Supreme Court confirmation hearings might seem endless while they’re happening, but they do have a logical conclusion: a vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm or reject the nominee. No longer. If progressives get their way, successful confirmation to the High Court will merely serve as a warm-up for the further character assassination to come: impeachment proceedings.
Over the weekend, several Democratic presidential contenders announced, and a credulous news media repeated, their intention to remove Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh from the bench. Why? “Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people,” Kamala Harris tweeted on Sunday. “He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”
Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro also joined in; Warren tweeted, “Confirmation is not exoneration. Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.” Castro phoned in to MSNBC to announce his support for impeaching both Trump and Kavanaugh, saying, “They’re completely undermining our democratic process.” Lest the tone of the segment be misunderstood, MSNBC host Joy Reid followed up by asking, “Is he a sexual predator?”
This revival of rancor about Kavanaugh comes after a story in the New York Times by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. They are about to release a book they’ve written about Kavanaugh. In it, they claim to have found new evidence that Kavanaugh exposed himself to women while he was an undergraduate at Yale and thus would have committed perjury when he denied those claims during his confirmation hearings.
If you listened to the reactions on social media and cable news, you would assume the piece had unearthed shocking new revelations about Kavanaugh or collected more on-the-record sources that corroborate the stories of Kavanaugh’s accusers.
But the article actually resembles the plot of a Lifetime television movie more than a hard-hitting news story, beginning with its title: “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not.” The story’s focus is Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s who claims he exposed himself to her at a party. It portrays her as a “sheltered” ingenue who became the victim not only of Brett Kavanaugh but also, it is implied, of the Ivy League, the U.S. Senate, and the FBI.
The problem with Pogrebin’s and Kelly’s story is the same one the Senate and the F.B.I. had with Ramirez’s: It doesn’t check out.
As Pogrebin and Kelly describe, Ramirez and some classmates “had been drinking heavily when, she says, a freshman named Brett Kavanaugh pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her, prompting her to swat it away and inadvertently touch it. Some of the onlookers, who had been passing around a fake penis earlier in the evening, laughed.” Ramirez didn’t think it was funny and goes on to claim that this single episode scarred her for life. “I had gone through high school, I’m the good girl, and now, in one evening, it was all ripped away,” she told the Times. “By preying upon her in this way, she added, Kavanaugh and his friends ‘make it clear I’m not smart.’”
At the very least this is an overreaction. It’s also probably not true. When Ramirez initially made allegations about Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, the Times acknowledged that it couldn’t verify the story she was telling. This acknowledgment came after Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer at the New Yorker published a highly speculative bit of rumor-mongering about Kavanaugh based on what Ramirez herself admitted were drunken recollections and “significant gaps in her memories.”
Pogrebin and Kelly imply that the FBI did not thoroughly investigate Ms. Ramirez’s claims. “Ms. Ramirez’s legal team gave the FBI a list of at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence. But the bureau—in its supplemental background investigation—interviewed none of them, though we learned many of these potential witnesses tried in vain to reach the FBI on their own,” Pogrebin and Kelly claim.
But that’s not quite the whole story either. (It’s worth pausing to note the left’s double standard with regard to the appropriate use of federal law enforcement; when progressives want the FBI to investigate a political enemy, they demand the agency come out with guns blazing. When that federal law enforcement agency is ICE, and the issue is immigration, though, they conveniently declare omertà.)
As Sen. Chuck Grassley noted in a Twitter thread, the Judiciary Committee in the Senate offered many times to meet with Ms. Ramirez to hear her story, all of which she declined, while also refusing to provide any documentary or other corroborating evidence to the committee about her claims. Nevertheless, the Committee talked to some of Ramirez’s and Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates in an attempt to corroborate her story, and found “no verifiable evidence to support the claims.”
Pogrebin and Kelly also claim to have uncovered “new information” in the form of another Yale classmate, Max Stier, who claims to have seen Kavanaugh drop trou at another drunken party, “where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.”
Stier is a member in good standing with the technocratic elite, appearing on Aspen Ideas Festival panels and, as a lawyer, representing the interests of Hillary Clinton during her husband’s own impeachment scandal. And yet he refuses to speak publicly about his allegation (Pogrebin could not get a single source on the record to corroborate his claim). Grassley’s chief counsel for the confirmation hearings said, “To the best of his knowledge, Grassley’s office has no record of Stier reaching out with his allegation.”
As The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, who has seen a review copy of the Pogrebin/Kelly book, tweeted, in contrast to the excerpt in the Times, “The book notes, quietly, that the woman Max Stier named as having been supposedly victimized by Kavanaugh and friends denies any memory of the alleged event.” A day after publishing the article, the Times ran a correction: “An earlier version of this article, which was adapted from a forthcoming book, did not include one element of the book’s account regarding an assertion by a Yale classmate that friends of Brett Kavanaugh pushed his penis into the hand of a female student at a drunken dorm party. The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed, and friends say that she does not recall the incident. That information has been added to the article.”
In her review of Pogrebin’s and Kelly’s book, which will appear in next Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, NPR’s Hanna Rosin notes, “In the end, they turn up no smoking gun, no secret confession, no friend who comes forth to say Kavanaugh was lying all this time.”
Such facts are unlikely to stop progressive Democrats from calling for renewed investigations into Kavanaugh’s past and continuing to threaten impeachment. Attacks on him are part of a larger attempt to tar the Supreme Court as illegitimate because it is viewed by many progressives as a stumbling block to achieving their progressive agenda.
As for Ramirez, she tells Pogrebin and Kelly that she has achieved a new “awakening,” and has had to drop friends from college who don’t agree with her new approach to her past. “If I felt like a person in my life wasn’t going to embrace my journey or would somehow question it,” she said, “I just let them go.” Note to Debra Ramirez: If you insist on engaging in character assassination while offering no compelling evidence for your claims, people can and should question it. The same can be said for the New York Times surrendering its basic journalistic integrity.