Roy Exum: The Goal: The Truth

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As of late yesterday afternoon, the American citizens have believed there would be a hearing this week like no other since 1776. No matter where I turn, it seems like the claims from a drunken night involving two minors, this over 30 years ago, has morphed into a political donnybrook, mesmerized our nation, and dashed any civility we have towards one another worse than when Moses threw down the Ten Commandments.

My gracious goodness, I have gotten emails from three women – each who said they were sexually abused many years ago – and I wanted to cry with each one. But we also have a distinguished judge who swears he never did any such thing and for him to now tuck-and-run would be a direct affront to the very truth he has espoused in the courtroom for most of his life.

It's little secret that my favorite politician in Washington is also a man who has prosecuted evil as a noted District Attorney. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who has served masterfully as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, appeared with CBS host John Dickerson on “Face the Nation” last Sunday and was brilliant. He’s just like me – what can the FBI investigate with no crime scene, no forensics? “They re not human polygraphs …” he said.

At the start of the show the producers had a soundbite where UN Ambassador Nikki Haley weighed in on the travesty: “I think it's very important that accuser-- that accusers are heard and that their story is heard. But I also think the accused needs to be heard.

“This is a situation where the Senate really needs to lead on this in the way that they are responsible, in a way that they are conscious of hearing both stories, and they do it quickly for the sake of both families and they take the politics out of it,” she said

“We see way too much politics in this,” the former South Carolina governor added, “And I think at the end of the day the goal is the truth. And you do that in a way that's not with a lot of fanfare. You do it in a way that's with a lot of respect. And I think that's what everybody-- and-- I think that's what the American public wants to see.”

The CBS host Dickerson was at the top of his game and Gowdy’s answers so good I want to take you to the television newsroom for some excerpts of the dialogue:

* * *

JOHN DICKERSON: This hearing that's going to happen this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. You've-- you've chaired some pretty high-profile, politically-charged hearings. What are the risks involved?

REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY: There's a risk to either side, that's not perceived as being fair. I-- I've never-- I've been in lots of sex assault cases, but not since I've been in Congress. You have got to be fair to the witness. You have got to give the witness an opportunity to fully answer the question.

You need to eschew these five-minute increments that we so often use in Congress. Five minutes is not long enough for anyone to appropriately question either Doctor Ford or Judge Kavanaugh. I am confident the judge-- that Senator Grassley, Chairman Grassley will run this in a respectful way but the American people regardless of whether you're a Republican or a Democrat expect these witnesses to be treated fairly and I am confident that they will be.

JOHN DICKERSON: One of the questions that Christine Blasey Ford has said is that she would have liked the FBI to do a kind of neutral fact finding on this. What do you think about that?

REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY: I'm a big fan of the FBI, John, but they don't investigate sex assault cases. There are very, very few federal sex assault cases.

So, my first question would be, for the FBI to investigate what? There's no crime scene to process, there are no forensics to evaluate. What the FBI could do is go interview Doctor Ford and interview Judge Kavanaugh. But they've already interviewed Judge Kavanaugh. And even if they did interview Doctor Ford, she still has to testify. So, the only role I can see the bureau playing is identifying other witnesses that may have knowledge.

Some of that's already been done by Doctor Ford. Judge Kavanaugh's defense is he wasn't there so you wouldn't expect him to produce witnesses. But I-- I don't know what people expect the FBI to do. They're not human polygraphs so--


REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY: --they can't tell us who's telling the truth.

JOHN DICKERSON: But my understanding, though, is that the President in these nomination-- nominations the President can ask the FBI to do it. So while they may not investigate sexual assault he could in-- in terms of getting an accurate record.

I guess the thinking is the FBI is a neutral fact finder here and we don't know what we-- we don't know and so they without all the partisanship and-- and the charged nature of partisanship could get some of the basic facts down which would-- it's not just about finding information for the general record it's informing also the questions that the senators may then ask of both of them.

REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY: The FBI I know has already interviewed Judge Kavanaugh. I -- I have no issues with the FBI taking a second, third, eighth look if that's what it takes to find out what happened and to fully air all the facts. I just want people to have realistic expectations --what the FBI can do is go interview Doctor Ford which is what the Senators are planning on doing this week.

They can interview Judge Kavanaugh which is what the senators are doing but they can't then come in and-- and repeat back what either of those witnesses say. You can't determine credibility unless you actually hear from the witness herself and himself.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about what standard one should use in trying to sort through all of these facts. This is not a court of law. What's your feeling about the standard that should be used to determine who's telling what the truth of this is?

REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY: That's a great question, John, and I have struggled with that question. My bias is toward sex assault victims. I spent twenty years believing them sometimes when nobody else did. I am used to the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’

That is an incredibly high burden, but it ought to be if you're going to take away someone's freedom. It also ought to be a high burden when you are going to impact someone's reputation. And-- and make no mistake both Doctor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh will live with consequences of this for the remainder of their lives.

But-- but as it relates to Judge Kavanaugh, when you have been accused of something that is a crime it's an incredibly serious crime. It is a crime that goes to the heart of your character. I think American people expect there to be a high evidentiary burden … and I am really disappointed when I hear senators say they either believe or don't believe witnesses that they have never interviewed or heard from.

How can you do that, John? How can you make a credibility assessment if you've never bothered to interview either of the two principals?

* * *

It’s true. How can any of us make such a judgement without knowing what is yet to come? And the “standard of measure” that Dickerson mentioned is what? I don’t believe that even the Supreme Court is that smart.

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