Buehler joins governor in calling for FBI probe of Kavanaugh

State Rep. Knute Buehler campaigns for governor. (Photo courtesy Portland Tribune)

State Rep. Knute Buehler joined Gov. Kate Brown Thursday in calling for a halt to the U.S. Supreme Court nominating process for Brett Kavanaugh following a contentious, day-long hearing in Washington.

The gubernatorial hopeful had previously declined to weigh in on the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. That changed after the hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee involving questioning of Kavanaugh and his principal accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

“Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have both presented compelling testimony,” Buehler stated in an email to the Salem Reporter. “I believe there should be a FBI investigation before the Senate votes on the nomination.”

Buehler, through a spokeswoman, declined to elaborate or answer direct questions. Through the week, as the scandal that has captivated the nation, some Oregon elected officials criticized Buehler for staying quiet.

Across the state, the hearing was closely watched and relevant as Kavanaugh’s influence on the court could have large implications for Oregonians.

“My opponent has said that reproductive health care is settled law,” Gov. Kate Brown said in an interview following the hearing. “I think it is really clear that if this appointee is confirmed, that is no longer the case. I think it is critically important when there are issues facing Oregonians.”

The Kavanaugh hearing, and women’s issues, have crept to the forefront of the governor’s race, now shown to be neck-and-neck. Brown said with such intense interest in the nomination process, the governor — whomever it be following the November election — should “speak up.”

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, held a conference call with media to sound off on Buehler’s voting record involving women’s issues, and his then-stance to reserve judgment on the Kavanaugh allegations.

“It’s sometimes hard to believe that in 2018, our access to reproductive healthcare is still under attack,” Fahey said on the call. The legislators went on to poke at related statements Buehler made in the past, referencing an appearance he made on the Lars Larson show in May.

“I have a record in the legislature of voting against Governor Brown’s efforts to expand access to abortion,” Buehler said on the show. “Listen, I think we have other priorities where spending should go other than to expand access to abortion. We need to make abortion as rare as possible and that’s a goal I think lots of us can share.”

During Thursday’s hearing, Buehler’s campaign pushed ads featuring women out on social media, including one about women’s reproductive health.

On Monday, Brown joined dozens of legislators in a walk-out of the Capitol with dozens of legislators, mostly women. Then, and again on Thursday, she said she believes Ford and the other women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting them. 

“I found her completely credible and compelling,” Brown said of Ford’s testimony. “I opposed this nominee prior to this investigation, because I think we need Supreme Court justices that reflect Oregon values and American civil rights.”

Like Buehler, Brown called again for the nomination process to be put on hold to allow the FBI to investigate the sexual assault claims. Previously, Senate Republicans had said they wanted to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation Friday.

“I personally, if I were in their shoes, I would want more information,” Brown said. “I think it would be a travesty of justice if they moved forward on this.”

The gubernatorial candidates joined the bulk of Oregon’s congressional delegation in weighing in on the issue.

Immediately following the hearing, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden released a statement, saying Ford was the most credible witness he could imagine.

“Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony demonstrated he lacks both the judgment and the temperament Americans expect from a Supreme Court Justice,” the statement went on to say. “The best that can be said of his testimony is that it was strikingly evasive. The clear contrast between these two witnesses — one composed individual who gave thorough answers based on a clear recollection of her trauma, and another who repeatedly dodged questions – will be seared into Americans’ memories for generations.”

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said Wednesday he plans to file for an injunction in federal court to halt the nomination process.

“The events of the past ten days have only underscored how critical it is that the Senate conduct a careful and comprehensive review of a nominee before giving its consent,” Merkley said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer tweeted about the hearing throughout Thursday, condemning Senate Republicans for pushing Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“As if we needed more evidence: Kavanaugh does not belong on the Supreme Court,” Blumenauer tweeted.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio both posted in belief of Ford on social media during the week. Potential statements issued after the hearing could not be located.

The Salem Reporter could not find record of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, the lone Republican in Oregon’s congressional delegation, or U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, addressing Kavanaugh’s nomination. A request for comment Thursday was not immediately returned by either. 

Reporter Aubrey Wieber: [email protected] or 503-375-1251. He is with the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of the Pamplin Media Group, EO Media Group, and Salem Reporter. Les Zaitz, publisher of the Malheur Enterprise, leads the Oregon Capital Bureau.