On Wednesday, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) suggested that Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh does not deserve “the presumption of innocence until proven guilty” because the Senate confirmation is not a criminal trial. Convicting someone in the court of public opinion, ruining his reputation and his career, cannot be restrained by “due process.”
“To those who I hear say, over and over, this isn’t fair to Judge Kavanaugh, he’s entitled to due process. What about the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? Dr. Blasey Ford has to prove her case beyond reasonable doubt,” Gillibrand said, paraphrasing the arguments of people who think Kavanaugh deserves a fair shake. She then attempted to shoot down these arguments.
“Those are the standards for a trial,” the senator declared. “Those are the standards in criminal justice. We are not having a trial. This is not a court.”
“He’s not entitled to those because we’re not actually seeking to convict him or put him in jail,” Gillibrand argued. “We are seeking the truth. We are seeking facts. We are seeking just what happened.”
She then suggested the sexual assault claims, and Kavanaugh’s denial, cast doubt on the nominee’s honesty. “Is he an honest person? Is he trustworthy? Can we trust him to do the right thing for decades? Rule on women’s live for decades to come? Can we trust him to do that right?”
On these questions, the nominee does not deserve the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, Gillibrand suggested. “This is not whether or not he should be convicted. This is about whether he has the privilege, the privilege to serve on the highest court of the land for a lifetime,” she said.
In a very limited way, Gillibrand is correct. Christine Blasey Ford does not technically have to “prove her case beyond a reasonable doubt.” Had she left her remarks at that, she would have been right. However, suggesting that Kavanaugh is not entitled to due process or the presumption of innocence in this public battle is beyond the pale.
Gillibrand did not limit her remarks to “beyond a reasonable doubt.” She clearly said Kavanaugh is “not entitled to these,” including due process and the presumption of innocence, because it is not a court of law. That’s despicable.
Ironically, Gillibrand suggested that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s task is to “seek the truth,” as if that is not the case in a criminal trial. The presumption of innocence exists in order to force prosecutors to establish the truth more effectively. The legal principle of innocent until proven guilty helps the criminal justice system get to the truth.
Furthermore, Kavanaugh has been publicly accused of sexual assault. Millions of Americans are convinced he is a rapist (even though that is not the accusation). His family has received death threats. If the nominee is not confirmed to the Supreme Court, he will lose more than that “privilege.” His reputation will be forever tainted in the eyes of many. If he is innocent, as he claims, this is utterly unfair.
The principle of innocent until proven guilty exists to protect people falsely accused of crimes they did not commit. Democrats seem set on throwing out this principle — and the principle of due process — when it comes to sexual assault claims. This is utterly disgusting. Sexual assault accusations can ruin someone’s life, and people deserve the presumption of innocence.
Finally, in important ways, this confirmation is a court — not a court of law, but a court of public opinion. So many public hearings have been streamed live across the country, and Americans know that Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault. He deserves the ability to exonerate himself, and he deserves to be considered innocent of these accusations until proven guilty.
Gillibrand’s attack on the presumption of innocence was not the worst, however. Last week, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said Kavanaugh does not deserve the “presumption of innocence” because she disagrees with his legal philosophy!
These Democrats are taking aim at the legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” which is much older than the United States of America. They should be ashamed of themselves, and Americans should vote them out of office.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.