Transcript Of Brett Kavanaugh’s Opening Statement Is A Heated Defense Of Himself
Nearly two weeks after Christine Blasey Ford spoke publicly for the first time about her sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to deny the allegations that had been made against him. During his opening remarks, Kavanaugh denounced the allegations against him as "character assassination," and angrily argued that they had "destroyed my family and my good name."
On Wednesday, Kavanaugh submitted the full text of his prepared opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, the remarks he delivered during Thursday's hearing differed from those he had submitted. At the beginning of his opening remarks, Kavanaugh said that he had spent Wednesday afternoon and evening writing his statement, and that nobody else had seen it prior to Thursday's hearing. Kavanaugh then argued that while survivors of sexual assault should be taken seriously, he had not been present at the party described by Ford where she alleged he had sexually assaulted her.
In his remarks, Kavanaugh not only denied the allegation Ford made against him, but also insisted that her claim — as well as subsequent allegations by two other women, which he also denied — had been harmful to him, his family, and the country.
Read the full transcript of his opening remarks below:
Ranking member Feinstein, members of the committee, thank you for allowing me to make my statement. I wrote it myself yesterday afternoon and evening. No one has seen a draft or it except for one of my former law clerks. This is my statement.
Less than two weeks ago, Dr. Ford publicly accused me of committing wrongdoing at an event more than 36 years ago, when we were both in high school. I denied the allegation immediately, categorically, and unequivocally. All four people allegedly at the event, including Dr. Ford’s longtime friend, Ms. [Leland] Keyser, have said they recall no such event. Her longtime friend, Ms. Keyser, said under penalty of felony that she does not know me and does not believe she ever saw me at a party, ever. Here’s the quote from Ms. Keyser's attorney’s letter: “Simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with or without Dr. Ford.” Think about that fact.
The day after the allegation appeared, I told this committee that I wanted a hearing as soon as possible to clear my name. I demanded a hearing for the very next day. Unfortunately, it took the committee 10 days to get to this hearing. In those 10 long days, as was predictable and as I predicted, my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations. The 10-day delay has been harmful to me and my family, to the Supreme Court, and to the country.
When this allegation first arose, I welcomed any kind of investigation — Senate, FBI, or otherwise. The committee now has conducted a thorough investigation and I have cooperated fully. I know that any kind of investigation — Senate, FBI, Montgomery County Police, whatever — will clear me. Listen to the people I know. Listen to the people who have known me my whole life. Listen to the people I’ve grown up with and worked with and played with and coached with and dated and taught and gone to games with and had beers with. Listen to the witnesses who allegedly were at this event 36 years ago. Listen to Ms. Keyser. She does not know me. I was not at the party described by Dr. Ford.
This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy. Since my nomination in July, there has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything, to block my confirmation. Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate leader said he would “oppose me with everything he’s got.” A Democratic senator on this committee publicly referred to me as “evil.” “Evil.” Think about that word. And said that those who supported me were “complicit in evil.”
Another Democratic senator on this committee said "Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare." A former head of the Democratic National Committee said, "Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come." I understand the passions of the moment, but I would say to those senators: Your words have meaning. Millions of Americans listened carefully to you. Given comments like those, is it any surprise that people have been willing to do anything, to make any physical threat against my family, to send any violent email to my wife, to make any kind of allegation against me and against my friends, to blow me up and take me down? You sowed the wind; for decades to come, I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.
The behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment, but at least it was just a good old-fashioned attempt at borking. Those efforts didn't work. When I did at least okay enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was needed. Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn't take me out on the merits. When it was needed, this allegation was unleashed and publicly deployed over Dr. Ford's wishes.
And then, and then, as no doubt was expected, if not planned, came a long series of false, last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process before any hearing occurred. Crazy stuff. Gangs, illegitimate children, fights on boats in Rhode Island — all nonsense, reported breathlessly and often uncritically by the media. This has destroyed my family and my good name — a good name built up through decades of very hard work and public service at the highest levels of the American government.
This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars and money from outside left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country, and as we all know, in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around, comes around.
I am an optimistic guy. I always try to be on the sunrise side of the mountain, to be optimistic about the day that is coming, but today, I have to say that I fear for the future. Last time I was here, I told this committee that a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure. I said I was such a judge, and I am. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process.
You've tried hard, you've given it your all. No one can question your effort, but your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy my family will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. You may defeat me in the final vote, but you'll never get me to quit. Never.
I'm here today to tell the truth. I've never sexually assaulted anyone — not in high school, not in college, not ever. Sexual assault is horrific. One of my closest friends to this day is a woman who was sexually abused and who, in the 1990s, when we were in our 30s, confided in me about the abuse and sought my advice. I was one of the only people she consulted. Allegations of sexual assault must always be taken seriously, always. Those who make allegations always deserve to be heard. At the same time, the person who is the subject of the allegations also deserves to be heard. Due process is a foundation of the American rule of law. Due process means listening to both sides.
As I told you at my hearing three weeks ago, I'm the only child of Martha and Ed Kavanaugh. They are here today. When I was 10, my mom went to law school, and as a lawyer she worked hard and overcame barriers, including the workplace sexual harassment that so many faced at the time and still face today. She became a trailblazer, one of Maryland's earliest women prosecutors and trial judges. She and my dad taught me the importance of equality and respect for all people and she inspired me to be a lawyer and a judge.
Last time I was here, I told you that when my mom was a prosecutor and I was in high school, she used to practice her closing arguments at the dining room table on my dad and me. As I told you, her trademark line was, "Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?" Her trademark line is a good reminder as we sit here today, some 36 years after the alleged event occurred, when there is no corroboration and indeed it is refuted by the people allegedly there.
After I have been in the public arena for 26 years without even a hint, a whiff, of an allegation like this and when my nomination to the Supreme Court was just about to be voted on, at a time when I'm called "evil" by a Democratic member of this committee, while Democratic opponents of my nomination say people will die if I am confirmed — this onslaught of last-minute allegations does not ring true. I'm not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time, but I have never done this to her or to anyone. That's not who I am. It is not who I was. I am innocent of this charge.
I intend no ill will to Dr. Ford and her family. The other night, Ashley and my daughter Liza said their prayers, and little Liza — all of 10 years old — said to Ashley, "we should pray for the woman." That's a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old. We mean no ill will.
First, let's start with my career. For the last 26 years, since 1992, I have served in many high-profile and sensitive government positions, for which the FBI has investigated my background six separate times. Six separate FBI background investigations over 26 years, all of them after the event alleged here. I have been in the public arena and under extreme public scrutiny for decades.
In 1992, I worked for the Office of the Solicitor General in the Department of Justice. In 1993, I clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Anthony Kennedy. I spent four years at the Independent Counsel's office during the 1990s. That office was the subject of enormous scrutiny from the media and the public. During 1998, the year of the impeachment of President Clinton, our office generally and I personally were in the middle of an intense national media and political spotlight.
I and other leading members of Ken Starr's office were opposition-researched from head to toe, from birth through the present day. Recall the people who were exposed that year of 1998 as having engaged in some sexual wrongdoing or indiscretions in their pasts. One person on the left even paid $1 million for people to report evidence of sexual wrongdoing and it worked. He exposed some prominent people — nothing about me.
From 2001 to 2006, I worked for President George W. Bush in the White House. As staff secretary, I was by President Bush's side for three years and was entrusted with the nation's most sensitive secrets. I traveled on Air Force One all over the country and the world with President Bush. I went everywhere with him, from Texas to Pakistan, from Alaska to Australia, from Buckingham Palace to the Vatican. Three years in the West Wing, five and a half years in the White House. I was then nominated to be a judge on the D.C. circuit. I was thoroughly vetted by the White House, the FBI, the American Bar Association, and this committee. I sat before this committee for two thorough confirmation hearings in 2004 and 2006.
For the past 12 years leading up to my nomination for this job, I've served in a very public arena as a federal judge on what is often referred to as the second most important court in the country. I've handled some of the most significant and sensitive cases affecting the lives and liberties of the American people.
I have been a good judge and for this nomination, another FBI background investigation, another American Bar Association investigation, 31 hours of hearings, 65 senator meetings, 1,200 written questions — more than all previous Supreme Court nominees combined. Throughout that entire time, throughout my 53 years and seven months on this Earth until last week, no one ever accused me of any kind of sexual misconduct. No one, ever. A lifetime. A lifetime of public service and a lifetime of high-profile public service at the highest levels of American government, and never a hint of anything of this kind, and that's because nothing of this kind ever happened.
Second, let's turn to specifics. I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford. I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford. I never attended a gathering like the one Dr. Ford describes in her allegation. I've never sexually assaulted Dr. Ford or anyone. Again, I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time, but I've never done that to her or to anyone. Dr. Ford's allegation stems from a party that she alleges occurred during the summer of 1982 — 36 years ago. I was 17 years old, between my junior and senior years of high school at Georgetown Prep, a rigorous, all-boys Catholic Jesuit high school in Rockville, Maryland.
When my friends and I spent time together at parties on weekends, it was usually with friends from nearby Catholic, all-girls high schools — Stone Ridge, Holy Child, Visitation, Immaculate, Holy Cross. Dr. Ford did not attend one of those schools. She attended an independent private school named Holton-Arms, and she was a year behind me. She and I did not travel in the same social circles. It is possible that we met at some point at some events, although I do not recall that.
To repeat, all of the people identified by Dr. Ford as being present at the party have said they do not remember any such party ever happening. Importantly, her friend, Ms. Keyser has not only denied knowledge of the party. Ms. Keyser said under penalty of felony, she does not know me. Does not recall ever being at a party with me ever, and my two male friends who were allegedly there who knew me well have told this committee under penalty of felony that they do not recall any such party and that I never did or would do anything like this. Dr. Ford's allegation is not merely uncorroborated. It is refuted by the very people she says were there — including by a longtime friend of hers, refuted.
Third, Dr. Ford has said that this event occurred at a house near Columbia Country Club, which is at the corner of Connecticut Ave. and East West Highway in Chevy Chase, Maryland. In her letter to Sen. Feinstein, she said that there were four other people at the house, but none of those people nor I lived near Columbia Country Club. As of the summer of 1982, Dr. Ford was 15 and could not drive yet, and she did not live near Columbia Country Club. She says confidently that she had one beer at the party. But she does not say how she got to the house in question or how she got home or whose house it was.
Fourth, I've submitted to this committee detailed calendars recording my activities in the summer of 1982. Why did I keep calendars? My dad started keeping detailed calendars of his life in 1978. He did so as both a calendar and a diary. A very organized guy, to put it mildly. Christmas time we'd sit around and he would regale us with old stories, old milestones, old weddings, old events from his calendars.
Very organized guy, to put it mildly. Christmas time we’d sit around and he would have old milestone, old weddings and events from his calendars. In ninth grade — in ninth grade in 1980 I started keeping calendars of my own. For me also it’s both a calendar and a diary. I’ve kept such calendars and diaries for the last 38 years. Mine are not as good as my dad’s in some years, and when I was a kid the calendars are about what you would expect from a kid. Some goofy parts to embarrassing parts, but I did have the summer of 1982 documented pretty well.
The event described by Dr. Ford presumably happened on a weekend as I believe everyone worked and had jobs in the summers, and in any event, a drunken early evening event of the kind she describes presumably happened on a weekend. If it was a weekend, my calendars show that I was out of town almost every weekend night before football training camp started in late August. The only weekend nights that I was in D.C. were Friday, June 4 when I was with my dad at a pro golf tournament. And had my high school achievement test at 8:30 the next morning.
I also was in D.C. on Saturday night, August 7th. I was at a small gathering at Beck’s house in Rockville with Matt, Denise, Lori, and Jenny. Their names are all listed on my calendar. I won’t use their last names. Lori and Jenny. Their names are all listed on my calendar. I won’t use their last names here and then the weekend of August 20th, I was doing final preparations for football training camp that began on Sunday the 22nd.
As the calendars confirm, that weekend before a brutal football training camp schedule was no time for parties. So let me emphasize this point. If the party described by Dr. Ford happened in the summer of 1982 on a weekend night, my calendar shows all but definitively that I was not there.
During the week days in the summer of 1982, as you can see I was out of town for two weeks in the summer for a trip to the beach with friends and at the legendary five-star basketball camp in Homesdale, Pennsylvania. When I was in town I spent much of my time, working, working out, lifting weight, playing basketball, or hanging out and having some beers with friends as we talked about life and football and school and girls.
Some have noticed that I didn’t have church on Sundays on my calendars. I also didn’t list brushing my teeth and for me going to church on Sundays was like brushing my teeth. Automatic. Still is. In the summer of 1981, I worked construction. In the summer of 1982, my job was cutting lawns. I had my own business of sorts. You see some specifics about the lawn cutting listed on the August calendar page when I had the time the last lawn cutting of the summer of various lawns before football training camp.
I played in a lot of summer league basketball games for the Georgetown Prep team at night at Blair High School in Silver Springs. Many nights I worked out at another guy Tobin’s house — he was a great quarterback on our football team and his dad ran a workout or lifted weights at Georgetown Prep in preparation for the football season.
I attended and watched many sporting events as is my habit to this day. The calendars show a few weekday gatherings at friends’ houses after a workout or just to meet up and have some beers, but none of those gatherings included the group of people that Dr. Ford has identified. And as my calendars show I was very precise about listing who was there, very precise in, and keep in mind my calendars were also diaries of sorts, forward looking and backward looking just like my dad’s.
He can see, for example, I crossed out missed workout and the canceled doctor’s appointments and that I listed the precise people who had shown up for certain events. The calendars are obviously not dispositive on their own, but they’re another piece of evidence in the mix for you to consider.
Fifth, Dr. Ford’s allegation is radically inconsistent with my record and my character for my youth to the present day. As students at an all-boys Catholic Jesuit school, many of us became friends and remain friends to this day with students at local Catholic all-girl schools. One feature of my life that has remained true to the present day is that I’ve always had a lot of close female friends. I’m not talking about girlfriends. I’m talking about friends who were women. That started in high school. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child and had no sister, but we had no social media or text or email and we talked on the phone. I remember talking almost every night, it seemed, to my friends Amy or Julie or Kristen or Karen or Suzanne or Moira or Megan or Nicky.
The list goes on. Friends for a lifetime built on a foundation of talking through school and life charting at age 14. Several of those great women are in the seats right behind me today. My friends and I sometimes got together and had parties on weekends. The drinking age was 18 in Maryland for most of my time in high school, and was 18 in D.C. for all of my time in high school. I drank beer with my friends. Almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer, but I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out and I never sexually assaulted anyone.
There is a bright line between drinking beer, which I gladly do and which I fully embrace, and sexually assaulting someone, which is a violent crime. If every American who drinks beer or every American who drank beer in high school is suddenly presumed guilty of sexual assault, it would be an ugly new place in this country. I never committed sexual assault.
As high school students, we sometimes did goofy or stupid things. I look back at high school and cringing for some things.
For one thing, our yearbook was a disaster. I think some editors and students wanted the yearbook to be some combination of Animal House, Caddyshack, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which were all recent movies at that time. Many of us went along in the yearbook to the point of absurdity. This past week — my friends and I have cringed — when we read about it and talked to each other.
One thing in particular we’re sad about — one of our good — one of our good female friends who we would dance with had her name used on the yearbook page with the term alumnus. That yearbook reference was “Renate Alum” was intended to show affection in that she was one of us. But in this circus, the media’s determines it was related to sex. It was not related to sex as the woman herself noted to the media on the record. She and I never had any sexual interaction at all. I'm sorry to her for that yearbook reference. This may sound a bit trivial given all that we are here for, but one thing I want to try to make sure — sure of in the future to my friendship with her. She was and is a great person.
This is not a topic I ever imagined would come up in a judicial confirmation hearing and I want to give you a full picture of who I was. I never had sexual intercourse or anything close to it during high school or for many years after that and in some crowds I would be outwardly shy about my inexperience. I tried to hide that. I was also inwardly proud of it. For me and the girls who I was friends with, that lack of major rampant sexual activity in high school was a matter of faith and respect and caution.
The committee has a letter from 65 women who knew me in high school. They said that I always treated them with dignity and respect.
That letter came together in one night. Thirty-five years after graduation, while a sexual assault allegation was pending against me in a very fogged and public situation where they knew, they knew they’d be vilified if they defended me. Think about that. They put themselves on the line for me.
Those are some awesome women. I love all of them — you also have a letter from women who knew me in college. Those were varsity athletes. They described that I treated them as friends and equals and supported them in their sports at a time when women’s sports was emerging in the wake of Title IX. I thank all of them for all their texts and their e-mails and their support.
One of those women friends from college, a self-described liberal and feminist sent me a text last night that said, quote, “deep breaths. You’re a good man. A good man. Good man.” A text yesterday from another of those women friends from college said, quote, “Brett, be strong. Pulling for you to my core.” A third text yesterday from yet another of those women I’m friends with from college said, “I’m holding you in the light of God.”
As I said in my opening statement, the last time I was with you, cherish your friends, look out for your friend, lift up your friends, love your friends. I felt that love more over the last two weeks than I ever have in my life. I thank all my friends. I love all my friends.
Throughout my life, I’ve devoted huge efforts to encouraging and from promoting the careers of women. I will put my record up against anyone, male or female. I am proud of the letter from 84 — 84 women when [they] worked with me at the Bush White House from 2001 to 2006 and described me as, quote, “a man of the highest integrity.” Read the op-ed from Sarah Day from Yarmouth, Maine.
She worked outside of President Bush’s office. Here’s what she recently wrote in centralmaine.com. Today she stands by her comment. Quote, Brett was an advocate for young women like me. He encouraged me to take on more responsibility and to feel confident in my role. In fact, during the 2004 Republican National Convention, Brett gave me the opportunity to help with the preparation and review of the president’s remarks, something I never — something I never would have had the chance to do if he’d not included me, and he didn’t just include me in the work. He made sure I was at Madison Square Garden to watch the president’s speech instead of back at the hotel watching it on TV. End quote. As a judge since 2006, I’ve had the privilege of hiring four recent law school graduate to serve as my law clerk each year. The law clerks for federal judges are the best and brightest graduates of American law school. They work for one-year terms for judges after law school and then they move on in their careers. For judges, training these young lawyers is an important responsibility. The clerks will become the next generation of American lawyers and leaders, judges and senators. Just after I took the bench in 2006, there was a major New York Times story that the low numbers of women law clerk in the Supreme Court and Federal Appeals Courts. I took notice and I took action.
A majority of my 48 law clerks over the last 12 years have been women. In a letter to this committee, my women law clerks said I was one of the strongest advocates in the federal judiciary for women lawyers, and they wrote that the legal profession is fairer and more equal for women lawyers and wrote the legal profession is fairer and more equal because of me. In my time on the bench, no federal judge, not a single one in the country, has sent more women law clerks to clerk on the Supreme Court than I have. Before this allegation arose two weeks ago, I was required to start making certain administrative preparations for my possible transfer to the Supreme Court just in case I was confirmed.
As part of that, I had to, in essence, contingently hire a first group of four law clerks who could be available to clerk at Supreme Court for me on a moment’s notice. I did so and contingently hired four law clerks. All four women. If confirmed, I’ll be the first justice in the history of the Supreme Court to have a group of all women law clerks. That is who I am. That is who I was. Over the past 12 years, I’ve taught constitutional law to hundreds of students. Primarily at Harvard Law School, where I was hired by then-Dean and now-Justice Elena Kagan. One of my former women students, a Democrat, testified to this committee that I was an even-handed professor who treats people fairly and with respect. In a letter to this committee, my former students, male and female alike, wrote that I displayed a character that impressed us all.
I love teaching law. Thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee unleashed, I may never be able to teach again. For the past seven years, I’ve coached my two daughters’ basketball teams. You saw many of those girls when they came to my hearing for a couple of hours. You have a letter from the parents of the girls I coach that describe my dedication, commitment, and character. I coach because I know that a girl’s confidence on the basketball court translates into confidence in other aspects of life. I love coaching more than anything I’ve ever done in my whole life, but thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed, I may never be able to coach again. I’ve been a judge for 12 years.
I have a long record of service to America and to the Constitution. I revere the Constitution. I am deeply grateful to President Trump for nominating me. He was so gracious to my family and me on the July night he announced my nomination at the White House. I thank him for his steadfast.
When I accepted the president’s nomination, Ashley and I knew this process would be challenging. We never expected that it would devolve into this. Explaining this to our daughters has been about the worst experience of our lives. Ashley has been a rock. I thank God every day for Ashley and my family.
We live in a country devoted to due process and the rule of law. That means taking allegations seriously, but if the mere allegation, the mere assertion of an allegation, a refuted allegation from 36 years ago, is enough to destroy a person’s life and career, we will have abandoned the basic principles of fairness and due process that define our legal system in our country. I ask you to judge me by the standard that you would want applied to your father. Your husband. Your brother. Or your son. My family and I intent no ill will toward Dr. Ford or her family, but I swear today under oath before the Senate and the nation, before my family and God, I am innocent of this charge.