Brett Kavanaugh

Dianne Feinstein Told the FBI About a Mysterious Issue in Brett Kavanaugh's Past, but #MeToo Speculation Is Premature

Anonymous officials claim the accusation involves a high school sexual misconduct case.


Ron Sachs/SIPA/Newscom

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) has informed the FBI about a previously unrevealed issue in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's past. In a press release about the matter, she provided no other information, but the public speculation has already begun.

The New York Times spoke with two officials "familiar with the matter" who claimed that the information involves a woman's sexual misconduct allegation against Kavanaugh dating back to his high school years. The Intercept made similar claims, saying the woman is represented by Debra Katz, "a whistleblower who works with #MeToo survivors."

The woman has not come forward publicly, and her identity is unknown at this point. It's unclear whether the sources consulted by the Times and The Intercept have seen the document that Feinstein passed along to the FBI, which makes it impossible to gauge the seriousness of the information.

The Times story says Feinstein was made aware of this information during the summer, which raises the question of why she waited until Wednesday to share it with the FBI. There is, of course, a tactical reason to do so: Weeks ago, there might still have been time for the FBI to fully investigate the matter before November. An FBI investigation at this point could conceivably delay Kavanaugh's nomination until after the election, at which point the Democrats may have recaptured the Senate. None of this is actually likely to stop Kavanaugh's confirmation—and the Senate could still vote to approve Kavanaugh in the lame-duck post-election session, while the Republican majority holds—but the Democrats could make it a campaign issue to drive turnout.

So we find ourselves in a frustrating situation, where very few people have any idea whether the allegation is serious—remember, the alleged incident reportedly was something that happened in high school—and nobody knows if it's truthful. The Democrats could leak the information if they think it would hurt Kavanaugh's odds, although that would risk outing an alleged victim of sexual misconduct, which is a no-no. Keeping it secret, and letting the public's imagination go to work, is a smarter strategy if the allegation is questionable, mild, or both.

In short, Feinstein's announcement could very well be a bad-faith move, or it could be raising a genuine issue that is worth discussing but ultimately does not disqualify Kavanaugh, or it could relate to something very bad. Nobody knows which of these things is most likely, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise.