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Hatch slams Democrats for 'character assassination' of Kavanaugh

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch slammed Democrats Monday for "partisan games and transparent attempts at character assassination" against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

"No innuendo has been too low, no insinuation too dirty. Everything is an excuse for delay, no matter how unsubstantiated," the Utah Republican said in a statement, calling for a vote on Kavanaugh after he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.

The retiring senator, who participated in the confirmations of every member of the high court during his 42 years in office, called the new allegation that has surfaced against Kavanaugh a continuation of "a smear campaign."

The New Yorker reported Sunday that during the 1983-84 academic year, Kavanaugh's first year at Yale University, a female classmate said he exposed himself at a dormitory party.

Hatch, a member of the judiciary committee, said again in his statement "every accuser deserves to be heard. Moreover, a person who has committed sexual assault should not serve on the Supreme Court."

He said the "underhanded tactics" of the Democrats in the confirmation process, which he said included leaking allegations to the media, were not fair to Kavanaugh, "the individuals in the stories" or the public.

The committee should hear as planned on Thursday from Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were teenagers, Hatch said. "Then we should vote."

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is also a member of the judiciary committee.

His spokesman, Conn Carroll, said “the New York Times has poked significant holes in The New Yorker story. Sen. Lee looks forward to hearing from Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh Thursday.”

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said he's "very, very uncomfortable" with the latest accusation against Kavanaugh for a lot of reasons.

"We want to give these individuals a chance to be heard. But I just think the whole thing is sad," Stewart told the Deseret News. "No matter what happens here, someone's life is going to be terribly disrupted."

But Stewart said at this point, Kavanaugh's nomination should go forward.

"We haven't even had a hearing. We don't have any testimony, no witnesses under oath. So you've got to let these individuals and also the judge have a chance to defend himself," the congressman said.

Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said in a statement that neither this nor future nominations can be allowed "to become so blatantly political that they deter good and qualified people from accepting nominations to our nation's highest court."

Love repeated her belief that "accusations of sexual misconduct are extremely serious" and that she supports "good-faith efforts to discover the truth" from Kavanaugh about the accusations made against him.

"However, such efforts must be fact-based and nonpartisan," she said.

Reps. Rob Bishop and John Curtis both said they had not heard the latest accusation and had no comment. Stewart, Bishop and Curtis were with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Monday on a tour of Zion National Park to address maintenance needs.

Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said that for the state's congressional delegation, the only appropriate answer to the Kavanaugh accusations is to take them seriously and hear the facts.

While there may be a need later to push through alternatives to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, Perry said that for now, "following the process and understanding is more important than reacting."

Contributing: Dennis Romboy