Supreme Court Nominee Flat Out Denies Everything As Senate Committee Delays His Confirmation Vote And Schedules New Hearings For Next Monday
Those hearings next week will feature both Brett Kavanaugh, and the woman who’s accusing him of sexual assault, research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford. The Judiciary Committee was originally set to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation this Thursday.
And while debate rages about whether an adult can be held responsible for something they did when they were 17, Kavanaugh doesn’t join that argument. Instead he simply says everything that’s being said about him and his actions is untrue: “this never happened”.
Which either literally borrows a page out of Trump’s book, or rather Bob Woodward’s book, in which he describes Trump’s advice to a friend accused of sexual harassment as “deny deny, deny….If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead”. Or, it’s exactly the right thing to say if you actually didn’t do anything. Which is precisely why everybody needs to hear out loud and in person from both sides.
Kavanaugh issuing a statement via the White House saying in full:
Couple of things about that statement:
- It foretells pretty well what the further Senate testimony from him is likely to look like. Since he’s denying absolutely everything it’ll shape up as a he said/she said. After all, that worked out fine for Justice Clarence Thomas. But these are different times. Also, Kavanaugh’s giving himself no wiggle room, so even if the evidence piles up against him, he can’t really change his tack and attempt to explain his behavior as a teen indiscretion (as some of his defenders/apologists are). Not that that would (or should) work anyway.
- Since Kavanaugh’s statement came from the White House, it had to be approved by the White House. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been released.
Given that, it’s perhaps somewhat surprising that the President spoke in mild tones and seemed to even favor of a little more scrutiny. While defending Kavanaugh as “very special” (of course he calls virtually everyone “very special”) he also declared “if there’s a little delay, there’s a little delay”. Here’s a clip:
Is that a backhanded way of saying the White House will steadfastly refuse to pull the nomination? Not necessarily.
Politically, the best outcome for Trump might be for Kavanaugh to withdraw on his own prior to more public testimony, and then Trump could rail about “ruined lives” and how one of the “finest people I have ever known” got railroaded by hysterical Democrats. (Just as he currently does about his former personal physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, who withdrew as the President’s nominee for VA Chief during the Senate confirmation process.) And then Kavanaugh could defiantly slink off without facing further open scrutiny.
That move might even score some points for Republicans in the midterms by firing up white male followers, which seems to be the intended message from one White House affiliated lawyer who ludicrously explained to Politico: “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something”.
On the other hand, should Kavanaugh be approved in the face of strong evidence against him, that could (and should) hurt Trump and Republicans overall.
Also, as we mentioned yesterday, if Kavanaugh’s departure from the scene seems imminent, the clock is ticking—we mean really ticking—if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to get a new nominee through by the end of the year. Which he does intend to even if hell freezes over. (Also as we mentioned, Kavanaugh was not at the top of McConnell’s list). So if the facts start tilting further against Kavanaugh, expect him to get more than a little shove fairly quick.
3 Briefs, Any Of Which Would Be Our Main Story On Any Other Day…
• Trump Administration again slashes number of refugees U.S. is willing to admit. The number for next year, announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (who gave a statement but did not answer questions), down to 30,000 people, from 45,000 this year (although the New York Times reports the actual number admitted this year will be closer to 20,000). That compares to a 110,000 person limit in the last year of the Obama administration, and is the smallest number of people in at least 34 years.
• Trump orders Justice Department to declassify information even though it’s part of an ongoing investigation; not surprisingly the Russia investigation. The select text exchanges of perceived Trump “enemies” within the FBI and Justice department, and materials related to court orders, won’t come out right away, but the President does have the power to do it, so it should happen at some point. Usually, investigators do not like to release information while an investigation is going on for the simple reason that it could compromise the investigation (as well as their ability to protect people cooperating with the investigation).
• And Trump intensifies his trade battle with China, ordering tariffs on about half of all goods imported into the United States. The tariffs on $200-billion worth of goods start at 10% and jump to 25% if there’s no agreement by the end of the year. China will almost certainly retaliate. We’ll have more on this tomorrow.