The Republican strategy with the Brett Kavanuagh nomination is clear: Quickly have hearings that feature only Kavanuagh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford, declare that it is a ‘he said, she said’ stalemate, decide that Kavanaugh’s denials are credible, and vote him in. But as a quintet of former prosecutors have pointed out, there are many ways to get further than just two conflicting testimonies, but this requires investigation by an independent party to ferret out corroborating or contradictory evidence, and having hearings without such preliminary work would result in just a charade.
The latest proposal is for Ford and Kavanaugh to testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. However, these allegations are extremely serious and we — five former federal prosecutors with a combined experience of many decades — believe that a Senate hearing, if it indeed occurs, is not enough. It will not adequately provide the American public with the full facts and truth about these allegations, nor, importantly, will it allow the Senate to fulfill its constitutional role of “advice and consent” in the context of potential Supreme Court justices. Rather, there must be a thorough, unrushed investigation by the FBI or by another independent investigator and a full and fair public hearing, including all relevant witnesses and not just Kavanaugh and his accuser.
What should that investigation include? Witnesses, in addition to Ford and Kavanaugh, should be interviewed by nonpartisan investigators before they testify. These should include Mark Judge, other people who may have been present at the party that night (even if they did not actually witness the alleged attack) and Ford’s therapist from the 2012 session. One way to judge witnesses’ credibility is to look at how consistent their statements are over time and how witnesses’ statements line up with one another. This assessment cannot be done on the telephone and cannot be done in a vacuum by interviewing only two of the witnesses under oath.
There are also rumors that other women, such as this one, might come forward to say that Ford told them about the incident at the time it occurred. Meanwhile Ford has received death threats that have forced her and her family to move out of their home and into an undisclosed location. She has rightly called for such an investigation before hearings are held and her lawyers have said that she will decline to testify without such a prior investigation at the scheduled hearings on Monday, a date that was set without discussions with her. The question is whether Republicans feel bold enough to deny her request and declare that her absence means that Kavanaugh is credible by default and force the vote.
Now other stories that had got only minor coverage before are coming to light, especially those about Kavanaugh’s financial dealings.
According to financial disclosures, Kavanaugh had between $60,000 and $200,000 in debt, spread across three credit cards and a loan.
As The Washington Post first reported, the White House has an explanation for the debts: Kavanaugh spent big on tickets to see the Washington Nationals, a team he’s known to back.
Raj Shah, a White House spokesman leading the communications push for Kavanaugh’s nomination, said that Kavanaugh had purchased Nats season tickets and playoff seats for himself and a handful of friends. Each credit card had between $15,000 and $50,000 of debt, as did the personal loan. By the time of his 2017 disclosure, the debts were gone, and Shah said that Kavanaugh’s only current debt is a home mortgage.
The more important, and curious, question is not how Kavanaugh accrued the debts attributed to the baseball tickets, but how he paid them down. It’s strange to imagine that a man of comparatively modest means would put tens of thousands of dollars on credit cards to buy baseball tickets, but even stranger that they would have been paid off so fast. The White House says that Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him for the tickets, and that he no longer buys them. The fact remains that Kavanaugh suddenly cleared at least $60,000 and as much as $200,000 in mysterious debt over one year—sums large enough that senators might well want to know who the sources of the payments were.
One senator has asked how he managed, without independent sources of wealth and income but purely on the salary of an Appeals Court justice, to pay the $92,000 initiation fee club and its annual dues of more than $9,000 for membership in an exclusive golf, and whether his fluctuating debts are a sign of a gambling problem.
The odds are that Republicans will rush the hearings through but the earlier anticipated cakewalk is no more. It is going to be ugly.