New Details Emerge In Kavanaugh Sexual Miscounduct Allegations

Sep 14, 2018
Originally published on September 14, 2018 7:48 pm
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Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein of California has referred a letter to the FBI about Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is up for a seat on the Supreme Court. This letter alleges sexual misconduct when Kavanaugh was in high school, behavior that he has flatly denied. Today in The New Yorker, reporters Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow add more details to the story behind this letter, and Ronan Farrow joins us now. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

RONAN FARROW: Good to be here. Thanks, Ari.

SHAPIRO: First, tell us about the events described in this letter.

FARROW: So this woman alleges that when both she and Kavanaugh were high school students in Maryland, they were at a party. And Kavanaugh held her down in a bedroom during this party, and he and a friend of his locked the door and turned up the music to conceal the sound of her screaming and that Kavanaugh attempted to force himself on her. She was able to free herself. It didn't proceed further than that. But she said to the people she got in touch with on the Hill that this was a traumatic incident and that she did have to seek psychological treatment as a result.

SHAPIRO: How has Kavanaugh responded?

FARROW: Kavanaugh has categorically denied this. The classmate involved said that he has no recollection of it.

SHAPIRO: You used the phrase forced himself on her. That could mean anything from attempted kissing to attempted rape. Do you have any idea what specifically that phrase means in this context?

FARROW: That's the language we're using in our report, and I'll leave it at that.

SHAPIRO: Have you read the letter?

FARROW: So we describe this as a letter that was sent to two politicians on the Hill, and we describe its contents. But we do not explicitly talk about what documentation and sourcing we have around this story.

SHAPIRO: The woman has expressed her desire to remain anonymous. Have you spoken with her?

FARROW: Again, we cite her as declining to comment, and I'm not going to elaborate on anything beyond that.

SHAPIRO: Other news organizations have given descriptions of the behavior that is characterized in this letter that make it sound less serious. For example, the Guardian newspaper says someone briefed on the letter described the allegations this way - Kavanaugh and a male friend had locked her in a room against her will, making her feel threatened. But she was able to get out of the room. How confident are you that your characterization is accurate?

FARROW: Yeah. We're absolutely confident in our reporting. And the New York Times subsequently reported exactly the same thing from their sources around this letter.

SHAPIRO: The White House characterizes this as an 11th-hour attempt to delay Kavanaugh's confirmation. And as you report, Senator Feinstein had this letter back in July. Why did she wait until after the confirmation hearings to refer it to the FBI?

FARROW: There's a lot of confusion about that on the Hill, Ari. I think, contrary to the idea put forward by the White House that this is, you know, a Hail-Mary-pass attempt to obstruct Kavanaugh's nomination, it very much appears that Democrats sat on this and were reluctant to air it even within the committee. And there is a lot of tension about that right now amongst those committee Democrats.

SHAPIRO: Tell me about that tension. How are her colleagues reacting?

FARROW: Well, we talked to one source familiar with the committee's activities, who says, we couldn't understand what the rationale was for not briefing members on this. Everyone involved understands the need to respect this woman's privacy. But there was also a feeling that there was more obstruction of those questions than necessary and that there might have been ways to question Kavanaugh about this without violating the woman's privacy if it had been raised earlier within the committee.

SHAPIRO: Do you have any sense of whether this will impact what has until now felt like an inevitable march to confirmation for him?

FARROW: You know, it's really not for me to speculate on that. I think that there were a lot of people on the Hill that felt this allegation should be out in the open and discussed. The opportunity to actually question Kavanaugh in committee about this may have passed. But there are certainly people around this process that are glad that people are at least aware of this.

SHAPIRO: Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker magazine. Thanks as always.

FARROW: Thanks, Ari. Good to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.