Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, and sexual misconduct claims against him, have continued to dominate this week’s news. When we left off last Thursday, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, September 24, but had asked for a thorough FBI investigation prior to her hearing. Her request called into question whether she would testify at all and led to a round of negotiations about the date on which she would appear before the Judiciary Committee. News broke early Sunday that Dr. Blasey Ford had committed to testify on Thursday, September 27, but there has been no FBI investigation. More on the hearing below.
Later Sunday, The New Yorker published a story about a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, coming forward with an accusation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh from his time at Yale University in the early 1980s. The article, by Ronan Farrow and Jane Meyer, walks the reader through events from the time The New Yorker contacted Ms. Ramirez after hearing that she may have been involved in the incident. The article recounts her six-day process of considering whether she wanted to tell her story and her concerns about her memory of the alleged incident because she had been drinking at the time. This new accusation, it has been pointed out, is more uncorroborated than Dr. Blasey Ford’s. Nevertheless, on Monday James Roche, Brett Kavanaugh’s freshman-year roommate, released a statement in which he said that he believed Ms. Ramirez’s story – based on his time with both Ms. Ramirez and Kavanaugh. Tuesday, President Trump criticized both Ms. Ramirez, whom he said was “totally inebriated and all messed up,” and Democrats generally, calling them “con artists.”
The avalanche of news continued on Monday, starting with The New York Times publishing a story about a reference on Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook page in which he referred to himself as a “Renate Alumnius,” apparently in reference to Renate Schroeder Dolphin, one of the 65 signatories of the letter in support of Kavanaugh in the wake of Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations. There have been varying explanations for exactly what the term meant.
On Monday evening Kavanaugh appeared, along with his wife Ashley, for an unprecedented interview on Fox News, as discussed by Professor Christopher Schmidt, Co-Director of ISCOTUS here. During the interview, Kavanaugh discussed his high school and college years, claimed never to have had so much to drink that he blacked out, and denied sexually assaulting anyone. Some former classmates subsequently took issue with his descriptions of his drinking, as reported by the Washington Post.
On Tuesday, GOP leaders announced that they had hired a “female assistant” to question both Dr. Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh on Thursday. The individual hired is Rachel Mitchell, a sex crimes prosecutor from Maricopa County, Arizona. Senator Grassley, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee also released the format for the hearing, which provides each senator only five minutes to question each witness, although the Republican senators are expected to yield their time to Mitchell. Grassley rescheduled the committee vote for Friday, less than 24 hours after Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony in front of the committee, although he can postpone the vote again.
More explosive news broke on Wednesday, when Michael Avenatti, the attorney who represents Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Donald Trump, released a sworn declaration from his client Julie Swetnick, a current government employee. (Avenatti had been alluding to this client without naming her for several days.) Swetnick states that she witnessed Kavanaugh, with his friend Mark Judge, very drunk and groping or grabbing young women. She also alleges that she witnessed Kavanaugh and Judge attempting to make girls so drunk or to drug them so that they could be gang-raped. She alleges witnessing Kavanaugh and other boys waiting outside rooms to have a “turn.” Finally, she alleges that she herself was the victim of such a gang-rape and that Kavanaugh was present, although she does not say whether he in fact raped her. Kavanaugh promptly denied the allegations, stating, “this is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone. I don’t know who this is and this never happened.”
As of now, the Thursday hearing on Ford’s charges is still scheduled to proceed.
Check back with ISCOTUSnow for more updates on the Kavanaugh accusations and hearing.
ISCOTUS Fellow Eva Dickey, Chicago-Kent Class of 2020, drafted this post which was edited by ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator Matthew Webber, Class of 2019. ISCOTUS Co-Director and Chicago-Kent Faculty Member Carolyn Shapiro oversaw the post.