What You Need to Know About The Kavanaugh Mess – How We Got Here and What’s Next
Just The Facts: What’s happened and what’s next with Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.
Who is Brett Kavanaugh?
Brett Kavanaugh is a Washington DC area native. He is the only child of parents Everett Edward Kavanaugh Jr. and Martha Gamble Kavanaugh. Both of Brett Kavanaugh’s parents graduated from American University with degrees in law. Kavanaugh’s mother was a prosecutor who went on to become a Maryland state circuit court judge. Kavanaugh’s father was a lobbyist for the Cosmetics, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association. He went on to become the CEO of the trade association.
Kavanaugh attended Georgetown Preparatory School for high school and Yale for both his undergraduate degree and for law school. Kavanaugh clerked for Justice Kennedy, the justice he is nominated to replace on the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh has worked predominantly in government. He was an assistant to independent counsel Kenneth Starr during the Clinton investigations for four years. He worked for former President George W. Bush for five years. He was an associate counsel and later President Bush’s staff secretary.
President Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. His confirmation process for that seat was not without controversy. It took years for him to be confirmed. In 2006 Kavanaugh was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit court where he has been involved in over 300 opinions. He has been reliably conservative as a judge.
Who is Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and what does she allege?
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University. She teaches in a consortium with Stanford University. Early in the summer, Dr. Blasey Ford wrote to her Senator, ranking member of the Senate judiciary committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). She wrote to Feinstein hoping to remain anonymous.
In her letter, Dr. Blasey Ford details a sexual assault she says Brett Kavanaugh committed against her when the two were in high school. She was 15, Kavanaugh was 17 according to her recollection of the event. She says that at a gathering in a suburban Maryland home, Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge locked her in an upstairs room where loud music was playing. According to Dr. Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh pinned her to the bed, covered her mouth so she could not scream, groped her and attempted to remove her clothing. She says she was afraid Kavanaugh would rape her and even inadvertently kill her. She says that Kavanaugh was drunk, and as he fumbled she was able to escape and run out of the room.
Blasey Ford’s story became public, without her name and some of the detail, in mid-September. Many speculate the information was leaked by the Democrats, though no proof to that effect has been published. On September 16, Dr. Blasey Ford went public, in the Washington Post, attaching her name to the story that was captivating the nation.
In the immediate aftermath of her public allegation, two additional women came forward with their own allegations of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh. Hours before the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee reached an agreement with Dr. Blasey Ford for her to testify about her allegations before the committee, a second woman came forward with another allegation.
Subsequent Allegations: Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick
On September 23, 2018, reporters Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer published Deborah Ramirez’s story in The New Yorker. Ramirez is a 53-year-old who attended Yale with Kavanaugh. She studied psychology and sociology, later in life she spent considerable time working for an organization that supports victims of domestic violence.
Ramirez alleges that while she and Kavanaugh were freshmen at Yale, at a dorm room party, Kavanaugh behaved inappropriately sexually with her. Ramirez says that she too was drunk during the party. She says that Kavanaugh stood over her while she was on the floor. She says he exposed himself to her while others laughed and told her to “kiss it.” She pushed Kavanaugh away, inadvertently touching his penis in the process. Ramirez told Farrow, “I wasn’t going to touch a penis until I was married. I was embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated.” She says she remembers Kavanaugh laughing and others yelling about the incident down the dorm hall.
After Ramirez went public with her allegation, another woman followed. Julie Swetnick, through her attorney Michael Avenatti who also represents Stormy Daniels, posted a statement on Twitter. In her statement, Swetnick alleges that she was gang-raped at a high school party where teens were drinking. She did not accuse Kavanaugh of raping her but said she saw him at the same parties and that he was in some form involved in the gang rapes of other girls who the teen boys either drugged or encouraged to drink to the point of disorientation.
For his part, Judge Kavanaugh has unequivocally and categorically denied all of the allegations made against him.
The Kavanaugh Ford Hearing
On Thursday, September 27, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing. The hearing was an opportunity for both Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh to address the allegations and tell their own stories. Senate Republicans chose to hire veteran sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell from Maricopa County, Arizona to question Blasey Ford. The Republican members of the committee were able to defer their time to Mitchell in five-minute increments. All the Republican members deferred their time to Mitchell when questioning Blasey Ford.
Dr. Blasey Ford opened saying, “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”
Kavanaugh said during his testimony, “I was not perfect in those days, just as I am not perfect today. I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now. But that’s not why we are here today. What I’ve been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehavior. I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes.”
Blasey Ford was very cooperative with her questioners, saying she wanted to be “helpful.” She was emotional, as might be expected, at times breaking into tears. Her testimony was widely seen as very credible and compelling. Kavanaugh was also emotional, fighting back tears, and at times showing his anger and frustration with the situation. He continued his categorical denial of all allegations of sexual assault. The perception of his testimony was more varied. Some found him believable and called his testimony compelling others accused him of dodging questions and question his truthfulness.
What happened after the hearing?
After the nation was captivated by the hearing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the committee would move forward with a committee vote on Kavanaugh the following day. Friday morning, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a key swing vote on the committee, announced that he would vote to confirm the nominee. It appeared Kavanaugh’s confirmation was headed to the Senate floor.
On his way to cast his vote, Flake was stopped by two women as he got on the elevator. The women, both sexual assault survivors, told him their stories and pressed him on his support for Kavanaugh. Flake delayed his return to the committee. He and a friend on the committee who is a Democrat, stepped outside to talk. After a lengthy wait, Flake announced that he would only vote to confirm Kavanaugh after the FBI had an opportunity to investigate the allegations.
Without the votes to confirm, President Trump directed the FBI to investigate the allegations. The FBI was given a week to complete the investigation and McConnell planned a vote for Friday. The White House initially said that the FBI was given free reign to investigate as they saw fit, however, it has been suggested that the investigation’s scope was narrowed, at the direction of the White House. Only the allegations made by Blasey Ford and Ramirez are part of the investigation and Kavanaugh’s drinking is reportedly off limits.
Since last week’s hearings, protests have intensified, with Republican Senators being confronted in public and Democrats handling of Blasey Ford’s allegation being harshly criticized. On Tuesday night, President Trump appeared to mock Blasey Ford’s testimony during a campaign rally in Mississippi. The White House rejects the characterization, arguing that the president was simply stating facts as Blasey Ford presented them during her testimony.
What Comes Next?
This story is ever changing and evolving. The Senate will hold a preliminary vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Friday, October 5th. The FBI has yet to complete their investigation, but Wednesday night Senator McConnell set a preliminary vote for Friday with a final vote scheduled for Saturday.
As a final vote draws nearer, Democrats continue to criticize limits on the investigation while Republicans criticize Democrats’ handling of the allegations. Several key Senators who are seen as swing votes, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), have indicated that the findings of the FBI investigation will weigh heavily on their decision.