The latest New York Times report detailing allegations that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to women without their consent during drunken Yale dorm parties may have prompted several leading Democratic presidential contenders to call for his impeachment, but it fundamentally doesn’t change the story of his disgraceful confirmation to the court. Yes, it reports allegations that such incidents happened not once but twice, but there was already plenty of reason to believe he was less than truthful when he painted himself as a serious, studious youth in his confirmation hearings. There was good reason to believe he lied about the extent of his past drinking, about when and how he learned of sexual misconduct allegations against him and about his involvement in various matters during his time as an attorney in the George W. Bush White House. All of that was in plain public view when the Senate voted 50-48 to confirm him.
If the new report doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already know about Mr. Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the high court, it does underscore just how very unfit the man to whom he most owes his post is for his office. We’re not talking about President Donald Trump, he who is now offering vague suggestions that the Department of Justice should “come to his rescue,” whatever that means. He may have nominated Judge Kavanaugh, but the person who really got him on the court is the one who rigged the process: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Mr. McConnell responded to the latest Kavanaugh news by tweeting that “far left’s willingness to seize on completely uncorroborated and unsubstantiated allegations during last year’s confirmation process was a dark and embarrassing chapter for the Senate.” The confirmation process was, in fact, a dark and embarrassing chapter for the Senate, but not for the reasons he thinks. It was embarrassing because of his determination to afford no more investigation of Mr. Kavanaugh’s past than was necessary to give wavering Republicans cover to vote yes, and certainly not enough to actually determine the facts. Even before Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her claim that Mr. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a high school party in Montgomery County decades before, Mr. McConnell oversaw a process in which Mr. Kavanaugh got away without answering perfectly reasonable questions about his views on abortion, the separation of church and state, the limits of an investigation into a president’s conduct and the limits of executive power. And once Ms. Ford’s allegations became public, he and his fellow Republicans showed no interest in the truth, just political expediency.
Yes, they held a widely viewed televised hearing in which they (or, awkwardly, a prosecutor from Arizona Mr. McConnell once referred to as a “female assistant”) questioned Ms. Ford and later Mr. Kavanaugh. But that was an exercise in senatorial speechmaking, not a true inquiry. And when a very credible Ms. Ford fueled the public outcry over a rush to judgment, the Senate made no effort to probe further but instead relied on the extremely curtailed additional FBI investigation that the Trump administration authorized.
That investigation was so limited in scope that agents interviewed neither Ms. Ford nor Mr. Kavanaugh. They did talk to a woman who accused Mr. Kavanaugh of drunken misconduct at a party but they did not follow up on the dozens of potential corroborating witnesses she and her attorneys provided. And as the New York Times new reporting reveals, they did not investigate at all a tip made to the FBI at the time by another Yale classmate that Mr. Kavanaugh had engaged in strikingly similar behavior at a different party. We don’t know whether either allegation would stand up to full and fair scrutiny, and because of Mr. McConnell’s eagerness to throw away the Senate’s duty to provide advice and consent if it would get him another conservative on the high court, we never will.
We see little chance that two-thirds of the Senate would ever vote to remove Judge Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court, and while the House Judiciary Committee has opened an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, we’re a long way from a two-thirds Senate vote to convict him of anything. But there is one person who can and must be removed from power over the handling of the Kavanaugh confirmation: Mitch McConnell. Whether that’s by virtue of a Democratic takeover of the Senate or an upset in his re-election bid in Kentucky, it is a must if there is any hope of ever restoring the judiciary as an untainted, non-political branch of government.