HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The extraordinary hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week is the topic of discussion for this week's panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Bob Price – Associate Editor Breitbart Texas, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Tomaro Bell – Super Neighborhood leader, Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were students at Yale has agreed to cooperate with an FBI investigation, her lawyer says, and President Donald Trump says the bureau has "free rein" to conduct the inquiry.
Deborah Ramirez's lawyer, John Clune, said Saturday that agents want to interview Ramirez, who has alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party in the early 1980s. Two other women have accused the appeals court judge of sexual misconduct.
Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, once seen as assured, became uncertain after the allegations and then dramatic Senate testimony Thursday by Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Kavanaugh along party lines Friday.
While the precise scope of the reopened background investigation of Kavanaugh remained unclear, Trump told reporters Saturday that "the FBI, as you know, is all over talking to everybody" and said "this could be a blessing in disguise."
"They have free rein. They're going to do whatever they have to do, whatever it is they do. They'll be doing things that we have never even thought of," Trump said at the White House. "And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine."
The president revisited the question of the scope of the FBI's probe in a late-night tweet Saturday, writing in part, "I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion."
In a separate action involving the FBI, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the Justice Department and the FBI to open a criminal investigation into "apparent false statements" that were made to committee investigators alleging sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh in 1985.
A constituent contacted the office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted an acquaintance on a boat in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1985, but Grassley said the person later "'recanted' and apologized for the allegation via social media.
Trump ordered the FBI on Friday to reopen Kavanaugh's background investigation after several women accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Senate leaders agreed to delay a final vote on Kavanaugh's nomination to allow for a one-week FBI investigation. The Judiciary Committee has said the probe should be limited to "current credible allegations" against Kavanaugh and be finished by next Friday.
Leaving the hearing this past Friday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said it was his understanding there would be an FBI investigation of "the outstanding allegations, the three of them," but Republicans have not said whether that was their understanding as well.
The FBI conducts background checks for federal nominees, but the agency does not make judgments on the credibility or significance of allegations. The investigators will compile information about Kavanaugh's past and provide their findings to the White House and include the information in Kavanaugh's background file, which is available to senators.
Kavanaugh and Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers, testified publicly before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Kavanaugh's high school friend Mark Judge, who Ford says was in the room when a drunken Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, said that he will cooperate with any law enforcement agency that will "confidentially investigate" sexual misconduct allegations against him and Kavanaugh. Judge has also denied misconduct allegations.
Lawyers for P.J. Smyth and Leland Ingham Keyser, two others who Ford said were in the house when she was attacked, have said their clients are willing to cooperate "fully" with the FBI's investigation. An attorney for Keyser reaffirmed her previous statement that she doesn't know Kavanaugh and has no recollection of ever being at a gathering or party where he was present, the Judiciary Committee said in a statement Saturday night.
A third woman, Julie Swetnick, accused Kavanaugh and Judge of excessive drinking and inappropriate treatment of women in the early 1980s, among other accusations. Kavanaugh has called her accusations a "joke" and Judge has said he "categorically" denies the allegations.
Swetnick's attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Saturday that his client had not been contacted by the FBI but is willing to fully cooperate with investigators.
Speaking to supporters at a rally Saturday night in Wheeling, West Virginia, Trump accused Democrats of using "ruthless and outrageous tactics" against Kavanaugh and urged voters to support Republicans in November's midterm elections.
"We see this horrible, horrible, radical group of Democrats. You see what's happening right now," Trump said.
"And they're determined to take back power by any means necessary. You see the meanness, the nastiness. They don't care who they hurt, who they have to run over to get power," he said.
"We're not going to give it to them," Trump said.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Brett Kavanaugh's angry denunciation of Senate Democrats at his confirmation hearing could reinforce views of the Supreme Court as a political institution at a time of stark partisan division and when the court already is sharply split between liberals and conservatives.
The Supreme Court nominee called the sexual misconduct allegations against him a "calculated and orchestrated political hit" by Democrats angry that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. Kavanaugh went further than Clarence Thomas, who in 1991 attacked the confirmation process but didn't single out a person or political party, when he confronted allegations that he sexually harassed Anita Hill.
The comments injected a new level of bitter partisanship in an already pitched battle over the future of the Supreme Court and replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, frequently the decisive and swing vote on the most important issues of the day. Kavanaugh is more conservative than Kennedy and his ascendance to the high court would entrench conservative control of the bench for years.
"No matter what happens ... I think the court is the ultimate loser here. I think Judge Kavanaugh could have made the exact same points without making reference to the Clintons or Democrats, without going down that road," said Josh Blackman, a law professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. "It's an optics thing. I don't think he'll vote any differently because of what happened in the past 10 days, but what will change is how people perceive it."
In his pointed remarks, Kavanaugh said he was a victim of character assassination orchestrated by Democrats. "This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups," he said.
Vanderbilt University law professor Suzanna Sherry said that even if Kavanaugh was "spurred by the provocation he felt, the fact that he spoke out that way suggests he may be biased against Democrats when he gets on the court."
Still, said University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner, a winning argument would have to attract at least five votes so that "if four other justices agree with him, the force of that will be diminished."
There is a sharp contrast between what Kavanaugh said Thursday in a bid to save his nomination and the efforts of the justices to underscore the differences between them and the political branches of government.
Justice Elena Kagan talked about perceptions of the court in an appearance at UCLA on Thursday. "The court's strength as an institution of American governance depends on people ... believing that it is not simply an extension of politics, that its decision-making has a kind of integrity to it," Kagan said. "And if people don't believe that they have no reason to accept what the court does."
The court's legitimacy was on the mind of Chief Justice John Roberts during an argument last year in a case about the drawing of electoral maps for partisan advantage. Putting the court in the middle of "deciding whether Democrats or Republicans would win in each case" would "cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court in the eyes of the country," Roberts said.
When the justices have said or done something seen as political, the reaction is often swift. In 2016, for example, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg apologized for remarks in which she had called then candidate Donald Trump a "faker," among other things. And Justice Neil Gorsuch was criticized by some on the left for speaking to a conservative group at an event at the Trump hotel in Washington, months after he took the bench.
The Supreme Court has never been as non-political as the justices would like Americans to believe. A century ago, Justice Charles Evans Hughes resigned from the court after he had been chosen as the Republican presidential nominee in 1916.
At the same time, in the post-World War II era, some justices put on the court by Republicans have been among the more liberal justices, while some choices of Democratic presidents often voted with conservatives.
But the push for ideological purity from both parties in pursuit of justices who will vote the "right" way for decades has almost perfectly aligned party and ideology. The court's most liberal members are all Democratic appointees and the conservatives, Republican.
Until Thursday, though, the rest of the world could discuss how Republicans want to appoint conservative judges and Democrats want to appoint liberal judges, but the nominees themselves would insist they are impartial, Posner said.
Kavanaugh may well have been justified in his comments, he said, but by attacking the other side in partisan terms, "you begin to sound like a partisan yourself."