Identity

Kavanaugh Confirmed to the Supreme Court Despite Sexual Assault Allegations

Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh weren't enough to keep senators from voting to confirm him on Saturday.

by Marie Solis
Oct 6 2018, 10:37pm

Photo via Getty Images.

Senators voted early Saturday evening to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court after weeks of news reports, sworn testimony, and an FBI investigation surfaced sexual misconduct allegations from high school and college.

Key to Kavanaugh's narrow confirmation were Senators Susan Collins and Joe Manchin, who, after much hemming and hawing about their position on the nominee, helped tip the scales in Kavanaugh's favor for a final 50-48 vote.

"I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court. Later today, I will sign his Commission of Appointment, and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting!" Trump tweeted shortly after the confirmation.

Whether Kavanaugh was fit to sit on the Supreme Court came into question in September, when a New Yorker report revealed that a woman—later identified as Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford—had sent a letter to California Senator Dianne Feinstein accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school gathering more than three decades ago.

Following Ford's allegations, two other women—Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick—brought their own accusations against Kavanaugh: Ramirez said the Supreme Court nominee had once exposed his penis to her at a Yale University dorm party in the 1980s, while Swetnick alleged that Kavanaugh had been present during her high school gang rape, which she said Kavanaugh helped facilitate by regularly drugging the communal party "punch" to incapacitate women.

In the face of these mounting allegations, the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to hold another hearing for Kavanaugh's confirmation, but invited only Ford and Kavanaugh to testify.

During her testimony, Ford—who, the week before, said death threats had forced her and her family to relocate—wondered if coming forward would have any impact on the final result of Kavanaugh's nomination.

"I wondered if I would just be jumping in front of a train that was going where it was going anyway, and I would just be personally annihilated," Ford said.

When it was his turn to testify, Kavanaugh came off as defensive and angry, shouting and crying his way through his opening statements and turning questions about his adolescent drinking habits back on the senators questioning him. Still, Kavanaugh remained intent on portraying himself as having been a wholesome American teenager, who enjoyed going to church and having the occasional beer.

Republicans embraced Kavanaugh's testimony and discredited Ford's, whom they largely agreed was a liar forming part of a larger Democratic conspiracy to fell Kavanaugh.

Protesters objected to this characterization—loudly. Hours before Senate Judiciary Committee members convened for a vote to advance Kavanaugh's nomination, a woman named Maria Ana Archila confronted Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who had said he would support Kavanaugh, by the Senate elevators, telling him his vote would mean he didn't care about sexual assault survivors like her. When it came time for Flake to vote in committee, he called for a week-long FBI investigation into Ford's allegations against Kavanaugh.

The White House supported Flake's calls for an investigation, at first stipulating that the probe would be "limited in scope." But even as the White House agreed to expand the investigation— giving the FBI "free rein" to interview whomever agents deemed necessary, according to the president—dozens of sources said they were unable to reach the bureau to share information they said could corroborate Ford's and others' allegations.

Most glaringly, the investigation excluded any interviews with Ford or Kavanaugh—the probe's prime subjects.

The result, Ford's attorneys and top Democrats concluded, was a sham investigation.

"An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford—nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony—cannot be called an investigation,” Ford's legal team told the Washington Post in a statement earlier this week. “We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”

The results of the final FBI investigation weren't made available to the public, and senators, who alternated reading the single existing copy of the report in one-hour shifts, could only say so much about its findings.

But on the Senate floor Friday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said that, though she and other senators were "muzzled" on the subject of the investigation, she felt it was important to note that the report revealed inconsistencies in Kavanaugh's sworn testimony.

"The available documents contradict statements Mr. Kavanaugh made under oath," Warren said.

There are certain aspects of Kavanaugh's confirmation process that may forever remain opaque to the American public. But what people—and women especially—will remember most about Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court is the treatment of Ford, and what her treatment says about our government officials' attitudes toward women.

"If Kavanaugh gets confirmed, there will be two justices on the Supreme Court with big asterisks by their names—Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas," Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, the progressive group that led protest against Thomas' nomination in 1991, told Broadly last week. "And women, together with their male supporters, will go to the polls in a few weeks and their votes will be a clear expression of their anger.

"Young women who watched these hearings will not forget," Aron said. "And equally important, will not forgive."