From The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer report on another woman coming forward to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, this time in college.
As Senate Republicans press for a swift vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Senate Democrats are investigating a new allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. The claim dates to the 1983-84 academic school year, when Kavanaugh was a freshman at Yale University. The offices of at least four Democratic senators have received information about the allegation, and at least two have begun investigating it. Senior Republican staffers also learned of the allegation last week and, in conversations with The New Yorker, expressed concern about its potential impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Soon after, Senate Republicans issued renewed calls to accelerate the timing of a committee vote. The Democratic Senate offices reviewing the allegations believe that they merit further investigation. “This is another serious, credible, and disturbing allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. It should be fully investigated,” Senator Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, said. An aide in one of the other Senate offices added, “These allegations seem credible, and we’re taking them very seriously. If established, they’re clearly disqualifying.”
The woman at the center of the story, Deborah Ramirez, who is fifty-three, attended Yale with Kavanaugh, where she studied sociology and psychology. Later, she spent years working for an organization that supports victims of domestic violence. The New Yorker contacted Ramirez after learning of her possible involvement in an incident involving Kavanaugh. The allegation was conveyed to Democratic senators by a civil-rights lawyer. For Ramirez, the sudden attention has been unwelcome, and prompted difficult choices. She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Ramirez is now calling for the F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh’s role in the incident. “I would think an F.B.I. investigation would be warranted,” she said.
In a statement, Kavanaugh wrote, “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name—and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building—against these last-minute allegations.”
The White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said the Administration stood by Kavanaugh. “This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man. This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh.”
What I find interesting about both this and the first story about the high school party that started all of this is Judge Kavanaugh’s insistence that neither that nor this incident took place at all. He’s not equivocating with lines like, “I don’t recall,” or even, “Yeah, I was there but it wasn’t me.” He’s going full-tilt denial, which makes it a binary choice: either he’s telling the truth and a bunch of other people are lying, or he’s lying and he’s counting on a bunch of other people to back him up. There’s no half-way on this for him or for the accusers.
If this was a court of law (and if I was a lawyer), I’d say he has the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt was on the accusers. But it isn’t (and I’m not) so what it comes down to is who do you believe? Women who have nothing to gain and clearly are putting their careers (and in the case of Prof. Ford, her safety) on the line are coming forward. Judge Kavanaugh has his reputation — and that’s a valuable commodity — but his current job is not at risk unless the Senate chooses to open impeachment hearings. Clearly the stakes are not equal. So both Prof. Ford and Ms. Ramirez must be both sure of themselves and their recollections, while Judge Kavanaugh is not allowing for any room for error.
Which brings me back to my original point: why is he so dead-set certain that both women are lying and the incidents never happened? After all, if his supporters can say that it happened so long ago and the women were clearly intoxicated to the point that they can’t remember it clearly, how is it that Judge Kavanaugh recalls so clearly that nothing happened at all? Why isn’t his memory of events so long ago just as hazy? We already have circumstantial evidence that he knew how to party in high school; how is it that he’s so sure that he wasn’t at the party in question in Maryland or at Yale?
Either he’s relying on the fact that it’s very hard to prove a negative, or he’s taking his cues from the man who nominated him to the Supreme Court. Trump has never admitted to anything even when there’s undisputed proof. So far it’s worked for him.