Kris Tripplaar / The Atlantic Festival

In his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh denounced the sexual-assault and misconduct allegations against him as part of a left-wing conspiracy orchestrated “on behalf of the Clintons.”

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton offered her response: a deep belly laugh.

“I mean, really,” the former secretary of state told the Atlantic editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, at The Atlantic Festival. “It deserves a lot of laughter.”

Clinton criticized Kavanaugh’s appearance before the committee as a “very defensive and unconvincing presentation.” After Christine Blasey Ford testified that Kavanaugh “groped me and tried to take off my clothes” at a high-school party in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh, in his rebuttal, denounced the confirmation process as a “national disgrace.”

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups,” Kavanaugh told lawmakers last week. “This is a circus.”

Kavanaugh’s demeanor and language during his testimony were widely criticized by Democrats as unbefitting of a potential Supreme Court justice—and considered potentially disqualifying on their own. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday at The Atlantic Festival that Kavanaugh’s remarks revealed a political bias against the left, and that “he should recuse himself from many cases that will come before the Court.”

Even the Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who helped initiate an FBI investigation into the allegations last week, called the judge’s interactions with lawmakers “sharp and partisan.” “We can’t have that on the Court,” he said at the festival Tuesday, without elaborating further.

Clinton, in her first public comments on Kavanaugh’s testimony, joined the ranks of those critics.

“For anyone who believes there’s such a thing as judicial temperament and that we want judges, particularly those on our highest court, to approach issues, approach plaintiffs and defendants with a sense of fairness … there’s a lot to be concerned about,” Clinton said. “There is such a thing that you seek in judges of a judicious temperament … people who are able to discipline themselves, to be open to the evidence wherever it might lead … This was quite unusual, what we saw the other day.”

Kavanaugh’s claims echoed Clinton’s own comments from 1998 that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was trying to bring down her husband’s administration. Coincidentally, Kavanaugh was part of the independent counsel Ken Starr’s team investigating Bill Clinton at the time she said that.

Kavanaugh’s implication, that Clinton may have been involved in a plot to thwart his confirmation, appeared to amuse her. “Boy, I tell you, they give us [Clintons] a lot of credit,” she told Goldberg with a chuckle. “It would’ve had to have happened starting 36 years ago, and that seems a stretch even for the vast right-wing conspiracy stories about me.”

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