Kavanaugh avoids major missteps, closing 2 days of Senate testimony

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh smiles as he is visited by young student athletes he coaches over the years, as he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats worked into the night in a last, ferocious attempt to paint Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a foe of abortion rights and a likely defender of President Donald Trump. But after two marathon days in the witness chair in a Senate hearing room, Kavanaugh appeared to be on a path to confirmation as a Supreme Court justice.

The 53-year-old appellate judge stuck to a well-rehearsed script throughout his testimony, providing only glimpses of his judicial stances while avoiding any serious mistakes that might jeopardize his confirmation. In what almost seemed like a celebration Thursday, Kavanaugh’s two daughters returned to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room for the final hours of testimony, accompanied by teammates on Catholic school basketball teams their father has coached.

Senators will return for a final hearing day today along with more than two dozen witnesses on both sides of the nomination fight. Democratic witnesses include John Dean, Richard Nixon’s White House counsel who cooperated with prosecutors during the Watergate investigation, and Rochelle Garza, the legal guardian for the pregnant immigrant teenager whose quest for an abortion Kavanaugh would have delayed last year.

On the Republican side, former solicitors general Theodore Olson and Paul Clement will testify in support of the nominee, along with former students, law clerks and the mother of a basketball player Kavanaugh coached.

Campaigning in Montana Thursday night, Trump sought to elevate Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a political litmus test for voters, saying the judge deserves bipartisan support and criticizing the “anger and the meanness on the other side — it’s sick.”

Abortion was a focus throughout Kavanaugh’s two days of testimony. The Democrats’ best shot at stopping Kavanaugh — who could swing the court further to the right for decades — would be branding him as a justice who might vote to overturn the court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. Their hope is that two Republican senators who support abortion rights could break from their party and vote against him.

A newly disclosed email suggested Kavanaugh once indicated the abortion case was not settled law, though Kavanaugh denied in the hearing that he had been expressing his personal views.