Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren responded immediately and appropriately to the latest revelations of sexual misconduct on the part of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“Last year the Kavanaugh nomination was rammed through the Senate without a thorough examination of the allegations against him,” wrote the Democratic presidential contender. “Confirmation is not exoneration, and these newest revelations are disturbing. Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”
Lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee is an impeachable offense. And now, we have fresh evidence that Kavanaugh—whose pattern of lying to the Senate has been well established—lied even more than had previously been known during his 2018 confirmation process. In their new book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly of The New York Times provide corroborating evidence for allegations of sexual abuse that occurred when Kavanaugh was an undergraduate student at Yale in the 1980s—particularly an incident described by Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed his penis to her and forced her to touch it.
Kavanaugh used his Senate testimony to dismiss that particular allegation, along with other charges of sexual misconduct as a high school and college student. Yet now the Times reporters write, “During his Senate testimony, Mr. Kavanaugh said that if the incident Ramirez described had occurred, it would have been ‘the talk of campus.’ Our reporting suggests that it was.” They back that statement up with detailed reporting of the overwhelming evidence that Kavanaugh engaged in wrongdoing and lied about it.
So Warren is right to call for impeachment—or, at the very least, an inquiry that might quickly lead to impeachment. So is California Senator Kamala Harris, a Judiciary Committee member, who recalled Sunday that “I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the US Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”
If presidents, cabinet members, and jurists who lie to Congress are not investigated and impeached when evidence of wrongdoing is revealed, then the system of checks and balances is rendered meaningless.
Impeachment, the appropriate constitutional mechanism to hold Kavanaugh accountable, begins with investigation, and it can move quickly. Democrats now control the House of Representatives, the chamber that has the power to impeach. Some House Judiciary Committee members have already taken steps to gather information about Kavanaugh’s tenure in the Bush-Cheney White House, where his machinations on behalf of Bush’s judicial nominees (including the use of materials stolen from Democratic senators) were so scandalous that he faced intense questioning during his appearances before the Judiciary Committee. His responses were so dishonest that Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the dean of the Senate and the senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused him of giving “untruthful testimony, under oath and on the record,” to the committee.
Kavanaugh’s old offenses were more than sufficient to justify impeachment. Now, there are more arguments for holding him to account—and they should be pursued.
The usual naysayers will gripe that impeachment will run into a brick wall of Republican opposition in the Senate. Perhaps. The Kavanaugh nomination, as Warren reminds us, was “rammed through the Senate” by majority leader Mitch McConnell and his Trump-aligned caucus. Perhaps they will rally again in defense of Kavanaugh—and their own craven judgment.
But McConnell is up for reelection in 2020, and so is the senator whose support for Kavanaugh put him on the Supreme Court: Maine Republican Susan Collins. While Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski broke with fellow Republicans to oppose the nominee, Collins went all-in to deliver for the Trump White House. An impeachment fight would do much to remind Maine voters of the damage that Collins did to the process, the court, and the country in 2018.
Collins tipped the balance in a closely divided Senate, making the 50-48 vote to confirm Kavanaugh possible—with her own vote and by influencing the choice of another supposed moderate, West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. (CNBC: “Manchin announced his support for the nominee quickly after Collins made her announcement.”) But she did more than that. Her decision to side with Trump and McConnell “legitimized” a rushed process that neglected the examination of allegations brought by Deborah Ramirez and others.
One of the several able candidates for the Democratic nomination to oppose Collins in 2020 was making that point on Sunday: “Deborah Ramirez was never called before the Senate. Her witnesses, who corroborated her story, were never interviewed,” tweeted Maine Democrat Betsy Sweet. “There was never an investigation into her story. Susan Collins never called for an investigation.”
“As a matter of fact,” added Sweet, “Senator Collins called the FBI’s meager investigation into Kavanaugh ‘very thorough.’ Clearly, the investigation was not, as none of these witnesses were even contacted by the FBI.”
Exactly. Collins made Kavanaugh possible. Now, with even more information against Kavanaugh, he should be held to account by the Congress—and Susan Collins must be held accountable by the voters.