GOP Ramps Up For A Showdown Over Supreme Court Nominee

AP/Jacquelyn Martin

ALAN FRAM and LISA MASCARO,  Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Brett Kavanaugh says he won't let "false accusations drive me out of this process" as he, President Donald Trump and top Republicans mount an aggressive drive to rally the public and GOP senators behind his Supreme Court nomination.

Trump and Republican leaders accused Democrats on Monday of a smear campaign by using accusations by two women against Kavanaugh from the early 1980s to try scuttling his Senate confirmation. There were no immediate indications that the emergence of a second accuser had fatally wounded Kavanaugh's prospects, but the nominee took the unusual step of defending himself in a television interview that underscored the GOP's new-found combativeness.

Kavanaugh, 53, reiterated his staunch denial of Christine Blasey Ford's accusations on the Fox News Channel. His appearance in such a medium ahead of giving Congressional testimony was highly unorthodox.

Kavanaugh's TV appearance came three days before a crucial Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which he and his chief accuser, Ford, were slated to testify. That session loomed as a do-or-die wild card for Kavanaugh in which a split-second facial expression, a tear or a choice of words could prove decisive.

On Monday, Trump called the accusations among "the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., angrily accused Democrats of slinging "all the mud they could manufacture" and promised a full Senate vote soon, but specified no date.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York retorted that if McConnell believed the allegations were a smear, "why don't you call for an FBI investigation?" He accused Republicans of "a rush job to avoid the truth."

Despite the forceful rhetoric by Kavanaugh and his GOP supporters, it remained unclear how three moderate Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Arizona's Jeff Flake and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski — would react to the latest accusation. With the GOP's Senate control hanging on a razor-thin 51-49 margin, defections by either party could determine the direction of the court for decades to come. 

Collins said she remained undecided about Kavanaugh, a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

Proceeding with Kavanaugh seems to give Republicans their best shot at filling the Supreme Court vacancy — and giving the court an increasingly conservative tilt — before November's elections, when GOP Senate control is in play.

Even if Republicans lose their Senate majority, they could still have time to confirm a nominee in a lame-duck session, but the GOP hasn't indicated that is under consideration. Delaying Kavanaugh's confirmation could allow time for doubts about him to take root or any fresh accusations to emerge.

"I'm not going to let false accusations drive me out of this process. I have faith in God and I have faith in the fairness of the American people," Kavanaugh said during the Fox interview.

With increasing intensity, Republicans have attacked the credibility of Kavanaugh's two accusers as well as the lack of indisputable evidence. They note that neither the accusers nor news organizations have found people willing to provide corroboration.

Dozens of people protesting Kavanaugh were arrested outside Collins' Capitol Hill office. Away from Washington, there were walkouts in support of Ford and Ramirez by dozens of liberal groups in a campaign promoted on Twitter under the hashtag #BelieveSurvivors.

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