Donald Trump came storming to the defence of Brett Kavanaugh on Sunday, after the publication of new allegations about the supreme court justice’s behaviour while he was a student at Yale led to renewed calls for his impeachment.
“The Radical Left Democrats and their Partner, the LameStream Media, are after Brett Kavanaugh again,” the president tweeted.
On Saturday, the New York Times, a leading target for Trump’s ire, published an essay adapted from a new book by two of its reporters, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly.
In the extract from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: an Investigation, Pogrebin and Kelly look into the judge’s time at Yale in the 1980s.
The piece concerned a claim by another student, Deborah Ramirez, that at a drunken party, Kavanaugh “pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her, prompting her to swat it away and inadvertently touch it”.
Ramirez’s claim first surfaced during Kavanaugh’s stormy confirmation last year, though it did not attract as much attention as that of Dr Christine Blasey Ford, an academic who said Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high school party.
Pogrebin and Kelly wrote: “While we found Dr Ford’s allegations credible during a 10-month investigation, Ms Ramirez’s story could be more fully corroborated. During his Senate testimony, Mr Kavanaugh said that if the incident Ms Ramirez described had occurred, it would have been ‘the talk of campus’. Our reporting suggests that it was.”
The reporters also said they had “uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr Kavanaugh in his freshman year that echoes Ms Ramirez’s allegation”.
A classmate, they wrote, “saw Mr Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student”.
The Times said senators and the FBI were notified about that claim but it was not investigated.
Kavanaugh vehemently denied all allegations against him. He was confirmed on a 50-48 vote, the narrowest for a supreme court pick in more than a century. As Trump’s second pick, he has tilted the court firmly to the right.
Pogrebin and Kelly’s book comes on the heels of another book by Times reporters, She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, about the investigation and downfall of Harvey Weinstein, which triggered the #MeToo movement.
News of the new claim against Kavanaugh and the investigation of the known one touched off a social media firestorm. On Sunday morning, Trump duly fired back.
Democrats and the media, he said, were “talking loudly of their favorite word, impeachment. He is an innocent man who has been treated HORRIBLY. Such lies about him. They want to scare him into turning Liberal!”
Calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment have surfaced periodically since his confirmation.
On Saturday, former Obama housing secretary and Democratic presidential candidate Julían Castro tweeted: “It’s more clear than ever that Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath. He should be impeached. And Congress should review the failure of the Department of Justice to properly investigate the matter.”
Another candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, was asked on ABC’s This Week on Sunday if she thought Kavanaugh should be impeached.
“I strongly oppose him,” she said, “based on his views on the executive power which will continue to haunt our country, as well as how he behaved, including the allegations that we are hearing more about today. My concern here is that the process was a sham.”
For his part, Trump appeared to suggest the justice department should act at his behest to aid a political ally, a highly irregular if familiar stance.
“Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for liable [sic], or the justice department should come to his rescue. The lies being told about him are unbelievable. False accusations without recrimination. When does it stop? They are trying to influence his opinions. Can’t let that happen!”
It seems doubtful that Kavanaugh, a strict conservative who served in the George W Bush administration, will change his views any time soon. Nor is his removal likely – Republicans have a strong hold on the Senate, which would have to convict him in any impeachment process.
The impeachment of supreme court justices works in the same way as that of a president: a majority of the House must approve and a two-thirds majority of the Senate must convict.
Lower judges have been removed but only one impeachment of a supreme court justice been attempted. It was of Samuel Chase, appointed by George Washington, in 1804. He survived.