On October 6, 2018, the United States Senate voted 50 to 48 to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, despite credible allegations of sexual assault against him. Christine Blasey Ford who says she encountered Kavanaugh at a high school party in 1982, testified:
I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me.
Forty-nine Republicans Senators and one Democrat dismissed this testimony and voted to confirm Kavanaugh anyway. Some said they thought Blasey Ford was credible, but it was a case of mistaken identity. Some said there was not enough evidence to back up Blasey Ford's accusations. Some said it was all a Democratic conspiracy to undermine Trump. In the end, it didn't matter. Fifty Senators voted to give Kavanaugh a permanent seat on the Supreme Court.
Notably, Blasey Ford was the only witness, other than Kavanaugh himself, allowed to testify about Kavanaugh's sexual misconduct. Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, was not permitted to testify and barely came up during the hearing. Kavanaugh said that he "emphatically" denied the accusation that he waved his penis in Ramirez's face at a party during their first year at Yale. He described it as a "false last-minute smear designed to scare me and drive me out of the process." And that was that.
But now, new reporting by the New York Times, shows there is substantial evidence backing Ramirez's allegation:
During his Senate testimony, Mr. Kavanaugh said that if the incident Ms. Ramirez described had occurred, it would have been “the talk of campus.” Our reporting suggests that it was. At least seven people, including Ms. Ramirez’s mother, heard about the Yale incident long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge. Two of those people were classmates who learned of it just days after the party occurred, suggesting that it was discussed among students at the time.
The marginalization of Ramirez was a grave failure by the United States Senate, the Trump administration, and the media. (A full account of Ramirez's claim would have also lent additional credibility to Blasey Ford, by establishing a pattern of conduct.) It is a failure that the country will likely be forced to live with for decades to come.
How the media failed Deborah Ramirez
Ramirez's allegations against Kavanaugh were first reported by the New Yorker on September 23, 2018.
Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Ramirez is now calling for the F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh’s role in the incident. “I would think an F.B.I. investigation would be warranted,” she said.
This didn't please the New York Times, which reported the same day that it had been looking into Ramirez's allegations and cast doubt on their veracity:
The Times had interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate her story, and could find no one with firsthand knowledge. Ms. Ramirez herself contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the incident and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.
That New York Times report was then used by Senate Republicans to dismiss Ramirez. The next day, the New York Times clarified its stance on Ramirez's allegations, noting that it did not rebut them and the paper, unlike the New Yorker, was unable to secure an interview with Ramirez.
So [Republicans] have instead trained their fire...on the news media — in particular The New Yorker. Many cited a Times article that said The Times had conducted numerous interviews but was unable to corroborate Ms. Ramirez’s story. But The Times did not rebut her account and, unlike The New Yorker, was not able to obtain an interview with Ms. Ramirez.
But the damage was done. "I think it’s important to note that two of those sets of allegations had so little corroboration that even the New York Times, which is no conservative outlet, refused to report on them because they could find no basis for them," Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said during the hearing.
Now, the New York Times, which first suggested that no one could confirm Ramirez's story, reveals that the opposite is true. There are seven people who learned about Ramirez's allegations against Kavanaugh before he even became a federal judge.
But the New York Times is still soft-pedaling this information. The new reporting, which isn't revealed until the 9th paragraph, is part of a story headlined, "Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not." It is categorized as "News Analysis," instead of just "news, and placed in the opinion section.
And then there was the tweet:
This is not the fault of the reporters, who are doing important work by continuing to pursue the story. The New York Times pulled down the tweet and apologized. But the paper, as an institution, is failing Deborah Ramirez.
How the Trump administration rigged the FBI investigation
After Blasey Ford's compelling testimony, Republican leaders announced they would support an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh. This was something Republicans did not want to do but were forced to agree to after former Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and a few others said they would not support Kavanaugh without an investigation.
But that investigation was a farce. The FBI interviewed Ramirez and said that it found her account credible. Ramirez's lawyers also provided "a list of at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence." But the FBI contacted none of them and were prohibited by the Justice Department from freely pursuing leads. Several "potential witnesses tried in vain to reach the F.B.I. on their own."
The FBI also did not investigate a separate, previously unreported, allegation of Kavanaugh touching another female classmate with his penis.
The FBI investigation was severely limited. Instead of an actual criminal investigation, it was deemed a "supplement" to the investigation of all nominees that the FBI performs on behalf of the White House. Therefore, the White House got to set the terms of the investigation, and there were many. It had to be completed within one week, and initially, the FBI was restricted to interviewing "two of Kavanaugh’s high school friends, one of Ford’s high school friends, and Ramirez." Later, the restrictions on interviews were formally lifted, but the FBI was not given additional time to conduct them.
In the end, the FBI spoke to just ten people. But Flake and another swing vote, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), announced they were satisfied and voted to confirm Kavanaugh.
Calls for impeachment
Several Democratic presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg, called for Kavanaugh to be impeached. While Kavanaugh is unlikely to be convicted by the Senate, an impeachment inquiry could give Kavanaugh's accusers a real hearing, with corroborating witnesses. It could also be a forum to explore the limitations of the FBI's investigation.
Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women, had a different suggestion. He said Kavanaugh should sue the women accusing of Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Kavanaugh "declined to comment."
Thanks for reading!