I find it fascinating that President Trump is comparing the controversy surrounding Brett Kavanaugh to the controversy swirling around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. I find it equally fascinating that the president’s supporters in the Kavanaugh controversy don’t seem to be coming to the support of bin Salman as eagerly and readily as they did with Kavanaugh.
What gives with that?
After all, Trump is right in one major respect: bin Salman is entitled to be presumed innocent of the charge that he ordered or orchestrated the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as much as Kavanaugh was entitled to be presumed innocent of the charge of sexual assault. Everyone, regardless of nationality, is entitled to be presumed innocent of any accusation, whether it involves sexual assault, perjury, or murder. It’s simply the right thing to do.
But we should all keep in mind something that Trump might well forget: The presumption of innocence is just that — a presumption, one that can be rebutted through testimony and other evidence.
Here is what Trump said:
Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned. I think we have to find out what happened first.
After all, let’s not forget that bin Salman has denied the accusation being leveled against him, just as Kavanaugh did. From a Trump tweet: “Just spoke to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate.”
But here’s the critically important question: How then do we determine what really happened”?
Trump provided the answer in a tweet: through “a full and complete investigation.”
That’s what Saudi officials have reportedly been doing for the past two weeks. They have been conducting a “full and complete” investigation into the matter. Rumors are now flying that they are planning to exonerate bin Salman by blaming the crime on Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a high-ranking adviser to the crown prince. The story will apparently be that al-Assiri ordered the hit or ordered an interrogation that went awry, all without the knowledge or consent of bin Salman.
So, that should settle things, right?
After all, let’s not forget: As of right now, there is no genuine evidence that ties bin Salman to the crime. So, why shouldn’t everyone simply accept the Saudi official version of what happened and move on? Why continue to “smear” bin Salman with what might well be unfounded and uncorroborated accusations?
Would an investigation exonerating bin Salman by the Saudi intelligence machinery satisfy people? Perhaps. My hunch is that it might well satisfy Trump, given the deep allegiance that he and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have to the Saudi regime.
But my hunch is that many other people (including me) would say that that’s not exactly a genuine investigation. It might even be called a “sham,” a term that means “bogus” or “false.”
Now, suppose the Saudi congress were to take a vote on the matter. The vote ends up not even being close: 100 percent of the delegates to the assembly vote in favor of bin Salman’s innocence.
Should that resolve that matter? After all, that’s a lot bigger percentage of votes than Kavanaugh secured in his confirmation vote, which, according to Trump, established Kavanaugh’s innocence. Why not apply the same principle to a vote by the Saudi parliament?
Unfortunately, while Trump is willing to apply the principle of the presumption of innocence to both Kavanaugh and bin Salman, he was unwilling to extend his other principle to the Kavanaugh controversy: the need for a full and complete investigation into whether Brett Kavanaugh was guilty of what he has been accused of, to wit: sexual assault and perjury.
In fact, that was precisely the purpose of Trump’s quick, rushed, pressured vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation — to prevent a full investigation into the allegations against him.
Okay, I understand that some people concluded that starting many years ago, Christine Blasey Ford made up the entire story in order to block Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Others concluded that she was experiencing false memories. Still others concluded that she was conspiring with the CIA to block a rightwing jurist who could be expected to sustain the constitutionality of everything the national-security establishment does in order to get some leftwing lawyer appointed to the court instead.
I get all that. What I don’t understand is why Trump, Kavanaugh, and their supporters would oppose a full and complete investigation into the allegations, just as Trump is apparently calling for with respect to the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump has gone on the campaign trail alleging that Kavanaugh was “smeared” and had his reputation dragged through the mud.
If that’s true, Trump and the Republican Senators are clearly to blame for that phenomenon. After all, the so-called “smear” stems from the testimony of Christine Ford, who alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. But it was Trump and the Republicans who invited Ford to testify in the first place, knowing full well what she was going to say! Why would they do that?
Well, here’s the answer: They wanted to give her the “courtesy” of having her say. But what’s the point of giving a person the “courtesy” of having her say if all that she is going to do is “smear” a nominee to the Supreme Court, followed by a quick, rushed, pressured vote on the nominee’s confirmation?
In other words, it is clear in retrospect that the Republicans senators had absolutely no intention of conducting a full and complete investigation into what Ford was alleging. Instead, they intended to simply let her testify, have Kavanaugh angrily and indignantly deny the allegation, and then quickly proceed to a political vote, a political vote that Trump emphasizes proves his “innocence.”
Thus, Ford’s testimony was clearly irrelevant. It didn’t matter what she said. As soon as she and Kavanaugh had finished testifying, the Republicans were going to push through to a vote. No full and complete investigation at all.
Given such, one thing that the Republicans accomplished was a “smearing” of Kavanaugh, assuming of course that Ford had made up the whole thing. Another thing they accomplished was the smearing of Ford, assuming that she was telling the truth.
Given that no full and complete investigation was ever going to be conducted into what Ford was alleging, the question has to be asked: Would the entire nation, including both Ford and Kavanaugh, have been better off if the Senate Judiciary Committee had never invited Ford to testify in the first place? Because her testimony, as far as they were concerned, was totally irrelevant. It wasn’t going to affect anything. It was purposeless.
But once they did invite Ford to testify, the fact is that they were under a solemn obligation to conduct a full and complete investigation into her allegations.
It doesn’t matter if the Democrats were engaged in rotten political strategizing or even that the Democrat Party is as crooked and corrupt as the Republican Party. Once the Senate Judiciary Committee invited a witness to testify who they knew was about to level a serious accusation at Kavanaugh, it then became incumbent on them to fully and thoroughly investigate the allegation. That’s where the U.S. Senate failed the American people, including both Ford and Kavanaugh.
Suppose on the night before the confirmation vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee invited a witness to testify who swore under oath that Kavanaugh had accepted a bribe from him to rule in his favor in a case before the D.C. federal court of appeals.
Suppose it was established that those rotten, scheming Democrats had engineered the invitation to testify as part of a nefarious effort to block Kavanaugh’s nomination.
The Democrat political machinations would be irrelevant, just as any angry and indignant reaction by Kavanaugh against such machinations would be irrelevant. All that would matter at that point would be: Did he take the bribe and, if so, should that disqualify him from serving as an associate justice on the Supreme Court?
How would that issue be determined? There is only one way. No, not by having a sham investigation by the FBI and, no, not by having a quick, rushed, pressured confirmation political vote that supposedly establishes his “innocence,” but instead by having a full and complete, open and transparent, genuine investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee. After all, that is their job — to determine, on our behalf, whether to assent to a person who is seeking a job on the Supreme Court.
Now, it’s true that a full and complete investigation into the Kavanaugh allegations still might have left the situation unclear, in which case the Senators might have had to make a difficult decision based on the evidence that had been adduced during the investigation.That might well have meant that Kavanaugh would have been confirmed anyway.
But justice is always better served with a full and complete genuine investigation and open, transparent, and honest public hearings (or trials) on critically important issues, especially issues that involve accusations of grave wrongdoing. That principle applies not only to Mohammad bin Salman but also to Brett Kavanaugh.