For a few hours on Thursday, it seemed as though Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court was going down in flames. Christine Blasey Ford's wounding, powerful testimony alleging that he had assaulted her when they both were in high school was almost universally agreed to be devastating to his cause — even on Fox News.
Then Kavanaugh himself testified, alternately shouting furiously that he was the victim of a Democratic conspiracy, stumbling over his words, and weeping piteously over the insult to his dignity. Republicans jerked awake and realized that, oh yes, there's nothing else but will to power. By Friday, GOP lawmakers were lining up behind Kavanaugh. First they voted on a straight party line not subpoena his friend Mark Judge, who allegedly witnessed the assault, and then to send the nomination onto the full Senate. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) lightly implied that he might not vote for Kavanaugh in the end without an FBI probe, but no one should bank on this. Jeff Flake is nothing if not a flake.
Still, it remains unknown whether Kavanaugh will be confirmed when the Senate votes this week. Two defecting GOP senators could join the Democrats to send Kavanaugh packing. But either way, Democrats must be prepared.
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If Kavanaugh is indeed confirmed, Democrats must be ready the moment they take the House of Representatives (very likely in this November's midterms) to open investigations and impeachments proceedings against him.
Here's how impeachment works: Just as it is with a president, to impeach a federal judge or justice, the House of Representatives brings a case that he or she is guilty of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." That is a necessarily vague phrase, but if Kavanaugh is guilty of the sexual assault of which he's accused, it certainly could cover such conduct. If a majority of representatives vote to convict, then the case moves to the Senate, which holds a trial. If two-thirds of senators vote to convict, the person is removed from office. Sixty-seven senators might sound impossible. But if an FBI probe persuasively proved Kavanaugh's guilt, and/or more accusers came forward over time, it's not crazy to think that Democrats and a small handful of sane Republicans could vote to impeach.
Remember, the Ford allegations have not yet gotten a remotely thorough investigation. Judiciary Committee Republicans refused to question Mark Judge, but as Luppe Luppen points out, even the evidence we do have hasn't been examined properly. The prosecutor who Republicans brought in to try to undermine Ford was zeroing in on a highly suspect entry on Kavanaugh's own calendar before they sidelined her. As Marcy Wheeler details carefully, the few concrete facts that we have so far fit exactly with Ford's basic story.
Then there's the fact that Kavanaugh insists that he never knew Ford at all — despite Ford testifying that she briefly "went out with" the man who was accused by conservative legal activist Ed Whelan of actually committing the assault in his fruitcake "doppelganger" theory. As Josh Marshall points out, Kavanaugh's claim not to know Ford is suspect, and this revelation raises the strong possibility that Kavanaugh was coordinating with Whelan behind the scenes in some way. Whelan at least ought to be hauled before a congressional committee and grilled.
What's more, Kavanaugh lied repeatedly in his testimony. It was often about small things, but he lied nonetheless. He claimed that "boofing," "Devil's Triangle," and "Beach Week Ralph Club" references in his high school yearbook entry were choir boy-level innocent jokes, not the vulgar sexual and alcohol references they very obviously are (including contemporary peers at the school). He insisted the other witnesses at the party said the assault did not happen, when what they actually said was they do not recall the event — a distinction a federal judge could not possibly miss. Most clearly of all, he insisted the "Renate Alumnius" reference was simply about being friends and not slut-shaming — ridiculous on its face, and flatly unbelievable given that a friend of his included this poem in his yearbook entry: "You need a date / and it's getting late / so don't hesitate / to call Renate."
It's all part of a pattern of Kavanaugh lying about his previous involvement in the Bush torture program and confirmation of extreme right-wing judges, and about Trump's nomination process. And given that much of the testimony relies on his assertion that he has never once been blackout drunk — well, it doesn't smell right.
The allegations from Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick alleging yet more sexual misconduct from Kavanaugh have also not been investigated in the slightest. Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer report emails showing Republicans stonewalled Ramirez's lawyers, and they have thus far barely paid attention to Swetnick. Those named allegations deserve a proper hearing.
Finally, there is the political background. Watching Kavanaugh's petulant, conspiratorial testimony on Thursday made it extremely clear that he is the kind of duplicitous hack who lives to overturn Democratic Party laws, no matter what they say. In this as in so many other areas, Republicans are actually the unscrupulous partisan judicial activists they constantly accuse liberals of being. Therefore, should Democrats win Congress in 2018, or the presidency in 2020, they must be prepared for everything they do to be overturned in 5-4 Supreme Court decisions based on nothing but tendentious Federalist Society argle-bargle.
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, that gives Democrats a perfect way to start hacking down that obstacle. But even if he is not, he should be investigated, and, if appropriate, impeached and removed from the D.C. Circuit Court (where he currently sits). The man is unfit to be judging any kind of legal proceeding — let him proceed into right-wing martyrdom and the lifetime wingnut welfare sinecure that awaits him.
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