WASHINGTON — Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said Sunday that talk of impeaching newly confirmed Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh is “premature.”
A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that heard emotional testimony last month after Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault,Coons said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that calls for impeachment won’t help the country heal after the confirmation proceedings. Some Democrats are pushing for the action if their party takes back the House in November, prompting the senator to caution them to slow down.
"There's only been one justice that's been impeached, and I think talking about it at this point isn't necessarily healing us and moving us forward," Coons said. "The Senate's role in our politics is not to just reflect the country, but to help heal and lead the country. And that's the course that we should be on."
If Democrats successfully take back the House majority after the November midterms, the party will be able to investigate and ultimately hold impeachment proceedings against Kavanaugh. But the justice wouldn’t likely be removed from the bench unless Democrats are able to either win a significant number of seats in the Senate or convince a critical mass of GOP senators to join the push, as the Senate can only remove a judge from office with a two-thirds vote.
Coons openly worried about whether there was a path forward for the Senate to come together after the “bitter, divisive and partisan” confirmation process. He labeled President Trump’s ridicule of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while they were both suburban Maryland teenagers, during a campaign rally as “one of the biggest tragedies of this past week.”
“To instead turn it into a campaign rally event where he was mocking her really brought this entire confirmation down, and was a low mark in his presidency,” he said, referring to Trump's Tuesday rally in Southaven, Mississippi.
Coons spoke just one day after the Senate narrowly confirmed Kavanaugh, an outcome expected after Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins’s dramatic Friday announcement that she’d vote yes.
That confirmation, which had once seemed to be on a glide-path to the bench, was thrown into doubt by Ford’s allegation, which became public weeks ago. Subsequently, another woman accused him of exposing himself to her at a college party, while another accused Kavanaugh and his friends of spiking drinks at a high school party with the intent to prey on women.
Kavanaugh adamantly denied all of those allegations during his Senate testimony last month as “a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process.”
Concerns about the allegations were enough to convince a small bloc of swing-vote senators to successfully demand an FBI investigation into the claims. That investigation apparently convinced all of those senators — except Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski — to vote yes and Kavanaugh was confirmed.
Democrats have repeatedly blasted the FBI investigation in recent days as too narrow, framing it as a partisan tool to provide cover for senators to vote yes on Kavanaugh.
On Sunday, Coons said he didn’t believe the FBI’s investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh went “far enough” to remove that cloud because it didn’t interview “dozens of corroborating witnesses who tried to get in touch with the FBI.”
“I don’t think the members of the committee and the Senate who had to make a final decision yesterday had all the facts in front of them,” Coons said.
While Coons called the idea of further investigations into Kavanaugh premature on Sunday, he previously appeared more open to the idea.
Last month, he told MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” that a “cloud” would exist over Kavanaugh’s confirmation if it wasn’t investigated fully. And he admitted he wasn’t ruling out future investigations when pressed by Katy Tur.
Also on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander defended Kavanaugh and said the FBI’s investigation should help reassure his critics.
“Every sexual assault case is usually ‘he said, she said,’ except in this case it’s ‘he said, she said, they said.’ And the ‘they’ were the witnesses that she said were there all said it either didn’t happen or they didn’t remember it,” Alexander said.
And he went on to defend Kavanaugh’s frustration during his Senate testimony, responding to some Democratic concerns that his angry tone sent a concerning message about his impartiality on the bench.
“It would be hard to have public confidence if you go through an inquisition like he did arranged by the Democrats,” Alexander said.
“If you go down and read six FBI investigations of him over 25 years," the senator added, "and see not just the bad things that were not said about him but the remarkably good things that were said about him, you would be very glad he would be on the Supreme Court.”