Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh WILL be Investigated by the FBI

The following story, while not graphic in its descriptions, contains mention of sexual violence and sexual assault.

Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the United States Supreme Court has been halted — at least for now.

Following intense and moving testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday, the FBI will be conducting an investigation into the 1982 sexual assault in which Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh allegedly attempted to rape Dr. Ford at a party they were both attending. It is a profoundly important recognition of Ford’s testimony. The investigation comes after an intense and arduous bureaucratic process that began over two months prior.

In June of 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from his lifetime-appointed position on the Supreme Court. Kennedy, a famously-moderate conservative judge, acted as the swing vote in a number of monumental liberal victories, including Obergefell v. Hodges — the landmark case which guaranteed marriage equality in all 50 states.

Kennedy’s retirement comes at a pivotal time — both the executive and legislative branches of government are Republican-controlled — at the very least until the midterm elections in November, if not for years to come. And because it’s the President who nominates Supreme Court justices, and the senate who approves them, Trump has a decided advantage in appointing a conservative justice.

The opening left by Kennedy gives Trump a second opportunity in less than eighteen months to effect major influence on the Supreme Court, after he succeeded in appointing conservative judge Neil Gorsuch in April of 2017. This is particularly worrisome, as the Supreme Court was designed as a non-partisan system of checks and balances on the power of the executive and legislative branches. Trump’s blatant goal to nominate justices who seek to advance the Republican political agenda, rather than to protect and defend the constitution, undermines the entire institution of the American republic.

On July 9th, just days after Kennedy announced his retirement, Brett Kavanaugh was officially nominated by the Trump administration as Justice Kennedy’s replacement from a “list of 25 highly-qualified potential nominees.” Kavanaugh is a 53 year-old, Yale-educated circuit judge for the D.C. Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. His confirmation process began on the 4th of September in the Senate Judiciary Committee — a committee composed of 11 Republican members and 10 Democratic members. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), an incumbent of 37 years, chaired the hearings.

After four days of witness testimony in early September, the Senate Judiciary Committee had scheduled their vote for the 20th. This was not a vote for Kavanaugh’s appointment, but rather a vote to bring Kavanaugh in front of the full senate so his appointment could be voted on by all 100 U.S. senators.

Then, on September 12th, professor of psychology at the University of Palo Alto, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, came forward with the allegation that Brett Kavanaugh had forced himself on her while attending a party when he was 17, and she was 15. Ford initially wanted her testimony to remain anonymous, however mounting pressure for her to come forward culminated in her submitting a report to the Washington Post published on September 16th. The following day, the committee announced that it would not be going forward with the vote until testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh could be heard on the issue. The hearing was scheduled for the 27th.

On Thursday the 27th, both Ford and Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. During Ford’s testimony, she described the assault in detail, reliving the events of the attempted rape that transpired on the night in question. Her emotion was palpable. In regards to testifying, she described herself as being “terrified,” and yet bound by her sense of “civic duty” to provide the committee with information necessary for them to make their decision.

Kavanaugh, on the other hand, was not only defensive, but particularly aggressive in his testimony. He called the allegations a “calculated hit” on behalf of the democrats, citing the Clintons by name, and delivering an unrestrained opening statement of over 45 minutes. The Republicans then used their time in questioning Kavanaugh largely to praise and defend his conduct through the allegations. The Democrats did not, however, and asked Kavanaugh a slew of questions for which he provided very little in the way of actual responses. He opted instead to repeat the same hackneyed non-answers, and dodge the vast majority of questions entirely.

One day later, on Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee reconvened to vote on whether or not they were ready to bring Kavanaugh’s nomination in front of the entire senate so that his appointment could be officially voted on. All 10 Democrats voted against. All 11 Republicans voted for.

However before the committee could be adjourned, republican Judiciary Committee senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), announced that it was his intention not to vote to confirm Kavanaugh in the full senate unless an FBI investigation could occur. It was also implied in committee that he was likely not the only republican senator who would vote that way, referring most probably to more moderately-conservative senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who joined late senator John McCain in helping the democrats defeat the republican health care bill in July.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), fearing that Kavanaugh’s nomination would fail, obliged Senator Flake, and formally requested that the Trump administration do a supplemental background check. Trump, very much politically cornered by Flake’s dissension, and the worst public opinion polling numbers on a nominee for Supreme Court since such polls have been recorded, ordered the FBI investigation later that day. As per McConnell’s official request, the investigation will be “limited to current credible allegations against the nominee,” and “must be completed no later than one week from [Friday].”

And this is where we stand. The FBI investigation is currently underway, the awaited results of which are among the most urgent and consequential in recent memory. By nature, the outcome of the investigation will be extremely contentious either way, likely to divide Americans even further down party lines. It’s impossible to say how senators Flake, Collins, and Murkowski will vote during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing next week, but the Democrats (as well as the majority of American voters) are hoping for a miracle. And despite the bravery and courage of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, that may be what it takes.

photo credits: Harvard Law Review/CNN/Globe and Mail/TNR/Mark Wilson