vision 2020

Kavanaugh’s Impeachment May Have Just Become a 2020 Issue

Back in the spotlight, and it’s about to get brighter. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

At least six Democratic presidential candidates have released statements calling for the impeachment or removal of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh after new details supporting and adding to the sexual misconduct allegations against him were revealed over the weekend.

In an excerpt published Saturday from their new book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh, New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly revealed corroborating accounts which supported Deborah Ramirez’s allegation that Kavanaugh once pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her during a dorm party while they both attended Yale. Pogrebin and Kelly also reported a new allegation that a Kavanaugh classmate named Max Stier saw Kavanaugh do something similar to another woman at an entirely different party at the school, and that Stier had informed the FBI and senators about it. The Washington Post reported on Monday that days before Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Democratic Senator Chris Coons wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting “appropriate follow up” with Stier. The FBI never investigated Stier’s account, the authors explained, nor the accounts of dozens of people with corroborating evidence about what happened to Ramirez — whose allegation was dismissed by Senate investigators as lacking that very evidence. (On Sunday, the Times added an important correction to its story, clarifying that the unnamed woman does not recall the incident in question.)

By Sunday afternoon, the removal of Justice Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court, the insufficient FBI investigation, and the GOP’s de-facto coverup had become front-of-mind for many Democratic lawmakers and others on the left. It had also become a 2020 issue when, one by one, Democratic presidential candidates began weighing in on the matter. “Confirmation is not exoneration, and these newest revelations are disturbing,” Elizabeth Warren wrote in a tweet. “Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”

Kamala Harris tweeted the same, arguing that Kavanaugh “was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice.”

Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke both tweeted that Kavanaugh lied under oath and should be impeached, and Castro called for a Congressional review of how the Justice Department handled the investigation.

Pete Buttigieg also released a statement calling for answers about the investigation, and said that “Kavanaugh should resign and if he doesn’t, the House should impeach him.”

Bernie Sanders didn’t mention impeachment in his response, commenting that Kavanaugh shouldn’t have been nominated in the first place and “likely lied” during his testimony. Sanders endorsed “any appropriate constitutional mechanism to hold [Kavanaugh] accountable.”

Joe Biden did not join the impeachment parade, either, calling only for an investigation. In a statement released Sunday night, the former vice president said that the new book’s reporting raised “profoundly troubling questions about the integrity of [Kavanaugh’s] confirmation process,” and that “we need to get to the bottom” of how it may have been influenced by the Trump administration and Senate GOP. “We must follow the evidence to wherever it leads,” the statement continued. “Doing this the right way is critically important in getting the truth and restoring the American people’s faith in their government.”

On Sunday morning, Amy Klobuchar had also pushed off impeachment talk in favor of an investigation during an interview on ABC’s This Week. She said she was concerned that the process a “sham,” but said she wanted to see some documented evidence of what happened. Later, however, she celebrated Christine Blasey Ford — who testified under oath about the sexual assault she said she survived as a teen after being confronted by Kavanaugh and his friend at a party.

Also on Sunday, President Trump and many of his allies on the right seemed happy to rehash the Kavanaugh fight and the “witch hunt” and “smear” narratives deployed to frame it. Trump tweeted attacks on the media about Kavanaugh and suggested that “the Justice Department should come to his rescue.”

Trump’s authoritarian directives aside, Kavanaugh will in all likelihood need no rescuing from impeachment. There has only been one impeachment of a Supreme Court justice in American history, back in the 1800s, and no justice has ever been removed from the Court. It’s not reasonable to expect that one could be now either — particularly in the current political environment. The successful impeachment, conviction, and removal of Kavanaugh would require Democrats taking back the White House, keeping the House (where they already can’t agree to impeach Trump,) and obtaining a like-minded supermajority in the Senate (where Democrats barely have a chance to win even a simple majority in 2020.)

So Justice Kavanaugh is probably here to stay. And the new allegations about him and the investigation into his conduct have reignited what is arguably the most contentious single political battle of the Trump era.

It also was and is a fight worth having, and one that shouldn’t be forgotten come election year.

This post was updated to include Biden’s statement, the Times’s correction, and Coons’s letter to the F.B.I.

Kavanaugh’s Impeachment May Have Just Become a 2020 Issue