Citing the lack of corroboration of Ford’s account as well as lacunas in Ford’s own recollection, Collins said she did not believe the “more likely than not” standard had been met.
Although she did not use the phrase, the standard that Collins offers appears to be the same as “the preponderance of the evidence,” which is the burden of proof required in civil trials—as opposed to the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard in criminal cases. This is also the standard that many colleges now use in evaluating sexual-violence claims under Title IX. Obama-era guidance required schools to use a preponderance-of-evidence standard, though the Trump Education Department has granted schools greater leeway, instructing that “findings of fact and conclusions should be reached by applying either a preponderance of the evidence standard or a clear and convincing evidence standard.”
Collins said she did not want her vote to be construed as meaning that she does not take sexual assault seriously. “The #MeToo movement is real. It matters. It is needed and it is long overdue,” she said. Her goal appeared to be to find a way to grant sexual-misconduct claims serious consideration even in the absence of hard proof—sexual assault is famously difficult to prove in court, since it often comes down to two contradictory accounts—but to answer concerns from Republican colleagues like Senator Lindsey Graham that giving an inch would open all future nominees to false accusations.
Collins seemed especially angry about a late accusation, brought forward by the attorney Michael Avenatti, by a woman who said that she had been gang-raped at parties attended by Kavanaugh, and that he and a friend had helped drug women.
“This outlandish allegation was put forth without any credible supporting evidence and simply parroted public statements of others,” Collins said. The complaint was surprising, because she was outspoken among senators of both parties in calling for the FBI to include this allegation when it reopened its background investigation to Kavanaugh. (The FBI did not ultimately interview the woman.)
Yet Collins’s rhetoric pushes her into a difficult position. On the one hand, she wants to grant Ford respect and dignity as a “survivor,” as Collins called her. At the same time, her decision to vote for Kavanaugh is based on her ultimate rejection of Ford’s account.
Collins, like many other Republican senators, has tried to reconcile this conflict by saying that she believes Ford was assaulted, simply not by Kavanaugh.
Read Susan Collins’s speech about her decision to vote for Kavanaugh.
“I found her testimony to be sincere, painful, and compelling. I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life,” Collins said. “The facts presented do not mean that Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night or at some other time, but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the more-likely-than-not standard.”