The strongest evidence that Senate Republicans want to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court, regardless of what he may have done, was the conspicuous absence of Mark Judge from the hearing they held on Thursday.
Christine Blasey Ford, who testified under oath before the Senate on Thursday that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her while they were both teenagers, has identified Judge, a conservative writer and childhood friend and classmate of Kavanaugh’s at the tony D.C.-area Georgetown Prep private school, as the only other person present in the room. Yet the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee has not forced Judge to appear, and it hasn’t said it will allow two other women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, to publicly testify. Instead, Judge—whose initial conditional denial, that he does not “recall” the incident, left open the possibility that it took place—remains holed up at a beach house in Delaware. Although they did not call Judge to appear, Senate Republicans did go through the effort to hire Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor, to cast doubt on Ford’s credibility while avoiding the spectacle of a panel of male senators badgering a sexual-assault survivor.
Despite the burden of reliving her trauma for an audience of millions, the Palo Alto psychology professor remained warm and self-deprecating, cracking jokes about needing coffee because of the time difference between the East Coast and her home in California. Ford’s testimony to the Senate was bracing and convincing. At times choking back tears, she recalled in minute detail the circumstances of the assault, such as Kavanaugh having difficulty removing her clothing because of the one-piece bathing suit she was wearing underneath.
“Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop,” Ford testified. “A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.”
Reporters have uncovered other details about Judge that line up with elements of Ford’s testimony. One of his former girlfriends, Elizabeth Rasor, told The New Yorker that Judge had “told her ashamedly of an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman,” an act that, she said, Judge appeared to think was “fully consensual.” Judge also wrote a memoir about his struggles with alcoholism that included a reference to a “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” who “puked in someone’s car” and “passed out on his way back from a party.” In her testimony Thursday, Ford recalled seeing Judge, who wrote that he worked at a grocery store as a teen, at the local Safeway not long after the incident.
Yet Republicans have not forced Judge to testify about what happened. What makes that so strange is that Judge could conceivably exonerate Kavanaugh, providing proof that the assault never happened, or that neither he nor Kavanaugh was present, as Kavanaugh claims. There were, according to Ford, three people in the room—and yet the Senate decided to hear from only two of them. Judge remains in hiding in Delaware, while Ford bares her soul to the world.
The entirety of the Kavanaugh nomination has been a parade of egregious bad faith. People who called for black athletes to be fired for protesting unjustified police killings have suddenly become concerned about due process. Those who supported a candidate who wanted to ban Muslims have warned against painting men with a broad brush. The president who called for five teenagers to be executed for a crime they didn’t commit has decried false accusations. Those who chanted “Lock her up!” for more than two years have rediscovered the principle that people are innocent until proved guilty.
But ultimately, the sanction that Kavanaugh faces is not death, imprisonment, or even removal from the bench, but simply not being elevated to the nation’s highest court. Imagine how different the country would be if Kavanaugh’s defenders could extend their empathy for him to the average American who comes in contact with the criminal-justice system.
Perhaps Republicans on the committee simply do not want to know whether Kavanaugh attempted to rape Ford. Less charitably, it’s possible that some find Ford’s testimony credible, and they are afraid that truthful testimony from Judge will bolster her account; they want to make Kavanaugh a Supreme Court justice, with the power to shape the lives of hundreds of millions of women, regardless of whether he is guilty.
Having elevated a man credibly accused of sexual assault to the White House, the Republican Party is attempting to place another on the nation’s highest court. Refusing to even attempt to uncover the truth will not change that.