Wyoming’s two U.S. senators have heard enough.
They listened to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s special hearing last Thursday in which a woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault was heard, as were his denials of the charges.
It was tense, dramatic and emotional but ultimately the hearing amounted to little more than a ‘he said, she said’ — and that’s good enough for the Wyoming delegation. Both Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso concluded that Kavanaugh is still their man for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. In separate statements they remained unwavering in their support for President Trump’s nominee.
“I haven’t learned any new facts. My opinion of the judge hasn’t changed, and I continue to believe he is a well-qualified nominee,” Enzi said. “I hope the Senate votes on the nomination soon.”
“There has been no supporting evidence or witnesses confirming the serious allegations made by Dr. Ford against Judge Kavanaugh,” Barrasso said. “I found Judge Kavanaugh’s categorical denial of these events to be convincing and very credible.”
Wyoming’s senators may have made up their minds, but several of their Republican colleagues were rightfully not satisfied and successfully pressed to delay a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation until after the FBI conducts a one-week investigation into the claims of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Is there anything the probe could discover that might change Barrasso or Enzi’s minds? It does not appear so.
The Republican argument against further consideration goes something like this: Ford’s accusations are baseless, unfair to the nominee and a ham-handed ploy to hold-up the confirmation process. They point to the late-in-the-process revelation of her claims as evidence of such political machinations.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that they’re right. If so, wouldn’t an additional week or more to clear Judge Kavanaugh’s reputation, restore the nation’s faith in its highest court and repair some of the wrenching divisions this process has revealed be time well spent? What’s the rush? Where’s the downside to having the facts? If what Kavanaugh and his senatorial allies had to say Thursday was true, they should welcome the chance to demonstrate it.
But if the FBI finds evidence that indicates Kavanaugh lied to the committee they should be willing to reassess his fitness to serve on the Supreme Court. They owe it to their constituents.
Barrasso declared there were no witnesses or evidence to support Ford’s charges. There is a good reason for that: Republicans on the Judiciary Committee refused to allow additional witnesses to testify or allow other evidence to be admitted.
There is evidence that Ford is telling the truth when she claims that, as teens, Kavanaugh pinned her to the bed, groped her, tried to remove her clothing and, when she tried to yell for help, covered her mouth with his hand. Ford voluntarily took a polygraph test and passed.
A polygraph test is not admissible in court, as Kavanaugh noted, but law enforcement routinely uses the examinations as an investigative tool to determine if a subject is credible.
The judge, who now serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, did not take a polygraph, nor did he call for an FBI investigation to clear him. Ford welcomed the probe, as she has since her charges were made public against her wishes when they were leaked to the media.
The controversy has prompted other allegations of sexual misconduct against the judge and regrettably put the lives of Ford and Kavanaugh and their families in turmoil. Death threats have been made, both accuser and the accused have seen their good names dragged through the mud, and it has all played out on national television.
No one on the Senate panel said they found Ford’s testimony to not be credible. Even the GOP’s propaganda arm Fox News described what she had to say as credible and compelling. While several condescendingly said they believed that “something terrible happened” to her, they maintained the perpetrator was not Kavanaugh. Some senators believe she is simply confused or it’s a case of mistaken identity, ignoring her statement that she is “100 percent” certain that a drunken Kavanaugh attempted to rape her.
If Kavanaugh is indeed innocent, of course he has every reason to be angry. He certainly showed that anger when he testified. But he also did something never seen before from a Supreme Court nominee in a confirmation hearing.
Kavanaugh launched a bitter partisan attack against a so-called “left-wing conspiracy” that moved the proceedings from “advise and consent to search and destroy.” He threw judicial restraint out the window in favor of railing against Democrats who would threaten a job he seems to think he is entitled to after years of hard work at Yale Law School and as a GOP operative in George W. Bush’s White House before his current judicial appointment.
What no one heard was Kavanaugh demand that an independent investigation be requested by Trump. The judge shrugged his shoulders and said he would agree to whatever the committee wanted to do, likely never imagining that Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) would appear the next day and declare he would not vote yes unless the FBI investigated all current charges against Kavanaugh.
Now we must wait and see how this drama plays out. The FBI report aside, Kavanaugh has already shown he lacks the temperament to sit on the Supreme Court. As a judge he obviously knows about standards of evidence, yet several times he falsely said that four witnesses had refuted Ford’s claims.
In reality, three had signed letters prepared by their respective lawyers claiming that they did not remember such an incident. Nothing was refuted, and the letters are no substitute for statements to the FBI under penalty of perjury or in-person testimony under oath to a Senate committee.
The fact that the committee held its hearing without calling Mark Judge, the man whom Ford claims was in the room during the attack, is outrageous. Yet our senators concluded at the end of the day they needed no more facts to pass judgment on what happened.
Barrasso and Enzi are part of the “let’s get this confirmation completed as soon as possible and at all costs” contingent. It’s a marked position shift from their approach to President Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland. In that instance — in the absence of any disqualifying charges — they supported refusing to consider the nominee at all.
Based on their statements I have absolutely no faith that Wyoming’s senators would let anything the FBI finds get in the way of confirming Kavanaugh. While she doesn’t have a vote in the process, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) also defended Trump’s nominee by tweeting that “Judge Kavanaugh ferociously defended his innocence, his family and our constitutional system” as she lashed out at Democrats who dared to challenge him.
I’ve read several articles by political pundits who have argued about whose base will be energized in the midterm elections by the battle royale over Kavanaugh, and I could care less. For once let’s put partisan rancor aside in favor of learning the truth about what happened to Ford in that bedroom 36 years ago. The facts matter.
Whether or not he assaulted Ford 36 years ago is not the only thing that matters about Kavanaugh’s personal character and professional record, but at this point it’s what will determine whether he becomes Justice Anthony Kennedy’s successor.
I am unsurprised that I disagree with Barrasso and Enzi on Kavanaugh’s fitness for the high court. But I would like to believe, at least, that we all want the facts.
Perhaps I should know better by now.