Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is in the spotlight once again, and not for his work on the bench. Reporting from The New York Times published over the weekend suggested that Republicans in the Senate significantly limited an FBI investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh — and revealed another allegation against him that reportedly was never investigated. Since it was published, the Times has updated the piece with an editor's note, and some lawmakers are calling for the justice's impeachment. The new report on Brett Kavanaugh isn't easy to parse, and misinformation is already spreading across the web, so here's what you need to know to understand the latest developments.
Multiple women accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct before he was confirmed to the Supreme Court in October 2018. On Sept. 23, 2018, The New Yorker published the account of Deborah Ramirez, who alleges that Kavanaugh thrust his penis into her face during a party about 35 years ago, while the two were both students at Yale. Four days later, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that, when she was 15, Kavanaugh and his friend pinned her down on a bed while attempting to remove her clothing. Kavanaugh has denied these allegations. Bustle has reached out to the Supreme Court for comment.
In late September 2018, the White House ordered the FBI to reopen its background investigation into Kavanaugh. While the FBI's findings were never publicly released, Chuck Grassley, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, stated in an executive summary that "there is no corroboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez."
The new reporting stems from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, a forthcoming book by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. Their reporting most notably shows the FBI didn't fully investigate all the claims made against Kavanaugh, among other findings. Here are the major takeaways.
Times Reporters Substantially Corroborated Deborah Ramirez's Story
Pogrebin and Kelly wrote that Kavanaugh, during his Senate testimony in September, "said that if the incident Ms. Ramirez described had occurred, it would have been 'the talk of campus.'" And their reporting bears that out. The reporters confirmed that Ramirez's mother and six other people heard about the incident at Yale before Kavanaugh became a federal judge.
Two of those people told they Times they learned about it days after the party happened, "suggesting that it was discussed among students at the time," Pogrebin and Kelly wrote. Additionally, they report that Ramirez's lawyers gave the FBI a list of at least 25 people who may know something about the incident, some of whom reached out to the FBI directly — but the FBI reportedly interviewed none of those people.
Bill Pittard, one of Ramirez’s lawyers, told Pogrebin and Kelly that an FBI agent told them, “We have to wait to get authorization to do anything else,” suggesting that agents' ability to investigate was being significantly limited by the Senate.
There's Another Misconduct Allegation Against Kavanaugh That The FBI Didn't Investigate
Pogrebin and Kelly also uncovered a previously unreported story about Kavanaugh's freshman year at Yale that they say "echoes Ms. Ramirez’s allegation." According to their reporting, Max Stier, a former classmate, saw Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different dorm party, where Kavanaugh's friends "pushed his penis into the hand of a female student."
Stier told senators and the FBI about what he saw, but the FBI did not investigate further, according to Pogrebin and Kelly, who wrote, "We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier; the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the episode." The latter part of that sentence was added to the story after publication, according to an editor's note on the story dated Sept. 15. Some critics on social media are connecting the note to Ramirez's story, though it actually references the second, new allegation from an unnamed woman.
When ABC News reached out to that unnamed woman about whether there were other people who could speak to her story, she said, "All I can say is, ask Brett." She also told ABC News she "can’t do it again," regarding speaking out about her allegation.
Kavanaugh declined to answer the Times' questions about Stier's allegations, and Bustle has reached out to the Supreme Court for comment.
What Happens Now?
It's unclear whether reporting released in the Times will have any effect on Kavanaugh. A number of presidential candidates and Congressional representatives have called for Kavanaugh to be impeached. Supreme Court justices can be impeached, but it hasn't happened since 1804. In 1969, former Justice Abe Fortas became the only justice to ever resign due to the threat of impeachment, according to History.com.
In order to impeach a justice, a majority of the House of Representatives must approve an indictment to impeach, and then two-thirds of the Senate must support that indictment, according to Vox. Democrats currently have the majority in the House, but Republicans hold the Senate, making it unlikely an indictment would get through. Additionally, President Trump has tweeted support for Kavanaugh.
For now, Pogrebin and Kelly wrote that Ramirez often turns to a box of supportive notes she's received from people across the country. She told them that so much good came out of her coming forward, and that "there is so much more good to come."