Politics

Susan Collins says she thinks Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser was ‘mistaken’

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, on Christine Blasey Ford: “I believed that a sexual assault had happened to her. What I think she is mistaken about is who the perpetrator was.”
Elise Amendola/Associated Press/File
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, on Christine Blasey Ford: “I believed that a sexual assault had happened to her. What I think she is mistaken about is who the perpetrator was.”

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican who wavered before voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, told “60 Minutes” that she thinks Christine Blasey Ford was “mistaken” about the identity of Kavanaugh as the person who sexually assaulted her.

“She was clearly terrified, traumatized, and I believed that a sexual assault had happened to her,” Collins said in a segment that aired Sunday night. “What I think she is mistaken about is who the perpetrator was. I do not believe her assailant was Brett Kavanaugh.”

Collins also said she would never have voted for someone who had committed such an act, or someone who had lied about it.

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“I would have voted no if I disbelieved Judge Kavanaugh, but given his denials and the lack of evidence that this happened I just did not think that it was fair to ruin the life of this distinguished judge and his family over allegations that cannot be proven,” she said.

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Collins also said she feels “comfortable” with her decision about voting to confirm Kavanaugh on Saturday.

“I spent an enormous amount of time in the first part of the confirmation process studying the judge’s 12-year record as a circuit court judge,” she told veteran CBS reporter Scott Pelley. “I was satisfied at that point, started working on the speech, and then these devastating allegations are made that sends the whole thing into a tailspin.”

Collins, who showed up at the interview on Capitol Hill with a security detail, told Pelley that the whole situation has been “very difficult,” and that in her nearly 22 years in the Senate, “this is as ugly a situation as I have ever seen.”

“I have had to have security because of threats against me and family members and staffers and this has been unlike anything I have ever been through,” she said.

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Collins also acknowledged the fact that her decision might not be too popular among her constituents in Maine, but said that didn’t factor into her choice.

“I did not try to weigh a political calculus to this decision,” she said. “It’s too important for that. I just had to do what I think is right.”

She also said after an event in Norridgewock on Sunday that the response of Mainers has been ‘‘overwhelmingly positive:’’ ‘‘Many people have thanked me for my vote and have said that they were very pleased that I did the right thing.’’

Pelley also brought up how a crowdsourcing group says it has secured pledges of more than $3 million for her opponent in 2020.. Collins dismissed it, calling it a classic example of “quid pro quo as defined in our bribery laws.”

“They are asking me to perform an official act and if I do not do what they want, $2 million-plus is going to go to my opponent,” she said. “I think that if our politics has come to the point where people are trying to buy votes and buy positions, then we are in a very sad place.”

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Collins, who is pro-choice, also said she felt confident that Kavanaugh would not try to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark abortion case.

“I could not vote for a judge who had demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade, because it would indicate a lack of respect for precedent,” she said. “What Judge Kavanaugh told me, and he’s the first Supreme Court nominee that I’ve interviewed, out of six, who has told me this, is that he views precedent not just as a legal doctrine, but as rooted in our constitution.”

Pelley also spoke to Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from conservative North Dakota who had also been wavering on whether or not to vote for Kavanugh’s confirmation.

Heitkamp said she decided to vote against Kavanaugh after his “jaw-dropping” interaction with Democratic senators, including Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar.

“I thought, ‘I have a responsibility not only to find somebody academically and intellectually qualified, but qualified by temperament, impartiality and . . . empathy,” Heitkamp told Pelley.

When Pelley pointed out that Heitkamp — who is locked in a tight race with a Republican challenger — would have gained some political clout for voting “yes,” Heitkamp said that the vote “isn’t about politics.”

“This is about a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. This is about a responsibility that we have as leaders,” she said.