Senator Patrick Leahy’s Statement On The Kavanaugh Nomination, At The Senate Judiciary Committee Voting Session

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
On the Confirmation of Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Executive Business Meeting – Senate Judiciary Committee

September 28, 2018

It is unbelievable where we are today, almost surreal. This Committee, after months of breaking precedent after precedent in a manic rush to fill a Supreme Court seat, is now on the verge of voting on a nominee who has been credibly accused of sexual assault without even having conducted any meaningful investigation.

Yesterday we heard the powerful and courageous testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Following her testimony, I suspect not one of us left the Committee room doubting her credibility. Judge Kavanaugh then angrily denied the allegation, and I’ll get to that shortly. But we should all agree that a credible allegation of sexual assault against a nominee to our nation’s highest court demands that we proceed with utmost caution.

Our constitutional obligation, at the very least, is to investigate these allegations properly. This isn’t about delaying a nomination until after the election. That, in fact, is what Republicans did with Merrick Garland. This is about doing our jobs. The first step is an FBI investigation. That’s always been the first step when new derogatory information comes to light about a nominee — even when the information is as minor as decades-old marijuana use. Why is Judge Kavanaugh, who is facing much more serious allegations, being held to a lower standard than all nominees before him?

A proper investigation also means hearing from all the witnesses. That includes the four witnesses who signed sworn affidavits offered by Dr. Ford. Most stunningly, this Committee has refused to call the sole eye-witness to the alleged assault, Mark Judge. Instead, all we have is a brief letter from Mr. Judge vaguely asserting that he has “no memory of this alleged incident.” He has effectively mailed us a “do not disturb” sign and apparently the Republicans on this Committee are satisfied, as if oral testimony and an opportunity to question witnesses is unnecessary. Whether you believe Judge Kavanaugh or you believe Dr. Ford, the fact that we are not allowed to hear from the sole eye-witness is outrageous — and everyone here knows it.

I said yesterday that the Senate failed Anita Hill. Today we are doing even worse. We had an FBI investigation then. We had almost two dozen witnesses. Here Republicans are not willing to do either, even if it would delay this nomination just a matter of a week or two, far short of the November election.

I am at a loss how Republicans could think that they have heard enough about Dr. Ford’s allegations and are ready to move on. Dr. Ford captivated the nation yesterday with her horrifying story of sexual assault. Every minute of her testimony was credible. She knew Brett Kavanaugh. She knew Mark Judge. This was not a case of mistaken identity.

In a moment that I will never forget, when I asked her for her strongest memory, something from the incident she couldn’t escape, she testified: “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two” as a teenage Judge Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned Dr. Ford down to the bed and attempted to sexually assault her.

I found Dr. Ford’s testimony to be wholly credible, and not one member of this Committee has suggested she was not. The same cannot be said of Judge Kavanaugh.

Judge Kavanaugh’s veracity has been an issue every single time he’s ever testified before the Senate. Whether it’s repeatedly telling senators that he had no role in vetting or working on various controversial Bush-era judicial nominees. Or whether it’s testifying – in response to more than 100 different questions from a half dozen bipartisan senators – that he never received or believed he received obviously stolen materials from Democratic servers. We could not depend on Judge Kavanaugh to tell the truth under oath. We only learned the truth years later, after reviewing the small portion of his White House record that Chairman Grassley was willing to request for this nomination.

Time and again, when confronted under oath with questions about his involvement in Bush-era scandals or controversial matters, Judge Kavanaugh misled the Senate.

This fact alone does not make him guilty of sexual assault as a 17 year-old. Nor does the fact that he minimized the heavy drinking in his youth and misrepresented the misogyny in his yearbook. But it does go to the heart of Judge Kavanaugh’s truthfulness any time he’s faced with potentially incriminating questions.

Yesterday, Judge Kavanaugh falsely claimed — over and over again — that every other person Dr. Ford placed in that house said the assault didn’t happen. That’s just not true. The only person who has claimed this incident didn’t happen is Brett Kavanaugh. The others said they had no knowledge or memory of it. Just as Dr. Ford assumed they would say – given that it was, for them, an ordinary night. And one of them even stated that she believed Dr. Ford, which Judge Kavanaugh conveniently failed to acknowledge.

Judge Kavanaugh’s defiance and evasiveness, and his vehement, partisan attacks against members of this Committee, in the face of powerful incriminating testimony surpassed that of even Clarence Thomas. He tried to portray Dr. Ford’s allegation as part of a “calculated and orchestrated political hit.” He angrily asserted baseless political tirades. He was all-too-eager to promote the false Republican talking point that Senator Feinstein was “lying in wait” with this allegation. He even claimed the allegations were driven by “[r]evenge on behalf of the Clintons.” That amounts to conspiratorial madness. In my time in the Senate, I have never seen such volatility, partisanship, and a lack of judicial temperament from any nominee, for any court.

It is no secret that I have deep concerns about what a Justice Kavanaugh would mean for the rights of women, for workers, for our healthcare, for unchecked presidential power, and other important issues. I also believe he is unfit to serve on our nation’s highest court because of his history of misleading the Senate under oath.

But as serious as those concerns are, this is different. Voting to advance and ultimately confirm Judge Kavanaugh while he is under this dark cloud of suspicion will forever change both the Senate and our nation’s highest court.

For victims and survivors of sexual violence struggling with whether to come forward, the consequences may be even worse. How this Committee handles this nomination will be viewed as a reflection of how seriously our society views credible claims of sexual misconduct. During Dr. Ford’s testimony, the National Sexual Assault Hotline saw an unprecedented 147 percent increase in calls. When survivors see us taking sexual assault seriously, they are empowered to come forward. If they see us callously sweeping it under the rug, I fear it will have disastrous consequences. If victims think they will never be believed, or it will not matter even if they are believed, then why come forward at all?

Dr. Ford deserves to be heard. And that must mean more than just checking a box. It is important to remember that Dr. Ford did not spend her entire life preparing for this moment. She is not backed by the most powerful officials in our nation’s government. She did not come here with a political agenda. She did not testify with a job promotion on the line. She did not evade our questions or demean our motives. She instead, plainly, with grace, and at times emotionally, recounted the trauma that she experienced as a 15 year-old girl. Trauma that has been haunting her for the 36 years since. She had nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming forward.

I listened closely to both her and Judge Kavanaugh. And I believe her.

I will be voting no on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. He does not have the veracity nor temperament for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our nation. And no such nominee should be confirmed in the face of such serious, credible, and unresolved allegations of sexual assault.

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