Nearly a year after Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to a lifetime appointment in the Supreme Court, the New York Times has reported a new allegation of sexual misconduct from Kavanaugh’s college years, as well as new corroborating information about Deborah Ramirez’s claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at Yale.
Beyond offering new information on Ramirez’s account, the report is resurfacing a public debate: Did Kavanaugh repeatedly lie to Congress?
The Saturday report retraced Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, detailing a fast-tracked FBI investigation failed to interrogate more than two dozen potential witnesses in Ramirez’s case, one that ultimately gave Republican senators enough cover to confirm Kavanaugh. It also publicly recounts allegations by Max Stier, CEO of the nonpartisan Washington, DC, nonprofit Center for Presidential Transition, who says he saw Kavanaugh push his penis into the hand of a female student at Yale during a separate incident that didn’t involve Ramirez. Stier talked to the FBI about his allegation, but they did not investigate the matter. The New York Times updated its story to point out that the alleged victim did not wish to comment, and that friends say she did not remember the incident.
Kavanaugh has categorically denied engaging in any sexually inappropriate behavior, from Ramirez’s allegations to those of Christine Blasey Ford, who said he drunkenly assaulted her in high school. He’s also denied that he drank excessively (to the point of blacking out) in high school and college — claims that several of his classmates and friends have denied.
Democrats called for an investigation into Kavanaugh’s “truthfulness” during the confirmation process, but got nowhere. As new information — and another allegation — comes out, there have been renewed calls to reopen investigations into the Supreme Court justice.
Kavanaugh’s truthfulness has repeatedly come into question
Even before Saturday’s report, there were a lot of discrepancies in Kavanaugh’s story — especially when it came to Ramirez’s allegation.
During the confirmation process, an NBC report detailed communication between Kavanaugh, his team, and college friends to rebut Deborah Ramirez’s claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at Yale, before she had come forward with allegations in an article in the New Yorker.
NBC’s reporting was in direct contradiction to Kavanaugh’s testimony, in which he angrily denied the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct brought against him and said he learned of Ramirez’s claim through the original New Yorker story:
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): When did you first hear of Ms. Ramirez’s allegations against you?
KAVANAUGH: … In the New Yorker.
HATCH: Did the ranking member [Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)] or any of her colleagues or any of their staffs ask you about Ms. Ramirez’s allegations before they were leaked to the press?
However, two friends of Kavanaugh’s — Kerry Berchem and Karen Yarasavage — were in contact with the Supreme Court nominee and his team, according to text messages obtained by NBC:
In a series of texts before the publication of the New Yorker story, Yarasavage wrote that she had been in contact with “Brett’s guy,” and also with “Brett,” who wanted her to go on the record to refute Ramirez. According to Berchem, Yarasavage also told her friend that she turned over a copy of the wedding party photo to Kavanaugh, writing in a text: “I had to send it to Brett’s team too.”
In an interview with Republican congressional staff two days after Ramirez went public, Kavanaugh said he had “heard about” Ramirez calling college friends about the alleged incident. It’s not clear if he had heard about that after the allegations went public.
These text messages detailing Kavanaugh’s knowledge of Ramirez’s allegations aren’t the first time his truthfulness has come into question. Here are five other instances where discrepancies in Kavanaugh’s testimonies have been raised.
1) Kavanaugh’s drinking: The Supreme Court nominee has been adamant that while he enjoys beer and perhaps at time drank “too many,” it was never to the point of passing out, blacking out, or even causing slight lapses in memory.
His characterization of drinking has been denied by multiple friends and past roommates, as Vox’s Emily Stewart explained. He grew “belligerent and aggressive” as a drunk, according to Chad Ludington, one of Kavanaugh’s former classmates.
Liz Swisher, another former Yale classmate, recounted to CNN of Kavanaugh’s drinking: “There’s no problem with drinking beer in college. The problem is lying about it.”
2) His yearbook: During the testimony about the sexual allegations, Democrats asked Kavanaugh to define several lines in his yearbook, which appeared to reference sexual activities. As Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos explained, the word “boof,” a slang term that many have defined to mean anal sex, Kavanaugh defined as “flatulence.”
While he and other classmates admitted the yearbook was full of exaggerations, those definitions Kavanaugh provided under oath didn’t hold up with classmates at Georgetown Prep, as the New York Times’s David Enrich reported:
3) Kavanaugh’s involvement in the nomination of a controversial anti-Roe v. Wade judge: In 2004, Kavanaugh said he did not “personally” handle the nomination of Judge William Pryor, who currently sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) and is somewhat of a liberal bogeyman, famously calling Roe v. Wade and the legal right to abortion ”the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.”
Kavanaugh, who worked in Bush’s White House counsel office in the early 2000s, distanced himself from Pryor’s nomination in 2004, saying during his own confirmation hearing, “No, I was not involved in handling his nomination.” But as the Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim first reported, between 2002 and 2003, Kavanaugh is included in several emails referencing the Pryor nomination. In one exchange between Kavanaugh and White House aide Kyle Sampson, Kavanaugh is asked: “How did the Pryor interview go?” He responded, “Call me.” In another email chain, Kavanaugh is included in a conversation about a conference call to “coordinate plans and efforts” around Pryor.
4) There’s also the case of the improperly obtained Democratic files, detailing strategies for opposing Bush’s judicial nominees in the 2000s, which a Republican Senate aide circulated with White House staff.
In 2004, Kavanaugh claimed that he had never seen “any documents that appeared ... to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.” But as Vox’s Dylan Matthews explained, an email between the Republican staffer and Kavanaugh showed him receiving some of the documents.
5) Democrats have also tried to interrogate Kavanaugh’s possible involvement in the Bush administration torture policy. As Vox’s Li Zhou explained, in 2006 Kavanaugh said, “I was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants … and so I do not have the involvement with that.” However, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) cited two news reports that said Kavanaugh was present at a meeting on whether US enemy combatants should be given lawyers while they are being detained.
There’s a high legal bar for perjury
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee called for the FBI to investigate “the truthfulness of statements made in relation to these allegations” during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process
That wasn’t a call for a formal investigation into perjury. For one, the standard for perjury is high. It’s not a question of credibility or even contradictory statements, but rather proving that someone “willfully lied under oath.” To claim perjury, the prosecutor would also have to prove that the lies had direct relevance to the testimony.
Many of Kavanaugh’s comments were seen as too fuzzy to actually pursue any perjury prosecution. For example, in the case with Pryor’s nomination, Miriam Baer, a law professor with Brooklyn Law School, told Matthews that “the fact that Kavanaugh apparently was invited to a meeting (and it is unclear from the email how many other people were invited) doesn’t necessarily demonstrate that Kavanaugh’s statement was untrue, much less that he intentionally lied or misled.”
But when it comes to his testimonies about alleged sexual misconduct, Kavanaugh was directly asked about drinking in high school and his behavior in college, which are related to the allegations of assault. If he deliberately misled a senator, that could qualify as perjury.
For example, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked Kavanaugh directly: “Are Ramirez’s allegations about you true?”
Kavanaugh responded, “None of the witnesses in the room support that. If that had happened, that would have been the talk of campus in our freshman dorm.”
The New York Times is now reporting that it was. And as a result, some, including Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, are calling for an investigation into whether the justice did in fact meet the bar for perjury, and whether he should be impeached.