Civil rights veteran Vanita Gupta redoubles opposition following Kavanaugh hearing

Vanita Gupta 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate Judiciary Committee heard Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh deny Christine Blasey Ford’s charges that he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school “that room was full of male rage,” said Vanita Gupta, former head of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Justice.

Leading a discussion on the Sept. 28 hearing one day later with “AM Joy” anchor Joy Reid, Gupta recalled: “I had to keep checking myself – this guy is going up to the United States Supreme Court Justice position. To me, I was sitting there for hours, he was a partisan, belligerent political operative who felt like he was owed this position – that he was being denied it and he was a victim – and all of those male [Republican] senators were apologizing to him.”

Gupta, a former Obama appointee to the Justice Department, is now president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which strongly opposes Kavanaugh’s nomination. She had been seated just a few rows behind the nominee in the hearing room.

“He came in belligerent, he came in full of partisan venom, he was yelling, he was pounding his pen on the table, and you notice suddenly the Republican senators who had been totally silent in the morning [during the testimony of Ford], also suddenly found their male rage.That room was full of male rage for the whole afternoon—it was stunning,” she said.

“They had not a word to say to Dr. Blasey Ford when she was giving her truth and her gut-wrenching testimony that morning, working so hard to almost please the senators and it was shocking,” she said.

Gupta also criticized Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who had accused the Democrats of putting up roadblocks to postpone Kavanaugh’s confirmation. She said it was Graham who had worked alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell  to block President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, running out the clock so Obama’s successor could fill it.

“It’s too ironic for words,” she said, calling Graham “hypocritical.”

Gupta said, “It was obvious that he [Graham] speaking to his fellow Republicans and particularly to Senator [Jeff] Flake that he was invoking and channeling Donald Trump and acting belligerent as well,” she said, noting that he had spoken directly to Flake and any Republican who might vote against Kavanaugh.

She noted how even though Graham and Kavanaugh resisted an FBI investigation “it’s very important for this to happen and important for survivors to know because a lot of women after Brett Kavanaugh performed the way he did, felt completely discounted and dismissed.” She said she was worried, however, that Graham and others would not put much stock in the FBI’s findings.

But beyond the FBI investigation, she said, this is about whether Kavanaugh is fit to serve on the nation’s highest court “based on everything we know about this man, including how he was at the hearing this week.”

Before the hearings, Gupta had said last month that she believed the process needed to be halted and that the nominee’s confirmation would threaten the protection of civil and human rights. “We urge all Senate Judiciary Committee members to question Kavanaugh to expose his extremely troubling civil rights record and demonstrate why the Senate should oppose his confirmation.The more the American people know about what’s at stake, the more they will oppose his confirmation too.”

On July 17, when Trump nominated Kavanaugh, the Leadership Conference wrote a letter of opposition to all 100 senators signed by more than 180 organizations, saying that he has been neither a neutral nor fair-minded jurist. “Critical civil and human rights issues hang in the balance, including access to health care for millions of Americans, the ability of women to control their own bodies, voting rights, labor rights, economic security, rights of immigrants and persons with disabilities, LGBTQ equality, equal opportunity and affirmative action, environmental protections, and whether the judiciary will serve as a constitutional check on a reckless president,” the letter said.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s 12-year record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as well as his known writings, speeches, and legal career, demonstrate that if he were confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would be the fifth and decisive vote to undermine many of our core rights and legal protections,” they said, “In case after case, he has ruled against individuals and the environment in favor of corporations, the wealthy, and the powerful.  He has advanced extreme legal theories to overturn longstanding precedent to diminish the power of federal agencies to help people.”

And, the coalition added, “He has demonstrated an expansive view of presidential power that includes his belief that presidents should not be subject to civil suits or criminal investigations while in office despite what misconduct may have occurred.” 

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