Until September 13, Judge Brett Kavanaugh appeared to have at least an even chance of being confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States later this month. Judge Kavanaugh had appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and had not made any major missteps. While a few moderate U.S. senators from each party remained on the fence about his nomination, it seemed more likely than not that at least 50 senators would eventually support him.
However, everything changed on September 13 when Christine Blasey Ford alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a house party during his high school years in the early 1980’s. According to Ford, Kavanaugh pinned her beneath him on a bed, touched her inappropriately, attempted to remove her clothing, and placed his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming. Ford alleges that the assault ended when another male jumped onto the bed, enabling her to escape. Ford further contends that she discussed the assault during counseling sessions. For his part, Judge Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations.
The eleventh-hour timing of the allegations is disconcerting. Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to the Court on July 9. Ford contacted her congressmember confidentially about her allegations some weeks ago, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) received a copy of Ford’s letter on July 30. However, Sen. Feinstein waited until September 13—after the Judiciary Committee had completed its hearings—to turn Ford’s letter over to the authorities.
In response to Ford’s explosive allegations, Kavanaugh and Ford had been invited to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, September 24; the Committee has indicated that it would be willing to hear from Ford either privately or publicly. In reply, Ford’s legal team has asked for an FBI investigation. Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has expressed unwillingness to further delay the confirmation process and has indicated that it would be inappropriate for the FBI to investigate. According to the Senator:
“The FBI does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee… Nor is it tasked with investigating a matter simply because the Committee deems it important. The Constitution assigns the Senate, and only the Senate, with the task of advising the President on his nominee and consenting to the nomination if the circumstances merit. We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence. The job of assessing and investigating a nominee’s qualifications in order to decide whether to consent to the nomination is ours, and ours alone.”
Ford has agreed to testify on Thursday, September 27, 2018.