NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Senator Joe Donnelly’s Kavanaugh Stance Cause for Concern

News-Sentinel.com has in this space repeatedly warned Indiana’s Democratic senator, Joe Donnelly, that if he failed to support President Donald Trump’s pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court in the full Senate confirmation vote, he would risk losing his office in the November election.

He is one of the Democratic senators up for re-election this year from states that voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Trump won Indiana by 19 percentage points.

Donnelly announced in a statement Friday that he opposes Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the court, and we think if he fails to vote in favor of the nominee voters should come out in force to vote Donnelly out of the Senate on Election Day. It could well happen, too, if those who supported Trump are as upset as we are with the shameful circus the Democrats made of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings and their ridiculous 11th-hour September Subterfuge of releasing a letter from Christine Blasey Ford that alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when they were both in high school.

The special all-day hearing Thursday before the judiciary committee during which Ford and Kavanaugh were grilled by senators for hours about the allegation proved nothing. Both Ford and Kavanaugh were “100 percent” adamant about their claims. And no concrete evidence has ever been produced to back up Ford’s accusation that the judge attempted to rape her at a party 36 years ago.

We also wrote on Sept. 19 when Ford’s accusations were made public, thanks to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) after the judiciary committee hearings were completed, that the surprise allegations might embolden Donnelly to think he could vote the party line against Kavanaugh without retribution at the polls. If that’s the case, we hope he’s wrong.

Donnelly, a moderate who voted for Trump’s first nominee to the high court, Neil Gorsuch, said Friday Ford’s allegations are “disturbing and credible” and should be investigated by the FBI, which Trump and Senate Republicans say isn’t needed.

As Kavanaugh emphasized in his testimony at Thursday’s hearing, FBI investigations are always inconclusive — the FBI only provides he-said-she-said reports, not conclusions.

Even former Vice President Joe Biden emphatically emphasized that point in the confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas on Oct. 12, 1991, when he was accused of sexual misconduct by Anita Hill. Biden, then a Democratic senator from Delaware, was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when he said FBI investigations into sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominees were always inconclusive and that reports from such an investigation only rehash people’s versions of events without reaching a meaningful conclusion about what had actually happened.

Donnelly said in his statement Friday, “As I have made clear before, sexual assault has no place in our society. When it does occur, we should listen to the survivors and work to ensure it never happens again. That should not be a partisan issue.”

While we agree with that statement, we cannot justify his apparent conclusion either that Judge Kavanaugh is guilty, although no conclusions were made in the hearing on Thursday, or that there is any purpose served in an FBI investigation. Kavanaugh should be innocent till proved guilty, and he has certainly not been proved guilty.

Voters should respond to a Donnelly “no” vote against Kavanaugh on Tuesday, Nov. 6, with a “no” vote against Donnelly’s bid for another six years in Washington, D.C.

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