber since 1997, told The New York Times in a story over the weekend she does not regret her vote to confirm the justice “in the least.”

Democrats vying for the nomination to challenge Collins when she is up for reelection in 2020 have already begun using her support of Kavanaugh as a cudgel and it figures to feature prominently in messaging leading up to the general election next year.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 2020 race for Maine's Senate seat Tilt Republican.

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