WASHINGTON (AP) — As several Democratic presidential candidates called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, newly disclosed allegations are reviving questions about the rush to confirm President Donald Trump's nominee at the height of the #MeToo movement.
The Senate confirmed Kavanaugh last October after emotional, widely watched hearings over an allegation of a sexual assault from his high school years. The vote provided a signature achievement for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, fulfilling a long-held Republican desire to pack the Supreme Court and much of the federal judiciary with conservatives.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that Kavanaugh faced a separate allegation from his time at Yale University and that the FBI did not investigate the claim. Still, many Democrats are reluctant to reprise the controversy that likely cost the party Senate seats in the midterm elections.
McConnell opened the Senate on Monday saying the new round of allegations against Kavanaugh "felt a little like Groundhog Day." He called the Times report "yet another poorly sourced, thinly reported unsubstantiated allegation."
While impeachment proceedings against Kavanaugh are extremely unlikely, the revelations raise fresh questions about the GOP rush to push Kavanaugh's confirmation.
The latest claim in the Times is similar to one offered during Kavanaugh's confirmation process by Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate who claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken party. Kavanaugh declined to comment Monday through the court's press office, but in Senate testimony last year, he flatly denied all allegations of misconduct.
On Monday, The Associated Press learned that one Democratic senator had raised concerns to the FBI as agents were investigating.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., asked the FBI on Oct. 2 to speak with "one individual I would like to specifically refer you to for appropriate follow up," according to a letter obtained by the AP.
The senator's letter does not spell out the allegations, and the person's name is redacted in the letter. But a person familiar with the letter confirmed Coons was referring to Max Stier, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh's who is the person cited in the newspaper story.
The senator's letter to the FBI said the person had "information relevant to Ramirez's allegations."
The Times said that the female student in the latest claim declined to be interviewed and that friends said she doesn't recall the episode. The newspaper said Sunday in an editor's note that an earlier version of its story didn't include that information.
But several Democratic presidential candidates were quick to call for Kavanaugh's impeachment. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Kavanaugh "lied" to the Senate and "most importantly to the American people." She tweeted: "He must be impeached." Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, tweeted, "Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached." Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke asserted in a tweet: "We know he lied under oath. He should be impeached."
Their calls were highly unlikely to be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee, where impeachment proceedings would begin. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Monday that his panel is focused on impeaching Trump.
"We have the head of the FBI coming before our committee next month, and we're certainly going to ask him about this, and we're going to see where it goes from there," Nadler said on WNYC's "The Brian Lehrer Show."
Republicans affirmed their support for Kavanaugh. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted, "As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I promise you Justice Kavanaugh will not be impeached over these scurrilous accusations."
At the forefront of the claims against Kavanaugh last fall were allegations from Christine Blasey Ford, a college professor in California, who testified that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teens at a high school party near Washington, D.C.
As voting neared, three key Republican senators whose votes McConnell needed remained undecided, and the GOP leader drew them and other Republicans to his office to decide the next steps.
They resolved to ask the FBI to take an additional week to investigate the claims of Ford and Ramirez.
Days later, Coons sent his letter to the FBI. A copy — with Stier's name redacted — was sent to the Judiciary Committee and its chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. The letter did not contain any specific details of the allegation.
McConnell would later tell the AP and others that the senators determined the "scope" of the FBI's investigation.
On Monday, Grassley said his office "never received anything from Mr. Stier" or anything with the special allegation against Kavanaugh "like the one referenced."
Grassley stood by the process and scoffed at impeachment, saying, "There weren't any allegations in the letter. They just said you ought to talk to so-and-so."
One of those three Republicans whose vote McConnell needed was Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who ultimately voted to confirm Kavanaugh. Her spokeswoman said Monday that the new allegation is an "accusation that lacks an accuser."