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Ga. lawmaker could be key Kavanaugh investigator if Dems retake House

A key Georgia Democrat is raising the possibility of investigating Brett Kavanaugh if the judge is confirmed to the Supreme Court and Republicans lose control of the U.S. House this fall. 

Lithonia Democrat Hank Johnson said last week’s blockbuster Senate hearing featuring Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women who accused him of sexual assault, showed he is “rabidly partisan” and “lacks judicial temperament.” 

Even if the Senate confirms Kavanaugh to the high court, Johnson said, Congress could and should further investigate his background if the new FBI probe greenlit by President Trump on Friday is not thorough enough. 

“I don’t know how this investigation will wind up,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday evening. “But if it does not appear to be a credible, full-faith, honest, thorough and complete investigation then the (House) Judiciary Committee will certainly have jurisdiction to delve into the matters and it will be for the benefit of the American people.” 

Johnson would have a central role in a potential Democratic probe of Kavanaugh. Should the House flip, the six-term lawmaker is expected to take over as chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the administration of U.S. courts and judicial evidence. The perch would also give him the power to subpoena witnesses, documents and emails. 

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The left-leaning news site the Intercept, which first chatted with Johnson, raised the possibility of the committee subpoenaing emails between Kavanaugh and ex-federal Judge Alex Kozinski, his mentor who resigned last year amid his own #MeToo scandal. Kavanaugh previously said he had no knowledge of the alleged incidents involving Kozinski. 

Johnson said he wanted to let the new FBI investigation run its course before making any commitments. However, he said he expected the feds to interview several key players, including Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend who is said to have witnessed Ford’s alleged assault. (The FBI spoke to Judge on Monday, his lawyer later said.) Johnson also named Julie Sweatnik, a third woman to come forward with sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, as well as any other potential witnesses who have reached out to investigators. 

“It’s troubling to think that there’s people out there who want to talk with the FBI, people that are offering information, and they are not being talked to,” he said. 

While the Trump administration initially ordered an investigation that’s “limited in scope,” the White House later allowed the FBI to expand its probe as long as it was still completed by the end of the week. 

Several Democrats on the House Judiciary panel have echoed Johnson’s comments, but most have demurred about whether a potential investigation is aimed at eventually impeaching Kavanaugh. 

Republicans see such a probe as a political gift that will help motivate the GOP base to turn out at the polls. 

“I just appreciate Hank Johnson putting into words what we’ve been telling the American people: that the Democrats have no plans for the future,” said U.S. Rep Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, on Monday. “They simply want to tear down the president and continue to use their platform to try to relitigate the 2016 presidential election.” 

Collins could be uniquely positioned to stop or slow such an investigation. The Northeast Georgia lawmaker is running to be the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee in the upcoming Congress. He could block a Democratic probe entirely if his party holds onto the House, or muck things up procedurally should Democrats take over. 

“If he wants to be a part of confirming a Supreme Court justice, maybe Hank ought to run for the Senate,” Collins said. 

Johnson, who hails from a heavily Democratic district that stretches from Atlanta’s eastern suburbs to Covington, insisted his party is looking “to do what’s right.” 

“This is more than just about partisanship and trying to win an election,” he said. “This is for the future of this nation. The soul of this nation is under attack.”

Read more local Kavanaugh coverage:

Kavanaugh critics corner David Perdue at D.C. airport

Georgia senators take separate stances on new Kavanaugh investigation

Perdue to back Kavanaugh, slams Dems for ‘partisan delays’

Georgia’s Nunn, Fowler faced a Kavanaugh-like situation as senators

Isakson on possible Kavanaugh FBI investigation: ‘I’ll never argue against more info’

Abrams condemns Kavanaugh’s ‘partisan attacks,’ calls for new steps to fight sexual harassment

Kemp faces pressure to retract ‘misguided’ support for Kavanaugh

How metro Atlanta reacted to the Kavanaugh testimony

About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.

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