Kavanaugh's answers in question as confirmation vote looms

As the FBI wraps up its renewed background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the remaining u...

Posted: Oct 4, 2018 10:53 AM
Updated: Oct 4, 2018 10:53 AM

As the FBI wraps up its renewed background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the remaining undecided senators have only a few days left to decide if they are ready to approve his lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

The prolonged process has generated more drama for Kavanaugh. This past week, old acquaintances came forward to dispute his testimony to Congress and Democrats accused the judge of lying under oath.

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Two Republican swing votes on the nomination, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona, have said they would oppose Kavanaugh if he lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee. If they both vote against his nomination, and all 49 Senate Democrats do the same, he could not be confirmed.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that it "would not be acceptable" if Kavanaugh had lied. The question remains whether the senators would be willing to overlook seemingly minor inaccuracies by Kavanaugh, and Trump could change his mind if it appears that there are enough votes to confirm.

The stakes couldn't be higher for Kavanaugh. If he prevails, he could sit on the Supreme Court well into the 2040s. But if he goes down, his reputation could be tarnished as he continues hearing cases as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. If Democrats retake the House of Representatives, they could pursue an investigation -- or even impeachment -- of Kavanaugh.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee drilled down on some of these inconsistencies in their questioning of Kavanaugh last week. The nominee denies any wrongdoing and stands by his testimony. Lying to Congress is a federal crime, though it is rarely prosecuted.

Here's a breakdown of some of the biggest questions surrounding Kavanaugh's testimony.

The drinking age at the time

Kavanaugh testimony

On a few occasions, Kavanaugh insisted he was legally allowed to drink alcohol during his senior year in high school. "The drinking age was 18 in Maryland for most of my time in high school, and was 18 in DC for all of my time in high school," he said. He later added, "the seniors were legal, senior year in high school, people were legal to drink, and we -- yeah, we drank beer."

Reporting and analysis

Kavanaugh's comments are factually inaccurate, according to an Associated Press analysis of the drinking laws where he went to high school. There was never a time when he could legally drink in Maryland as a high schooler, because he was 17 when the state raised its drinking age from 18 to 21 in July 1982. In nearby Washington DC, Kavanaugh became a legal drinker in February 1983, a few months before his high school graduation.

Drinking habits as a young man

Kavanaugh testimony

Asked if he ever drank "to the point that you would have blacked out," Kavanaugh replied "no." He later said he sometimes fell asleep from drinking, but "never blacked out." He also said, "I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out."

Reporting and analysis

At least five of Kavanaugh's classmates from Yale University have painted a different picture of his college-age drinking. One said he was "blatantly lying" about drinking, and another said the judge "has not told the truth" about blacking out. His freshman year roommate at Yale, James Roche, said, "I saw him both what I would consider blackout drunk and also dealing with the repercussions of that in the morning." Others said they couldn't confirm blackouts but often saw Kavanaugh in an extreme state of drunkenness. On the other hand, some of Kavanaugh's other friends from his youth said they never saw him blacked out from alcohol.

Social circles in high school

Kavanaugh testimony

Kavanaugh testified that he and Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has accused him of sexual assault, "did not travel in the same social circles" in high school. He said he does "recall her name" and that "it is possible that we met at some point at some events, although I do not recall that."

Reporting and analysis

Ford testified that her friend group "intersected" with Kavanaugh and his friends "for a short period of time" during high school. She also said she "went out with" one of Kavanaugh's close friends, Chris Garrett, nicknamed Squi. Garrett appeared several times in Kavanaugh's calendar from summer 1982.

Controversial yearbook entries

Kavanaugh testimony

Democratic lawmakers peppered Kavanaugh with questions about apparent sexual references in his high school yearbook. He claimed that "boofed" was a term to describe flatulence. He said "devil's triangle" was a drinking game. He also said "FFFF" was an inside joke about Squi's stutter.

Reporting and analysis

Kavanaugh's explanations were met with skepticism from Democratic senators and by people who remember that many of these terms were commonly associated with sexual acts in the 1980s and beyond. Some of Kavanaugh's classmates told The New York Times that his explanations didn't check out.

'Bart O'Kavanaugh' moniker

Kavanaugh testimony

Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge wrote a book about his struggle with alcoholism. In the book, Judge described a friend named Bart O'Kavanaugh who once drank so much that he vomited in a car and "passed out." Kavanaugh testified that he believes Judge "picked out names of friends" for the book but would not say if he was the person Judge was referencing. "You'd have to ask him," he said.

Reporting and analysis

It's unclear whether Kavanaugh is the character in the book and if the incident was real or fictionalized. But Kavanaugh signed his name as "Bart" in a letter he wrote to his friends in June 1983 about an upcoming party weekend at the beach, according to The New York Times.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with additional information about DC's drinking laws at the time and Kavanaugh's related testimony.

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