Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have privately requested to view a Brett Kavanaugh-related document in possession of the panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, but the senior California senator has so far refused, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
The specific content of the document, which is a letter from a California constituent, is unclear, but Feinstein’s refusal to share the letter has created tension on the committee, particularly after Feinstein largely took a back seat to her more junior colleagues last week, as they took over Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings with protests around access to documents.
The letter took a circuitous route to Feinstein, the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. It purportedly describes an incident that was relayed to someone affiliated with Stanford University, who authored the letter* and sent it to Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents the area.
Different sources provided different accounts of the contents of the letter, and some of the sources said they themselves had heard different versions, but the one consistent theme was that it describes an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school. Kept hidden, the letter is beginning to take on a life of its own.
Eshoo passed the letter to her fellow Californian, Feinstein. Word began leaking out on the Hill about it, and Feinstein was approached by Democrats on the committee, but she rebuffed them, Democratic sources said. Feinstein’s fellow senators want their own opportunity to gauge whether or not the letter should be made public, rather than leaving it to Feinstein to make that call unilaterally. The sources were not authorized to speak on the record, and said that no senators on the committee, other than Feinstein, have so far been able to view the letter.
The woman who is the subject of the letter is now being represented by Debra Katz, a whistleblower attorney who works with #MeToo survivors. Joseph Abboud, an attorney at Katz’s firm, said that the firm was declining to comment. Emma Crisci, a spokesperson for Eshoo, declined to comment on the letter her office sent to Feinstein, saying that the office has a confidentiality policy when it comes to constituent casework. A spokesperson for Feinstein did not respond to requests for comment.
Update: September 13, 2018
Feinstein has released a statement Thursday afternoon acknowledging the existence of the letter. “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 honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities,” she said.
*Update: September 16, 2018
After this article was published, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward as the author of the letter, charging Kavanaugh with sexual assault. Because the original text of the article noted that many aspects of the letter could not be confirmed at the time of publication, it has not been changed.