In their blockbuster report on new allegations of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, two of the country’s most highly regarded journalists, Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, have written in The New Yorker that senior Republican staffers “learned of the allegation last week and, in conversations with The New Yorker, expressed concern about its potential impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Soon after, Senate Republicans issued renewed calls to accelerate the timing of a committee vote.”
It is abundantly clear that formal consideration of the Kavanaugh nomination should now be put on hold pending a renewed inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At the same time, however, senators from both parties have a responsibility to consider the question of whether any of their colleagues may have responded to the prospect of new revelations regarding Kavanaugh’s record with efforts to “accelerate the timing of a committee vote.” These questions must be asked in the context of broader concerns about the starkly irresponsible rush by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court—without the proper consideration of a judicial nomination that senators are bound by the Constitution to check and balance.
Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale with the man Donald Trump has nominated for a place on the high court, has alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself and shoved his penis in her face during a drunken party at the university. That charge is being reviewed by several Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats who have suggested, as does Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, that “This is another serious, credible, and disturbing allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. It should be fully investigated.” The ranking Democrat on the committee, California Senator Dianne Feinstein has requested the cancellation of a Thursday hearing at which another woman was to testify about an alleged assault by the nominee.
In a letter to Grassley, Feinstein called for “an immediate postponement of any further proceedings related to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. I also ask that the newest allegations of sexual misconduct be referred to the FBI for investigation, and that you join our request for the White House to direct the FBI to investigate the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford as well as these new claims.”
Kavanaugh has denied the new charge and called it “a smear, plain and simple.” The White House is standing by the nominee, even as attorney Michael Avenatti indicates that he has “significant evidence” of additional wrongdoing by Kavanaugh.
Like Dr. Ford, Ramirez is calling on the FBI to investigate Kavanaugh. That is clearly necessary. At the same time, senators should pause to consider whether McConnell and Grassley have gone too far in their efforts to, as McConnell suggests, “plow right through” the process without meeting the baseline standards for providing senatorial advice and consent.
In light of the New Yorker report, Grassley’s office is denying any wrongdoing on the chairman’s part and charging that Senate Democrats have withheld information about complaints against Kavanaugh. “It increasingly appears that they are more interested in a political takedown than pursuing allegations through a bipartisan and professional investigative process,” claimed Grassley’s spokesman Taylor Foy.
But Grassley has not encouraged a bipartisan and professional confirmation process. He and his fellow Republicans on the committee have mangled the confirmation process from the start. They have thwarted efforts by Democrats to gain access to the records of Kavanaugh’s long history as a Republican political operative and aide to the Bush administration. They have attacked Democratic colleagues who have sought to raise questions regarding Kavanaugh’s controversial record on issues of race and gender. They have failed to examine credible charges that Kavanaugh participated in lawless schemes to warp the judicial confirmation process and that he has lied repeatedly under oath about these actions. They have sought to restrict and rush consideration of the allegations raised by Dr. Ford.
Republican leaders in the Senate have not respected the clear intent of a Constitution that sets up a system of checks and balances under which presidential nominations for “judges of the Supreme Court” may only advance after sincere and deliberate consideration by the US Senate. The “advice and consent of the Senate” cannot be properly obtained through a rushed, restricted, and hyper-partisan process of the sort that Grassley and McConnell have to this point perpetrated.