Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) suggested in an interview published Tuesday that she could break with her party over Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual abuse allegations — a move that could sink the Supreme Court nominee.
“We are now in a place where it’s not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified,” Murkowski told the New York Times on Monday. “It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed.”
Her comments to the paper came as President Donald Trump and Republicans seek to confirm Kavanaugh to the nation’s high court amid a pair of sexual assault allegations against the judge.
“We need to be able to listen,” Murkowski said of Ford’s accusations. “We have to listen to what she will say on the record, under oath, and what Judge Kavanaugh will say on the record, under oath.”
Murkowski’s remarks are significant, as she is considered a key swing vote in the Senate — and if she defects from her party, it could potentially kill Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Kavanaugh, whom Trump picked in July to replace Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the bench, was accused earlier in September of forcing himself on Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford when the two were teenagers. A second woman, Deborah Ramirez, said Kavanaugh “thrust his penis in her face and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away” when he was a freshman at Yale University.
Kavanaugh has denied both allegations.
Trump had initially been uncharacteristically restrained in his comments on the matter, but has since taken to attacking the women’s credibility and accusing them of being part of a Democratic plot to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“The Democrats are working hard to destroy a wonderful man, and a man who has the potential to be one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices ever, with an array of False Accusations the likes of which have never been seen before!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
Murkowski isn’t the only prominent Republican who has expressed reservations about Kavanaugh or his confirmation process.
After Trump lashed out at Ford on Friday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters she was “appalled” by his remarks. And when Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, mocked Ford’s accusations in a social media post, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called the joke “sickening.”
“No one should make light of this situation,” Flake, a frequent critic of the president, tweeted Wednesday.
But Murkowski’s comments to the Times are perhaps the most forceful of any Republican so far, with the Alaska senator telling the paper it was important to “ensure that at the end of the day justice is delivered.”
Ford and Kavanaugh are due to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.