‘I saw somebody who was very angry, who was very nervous, and I saw rage…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said she was going to vote ‘yes’ on then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh until she watched his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee with the “sound off.”
“It’s something I do,” she said, according to CNN. “We communicate not only with words, but with our body language and demeanor. I saw somebody who was very angry, who was very nervous, and I saw rage.”
Heitkamp added that for her it did not matter if Kavanaugh was being publicly shamed and slandered as part of a political ploy if his judicial temperament wasn’t up to the challenge.
“A lot of people said, ‘Well of course you’re going to see rage he’s being falsely accused,’ but it is at all times you’re to acquit yourself with a demeanor that’s becoming of the court.”
Heitkamp was one of three Democratic senators to vote in favor of President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. She said that when Kavanaugh was nominated, she instructed her staff to prepare a statement explaining why he deserved her vote as well — until Christine Blasey Ford accused him of attempted sexual assault. Even then, however, Heitkamp said she was concerned about the allegations, but was still “willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Kavanaugh’s behavior during his testimony, however, changed her mind. Heitkamp said Kavanaugh revealed his true colors when he asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., if she had ever been black-out drunk. Kavanaugh was responding in kind to Klobuchar’s having asked the same question of him, underscoring that it was an attempted character smear and was irrelevant to the allegations of sexual assault. Shortly thereafter, he apologized.
Heitkamp said her experience as an attorney also decided her vote against Kavanaugh. She said “it really came down to that I believed her.”
Others have pointed out inconsistencies in Ford’s testimony, including GOP interrogator Rachel Mitchell, who issued a report highlighting many of the problems a prosecutor would have in pursuing the case.
In an evenhanded, lauded speech on the Senate floor the day before Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, used a legal argument to lay out a case in favor of Kavanaugh, saying the evidence was insufficient to meet the burden of proof, regardless of how sympathetic Ford’s testimony may have seemed.
Heitkamp, who is up for re-election this year in North Dakota–a state Trump won by 36 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election–now risks losing her seat.
However, she said the political consequences did not factor into her decision to oppose Kavanaugh.
“The political rhetoric is you can’t vote that way if you expect to come back. I tell people, ‘Ray and Doreen Heitkamp didn’t raise me to vote a certain way so that I could win,’” she said. “They raised me to vote the right way.”