He may have been sworn into the Supreme Court over the weekend, but Brett Kavanaugh’s future on the bench is far from certain.
Editor’s Note: Samuel Wynn Warde is the editor-in-chief of Liberals Unite as well as a contributor. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. You can view a list of his articles here.
Trump took a victory lap during Monday’s ceremonial swearing-in ceremony, praising himself for getting controversial judge Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court over the weekend. He even went so far as to boast that Kavanaugh had been “proven innocent” of sexual assault allegations. [You can click here to watch the full swearing-in ceremony, compliments of The Washington Post.]
Although Kavanaugh was sworn-in to the nation’s highest court, his future remains anything but certain. Indeed, he faces serious threats on at least three fronts by our latest count.
I. Judicial Misconduct Complaints
CNN reported on Thursday that Chief Justice John Roberts sent a letter to the Chief Justice of the Tenth Circuit United States Federal Court of Appeals transferring judicial misconduct proceedings related to Kavanaugh to the Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit.
Although the complaints were originally lodged with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh’s former court, the circuit executive of that court asked Roberts to transfer the matters to another circuit out of a “concern that local disposition may weaken public confidence in the process.”
The complaints relate to testimony that Kavanaugh gave last month during his confirmation hearings, according to a source familiar, and do not pertain to his conduct as a sitting judge.
This could be particularly relevant, as former criminal investigator and criminal defense attorney Seth Abramson claims that “Kavanaugh lied under oath to the U.S. legislative branch 25 times during his nomination.”
II. Congressional Democrats Threaten More Probes After Midterm Elections
Congressional Democrats have already made it abundantly clear that they plan to investigate sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh should they take control of either the House or Senate after the midterm elections.
Senate Judiciary Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) told CNN’s Jake Tapper last month that, should Democrats “get gavels” after the midterm elections, they will investigate the FBI and Kavanaugh, even if he gained confirmation to the Supreme Court – which he did over the weekend.
Referring to allegations by Professor Ford, Whitehouse told Tapper:
As soon as Democrats get gavels we’re going to want to get to the bottom of this. You can’t ignore a crime victim’s claim that something happened, refuse to investigate, throw her up into the stand without the least bit of support for her, without the least bit of effort to corroborate what she says, and then walk away from that as if you’ve behaved at all properly. There isn’t a prosecutor or a victim advocate in the country who would tolerate that.
Towards the end of the segment, Tapper wanted to make sure he “understood” what Whitehouse said, asking: “If the Democrats win back the House and/or the Senate, Democrats will investigate what happened, the charges that Professor Ford is laying out, even if that means investigating a Supreme Court justice at the time?”
“I am confident of that,” Whitehouse responded: “And I think we’ll also be investigating why the FBI stood down its background investigation when this came up in this particular background.”
Politico reported last month that House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Eric Swallwell (D-CA) also stated that Democrats could investigate Kavanaugh after the midterms.
“If they ramrod this nomination through, and we win the majority, we can still investigate this on the House side, and certainly the question as to whether a Supreme Court justice committed perjury is something you could look at,” Swalwell said.
“Hopefully it doesn’t come to that; hopefully they do this right,” he continued. “Because it’s going to get investigated either way and it would be better not to have to investigate a sitting judge.”
III. Rumors of Additional Allegations
MSNBC’s Joy Reid brought up the matter of additional allegations against Kavanaugh while filling in for Rachel Maddow this Monday.
“We really do not have a road map for how to handle the prospect of a Supreme Court justice with so many outstanding complaints or potential complaints against him,” Reid began.
Continuing, she pointed out that there were more potential allegations brewing:
This particular Supreme Court nomination has left a lot of loose ends hanging. There are thousands, if not millions, of documents related to Brett Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House that the Senate and the public never got to see. More of those documents will be released, and even more will be foia’d [Freedom of Information Act] over time, and more evidence may emerge that Kavanaugh lied under oath about his activities during that time.
She also brought up the matter of the judicial complaints we discussed in Section I, above, stating:
We’ve also learned that Chief Justice John Roberts has received more than a dozen judicial misconduct complaints against Kavanaugh passed along by a judge on the D.C. Court of appeals where Kavanaugh was a judge until this weekend. We don’t know what if anything may become of those complaints now that Kavanaugh is the chief justice’s colleague.
Reid also pointed out another potential landmine for Kavanaugh:
And The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow, who broke the story of Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez, hinted this weekend there might be more accusers yet to share their stories of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh.
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) October 9, 2018
Time will tell what might happen to Kavanaugh; and, as Seth Abramson pointed out on Wednesday, the review of the judicial complaints may have already been compromised.
“Chief Justice John Roberts just sent all the complaints against Brett Kavanaugh to be disposed of by a “George W. Bush appointee who is on Trump’s Supreme Court short list.” That judge is empowered to dismiss the complaints himself if he likes,” Abramson tweeted.
But that is not certain, and there are the other two areas of concern – Democratic-led committees in the House and Senate provided the midterms swing their way, and the threat of additional allegations and accusations.
In the meantime, Kavanaugh might not want to get too cozy with his new job – not yet.