Editor’s Note: Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN and The Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author; view more opinion articles on CNN.
The FBI probe apparently did not find any corroborating evidence into allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh because it was never meant to do that. It was not a search for the truth. It was a charade meant to appear as a real investigation, with the purpose of giving Republicans a fig leaf to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court without paying a political price. The final outcome of the vote is uncertain, but given the Friday morning results on a procedural vote, the odds seem to favor confirmation.
The investigation and much of what has gone along with it amount to a cover-up. No serious observer would mistake it for an effort to ascertain what really happened on those occasions when Kavanaugh, according to his accusers, was drunk, aggressive and assaulted them. He has repeatedly denied all the allegations.
The objective from the Republicans and from President Donald Trump was to pretend to have taken those accusations seriously. After all, women across the country were already incandescent with rage as the all-male Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee pushed to confirm the judge with little regard for claims that rang familiar to millions of women who have endured serious sexual attack – the kind that, as Christine Blasey Ford said of the laughter by Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge during the alleged attack in the early 1980s, remains “indelible in the hippocampus” for a lifetime.
Republicans agreed to grant the FBI one week to investigate. That was a tight timeline but, it turns out, more than enough for the job. Within a quick five days the report was all done. Why so fast? The restrictions that made the investigation largely meaningless made additional days unnecessary.
The scheme became visible almost immediately. On Saturday, reports started filtering out that the White House gave the FBI a list of four people to interview. Protests threatened to erupt, so Trump quickly denied it on Twitter. “NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people. Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!”
By all indications, the President was lying. And he repeated the claim over and over through the week. The FBI, he said, has “free rein.” But sources said the President was not telling the truth. The directions had not changed.
On Thursday, with senators taking their brief turns in the locked room where Republicans kept a single copy of the FBI report, White House spokesman Raj Shah confirmed, in what was possibly an inadvertent admission, that the White House did, in fact, give the FBI a list of four individuals to interview, prepared by Republican senators, and that investigators ultimately spoke to nine people. Republicans still claimed there was no list.
During the five days of the farce, we kept hearing from people desperate to speak to the FBI, including Ford. She was never interviewed. Neither was Kavanaugh. Neither were the scores of potential witnesses who tried to offer a clearer picture of what might have happened.
If they had been allowed to seek the truth, investigators would have answered calls from Kenneth Appold, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, who was a suitemate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale at the time when Deborah Ramirez alleges Kavanaugh dropped his pants at a party and put his penis near her face. Appold told The New Yorker that he heard friends describe the incident just after it happened 35 years ago.
Attorneys for both Ramirez and Ford wrote to the FBI director decrying the flawed investigation, and listing dozens of witnesses the FBI declined to interview, all with information they said would have bolstered their accusations.
Agents spoke with Ramirez on Sunday and the same day she gave them a list of 20 witnesses with relevant information. Her attorney wrote, “We can only conclude that the FBI – or those controlling the investigation – did not want to learn the truth. …”
If they had been seeking the truth, they would have found just how often Kavanaugh has lied. His story on Ramirez does not hold up well under scrutiny; his testimony to the Senate last week was filled with misdirection and untruths. Kavanaugh has lied about many matters. His lies have been cataloged and detailed, from falsely claiming he did not receive stolen emails, to his involvement in decisions of warrantless surveillance, to his claims about the meaning of terms describing sex games.
And, by the way, his explosive rage at last week’s hearing, which some took as proof that he was deeply wounded by the lies, is hardly evidence of truthfulness. Rage has been used to conceal guilt. Here’s Vladimir Putin, supposedly furious at being accused of meddling in the US elections.
It is Kavanaugh’s explosive performance, with its veiled threats of revenge, along with the long list of lies, that now, in the absence of a credible FBI investigation into charges of sexual assault, is leading prominent figures to withdraw their support for Kavanaugh as Supreme Court justice. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, a lifelong Republican, said Kavanaugh should not sit on the court, echoing the arguments of many, including other former supporters, who say Kavanaugh showed he does not have the temperament to be an impartial, cool-headed judge, not on the Supreme Court, not on any court.
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In the meantime, Americans have been had. The White House and its accomplices on Capitol Hill are playing a dangerous game. Undercutting the credibility of the highest court, insulting the intelligence of the America’s people, and stoking the fury of women who are familiar with blistering abuses of power. The cover-up aimed to protect Republicans from paying a political price in the November elections for this travesty. The bill is coming in four weeks.