Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) on Thursday castigated Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and other Senate Democrats for withholding information on a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh until it was politically convenient for them to use to hurt his nomination.
An impassioned Sasse accused Democrats of sitting on the allegation while questioning Kavanaugh during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard testimony from both the nominee and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Ford alleges that, during a high school party in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned her to a bed, groped her, and tried to remove her clothes before she escaped. Kavanaugh adamantly denies the allegation.
Sasse asked Kavanaugh whether any senators asked him about sexual allegations when the committee held private confirmation hearings with him. Kavanaugh said he was never asked.
Sasse then called out Feinstein, the ranking member of the judiciary committee. He noted how Ford wrote Feinstein a letter in July detailing her allegation, before adding that the senator did not raise the issue during any of the committee's private hearings with Kavanaugh. The Nebraska Republican then referenced how Feinstein's office recommended the attorney who Ford has used during this process.
"She [Feinstein] knew all that, and yet we had a hearing here with you, and none of these things were asked," Sasse said to Kavanaugh. "But then once the process was closed, once the FBI investigation was closed, once we were done meeting in public and in private, then this was sprung on you."
"We've got 35-plus days from all the time that this evidence was in [Democrats'] hands, recommendations were made to an outside lawyer," Sasse continued, growing visibly angry. "You could have handled all this. We could have had this conversation private in a way that didn't not only do crap to his family, but do—"
Sasse, who only had five minutes to ask questions, had run out of time and stopped himself.
"I yield my time," he said.
Republicans have lambasted Feinstein for not acting on Ford's allegation until after Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings had concluded and right before the Senate was set to vote on his confirmation. Feinstein has said that she kept quiet out of respect for Ford, who wanted her allegation to remain confidential. She went public earlier this month when her story leaked to the press.
Feinstein on Thursday denied that she or her staff leaked the contents of Ford's letter to the media.