Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh on Friday “categorically” denied an allegation of potential sexual misconduct when he was in high school that has roiled the final days of an already contentious confirmation fight in the Senate.
The statement from Kavanaugh was his first response to news reports about a potential episode of sexual misconduct when he was in high school.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” Kavanaugh, now 53, said Friday in a statement distributed through the White House. “I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
Republicans managed to recruit 65 women to attest to Kavanaugh’s good character, but that’s obviously not dispositive of anything. (It is really speedy work, though, if they learned about the allegation just today.)
It’s not clear if Feinstein even knows the identity of the accuser.
Whatever you think of Kavanaugh, this allegation poses a real dilemma. Let’s put aside for a moment why Feinstein held onto this information since July and did not share what she knew with the committee. (Republicans and other Democrats have every right to be annoyed, but that is a distinct problem from the substance of the allegation.) On one hand, you have a decades-old allegation, never aired during Kavanaugh’s court of appeal confirmation and with no name attached. It may be entirely spurious, not to mention grossly unfair. However, it is also possibly legitimate and can be verified with some swift investigation. We don’t know which. And the Judiciary Committee doesn’t know either.
The Senate cannot do nothing with the information — but neither should it materially delay the proceedings. The committee will not vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation until Sept. 20. That gives the committee plenty of time to search for witnesses and to put Kavanaugh back under oath, however briefly, for the sole purpose of asking him about the alleged incident.
The situation is unlike others we’ve all seen in the #MeToo era, in which powerful men were accused of sexual harassment or assault: Harvey Weinstein, Leslie Moonves, Al Franken, Eric Schneiderman, Roy Moore and others (and yes, there is a really, really big difference between what Franken was accused of and what, say, Moore was alleged to have done to minors). In all of those cases, at least some of the women identified themselves and stepped forward — the public and the accused could evaluate their credibility.
On a matter as serious as a Supreme Court nomination, one should not allow an accuser to maintain anonymity. It’s just not fair, and it’s not how our legal system is supposed to function.
Not surprisingly, anti-Kavanaugh groups are already calling for him to withdraw his name. Republicans could very well insist none of this be examined. Both approaches are wrong. If ever there were a time for moderate Republicans and Democrats to exercise some leverage, it is now. They must insist on an expeditious investigation that does not impair the committee’s ability, provided no corroboration is found, to do its work on Sept. 20. Until then, we would all do well to suspend judgment.