WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the eve of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar pulled a striking about-face regarding his protégé, a former student of his at Yale Law School.
Amar, a self-proclaimed progressive and liberal Democrat had written in July in a New York Times Op-Ed that he considered the Kavanaugh nomination “Trump’s finest hour, his classiest move.” In the wake of sexual-assault allegations against Kavanaugh from California professor Christine Blasey Ford, however, Amar joined the chorus of voices calling for an investigation.
In his July 9 Op-Ed, headlined “A Liberal’s Case for Brett Kavanaugh” Amar said Trump had kept to his promise to select “someone with impeccable credentials, great intellect, unbiased judgment, and deep reverence for the laws and Constitution of the United States.” Later, as he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, liberal Democrats were aghast as made clear his strong support for Kavanaugh. “Brett Kavanaugh is the best candidate on the horizon—he’s the best choice from the long list of 25 potential nominees publicly circulated by President Trump,” he’d said.
In a Sept. 26 interview with CNN, asked if he regretted his praise for the nominee in the wake of allegations by Ford and other women, Amar said, “No, because that was based at his performance as a judge over the last 12 years. We didn’t have any of the allegations and I still think if you look at the written record of his judicial and scholarly performance over the last 12 years, it’s very fine. But now there’s a new issue that has arisen and when it’s possible that one could be very good in one way and now there’s a problem in another. That’s what I meant by keeping an open mind and one of the things I admire about Judge Kavanaugh is, I thought he tried to do that in his writings and I thought he would actually urge Americans to do so.”
But he acknowledged, “We may need more investigations after tomorrow’s hearing because certain issues may be framed and clarified and that might very well be, painful as it is all around, more investigation will be necessary.”
After Ford’s emotional testimony and Kavanaugh’s denials at the hearings, the Judiciary Committee voted along partisan lines to send Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the full Senate. But Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, voting with his Republican colleagues, said his vote would depend on an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations. The White House acquiesced on Sept. 28 and called for such an investigation to be completed within a week.
In the interview, Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University said, “By the way, even if he’s confirmed, the investigation doesn’t end—the press is still going to pursue this and if the Democrats win either the House or Senate in November, it will have subpoena power and power of oversight, and so it behooves us all to actually remember that no matter what happens over the next couple of days, investigation needs to and probably will continue.”
But when reminded that once Kavanaugh is confirmed, he would serve a lifetime tenure, albeit tainted by these allegations, Amar said, “Again, it depends on whether [these allegations are] true or not, and with all due respect, I am not sure if you do or your audience knows yet. It has to be fact-based, evidence based.”
When it was pointed out that the problem with his contention was that what was playing out was consumed by a heavy dose of politics, Amar said, “Again, if 96 people aren’t interested in truth, [but] if four are and they are in the middle, they actually may be decisive.”
After Amar’s July 9 Op-Ed and his appearance before the committee, he was asked how it was for him to be “savaged” by liberal publications like Slate, GQ and others and to be trolled. He acknowledged that he was quite taken aback by the intensity of the blowback.
“Maybe it was a little more than I expected, but it comes with the territory,” he said.
However, he said: “I love the fact that this country has a robust, uninhibited, wide-open debate. It’s the glory of our society. I prefer that it sometimes be a little less personal. But ours is a wonderful democracy.”
He also said at the time: “Judge Kavanaugh has studied the Constitution deeply, and I think he’s a person of good character and he’s been willing to admit that he’s made a mistake in the past.”