Senate

GOP senators condemn 'vulgar' messages directed at Collins over Kavanaugh

GOP senators on Wednesday lashed out at individuals who made "vulgar" calls to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in recent days urging her to reject Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blamed the "far Left" in a tweet for a "harassment campaign" against the moderate Maine senator, calling the comments toward Collins and her staff "truly shameful" and an example of "the desperation of the radicals to try to stop" Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, tweeted that Collins had been subject to "false, nasty, vulgar, personal, uncivil verbal abuse."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called on Democrats to condemn the messages directed at Collins.

"Attempting to bribe Senator Collins to vote against Judge Kavanaugh and threatening sexual violence against staffers if she votes for him is absolutely disgusting," Hatch's office tweeted.

Collins has been subject to intense pressure from liberals over her vote on Kavanaugh. Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 edge in the Senate, meaning they can ill afford their own members to vote against Kavanaugh if all Democrats oppose his nomination.

Staffers have told multiple publications in recent days that the senator's offices have received "vulgar" and "abusive" phone calls and social media messages.

A Maine TV station obtained voicemails being left at Collins's offices, including one caller who brought up a 2003 email where Kavanaugh suggested cutting a paragraph out of a draft op-ed that characterized Roe v. Wade as widely accepted among legal scholars as settled law. 

"Have you seen the emails ... where he talked about Roe v. Wade not being settled law. He [bleeped] lied to you? How [bleeped] naive do you have to be?" the caller said in the voicemail.

Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Collins, separately gave The New York Times copies of letters and voicemail messages being sent to the senator's offices that included threats.

One caller, according to the Times, told a 25-year-old female staffer that he hoped she was raped and impregnated.

In addition to the verbal abuse, a crowdfunding campaign aimed at getting Collins to vote against Kavanaugh surpassed $1 million on Tuesday. If Collins votes to confirm Kavanaugh, the fundraiser vowed to give the money to the senator's eventual challenger should she run for reelection in 2020.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in a tweet on Wednesday said anyone who thinks Collins would be influenced or intimidated by the campaign doesn't know her very well.

Democrats had not weighed in on the issue as of early Wednesday afternoon, despite pressure from their GOP colleagues and conservative groups like Judicial Crisis Network, which has spent big money on pro-Kavanaugh ads.

"Instead of condemning the outrageous tactics of Judge Kavanaugh's opponents, and announcing their support for an objectively extraordinary nominee, Senators Manchin, Heitkamp, Donnelly, McCaskill, and Nelson are standing on the sidelines while Judge Kavanaugh's opponents resort to bribes, smears, and physical threats," Judicial Crisis Network policy director Carrie Severino said in a statement, targeting Democrats up for re-election in states President Trump won in 2016.

Kavanaugh endured a string of intense confirmation hearings in the Senate last week, with Democrats peppering him with questions about his views on abortion, presidential power and the special counsel investigation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he expects a final vote on Kavanaugh's nomination during the last week of September.

--This report was updated at 1:43 p.m.

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