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Kavanaugh Tells Conservative Group He Went Through Ugly Process

Nov. 15, 2019, 4:15 AM

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh told an influential conservative group he had gone through an “ugly process” during his divisive Senate confirmation fight, as he made his first major speech since taking his seat 13 months ago.

Kavanaugh was greeted enthusiastically Thursday by most of the 2,000-plus people attending the annual Washington dinner of the Federalist Society, a group whose members helped put him on the court. A handful of demonstrators blew rape whistles at the start of his speech, alluding to the sexual assault allegations that nearly derailed his confirmation.

”I signed up for what I knew would be an ugly process -- maybe not that ugly,” said Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court appointee.

In a 35-minute speech, Kavanaugh made no mention of Trump, who hours earlier had filed an appeal asking the court to prevent his tax returns from being turned over to New York prosecutors.

He instead spoke of his love for the World Series champion Washington Nationals, thanked his friends and supporters and complimented his Supreme Court colleagues, including Chief Justice John Roberts. Kavanaugh said he is part of a “team of nine with a superb and wise chief justice.”

Matt Damon

Kavanaugh teared up briefly while thanking his wife and daughters. “Matt Damon would have made it through this,“ he joked, referring to the Saturday Night Live skit in which Damon lampooned his angry and tearful denial of the assault accusations before a Senate committee.

Kavanaugh was making public remarks outside the court for only the second time since a White House ceremony that followed his October 2018 confirmation.

The dinner, named after Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative legal icon who died in 2016, was held in the cavernous Main Hall of Washington’s Union Station. It was open to the media, but broadcast coverage was prohibited.

Kavanaugh remains a subject of controversy and raw feelings 13 months after he narrowly won confirmation in the face of accusations that he committed sexual assault decades ago while in high school. Kavanaugh denied the allegations in an emotional and contentious Senate hearing.

He has kept a low profile since then, maintaining an evenhanded demeanor on the bench and generally taking a measured approach in his opinions. His confirmation reinforced the court’s conservative majority and raised the prospect the court would roll back abortion rights, slash the power of regulatory agencies and bolster gun rights.

Outside Union Station Thursday night, a truck with a huge video screen showed the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who told senators that Kavanaugh assaulted her. “We Still Believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford,” the screen said at the top.

Women dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” shouted “Shame! Shame!” at tuxedo- and gown-wearing people waiting to enter.

The dinner is part of a three-day Federalist Society convention that features speeches by Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch and Attorney General Bill Barr as well as panel discussions on a number of legal topics.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net; Laurie Asséo, John Harney