Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, plans to open an investigation into the background of Brett Kavanaugh if he is confirmed to the Supreme Court, Johnson told The Intercept.
If Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, which prognosticators believe is increasingly likely, Johnson would become chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. The subcommittee would have authority to subpoena witnesses, documents, and emails related to Kavanaugh.
“This whole process has stunk to high heaven. This confirmation process that has been run by [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell out of his office, over and above what [Sen. Chuck] Grassley purports to be doing, is just strictly political,” Johnson said in an interview. “Their aim is to get Kavanaugh confirmed regardless of his background.”
Kavanaugh’s history as a high school and college student has become increasingly relevant to his nomination to the Supreme Court in light of accusations of sexual assault by two women, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. On Wednesday, a third woman, Julie Swetnick, came forward with a sworn affidavit alleging that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were present when she was drugged and raped in the early 1980s, when the duo were classmates at Georgetown Preparatory School in suburban Maryland. She witnessed inappropriate behavior from Kavanaugh multiple times, said Swetnick, who holds multiple security clearances in Washington. Her security clearances are relevant because she stands to lose them — along with her career — if she is found to be committing perjury. In her sworn affidavit, she said there are multiple other people who can corroborate her story. Swetnick and those witnesses could be called in connection with Johnson’s probe.
“His background is fair for consideration, both before he is confirmed and, if he should be confirmed, we would be duty-bound to follow-up on any blemishes on his record that were not fully discovered prior to his confirmation. We would owe that to the American people,” said Johnson.
Another avenue for Johnson would be to subpoena emails between Kavanaugh and his mentor, Judge Alex Kozinski, who resigned from his post on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last December amid sexual harassment allegations. Kavanaugh has claimed no knowledge of Kozinski’s behavior, but his correspondence with Kozinski could potentially call that claim into question.
Kavanaugh and Ford are scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Republicans have already set a vote for Friday, though it’s unclear if that will go forward.
The top-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler of New York, has yet to call for such an investigation. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who unsuccessfully challenged Nadler for the ranking member position this year — and could challenge him for the chair should Democrats win back the chamber — said Tuesday evening that she was in wait-and-see mode. She told The Intercept, “I think we ought to just wait and see what the rest of the week and next week brings before we jump to conclusions.”