Coming before the Senate Judiciary Committee in an effort to become a Supreme Court justice isn't like your average job interview. Currently, Senate Democrats are preparing to delve into all areas of Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's past, including ones that aren't directly related to his work experience or beliefs about the law. For example, Kavanaugh's clerkship with Judge Alex Kozinski is sure to raise questions, because Kozinski was forced to resign in 2017 after numerous women made claims that he had sexually harassed them.
Kozinski has denied the allegations, telling The Washington Post that he "would never intentionally do anything to offend anyone and it is regrettable that a handful have been offended by something I may have said or done." Still, Politico reported that Senate Democrats have already been discussing this as a topic that they'll want to hear more about.
“Given Judge Kavanaugh’s close relationship with former Judge Alex Kozinski, the subject of numerous harassment complaints, we need to know what Judge Kavanaugh knew and his views on this serious problem,” a spokesperson for Sen. Mazie Hirono told Politico. Hirono is a member of the Judiciary Committee, so these are questions that she can raise herself.
It was The Washington Post that originally broke the news in December 2017 that six women were accusing Kozinski of having sexually harassed them. While it took the #MeToo movement to bring the women's claims out into the open, the cases that they were describing stretched back many years.
According to the Above the Law blog, Kavanaugh maintained his close professional relationship with Kozinski well after his time as a clerk ended, so he would have been present in Kozinski's office even during the time Kozinski's female clerks alleged that the harassment took place. The question that Above the Law asks about Kavanaugh, then, is whether he knew about the alleged experiences of Kozinski's female clerks — and, thus, whether Kavanaugh was complicit in Kozinski's alleged harassment.
The White House put out a statement last month, according to The Washington Post, saying that Trump's Supreme Court nominee "had never heard any allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment" relating to his former boss, and Kavanaugh hasn't said anything on the matter himself. While Politico reported that there isn't any evidence to suggest that Kavanaugh did know anything, Sen. Dianne Feinstein told them that the public nature of some of Kozinski's alleged behavior makes it worth going down that line of questioning.
“I’ve seen press reports that many of his clerks knew of his behavior and that he maintained an email list where he would distribute offensive material," Feinstein told Politico through a spokesperson. "Given all this, there are questions about whether Kavanaugh was aware of this behavior.”
One of the clerks who alleged that Kozinski harassed her, Heidi Bond, now a romance novelist writing under the name Courtney Milan, wrote her opinion on Twitter that it's entirely possible that Kavanaugh didn't know about the female clerks' alleged experiences — but that senators should broaden their questions to get a full view of what was going on.
"I personally think the more relevant questions are things like, did he witness anything? Did Kozinski use demeaning language about clerkship applicants as part of the screening process, and what did he do about it?" Bond wrote on Twitter.
"I cannot know what Kavanaugh was or was not *told* but it’s very believable to me that no woman would go up to him and say 'you know, your former boss who you are supertight with is a harasser,'" she continued. "But that’s not what the line of questioning should be."