Brett Kavanaugh, a federal judge who has been nominated by President Donald Trump (R) to become an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, has been accused of a sexual assault that occurred when he was a teenager. The accuser, Doctor Christine Blasey Ford, testified about this accusation yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh himself testified later in the day and vehemently denied Ford’s claim.
A Committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination is expected today, and the full Senate will likely take it up next week. Already, Democratic senators are walking out of the Committee meeting and demanding delays.
I have a few brief notes about all of this:
1) The accusation has not been proved . . . certainly not beyond a reasonable doubt, and not even to lesser standards. The main sticking point is that none of the Ford’s named witnesses have actually supported the aspects of the accusation they supposedly witnessed. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but this country doesn’t (and shouldn’t) condemn people without proof. Accusations, in and of themselves, don’t justify a ‘no’ vote. (If that outrages you, please at least read ’til the end of this post before condemning me.)
2) The Judiciary Committee should have heard from those witnesses directly and had the chance to question them. They should have been called-in (and subpoenaed if necessary) to testify yesterday or today, and the vote should have been held only after that had been done. It is possible that direct questioning of the witnesses may have revealed information corroborating the accuser’s claims, which might have changed what I said in #1. Republican members of the committee, if they really wanted to get to the bottom of all of this, would have spent more time in hearings.
3) It’s pretty rich to hear complaints about the timeline from Democrats when it’s their own Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who sat on the accusation for six weeks before sharing it with the committee. Keeping information like that secret during the nomination process is absolutely inexcusable. First, even if somebody asks for privacy, there is no expectation of privacy when you have submitted that information to a federal official. Second, Feinstein could have at least shared a redacted copy of the letter with identifying information removed. For failing to do even this, Feinstein should be censured by the Senate.
4) Democratic Senators just look like childish idiots when they walk out of a committee meeting in protest. Stay in the meeting, say what you want to say, and vote how you want to vote . . . but you don’t get to derail the process with a temper tantrum. Especially when your temper tantrum is mainly about timing, and the main villain with regard to timing is your own Senator Feinstein.
5) It is unreasonable to expect a full, in-depth investigation to occur before voting on the nomination, especially given the six-week Feinstein delay, but an investigation should still occur. Democrats have called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to look into it, although they typically would not have jurisdiction over a case like this. I suggest either giving the FBI some statutory jurisdiction in cases involving nominated or sitting federal judges, or creating a nonpartisan Congressional committee for that purpose. In either case, this would apply to this and all future judicial nominations.
6) If the FBI or that new Congressional committee were to substantiate the accusation against Kavanaugh to a level that would have warranted an indictment had it been determined by local prosecutors and law enforcement at the time of the alleged crime, then, assuming he has been successfully confirmed, he should be impeached. If the impeachment trial results in the case being proved beyond a reasonable doubt, then he should be removed from the bench. We can’t derail the whole nomination process indefinitely, but that doesn’t mean we can’t finish the job and loop-back later if necessary.
Of course, in reality, neither Republicans or Democrats on the committee are interested in handling this properly. Republicans want their guy on the bench. Democrats don’t. And everything else is just politicking around those predefined positions. The way this has been handled has been, at best, a train-wreck. But I guess that’s what I should have expected.