Sens. Deb Fischer, Joni Ernst say they still back Kavanaugh, at least for now

Sens. Deb Fischer, Joni Ernst say they still back Kavanaugh, at least for now
Sens. Joni Ernst, left, and Deb Fischer.

WASHINGTON — Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., are sticking with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — at least for now.

Ernst told The World-Herald she’s focused on the supplemental FBI investigation that could produce evidence corroborating sexual assault allegations against the judge, which would be disqualifying.

“But if that doesn’t come forward, then I do intend to vote for Judge Kavanaugh,” Ernst said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, says it has spent a little more than $1 million on television advertisements in states represented by senators the ACLU feels can be persuaded to oppose the nomination, including Nebraska.

Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that Kavanaugh drunkenly attacked her at a high school party when they were both teenagers. Kavanaugh testified as well, denying Ford’s allegations, as well as claims by two other women of additional misconduct.

Ernst said she watched Ford’s testimony and found it compelling.

“I think there was a lot of emotion there and I do believe that at some point in her lifetime she has experienced trauma,” Ernst said. “I was not convinced that it was Brett Kavanaugh that was the perpetrator. Matter of fact, her own witnesses, the witnesses that she brought forward, they didn’t corroborate it and actually denied that there was a party.”

In a separate interview, Fischer also nodded to the possibility of new information from this week’s FBI report but reiterated what she has been saying over the past week.

“I support the judge,” Fischer said. “I support the judge.”

And Fischer said that most Nebraskans she’s heard from also back the nomination.

“I would say in my travels across the state I’ve heard, obviously, from both sides,” Fischer said. “But the majority support.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted Friday to advance the nomination to the full Senate. Sasse had praised Kavanaugh before the allegations surfaced but has declined World-Herald interview requests since then.

Ernst has worked to battle sexual assault on college campuses, among student athletes and in the military, calling for concrete steps to address the issue and change the culture. She said Tuesday that she stands by that work, but that accusations need to be based on evidence even if that’s difficult to produce at times.

“Those survivors or those that are accusing others need to have their say. They need to be heard,” Ernst said. “But that doesn’t mean that you throw out an accusation and that everybody should just believe it. We don’t want to start a culture of false accusations. We need to be able to understand the situation. We need to be able to understand what has happened. And we certainly need to be able to show some level of evidence. If accusations are made, we need to be able to back those up. There needs to be corroboration.”

The Kavanaugh nomination has become a galvanizing political issue, with Democrats criticizing Republican senators for their approach to the allegations against him.

Both sides have taken out ads in recent days. The ads taken out by the ACLU compare the judge to Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby, two powerful men who faced controversy for sexual wrongdoing.

The ACLU ads will air this week in states represented by senators the group thinks could be persuaded to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination: Sens. Deb. Fischer, R-Neb.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

The White House has not responded to a request for comment.

Fischer told The World-Herald that she’d heard about the ad campaign but expressed surprise the ads would run in Nebraska.

“Really?” Fischer said. “I’d heard that they were starting to do it, but they think they can target Nebraska senators? That would be a surprise.”

This report includes material from the Washington Post.

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