WASHINGTON (AP) — Brett Kavanaugh looked in desperate need of a fighter on his behalf Thursday as he gave impassioned testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying allegations of sexual assault.
He found it in Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who told the judge straight out, “You’ve got nothing to apologize for.”
Kavanaugh alternated from anger to tears during fiery testimony. He took deep breaths and lengthy sips of water to gain his composure. He looked every bit the man who said his family “has been destroyed by this senator, destroyed.”
Democratic senators pressed Kavanaugh over and over again to request an FBI investigation if he had nothing to hide.
Enter Graham, who said that if Democrats truly wanted an FBI investigation, they could have spoken up when Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was first made aware of the allegations from Christine Blasey Ford. Just hours earlier, Ford described for senators what she says was an assault by Kavanaugh on a summer evening three decades ago. Kavanaugh denied the allegation.
“What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020,” Graham said with his voice shaking, pointing at Democratic lawmakers.
Graham said he voted for Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, both nominated by a Democratic president, and he told Kavanaugh to say hello to them when he sees them. “I’d never do to them what you’ve done to this guy. This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.”
Returning his glare to Kavanaugh, he said: “You’re looking for a fair process? You came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend.”
Graham’s comments seemed to buck up Kavanaugh’s mood. He managed a smile when Graham asked if he considered the confirmation process to be like a job interview. “This is not a job interview,” Graham told him. “This is hell.”
The comments also seemed to lift the White House. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted: “@LindseyGrahamSC has more decency and courage than every Democrat member of the committee combined. God bless him.”
Graham’s independent streak has sometimes got him into trouble with conservatives, but he won plaudits from many of them on Twitter. “Blistering statement from Lindsey Graham is as strong a denunciation of this process as I’ve ever heard,” tweeted longtime Fox journalist Britt Hume.
He also won a large number of detractors as #LindseyGraham lit up on Twitter.
Republican senators gathered for a closed-door meeting after the hearing and gave Graham a round of applause.
“Lindsey Graham is Lindsey Graham,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., comparing him to the TV attorney “Matlock.” “He did a good job.”