Editorial: Feinstein’s right; delay Kavanaugh’s hearing while the FBI investigates the allegations against him

The hearing to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on September 4.
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)

It’s vital that the Senate Judiciary Committee hear the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, the California psychology professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, along with Kavanaugh’s denials.

But we agree with Sen. Dianne Feinstein that the panel should postpone further action on the nomination — including a hearing Thursday at which Ford and Kavanaugh have agreed to answer questions — until there is an FBI investigation of Ford’s allegation and a second accusation from his college years that emerged over the weekend.

Feinstein, the committee’s ranking Democrat, made that request Sunday night after the New Yorker reported on an allegation by Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh had exposed himself to her at a drunken dormitory party at Yale in the 1980s. (Kavanaugh described the allegation as “a smear, plain and simple.”)

If the White House failed to direct the FBI to reopen its investigation, Feinstein told Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the Judiciary Committee “must subpoena all relevant witnesses.”


Despite Feinstein’s plea and the new allegation, Republicans still seem to be in a rush to confirm Kavanaugh. Railing against what he called “a game of delay, deception, and wholesale character assassination,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Monday said that “the process needs to move forward with a hearing Thursday, and vote in committee soon thereafter.”

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It’s undeniable that many Democrats, uneasy about the prospect of another conservative on the court, want to delay a vote on Kavanaugh — ideally until after the midterm elections. That way Democratic senators seeking another term in red states would be spared casting a vote and, if reelected, might feel liberated to oppose Kavanaugh or some other Trump nominee.

But the possibility that some Democrats have an ulterior political motive doesn’t change the fact that these truly troubling allegations against Kavanaugh should be investigated by the FBI — expeditiously — before senators question the nominee and his accusers. Ideally the committee also would hear from witnesses such as Mark Judge, who according to Ford was in the bedroom when Kavanaugh assaulted her. (Judge told the committee in writing that “I have no memory of this alleged incident.”)


There is no guarantee that a reopened FBI background check would make a difference in how the committee members frame their questions or that it will resolve discrepancies in recollections about long-ago events. But it’s possible that the bureau’s interviews could add corroborating information (or show that it doesn’t exist) and dispel rumors and false leads. At best, the bureau could clarify matters by giving all the senators an agreed-upon basis of fact to work from.

That would lend credibility to a confirmation process that has been poisoned by partisanship and posturing. Kavanaugh should welcome such an investigation, and so should the president who appointed him.

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