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ABA, Yale Law School dean call for FBI probe into Kavanaugh allegations, delay in confirmation

Senate Republicans gave in to Democrats' demands to reopen the FBI investigation into Brett M. Kavanaugh, but the two sides are still pitted against each other. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
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The American Bar Association called on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday evening to halt the confirmation vote for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, saying it should not move forward until an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against him can be completed.

“The basic principles that underscore the Senate’s constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI,” ABA President Robert Carlson wrote in a letter to Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the committee’s top Democrat.

The ABA letter, which is unlikely to sway Republicans, said that an appointment to the Supreme Court “is simply too important to rush to a vote. Deciding to proceed without conducting an additional investigation would not only have a lasting impact on the Senate’s reputation, but it will also negatively affect the great trust necessary for the American people to have in the Supreme Court,” Carlson wrote in the letter, obtained by The Washington Post.

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The ABA, with 400,000 members, is the legal profession’s largest organization. Kavanaugh and his supporters have bragged about its favorable rating of the nominee, with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) describing the imprimatur as the “gold standard.”

This group was not the only institution Kavanaugh has cited to issue such a plea. The dean of Yale Law School on Friday called for further investigation into the accusations before moving ahead with his confirmation, a call that came less than a day after Kavanaugh highlighted his time there.

“I got into Yale Law School,” Kavanaugh had testified Thursday. “That’s the number one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.”

On Friday, Heather Gerken, the dean of that law school, echoed the ABA’s letter in a statement issued through the university.

“I join the American Bar Association in calling for an additional investigation into allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh,” Gerken said. “Proceeding with the confirmation process without further investigation is not in the best interest of the Court or our profession.”

Kavanaugh has also highlighted his time at Georgetown Preparatory School, which bills itself as the country’s only Jesuit boarding school. In an editorial on Thursday, America magazine, a Jesuit publication, called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withdrawn.

“Evaluating the credibility of these competing accounts is a question about which people of good will can and do disagree,” the editorial stated. “The editors of this review have no special insight into who is telling the truth. . . . But even if the credibility of the allegation has not been established beyond a reasonable doubt and even if further investigation is warranted to determine its validity or clear Judge Kavanaugh’s name, we recognize that this nomination is no longer in the best interests of the country.”

Meanwhile, Harvard Law School scholar Alan Dershowitz, often lauded by President Trump for his criticisms of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, was among those calling for an FBI inquiry into the allegations.

“Maybe we can get closer to the truth, although that is not certain,” Dershowitz wrote in a Fox News opinion piece. “But right now there are too many unanswered question[s] to bring the confirmation of Kavanaugh” to “a vote of the Judiciary Committee as scheduled on Friday, much less to a vote of the full Senate.”

He continued by saying that it is “possible that one of them is deliberately lying. Right now, there is no way of knowing for certain, which is why the FBI needs to talk to the judge’s accusers and others.”

During Thursday’s tumultuous hearing, in which Christine Blasey Ford testified that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, Kavanaugh referred to his good standing with the ABA multiple times as he angrily denied Ford’s allegations.

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh adamantly denied Christine Blasey Ford's allegation of sexual assault before the Senate Judicary Committee on Sept. 27. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

“For 12 years, everyone who has appeared before me on the D.C. Circuit has praised my judicial temperament. That’s why I have the unanimous, well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association,” Kavanaugh testified.

As part of its review of Kavanaugh’s qualifications, the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary found that Kavanaugh “enjoys an excellent reputation for integrity and is a person of outstanding character,” contributing to its unanimous “well-qualified” rating. Kavanaugh and Graham together alluded to the ABA investigation at least three times Thursday.

Democrats on the committee, meanwhile, complained bitterly about the majority’s unwillingness to have an FBI investigation and accused Republicans of rushing the confirmation.

Kavanaugh avoided answering when asked by Democrats whether he would ask for an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations himself.

In her opening statement Thursday, Ford testified that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her and covered her mouth at a summer gathering when they were teenagers. In his, Kavanaugh cast himself as a victim of a “calculated and orchestrated political hit,” fueled by “pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election.”

An outside prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell of Maricopa County, Ariz., led much of the inquiry, peppering Kavanaugh with questions about his high school drinking habits and asking Ford about the lingering psychological trauma she says Kavanaugh’s actions caused.

Mitchell, a registered Republican, stood in for the all-male GOP senators on the committee, who did not question Ford. When it was Kavanaugh’s turn, Democrats zeroed in on Kavanaugh’s high school behavior at Georgetown Prep, just outside Washington, asking him about how much beer he typically drank during parties and to describe cryptic yearbook messages, which some have surmised contain sexual innuendos.

Committee Republicans announced Thursday evening that the committee would go ahead with a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday, with a final confirmation vote expected Tuesday. In calling for the FBI investigation into Ford’s claims before any such vote could happen, Carlson urged the Senate to “remain an institution that will reliably follow the law and not politics.”

This report has been updated since it was first published.