Quest for truth or 'kangaroo court'? House members split on Kavanaugh hearing

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., speaks to WJLA from Capitol Hill on Sep. 26, 2018. (WJLA)

Although House lawmakers from both parties said Wednesday it is essential to uncover the truth about sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats have growing concerns that his confirmation is a foregone conclusion regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s Senate hearing on the matter.

“Irrespective of what we hear or what’s discovered or what’s revealed on Thursday, they’re voting nonetheless the next day, and most of them have already announced how they’re going to vote irrespective of the testimony. I call that a kangaroo court,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., noting that the Senate Judiciary Committee has already scheduled a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination for Friday morning.

Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning as lawmakers attempt to resolve competing claims about an attempted sexual assault that Ford alleges occurred in the summer of 1982.

According to Ford, Kavanaugh held her down and attempted to remove her clothes during a party, but she managed to escape. Kavanaugh has adamantly denied assaulting her or even attending a party like the one she described that summer, and others Ford says were present have not corroborated her story.

“I think it’s important the Senate hear from the accusers and also give Kavanaugh an opportunity to respond. The important thing is we want to know the truth,” said Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Mich.

Republicans have laid out the schedule for the hearing, with testimony by Ford first and Kavanaugh second. Senators will have five minutes to question each of them and Republicans intend to cede their time to an experienced sex crimes prosecutor.

Ford’s attorney, who had demanded she only be questioned by senators, has complained about the structure of the hearing, but it is still expected to proceed. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, said he hopes Ford does testify.

“It appears to me her attorneys and the Democrats in the Senate absolutely want to do nothing except delay, delay, delay,” Babin said. “I think Judge Kavanaugh needs a fair hearing. Our Constitution does not give us the ability to disqualify and have people be found guilty just by accusation alone.”

Republicans have criticized Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., for revealing Ford’s allegation--which Ford detailed in a letter to her in July--after Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing earlier this month. Feinstein claims she was just trying to honor Ford’s request for confidentiality.

The judge’s supporters have also questioned why this information did not emerge any of the background checks conducted on Kavanaugh for various federal jobs over the last three decades.

“It’s important to recognize this is someone whose character has been well-established over the years, six FBI background checks, and deserves due process to respond to these accusation,” Moolenaar said.

However, Ford said she never spoke of the alleged assault until a couple’s therapy session in 2012. She has provided sworn statements from four people, including her husband, who say she told them about the incident before Kavanaugh was nominated.

Kavanugh has submitted a 1982 calendar to the committee that he says bolsters his claim that he did not attend the party where the alleged assault occurred. Two other claims of misconduct by Kavanaugh in his high school and college years have emerged this week, both of which he also denies.

“I think Judge Kavanaugh, if he’s going to go on the court, deserves to have a complete investigation of the now three women who have come forward with allegations,” Connolly said, noting that an FBI investigation of sexual harassment claims did not keep Justice Clarence Thomas from being confirmed.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced Tuesday that the committee has scheduled a vote on Kavanaugh for Friday. With the Supreme Court term set to begin Monday, Republicans are eager to get Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor and get him seated on the bench, but Connolly suggested the rush to judgment could have consequences.

“I’d rather have Justice Kavanaugh with a clear name than with a very, very dirty cloud over his head,” he said. “It will taint everything he does subsequently.”

According to Republicans, Thursday’s hearing is intended to offer both Kavanaugh and Ford an opportunity to be heard, and they see no reason to put off a vote any longer once it is over.

“I’m hoping this lady will show up to this hearing, we can get to the bottom of this, and then I’m urging my colleagues to go ahead and have a vote on confirmation,” Babin said. “The American people deserve this. The president deserves to have his nominee be confirmed unless there is really good reason not to. So far, I haven’t seen that.”

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