When President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on July 9th, it looked as though it would be routine. However, as like many things in the Trump presidency, this has been far from routine and certainly complicated.
Let’s do a small recap of the events since July 9th. As is custom after a nomination for a Supreme Court Judge, three to four days of public hearings hosted by the Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off on September 4th. The aim of these hearings is to review the nomination and investigate if the nominee is, in fact, suitable for the position the president has put them forward for – normally quite straightforward.
Trump nominated Kavanaugh to get a majority of Conservative judges in the court. The fact Kavanaugh is 53 would also have been a bonus to the Republican Party, as he’d likely have retained office for a long period of time.
The hearings had been initially delayed after complaints from the Democratic Party. They were concerned by the absence of some documents, and the late arrival for inspection of others. However, this was all to be overshadowed.
During the hearings, Judge Kavanaugh – formerly judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – refused to give opinions on matters which might come before the court. He also refused to recuse (abstain from participation) himself from any case, including those involving President Trump.
On the 13th of September, allegations came to light – via Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein – that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted a woman in high school. Despite Feinstein acknowledging the woman did not wish to be named, three days later Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was named as the accuser.
Ford had claimed in the early 1980’s, while she was 15 and Kavanaugh 17, that the drunk Kavanaugh had, along with friend Mark Judge, forced her into a bedroom at a house party. She alleged Kavanaugh attempted to undress her and grope her while turning up the music and covering her mouth to muffle screams. Ford expressed a fear that Kavanaugh would rape her, and even accidentally kill her in the struggle. She managed to escape the room when Judge jumped on the bed, knocking all three to the floor.
Kavanaugh categorically denied the allegations stating to the Whitehouse:
"I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time."
On the 14th of September, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a letter, signed by 65 women who claimed to have known Kavanaugh “for more than 35 years”. This letter claimed that in the time they’d known him, Kavanaugh had treated women honourably and with respect.
Over 1000 former students of Ford’s high school signed a similar letter. This time stating that Ford’s accusations were “All too consistent with stories we have heard and lived” in support of Ford.
Notes from a therapy session Ford attended with her husband in 2012 were also released. These detailed a conversation where Ford told her therapist and husband about the assault. While Kavanaugh’s name was not included in the notes, Ford’s husband has claimed he recalls her stating it.
The Senate judiciary committee then offered Kavanaugh and Ford the opportunity to attend a hearing, to provide testimony, on the 24th of September. Kavanaugh agreed, and Ford after a denied request for the FBI to investigate also agreed.
On September 28th the hearing concluded. While the Senate voted to move the nomination of Kavanaugh on to full Senate, multiple senators voted so on the condition that the full Senate vote be delayed a week to allow for an FBI investigation into Ford’s claims. This was agreed to and President Trump announced the FBI would investigate.
One other woman – Deborah Ramirez – has also claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, this time in College. Julie Swetnick has claimed she attended parties with Judge and Kavanaugh, saying it was public knowledge boys would pray on girls, including Kavanaugh. While Ingham Keyser, a friend of Ford, denied knowing Kavanaugh or having knowledge of the party, despite Ford claiming she was there. However, Keyser did claim she believes Ford’s accusations.
This past week the White House announced that after reviewing the FBI’s investigation, they’d found no corroboration of Ford’s claims. This meant Kavanaugh was able to continue through the process of being appointed to the court.
Despite major protests from objectors, which led to multiple arrests, Kavanaugh was voted into the Supreme Court following a 50 to 48 vote in favour from the Senate.
So what does this mean in the long term?
Much of the focus over the past few weeks has been on the accusations, and rightfully so. However, now Kavanaugh’s nomination has been confirmed, Trump has gained a significant political advantage.
With the Republicans now in the majority in the Supreme Court, just like they are in the Senate, Trump has further control of the country.
Many believe that tightening of abortion laws will quickly follow Kavanaugh’s appointment. This and other major Republican belief’s will be a lot easier to enact with control of the court.
There is also likely a semblance of relief for the President. His party currently has a slight advantage in numbers in the Senate. However, 35 of the 100 seats will be up for election next month.
With American politics as unpredictable as it is, the Republicans could potentially lose control of the Senate. The majority in the Supreme Court will please Trump because it ensures no matter the result of the Senate election, he will still control at least two-thirds of the branches of government.
Of course, forcing through an accused sexual offender into the Supreme Court may not have been the best idea before a Senate Election. Many Senators who voted Kavanaugh in may now face the backlash of voters.
This story had absolutely dominated the news cycle in recent weeks. As frustrating and off-putting as it may be, it will be almost an afterthought a month from now. This has been just one more chapter in the massive power struggle that is Donald Trump’s Presidency. While President Trump may feel as though he’s won a battle in getting Kavanaugh into the court, he may well have negatively affected his party in the upcoming Senate Election. What seems a big victory now, could end up being a large shot in his own foot.