Sen. Susan Collins said that although she thought newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh "stepped over the line" during his confirmation process, she ultimately put herself "in his shoes" when considering his temperament and fitness for the court.
"Well, I put myself in his shoes. He is coming forth and answering an allegation that includes that he was involved in gang-raping and doping girls," Collins told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union" in an interview that aired Sunday.
"I mean, that is so devastating, and I think he reacted with anger and anguish as a father of two young girls, a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old," the Maine Republican said.
Collins, a key GOP swing vote in the confirmation process, was referring to allegations made by Julie Swetnick, who said she had witnessed Kavanaugh attending more than 10 house parties between 1981 and 1983 where he and his friend, Mark Judge, were present. At some of those parties, she alleged, Kavanaugh was "fondling and grabbing girls without their consent" and, along with others, spiking drinks to force girls to lose their inhibitions.
She also alleged that at some parties, boys lined up by a bedroom to "gang-rape" incapacitated girls and claimed those in the lineup included Kavanaugh and Judge. But she did not say Kavanaugh or Judge assaulted the girls in the bedroom, nor did she provide the names of corroborating witnesses. Both Kavanaugh and Judge have denied Swetnick's allegations.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in late September, Kavanaugh answered questions about those allegations and others, at times becoming combative and testy with Democratic members of the committee, including when Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked him whether he had ever had memory lapses from drinking.
Collins, who served as the key deciding vote in Kavanaugh's confirmation, told Bash that his behavior sometimes crossed a line.
"I did believe that he should not have taken the shot at the Clintons and that in his questioning with certain senators, responding to their questions, particularly Amy Klobuchar, that he stepped over the line," she said. "He has apologized for that, both directly to her and in a column that he wrote."
Two presidents weighs in
Collins said that former President George W. Bush and his former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both called her to assure her that Kavanaugh's temperament and alleged drinking habits wouldn't be an issue.
"President Bush actually called me three times on his behalf, as did Condoleezza Rice," Collins said. "I asked Condi Rice whether she had ever seen Brett Kavanaugh drunk or out of control, did she socialize with him? She said he did, but she had never seen him that way."
President Donald Trump also weighed in on Kavanaugh's complicated nomination process and last week notably mocked Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault but could not recall certain facts about the incident, which she said occurred in the 1980s, when they were in high school. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegation.
Collins also noted Ford's inability to recollect certain aspects of the alleged assault in explaining her support for Kavanaugh. Asked Sunday how her points differed from the President's, Collins said, "I felt that the President was not respectful to Dr. Ford. I had always been respectful toward her," Collins told Bash, noting that it was the President's tone more than his words that were problematic.
"So, I believe he should have said nothing," Collins said. "He's put forth his nominee, he should have left it up to us to assess the allegations, with the help of the FBI."
Collins' vote met with harsh criticism
In the wake of Collins' vote, Planned Parenthood's political fundraising arm said on Twitter, "This isn't just another vote. @SenatorCollins has made it clear that she can no longer call herself a women's rights champion. She has sided with those who disbelieved, disrespected, and even mocked survivors. We deserve better. Women won't forget."
Collins told Bash that she had "never disregarded, disrespected or mocked survivors. That is just plain untrue."
"And this is just outrageous," she said. "I worked to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood over and over again, and I'm going to continue to do so."