Opinion: Brett Kavanaugh Allegations
Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been rushed as the Republicans want their nominee in place before the mid-term elections, in which they could lose their majority in Congress. If their majority was lost, and Kavanaugh not already in place, his appointment would have been far less likely. The Republicans were desperate to confirm Mr. Kavanaugh in the same way that the Democrats were keen to stall progress. The reasons why this was a deeply grotesque and significantly incorrect decision for the future reputation of the U.S. judicial system will be explored in this article.
The Republican party appointed a female prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona-based sexual crimes prosecutor, to question both Professor Ford and Mr. Kavanaugh in front of a collection of predominantly male senators. After asking a few questions the Republican senators took matters into their own hands, each Republican senator handling his own questions. The questioning was performed in five-minute segments, which is an inappropriate method of questioning an alleged victim of sexual assault in front of a global audience. Sexual assault is a very personal and emotionally taxing experience and the back-and-forth questioning constantly interrupted the narrative and left it impossible to properly engage with the witness.
During Prof. Ford’s testimony, many times she clarified the meaning of her previous evidence, knowing that this could be construed as changing her story and thus supporting Kavanaugh’s claims that she was lying. For example, she offered corrections to her original letter: she clarified the sentence “Kavanaugh physically pushed me into the bedroom” by stating that she cannot promise that Mark Judge did not assist with this; all she knows is that she was being pushed from behind. This clarification can even be said to reduce Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged assault. She seemingly had little to gain from the allegation: her motive was clear, she was there because she felt it was her “civic duty to do so”. Since coming forward, she has been subjected to constant online harassment and has had to move her family to secure locations with guards following the receipt of death threats. She wanted the investigation to be kept quiet and even informed her congresswoman back in July 2018 when Kavanaugh was still on the shortlist. The suggestion that this was a coordinated effort to come forward last minute is incorrect.
Mr. Kavanaugh’s testimony, through evasive answers to questioning, attempted to turn attention away from the alleged crime and towards enforcing what a virtuous Christian man he claims he has always been. He claimed he did not know Ford and had not attended the gathering, despite it being listed on his calendar including the nicknames of the social circle that Ford had named. He claimed he was a virgin, despite his yearbook referring to him and his friends as “Renate Alumni” - a reference to a girl Renate Schroeder Dolphin. Kavanaugh claims this was a sign of ‘respect and friendship’. Dolphin, however, reads it as holding a “horrible, hurtful and simply untrue insinuation”. Kavanaugh avoided demands for an FBI investigation by cutting off Feinstein mid-questioning and purely saying allegations were false instead of providing a yes or no answer. Notably, the Republicans also originally refused to hand the allegations to the FBI to investigate. Kavanaugh also avoided taking a polygraph test. By contrast, Prof. Ford completed and passed which, although polygraphs are not always reliable, indicates that she believes her story is truthful, unlike Kavanaugh. Finally, Kavanaugh makes impassioned claims of innocence that he would never have been so drunk as to black out, despite his numerous witnesses of this and his yearbook entry containing “Key City Club (Treasurer) - 100 Kegs or Bust” and “Beach Week Ralph Club - Biggest Contributor”. Kavanaugh claims the latter purely referred to his weak stomach, rather than drinking culture. As a judge with lifelong experience of the judicial process, it is difficult to believe that Kavanaugh would not have been aware of how to credibly testify. Furthermore, Kavanaugh would have been aware that he was avoiding questions in the manner of a guilty assailant. For this reason, it can be argued that Brett Kavanaugh perjured and lied under oath about the allegations against him. Not only did Kavanaugh lie, but it could be argued that that many of the Senate committee knew he lied and did not care.
The only witness to the alleged crime is Mark Judge, a school friend of Kavanaugh who conveniently “does not recall the events”and will not comment. The FBI investigation should have addressed this problem, yet no new information has been come to light. In the absence of a statement to the contrary, it is not known whether the FBI has in fact found new information.
In a case that brought global attention to women’s rights, Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and overwhelming support from President Trump is hugely significant. It is detrimental to women who have been assaulted and potential future victims. It takes a great deal of confidence to come out as a victim of sexual assault, as so many are not believed despite being credible and consistent in their testimony. Trump tweeted that Kavanaugh’s testimony was “powerful, honest and riveting” and called the process a “total sham”. Trump further mocked Ford’s confession during a rally in Southaven, Mississippi, departing from his earlier comments that her testimony was “very compelling”. Ford’s story may have holes, but few can dispute her credibility: Kavanaugh and his supporters could not convincingly argue that she was lying, but merely she was mistaken as to Kavanaugh’s involvement. Trump has not only politicised Ford’s sexual assault, but also furthered the culture of fear surrounding speaking out as a victim of sexual assault. This sends a message to the American public that these voices do not matter.
Following the Kavanaugh confirmation, the upending of Roe v Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973) could happen if a case prompting its reconsideration reaches the Supreme Court. Although normally this could take years, it has previously been hinted at by Trump on his campaign it seems increasingly likely. The reversal of Roe would leave the decision on legality of abortion up to each state, with many likely to prohibit abortion, such as Louisiana which holds a 2006 trigger law that would ban abortion in all cases, except when giving birth would threaten the life of the mother. Transportation and funding are already large obstacles for women seeking abortion and thus, if Roe is reversed, the U.S. could see the return of illegal abortions by unlicensed practitioners, as many women from poor backgrounds would not be able to travel the necessary distance to receive one safely.
The allegations against Kavanaugh remain unproven and cannot be substantiated due to the lack of hard evidence. It is possible that Kavanaugh is telling the truth and has truly had his reputation destroyed based on a falsehood. Kavanaugh should not, however, have been confirmed to the court. After hearing both accounts, Ford’s testimony seems to be far more believable than Kavanaugh’s and the way he conducted himself during the hearing proves him nonviable as a justice. He needed to prove to the world that a pro-choice woman would find it an acceptable prospect for him to sit on a case reconsidering Roe v Wade. He needed to prove that he could serve credibly as a justice even to those who disagree with his previous rulings. These notions were seemingly not entertained. By appointing Brett Kavanaugh following his testimony, the integrity of the senate and the Supreme Court have been undermined. If Mr. Kavanaugh had any respect for the United States judiciary system, he would have withdrawn himself from consideration as a Supreme Court judge.