His nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court hanging by a thread in the U.S. Senate, federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh acknowledged Thursday night that his testimony a week ago before Senators had been overly emotional at points, admitting, "I said a few things I should not have said."
"The Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution," Kavanaugh wrote in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal.
In his op-ed - a rare move for a Supreme Court nominee, just like his interview with Fox News a week earlier - Kavanaugh did not explicitly apologize or detail what he regretted from either his 45 minute opening statement, or his question and answer session with Senators, where he sparred with Democrats, accusing his opponents of a "calculated and orchestrated political hit."
While Kavanaugh pledged to be an 'even-keeled, open-minded, independent' judge if elevated to the Supreme Court, his testimony last week contained several instances where Democrats felt the judge had crossed a partisan line, especially by blaming some of his opposition on "revenge on behalf of the Clintons."
"This was not someone who reflected an impartial temperament or the fairness and even handedness one would see in a judge," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). "This was someone who was aggressive and belligerent."
"He even told Democratic Senators, 'What goes around comes around,'" said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who said it "sounds just like a threat."
"A judge telling people ‘what goes around comes around’? A judge, a Supreme Court Justice says that when he is nominated?" Schumer added.
Kavanaugh's defense came just hours after former Justice John Paul Stevens said at an event in Florida that Kavanaugh had been too political in his second round of testimony.
"I’ve changed my views for reasons that have no relationship to his intellectual ability," the 98-year old Stevens said, raising questions about Kavanaugh's ability to sit on politically charged issues before the court.
"He has demonstrated a potential bias involving enough potential litigants before the court that he would not be able to perform his full responsibilities," Stevens said.
"I think there's merit in that criticism and that the Senators should really pay attention to it," the former Justice added.
Democrats immediately questioned Kavanaugh's choice of media venue to acknowledge - but not quite apologize - for his partisan-tinged remarks of last week.
"Brett Kavanaugh goes to the most right-wing cable network to give his only interview, then turns to the most right-wing editorial page...to argue he’s not a right-wing hothead," said Paul Begala, a long time adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
"This move reeks of fear," said Democratic strategist Jim Manley.
That criticism came as several hundred protesters were arrested Thursday on Capitol Hill, as hundreds of demonstrators took over the main floor of a U.S. Senate office building, denouncing Kavanaugh's nomination, and expressing their support for his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
"We believed Anita Hill! We believe Christine now!" many protestors chanted, as they were led away by Capitol Police, while hundreds of other demonstrators and Congressional staffers shouted their support from the balconies above in the Hart Senate Office Building.
Capitol Police said 302 people were arrested after occupying the ground floor of the Hart Building, charged with 'Unlawfully Demonstrating in Senate Office Buildings.'
A number of Senate staffers from Democratic Party offices showed their support as well, hanging signs reading "Kava-No" and "We Believe Survivors," as deafening cheers erupted each time another group of demonstrators were led out by police officers on Thursday afternoon.
"This is what democracy looks like!" some shouted.
Earlier, thousands had marched to the U.S. Supreme Court to demonstrate their opposition to Kavanaugh, whose nomination hung in the balance on Thursday afternoon and evening, as Senators in both parties read through extra FBI investigative information on the federal appeals court judge.
Many demonstrators weren't going anywhere, as they planned to register their opposition to Kavanaugh through the night, and be in place outside the Capitol as the Senate prepares to hold its first test vote on Friday.
That cloture vote - to force an end to debate on the Kavanaugh nomination - was set for 10:30 am ET on Friday, though there was no guarantee a final vote would take place on Saturday, because Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) was going home for the wedding of his daughter in Montana.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.