Is it time for Virginia’s three top constitutional officers to resign en masse? Perhaps not yet, but Kamala Harris thinks it’s time to open up an investigation of Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. In a brief press avail, the declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination contender told reporters that Vanessa Tyson’s account of sexual assault “reads as a credible account,” and that it should prompt officials to open an investigation:
Sen. Kamala Harris on the sexual assault allegations against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax: "A letter written by the woman reads as a credible account. And I think there should be an investigation to get to the bottom of it and determine the facts." pic.twitter.com/8dY2AKUzQj
— Beatrice-Elizabeth Peterson (@MissBeaE) February 7, 2019
“I think there should be an investigation to determine what happened,” Harris told reporters on Capitol Hill. “Certainly her letter reads — it’s quite detailed — and suggests that there’s credibility there. But there needs to be an investigation to determine what exactly happened.” …
Harris’ push for an independent probe increases the pressure on Fairfax in a state that’s been rocked by a series of scandals. The entire field of presidential candidates, along with several high-profile Democrats, have pushed for Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to resign for appearing in blackface decades ago. Northam has thus far refused to step down. …
Asked a two-part question earlier Thursday about what Virginia Democrats should do — and whether Fairfax and Herring should resign — Harris told POLITICO that “the most important thing that needs to happen is that the people of Virginia need to make that decision. That’s where I am on it.”
Harris didn’t get a chance to answer a question about whether Fairfax or Mark Herring should resign from office. She wasn’t quite as reticent when it came to Ralph Northam, demanding almost immediately after the emergence of the blackface yearbook picture that the governor resign his office. The sheer magnitude and breadth of the scandal eruptions in Virginia appear to have tempered Harris’ appetite for ejections.
It hasn’t tempered Democrats’ sense of denial, however. In another presser earlier today, a reporter asked Pelosi if she worried about the brand damage to her party coming from the troika of Virginia Democrats. “Virginians will resolve their issues,” Pelosi replied. “It’s sad because they have some very talented leaders there.” They do, eh?
If this was true, then Democrats outside of Virginia would never have commented on Northam’s issues, let alone demanded his resignation. Of course this damages the Democratic Party brand, and on two of its key activist issues — racism and #MeToo. When all of your “very talented leaders” face the issue of resignation in the face of scandal in a state, especially on those issues, the stench does not stop at the border. It makes it excruciatingly difficult to prosecute those issues, especially in the form of persecuting Republicans.
Harris’ call for an investigation hikes the stakes for Fairfax. Massachusetts’ statute of limitations for civil actions on sexual assault only extends three years, so Tyson can’t seek damages relating to the alleged assault in a Boston hotel room at the 2004 Democratic national convention. The statute of limitations for prosecution of rape charges is 15 years, and six years for lesser sexual assault charges. Tyson’s almost beyond the limitations now, although there may still be a few months left to go if a DA wants to charge this as rape.
It seems doubtful that Harris is calling for a criminal investigation, and Tyson hasn’t asked for one anyway. Harris wants a political investigation, and that should frighten Fairfax. Will it frighten him into a resignation? Perhaps. And if it does, then Democrats might find their problem solved. Once Fairfax resigns, Northam can appoint a replacement. Once the replacement is confirmed, Northam can resign and keep the governor’s office in the hands of a Democrat without elevating Herring to the post. Presto! Northam can claim redemption and retire, and suddenly everyone can stop talking about Virginia.
That is, if Tyson’s allegation is true and provable. Will Democrats really want to find that out?