Calmes: Kavanaugh’s Roe vote confirms he has a truth problem

Brett Kavanaugh is a serial liar.

It’s harrowing to write this about anyone, let alone a lifelong Supreme Court Justice. Yet years of evidence throughout Kavanaugh’s career shows it’s a fact.

And that fact, along with the confirmation controversies of recent years and Clarence Thomas’ ethical failings, is central to understanding why public trust in the court has plummeted. And that was before last week’s series of unpopular, precedent-breaking decisions against abortion, gun controls and the church-state wall.

Spotted portrait illustration of Jackie Calmes

opinion columnist

Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes takes a critical look at the national political scene. She has decades of experience reporting on the White House and Congress.

Worse for Kavanaugh, criticism of his credibility has been bipartisan. In a final blow, Susan Collins, a fellow Maine Republican whose vote was crucial when the Senate upheld Kavanaugh four years ago, doubled down on her claim that he “misled her” when he assured her he had if confirmed, would not support overturning the court’s 50-year-old abortion rights precedent, Roe v. Wade.

The ever-cautious Collins would never say “lie.” But the New York Times obtained evidence of this, clearly from the senator’s office, by publishing “contemporary notes” kept by those who attended Collins’ 2018 private meeting with then-nominee Kavanaugh. According to the notes, Collins pressed him hard about deer.

Kavanaugh told her: “Start with my record, my respect for precedent, my belief that it is enshrined in the Constitution and my commitment and its importance to the rule of law. I understand the precedent and I understand the importance of overturning it.”

“Roe is 45 years old, it’s been reiterated many times, a lot of people care deeply about it and I’ve tried to show that I understand the real world implications,” he said, then added, “I’m a rock -the-boat kind of judge.”

Hearing this now, wouldn’t you think Kavanaugh would vote to support Roe?

The gullible Collins did, or claimed he did. However, people in both parties, pro-abortion and pro-abortion, did not believe him. Neither do I. That had a lot to do with his record as a lying political agent.

Kavanaugh’s credibility was largely in doubt long before the sexual assault allegations that rocked the country during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings and nearly nullified his nomination. He denied the credible allegations of an assault by Christine Blasey Ford in high school and two reported assaults at Yale, one alleged by classmate Debbie Ramirez and the other bottled by Senate Republicans, for whom there was a respect gave eyewitnesses. And Kavanaugh also denied he was ever a blackout drinker, though numerous Yale classmates came forward to testify under oath that he was.

After studying law in Washington, Kavanaugh quickly became known to Democrats as a partisan protégé of Kenneth Starr, the independent attorney who investigated Bill and Hillary Clinton in the 1990s. Investigators’ documents from that period, now in the National Archives, show that Kavanaugh was looking for evidence that Clinton aide Vince Foster was assassinated – to serve right-wing conspiracy theorists – years after he told colleagues that he believed Foster committed suicide, just as previous investigations concluded. Kavanaugh was also widely suspected of divulging anti-Clinton information from a grand jury, although he denied it.

When his next boss, then-President George W. Bush, nominated Kavanaugh to the prestigious DC Court of Appeals in 2003, Democratic senators blocked his confirmation for three years, until 2006. They were convinced he had lied to them during the confirmation process by He has denied involvement in several White House controversies: policies allowing unprovoked post-9/11 surveillance and the torture of terror suspects, and the selection and promotion of Bush’s most far-right justice nominees.

Kavanaugh also denied any complicity in a Senate scandal — “Memogate” — involving a Republican aide who secretly copied thousands of Democrat emails and shared them with Bush aides from 2001-2003.

Democrats had no evidence to the contrary in the mid-1980s, but by the time of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2018, they had some. Republicans, then the Senate majority, reluctantly released emails from Bush in the White House that contradicted Kavanaugh about his role in the controversies he had been questioned about over the previous decade.

Most damning were the Memogate emails: many of the emails forwarding the stolen Democrat messages listed Kavanaugh as the recipient, often the only one. But when Democratic Senator Charles E. Schumer asked Kavanaugh in 2004 if he had received “memos from internal files of Democratic members,” Kavanaugh said under oath, “No.” Another time he testified, “I don’t know the memos.”

Faced with conflicting evidence in 2018, Kavanaugh admitted receiving the emails but said he assumed the Republican Senate adviser received them from Democrats in normal give-and-take among employees.

As if.

What Democratic advisor would ask a Republican staffer the specific questions that Democratic Senator Patrick J. Leahy wanted to ask a Republican nominee at a hearing? Or a 4,000-word Democrat strategy memo? Or an email containing malicious information about a Republican candidate intended only for Democrats? (On the last one, Kavanaugh responded to the Republican aide within minutes, giving him counter-arguments for GOP senators.)

Still, Kavanaugh testified that the news never raised “red flags” about its origin. “Richter, I was born at night,” snapped an annoyed Leahy, “but not last night.”

After Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. sent dozens of ethics complaints about him from attorneys, law professors and others to an appellate court for review. Most dealt with his alleged lie under oath. The council soon dismissed them as moot: Although the allegations were “serious,” the council said, judges were not subject to the rules of judicial ethics.

And that helps explain how liars end up before the nation’s highest court for life, to determine how the rest of us live our lives.

@jackiekcalmes Calmes: Kavanaugh’s Roe vote confirms he has a truth problem

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