Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says he knew nothing about the sexual misconduct allegations against a judge who was a friend and mentor.
Kavanaugh said Wednesday that when the allegations against former federal appeals court judge Alex Kozinski became public, they were a “gut punch” for him and for the federal judiciary. Asked whether he knew about the allegations before they became public, Kavanaugh responded: “nothing.” He said he was “shocked and disappointed.”
Asked whether he was on an email list that Kozinski used to send offensive material, Kavanaugh responded: “I don’t remember anything like that.”
Kozinski retired in December after several female former law clerks and colleagues accused him of sexual misconduct.
Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski, and Kozinski introduced him during his 2006 confirmation hearing to be a judge.
Everybody (or more accurately “everybody”) knew that Kozinski was a serial sexual harasser. To call it an open secret would be to understate how common this knowledge was. Top students at elite schools — the only students eligible to get a clerkship with a “feeder” judge like Kozinski (feeder judges are federal appellate court judges who send lots of clerks on to SCOTUS clerkships) — were, if they were women, routinely cautioned about this.
Of course this sort of cultural capital, like the other kind, is very unevenly distributed, so it was perfectly possible for someone like Heidi Bond to take a clerkship with Kozinski without being warned ahead of time, if she had the bad luck to be advised by someone who was semi-intentionally obtuse and/or covering for a powerful figure in the profession.
That Kavanaugh hadn’t heard all about Kozinski’s reputation is basically impossible.
Speaking of disingenuity:
Pressed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, on whether he would be independent from the president who nominated him, Kavanaugh responded, “No one is above the law.”
But asked later by the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, whether a president can be required to respond to a subpoena, Kavanaugh said, “I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question.” The Supreme Court has never answered that question, and it is among the most important at Kavanaugh’s hearing since Trump could face a subpoena in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Kavanaugh also refused to say whether he thinks a president can pardon himself — or provide a pardon in exchange for a bribe or pardon someone on the understanding that the person wouldn’t testify against the president.
“I’m not going to answer hypothetical questions of that sort,” Kavanaugh said, responding to questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Obviously this whole thing is a pointless farce from beginning to end, but just as obviously the show must go on, although I can’t remember exactly why at the moment.