Government

Critics urge Ernst to oppose Kavanaugh

Senator says not to jump to conclusion he's guilty

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh meets with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) in her Senate offices ahead of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 31, 2018. (Reuters)
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh meets with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) in her Senate offices ahead of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 31, 2018. (Reuters)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Opponents of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday visited Sen. Joni Ernst’s Cedar Rapids office with a message that the issue has moved beyond politics.

“It’s not a partisan issue any longer. It’s a moral issue,” Daniel Clark, a no-party candidate for the U.S. House from Mount Pleasant told an Ernst staffer.

Yet her vote on Kavanaugh could have political consequences, said Jan Stephan of Iowa City. “She’s in deep doo-doo,” Stephan said about Ernst’s re-election chances in 2020.

Nearly a dozen people told the Iowa Republican’s staff representative she needs to “wake up” to the impact allegations against the judge are having, especially on those who have been the victim of sexual assault.

“This is a line in the sand,” said Aaron Silander of Iowa City. “We’re anxious, we’re in pain, and, yes, we’re angry about how disrupted our spirits are by the hearings.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard last week from Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh, when he was 17, sexually assaulted her at a party when she was 15.

Following the hearing, Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa agreed to an FBI investigation.

Ernst was not in Cedar Rapids when the group visited her office. But she later talked to The Gazette in a call from Washington, where the Senate was in session.

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Ernst welcomed the additional “reference check.” However, she encouraged people not to jump to the conclusion that Kavanaugh is guilty of sexual assault.

“I believe something happened to (Ford),” Ernst said, “but there is an awful lot of doubt whether it was Kavanaugh because she has been contradicted by her own witnesses.”

Pat Bowen of Iowa City called on Ernst to “step away from Sen. Grassley and be her own woman.”

“I am,” Ernst said in the interview.

Much of the criticism from the group dealt with Kavanaugh’s demeanor when responding to Ford’s allegations. He denied them in what some described as combative behavior.

“It’s a daily struggle for the women and men who have been sexually assaulted and he’s the one complaining,” Silander said.

Silander and others said that if the FBI finds Kavanaugh lied in his testimony he should be disqualified. For Ernst, though, it would matter what he lied about.

“We’re talking about a 17-year-old’s drinking habits. I don’t even know where to go with that,” she said. “I would be more concerned if the FBI found corroboration of Ford’s allegations.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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