WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh acknowledged Thursday he "might have been too emotional" when testifying about sexual misconduct allegations as he made a final bid to win over wavering GOP senators on the eve of a crucial vote to advance his confirmation.
Three GOP senators and one Democrat remain undecided about elevating Kavanaugh to the high court. Two of the Republicans signaled Thursday that they were satisfied with the findings of a confidential new FBI report into the assault allegations, boosting the hopes of GOP leaders.
President Donald Trump rallied behind Kavanaugh during a campaign event in Minnesota Thursday night, telling supporters that the "rage-fueled resistance" to his nominee "is starting to backfire at a level nobody has ever seen before."
Still, Kavanaugh's op-ed underscored that his performance at a Senate hearing last week opened new questions about his impartiality and judicial temperament. Democrats say Kavanaugh's assertion that left-wing groups seeking "revenge on behalf of the Clintons" were behind the misconduct allegations suggests he would rule from the bench with a partisan bent.
In an op-ed Thursday in The Wall Street Journal, Kavanaugh said there were "a few things I should not have said" during the hearing.
"Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good," he wrote.
Senate leaders set a pivotal preliminary vote on Kavanaugh's nomination for 10:30 a.m. today. If that succeeds, a final roll call was expected Saturday as the long, emotional battle over the conservative jurist drew toward its climax.
Six days after Trump reluctantly ordered the FBI to scrutinize the accusations— which allegedly occurred in the 1980s and Kavanaugh has denied — leading GOP lawmakers briefed on the agency's confidential document all reached the same conclusion: There was no verification of the women's past claims and nothing new.
Democrats complained that the investigation was shoddy, omitting interviews with numerous potential witnesses, and accused the White House of limiting the FBI's leeway. Those not interviewed in the reopened background investigation included Kavanaugh himself and Christine Blasey Ford, who ignited the furor by alleging he'd molested her in a locked room at a 1982 high school gathering.
A week after a televised Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which Kavanaugh and Ford transfixed the nation, the Capitol campus remained a stew of tension as the election-season cliff-hanger neared its conclusion. A hefty police presence added an air of anxiety, as did thousands of noisy anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators who gathered outside the Supreme Court and in Senate office buildings. U.S. Capitol Police said 302 were arrested — among them comedian Amy Schumer, a distant relative of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
"What we know for sure is the FBI report did not corroborate any of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters about the document, which was sent to Congress overnight. On the Senate floor, he witheringly called the accusations "uncorroborated mud."
Earlier, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, one of the publicly undecided Republicans, told reporters "we've seen no additional corroborating information" about the claims against the 53-year-old conservative jurist and said the investigation had been comprehensive.
A second undeclared Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, also expressed satisfaction with the probe, calling it "a very thorough investigation." She paid two visits to the off-limits room where the document was being displayed to lawmakers. She told reporters she would not announce her position until today.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said she was "still reviewing" her decision.
While GOP leaders were not saying they'd nailed down the support needed, backing from two of those three would ensure Kavanaugh's confirmation because every other Republican was poised to back him. Republicans have a narrow 51-49 Senate majority, and Vice President Mike Pence will be available to cast a tie-breaking vote.
The trio of GOP moderates, leery of three women's claims of alcohol-fueled sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh, had refused to let his nomination proceed last week until Trump ordered the FBI probe. The three were briefed together on the investigation in the secure room senators were using to view the report. They skirted reporters for much of the day, sometimes shielded by Capitol Police.
Underscoring the hardening partisan lines, one of the two undecided Democratic senators said she'd oppose Kavanaugh. North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who faces a difficult re-election race next month, cited concerns about his "past conduct" and said she felt his heated attacks on Democrats during last week's Judiciary Committee hearing raised questions about his "current temperament, honesty and impartiality."
West Virginia's Joe Manchin, the other undeclared Democrat, spent time looking at the report and said he would resume reading it today.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, said while her party had agreed to a week-long FBI probe with a finite scope, "We did not agree that the White House should tie the FBI's hands."
SIOUX CITY -- Five new sculptures depicting Siouxland leaders were dedicated Thursday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Transportation Center in downtown Sioux City.
The five individuals honored with Celebrating Community Project sculptures include: Susan LaFlesche Picotte for her work with Native/indigenous Americans; Mike Wood for his work with homeless Americans; Evelyn Freeman for her work with African-Americans; Marilyn Murphy for her work as a women’s advocate; and Rhonda Tenuta for her work with victims of domestic violence.
At Thursday's ceremony, the project also was renamed the Rudy and Flora Lee Celebrating Community Project, in honor of community volunteer Flora Lee and her late husband, Rudy.
The first group of sculptures were placed in the MLK Center in June 2015. Sculptor Mark Avery, of North Sioux City, designed and built the pieces, which incorporate bronze busts of community equality advocates.
The NAACP and the Celebrating Community Foundation co-sponsored the sculpture park in cooperation with the city.
Previously dedicated sculptures include Hispanic/Latino Americans: Tomasa Salas; Jewish Americans: Rabbi Albert Gordon; Asian Americans: Nguyen Thi Hong Cuc; Elderly: Beulah Webb; Children’s Advocate: George Boykin; Veterans: Sergeant First Class John Raymond Rice; Disabled Americans: Richard T. Owens; and Recovery from Addiction/Substance Abuse: Connie Spain.
LONDON — The West unleashed an onslaught of new evidence and indictments Thursday accusing Russian military spies of hacking so widespread that it seemed to target anyone, anywhere who investigates Moscow's involvement in an array of criminal activities — including doping, poisoning and the downing of a plane.
Russia defiantly denied the charges, neither humbled nor embarrassed by the exceptional revelations on one of the most high-tension days in East-West relations in years. Moscow lashed back with allegations that the Pentagon runs a clandestine U.S. biological weapons program involving toxic mosquitoes, ticks and more.
The nucleus of Thursday's drama was Russia's military intelligence agency known as the GRU, increasingly the embodiment of Russian meddling abroad.
In the course of 24 hours, U.S. authorities charged seven officers from the GRU with hacking international agencies; British and Australian authorities accused the GRU of a devastating 2017 cyberattack on Ukraine, the email leaks that rocked the U.S. 2016 election and other damaging hacks; And Dutch officials alleged that GRU agents tried and failed to hack into the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The ham-handed attempted break-in — involving hacking equipment in the trunk of a car and a trail of physical and virtual clues — was the most stunning operation revealed Thursday. It was so obvious, in fact, that it almost looked like the Russians didn't care about getting caught.
"Basically, the Russians got caught with their equipment, people who were doing it, and they have got to pay the piper. They are going to have to be held to account," U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in Brussels, where he was meeting with NATO allies.
Mattis said the West has "a wide variety of responses" available.
Britain's ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Wilson, said the GRU would no longer be allowed to act with impunity.
Calling Russia a "pariah state," British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "Where Russia acts in an indiscriminate and reckless way, where they have done in terms of these cyberattacks, we will be exposing them."
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov of Russia said in a statement that the U.S. is taking a "dangerous path" by "deliberately inciting tensions in relations between the nuclear powers," adding that Washington's European allies should also think about it.
While the accusations expose how much damage Russia can do in foreign lands, through remote hacking and on-site infiltration — they also expose how little Western countries can do to stop it.
Russia already is under EU and U.S. sanctions, and dozens of GRU agents and alleged Russian trolls already were indicted by the U.S but will likely never be handed over to face American justice.
Still, to the Western public, Thursday may have been a pivotal day, with accusations so extensive, and the chorus of condemnation so loud, that it left little doubt of massive Russian wrongdoing. A wealth of surveillance footage released by Western intelligence agencies was quickly and overwhelmingly confirmed by independent reporting.
The litany of accusations of GRU malfeasance began overnight, when British and Australian authorities accused the Russian agency of being behind the catastrophic 2017 cyberattack in Ukraine. The malicious software outbreak knocked out ATMs, gas stations, pharmacies and hospitals and, according to a secret White House assessment recently cited by Wired, caused $10 billion in damage worldwide.
The British and Australians also linked the GRU to other hacks, including the Democratic Party email leaks and online cyber propaganda that sowed havoc before Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election.
Later Thursday, Dutch defense officials released photos and a timeline of GRU agents' botched attempt to break into the chemical weapons watchdog using Wi-Fi hacking equipment hidden in a car parked outside a nearby Marriott Hotel. The OPCW was investigating a nerve agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England, that Britain has blamed on the Russian government. Moscow vehemently denies involvement.
Photographs released by the Dutch Ministry of Defense showed a trunk loaded with a computer, battery, a bulky white transformer and a hidden antenna; officials said the equipment was operational when Dutch counterintelligence interrupted the operation. What Dutch authorities found seemed to be the work of an amateur.
The men were expelled instead of arrested, because they were traveling on diplomatic passports.
The Dutch also accused the GRU of trying to hack investigators examining the 2014 downing of a Malaysian Airlines jetliner over eastern Ukraine that killed all 298 people on board. A Dutch-led team says it has strong evidence the missile that brought the plane down came from a Russia-based military unit. Russia has denied the charge.
Later Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department charged seven GRU officers — including the four caught in The Hague — in an international hacking rampage that targeted more than 250 athletes, a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company, a Swiss chemical laboratory and the OPCW.
Russia denied everything and countered with accusations of their own: The Defense Ministry unveiled complex allegations that the U.S. has a clandestine biological weapons lab in the country of Georgia as part of a network of labs on the edges of Russia and China that flout international rules.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon called the accusations "an invention" and "obvious attempts to divert attention from Russia's bad behavior on many fronts."
DES MOINES -- A majority of Iowa lawyers who responded to a survey have given their approval for the retention of six Northwest Iowa judges who will appear on the November ballot.
The three Iowa Court of Appeals judges up for a retention vote on Nov. 6 also received overwhelming support from lawyers who submitted ratings to the Iowa State Bar Association.
The bar association on Wednesday released the results of its biennial survey of judges standing for retention. More than 200 lawyers rated the Court of Appeals judges, and lower numbers provided ratings for the judges in each of Iowa's eight judicial districts.
All but one judge up for retention in the 3rd Judicial District, which includes 16 Northwest Iowa counties, received an approval rating above 90 percent.
In subdistrict 3B, which includes Woodbury, Crawford, Ida, Monona, Plymouth and Sioux counties, District Judge Jeffrey Poulson received 99 percent support. District Judge Julie Schumacher was supported by 91 percent of respondents. District Associate Judges Todd Hensley and Stephanie Forker Parry received 91 percent and 94 percent, respectively. The number of lawyers who submitted ratings on those four judges ranged from 71 to 83.
In subdistrict 3A, which includes Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, Kossuth, O’Brien, Osceola and Palo Alto counties, 97 percent of the 72 lawyers who filed ratings approved of District Judge David Lester's retention. District Judge Nancy Whittenburg's retention was supported by 78 percent of the 76 respondents.
Court of Appeals Judge Michael Mullins received 93 percent support for retention. Judges Mary Tabor and Anuradha Vaitheswaran received support from 92 percent and 96 percent, respectively.
"We understand that most members of the voting public have little to no interaction with these judges, so we want to make sure they have a resource to help guide them when they get to the retention portion of the ballot. This survey provides insights into how Iowa attorneys, who interact with these judges regularly, feel about their competency and character," Bar Association president Tom Levis said in a news release.
Iowa Court of Appeals, district and district associate judges must stand for retention the first full year after being appointed to the bench and every six years after that. Supreme court justices also face retention votes after the first full year after their appointment, then every eight years.
The full results of the survey and judges' biographies can be found on the Iowa State Bar Association website at www.iowabar.org.