November 19, 2019

The Other Kavanaugh Scandal

“It’s already been widely noted that the New York Times buried breaking news about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged tendency, as a college student, to touch people with his penis when intoxicated. On Sunday, when the Times ran a forthcoming book excerpt from its own reporters, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, it not only put the news in its Opinion section, it also placed the details of the second allegation in a remote paragraph under an appallingly random headline: “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not.” Don’t even get me started on the grotesque tweet that accompanied the excerpt (which had to be deleted and then apologized for), or the editor’s note that popped up Sunday night to clarify that the story had previously failed to mention, “reports that the female student [whom Kavanaugh allegedly touched with his penis] declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident.” The entire debacle detracts from what is, by all accounts, a deeply researched and reported book.

But the real sin unearthed by the excerpt isn’t that there was a second account, that another former Yale student allegedly remembers seeing Brett Kavanaugh behave in disturbing and inappropriate ways. The real sin is that this former student, Max Stier, went to Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and then the leadership of the Senate, way back in the fall of 2018, to try to tell them what he remembered. And the real sin is that the FBI never investigated it. Indeed, the FBI didn’t talk to any of the 25 individuals given to them by Debbie Ramirez’s lawyer, or any of the multiple witnesses who came forward to the FBI of their own volition (including a former roommate who believed Ramirez and published his own account of Kavanaugh’s college behavior in Slate). But the FBI didn’t talk to these people because the FBI never even spoke to Brett Kavanaugh about the alleged events. The FBI never spoke to Christine Blasey Ford, either. The FBI did interview Ramirez last October and found her “credible,” but then just left it at that. According to the new reporting, an agent told her lawyers that “We have to wait to get authorization to do anything else.” They did not get that authorization, and they did nothing else.

We know all of this because we lived through it. We knew all along that the FBI “investigation” was a sham, a diversion used by three Republican senators to provide cover for their later decision to confirm Kavanaugh to the highest court in the land. Yes, these senators asked for further investigation after Ford testified, but the scope of the so-called inquiry was limited to 10 witnesses and needed to be over in a week, so it never had much hope of being a real investigation. The White House and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee so roundly constrained the investigation that the two main witnesses themselves were never questioned.”

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