Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last month, you’ve seen the firestorm surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has been the center of a major controversy based on allegations of sexual misconduct.
The entire story is confusing, but one thing is clear: the political consequences of these accusations cannot be understated.
An Anonymous Tip
It all started when California Congresswoman Anna Eschoo received and passed along to fellow Californian Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a letter from a constituent regarding information about the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. That letter was dated July 30, 2018 and was kept secret from all the senators on the committee, including Democrats.
The letter’s existence leaked out on Wednesday, September 12, 2018. The Intercept reported that the letter “described an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school.” It became a political firestorm on the 13th, when Feinstein put out a statement:
“I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”
The FBI almost immediately said that it would not be investigating into the letter, but instead sent it to the White House as an update to Kavanaugh’s background check. Even if the FBI wanted to investigate the letter, it would have been nearly impossible, as Feinstein had redacted the accuser’s name before forwarding it.
Immediately, red flags went up. If Feinstein was alleging rape or assault, why didn’t she put this information out earlier? Why didn’t she ask Kavanaugh about it during the hearings? At this point, the public had no idea what exactly Kavanaugh was being accused of. We couldn’t know if he was accused of being another Harvey Weinstein, an Aziz Ansari, somewhere in between, or none of the above.
On the 14th, further questions about Feinstein’s behavior were raised. She did not attend the committee’s closed-door session with Kavanaugh. Her office said she missed it because she was not feeling well. However, that still does not explain why she withheld the letter, even from her fellow Democrats.
Many people began assuming that the accusations were political. It appeared that Feinstein was using anonymous sources and innuendo as one last desperate attempt to deny Kavanaugh’s nomination. Specifically, she appeared to want to sway liberal Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.
Throughout the process, Kavanaugh’s accuser wished to remain anonymous. However, whoever leaked the letter’s existence to The Intercept ensured that would be impossible. On Sunday, Christine Blasey Ford came forward and identified herself. Ford described Kavanaugh as “stumbling drunk” when he forced her into a bedroom during a party in the early 80s and tried to take off her clothes.
According to Ford, she first discussed the incident in 2012 during couples therapy with her husband. She says she did not discuss it earlier because she was afraid of her parents’ reaction if they found out she had attended a party where there was underage drinking. The therapist’s notes do not specifically mention Kavanaugh, but do mention the elite nature of the perpetrator’s high school. They also mention that he became a high-ranking member of Washington society. Ford’s husband has said that his wife later used Kavanaugh’s name.
There were, however, other discrepancies. The counseling notes say that four boys were in on the attack. Ford blames this on the therapist, saying that there were four boys at the party, but only two in the room. Another discrepancy is that, during an interview, her attorney stated there was at least one additional female at the party that the letter did not mention.
The Troublesome Truth
The biggest problem in finding the truth is that, given the thirty plus years since the alleged event, Ford does not remember key details such as the exact date, where it was, or how she got there. Plus, the four witnesses she identified as being at the party have all denied the allegations.
Of course, that does not necessarily mean she is lying. It is possible she has trouble remembering certain details from a traumatic experience. However, it does make it much more difficult to find the truth.
For his part, Kavanaugh put out a statement that read:
“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”
Despite previously claiming that Ford was ready to testify, the Judiciary Committee struggled to secure her appearance. Ford’s attorney initially did not respond to the committee’s invitation, something Senators Collins and Murkowski both found “puzzling” and “odd.” Ford then said she would not testify without an FBI investigation first, and Democrats readily joined her demand. She also laid out a list of demands, including that Kavanaugh must testify first. If this were granted, it would mean that the accused would have had to reply before knowing the details of the accusation.
A New Problem
Ford will now testify on Thursday, but even this might not stop the controversy.
On Sunday, the New York Post published accusations by a second woman. Deborah Ramirez, who went to college with Kavanaugh, alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were drunk at a party. The details, like Ms. Ford’s allegations, are unclear, but some people have made statements raising questions about Kavanaugh’s college behavior and character.
Kavanaugh has denied these new accusations, but this new story has ramped up the turmoil surrounding his nomination. Kavanaugh even gave an interview with Fox News to defend his reputation, though some former classmates questioned the accuracy of some of his claims about himself.
Whether this new accuser will continue to play a role remains to be seen.
The Political Gamesmanship
Regardless of what happens, Dianne Feinstein and the Democrats have done everyone a disservice.
Sources told The New Yorker that Feinstein initially did not disclose the letter because the incident happened over 30 years ago. It was thus too far in the distant past to investigate in an honest way. But Feinstein and whoever leaked the letter’s existence to The Intercept turned sexual assault into a political hand grenade. They’ve tried to use these accusations as a weapon they could lob into the discussion at the last possible moment to achieve a desired political outcome.
Absent new evidence, there is no way to conclusively prove either claim. Right now, it is Ford’s word against the world. And until more information comes forward surrounding Ramirez’s claims, this is also largely speculative.
Further, Democrats have happily amped up the political spectacle to suit their interests. For example, Democrats know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation could not investigate this, even if they wanted to try. They simply lack jurisdiction. Even if the FBI could open an investigation, the lack of key details such as a date and place would make conducting it impossible. They are counting on their lackies in the media not challenging them on it. This way, they can build the narrative that President Trump and Senate Republicans do not care about sexual assault allegations.
Politics of Personal Destruction
If it should be found out that Kavanaugh is innocent, then people need to resign. His reputation has been soiled forever. He will have gone through a “Stalin-esque” public show trial, and despite his innocence there will forever be those who claim he is a sexual predator.
If Ford is completely telling the truth, her experiences will forever be in question. Some people claim that she is a partisan Democrat who took part in a political hit job. They will claim her story was only ever meant to delay the confirmation vote in the hope that the Democrats take back the Senate in November.
If the truth is somewhere in between, then both Kavanaugh and Ford have had their reputations shredded forever in pursuit of politics. What’s worse, the real victims are actual victims of sexual assault who may now fear coming forward more than ever. This is not a game, but Feinstein and the Democrats made it into one.