Crowd boos Sen. Lindsey Graham while he defends Kavanaugh
Sen. Lindsey Graham said he has no plans to personally read the FBI report on Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but he’s confident the supplemental background check found no evidence to corroborate allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I asked questions” at the briefing for GOP Senators on Thursday morning, the South Carolina Republican told reporters. “I knew exactly what I was looking for .... the summaries suggest nothing new.
“I am good to go,” said Graham. “Enough already. Let’s vote.”
After more than a week of insisting Kavanaugh was qualified and opponents were smearing the nominee, Graham doesn’t have much of a choice.
Graham isn’t the only lawmaker who isn’t planning on reading the full document before making a decision to vote one way or another. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, conceded separately she had only read “some, but not all” of the report before she delivered a statement to the press decrying its failings.
But Graham has been unapologetic in his support for Kavanaugh over the past week, so much so that even if he had seen something troubling come out of the FBI investigation, reversing course on the federal judge would be politically difficult.
He’s been cheered as a hero on the right for his defense of Kavanaugh. He’s perhaps never been more popular with conservatives back home and he’s received personal praise from President Donald Trump. He even changed his Twitter photo to a picture of him and Kavanaugh smiling side by side.
Yet in appointing himself as his party’s most visible, aggressive Senate spokesman for Kavanaugh — by taking sides in a hyper-partisan and deeply emotional debate — Graham has sealed his fate.
He has chosen to turn on Democrats, calling some of them out by name for “conspiring to destroy this man’s life” and trying to keep a Supreme Court seat open for the next two years in hopes of winning back the White House in 2020. Graham has long branded himself as a friend to members on the other side of the aisle.
“Senator (Mazie) Hirono said, ‘Well, the goal here is to delay the hearing past the midterms so we can fill the seat,’” Graham said Thursday of the Hawaii Democrat. “Now, she was foolish enough to say that. Are we smart enough to believe her? And I actually do believe her. That’s the goal. it’s not about the truth.”
He also has exposed himself to a visceral public backlash.
Anti-Kavanaugh activists have been following Graham around Capitol Hill for days, at some moments blocking his path and shouting in his face. He has had a Capitol Police security detail trail him since Tuesday to help him navigate the hallways unimpeded.
In one instance, Graham said an individual tried to prevent the elevator doors from closing between them. A private citizen who identified himself as J.C. Bell from Georgia stepped off the elevator to intervene on Graham’s behalf, a gesture that resulted in hearty thanks from the senator and his staff.
“I wasn’t defending Sen. Graham,” Bell told McClatchy. “I was defending America.”
At a forum hosted by The Atlantic Magazine on Wednesday morning, Graham was jeered by members of the audience when he contended that Kavanaugh had been “treated like crap” by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and that Kavanaugh’s primary accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, did not have evidence to corroborate her allegation that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in 1982.
“Yeah? Well, boo yourself,” Graham shot back.
He was also asked at the forum whether his angry speech at last week’s Judiciary Committee hearing was in some way manufactured to appeal to Trump and the GOP base.
On Thursday, he told McClatchy, “I don’t care what they think. If you knew anything about me, what you saw is what you got. That I am disgusted with my colleagues who have been my friends.
“My motives — I couldn’t care less what other people think,” he said.
The FBI had up to a week to produce a supplemental background check on Kavanaugh, starting last Friday. The report the agency transmitted to Republican senators early Thursday morning is being kept in a classified location where lawmakers and only a select number of aides can access it. There is a single copy all lawmakers must share. There are no electronic copies and no portions of it will be released to the public.
Democrats have criticized the report as insufficient, noting the FBI did not interview everyone they should have. In particular, they say investigators did not conduct follow-up interviews with Ford, who testified before the committee last week that the Supreme Court nominee attempted to rape her at a high school party in 1982.
Democrats also slammed Republicans for scheduling a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation Friday, giving members little time to fully digest the report.
Graham wasn’t concerned.
“The main thing for me is the FBI did a professional job, they were not hindered in time in terms of interviewing the people they wanted to. They were not hindered in any fashion.”