Feminist lawmakers and advocates issued a call for transparency after the White House last week authorized an FBI investigation into mounting sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. Senate leaders like Dianne Feinstein and advocates like Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal also demanded that the process result in a comprehensive and exhaustive pursuit of any information pertaining to claims from multiple women that the Supreme Court nominee was involved in various acts of sexual violence in high school, college and adulthood.
Today, those same demands emerged after Senators gained access to the paltry results of an investigation many think was purposefully limited in scope and ultimately incomplete on the eve of a cloture vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, sparking outcry across the country.
— LWV of the US (@LWV) October 4, 2018
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who was the first of now five women to come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh, testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the night she claims he and his friend at the time, Mark Judge, attempted to rape her in high school. The following day, the committee was scheduled to vote on whether or not to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor, despite protests from lawmakers in the body. Senator Jeff Flake Friday called for an FBI investigation as the committee gathered to vote—a demand that had been made for weeks by activists and the survivors coming forward themselves—and that same day, President Trump authorized an investigation, but reports claimed that he had limited the list of people to be questioned to four individuals.
In two separate letters, Feinstein and other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee called for transparency and requested that the White House publicly release the instructions they had issued to the agency in order to ensure that the ensuing investigation would be fair and complete. Advocates urged constituents to ask the same of their Senators. No such action was ever taken; instead, the President publicly disparaged Blasey Ford at public events while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell disparaged Kavanaugh’s other accusers on the Senate floor.
On Wednesday night, prior to the release of the FBI’s report, McConnell scheduled a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination for Friday, and a final confirmation vote for as soon as Saturday. The report, which will not be released publicly, was released several hours later. Despite this narrow timeline, Senators must read the report in shifts or send aides to later brief them on its contents, because only one copy is available.
Democratic Senators, who have called the format “ridiculous,” spoke out today about the constraints placed on this process by leaders like Trump and McConnell. “Even before the Senate received the FBI report, McConnell scheduled a vote on Kavanaugh,” Senator Kamala Harris said on Twitter. “It’s absurd.” Senator Elizabeth Warren echoed the frustrations on her own timeline: “Not even a full week for an FBI investigation,” she wrote. “A single copy of the report given to the Senate. Less than an hour to review. This is a complete sham.”
Without divulging the substance of the report, many Democrats have also made comments criticizing its limitations and failings. “I read the FBI report,” Senator Jeff Merkley wrote on Twitter. “This whole thing is a sham. This stunted, strangled investigation was designed to provide cover, not to provide the truth.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Feinstein, who is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, both slammed the report in statements this morning when its release was first announced. Schumer also noted that claims by McConnell and other political leaders that morning that the report showed no evidence of sexual misconduct were misleading.
The Washington Post was able to confirm that the FBI interviewed six individuals for their investigation; White House spokesman Raj Shah said the agency had been able to interview nine. Dozens of Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh’s classmates were not sought out for questioning, despite being willing to speak to investigators. Although investigators spoke to Deborah Ramirez, who alleged Kavanaugh exposed himself to her without her consent when they attended Yale, they did not follow up with any of the witnesses she told them to reach out to for corroboration, some of whom attempted to directly contact agents to pursue such conversations. Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh themselves were not interviewed; neither was Julie Swetnick, Kavanaugh’s third accuser, who claimed in sworn testimony that he knowingly and willingly attended and participated in parties in which girls were gang-raped.
An official briefed on the review reported that the FBI chose to focus on the events described by the first two accusers, and did not concentrate on any other accusations of sexual assault or more comprehensive questions about Kavanaugh’s drinking during high school which could possibly indict him of perjury based on his testimony last week. Kavanaugh’s former Yale roommate, James Roche, wrote a piece for Slate that asserts that Kavanaugh lied under oath about his excessive drinking, adding: “I believe Debbie.” He is just one of many former schoolmates of Blasey Ford, Ramirez and Kavanaugh who all claim to have witnessed Kavanaugh’s drinking habits.
“The most notable part of this report,”remarked Senator Dianne Feinstein, “is what’s not in it.” Her outrage is shared by many other feminists nationwide. Ultraviolet released a letter today signed by dozens of sexual assault and domestic violence survivors demanding Flake vote to reject Kavanaugh’s confirmation; protestors gathered in D.C. today to mark the week since Blasey Ford’s testimony and urge his colleagues to do the same and #CancelKavanaugh, and a People’s Fillibuster starting tonight will take place until the final floor vote on his confirmation.
“The White House and Senate majority are pointing to a rushed and limited FBI report as if it sheds any light on the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh,”Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal said in a statement. “It patently does not, because the investigation that produced it was purposely designed to give cover to nervous Senators who want to vote yes, not get to the truth.” Smeal added that the findings of the FBI investigation, however, still don’t permit Senators to overlook Kavanaugh’s temperament or what has been made clear about his behavior through the years.
“Senators don’t need an incomplete, partisan-controlled FBI report to tell them that Brett Kavanaugh should not sit on the Supreme Court,” she declared. “He has shown himself to be a right-wing operative who lies under oath with an unfit temperament and an originalist philosophy that is hostile to women’s rights. This behavior and history alone, without the sexual misconduct allegations, is disqualifying.”
Victoria Sheber is an editorial intern at Ms., a debate instructor at Windward School and a member of the JusticeCorps at the Los Angeles Superior Court. Victoria is currently a senior at UCLA studying American Literature & Culture and History; she is also the President of the American Association of University Women chapter on campus and Assistant Section Editor for Fem Newsmagazine. She loves to read and write about feminist literature.
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