Commentary

Former prosecutor: Kavanaugh vote must be delayed while sexual assault claim is investigated

We know that the natural disaster that continues to grip North Carolina remains at the front of everyone’s mind, but for those who have a few minutes for other matters, please take a look at the op-ed authored by former federal law clerk, prosecutor and author David Lat for the New York Times entitled “Delay the Vote — for Kavanaugh, for His Accuser and for the Court: Christine Blasey Ford deserves to be heard. And the judge deserves a chance to clear his name.”

At issue, of course, is the recent revelation by a woman who says she was the object of an attempted sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and another man at a party in the in the 1980’s. Here’s Lat:

“Her disturbing claims deserve further investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, even if it means delaying his confirmation vote. A delay wouldn’t just be for her sake, but for the sake of Judge Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court itself.”

After explaining how Ms. Ford has come forward to provide details of the event and that some have argued that, based on Kavanaugh’s denials, the confirmation vote should proceed, Lat says this:

“I respectfully disagree. The confirmation should be delayed until there is a full investigation, followed by Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, into Ms. Ford’s accusations.

She passed a polygraph test administered by a former F.B.I. agent, and her therapist provided The Washington Post with notes reflecting that Ms. Ford described the alleged incident in 2012. But her case is far from ironclad.

For example, she can’t remember or remains uncertain about many key details (including the year of the alleged incident); she told nobody contemporaneously (unlike many other alleged victims of sexual assault); and both Mr. Kavanaugh and his friend deny it. There is, as far as we know, no physical evidence. It’s a true “she said, he said” — or, rather, “they said,” since two people deny this incident ever happened.

But Ms. Ford should at least be heard, and not just because the #MeToo movement has made the importance of hearing out victims of alleged sexual misconduct even more obvious than it already was. The alleged perpetrator and witness should be heard from as well, and everyone involved should be placed under oath and subjected to aggressive questioning. (At least three Republican senators — Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bob Corker of Tennessee — have expressed interest in hearing more about Ms. Ford’s account, but there’s no consensus yet on the preferred process.)…

The way in which Ms. Ford’s allegations came to light was, to put it charitably, deeply unfortunate. These claims should have been thoroughly and discreetly investigated weeks ago, by nonpartisan F.B.I. agents and bipartisan Senate investigators, in a way that protected Christine Ford’s privacy and Brett Kavanaugh’s good name. But here we are.

It is quite possible — or even likely — that hearings won’t prevent Brett Kavanaugh from being confirmed given the equivocal evidence against him and, perhaps even more important, the number of Republicans and red-state Democrats in the Senate. But due process, which ought to matter when it comes to filling the critical seat on the highest court in the land, calls for nothing less.”

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