Sasse: ‘I urged the President to nominate a woman’ in June before Kavanaugh was picked

Posted at 8:49 AM, Oct 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-04 10:49:52-04

Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse previously urged President Donald Trump to nominate a woman for the open Supreme Court seat due to the #MeToo movement, Sasse said on the Senate floor Wednesday night.

Trump ultimately nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation process has been marked by allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate sexual behavior prompting an FBI report that senators are reviewing Thursday. Kavanaugh has denied all wrongdoing.

“While I’ve said many complimentary things about Judge Brett Kavanugh and his distinguished record of 12 years of service on the DC circuit court, I will say that I urged the President back in June and early July to make a different choice before he announced this nomination,” Sasse said. “I urged him to announce a different individual, I urged the President to nominate a woman.”

Sasse, who as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee was among 11 Republicans to vote for a favorable recommendation of Kavanaugh last week, is not seen as one of the key three GOP senators still undecided on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona are being closely watched as are Democrats from red states such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. While Flake also voted to advance Kavanaugh nomination, he requested the FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.

One female judge, Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, was among the final four possible nominees who Trump considered for the spot.

Sasse’s reasoning, he said, was that the Senate was ill-equipped to handle reacting to the #MeToo movement.

“Part of my argument then was that the very important #MeToo movement was also very new and that this Senate is not at all well prepared to handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault that might have come forward, this was absent knowing a particular nominee,” he said.

Sasse stressed that while “some academic literature” showed that the rate of false reporting of sexual assault claims is very low, he was concerned that “the situation might be different” in Washington due to politicians “who constantly believe that the end justifies the means.”

“Let me be clear — there is some academic literature that suggests that very few allegations of sexual assault in the broader culture are fabricated, or stated conversely, the hefty majority of allegations of sexual assault in our broader culture are probably true,” he said.

Studies suggest the prevalence of false reporting on sexual assault is between 2% and 10%, according to a 2012 report from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

“But in politics, in this city, a place filled with politicians who constantly believe that the end justifies the means, that situation might well have been different, I argued in June. So in the interest of cautious prudence, I urged a different path form the one that was chosen,” Sasse added.

Sasse also said that his advice to choose a woman became a moot point due to the change in the Senate’s role after the President’s choice of Kavanaugh, despite what he described as a mischaracterization of the Senate’s impending vote on the nominee’s confirmation.

“But so what, once the decision was made, once the President made his nomination, that meant that the work that the Senate need to do was to evaluate the specific evidence and claims about the specific individual that was on the floor before us,” he said. “But we’re being told now that our vote is not about a specific individual, a specific seat or specific evidence, but rather we’re being told that the choice before us in this confirmation is a much broader choice about whether we do or don’t care about women.”