Leahy Addresses The Senate On The Kavanaugh Nomination And The FBI Report

It is extraordinary where we find ourselves today.  We are on the verge of a cloture vote, and possibly a confirmation vote, for Judge Kavanaugh to join the Supreme Court — while credible allegations of sexual assault against the nominee are not just lingering, they’re developing.  The FBI investigation that we hoped would be full and fair has turned out to be neither, after the Trump White House and Senate Republicans appear to have successfully imposed so many restrictions to render it almost meaningless. 

From the very beginning of this nomination, the vetting of Judge Kavanaugh has never been a genuine effort to discover the truth. Instead, at every turn, it has been a transparent and partisan attempt to keep the American people in the dark about the vulnerabilities of a controversial nominee who, if confirmed, will shape their lives for a generation.  From start to finish, at every step, this has been a unilateral effort by the White House and Senate Republicans to protect their nominee, not to protect the American people or the Supreme Court.  They have been driven by the impulse to rush and to conceal.

I want to commend my friends, Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Coons, for working together in good faith to demand more from this process.  An investigation into the serious allegations of sexual misconduct by Judge Kavanaugh is a first step and should have happened weeks ago.  Until now, such investigations have been routine any time new derogatory information surfaces about a nominee.

Unfortunately, the investigation completed over the last few days falls short of any reasonable standard.  And it fell short by design.  We’ve already heard about many of its deficiencies from Dr. Ford, Ms. Ramirez, and numerous other witnesses who attempted, unsuccessfully, to share relevant information with the FBI.  Senate Republican leadership and the White House did everything in their power to ensure that this investigation was not a search for truth — but rather a search for cover.

A search for the truth would have allowed the FBI to interview Dr. Ford’s husband and her therapist — both of whom have stated that Dr. Ford mentioned Kavanaugh as her assaulter years ago.  A search for truth would have allowed the FBI to interview numerous high school and college classmates who have come forward saying they could provide information about Judge Kavanaugh’s conduct during those years that was consistent with the allegations, and which contradict Judge Kavanaugh’s sworn testimony.

A search for the truth would have allowed the FBI to interview a man who wrote a sworn statement asserting that he could help corroborate Ms. Ramirez’s allegations, or two women who contacted authorities with evidence that Judge Kavanaugh tried to head off Ms. Ramirez’s story before it became public, in apparent contradiction with his testimony before the Judiciary Committee.

A search for the truth would have allowed the FBI to at least speak with Julie Swetnick, a third accuser. A search for the truth would have allowed the FBI to speak with Mark Judge’s ex-girlfriend who recalled that Judge told her “ashamedly” about a sexual incident that eerily mirrors both Dr. Ford’s and Ms. Swetnick’s allegations.

Make no mistake, this investigation was rigged by the White House and Senate Republicans.

Instead of calling on the FBI to take these basic investigatory steps, inexplicably, the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee has solely tried to discredit these women.  The Committee released a statement from a former acquaintance of Ms. Swetnick.  This individual had no knowledge of the alleged incident but instead salaciously described the alleged sexual interests of Ms. Swetnick. According to the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence — one of the most nonpartisan and respected voices on Capitol Hill — this shameless attempt to smear a victim violates the intent of the Rape Shield law.  Ms. Swetnick was never even interviewed by the FBI. She was ignored.  She was silenced.  Then she was shamed. It’s outrageous that she’s been treated this way.

Republicans have also claimed that the other individuals Dr. Ford identified at the gathering where she was assaulted have “refuted” her testimony.  That’s just false.  Those individuals stated publicly that they do not recall the event.  As Dr. Ford told the Judiciary Committee, this is not surprising, as “it was a very unremarkable party… because nothing remarkable happened to them that evening.”  One of these individuals has said publicly that she believes Dr. Ford.

After reviewing the FBI’s report this morning, within minutes, Republican Senators claimed there is a lack of corroborating evidence for any of these allegations.  Despite the numerous restrictions placed on this investigation, that claim is simply not true.

But a predicate fact for developing thorough corroborating evidence is a thorough investigation.  And this investigation falls far short.  It is a disservice to Dr. Ford, Ms. Ramirez, Ms. Swetnick, and survivors everywhere.

Dr. Ford’s credible and compelling testimony captivated the nation and inspired survivors of sexual violence across the country.  In a moment that I will never forget, when I asked her for her strongest memory, something from the incident she couldn’t forget, she testified:  “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two” as a teenage Brett Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned Dr. Ford down to the bed and attempted to sexually assault her.

The reason that a thorough, independent investigation is so critical is not because we need additional proof that Judge Kavanaugh was not telling the truth about his high school drinking, or the obvious misogyny in his yearbook, or whether he’s “Bart O’Kavanaugh” who passed out from drunkenness.  All of us here knows he wasn’t telling the truth in his testimony about that.

The reason we needed a thorough investigation is that these women have offered credible accusations, and have identified potential corroborating witnesses and evidence, and the Senate needs to know all the facts before it can place the accused on the nation’s highest court for a lifetime appointment.

A thorough investigation is essential because we simply cannot take Judge Kavanaugh at his word.  On issues big and small, anytime Judge Kavanaugh has been faced with questions that would place him in the middle of controversy, he has shown that he cannot be trusted to tell the truth.  Every single time he has testified before the Senate, he has misled and dissembled. He misled the Senate about his role in a hacking scandal, in confirming controversial judicial nominees, in shaping the legal justifications for some of the Bush administration’s most extreme and discredited policies.

And his appearance before us last week was no different.  In testimony that veered into a tirade, he angrily dismissed Dr. Ford’s testimony as part of a smear campaign to ruin his name and sink his nomination.  His conspiratorial ramblings — attributing the allegations to “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” — were an insult to Dr. Ford and to survivors of sexual violence across the country.  And he evaded, as he always has when under oath, basic factual questions, choosing instead to disrespect members of the Committee who had the audacity to ask him about his behavior during the time of the allegations.

In my 44 years in the Senate, I have voted for more Republican-appointed judges than almost all serving Republican Senators.  That includes voting for Chief Justice Roberts.  But I have never seen such a partisan performance by a nominee of either party to the Supreme Court, or any other court.  And I have never seen a nominee so casually willing to evade and deny the truth in service of his own raw ambition.

If truth under oath means anything at all, Judge Kavanaugh has disqualified himself over and over again.  He has neither the veracity nor the temperament for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our nation.  The truth has an odd way of coming out – one way or another.  To avoid risking permanent damage to the integrity and legitimacy of our nation’s highest court, I urge Senators to join me in voting no on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.

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