One of the ringleaders of the Democratic Party’s attempt to destroy Brett Kavanaugh’s life in 2018 has been named Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2020 presidential election.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., used the Kavanaugh nomination in 2018 as a springboard for her failed presidential campaign. Focusing on her support for abortion and position on the Senate Judiciary Committee that handled the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, Harris strongly opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination within moments of it being announced, and long before she had a chance to review his record.
She joined other Democratic presidential hopefuls on the steps of the Supreme Court the next day to further express her opposition. She ran 3,600 different advertisements on Facebook before the second round of hearings began in late September 2018.
“Her performance during the Kavanaugh circus stood out as particularly demagogic, cynical & abysmal,” wrote TownHall political editor Guy Benson.
Within a few seconds of the first hearings being gaveled to order, Harris interrupted the proceedings in an attempt to shut them down on procedural grounds, part of a coordinated attack that included attempts by hundreds of compensated activists to get arrested.
Harris, a former prosecutor, led a line of questioning that was an obvious attempt to put Kavanaugh in a perjury trap, albeit a trap he was able to avoid. Harris began by asking Kavanaugh if he had ever discussed Robert Mueller, the special counsel then investigating the Trump presidential campaign, with anyone.
Harris had previously tried to argue that any president under investigation was not allowed to make a Supreme Court nomination, a bizarre theory that had been put forth by, among others, the NAACP’s Hilary Shelton, actress Alyssa Milano, and Paul Schiff Berman, a professor at George Washington University Law School. The latter wrote in the New York Times that no nominee could be confirmed until Mueller had completed his investigation of the Trump campaign’s possible “collusion” with Russia.
The proposition had no legal basis and was almost laughable in light of recent history. In fact, a majority of the present court had been appointed by a president who was then under investigation. Anthony Kennedy was appointed just a year after an independent counsel began investigating President Reagan’s role in the Iran-Contra affair. President Clinton appointed Stephen Breyer eight months after Attorney General Janet Reno appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Whitewater scandal. Both Roberts and Alito were appointed while the Bush administration was under investigation by a special counsel in the Valerie Plame affair. And the FBI’s investigation of Trump was already underway when Neil Gorsuch was appointed.
As detailed in “Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court,” by this reporter and Carrie Severino, Kavanaugh explained that he used to work with Mueller. Harris asked if he had ever discussed Mueller’s investigation. He said he had.
Then Harris asked repeatedly if he had ever had any discussions with employees of Kasowitz, Benson, and Torres, the firm of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz. As though she had him right where she wanted him, Harris warned the judge dramatically, “Be sure about your answer, sir.”
Kavanaugh was utterly confused. While he didn’t think he even knew anyone at the Kasowitz firm, he was alert to the danger of a perjury trap. “Is there a person you’re talking about?” Kavanaugh asked haltingly.
“I’m asking you a very direct question,” Harris snapped. “Yes or no?”
“I don’t know everyone that works at that firm,” Kavanaugh said.
Implying that she had damaging information, the senator said, “I think you’re thinking of someone and you don’t want to tell us.”
A Democratic staffer told reporters they had reason to believe Kavanaugh had had conversations with people at Kasowitz’s firm, and a compliant press ran with the story that the nominee appeared to have committed perjury. “Kavanaugh Stumbles,” read the headline in Politico. “Harris Lands First Blow on Kavanaugh,” announced Roll Call.
The coverage of Harris verged on fawning. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin gushed about a “break-out moment” that showed “her prosecutorial skill” and made her “an instant Democratic heroine.” She opined further, “Kavanaugh looked confused, if not nervous. He hadn’t seen this coming.”
But in fact he had seen it coming, which was why he was so cautious. Sen. Ted Cruz had warned him that Democrats would try to trick him into inconsistencies. In other lines of questioning, Kavanaugh had responded with marked openness. Being on offense was part of his strategy from the beginning.
While Kavanaugh followed the Ginsburg precedent of not giving his views on particular cases, he eagerly engaged even the most hostile questioner. He was happy to talk at length about the Federalist Papers, his decisions, the doctrine of stare decisis—anything but how he would vote in a specific case.
He was not a man of one-sentence answers. But he recognized that Harris was trying to lay a perjury trap. It didn’t matter that her questions would have been unacceptable and unethical in a courtroom. He had to be careful not to say anything that could be perceived as untrue. Who knew who might have just been hired at Kasowitz, Benson, and Torres?
It turned out that Kavanaugh had not talked to anyone at Kasowitz, Benson, and Torres, and Harris never offered any evidence of such a conversation. The White House had set up a war room down the hall from the hearing room, manned by Kavanaugh’s team, where they quickly determined that Harris must have been fishing for conversations with Edward McNally, a partner in the firm’s New York office who had worked in the Bush White House when Kavanaugh did.
They tracked him down and confirmed that Kavanaugh had not spoken to him about the Mueller investigation. The law firm itself denied that any of its personnel had spoken to Kavanaugh, and the judge then testified under oath that the answer to Harris’s question was a straightforward “no.”
Harris’s huge break-out moment in the hearings, then, was a complete dud based on nothing. It had excited the media, but failed to change the dynamic of the nomination. She was so proud of her failed perjury trap that she tweeted out video of the exchange:
Has Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had a conversation about Robert Mueller or his investigation with anyone at Trump's personal attorney's law firm?
We don’t know. He refused to answer my question. pic.twitter.com/PAKxDGvEtZ
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) September 6, 2018
Harris even tried to continue the attack on Kavanaugh months and years after his eventual confirmation. She even tried to impeach Kavanaugh a full year later.
At the time of her announcement as the vice-presidential nominee, The New York Times described Harris as a “pragmatic moderate.”