As the Federal Bureau of Investigation reopens its background check investigation into Brett Kavanaugh, the scope of its review must go beyond the serious allegations of sexual assault made by Christine Blasey Ford and Debbie Ramirez.
For its investigation into Kavanaugh to be comprehensive, the FBI must also get to the bottom of what “boofing” means.
The term was one of several, raunchy references in Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook. When questioned at last week’s hearing about the exact meaning of these inside jokes, Kavanaugh conveniently had an innocent explanation at the ready for each. None, however, was credible.
“Devil’s Triangle”? Kavanaugh said it was a drinking game, not the sexual reference that a simple Google search suggests.
“Ralph Club”? That, Kavanaugh said, referred to how his weak stomach often could not handle spicy food, not vomiting caused by excessive drinking.
And “boofing”? Kavanaugh said it referred to “flatulence.” The answer prompted laughter in the hearing room, and Kavanaugh leveraged the moment to try to belittle the entire line of questioning. “You want to talk about flatulence at age 16 on a yearbook page?” he sneered at Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). “I’m game.”
Under normal circumstances, Kavanaugh might be right to consider it overreach for the world’s most deliberative body to be grilling a Supreme Court nominee about crude jokes in his high school yearbook.
But in Kavanaugh’s case, the yearbook references are relevant. Since facing sexual assault allegations, Kavanaugh has tried to cast himself as a choir boy during his high school and college years, stressing his time spent attending church and performing service projects. But the yearbook offers a glimpse of the Kavanaugh that Blasey Ford and Ms. Ramirez remember – a young man who drank to excess and found humor in the disrespecting of women.
Kavanaugh’s answers to the Senate about the meaning of these yearbook references defy credulity—and directly undermine his credibility. They suggest he is unwilling to admit the truth about even the smallest of matters.
In another such instance that arose during his Senate hearing, Kavanaugh was asked about a reference to a female friend, Renate Dolphin. Kavanaugh called himself a “Renate alumnius” in his yearbook, seeming to imply that he had slept with her. That, at least, is how Dolphin interpreted it. Upon being shown the yearbook in recent days, she declared herself betrayed and hurt by the false inference Kavanaugh was making.
But when quizzed about it, Kavanaugh did not own up to making a cruel joke at Dolphin’s expense. Instead, he claimed the reference was entirely innocent. It simply conveyed she was part of his social circle, he said, and he blamed the media for mischaracterizing it as a reference to sex.
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The answer, like the others, just didn’t pass the laugh test.
Here is where the FBI should come in. As part of its probe this week, the FBI must obviously seek to get to the bottom of the highly credible allegations made by Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh’s other accusers.
There is a chance the FBI might uncover additional evidence or testimony that further corroborates these women’s claims. But if not—especially as reports suggest that the White House is narrowing the scope of the probe and hamstringing investigators’ ability to get to the truth of these allegations—the FBI still must examine Kavanaugh’s credibility and candor.
FBI agents will not provide a conclusion or judgment about Kavanaugh’s credibility, but they can—and must—look to his Senate testimony and present senators with evidence that refutes or corroborates it.
For example, FBI investigators should ask Kavanaugh’s football teammates—many of whom also dubbed themselves “Renate alumni” in their own yearbook entries—exactly what the reference meant. They should ask Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, whose yearbook entry also referenced boofing, if he agrees—under oath—that it means what Kavanaugh said it does. They should find the friends who supposedly played “Devil’s Triangle” with Kavanaugh.
Regardless of whether such petty lies could ever to amount to perjury, they provide glimpses into Kavanaugh’s character and candor. As Kavanaugh well knows, in our legal system, even small lies matter. In jury trials, there is a standard instruction to jurors that if they conclude a witness is lying about any matter, they have the right to dismiss that witness’ entire testimony as potentially untruthful.
Kavanaugh’s own mother was a judge, and he has described her judicial philosophy as this: “Use your common sense, what rings true, what rings false.”
Senators weighing Kavanaugh’s fate should apply the same standard. To date, many of them have tried to dismiss Blasey Ford’s allegations as a case of “he said, she said.” But any proof that Kavanaugh lied under oath should cause senators to err on the side of believing her over him.
Furthermore, anyone prone to such casual lying is not fit to serve a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court.
After all, if Kavanaugh can’t be trusted to tell the truth about even the minor stuff, why should we trust him on anything else?