By delaying a vote on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, pending a "supplemental FBI investigation" of his background, Senate leaders hoped a quick show of bipartisan cooperation would soothe growing public concern about both process and nominee. But that hurried investigation is unlikely to inspire confidence.
Instead it will guarantee lingering questions, whether Kavanaugh is ultimately confirmed or not.
More than one observer has noted the absurdity of the Republican rush to approve Kavanaugh, considering how the Republicans used delay to kill then-President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland. For almost a year, leaving a seat on the high court empty was no problem at all.
So when they insist now that a vote on Kavanaugh must occur within days, no matter how much time a real investigation might require, their cynicism is all too obvious. They are determined to seat him and empower a right-wing majority, no matter what he may have done to Christine Blasey Ford or any other woman — and no matter how many falsehoods he uttered in his Senate testimony. Evidently, they see his angry partisanship and blustering entitlement not as flaws but credentials.
But most Americans still want to ensure the probity and decency of nominees to the Supreme Court — which demands a real investigation of every substantive issue.
In Kavanaugh's case, such an investigation would have to begin with FBI interviews of both him and Ford, neither of which has occurred so far. It would have to include interviews with Ford's husband, her therapist and three of her friends, all of whom she reportedly told about the alleged 1982 assault by Kavanaugh — as well as the polygraph expert whose examination found her truthful. But it would have to go considerably further.
The FBI must interview Mark Judge, the Kavanaugh friend identified by Ford as having been present during the alleged assault and as a somewhat reluctant participant. In addition, the bureau should track down and question five other men — P.J. Smyth, Chris Garrett, Tim Gaudette, Tom Kane and Bernie McCarthy — named in Kavanaugh's own calendar entry on July 1, 1982, that shows a beer party, which accords with Ford's recollection. Agents should also interview Ford's friend Leland Keyser, although she has said that she doesn't recall the event.
Beyond that alleged incident in suburban Maryland, Kavanaugh is accused of having exposed himself to Deborah Ramirez, a Yale University classmate, at a party there when both were undergraduates; and he is further accused by Julie Swetnick of having participated in abusive behavior toward women during his high school years, along with Judge and others.
While these charges may seem to invite the kind of lengthy investigation that would never reach any conclusion, the questions they raise could be fairly addressed without straining the FBI or the Senate. On the JustSecurity website, former government attorneys Norman Eisen, Asha Rangappa and Kristen Amerling have provided a list of 30 individuals, including those named above, whose interviews are needed to complete a competent and unbiased inquiry that could determine whether Kavanaugh has lied about himself and his actions. Given the resources of the FBI, that wouldn't be an unreasonable scope, if only Republican senators were to care to find facts.
There is another related matter that demands investigative attention: the aborted effort by conservative activist Ed Whelan to deflect blame for the Ford incident onto Kavanaugh's former friend Chris Garrett. FBI agents should interview Whelan about the circumstances and contacts leading up to his wild tweetstorm implicating Garrett, and seek any text messages, emails or other evidence that might show how he obtained yearbook photos and other information used to advance that fraudulent distraction.
With the truncated FBI probe, the obnoxious White House campaign against Ford and the arrogance of the Senate leadership, this nomination's troubles transcend Kavanaugh's unfit temperament and character. He is now tainted as well by the unscrupulous effort to impose him on us.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.