There are good arguments for supporting the FBI probe. Either it’ll diminish the cloud of suspicion over Kavanaugh, which will bolster respect for the Court and for his own decisions as a member of it, or turn up evidence of serious wrongdoing and disqualify him from a seat he shouldn’t have. If nothing else, it reflects the belief that women who say they were victims of sexual assault deserve to have their claims taken seriously by law enforcement.
But there are bad arguments too. “It’ll satisfy Democrats” is a bad, bad argument. It’s so transparently false that Senate Republicans have begun mocking their Democratic colleagues in formal correspondence for their insincerity about it. Here’s Grassley responding to a demand from Bernie Sanders over the weekend that Kavanaugh be investigated for perjury now:
“As you know, on July 10, 2018, you stated ‘[w]e must mobilize the American people to defeat Judge Kavanaugh.’ This happened less than 24 hours after Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced,” Grassley wrote. “As you also know, all Senators have had access to 307 judicial opinions Judge Kavanaugh wrote during his twelve years on the bench, over 500,000 pages of documents, over 40 hours of live testimony, and answers to more written questions than every prior Supreme Court nominee combined.”…
He sarcastically asked: “Am I to take from your letter that you are now undecided and willing to seriously engage with the Senate’s advice-and-consent constitutional duties related to the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States? … If so, we should have a conversation about what information you need to assist you in making your decision, and I look forward to that conversation.”
Even Flake is under no illusions about what the investigation might achieve politically. Asked by the Atlantic what he hoped to accomplish by requesting the delay to let the FBI investigate, he gave two institutional reasons: Protecting the Court’s credibility and making a gesture of compromise in a Senate that desperately needs more of that ethic. He doesn’t expect any votes to change, although he did hold out hope for a bit of rhetorical comity at least, telling McKay Coppins, “My hope is that some Democrats will say,’Hey, we may not change our vote, but this process was worthy of the institution, and we feel satisfied.'” I’m verrrrrry curious to see if his buddy Chris Coons grants him that much. Flake is momentarily the left’s favorite Republican because he was willing to support a Democratic request amid tremendous pressure from his own party not to do so. The least Coons could do at the end of the week to repay his bipartisanship if the investigation turns up nothing new on Kavanaugh is to say that he feels better about the nominee and more assured of his innocence than he did a week ago.
Would Coons dare say that, though? His party has convinced itself of Kavanaugh’s absolute guilt in the short-term interest of defeating his nomination and the long-term interest of discrediting his votes as a member of the Court. Even a rhetorical concession might be a bridge too far. We’ll see.
In lieu of an exit question, read David French today on the quiet decline of the case against Kavanaugh. Rachel Mitchell’s memo raised several good points about inconsistencies in Ford’s memories; Swetnick’s credibility has been called into question by allegations about workplace behavior and no one in the media can find anyone to corroborate her rape-party claims; more Yale classmates have spoken up in defense of Kavanaugh to rebut the account of his drunken behavior offered by Deborah Ramirez. The first half of McConnell’s speech here (watch it if you have time) also makes a compelling case that the various Democrats surrounding Ford, both in the Senate and among her own lawyers, seem to have done everything they could to produce the type of partisan Washington circus last week that she wanted to avoid. There hasn’t been much good faith here from the Good People. The FBI investigation is unlikely to produce a lot more, but we’ll see. Watch Coons.