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Senate Republicans come to Kavanaugh’s defense at sexual assault hearing
Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee abandoned use of the prosecutor they hired to ask questions of Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and have instead stepped in to defend Kavanaugh at what has become a combative and intense hearing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) broke the dam of Republican senators who had been ceding their time to prosecutor Rachel Mitchel, and angrily yelled at Democrats on the committee for how they treated Kavanaugh in this process.

“If you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I’ve seen in my time in politics,” Graham yelled, before vowing to vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

Graham was followed by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who compared the hearing to the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s, and other Republicans on the committee who came to Kavanaugh’s defense.

Kavanaugh, for his part, was equally combative, yelling at Democratic senators on the committee, refusing to agree to an FBI investigation into the allegations and even snidely asking Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) if she herself had a drinking problem.

This came after Kavanaugh set the tone for a combative hearing, coming out swinging in his opening remarks by defending himself against the sexual assault allegations levied by Ford and launching partisan attacks against Senate Democrats, who he called an “embarrassment” and warned, “what goes around, comes around.”

“You’ve tried hard, given it your all, no one can question your effort,” Kavanaugh said, referring to Democrats. “But your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy my family will not drive me out.”

Kavanaugh’s defiant statement — which he read large pieces of through tears — is different from the opening remarks he had submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee and that were released on Wednesday, a day before the hearing.

The new remarks, which Kavanaugh said were not reviewed by anyone before he delivered them other than a former law clerk, were much more combative and partisan. In them he posits that the allegations against him were, “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

Ultimately, Kavanaugh vehemently denied Ford’s accusations on Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Ford said that she is “100%” sure Kavanaugh was the boy who sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers in the early 1980s.

“I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever,” Kavanaugh said Thursday.

The remarks suggest Kavanaugh has no intention of withdrawing his nomination. The partisan tone he struck is both a much different image than the fair arbiter he initially portrayed himself as in his confirmation hearing, which could create more problems for Republicans to confirm him.

Thursday Sept. 27, 2018 6:14 p.m.: This article has been updated.