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Kavanaugh should welcome orderly FBI investigation

Assault accusation: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

A lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her three decades ago, says her client wants to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee — just not on Monday, when Republicans have scheduled a hearing. The reason is simple: “No legitimate investigation is going to happen between now and Monday”, and Ford wants the FBI to investigate the incident before she speaks.

Republicans’ bristling response suggests they care more about ramming through Kavanaugh’s confirmation than about the veracity of Ford’s allegations.

To listen to GOP senators, Ford could have no reasonable motive for hesitating to testify. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican senator, released a statement declaring that demands for an FBI investigation are about “delaying the process until after the midterm elections”. He told The Washington Post that “this has been a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh”.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, from Iowa, who is running the confirmation process, argued it was irrelevant to Ford whether the FBI investigated her accusations. “Dr Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” he said. “Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”

That claim is patently absurd. Ford has an obvious interest in professionals gathering information that could corroborate her story before she faces a hostile panel of senators on live national television. A real investigation could inform senators’ questioning about the alleged event and give Ford information she could cite to strengthen her claims.

The FBI is the right organisation to conduct an investigation. Lying to the FBI is a crime, making the stakes much higher for anyone caught dissembling about the alleged assault. Also, FBI professionals are far more likely to conduct a fair inquiry than partisan senators at a last-minute hearing.

Republican senators not only reject such a serious inquiry but also actively impede it. They are not even willing to subpoena a potentially key eyewitness, Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate Mark Judge, who Ford claims was in the room when the alleged assault occurred.

As for Graham’s assertion about delaying tactics, it is Republicans’ intentions that should be in doubt. They have rushed Kavanaugh’s confirmation process despite legitimate concerns from Democrats about the non-release of information relating to his past work. Now, GOP fears that a thorough inquiry into credible accusations of sexual assault would delay a vote seem to be driving their refusal of Ford’s reasonable and legitimate request.

If Kavanaugh is telling the truth when he denies any wrongdoing, he should welcome an orderly investigation into Ford’s claims as the best chance he has to ascend to the Supreme Court without a cloud surrounding his confirmation.