President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, had his nomination rocked by additional and graphic accusations of sexual misconduct over the weekend — and his future in the legal profession has come into question.
Senate Democrats launched an investigation of a new allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, according to a report in The New Yorker on Sunday. The accuser, Deborah Ramirez, recalled with some difficulty a night in the early 1980s when she claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her and forced her into nonconsensual sexual contact short.
On the same day, political activist and lawyer Michael Avenatti claimed to represent a woman who had information that Kavanaugh had tried in high school to use drugs and alcohol to facilitate the “gang rape” of women.
These accusations land after Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, already derailed Kavanaugh’s nomination proceedings with a letter alleging sexual assault at a high school party. Ford, after some back and forth, agreed to testify at a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Kavanaugh has not responded publicly to Avenatti’s claims, but has categorically denied any sexual misconduct in the past.
“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen,” Kavanaugh said. “The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations.”
Kavanaugh now has to defend himself not against civil or criminal charges, but rather a preponderance of seemingly disqualifying information, and some of his fellow legal experts now expect his race is run.
Nearing the tipping point
Benjamin Wittes, editor in chief of Harvard’s Lawfare blog and someone who counts Kavanaugh as a personal friend, said as much in an article in The Atlantic.
“The standard for elevation to the nation’s highest court is not that the nominee established a ‘reasonable doubt’ that the serious allegations against him were true,” wrote Wittes. “[E]ven if he truly believes himself innocent, even if he is innocent—the better part of valor is to get out now.”
Beyond his ascension into the highest court in the US, questions have come up about Kavanaugh’s current employment. Harvard Law students have campaigned at their university for an investigation into the accusations against Kavanaugh or cancel a class he’s slated to teach there in 2019.
Additionally, any findings of misconduct could damage Kavanaugh’s standing as a federal judge, his current job. Even short of findings of actual misconduct, if the controversy around Kavanaugh passes a tipping point he may find himself unable to carry out his normal duties in service of the court. Federal judges have resigned over such controversies in the recent past.
Kavanaugh never had an easy shot at confirmation as his hearings came in the months before the 2018 Congressional midterm elections. Before any allegations of sexual misconduct, Kavanaugh already faced intense and personal scrutiny and outright opposition to the timing of his nomination.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee had misquoted him on social media and stood accused of grandstanding for future presidential runs by their Republican colleagues.