Justice, Justice..

Like many of you, I get the almost-daily newsletter from Heather Cox Richardson, who reliably reports on current events and provides valuable historical context illuminating them.

Last week, Richardson made a “catch” that I had missed–and it provided further evidence of the corruption that was (along with monumental incompetence) a hallmark of the Trump Administration.

Evidently, during a Senate hearing and in response to a question from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, FBI director Christopher Wray  shed light on the Administration’s short-circuiting of the background investigation into then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (Note: I’m not sure when that hearing occurred–it may have been one held a year or so ago.) According to that testimony, more than 4500 tips about Kavanaugh that were received by an FBI hotline were “separated out” and transmitted to the White House without investigation. The FBI subsequently interviewed only people designated by the White House.

The agency completed the supplemental background check triggered by the accusations of sexual assault in exactly four days–and FBI agents did not interview either Kavanaugh or Christine Blasely Ford, the woman who publicly testified against him, or the other women who came forward to lodge similar accusations–Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick. 

The lack of clear vetting extended far beyond the allegations of personal sexual misconduct. As the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights pointed out in a letter objecting to his elevation to the Court, Kavanaugh’s judicial conduct was a matter of equal concern.

Judge Kavanaugh’s 12-year record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as well as his known writings, speeches, and legal career, demonstrate that if he were confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would be the fifth and decisive vote to undermine many of our core rights and legal protections.  In case after case, he has ruled against individuals and the environment in favor of corporations, the wealthy, and the powerful.  He has advanced extreme legal theories to overturn longstanding precedent to diminish the power of federal agencies to help people.  And he has demonstrated an expansive view of presidential power that includes his belief that presidents should not be subject to civil suits or criminal investigations while in office despite what misconduct may have occurred.  Many of our organizations opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit,[1] and our fears and concerns have been realized.  Judge Kavanaugh has not served as a neutral and fair-minded jurist.  He has served as a conservative ideologue who lacks the impartiality and independence necessary to sit on the highest court in the land.

The letter went on to document the cases in which Kavanaugh had displayed his lack of “impartiality and independence,” his lack of commitment to racial justice, and his “extreme and disturbing views about presidential power.” The letter was signed by 180 organizations.

Then there was the matter of the 15 ethics complaints filed against Kavanaugh, alleging judicial misconduct during his tenure as a lower-court judge. Once he was elevated to the Supreme Court, proceedings investigating those complaints were dismissed.  Dismisal was because the ethics rule provides that proceedings may be concluded if the judge charged with conducting them finds that “action on the complaint is no longer necessary because of intervening events.” The intervening event in Judge Kavanaugh’s case was his appointment to the Supreme Court. “That is because the Act covers complaints only about circuit judges, district judges, bankruptcy judges, magistrate judges, and judges of some special courts.”

And so here we are… 

That this very flawed, partisan individual is on the Supreme Court is certainly troubling, but there have been other Justices whose flaws have been widely recognized. (Alito was an example well before Boggs.) What is far more troubling was the corrupt process that led to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. It’s one thing to find, after the fact, that a nominee lacks hoped-for judicial temperament or intellect. (The allegations against Clarence Thomas, for example, were fully aired, and most Americans only subsequently realized that the Senate had believed the wrong testimony.) Refusal to conduct a thorough vetting is a far more serious matter, and it’s pretty clear that short-circuiting a full and fair investigation was a deliberate–and successful– act of the Trump Administration.

I tend to harp on the importance of institutions, because the health of the American polity ultimately rests upon the integrity and ongoing utility of those institutions. Separation of Powers is a foundational element of our system of government, and when one branch can effectively control another by ignoring institutional safeguards in order to place favored individuals in positions of power, that foundational element is violated.

Elevating Brett Kavanaugh and denying Merrick Garland a hearing were two steps in the Right’s determined campaign to eliminate individual liberties and move America toward autocracy.

They have to be stopped.


  1. The Republicans have been running a very strong program. They, like Trump, will do anything to get their way. Then they take on the “So what are YOU going to do about it?” posture. So far, we are doing NOTHING about it. They keep getting away with this stuff.I hope the DOJ will finally so SOMETHING about it.. Fingers crossed.

  2. The institutions of the USA are already unethical and corrupted at the very core and have been for a very long time. Decades.

    Don’t forget, Trump appointed Wray and is still in charge of the FBI. If he was so incompetent (which he is if you saw the Whitehouse interview of him), why has Joe Biden kept him in charge?

    Furthermore, Wray botched the 1/6 “insurrection” and has not arrested a single funder of the coup attempt. Why is he still in charge of the FBI?

    Wray also ordered the current search warrant on Trump, which seems like he would have recused himself for various ill-gotten motives.

    More fodder for fundraising and to distract from the real thieves behind the curtains pulling the strings.

  3. I have always believed that in order for the American system of government to work that the majority of parties involved had to be acting in good faith. We now live in an era when that majority has disappeared. Honesty and integrity be damn. All that matters is power.

  4. It is a good question: what are we going to do about it? What can be done? I would like to read some answers and solutions.

  5. “The FBI subsequently interviewed only people designated by the White House.”

    Being a rape victim at age 16, I watched Prof. Ford’s demeanor and answers closely (I did the same with Mike Tyson’s victim Desiree here in Indianapolis) and I recognized true victims. The four designated by the White House for FBI investigation were the only four friends Prof. Ford remembered being at that party; she stated she had talked to all of them and they remembered nothing about that party. Kavanaugh did NOT rape her in front of the party goers; he wasn’t THAT stupid and one of those investigated was a drinking buddy of Kavanaugh’s who didn’t seem to remember his own teen years. The DOJ was Trump’s private legal protectorate and the FBI could only LEGALLY interview the four Trump allowed and not allowed to consider further investigation no matter how many THOUSANDS of tips they received. As for the Clarence Thomas hearing, which I also watched, Senator Ted Kennedy was on the panel at a time when he was known for drinking and womanizing, a relatively recent young girl’s death caused by his drunkenness was overlooked, and he was scheduled to be a character witness in his own nephew’s rape trial.

    Ted Kennedy seemed to get a grip on reality in time to “turn over a new leaf” to save his Senate seat and the Kennedy family name and political reputation to become a leader in the Senate. There is no hope of Kavanaugh becoming anything other than a beer-loving, cry-baby when his accusers appeared, and a liar who swore he would not vote to overturn any SCOTUS bill.

    We have been watching since 2015 that Theresa Bowers’ words are truer today than then that “All that matters is power.” When the subject, no matter their former position, can use that power to increase their fundraising after two FBI investigations, both of which hauled way boxes of evidence. Buying power is the only answer to their successful continuation of Trump Republicanism.

    The question “What can we do about it?” has been answered time and time again; but is anyone listening? Will enough voters show up or mail-in for the November 8th mid-term election to save our nation and place the power where it belongs? With those who support democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution!!!

  6. The Jan. 6 insurrectionists were right about one thing: American needs a new revolution. Just not a violent one run by a corporate mogul and his fascist minions.
    Such a legal revolution is suggested by the Federalists in their papers promoting the U.S. Constitution. The two-party system was the avowed enemy of many of them.
    So, I say again, a clear path exists by implementing Ranked Choice Voting nationally and in states, as well as Open Primaries.
    FORWARD Party welcomes Democrats and Republicans and independents to implement this important recovery of our lost election system and democracy. Just say the obvious.

  7. As an aside regarding the FBI; I decided to wander through the Dollar Tree store while waiting for my prescription at CVS to be filled. I got a chuckle when I found copies of James Comey’s book on Dollar Tree’s bookshelves.

    How low the mighty have fallen!!!

  8. What can we do? Well first we need to enact laws to criminalize Constitutional violations, such as the emoluments clause, refusal to raise the debt ceiling and pay just debts of the United States, We also need to require full and thorough vetting of all candidate for SCOTUS, require SCOTUS to live under the same ethics rules as the rest of the Federal judiciary, and clearly lay out causes for impeachment in both the Executive and Judicial branches of Government. How do we do that? We need to give the Senate Dems a big enough majority to change the rules and keep them in power in the House.

  9. I completely despised Scalia as a corporate shill for many years. However, after the completely shameless BS McConnell used to block President Obama’s nomination of Garland and the more recent radical right’s nomination of the two blatantly shameless liars Kavanaugh and Barrett, I completely lost respect for the Supreme Court. It is nothing more than a tool that enables corporations and extremely wealthy individuals to get away with breaking any laws they choose to break in their pursuit of even greater wealth and power.

    Disgusting and despicable!

  10. Christopher – so much for a “Forward” party – Yang just sided with The Duck on the FBI raid. LOL

  11. They have to be stopped, Kavanaugh needs to be removed, Barret needs to be removed, and Trump needs to be kept from
    taking any gov’t office, anywhere, and at any time. His disdain for following precedent, rules, normative expectations knows
    no bounds…as befitting a Malignant Narcissist.

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