Senator Feinstein owes Californians an explanation about the Kavanaugh affair

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court presents a significant risk to the social and political rights of Americans. The risk to women is particularly sharp because Kavanaugh is viewed by many as the 5th vote needed on the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. At a minimum Kavanaugh’s appointment would represent a shift to the right after the resignation of Justice Kennedy, a conservative but often a swing vote willing to support certain decisions pushed from the liberals on the bench. 

When an accusation surfaced that Kavanaugh had committed a violent crime against a young teenage girl while Kavanaugh was in high school, his nomination was put at risk. And rightly so. But now it turns out that Senator Dianne Feinstein may have discouraged the woman raising the accusation from coming forward.

If so, Senator Feinstein should resign. California did not send her to Washington to suppress the rights of women.

I raise this concern because of the reporting by The New Yorker‘s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer. Here is how they summarize what they learned about the interaction between Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Ford, and Feinstein’s office:

The letter [describing the alleged assault] was also sent to the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. As the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein was preparing to lead Democratic questioning of Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing weeks later. The woman contacted Feinstein’s office directly, according to multiple sources.

After the interactions with Eshoo’s and Feinstein’s offices, the woman decided not to speak about the matter publicly. She had repeatedly reported the allegation to members of Congress and, watching Kavanaugh move toward what looked like an increasingly assured confirmation, she decided to end her effort to come forward, a source close to the woman said. Feinstein’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Feinstein’s decision to handle the matter in her own office, without notifying other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stirred concern among her Democratic colleagues.

[Emphasis added by SD.]

This report suggests that it was something said to Dr. Ford by someone in Feinstein’s office that led her to decide that coming forward earlier was not likely to have an impact on the nomination. Of course, now her name has come out and clearly her accusation is serious and credible and is having a significant impact. 

But the delay – possibly caused by Senator Feinstein herself – has let Republicans off the hook or, at least, given them an excuse to ramrod the nomination process forward over the objections of Dr. Ford and millions of Americans, paricularly American women.

I called Senator Feinstein’s office on Saturday and left a voice mail asking for a comment but no one has returned my call.