Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police past waiting reporters trying to ask about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. Sen. Collins, whose vote on Kavanaugh is uncertain, was leaving the Senate Special Committee on Aging which she chairs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Police boost security at Capitol amid tension over Kavanaugh

October 03, 2018 - 1:03 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The impassioned fight over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court has led to heightened security at the Capitol, with some senators using police escorts to shield them from protesters eager to confront them.

Capitol police have arrested dozens of people in recent days for unlawfully demonstrating in Senate office buildings. Police have stepped up their presence in Capitol hallways, in some cases blocking news reporters and the public from approaching lawmakers.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who is a key undecided vote on Kavanaugh, was escorted out of a hearing Wednesday by three police officers. She ignored questions from reporters. Police later threatened to clear a public hallway outside her office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building and physically blocked reporters from approaching Collins as she left the office to return to the Capitol for a vote.

A spokeswoman for Collins declined to comment on her security detail.

The stepped-up police presence come as senators — especially Republicans — have expressed unease over protesters who have confronted them at their Senate offices, restaurants, airports and even their homes. Personal information about some lawmakers also has been released online.

Republicans discussed security matters behind closed doors earlier this week at a private lunch.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a floor speech Wednesday that senators will not be intimidated out of doing their jobs.

McConnell cited an incident in which Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was forced to leave a restaurant last week and said another senator "reported having protesters physically block his car door. And some have seen organized far-left protesters camp out at their homes" and offices.

"There is no chance in the world they're going to scare us out of doing our duty," McConnell said. He said the Senate will be voting this week on Kavanaugh's nomination.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said there's "a lot of unprecedented activity taking place" because of the pitched battle over Kavanaugh, who would likely provide the decisive fifth vote for a conservative majority on the nine-member court.

The FBI is investigating several allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh, including Christine Blasey Ford's accusation that he assaulted her in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the accusations.

"People have been acting out in ways that really is inappropriate," Corker said Wednesday. "The polarity we have right now and the way people are responding to it — let's face it, the nation is very, very divided. People are resentful and angry."

Corker, who is retiring in January after two terms in the Senate, said, "This is the worst it's been since I've been here."

The protests have been more than just an inconvenience for lawmakers. In at least one case, demonstrators appear to have had an effect on the nomination fight.

Last week two women confronted Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona in an elevator in a televised exchange that went viral. The encounter weighed on him, said Flake, who later forced Republicans to delay voting on Kavanaugh while the FBI conducts another background investigation.

A spokeswoman for Capitol police could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.


Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.