The Republican-controlled Senate appears poised to confirm a Supreme Court justice who believes in presidential immunity to criminal investigation. He was handpicked by a president whose wealth was inherited through tax fraud, whose former personal attorney has implicated him in a federal crime, and who is the focus of an ongoing investigation into a foreign attack on American democracy.
For the past two weeks, the debate over Kavanaugh has focused on the psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford’s emotional testimony before the Senate that Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her as a teenager, and Kavanaugh’s furious denial. But once Kavanaugh revealed himself as an unrestrained partisan actor, Republicans rallied to his support. Americans do not know for certain that Ford’s allegations are true, but they do know for certain that no one with the authority to do so ever made a real effort to find out.
Whatever remained of the separation of powers within uniform Republican control of government melted away in the fracas over Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Senate Republicans abdicated their duty to oversee nominations by refusing to call the only witness to Ford’s allegations, Kavanaugh’s classmate Mark Judge, to testify publicly. The White House severely curtailed the FBI inquiry, making it unlikely to turn up evidence that Kavanaugh had lied under oath about his drinking or high-school behavior, despite one public report after another that showed his testimony to be false. The successful Trump administration effort to limit the investigation into Kavanaugh demonstrated that the stated commitments of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Chris Wray to resist political pressure in their enforcement of the law will crumble under sustained pressure. With his ascension to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will be able to make good on the threat of partisan vengeance he made in his testimony.