Confirmed: Powerful men ignored women in short-circuited Brett Kavanaugh investigation

Mimi Rocah, Opinion contributor

The painful controversies of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing are back amid new details about alleged sexual assault and misconduct by the now Supreme Court justice during his college years, and specifically whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation was impeded in its investigation of these allegations by the White House or others.

The new information, reported by The New York Times, raises fresh questions about whether Kavanaugh lied in his confirmation hearings about the sexual assault allegations and other matters (very possibly), whether his testimony rises to the level of criminal perjury (maybe) and whether he is fit to continue to be seated on the Supreme Court. 

These are hugely important and consequential questions that should be pursued with vigor. But, like the confirmation hearings themselves, the new information about a short-circuited investigation of victims’ claims isn't only about one Supreme Court justice. It’s about how women and sexual assault survivors are fed up with feeling silenced and by men who control the levers of power — whether it's in the criminal justice system or in Congress.

Sham hearings, sham investigation

At the time of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, I and several other female legal experts urged a thorough investigation into the allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, among other women. As we said at the time, there was simply no legitimate reason to rush a confirmation vote.

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Confirming Kavanaugh under a cloud of accusations, without a thorough investigation, would undermine both his legitimacy and the integrity of the Supreme Court. And confirming Kavanaugh without a full and fair process would outrage many women who felt once again that they weren't being heard. Allowing the FBI to conduct an investigation that was fair to his accusers and to him would serve to discover the truth, allow the public to have confidence in the result and show women people were listening.

Christine Blasey Ford testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on Sept. 27, 2018.

Instead of taking that opportunity, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee ensured that sham hearings and a sham investigation followed. Neither was about finding the truth. Both were an exercise in giving the appearance of being truth-seeking while really aiming to get Kavanaugh’s nomination through by any means necessary. And, so, here we are. 

Lopsided process that silenced women

At the time of the confirmation, NBC News reported that the Kavanaugh investigation of the core sexual assault allegations by Dr. Ford was going to be cursory and significantly limited in scope, with agents restricted from interviewing many, if any, additional witnesses. Now we know for a fact that that was true — credible witnesses tried to reach the FBI in hopes of providing relevant information that likely would have corroborated the claim of a second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, and perhaps led to investigation of a third incident. And they were ignored. 

The Times added an editor’s note to its weekend report to say a female student in the third alleged incident “declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident.” The disclosure underscores how vital it was for the FBI to do a full investigation, and the emptiness of Trump’s initial promise to the country that the FBI would have "free rein" to investigate as allegations about Kavanaugh came to light.

Yale classmate: FBI investigation was a joke. I tried to help and was ignored.

Of course, Trump’s pledge didn’t  stand up for long. Then and now, the faux claims about “due process” for Kavanaugh (which only applies when someone is charged with a crime) ignore the lopsided and unfair process accorded his accusers and the millions of women who feel silenced once again.

It is crucially important to the integrity of our judicial system, not only that all of the allegations against Kavanaugh be thoroughly investigated but also that the public understands who limited the investigation and how. This was never just about Kavanaugh or a seat on the Supreme Court. This is a lens for whether our elected officials are capable of listening to women and sexual assault survivors. 

Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor, is an MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst. Follow her on Twitter: @Mimirocah1

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who limited FBI Kavanaugh investigation & is he fit for Supreme Court?