Why is Brett Kavanaugh scared of an FBI investigation?

One obvious answer is that he was lying when he denied Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations. But there are some things that puzzle me. One is the stark contradiction that was posed by the testimonies of Ford and Kavanaugh on Thursday. She came across as highly credible. She was so natural and her testimony so compelling that it clearly rattled Kavanuagh and his Republican supporters on the committee who decided to fight back furiously. Kavanaugh’s denials of the incident were angry and emphatic. Too angry, in fact. Although he may have been successful in temporarily raising the spirits of his supporters and causing them to rally round, serious questions have been raised about his lack of a judicial temperament. Various groups have expressed alarm and the American Bar Association that had earlier endorsed him called for an investigation and many members of the Yale law faculty and students have also expressed concern, with the students turning on the faculty for not warning them about predators in general. A Jesuit magazine that had earlier endorsed him and now called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withdrawn.

We know why Donald Trump and the Republican party did not want an investigation into Ford’s allegations. They wanted to ram this nomination through quickly before more damaging information came out. Three women had already spoken on the record and two more anonymous women were in the wings. Why was Kavanaugh scared of an investigation? Why did Kavanaugh not want to clear his name? Why would he want a cloud permanently hanging over him if he thought he was innocent? After all, the named people alleged to have been at the party where Ford was assaulted have said that they had no recollection of the incident, though one of them Leland Keyser says she does not refute Ford’s account and indeed believes her. Did he think they might recant or contradict themselves when confronted by trained investigators? In his testimony he tried to have it both ways, saying that he welcomed any and all investigations, but he refused to ask for an FBI one, saying that he would go with whatever the committee decided. This was glaringly disingenuous since he knew the Republican majority was opposed to it.

I think it comes down to the question of his heavy drinking. It is clear that Kavanaugh is a classic type, somewhat reserved when sober but who gets loud and belligerent when drunk. And he clearly drank a lot and often and moved with friends who also did so and who also treated the girls of their acquaintance as potential sexual conquests. He denied that he ever ‘blacked out’ but did acknowledge to Rachel Mitchell that he did fall asleep on occasion after drinking.

I am very familiar with the behavior of heavy drinkers, having grown up with many family members who did so. I have seen them get very seriously drunk but never seen them ‘black out’ or even fall asleep at events. But I have seen them become belligerent and verbally argumentative and unpleasant. Then the next day they would not remember their previous night’s bad behavior. At least they said so and while sometimes it may have been a self-serving attempt to excuse their behavior, at other times their denials of memory seemed genuine.

Kavanaugh’s visible anger may have been to give his false denials some verisimilitude. But it may also be true that Kavanaugh does not remember the incident with Ford, outrageous as it was, but cannot be sure it did not happen. It may be because he knows that there were many days where he was too drunk to remember what he had done the night before. What he may be scared about is that the FBI will uncover a pattern of heavy drinking and other events where he behaved abominably when drunk and later claimed memory loss. So even if they cannot corroborate the Ford incident, they would have undermined his denial and destroyed his repeated (and often rote-sounding) recitations of what a hard-working, church going, self-sacrificing, virtuous person he is. If the FBI investigation fails to come up with anything new or significant, that will provide cover for all the Republicans to vote in his favor but he seemed unwilling to take that risk.

Peter Maass and Akela Lacy suggest five questions that the FBI should ask Kavanugh’s close friend and drinking partner Mark Judge. Briahna Gray and Camille Baker chronicle the dishonesty of Kavanaugh.

For those who enjoy political theater, yesterday when the senate judiciary committee went into its meeting seemingly assured of an easy vote and then being thrown into turmoil was a doozy. David Mack has an entertaining and detailed play-by-play of how things went down, accompanied by still photos, videos, and gifs to show how things rapidly changed. For me the best part was seeing Lindsey (Sir Robin) Graham starting off the day looking cock-a-hoop, basking in the adulation of Trump and his rabid supporters for his trademark faux-outrage act that he has performed so many times over the past, suddenly looking deflated as his plan collapsed.

On the political front, Donald Trump and the Republicans have suffered a short-term defeat. After insisting that they could not re-open the investigation, they have reversed course and done so, infuriating some of their followers. They were forced to do this by three of their own senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski calling for a week-long delay. It is clear that Flake, after saying he would vote for Kavanaugh without an investigation was shaken and shamed by the encounter with women survivors in an elevator that was broadcast live over national television.

This coming week will be interesting. The FBI will keep its inquiries confidential but other news may emerge.


  1. mailliw says

    Kavanaugh is a lawyer. For me it is puzzling that he didn’t assemble a large body of detailed evidence to prove his innocence. He claims for example that he kept a diary that shows that he was almost certainly not in town on the weekend that the party took place. There must have been people who he talked to when he was out of town who could provide him with an alibi?

    So why did he resort to emotional rhetoric instead of the calm, reasoned tones based on carefully assembled well reasoned arguments and evidence that one would expect from a competent lawyer?

    I think from this one can conclude that Kavanaugh is lazy, incompetent or guilty, any one of which should disqualify him from the supreme court.

    As for his character witnesses, I wonder if we can look forward to a Netflix series about a dodgy lawyer called “Better Call Brett”?

  2. EigenSprocketUK says

    My theory: drunk people who claim no knowledge of the night before have punctuated and unsorted memories: not enough to string together an accurate account of what they did, and sometimes not enough to recall much unprompted. But when prompted they do start to process and sort; they remember far more than they dare admit. And they never ask for other people’s recollections because they already know that there is likely to be worse to come out.

  3. flex says

    I know this is a post a few days old, but I’m on vacation and just saw it. I will attest from personal experience that it is possible to drink enough to function (apparently conscious) and not remember what happened the following day. I can say for certain that no rape was involved. Many years ago when I was in the service at a going away party for a friend I started drinking gin and ginger-ale. Aside from the initial vomiting memory, I have one fleeting memory of being in a shower, and then awakening lying outside my dormitory door.

    It appeared, from talking with the other people at the party, that I helped clean up my initial vomit. Then I grabbed a towel and went (apparently conscious and functional, although very, very drink) to the showers. Two hours later someone came to check on me, I have no recollection of them doing so, but I was told that they asked me if I was all right (having apparently been in the shower the entire time) and I told them that I was. It was a number of hours after that, that I awoke, shivering from cold, outside my dormitory door.

    I’ve had one other experience of losing memory, this one probably from exhaustion, when I was driving late at night back from a wedding I attended. It was about a five hour drive, and my memory of it consists of getting into my vehicle, then memory returning about 4 hours later. I had apparently been driving on the freeway for several hours without any transfer of my short-term memory into long-term memory. It’s the only explanation I can think of for doing something as complex as driving for 4 hours without having any memory of it (I find this explanation more parsimonious than alien abduction).

    Both occasions frightened the hell out of me. After the initial memory loss, I immediately moderated my drinking. Since the second event I’ve paid much more attention to my tiredness and I’ve several times pulled into a motel, lengthening my trip when I started feeling exhausted, rather than putting other people in danger by driving without a fully functional consciousness.

    So I can attest that memory loss can happen, from drink or exhaustion. Of course, whether a particular circumstance of claimed memory loss happens is something I can’t answer. What happened to me does not mean that people could still have complete or fragmentary memories and feel ashamed enough to deny them.

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