US Senate poised to confirm Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh

Conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh is set to be confirmed as the next US Supreme Court Justice by the US Senate, bringing an end to a tedious nomination process. (AFP)
Updated 06 October 2018

US Senate poised to confirm Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh

  • The expected Senate vote will bring an end to a months-long battle over the conservative judge's nomination
  • Kavanaugh's nomination has been met with loud protests, both in Washington and in other cities across the United States

WASHINGTON: The US Senate is expected to confirm conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice on Saturday — offering President Donald Trump a big political win and tilting the nation’s high court decidedly to the right.
The months-long battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination has gripped Washington, laying bare the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill and the political polarization of America just a month before midterm elections.
The Senate vote — set to begin sometime after 3:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) — will bring an end to a raucous nomination process defined by harrowing testimony from a woman who says Kavanaugh tried to rape her when they were teenagers — and his fiery rebuttal.
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, Trump will have succeeded in having his two picks seated on the court — a major coup for the Republican leader less than halfway through his term.
His promotion to the Supreme Court will also stand as a demoralizing defeat for Democrats who battled hard to block the 53-year-old judge at all costs.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation was all but sealed on Friday when he won the support of key Senate Republican Susan Collins and conservative Democrat Joe Manchin.
Their statements of support brought the number of senators supporting Kavanaugh to 51 in the 100-member chamber.
“This is a great day for America,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News late Friday, congratulating his colleagues for “refusing to roll over under all of this intense pressure.”
Kavanaugh’s nomination as a replacement for retiring justice Anthony Kennedy was controversial from the start — but the initial focus was solely on the conservative views held by the married father of two.
But his ascent to the Supreme Court was in serious doubt last week after research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford testified that he had sexually assaulted her at a Washington area party in the early 1980s.
The brutal hearing sparked a supplemental FBI dive into Kavanaugh’s background and a week-long delay of the Senate vote.
While many senators say they were satisfied with the FBI probe, her lawyers say the investigation was insufficient.
“An FBI investigation that did not include interviews of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh is not a meaningful investigation in any sense of the word,” they said in a statement quoted in US media.
Collins — a moderate Republican from Maine — said Kavanaugh was entitled to the “presumption of innocence” as the allegations against him were not substantiated with corroborating evidence.
While acknowledging that Blasey Ford’s testimony was “sincere, painful and compelling,” Collins added: “We will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness.”
Immediately after that speech, Manchin announced his support, calling Kavanaugh a “qualified jurist” who “will not allow the partisan nature this process took to follow him onto the court.”
Manchin faces extraordinary political pressure. He is up for re-election in West Virginia, a state Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016.
The stage was set for Saturday’s final confirmation when the Senate ended debate on the nomination on Friday with a procedural 51-49 vote — a move cheered by Trump, who said he was “very proud.”
If he wins confirmation, Kavanaugh — who has faced a bruising process that raised questions over his candor, partisan rhetoric and his lifestyle as a young man — will seal a conservative majority on the nine-seat high court, possibly for decades to come.
His nomination has been met with loud protests, both in Washington and in other cities across the United States. On Friday, more than 100 people were detained.
Trump dismissed the mostly female anti-Kavanaugh protesters — and claimed that billionaire financier George Soros, a frequent target of conservatives, was behind their demonstrations.
“The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it!” he tweeted.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski described her decision to oppose Kavanaugh as “agonizing,” and said that while she hopes he will be a “neutral arbiter” on the court, she “could not conclude that he is the right person for the court at this time.”
However, she said while she would vote “no” on Saturday, she would ask that her vote be registered as “present” so as not to jeopardize the majority — and allow a fellow Republican to attend his daughter’s wedding instead of returning to Washington to vote.
Protesters have spent days in Washington urging swing senators like Collins and Murkowski to vote no.
Trump’s reference to Soros, who has supported pro-democracy movements around the world and the US Democratic Party for years, appeared to aim at inciting more support and anger from the president’s conservative Christian base.
The Jewish billionaire is frequently described by arch-conservatives as a behind-the-scenes operator driving liberal and progressive movements — criticisms that have prompted counteraccusations of anti-Semitism.
But Democrats were still arguing that there had been too little effort made to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh.


Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

Updated 37 min 39 sec ago

Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

  • All 10 people had denied the charges, and said they were tortured
  • The defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents

SAINT PETERSBURG: A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced 11 people to terms including life in prison after finding them guilty of a deadly bomb attack on the Saint Petersburg metro in 2017.
Abror Azimov, a 29-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, was sentenced by a military court in Russia’s second biggest city to life in prison for organizing and participating in a terrorist group.
Ten other people who are also from Central Asia were sentenced to between 19 and 28 years in prison.
All had denied the charges, and said they were tortured.
Shokhista Karimova, 48, pounded the glass of the courtroom cage and cried “let me go” after she was handed a 20-year term.
The bomb blast in April 2017 killed 15 people in the Saint Petersburg metro and wounded dozens more.
The alleged perpetrator, Akbarjon Djalilov, a 22-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, died in the attack.
Ten of the defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, notably by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents.
The charges ranged from organizing a terrorist group and perpetrating an “act of terror” to weapons trafficking and making explosive devices.
Critics of the case say the defendants’ connection to the attack was not proven and some claimed they were framed by Russia’s FSB security service.
The suspects had been arrested in different Russian cities and detained in Moscow before being transferred to Saint Petersburg for the trial.
The prosecution said the defendants formed two “terrorist cells” in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and helped Djalilov by wiring him money and providing the explosives.
Defense lawyers and prison monitors have pointed to numerous irregularities in the case however and claim that evidence was planted.
One defendant claimed he was kidnapped from a hospital in Kyrgyzstan, while another said last month that they had been framed by the FSB after it “missed the terrorist.”
The bombing was claimed by an obscure group, the Imam Shamil Battalion, which experts say is linked to Al-Qaeda.