Yet another reason to call the FBI
The weekend brought yet another reason that Republicans should ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation to reopen its background probe into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Deborah Ramirez, a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh's, claimed in a New Yorker article that the nominee exposed himself to her and caused her to touch his genitals during their freshman year. As with the previous allegation of sexual assault against him, Kavanaugh flatly denied the incident ever occurred. If he is telling the truth, he and his allies should want a professional, impartial investigation to gather what facts exist.
Both Ramirez's allegations and those Christine Blasey Ford previously lodged against Kavanaugh involve alleged wrongdoing decades ago, the involvement of possibly incapacitating amounts of alcohol and, at times, admittedly foggy memories.
Efforts to locate clear evidence backing the accusers or the accused have turned up only limited results. The Senate Judiciary Committee alone is unlikely to change this basic picture.
The committee has agreed to hear Ford, who alleges attempted rape 36 years ago, and Kavanaugh tomorrow. No essential witnesses have been subpoenaed, including the man Ford insists was an eyewitness, Kavanaugh's high school classmate Mark Judge. Senior Republicans have already signalled that they plan to push through Kavanaugh regardless of the testimony.
Federal investigators are routinely asked to reopen background checks on nominees less important than Kavanaugh and on matters less substantial than alleged sexual assault. But, in their effort to rush Kavanaugh on to the court, Republicans have declined further FBI involvement in his confirmation process.
If the status quo persists, the United States faces two unappealing outcomes. Republicans could push through Kavanaugh as planned, while his moral rectitude and the procedural legitimacy of his confirmation remain in question.
Or senators could turn him away based on their feelings about Ford's credibility and their fear of possibly confirming an attempted sexual assailant to the court, despite the unsatisfying evidentiary record. FBI professionals should be asked to develop that record as much as they can. They may find new witnesses, circumstantial evidence not yet public or others with accounts similar to those already on the record, who have hesitated to reveal them to politicians.
Even if they do not, calling in the FBI would assure the public that the Senate is taking all reasonable steps to get at the truth. Kavanaugh and his Republican backers should want that as much as Ford and the Democrats calling for FBI involvement.
Throughout Kavanaugh's confirmation saga, Republicans have treated reasonable requests for information as illegitimate tactics meant to poison the process. Along with resisting calls for FBI investigative help, they asked for only a fraction of the files that they should have requested from Kavanaugh's time in the George W. Bush White House.
The Senate can take a pause, ask for all the relevant information on Kavanaugh and then wrestle with his confirmation when lawmakers have done their due diligence.