As questions swirl over whether the one-week FBI probe into allegations of sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has already been effectively neutered by White House instructions to investigators as to what witnesses they are allowed to talk to and which lines of questioning are allowable and which are not, Kavanaugh’s backers in and out of the Senate have based their continued support on the premise that they both find Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations and Kavanaugh’s furious denials equally credible, therefore nothing more can be done and the truth is, ultimately, unknowable. It is he said versus she said; since there are no witnesses other than victim and the two perpetrators, whatever crime may have taken place will forever go unsolved.
That’s not quite true. In an excellent and lengthy rundown of Kavanaugh’s specific responses and evasions during his Senate testimony, Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson notes that both we and investigators both already have a great deal of evidence with which to judge the credibility of Ford and Kavanaugh.
The existence of a “he said, she said” does not mean it’s impossible to figure out the truth. It means we have to examine what he said, and what she said, as closely as possible. If both parties speak with passion and clarity, but one of them says many inconsistent, evasive, irrational, and false things, while the other does not, then we actually have a very good indicator of which party is telling the truth. If a man claims to be innocent, but does things—like carefully manipulate words to avoid giving clear answers, or lie about the evidence—that you probably wouldn’t do if you were innocent, then testimony alone can substantially change our confidence in who to believe.
It is an important and instructive piece, well worth reading: Kavanaugh’s evasions during his Senate testimony were all crafted to serve specific purposes, painting Ford’s testimony as implausible for a variety of different reasons, but each of those evasions has already been discredited by what few details we do know from the contemporary evidence. Kavanaugh’s evasions are constructed to grant him alibis to the assault that the evidence we do have demonstrably does not back up.
Kavanaugh insists he and Ford did not travel in the same social circles; his contemporaries describe this as false. Kavanaugh insists no small party took place like the one Ford described or with the friends Ford identified; his own calendar entries prove otherwise. Kavanaugh insists with much fury that he never drank to excess, or to the point of memory loss; numerous of his contemporaries disagree profoundly with that assertion.
But it is the way Kavanaugh massages the truth that’s instructive. The word of note here is alibis. He is devoted to giving the appearance of having alibis that would render Ford’s claims implausible, but his statements are at odds with even the evidence he himself presented:
Kavanaugh quickly tries to restrict the range of possible dates to weekends, and on weekends he largely has alibis. “Presumably” this event happened on a weekend he says, because they were hard-working kids and drinking wouldn’t happen on a weeknight. But he actually has precisely such an event on his calendar! The July 1st brewski-evening with P.J., Judge, et al. happened on a Thursday, according to his own record. Kavanaugh tries to get people to avoid scrutinizing weekdays, by immediately “presuming” that this had to occur on a weekend, when he was—conveniently—frequently out of town. […]
Leahy asks a straightforward question. In your high school yearbook, did you mention drinking and sexual exploits? Kavanaugh does not reply “Of course! I was a sports jock!” Instead, he replies “Let me tell you about my grades, and the times I volunteered at the library, with intellectually disabled kids.” You’ll notice that this (1) does not answer the question and is (2) incredibly fishy. If you ask someone “Were you a drinker?” and they reply “I went to church and helped children,” you are not dealing with a forthright person.
In evaluating the claims of a he said, she said dispute, a great deal of information can be gleaned from the details the two sides present, and the details of the Senate testimony unanimously present the picture of a woman who answered each question quickly and without evasion, followed by a man who hedged his responses, repeatedly evaded key details, and transparently lied about others (such as overtly sexual references in his yearbook) in a way to present a significantly and implausibly fictionalized account of himself.
His decision to present himself as squeaky clean, rather than wayward but subsequently redeemed, brings us to some of the most absurd untruths of Kavanaugh’s whole testimony. The evidence that he was more than an ordinary social drinker is voluminous. His yearbook lists him as treasurer of the “Keg City Club,” and his entry says “100 Kegs or Bust,” apparently referring to a “campaign by his friends to empty 100 kegs of beer during their senior year.” It also says he was the “biggest contributor” to the Beach Week Ralph Club, which he admitted was a reference to vomiting. Here’s Liz Swisher, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s who is now chief of the gynecologic oncology division at the University of Washington School of Medicine:
The list of implausible assertions goes on and on, and each is an attempt to dismiss contemporaneous evidence that supports Dr. Ford’s depiction of Kavanaugh and replace it with laundered, incredible alternative explanations. To the point, often, of ridiculousness.
Let me turn to my colleague Pete Davis, who went to high school in the D.C. area and knows what the term means:
It’s one of the most blatant lies I’ve ever seen. It’s special among the lies because it’s not a simple denial. It’s a completely fake game that he invented whole cloth. Every guy who went to my D.C.-area high school knows what “devil’s triangle” means. I’m sure Brett Kavanaugh knows what it means, too. There is no reference to this “drinking game” on the entire internet or in the entire history of books written in English. There are, however, tons of references to the other act, an act that a high school jock would be into joking about. And it’s relevant to the crime because it’s literally what Ford is accusing Kavanaugh and Judge of attempting to do.
Again, it is an excellent piece and well worth reading in full. The short version, however, is that we have a great deal of evidence with which to judge both Dr. Ford’s testimony and that of Brett Kavanaugh. We can evaluate which of the two is more likely to be telling the truth.
And it’s almost assuredly the one not engaging in a wide-ranging pattern of evasive, insulting deceptions.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.