Shit you should care about… The Brett Kavanaugh Case.
I’m not going to lie – American politics holds a special place in the back of my mind that I only tend to refer to when Trump has done something fucked again, or Bernie Sanders has said something wholesome that is pulling at my heartstrings. It is certainly easier to shrug off U.S political issues when it appears more like a circus than a governing body. Cue the laughter of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly when Trump claimed his administration has achieved more in two years than any other.
However, in the past month, the Brett Kavanaugh scandal has spiraled into one of the most important and politically charged sexual assault cases of our lifetime. This case has emerged at a pivotal moment of the #MeToo movement, and the result will set the standard of how we respond to victims of sexual assault for decades to come.
It demonstrates important constructions of victims versus the accused identities, and whose wellbeing is often given priority.
I have assembled my own timeline of the events, trying to make it as simple as possible. I urge you to get clued up, this is so much bigger than American politics and it is 100% shit you should care about!
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announces his retirement from the Supreme Court which kick starts the process of finding someone to replace him.
This is important because:
The Supreme Court holds huge influence over the political environment in the United States. As the highest court, the nine members have the last word in the most highly contentious laws. Their recent contributions have included legalising gay marriage in America’s 50 states and allowing for Trump’s travel ban to be put in place.
Anthony Kennedy’s retirement is significant because although technically a Republican, his definite ideological position was often tricky to pinpoint. He occasionally sided with democrats on issues including cases of LGBTQ and abortion rights, earning him the reputation as the deciding swing voter. This meant that although the court was made up of five republicans and four democrats, Kennedy would often level out the playing field.
His replacement is decided through a nomination from the President and then must be voted in by the Senate. This gives the republican party and their supporters the opportunity to gain a lot more control. The appointment of a more conservative judge to the Supreme Court has raised fears that civil rights issues such as U.S abortion rights (including Roe V. Wade), could be overturned.
Trump announces Brett Kavanaugh as his nomination to the Supreme Court.
For Kavanaugh to be sworn in he must be confirmed by the Senate. The Republican administration holds a narrow advantage of a 51 to 49 majority.
Christine Blasey Ford, a Californian psychology professor secretly sends a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In the letter, Ford claims that her and Kavanaugh were in interacting social groups in high school and when she was 15 and Kavanaugh 17, he physically and sexually assaulted her.
Ford asks Feinstein to not release the letter publicly, which the Senator honours.
You can now read the letter here
Ford takes a lie detector test on the advice of her attorney Debra Katz.
She was questioned about her allegations made about Kavanaugh. The examiner concluded that she was truthful with a probability of deception that was less than .02.
You can read the examiner’s report on the test here
Despite this, Ford decides to not go public with her allegations as Kavanaugh moves forward in the nomination process, with the expectation that he shall be confirmed.
Confirmation hearings take place where Kavanaugh testifies over three days in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
No mention of Ford or her allegations have yet surfaced.
Rumours begin to circulate that Senator Feinstein is in the possession of documents accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. She refuses to release it.
Senator Feinstein releases the following statement:
“I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honoured that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”
White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec responded:
“Throughout his confirmation process, Judge Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators — including with Senator Feinstein — sat through over 30 hours of testimony, addressed over 2,000 questions in a public setting and additional questions in a confidential session. Not until the eve of his confirmation has Senator Feinstein or anyone raised the spectre of new ‘information’ about him,…Senator Schumer promised to ‘oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have,’ and it appears he is delivering with this 11th hour attempt to delay his confirmation.”
The New Yorker publicly reports on the Kavanaugh allegations but keeps Ford’s name confidential.
It is still unclear who leaked the letter to the press. Feinstein maintains that it was not her or any member of her team as they were respecting Ford’s request for confidentiality.
Kavanaugh responds with a statement:
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,”
The White House states that they are not going to pull Kavanaugh’s nomination.
The Washington Post releases an interview with Ford, publicly releasing her name for the first time.
The White House and Kavanaugh once again deny that the incident occurred.
Ford’s attorney Debra Katz says her client is willing to speak publicly about her allegations to a committee.
Committee Chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley postpones Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote scheduled for September 21st. He states: “Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner.”
A hearing for both Kavanaugh and Ford’s sides of the allegations is set for September 24th.
Ford retracts, saying that she wants an FBI investigation before she testifies to the Senate.
Her attorneys insist the investigation is necessary so, “the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions.”
Grassley rejects Ford’s request for the hearing delay and investigation.
A woman claiming to be a high school classmate of Ford writes a Facebook post saying she knew about the incident.
“Christine Blasey Ford was a year or so behind me, I did not know her personally but I remember her. This incident did happen. Many of us heard a buzz about it indirectly with few specific details. However, Christine’s vivid recollection should be more than enough for us to truly, deeply know that the accusation is true.”
After days of negotiations Ford finally agrees to testify publicly on Sept. 27.
Grassley announces that Kavanaugh will testify after Ford.
The New Yorker releases a report of a second woman’s accusations against Kavanaugh.
The woman, Deborah Ramirez, says “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.”
Kavanaugh sends a letter to Grassley and Feinstein declaring, “The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out,” and “The last-minute character assassination will not succeed.”
The White House says it would be open to hearing a testimony from Ramirez.
Later that day, Trump accuses Democrats of playing a “con game.” He states that the accusations made by Ramirez “has nothing.”
“She admits she was drunk,” Trump said.
A third woman comes forward with allegations against Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
In a sworn statement, Julie Swetnick said “I witnessed Brett Kavanaugh consistently engage in excessive drinking and inappropriate contact of a sexual nature with women during the early 1980s.”
Kavanaugh and Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both were fighting back tears in their powerful opening statements.
“I am an independent person and I am no one’s pawn,” Ford says in response to accusations she was planted by the democrats to sabotage Kavanaugh.
“Sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves when and whether their private experience is made public.”
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace.”
Kavanaugh “categorically and unequivocally” denies all of the allegations made against him.
The Senate Judiciary committee casts a vote to decide if Kavanaugh will advance to a full Senate vote.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake is confronted by sexual assault survivors before casting his vote. Watch here.
“…you’re telling all women in America — that they don’t matter,” one woman said to Flake. “They should just keep it to themselves because if they have told the truth, you’re just going to help that man to power anyway.”
Kavanaugh still manages to win the majority within the panel vote by 11-10.
However, Senator Flake does suggest a one week delay to allow for a limited FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.
Both Ford and Kavanaugh have agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
FBI contacts the second victim, Deborah Ramirez for questioning.
What can the FBI investigation do in a week?
The agency will conduct background checks and compile information which will be added to Kavanaugh’s file for Senators to look at. However, the FBI is not making judgements or conclusions on their findings.
President Trump tells reporters, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of.”
A letter is released from Ford’s Attorneys to the FBI Director Chris Wray saying Ford was yet to be interviewed by the agency.
So, what happens now?
There has been strong support for both sides. People have been divided by the event which has prompted two hashtags. #BelieveWomen in support for Ford and strong links to the MeToo movement. In opposition, #BackBrett has also emerged.
I feel that my own words on this case cannot do Ford or other sexual assault victims the justice they deserve. However, I have found some articles that I think address one of the most significant and disturbing elements of this case – the fact that the priority was given to the accused’s story over the victim’s.
Padma Lakshmi: I Was Raped at 16 and I Kept Silent
“Some say a man shouldn’t pay a price for an act he committed as a teenager. But the woman pays the price for the rest of her life, and so do the people who love her.”
Kavanaugh Has Exposed the Savage Amorality of America’s Ruling Class
“let’s not forget that the path Kavanaugh has walked to power is designed for people like him—privileged, white, connected, conservative. The system exists to promote his type and to excuse any blemish, past or present. We used to ask how the US got Donald Trump, but the answer seems obvious: We got him the same way we got all these other guys.”
We Prioritize Boys’ Suffering At Girls’ Expense
The assumption that teenagers and young adults who make (violent, criminal) mistakes shouldn’t be punished with consequences later in life is, of course, a benefit afforded almost exclusively to moneyed white boys, who often avoid the more severe fates of their less privileged counterparts: the black boys and men ferried on the school-to-prison pipeline, serving longer prison sentences for lesser, nonviolent crimes.
So, What Happens If Brett Kavanaugh Gets Confirmed To The Supreme Court Anyway?
“Sen. Mitch McConnell has called the women’s allegations a “shameless smear campaign” and Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close.” Then there are those who seem to think that trying to rape girls or waving your penis in their faces when drunk is just a rite of passage all young men go through.”
Brett Kavanaugh and the Revealing Logic of ‘Boys Will Be Boys’
“We can all be accused of something: It’s a neat rhetorical trick. It shifts the accountability from the one person to the many; it claims expansive empathy while revealing just how limited a resource, in the government of the people, empathy really is. The comment rejects the predictably partisan defence of Kavanaugh.”
Banner image from Yahoo! News