Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday covered a lot of ground. In a 45-minute opening statement marked by bellowing defiance alternating with hurt tears, Kavanaugh denounced the allegations against him by Christine Blasey Ford as part of a left-wing conspiracy and addressed his alcohol consumption, his treatment of women, and obscure slang references in his high school yearbook. Along the way he turned from the truth, sometimes offering explanations that conflicted with evidence or definitions that were unverifiable but raised questions. Some points worth mentioning:
Repeatedly through the course of the hearing, Kavanaugh said that Ford’s account was contradicted by four people who she said were at the party where she claims she was assaulted. This is not true, as all four potential witnesses said they didn’t remember it happening but didn’t specifically say Kavanaugh didn’t do it. Leland Keyser, Ford’s friend who she said was at the gathering with her the night of the assault, has said she didn’t remember the party but not that Ford was lying.
Among the witnesses who have said they don’t recall the events is Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s high school friend, who Ford claims were the only other person in the bedroom while Kavanaugh was drunkenly groping her. During Thursday’s hearing, Kavanaugh said, “Mark Judge has provided a sworn statement saying this didn’t happen.” That sentence isn’t true. The judge discussed the allegations not in a sworn statement but in a letter from his lawyer. He doesn’t say that the assault didn’t happen but that he had “no memory of the alleged incident.” The judge submitted another signed letter Thursday night repeating the statement.
Republicans have refused Ford’s request to seek testimony from Judge — a recovering alcoholic who has written extensively about his hard-partying high school years and included in his memoir a heavy-drinking character named Bart O’Kavanaugh. One of Judge’s ex-girlfriends has said she is willing to testify that Judge once told her of an incident where he and other unnamed boys took turns having sex with a drunken woman. Per a Washington Post report, Judge is currently hiding out at a Delaware beach house.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in her last question to Kavanaugh asked if he had watched Ford’s testimony earlier in the day. Kavanaugh said he had not, but the Wall Street Journal reported earlier in the day that a committee aide told them Kavanaugh was indeed watching Ford’s testimony on a monitor elsewhere in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Kavanaugh was questioned on several references in his calendar and yearbook. He claimed that “boofing” referred to “flatulence” and “devil’s triangle” was a drinking game. These definitions conflicted with interviews of Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmates and online slang dictionaries that define “boofing” as drug or alcohol use and “devil’s triangle” as a sexual encounter consisting of two men and one woman.
Kavanaugh also said the mention in his yearbook of “Renate Alumnius” was a tribute to Renate Schroeder, who attended a nearby Catholic girls school. “That yearbook reference was clumsily intended to show affection, and that she was one of us,” said Kavanaugh during Thursday’s hearing. That statement conflicts with those of other classmates, other references in the yearbook and the claim that Schroeder, who now goes by Dolphin, didn’t know about it at the time, and regards the phrase as a slur on her chastity.
“I learned about these yearbook pages only a few days ago,” she said in a statement to the New York Times. “I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”
“They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, a Georgetown Prep student at the time, referring to Judge Kavanaugh and his football teammates in an interview with Times. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”
Dolphin was one of the 65 women to sign a letter in support of Kavanaugh’s character, but she did so before she was aware of the yearbook reference.
In Kavanaugh’s yearbook, it also lists him as “Beach Week Ralph Club — Biggest Contributor.” Beach Week was a week of parties attended by Kavanaugh and his classmates the summer of the alleged result. Kavanaugh said that “ralphing” was a euphemism for throwing up, but that it didn’t imply heavy drinking on his part, but a weak stomach and an intolerance for spicy food. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tried to pin Kavanaugh down on his drinking habits. Kavanaugh didn’t answer directly but implied that frequent partying would have been incompatible with his high school record of high grades, varsity sports, and volunteer work.
“So the vomiting that you reference in the Ralph Club reference related to the consumption of alcohol?” asked Whitehouse.
“Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team” said Kavanaugh. “Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.”
Kavanaugh has said that the drinking age in Maryland was 18 for most of his time in high school and that by the time he was a senior, whatever drinking he did was legal. Kavanaugh graduated from Georgetown Prep in 1983. Maryland raised the drinking age to 21 on July 1, 1982, so that the summer before his senior year he would not have been old enough to legally drink.
Ford took a lie detector test prior to her testimony and Harris asked Kavanaugh if he had done the same.
“No, I’ll do whatever the committee wants. Of course, those are not admissible in federal court,” replied Kavanaugh. “They’re not admissible in federal court because they are not reliable, as you know.”
Kavanaugh’s justified scepticism of polygraphs Thursday is a departure from an opinion he wrote two years ago in defence of the tests:
“As the Government notes, law enforcement agencies use polygraphs to test the credibility of witnesses and criminal defendants. Those agencies also use polygraphs to ‘screen applicants for security clearances so that they may be deemed suitable for work in critical law enforcement, defence, and intelligence collection roles.