That means the Judiciary Committee cannot wrap up the issue with a few phone calls, as some initially suggested. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the commitee’s ranking Democrat, has called for the FBI to examine the case, as the agency has responsibility for conducting background inquiries into presidential nominees. The FBI should interview all relevant players and look into the extent to which any witnesses can corroborate Ms. Ford’s account or Mr. Kavanaugh’s denial.
The Judiciary Committee should then hold a hearing. Ms. Ford’s lawyer has said Ms. Ford is willing to testify, and so is the nominee. Monday night Senate officials said such a hearing would take place next Monday, which might be fine — but only if the FBI investigation is complete. The bureau should be given such time as it needs.
Concerns that a hearing might degenerate into a series of attacks could be allayed by following the advice of Ron Klain, the chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1991 confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas, who suggested tapping independent outside counsel to conduct public questioning. This would communicate that the senators were interested in ascertaining the truth, not wasting more time on partisan Kabuki theater.
What matters is that this entire process — an FBI review, a public hearing with adequate preparation — be undertaken with a commitment to thoroughness and balance, not speed. As President Trump said on Monday, “We want to go through a full process” and, “if it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay.” It may be that such a process will not yield a definitive conclusion. But senators should not assume such an outcome before they have made a good-faith attempt to establish the truth.
The good news is that the Senate’s original schedule — a committee vote Thursday — was improper to begin with, so no one should regret a delay. Republicans were seeking to push through Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination while denying access to a vast trove of documents from Mr. Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary to President George W. Bush. A nonpartisan entity, perhaps the National Archives, should be asked to sort through the files and turn over to the Senate those germane to his nomination, unless it is withdrawn. That would take a while — probably longer than the Judiciary Committee will need to give Ms. Ford’s allegations a full and fair airing. It’s time to drop the artificial deadlines and do all this the right way.