Story By CBS NEWS – EDITED BY TREMG NEWS
Sen. Susan Collins said her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court “ranks right up there” with the hardest votes she has ever cast in the Senate. John Dickerson spoke to Collins in an interview airing on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, just one day after the vote.
“There have been out there very difficult decisions but this was a tough one,” Collins said.
Collins gave an impassioned 45-minute speech on Senate floor Friday as she announced she would be voting to confirm Kavanaugh. She said the reaction has been “overwhelming on both sides.”
“I heard from a lot of protesters, as well as people who support my decision,” Collins said.
Kavanaugh’s nomination had been vehemently opposed by sexual assault survivors, but Collins said it causes her “huge pain” that some believe she is denying their voice.
“The one silver lining that I hope will come from this is that more women will press charges now when they are assaulted,” Collins said
Dickerson pressed Collins on this point, especially since many sexual assault survivors don’t come forward because they don’t think they will be believed. Dickerson said that many survivors could get the message from Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that “well, nobody’s going to believe me the way they didn’t believe her.”
“Well, I certainly don’t believe that’s the case because I think that this has been an awakening for this country,” Collins said. “I don’t think most of us had any idea how pervasive the problem of sexual assault is. Sexual harassment, yes, we knew that. But sexual assault. And that’s why the Me Too movement has been important. That’s why it’s been important that so many of these women for the first time ever have come forward. And it is important that we treat people fairly. And that’s what we need to do.”
Collins called the FBI inquiry into the allegations against Kavanaugh “thorough.” Collins said rumors that only the four people Ford mentioned in her testimony were interviewed were not true, saying she had read “12 different interviews” in the FBI report.
Dickerson pointed out the counter-argument is that 12 is “still a limited number,” Collins said to “keep in mind” that Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for “hours.” Collins said she found Ford’s testimony “very compelling,” but the people Ford said were at the party “offered no corroboration.”
“I am convinced that Dr. Ford believes what she told us and that she was the victim as a survivor of sexual assault and that, that has been a trauma that has stayed with her for her entire life,” Collins said. “But we have a presumption of innocence in this country. And when I looked at the lack of any corroborating evidence, including no evidence from her very best friend who was present at the party, I could not conclude that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant.
Collins said she does believe Kavanaugh “drank too much in high school,” but none of the people interviewed in the FBI background check “brought forth evidence” to support that he drinks regularly to excess or uses drugs.
“I mean, it’s clear he drank in high school,” Collins said. “The question that was the important question was, was he a blackout drunk? And he said that that was not the case and the testimony that we had in the interviews did not support that contention.”
Collins said Kavanaugh’s testimony was “very powerful,” especially his “anger and anguish,” given that he was accused of “being involved in gang rapes of women.” “I mean, that is a devastating allegation,” Collins said.
“So I think it was understandable that he was reacting as a human being as a father, as a father of two young girls,” Collins said. “But I will say that I thought his questioning — with the questioning with the senators, that he went over the line and I was glad that he apologized to Amy Klobuchar in particular.”
Collins’ Republican colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said Friday she would be voting against Kavanaugh. When announcing her decision, Dickerson said Murkowski appeared to zero in on the conclusion that Kavanaugh’s behavior was partisan, and the Supreme Court needs to remain impartial.
Collins said Kavanaugh’s nomination to the federal court in 2004 was held up by Democrats, and she did not think it affected his decisions in 12 years on the D.C. circuit court.
Collins said she felt some Democrats wanted to “use” Ford, and that “really saddens me.” She said she believes Ford’s allegations could have been investigated “thoroughly” without her having to come forward publicly.
“I do not think the system treated her well,” Collins said.