Frederick Hall: Kavanaugh and Trump: collusion?
The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings are playing out in a microcosm of Washington’s grand-scale sickness: partisan politics.
Anyone elevated to the Supreme Court is given the power to have profound impact on all Americans’ lives; the confirmation process is a safety check to protect the populace from unfit Justices. Getting that decision right — which nominees to confirm and which to reject — is crucial.
Our nation’s Founders sought to increase stability by reducing the sensitivity of long-term law to short-term political churn. Supreme Court Justices were therefore given lifetime appointments. The enormous impact that any single Justice can have demands comprehensive evaluation of every nominee.
The obvious minimum requirement for Justices is thorough steeping in law and the Constitution’s distribution of authority among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government. A Justice’s loyalty must be to the Constitution rather than any ideology or person. Nowhere else is the separation of powers as important as in their role. It is not too much to say that the Supreme Court is intended to be the steady moral compass for the nation. That puts a premium on personal qualities like integrity, fairness and compassion.
That is the standard. No one would get that from following the nakedly partisan management of these confirmation hearings.
Resistance to Kavanaugh arose immediately. To reassure anxious supporters, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who for 10 months refused to let Obama’s Supreme Court nominee even be debated — said, “Keep the faith. We’re going to plow through this.” Then he followed up with “We’ll do our job.” Actions of the Committee Republicans strongly suggest that their “job” is to confirm.
And “plow through” they have! Late in the hearings, Senator Feinstein revealed a letter from a constituent charging that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were in high school. Committee Democrats asked to delay the scheduled vote to allow for an investigation. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley refused.
With her anonymity blown, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford said she wanted to testify and asked for an FBI investigation before she does. Grassley wouldn’t allow it. The White House prohibited any investigation, and Trump lied that the FBI doesn’t “do that sort of thing.” The FBI certainly does. Under pressure, Grassley partly yielded but bullied Ford with an ultimatum giving her absurdly little response time and unfavorable conditions for an appearance. Does he fear her testimony?
Grassley insisted that only an internal Committee investigation would be allowed. To assure that nothing negative would be revealed, he appointed his assistant to screen Ford’s documents and barred Democrats from getting knowledge of their content. Does he fear substantiation of Ford’s charge?
The list of ways Grassley and the Republicans stonewall to keep evidence hidden grows each day. Step back and think for a moment how un-American it is that Trump and the Judiciary Committee (of all possible committees!) systematically prevent the due process designed to protect the Supreme Court’s integrity and the people’s rights.
What’s the hurry on such a critical task? The answer is fear; the reason is Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s “Russia investigation.” Trump chants his twin mantra “witch hunt” and “no collusion” at every opportunity, yet sees close associates — including key members of his business and campaign organizations — convicted or become cooperating witnesses. Without further evidence of significant wrongdoing, those who flipped would have had no bargaining chip to offer Mueller, and there would be no cooperating witnesses. There is more to be revealed.
That circumstance gives Trump ample reason to ponder the possibility of impeachment. Wouldn’t it be nice, he must think, if the new ninth member of the Supreme Court were someone with generous views of presidential power and tolerance for presidential transgressions? As if by magic, the Federalist Society long ago suggested just such a person: Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh publicly stated that a sitting president shouldn’t be subpoenaed or even investigated. That certainly makes him a justice to Trump’s liking — one likely to protect the president rather than the Constitution. Just think what a difference men like him would have made for Nixon.
Ponder these convoluted facts: Last week Kavanaugh (nominated by Trump) spent several hours in the White House. Was he there with Trump (an unindicted co-conspirator in federal crimes) who took the extraordinary step of prohibiting any FBI investigation of any charges, which might show that Kavanaugh (who might later save Trump in a possible impeachment) is unfit for the Supreme Court?
Isn’t that collusion?
Frederick Hall lives in Grass Valley.
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