Members Only | September 16, 2019 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
The GOP’s Corruption of SCOTUS
We now know Senate Republicans sandbagged the FBI.
Two days before Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, I wrote that the Republicans were poisoning its legitimacy and the Democrats must redeem it. I said doing so required questioning the high court’s integrity, foremost the integrity of the “due process” that was installing Brett Kavanaugh. On October 4, 2018, I wrote:
There is in fact a growing nonpartisan consensus that [Kavanaugh is] not only unfit. He’s a liability for a court whose legitimacy has been increasingly in doubt. … This means the Democrats are on solid ground for any attempt to reform the court to restore its credibility. The question isn’t whether they should. The question is how.
The question of how is still very much in play, but I was more right than I could have known back then about whether the Democrats should clean up the Republican Party’s corruption of our legal system. We are now seeing the beginning of a major scandal in which the crime, even if it’s proven, is less important politically than the cover up.
The Times and LA Times reported over the weekend a previously unknown allegation of sexual misconduct against the new associate justice. More significant, the reporting verified the degree to which Judiciary Republicans sandbagged the FBI’s inquiry into that and other allegations. Kavanaugh, for his part, may have lied under oath. Four Democratic candidates, including Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, are now calling not only for a new inquiry but potential impeachment hearings, too.
We are now seeing the beginning of a major scandal in which the crime, even if it’s proven, is less important politically than the cover up.
When I wrote that, “To save the village [SCOTUS], the Democrats have to burn it down,” I didn’t think they’d arrive with torches! But it appears at least some of the Democrats, even leading candidate Joe Biden, are ready to fight post-confirmation even if fighting leads to the undermining of the Supreme Court’s legitimacy. (Biden, to be clear, has not called for impeachment hearings. His campaign said revelations raise “profoundly troubling questions about the integrity of the confirmation process” and that “we must follow the evidence wherever it leads” to restore faith in government.)
OK, what happened?
You already knew about Christine Blasey Ford. She went to the Capitol to tell Senators in nationally televised testimony about Kavanaugh’s sexually assaulting her when they were in high school. You probably already knew about Deborah Ramirez. She and Kavanaugh were freshman at Yale together. During a night of heavy drinking, she said he shoved his penis in her face. Her account ran in the Times before Kavanaugh was confirmed on Oct. 6, 2018, by a vote of 50-48, the closest judicial vote in 130 years.
What no one knew was that there was a second allegation from a second source who witnessed a second and separate incident that was similar to Ramirez’s. This account was revealed by two Times reporters in an excerpt published Sunday of their forthcoming book about Kavanaugh. “A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.” (The victim was not identified. She said she doesn’t remember the incident. She and Stier credit her intoxication for her memory lapse.)
The LA Times’ Jackie Calmes reported that Stier told Democratic Senator Chris Coons about the second penis incident. Coons then told Chris Wray, the FBI Director. The FBI, however, never contacted Stier. Indeed, the FBI took less than a week to complete its background investigation of Kavanaugh. Senate Republicans had insisted on that time frame. Moreover, they permitted FBI agents to talk to no more than 10 people.
Only the Democrats can clean up the Republican Party’s corruption of our legal system.
Lawyers for Ford and Ramirez “sent letters to Wray that, together, named more than 50 individuals that the bureau’s agents should interview,” Calmes reported. “Only nine were ever contacted—all of them from the list that Republicans had submitted (my italics).
We don’t know if any of these allegations can be proven. We don’t know, as a consequence, if Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath. We do know, however, thanks for this new reporting that the Republicans sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee went to great lengths to prevent the truth from coming to light, whatever that truth was. We know furthermore that the Republicans lied to ram Brett Kavanaugh through.
Chuck Grassley said at the time: “There is no corroboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez.” Yes, because he and other Republicans made sure of that. Susan Collins, a pro-choice Republican who knew the FBI could not conduct a very thorough investigation, told reporters: “It appears to be a very thorough investigation.”
Will Kavanaugh be impeached? I have no idea. For now, what’s important is for the American people to understand what the GOP did to the rule of law, and for the Democrats to get the American people’s permission to clean up its corruption.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.