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Law & the Courts

McCaskill Will Set Aside Kavanaugh Allegation in Deciding How to Vote on Confirmation

Sen. Claire McCaskill (Erin Schaff/Reuters)

Update: 12:45 p.m.: Senator McCaskill announced on Wednesday evening that she would vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri broke with her Democratic colleagues on Wednesday when she announced that she will ignore the allegation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when deciding how to vote on his confirmation.

Asked at a campaign event in Lebanon, Mo., about Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school, McCaskill told the crowd that the allegations will not factor into her decision, which she expects to make “very shortly.”

McCaskill, one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election in November, said she was concerned about the allegation but will instead focus on Kavanaugh’s judicial record and qualifications in making her final determination, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

“I’m going to make the decision based on his positions, his writings in his decisions, and what I’ve discovered in the documents I’ve had a chance to review,” she said. “That’s how I’ll make my decision.”

Ford told the Washington Post on Sunday that she authored a previously anonymous letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, accusing Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed and attempting to remove her clothes at a house party in suburban Maryland 36 years ago.

McCaskill’s decision to essentially ignore the allegation represents a sharp departure from her Democratic colleagues, many of whom have thus far demanded a delay in Kavanaugh’s confirmation pending an FBI investigation into the allegations.

Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley invited both Kavanaugh and his accuser to testify publicly before the panel next Monday. Kavanaugh immediately accepted the invitation and prepared to testify, while Ford’s attorney has said she will not attend any hearing until an FBI probe has been conducted. Republicans have responded by pointing out that the Senate alone is responsible for investigating nominees, save for an FBI background check that has already been completed.

McCaskill cited Ford’s reluctance to testify in explaining her decision not to let the allegation factor into her vote.

“I don’t think that this is a trial, and I don’t think I should be called upon to make that decision without hearing her testify,” McCaskill said. “I’ve tried many of these cases where the victim tells their story and the defendant has a different story, and it’s a matter of credibility, and I think anybody who makes up their mind without hearing them testify about the facts and the circumstances are doing both of them a disservice.”

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