Senate Floor Statement Of Senator Leahy On The Confirmation Vote On The Nomination Of Judge Kavanaugh To The U.S. Supreme Court

This is not a normal confirmation vote.  I have now served in the Senate for 19 Supreme Court nominations, more than any other senator.  I have never seen so much at stake with a single seat.  And I have never seen this much at stake precisely because this is about so much more than one seat.  Indeed, the integrity of two of the three coequal branches of our republic is at stake.  This vote will decide whether the United States Senate — which, at its best, can serve as the conscience of the nation — causes the Supreme Court to be indelibly tainted in the eyes of millions of Americans, perhaps more than half of the country.

To be clear, my opposition to Judge Kavanaugh is not due to him being nominated by a Republican president. 

In my 44 years in the Senate, I have voted for more Republican-appointed judges than almost every single Republican senator serving today.  That includes voting to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts.  But Judge Kavanaugh is not a typical conservative nominee.  My opposition is driven by my firm belief that his confirmation will bring great harm to the Court, to this body, and to millions of hardworking Americans.

Judge Kavanaugh has been relentlessly dishonest under oath.  I’m not just referring to the fact that he 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 that indeed does speak to his credibility, as he concocted far-fetched story after far-fetched story, all to avoid conceding facts that would corroborate the Brett Kavanaugh as described by Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez.

But it’s much more than that.  Much, much more than that.  Every single time Judge Kavanaugh has testified before the Senate — in 2004, 2006, and twice in 2018 — he has misled and dissembled.  On issues big and small, anytime he has been faced with questions that are incriminating, or would place him in the middle of controversy, he has shown that he cannot be trusted to tell the truth.  He misled the Senate about his role in a hacking scandal, in confirming several controversial judicial nominees, in shaping the legal justifications for some of the Bush administration’s most extreme and discredited policies. 

I have never seen a nominee so casually willing to evade and deny the truth in service of his own raw ambition.

And the truth is we are just beginning to learn about Judge Kavanaugh’s dishonesty under oath.  His false testimony during his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings only came to light as the Judiciary Committee obtained some of his White House emails.  Yet Senate Republicans blocked access to 90 percent of his White House record.  That is, everything we have learned about his prior dishonesty came from just 10 percent of his record.  Many more of these records will eventually become public.  In fact I joined a lawsuit, led by Senator Blumenthal, to force the National Archives to release these records.  The chance that these records do not contain additional evidence of Judge Kavanaugh’s dishonesty under oath?  Approximately zero.

It is not just Judge Kavanaugh’s veracity that is disqualifying; it is also his temperament and partisan zeal.  When Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004, he was known only as a hyper-partisan political operative.  Indeed that is why it took him two years to get confirmed.  Since Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, I had wondered whether his earlier partisan zeal remained.

That was confirmed last week.  I have never seen a nominee so consumed by partisan rancor.  In testimony that veered into a tirade, he angrily attacked senators and 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 everywhere. 

Former Justice John Paul Stevens, a Republican appointee, declared that Judge Kavanaugh’s unhinged performance last week demonstrates “potential bias.”  He stated that “[f]or the good of the Court” Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation ought not to proceed.  Just yesterday, the American Bar Association announced that it is re-opening its evaluation of Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve as a judge.  These developments — both unprecedented — should serve as flashing red warning signs to any senator inclined to vote “yes” at this time.

And there are many more flashing red warning signs. 

Dr. Ford’s credible and compelling testimony captivated the nation and inspired survivors of sexual violence across the country.  Every minute of her testimony was credible.  She disclosed the abuse long before Judge Kavanaugh was a household name.  She remembered vivid details of that night.  She expressed 100 percent certainty that Judge Kavanaugh was her abuser.  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 assaulted Dr. Ford.

Dr. Ford had nothing to gain by coming forward.  I believe her, just as I believed Anita Hill. 

In my view, no one who truly believes Dr. Ford can credibly justify voting “yes.”  Unfortunately, the Senate appears to be on the brink of failing Dr. Ford, just as it will fail Ms. Ramirez.  And just as it failed Anita Hill.

The FBI investigation completed over the last few days falls short of any standard.  And it fell short by design.  We’ve already heard about 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.

Even a basic search for the truth would have allowed the FBI to interview Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, as well as her husband and her therapist. 

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.  

A search for the truth would have allowed the FBI to interview a man who wrote a sworn statement asserting that he could 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 clear 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.  

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 preferences 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.

Republicans have claimed the investigation failed to reveal 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 the investigation fell far short.  It is a disservice to Dr. Ford, Ms. Ramirez, Ms. Swetnick, and survivors everywhere.

The manic rush to place Judge Kavanaugh on the bench was more important to the Senate than these women.  Pushing toward confirmation while so many leads remain unexamined will forever taint a Justice Kavanaugh, and, unfortunately, the Supreme Court itself.    

Yet, truth can be dogged.  It has a way of coming out, eventually. 

For any senator who votes “yes” while troubling new developments on this nominee are occurring in real-time, it will be on their conscience when more disqualifying information later emerges.  I urge them to think carefully about what a “yes” vote would mean to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, to the integrity of the Senate, and to the increasing divisiveness in our nation.

As partisan as this process has been, this is not a partisan dilemma.  Many prominent conservatives would make a fine Supreme Court Justice.  They would not cast a shadow over the Supreme Court, and this body along with it.  Judge Kavanaugh is not that choice.  To avoid risking permanent damage to the integrity of our institutions of government, I urge Senators to join me in voting no on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.

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