After a full month of hearings, debates, and partisan political maneuvering, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was finally confirmed by the Senate to be a justice of the United States Supreme Court. Kavanaugh prevailed by only two votes, the smallest margin in over 100 years, reflecting just how contentious this entire process has been between Republicans and Democrats.
Justice Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the court. During the announcement of his nominee, Trump said, “What matters is not a judge’s political views, but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require. I am pleased to say that I have found, without a doubt, such a person.”
After graduating from Yale law school, Brett Kavanaugh’s career began as a law clerk for circuit judges. He went on to work for Kenneth Starr, the man hired to investigate the assault claims against Bill Clinton. Later, he worked for President George W. Bush as a part of his legal team and as Assistant to the President and White House Staff Secretary. In 2003, Bush nominated him to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He remained in that position until 2018.
According to several leading news sources, Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation was one of the most polarizing in the history of the country. One reason for this is that he secures a conservative-leaning majority in the Supreme Court. Previously, the court had four left-leaning justices and four right-leaning justices, with Kennedy in the middle. Now, five of the nine justices are likely to decide cases from a conservative perspective.
Senate Republicans and Democrats each had their own strategy going into the confirmation hearings. Democrats wanted to delay the vote for as long as possible, in hopes that they will regain a majority in the Senate in the mid-terms. Republicans sought to get Kavanaugh confirmed as soon as possible so that, even if the Democrats do take control in November, it would be too late to block Kavanaugh’s nomination.
The hearings began relatively normally. The Democrats called for more time to review documents relating to Kavanaugh’s background; Republicans forged on. Without the majority, Democrats were unable to strongly influence the decision-making regarding Kavanaugh.
Having served on the D.C. Court of Appeals for 12 years, Kavanaugh was questioned more on his political and judicial opinions, rather than his qualifications. With the support he needed, Kavanaugh’s confirmation seemed all but certain.
Then, on September 12, it was reported that Sen. Diane Feinstein of California had received a letter accusing Kavanaugh of wrongdoing, but was keeping the letter from the rest of the judiciary committee. The next week, Christine Blasey Ford’s story was revealed to the public, accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while both were in high school. This was followed by a number of other accusations by women, with allegations ranging from indecent exposure to gang rape.
Amid these claims, Senate Democrats demanded that Ford have the chance to testify before the committee, despite Ford’s own reluctance.
On September 27, both Ford and Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the alleged assault. Ford declared that she is 100 percent certain that
Kavanaugh was the one who assaulted her. Kavanaugh vehemently denied the accusations against him. To Senate Democrats, he said, “I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. You’ve tried hard. You’ve given it your all. No one can question your effort, but your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and to destroy my family will not drive me out… You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit.”
After the hearing, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona indicated his continuing support for Kavanaugh. He was subsequently confronted by a group of emotional protesters in an elevator. This encounter is believed to have influenced him to request that the FBI conduct a seventh investigation into Kavanaugh- one that would determine the veracity of the accusations against him.
This request was echoed by Democrats and grudgingly accepted by Republicans. President Trump authorized the investigation on Friday, September 28, giving the bureau a week to complete it.
The FBI reported its findings to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, October 4. While the results have not been released to the public, the consensus is that it did not yield any new evidence corroborating the assault claims of Ford, or anyone else. Kavanaugh was confirmed two days later.
Justice Kavanaugh is already performing his judicial duties. The first case before the new Supreme Court presents the question of what types of crimes can trigger longer prison sentences. The court is also expected to hear cases regarding immigration and firearms in the near future.