As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tries to claim the moral high ground in last week’s political battle over Brett M. Kavanaugh, he borrowed some of the language used by protesters who tried to stop the judge’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the Republican Senate conference,” McConnell told reporters Monday, two days after Kavanaugh was sworn in despite accusations of sexual misconduct and nearly unanimous Democratic opposition.
“We were standing up for the presumption of innocence,” he said. “And secondly, we were literally under assault.”
The last three words stood out.
Sexual assault survivors were among the hundreds of protesters who interrupted hearings and yelled at senators in the halls of the Capitol last week. They rallied around women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misbehavior, which he denies. At the height of the protests, California professor Christine Blasey Ford testified that the nominee once pinned her to a bed and tried to rape her when they were teenagers.
In other words: She described an assault.
On the contrary, no senators are known to have been physically attacked during the Kavanaugh protests.
A woman was accused of assaulting someone outside Republican Sen. Susan Collins’s office, CNN reported on Friday, though police didn’t know what took place. Otherwise, the protests appear to have been overwhelmingly nonviolent.
Two women who said they were sexual assault survivors cornered Sen. Jeff Flake (R) in an elevator at one point and begged him not to vote for Kavanaugh. A crowd showed up outside McConnell’s house to sing “what do we do with a drunken justice?” Hundreds of protesters were arrested over the course of the confirmation battle, though the vast majority faced minor charges such as “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding” and were quickly released.
McConnell didn’t specify which incidents he was referring to in his news conference, and he later downgraded the “literal” assaults to “almost” attacks.
“These Democrats,” he said. “I’m sure some of them were well-meaning citizens, but many of them were obviously trained — to go to our homes up there, to almost attack us in the halls. So it was a full-scale effort to intimidate, as well.”
McConnell’s news conference echoed the unfounded claims from President Trump and many other Republicans, who say the majority of the anti-Kavanaugh protesters were paid agitators. Democrats say the GOP is concerned that voters who believed the accusations will punish Republicans in November.
If that’s a concern for McConnell, he didn’t show it. Rather, he said at the news conference, the Democratic intimidation campaign will backfire and inspire Republicans to turn out at the polls.
“What this has done for us is provide the kind of adrenaline shot we had not been able to figure out how to achieve in any other way,” he told reporters.
While it almost certainly was not intentional, he echoed Kavanaugh’s opponents there, too. In her testimony last month, Ford spoke of a “surge of adrenaline” coursing through her body as, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed.