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FBI Should Assess Allegations Against Kavanaugh, Sen. Coons Says


There is a new accusation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It's being reported in The New Yorker magazine. A woman named Deborah Ramirez claims that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a party at Yale University in the 1980s when they were both students there. This comes days before Kavanaugh is expected to testify in front of a Senate committee to defend himself against an allegation of sexual assault. Christine Blasey Ford says Kavanaugh held her down, covered her mouth and tried to remove her clothes during a party when they were in high school. Kavanaugh denies both allegations. Many Republicans are coming to his defense, including Senator Lindsey Graham. Here he is speaking on Fox yesterday.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: What am I supposed to do, go ahead and ruin this guy's life based on an accusation? I don't know when it happened. I don't know where it happened. And everybody named in regard to being there said it didn't happen. I'm just being honest.

MARTIN: We should note Senator Graham made these remarks before the second accusation emerged. Joining us now, Democratic senator from Delaware Chris Coons, also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator, thanks for being back on the show.

CHRIS COONS: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: When did you learn about this allegation that Deborah Ramirez is making?

COONS: I learned her name and the specifics of the allegations when it was published by The New Yorker. I had heard rumors that there was someone from Yale College who had a very bad experience, an arguably sexually harassing experience, with Judge Kavanaugh from a number of acquaintances from Yale, but without the specifics of name and a place and time. And I am now joining Senator Feinstein and other Democrats on the committee in calling on Chairman Grassley again to have the FBI conduct an appropriate background investigation on both of these alarming allegations from Deborah Ramirez about Judge Kavanaugh's alleged misdeeds at a party at Yale College and Christine Blasey Ford for allegations of sexual assault at a high school party.

MARTIN: The New York Times today says they knew about the Ramirez allegation but didn't break the story because there were so many holes in it. Do you think this is a credible allegation?

COONS: That's exactly why I think professionals who do background investigations, who interview witnesses, who assess evidence for every federal court nominee should be the folks doing the fact-finding initially and then present their conclusions to the Judiciary Committee before we hear from both witnesses. It is my hope that Deborah Ramirez would also come forward to the Judiciary Committee and testify. But it's important for us to remember this is not a criminal trial. Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez are not on trial. What's at stake here is a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. And I think it's important that the senators who are on the Judiciary Committee and all of the senators who are charged with advising and consenting to any nomination take our time, take this seriously and show the American people that we can treat credibly and respectfully allegations of sexual assault.

MARTIN: Although, as you noted, Senator Feinstein and other Democrats including yourself have asked for this investigation before. They asked for the FBI to investigate the Ford allegation. Now you're asking the FBI to investigate the Ramirez allegation. There were no indications by Chuck Grassley or any other Republicans that they wanted that to happen. So what makes you think it can happen now?

COONS: Rachel, they may not want it to happen, but I think it's important to keep reminding your listeners that this is what happens in every federal nomination to a lifetime appointment to the judiciary, first. Second, that is what happened in the case now several decades ago where Professor Hill came forward with allegations. The White House directed the FBI to conduct an investigation. They did so in a matter of several days.


COONS: And ultimately, that hearing had 20 witnesses. It's not unreasonable to expect the FBI to do its job here.

MARTIN: Just very briefly, Senator, Lindsey Graham said on Fox it doesn't matter what he hears from Ford. He's still going to vote yes on the confirmation. Have you already made up your mind, or is there anything Kavanaugh could say that would convince you to support him? Very briefly.

COONS: I publicly said I will vote against Judge Kavanaugh based on his extreme views as a judge about presidential power. These additional allegations are gravely concerning. But after his confirmation hearings, I concluded I could not support him for the Supreme Court.

MARTIN: OK. Senator Chris Coons, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.