I believed Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that as a teen, now-Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh assaulted her. I also believe Kavanaugh did not tell the truth under oath, at the very least, about his drinking. However, as much as we might want to rewind this horror show and play it out with the benefit of a diligent FBI investigation, that is impossible. Given the composition of the Senate, Kavanaugh’s removal is impossible. (I’m not even going to qualify this as “near impossible.”)
However, this does not mean the House should do nothing. There is certainly public interest in knowing if the FBI and/or White House approved or had knowledge of an effort to conceal evidence from the Senate. For that determination we need FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, former White House counsel Donald McGahn and any others with relevant knowledge to testify under oath.
Regular oversight does not end simply because we are in the midst of an impeachment investigation. The country benefits in several ways by conducting regular oversight of the FBI’s handling of the matter.
First, it recognizes that the House Judiciary Committee barely has enough bandwidth to deal with Trump’s impeachment without pursuing a separate impeachment of a Supreme Court justice (without any hope of removal). Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) made clear on Monday, “We have our hands full with impeaching the president right now and that’s going to take up our limited resources and time for a while.”
Second, there is a need to determine if the FBI was manipulated for political reasons, and, if so, by whom and, further, why Wray did not report this to Congress. (By the way, an inspector general can also investigate the Kavanaugh vetting.) If and only if there is evidence tying President Trump to an effort to effectively shut down an investigation — and then spin it as exoneration — should the matter fall into the umbrella of “abuse of power” that is the subject of Trump’s impeachment.
Third, a factual inquiry could very well provide guidance and new rules regarding alleged wrongdoing against future judicial nominees. Making it up as we go along, and concealing the scope of the FBI investigation, proved to be a fiasco.
Finally, it is better to have a rule-bound hearing than to let drips and drabs leak out from books and other sources. This is the people’s government, and they have every right to know how this all went down and how Kavanaugh got on the bench — if for no other reason than this reflects on the conduct of senators on the ballot in 2020 and beyond.
Not investigating alleged wrongdoing has gotten us in enough trouble. Now we are going to ignore possible wrongdoing associated with the Kavanaugh vetting? Not a good idea.
But, you protest, that still leaves Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court and the court a damaged institution. That is right, and why I warned about the perils of curtailing the FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. We pay a terrible and irreversible price for having the White House and/or Senate run a sham investigation.
There is, however, a political solution: the ballot box. The voters can decide that Trump and/or the Republicans in the Senate have shown themselves to be utterly unfit and untrustworthy. In enumerable ways, they have damaged our democratic norms and launched an unprecedented assault on the rule of law. Let the voters render a verdict. But first, let’s find out what happened.