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Fiery Kavanaugh denies quiet accuser in Senate showdown

WASHINGTON — In a day like few others in Senate history, California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford quietly recounted her "100 percent" certainty Thursday that President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers — and then Brett Kavanaugh defiantly testified he was "100 percent certain" he did no such thing.

That left senators to decide whether the long day of testimony tipped their confirmation votes for or against Trump's nominee in a deeply partisan fight with the future of the high court and possibly control of Congress in the balance.

Showing their own certainty, Republicans quickly scheduled a recommendation vote for this morning in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where they hold an 11-10 majority. They're hoping for a final Senate roll call next week, seating Kavanaugh on the court shortly after the Oct. start of its new term.

In the committee's packed hearing room for hour upon hour Thursday, both Kavanaugh and Ford said the alleged assault and the storm of controversy that has erupted 36 years later had altered their lives forever and for the worse — perhaps the only thing they agreed on during their separate testimony marked by a stark contrast of tone and substance.

Ford recounted for the senators and a nationwide TV audience her long-held secret of the alleged assault in a locked room at a gathering of friends when she was just 15. The memory — and Kavanaugh's laughter during the act — was "locked" in her brain, she said. Ford delivered her testimony with deliberate certitude, though admitting gaps in her memory as she choked back tears at some points and said she "believed he was going to rape me."

Hours later, Kavanaugh entered the hearing room fuming. He angrily denied her allegation, alternating a loud, defiant tone with near tears of his own, particularly when discussing his family. He decried his confirmation opposition as a "national disgrace." He interrupted senators and dismissed some questions with a flippant "whatever."

"You have replaced 'advice and consent' with 'search and destroy,'" he said, referring to the Constitution's charge to senators' duties in confirming high officials.

Democrats pressed the judge to call for an FBI investigation into the claims, but he would say only, "I welcome whatever the committee wants to do."

Republicans are concerned, among other reasons, that further investigations could push a vote past the November elections that may switch Senate control back to the Democrats and make consideration of any Trump nominee more difficult.

Trump made his feelings newly clear that he was sticking by his choice. "His testimony was powerful, honest and riveting," he tweeted. "The Senate must vote!"

Trump nominated the conservative jurist in what was supposed to be an election year capstone to the GOP agenda, locking in the court's majority for years to come. Instead Kavanaugh has seemed in peril and on Thursday he faced the Senate hearing amid a national reckoning over sexual misconduct at the top of powerful institutions.

The day opened with Ford, now a 51-year-old college professor in California, raising her right hand to swear under oath about the allegations she said she never expected to share publicly until they leaked in the media two weeks ago and reporters started staking out her home and work.

As Anita Hill did more two decades ago when she alleged sexual misconduct by Clarence Thomas, the mom of two testified before a committee with only male senators on the Republican side of the dais.

The psychology professor described what she says was a harrowing assault in the summer of 1982: How an inebriated Kavanaugh and another teen, Mark Judge, locked her in a room at a house party as Kavanaugh was grinding and groping her. She said he put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams. Judge has said does not recall the incident.

When the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, asked Ford how she could be sure that Kavanaugh was the attacker, Ford said, "The same way I'm sure I'm talking to you right now." Later, she said her certainty was "100 percent."

Her strongest memory of the alleged incident, Ford said, was the two boys' laughter.

"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," said Ford, who is a research psychologist, "the uproarious laughter between the two."

Republican strategists were privately hand-wringing after Ford's testimony. The GOP special counsel Rachel Mitchell, a Phoenix sex crimes prosecutor, who Republicans had hired to avoid the optics of their all-male line up questioning Ford, left Republicans disappointed.

Mitchell's attempt to draw out a counter-narrative was disrupted by the panel's decision to allow alternating five-minute rounds of questions from Democratic senators.

During a lunch break, even typically talkative GOP senators on the panel were without words.

John Kennedy of Louisiana said he had no comment. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he was "just listening."

Then Kavanaugh strode into the committee room, arranged his nameplate, and with anger on his face started to testify with a statement he said he had shown only one other person. Almost immediately he choked up.

"My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed," he said.

He lashed out over the time it took the committee to convene the hearing after Ford's allegations emerged, singling out the Democrats for "unleashing" forces against him. He mocked Ford's allegations — and several others since — that have accused him of sexual impropriety.

Even if senators vote down his confirmation, he said, "you'll never get me to quit."

Soccer sisterhood
GALLAGHER: Twins square off in Sioux City soccer battle

SIOUX CITY -- Taylor Beaulieu attempted two shots when her Briar Cliff Chargers scrimmaged the Morningside Mustangs in women's soccer before the season began. Both shots were blocked by the Mustangs' goal keeper, Tristan Beaulieu, Taylor's twin sister.

The twins face each other in a regular-season match at 1 p.m. Saturday at Briar Cliff, another of a number of events the Chargers host as homecoming culminates. (Taylor is also homecoming royalty, a queen candidate.)

"Tristan and I have been on the same team in every sport we've ever played," said Taylor, a BCU senior biology major.

Both twins remember the scrimmage.

"Taylor took the only two shots Briar Cliff had on goal that day," Tristan said. "It's really nerve-wracking, knowing that if she scores, she can brag."

Would Taylor brag? Tristan, a nursing major at Morningside, laughed at the question. "Oh, she'd brag!" she said. "And I'd be the type to brag if she DOESN'T score!"

Taylor Beaulieu

"The second shot was an awesome shot," Taylor remembered from the scrimmage. "And Tristan made an awesome play. She kind of dove into me and we both fell over."

Taylor muttered something to Tristan as they got up. Rather than "throw-down" in the heat of battle, the twins reacted by smiling and laughing. "She laughed and I laughed," Taylor said, still giggling about the encounter.

The daughters of Julie and Brad Schindler, and Rick Beaulieu, represented a serious force for Bishop Heelan High School, where they capped busy basketball and soccer prep careers for the Crusaders in 2015 with a state championship in girls' soccer, the school's first. In three state-tournament contests that year, goal-keeper Tristan didn't allow an opponents' goal. She captained the all-tournament team, protected near the net by her twin, who roamed the center of the pitch as a defender.

Following high school, Tristan matriculated to Morningside and played basketball. Taylor, meantime, headed to Briar Cliff and, like her twin, participated in basketball. Both gave the winter sport a try before finding out how much they missed soccer. As upperclassmen, they each gave up hoops and became a part of their respective soccer squads.

Morningside is 3-4-1 this season with Tristan serving as starting goalie. Briar Cliff is 4-4-1 with Taylor leading the team in scoring.

"Playing soccer has been great," Tristan said. "I love my teammates and how they and the coaches have welcomed me."

"I was a defender in high school and then changed to a forward in college because we (Briar Cliff) already had a lot of defenders," Taylor said. "It's been a lot of fun. I missed soccer too much and enjoy it so much more."

Taylor, a captain, said her team will enjoy a meal tonight (Friday) at her parents' home in Dakota Dunes. Even though she plays for the opposition, Tristan might stop by. "Tristan joked and said she may bring some of her teammates (to supper)," said Taylor, who didn't seem fazed in the least.

"We all like the Morningside girls," she continued. "Tristan and I have hung out together and with our friends in college. One of the Morningside players, Chloe Wetzbarger, has been a friend of mine for a very long time."

Hearing the twins talk, I only wished every inter-collegiate rivalry could be this close, this cozy, this friendly and good-natured.

The game may be toughest on their mother. Both Taylor and Tristan said they aren't sure what Julie Schindler will wear on Saturday; it might be a Briar Cliff hat and a Morningside sweatshirt. Or, she might switch shirts at halftime.

"We gave her the idea of stitching two shirts together, but we're not sure she'll do it," Taylor said.

Tristan said the twins will likely give one another a playful, sporting shove during pregame in Saturday, then settle in for the business at-hand, chasing victory and, of course, family bragging rights.

top story
Couple says it doesn't owe lawyer $2.5M from city settlement

SIOUX CITY -- A Hinton, Iowa, couple says that a Sioux City law firm seeking more than $2.5 million from a settlement with the City of Sioux City is entitled to only a fraction of that amount.

Chad and Rosanne Plante's attorney said in an answer and counterclaim to a lawsuit filed by Munger, Reinschmidt & Denne that the firm is seeking to collect an unreasonable fee and expenses. The Plantes are seeking a judge's order declaring their fee contract with the law firm void and unenforceable.

The Plantes reached a $7.5 million settlement with the city over claims from a 2016 crash in which a city bus struck Chad Plante's vehicle and caused serious injuries to him. The Plantes have paid Munger, Reinschmidt & Denne $380,000, clearly exceeding the total of $37,353 that the firm has tallied for legal work, their attorney, Bruce Johnson, of West Des Moines, said.

"The $380,000 defendants have authorized plaintiff to withdraw from its trust account as payment for legal fees is ten times the hourly value of plaintiff's legal work based on its time records for this case," Johnson said in his answer and counterclaim, filed Sept. 18 in Woodbury County District Court.

Attorney Stan Munger filed the lawsuit against the Plantes earlier this month, saying the two had signed a contract in December 2016 in which they agreed to a one-third contingency fee that would entitle the law firm to receive a third of the gross settlement amount if their claims against the city were settled without filing a lawsuit against the city. Munger said the settlement agreement was reached through mediation, and the gross recovery under the fee agreement with the Plantes is more than $7.6 million.

The Plantes have breached that contract, Munger said in the lawsuit.

Johnson said in his answer to the lawsuit that the amounts the city paid were not recovered under the fee agreement because, he claims, the contract is void and unenforceable.

The Sioux City Council on Aug. 6 approved the settlement -- one of the largest individual settlements in city history -- for injuries Chad Plante sustained in the November 2016 crash in which a transit bus struck his Chevrolet Tahoe at the intersection of Lewis Boulevard and Outer Drive. Plante's injuries included two broken legs and a brain injury. He was in a coma for several weeks and has undergone months of rehabilitation.

The settlement was in addition to approximately $180,000 the city had paid the Plantes in January 2017 to cover out-of-pocket expenses, health insurance premiums, lost wages and other requested expenses.

In addition to the one-third contingency Munger said the firm is owed, the firm is seeking a judgment ordering the Plantes to pay interest on all past due amounts.

The Plantes have countered that the demand for interest is an unreasonable expense and is not enforceable.