WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh an unusual question for a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee: Had he ever had so much to drink that he didn’t remember what happened the night before?
“No … I think that you’ve probably had beer, senator,” Kavanaugh replied.
Klobuchar asked the question again.
“You’re asking about a blackout — I don’t know, have you?” Kavanaugh retorted, as viewers in an overflow room three floors above the hearing chambers gasped and groaned.
The exchange between the Minnesota Democrat and President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee was just one of many astonishing moments in Thursday’s nationally televised Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
The day started with Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high school students in the 1980s, and Klobuchar in her questions to Ford also produced a memorable exchange.
“Can you tell us what you don’t forget about that night?” Klobuchar asked.
Ford, who had already laid out her version of events, replied: “The stairwell. The living room. The bedroom. The bed on the right side of the room. As you walk into the room there was a bed to the right. The bathroom in close proximity. The laughter, the uproarious laughter. And the multiple attempts to escape and the final ability to do so.”
As she prepared to question Ford, Klobuchar recalled her days as the Hennepin County attorney. She observed that for many years, allegations like those from Ford were often swept under the rug.
“Well, the times have changed,” she said.
While Kavanaugh in his opening statement railed against Democrats as partisans who had destroyed his family and reputation for political gain, he at one point took on a friendlier tone with Klobuchar. Though she opposed his confirmation even before Ford’s allegations became public, Kavanaugh said he appreciated how she had handled a private meeting and the earlier hearings.
“I have a lot of respect for you,” Kavanaugh, a federal appeals judge, told Minnesota’s senior senator.
As she questioned Kavanaugh about his drinking, Klobuchar talked about her own father’s struggles with alcohol. But given that Ford had alleged that Kavanaugh assaulted her while he was drunk, Klobuchar pressed him about the possibility of blackouts.
“Could you answer the question … So that’s not happened, is that your answer?” Klobuchar asked.
“Yeah, and I’m curious if you have,” said Kavanaugh, who had asked another Democratic senator, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a similar question about his beer drinking habits shortly before.
“I have no drinking problem, judge,” Klobuchar said.
“Nor do I,” Kavanaugh replied.
After a brief break, Kavanaugh apologized to Klobuchar for asking about her drinking habits: “I’m sorry … it’s a tough process,” he said of the hearing.
Klobuchar responded that when you have a parent who’s an alcoholic, you tend to be careful about drinking. Then she reiterated the broader theme of her questioning and that of many other Democrats: that she wants the FBI to investigate the sexual assault accusations.
Between the testimony of Ford and Kavanaugh, Klobuchar told the Star Tribune that Ford had handled the hearing with grace and dignity.
“It wasn’t easy, and she told her story and answered hours and hours of questions,” Klobuchar said. “I think it became really obvious that [Republicans] should have allowed for the follow-up [FBI] background checks.”