We do not endorse candidates for office. And if we did, we wouldn’t endorse a progressive Democrat. We are, however, sorely tempted to suggest Californians vote for Dianne Feinstein’s challenger, Kevin de León, in November. Her unethical handling of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh turned a knotty situation into a national nightmare.

“One theory I have heard espoused repeatedly,” said Susan Collins toward the end of her speech in support of Kavanaugh, “is that our colleague, Senator Feinstein, leaked Professor Ford’s letter at the eleventh hour to derail this process. I want to state this very clearly: I know Senator Dianne Feinstein extremely well, and I believe that she would never do that. I knew that to be the case before she even stated it at the hearing. She is a person of integrity, and I stand by her.”

Count us skeptical.

Ford’s letter accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, sent to the offices of Feinstein and Representative Anna Eshoo was dated July 30, 2018. Feinstein took no action on it until September 13—six weeks later and after Kavanaugh’s grueling, week-long confirmation hearings had ended. “That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision,” Feinstein announced vaguely. “I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigation.”

Feinstein was only obliged to refer the letter to the FBI, we gather, because its existence was already widely talked about among Washington journalists and politicos; indeed the day before Feinstein’s statement, September 12, The Intercept, a liberal news site, published a story about what was then still an anonymous allegation.

Ford said in her testimony that no one knew about the letter except its recipients—Feinstein and Eshoo—and Ford’s attorneys. It is certainly possible that one of Ford’s attorneys, Debra Katz or Michael Bromwich, could have leaked the substance of the letter, or that Eshoo or her staff could have. Feinstein denied that she or her staff did so, but in a befuddled sort of way, as if she weren’t prepared for such an obvious question: “Oh, I don’t believe my staff would leak it. I have not asked that question directly, but I do not believe they would. . . . Jennifer reminds me I’ve asked her before about it.”

Even if Feinstein did not deliberately leak the allegation to the media against Ford’s express wishes, she kept knowledge of it from the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee for six weeks. That the controversy over Ford’s allegations didn’t begin until after the nominee’s hearings had concluded conveniently fit into the Democratic strategy since the moment of Kavanaugh’s nomination—to delay the confirmation vote until after the November election.

Feinstein claimed during the September 27 hearing that she kept Ford’s allegation confidential because Ford asked her to. What Kavanaugh’s accuser said in her letter, however, was this: “I expect that you will maintain this as confidential until we have further opportunity to speak” (italics added). Feinstein had a month and a half to speak with her constituent and determine a reasonable course of action. That shouldn’t have been hard. Allegations, anonymous and otherwise, are made against nominees with some regularity, and there is a process for dealing with them. The ordinary course of action is for the chairman and ranking member of the committee, together with their staff directors, to hold a confidential meeting and determine if the matter merits further probing by the FBI.

Of course, taking that course would almost certainly have resulted in the FBI finding no corroboration for Ford’s claims, in which case the matter would have ended quietly. That wouldn’t have furthered Democrats’ goal of delaying the confirmation, so Feinstein kept it secret until after the hearings. California’s senior senator threw the nation into an acrimonious melee from which we will not soon emerge.

Feinstein and company, Sen. Tom Cotton said last week, betrayed Ford; she was “victimized by Democrats . . . on a search-and-destroy mission.” He’s right to argue that the situation merits some legal or procedural remedy. One suggestion floated on the Hill is to pass a resolution establishing a special counsel to investigate the letter’s handling. Something similar was done after the Clarence Thomas confirmation to investigate the leaks that supposedly damaged the process. But leaks to the press were hardly the most serious disgrace in the Thomas-Hill affair—as ever, the Democrats’ use of an uncorroborated accusation was. In any case, the report submitted after that inquiry solved nothing and satisfied no one.

A bipartisan Judiciary Committee inquiry wouldn’t result in the embarrassment and censure Feinstein deserves, but it might determine if Ford’s attorneys leaked her allegation to the media, in which case they could face a complaint from the Washington D.C. bar. Katz’s and Bromwich’s handling of Ford’s case leaves plenty of room for criticism. The most obvious example: Although Judiciary chairman Charles Grassley had offered to send investigators to Palo Alto to speak with Ford, she seemed genuinely unaware of the offer during her subsequent testimony.

At the least, the rules by which the Senate’s standing committees handle allegations against presidential nominees ought to be codified. Feinstein’s cynical and irresponsible behavior has made that much necessary. As for DiFi herself, if California voters should choose to replace her with a younger leftist, we couldn’t vouch for the wisdom of the choice—but the punishment would be just.