The race to quickly install President Trump’s Supreme Court pick is picking up speed, despite the fact that the process of considering the sexual assault allegations leveled against him has been a political farce every step of the way.
As senators examine the results of the FBI investigation into some of the accusations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh — which the White House confirmed on Thursday only examined what Republican lawmakers wanted it to — Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already scheduled a cloture vote to limit debate on Friday, allowing 51 senators to push Kavanaugh to the precipice of a lifetime Supreme Court seat.
Kavanaugh has been a historically unpopular nominee, galvanizing women and activists opposed to his nomination. These type of allegations are not part of a typical partisan opposition to a conservative Supreme Court nominee. Justice Neil Gorsuch, for example, did not face several allegations of sexual assault and questions about his willingness to mislead Congress during his confirmation process.
Nonetheless, the Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee have been rushing to place Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court without slowing down to hear more testimony or conduct a serious investigation into the allegations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who said Kavanaugh and high school friend Mark Judge attempted to rape her at a party in 1982, or Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were at Yale, or Julie Swetnick, who accused Kavanaugh and Judge of participating in a gang rape in high school.
Here’s what the White House and Senate Republicans have done to ensure that, regardless of what they conclude after reading the FBI investigation, the effort to take these allegations seriously has been a sham:
Giving a prosecutor just 15 minutes to question Kavanaugh before cutting her off
Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee conscripted Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Christine Ford when she testified before the committee last week, in a self-admitted effort to prevent the optics of a dozen men questioning a woman about sexual assault.
For five-minute segments using Republican senators’ time, Mitchell exhaustively and methodically questioned Dr. Ford about her allegation that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in 1982. Though Mitchell did not appear to uncover any deceit, bias, or inaccuracies in Ford’s account, Mitchell’s summary memo concluded a prosecutor would not bring a case against Kavanaugh.
When Judge Kavanaugh appeared before the committee the same day, Mitchell was allowed to question Kavanaugh for only 15 minutes, before Republican senators took over and used their time themselves to defend Kavanaugh’s reputation, complain about the unfair process he’d been enduring, and mostly attack Democrats. Much of Mitchell’s time was spent on introductory remarks and clarifying the definition of sexual behavior. There was no serious effort on the part of the committee’s majority to critically investigate Kavanaugh — the ostensible purpose of the hearing. As Sen. Flake asked for an FBI investigation the following day in exchange for his vote, Republican senators and Kavanaugh used the questioning he faced in the hearing to argue against the need for an FBI investigation.
Not calling Mark Judge to testify at Kavanaugh’s hearing
Mark Judge, the other person Dr. Ford said assaulted her alongside Kavanaugh, was not subpoenaed to testify before Congress so that senators could question him about his potential knowledge of Ford’s allegations. Julia Swetnick also accused Judge of being among a group of men that included Kavanaugh who would gang-rape or assault drugged women at house parties — but Judge was not asked to answer to these allegations during last week’s hearing.
Not giving Deborah Ramirez a chance to tell her story to senators
Not only was Deborah Ramirez excluded from last week’s hearing during which Dr. Ford testified, but the woman who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a college party did not even get a chance to speak with senate staff. According to her lawyer, Republican senate staffers failed to show up for a call they had scheduled with her before the hearing — leaving Democratic staffers to interview her.
Placing a person to oversee the FBI investigation who has been working to get Kavanaugh confirmed
Don McGahn, Trump’s White House counsel, has taken the lead in overseeing the FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh — including decisions such as placing limits around the investigation.
At the same time, McGahn reportedly has been working behind the scenes to get Kavanaugh successfully confirmed. According to the Washington Post, McGahn “has been in bunker mode, working nearly nonstop to save the nomination by serving as both lawyer and crisis communications adviser to Trump and Kavanaugh, often being the rare person who will speak bluntly to both men.” It’s a clear conflict of interest.
Ignoring dozens of witnesses who tried to get in touch as part of the investigation
Mark Judge’s ex-girlfriend, who has said he admitted to her that he and others took “turns having sex with a drunk woman” in high school, repeatedly asked to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the FBI but said over the weekend she had not received any substantive response. According to news reports, dozens of other former classmates who say they could potentially corroborate the allegations against Kavanaugh have not been able to get in touch with the FBI.
Not interviewing Kavanaugh classmates who could have evidence of perjury
A key part of Judge Kavanaugh’s denial of Dr. Ford’s allegations is that he said he never drank so much that he blacked out, which affects memory retention and which would raise concerns about his ability to declare he never attended a party with, nor sexually assaulted, Ford in high school.
But there are multiple former classmates of Kavanaugh who dispute his characterization of his drinking habits, including some who have spoken publicly. For example, Kavanaugh’s freshman roommate at Yale, Jaime Roche, told CNN that he remembered Kavanaugh throwing up from drinking and also that Kavanaugh told him he had blacked out.
Kavanaugh's Yale roommate, Jamie Roche, on CNN: "I saw him when he was vomiting in bedroom & bathroom…I don't know how you define blacking out, & I would say those things are consistent w/blacking out."
Roche adds that he has specific memories of K telling him he blacked out. pic.twitter.com/ueeWJxVRVb
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 4, 2018
This could potentially implicate Kavanaugh of perjury due to his Senate testimony. However, the FBI never contacted Roche about Kavanaugh, in any of the six previous background checks nor the most recent investigation centered on Ford’s and Ramirez’s allegations.
Not allowing Julie Swetnick’s allegations to be fully investigated
Despite President Trump’s tweet saying that he wants the FBI to interview “anyone they deem appropriate,” the White House did not change the limits it placed on the allowable witness list it gave the FBI. This list, according to NBC News, did not include accuser Julie Swetnick, whose allegations against Kavanaugh and Judge are similar to the allegations that Ford describes.
Not interviewing Ford or Kavanaugh as part of the investigation
The main credible witness for the first accusation against Kavanaugh — the ostensible reason for the investigation in the first place — didn’t talk to the FBI. According to Bloomberg, the White House didn’t give the FBI clear authority to interview Ford, and therefore it only reviewed her senate testimony. Ford said she even offered to turn over therapy notes from sessions where she had talked about the assault years ago. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed the idea of the FBI interviewing Ford as “ludicrous.”
Kavanaugh, the man at the center of the investigation and the man whose credibility is at issue, was also not interviewed, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
There is precedent here. When Anita Hill accused Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, after his initial senate hearings ended, the FBI investigated immediately, interviewing both Hill and Thomas.
Limiting senators’ access to just one copy of the investigation
There is only one copy of the FBI report about this investigation, which only exists in a secure room in the Senate normally used for classified matters, and senators are allowed to review it for one hour at a time — Republicans and Democrats alternating access as of 12 p.m. Thursday. There is no evidence the report will be made public.
Immediately declaring the investigation doesn’t include corroborating evidence of sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh
Despite the limitations of the FBI investigation, Republicans are wasting no time declaring that it includes everything they need to know in order to move forward. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), before senators were ostensibly even able to review the details in the report, issued a public declaration that it contained “nothing in it we didn’t already know.” He defended Kavanaugh’s record and character, and concluded, “We know that he will be an excellent justice because he’s been an excellent judge. It’s time to vote. I’ll be voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”