Analysis: Kavanaugh allegations bring confirmation to a standstill
I wrote a column two weeks ago about the controversies surrounding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I ended it by saying that in all likelihood, the Senate would confirm Kavanaugh. As of this week, that confirmation has come to a screeching halt.
On Sept. 13, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released a very suspicious statement, regarding the Kavanaugh nomination.
“I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” the statement said. “That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”
When rumors started swirling, and she got a feeling that she would be outed due to reporters reaching out to her and her place of work, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came out as the woman who wrote that letter in the Washington Post. In the letter, she accused Kavanaugh of a sexual assault when the two were in high school at a house party in suburban Maryland.
Ford recounted the incident in detail.
She alleged that Kavanaugh, while intoxicated, pinned to her a bed and groped her over her clothes, which he tried to tear off. Ford also said that Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.
The incident allegedly ended when a friend of Kavanaugh’s, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them. Ford said she then fled the house after briefly locking herself in a nearby bathroom.
According to the Washington Post, Ford contacted their tip line this past July, when Kavanaugh was named as someone on President Donald Trump’s shortlist to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. She also sent a letter to her Congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), which was then forwarded to Feinstein, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Once the allegations came to light, amid much public pressure, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), agreed that both Ford and Kavanaugh should be given the opportunity to testify under oath on these allegations, and they are both currently slated to testify to the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Sept. 27.
There are still several details that have to be worked out between the two sides, but evidently nothing important enough that it could stop Ford from testifying. The committee agreed to only have one camera in the room and to provide increased security to Ford (and Kavanaugh), which were both requests made by her attorneys. According to NPR, the committee also asserted that they have the right to determine which witnesses get called, in which order they testify, and who does the questioning.
Previously, there was disagreement between the two sides are on whether senators or independent outside counsel will do the questioning, the subpoena of Mark Judge, whether Ford or Kavanaugh will testify first and the day on which the testimony will take place.
Ford’s attorneys and Senate Democrats have also demanded that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conduct an impartial investigation into the incident before testimony. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Feinstein have recently sent a letter to President Trump asking him to order such an investigation.
Committee Republicans have contended that an FBI investigation is not necessary, and would take up too much time.They would prefer to get Kavanaugh confirmed before the midterm elections on Nov. 6, because there is an inherent chance that they will lose the majority, and thus the nomination will be quashed by a Democratic majority.
The only precedent for a situation like this is the very infamous testimony of Anita Hill on her allegations of sexual misconduct against now-Justice Clarence Thomas. Prior to her testimony, the FBI did conduct an investigation, which took three days.
Supreme Court confirmation hearings are always very contentious, but these allegations have increased that severely.
Up until this past Friday, President Trump had notably had a relatively measured response to these events. That changed on Sept. 21, when Trump overtly questioned the validity of Ford’s allegations in a tweet.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has nevertheless expressed strong confidence that Kavanaugh will be confirmed, even with these allegations and the upcoming testimony.
“Keep the faith. Don’t get rattled by all of this,” McConnell said at a gathering of conservatives in D.C. “We’re gonna plow right through it and do our job.”
“Here’s what I want to tell you — in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.”
Senate Democrats see this situation in a different way. They want to see Ford and Kavanaugh testify to these objectively serious allegations. If the allegations turn out to be true, it can be predicted that most, if not all of the red state Democrats that were on the fence before, will vote “no” now.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) announced that he would vote against Kavanaugh before these allegations came out. He is not pleased with how the Committee is handling this situation.
“This is an important moment, and the Committee must be better than this,” he said in a tweet. “The country is watching.”