Kavanaugh misled senators under oath before to get confirmed

When Brett Kavanaugh reappears before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, substantial questions surround his honesty and integrity. He denied sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford and, more recently, denied sexual misconduct against Deborah Ramirez.

Both accounts are credible, with several corroborating facts. The past reluctance of both Ford and Ramirez to come forward is consistent with behavior of sexual assault survivors. The death threats they have received at home and the bullying treatment they have received by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE and Senate Republicans only confirm the women’s hesitation and fear of retaliation were, in fact, warranted.     

Judge Kavanaugh’s denial of criminal conduct does not occur in a vacuum. This is a nominee who already has a dubious relationship with the truth.

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During his hearing earlier this month, records previously withheld by Republicans revealed numerous instances of Kavanaugh making apparently misleading statements to the Judiciary Committee during his 2006 confirmation hearing for the D.C. Circuit judgeship. Rather than clear up contradictions, his recent performance only added to doubts about his truthfulness. The topics ranged from his role in judicial nominations, whether he received documents stolen by a GOP Senate aide, and his role in developing torture policy. Judge Kavanaugh’s misstatements were so egregious and disturbing that the NAACP called upon the Senate to investigate his statements as possible perjury. 

One of the subjects on which the NAACP believes Kavanaugh likely committed perjury concerns Charles Pickering’s 2001 nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. We were engaged in the battle, both in Mississippi and at the national level, to defeat the Pickering nomination. We believe that Kavanaugh’s denials of assistance to Pickering constitute damning evidence of his dishonesty, which bears on his denials of sexual assault.

His true championing of Pickering also speaks volumes about his views on civil rights. When the NAACP opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit, we cited his role in supporting nominees such as Judge Pickering.         

Charles Pickering was a throwback to segregated Mississippi. In law school at “Ole Miss” in the 1950s, he wrote a law review article defending the state’s anti-miscegenation laws against constitutional attack. He practiced law with an avowed segregationist. He resigned from the Democratic Party after Fannie Lou Hamer attempted to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, calling it an “embarrassment and humiliation” for the state.

Once on Mississippi’s federal district court, Judge Pickering criticized the Voting Rights Act and complained about “the side effects resulting from anti-discrimination laws.” He went to extraordinary lengths to reduce the sentence of a man convicted of burning a cross at the home of an interracial couple.       

Charles Pickering was one of George W. Bush’s worst judicial nominees. The nomination focused on racial justice issues and involved a Deep South appellate court, which presides over more persons of color than any other circuit. The nomination battle lasted more than two years and could not have been more contentious. The Senate Judiciary Committee ultimately rejected Pickering. President Bush then bypassed the confirmation process by recess-appointing Pickering to the Fifth Circuit for one year.       

When George Bush nominated Brett Kavanaugh for a judgeship, Kavanaugh tried to distance himself from the extremely controversial Pickering in order to be confirmed. At his hearing in 2006, Kavanaugh told the Senate under oath that Pickering was "not one of the judicial nominees I was primarily handling,” and omitted Pickering from the list of appellate court nominees he assisted.       

Recently released emails show this was not the truth, by a long shot.

Records show that Kavanaugh led the charge for Pickering while serving as a White House counsel for President Bush. He prepared letters to senators and even ghost wrote a pro-Pickering op-ed for White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. He coordinated research, strategy, and meetings about the nomination. Another White House lawyer stated he would defer to Kavanaugh and another lawyer because they were “much more involved in the Pickering fight.” A Department of Justice official consulted Kavanaugh for his “blessings and instructions” before calling Pickering. As controversy over Pickering’s civil rights record mounted, Kavanaugh wrote: “We just continue to take it -- without any meaningful Administration response.”        

The question of whether Kavanaugh should be confirmed should not turn solely on whether the American people believe Kavanaugh or Ford and Ramirez. Rather, the question is whether this nominee has met the exceedingly high burden of showing he possesses the character and fitness to serve on the Supreme Court. When Brett Kavanaugh testifies, he comes to the witness table not with a clean slate, but a growing list of slippery misstatements made for the purpose of ensuring his confirmation.

In evaluating his testimony on Thursday, senators must remember Brett Kavanaugh’s on-again, off-again relationship with the truth.

Derrick Johnson is the president and CEO of the NAACP, America’s largest civil rights organization. Follow him on Twitter @DerrickNAACP. Leslie Proll is a civil rights lawyer and NAACP adviser on judicial nominations. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieProll.