We End This Week Where We Began: With The Sexual Assault Claim Against, And The Confirmation, Or Not, Of Trump’s Latest Supreme Court Nominee, Brett Kavanaugh
Since we last talked about this a lot of people on Capitol Hill and elsewhere have shown their true colors, jockeyed for the upper hand, made offers and counter-offers, produced slews of supporters on both sides who attached their signatures to things, had many and changing “takes” which they let everybody know about on Twitter, told us firmly (and then continually reassessed) what this will mean for the midterms, and asserted with great seriousness both “what Christine Blasey Ford really wants” and “what Brett Kavanaugh is really like” without any access to those actual to people that would create any possibility that they really actually knew.
And in the end, no real progress was made.
Now, that could all change this morning, because Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley set an arbitrary deadline by which Ford must say once and for all whether she’ll testify. But is that really a real deadline? It’s something Grassley mentioned two days ago, yet nobody really bothered to report on until yesterday.
Ford meanwhile, says she is willing to testify, just not on Monday, and she reiterated her request for a full investigation before she does so, and also some mutually-agreed to ground rules about format and who’s going to ask questions and who if anyone else will testify. (For instance, a second man, Mark Judge, she claims was in the room at the time of the attack. He’s provided a letter to the committee saying he remembers nothing.) Here’s a pretty good profile of Ford we found in the Mercury News.
If she chooses not to testify, expect a vote right quick.
So here’s what else stood out to us about what’s happened (or hasn’t happened) during the week:
- When we last left you, the Judiciary Committee had scheduled a hearing for next Monday in which Kavanaugh and Ford were set to appear.
- Shortly after, Ford’s attorney said she would not appear until the F.B.I. investigated her allegations.
- Committee Chair Grassley said the Committee would be investigating, not the F.B.I. because he doesn’t have the power to authorize an investigation by the F.B.I. and also it’s not appropriate. The first part of that is true, he doesn’t. The F.B.I. works for the President. To which Trump replied he’s sure the Committee will do a good job of it and that the F.B.I. told him they didn’t want to do it anyway–a thing some F.B.I. employees told a Bloomberg reporter never happened, but people just kind of expect that kind of thing from Trump now and it just kind of slides by.
- Then some Democrats and reporters pointed out when Anita Hill accused now Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, the F.B.I., at the direction of the White House, did investigate.
- Senate Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch responded by asserting that’s because Anita Hill was a federal employee; Ford isn’t, so there is no potential federal crime.
- Then some reporters (and also us), pointed out that the F.B.I. conducted the original background check on Kavanaugh, which is already being used by the Committee, so wouldn’t it really actually make the most sense for the F.B.I. to investigate the new allegations, since they certainly would’ve if they’d known about it at the time they did their original vetting?
- Senator Hatch answered that one too: saying the F.B.I.’s role is to assess issues of national security, of which a drunken sexual assault allegation apparently isn’t. We’re not so sure about that: we’ve been questioned more than once by intelligence agencies who were vetting people we knew. It seemed like many of their questions were focused on how the subjects behaved when they were inebriated. Which is completely a national security issue because it suggests how easily that person might be compromised. In case Senator Hatch’s alliances aren’t clear enough, (and as a sign that Republicans have neatly closed ranks behind Kavanaugh), his office’s Twitter feed features a big, not-well-cropped photo of him with Kavanaugh (and the girl’s basketball team the judge coaches, which was rolled out at his hearings to attest to his wholesomeness).
- An NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll finds for the first time more people oppose than support Kavanaugh, but support among Republicans for Kavanaugh has actually gone up.
- Then Senator Grassley did his Friday 10 A.M. deadline thing, after emphasizing he had offered Ford the option of testifying behind closed doors or even in California, where she lives.
- Finally, last evening, one of the strangest twists yet: a Conservative strategist and former law clerk of the late Justice Scalia, Ed Whelan, produced a bizarre, extraordinarily detailed Twitter thread proposing it could be all a case of mistaken identity. Goes like this: maybe the attack did take place, but maybe it was perpetrated by a friend of Kavanaugh’s who looks a lot like Kavanaugh. Ford responded to this quickly, saying (according to the Washington Post) “I knew them both….There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”. And the Post also suggests those Tweets could be a trial balloon for a “theory” Kavanaugh is considering putting forth himself, saying: “Kavanaugh and his allies have been privately discussing a defense that would not question whether an incident involving Ford happened, but instead would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh.”
President Trump meanwhile continued to stay out of the thick of it. His defense of Kavanaugh grew more passionate as the week went on, but he never explicitly called for an end to the process or directly commented at all about Kavanaugh’s accuser. Update: that is until this morning when he belittled Ford in a Tweet. At a rally in Las Vegas last night Trump praised Kavanaugh as “one of the finest human beings you will ever have the privilege of knowing or meeting”, partly because “went to Yale; top student” (the President’s definitely hung up on Harvard and Yale), while also saying “we’ll let it play out”. Here’s a clip:
So it’s likely something will change today. Or not. We’ll let you know. But you’ll probably hear about it even if we don’t.
In the meantime, read this. It’s Alexandra Petri’s column in the Washington Post. It’s amazing.