Ford runs circles around hapless Republicans, who now have a second scandal

Ford attorney Debra Katz repeatedly has stared down Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), swatting away one artificial deadline after another. Grassley told her he needed an answer by Friday at 10 a.m. That got pushed to 10 p.m., and then to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Katz rightly called these deadlines arbitrary and more importantly knew she had leverage.

.. With Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona saying they wanted to hear from Ford before voting, Grassley couldn’t very well cut off discussion. He didn’t have the votes to confirm the nominee.

.. If Republicans were hoping to intimidate Ford it didn’t work. Rather it revealed that there is a slim chance, more than zero, that Republicans might not have the votes after this next week.

.. Republicans have made repeated, stupid mistakes that have not helped their position.

  • President Trump attacked Ford, asserting she would have gone to the police as a 15-year-old if the attempted rape was “that bad.” Collins pronounced herself “appalled.”
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) repeatedly vowed he would confirm Kavanaugh. They’d “plow through” he declared, a remarkable confession that they’ll bulldoze Ford and vote to confirm no matter what.

The public can conclude Republicans have no problem sitting Kavanaugh even if Ford’s claim is true.

.. Nevertheless, it appears someone communicated her name to Whelan before it was made public.

.. The question now is whether anyone at the White House, Kavanaugh or at the Senate Judiciary Committee was involved in the harebrained scheme to accuse a classmate of Kavanaugh’s under the bonkers theory Ford got the identity of her attacker “confused.”

.. Well, someone told Whelan what was up, and any coordination with Kavanaugh (for example, via the right-wing PR outfit CRC, who hyped Whelan’s revelation), would be separate grounds for denying him confirmation and would also ensnare the judge in the host of civil and ethical problems Whelan created.

.. As if that weren’t enough, an employee of CRC on loan to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Garrett Ventry, resigned for falsifying his résumé and for alleged sexual harassment.

.. Even if they had tried, Republicans could have not done a better job demonstrating their bias, ineptitude, unseriousness, meanness, unfairness and general lack of empathy.

.. There are now at least two related scandals : 1.) Whether Kavanaugh attacked Ford and now is lying, and 2.) the identities of those involved in a reprehensible scheme to pin a crime on someone for which there is zero evidence of wrongdoing. Between Trump’s ridiculous assertion that a 15-year-old’s failure to report a sex crime (which launched the #WhyIDidntReport social media phenomenon) and the nutty mistaken identity plot (which seems to concede Ford was attacked)

.. Free advice: Cut their losses, get Kavanaugh to withdraw and promise a better nominee with no baggage later this year or next.

 

Evangelical Leaders Are Frustrated at G.O.P. Caution on Kavanaugh Allegation

Worried their chance to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court could slip away, a growing number of evangelical and anti-abortion leaders are expressing frustration that Senate Republicans and the White House are not protecting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh more forcefully from a sexual assault allegation and warning that conservative voters may stay home in November if his nomination falls apart.

Several of these leaders, including ones with close ties to the White House and Senate Republicans, are urging Republicans to move forward with a confirmation vote imminently unless the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, agrees to share her story with the Senate Judiciary Committee within the next few days.

The evangelical leaders’ pleas are, in part, an attempt to apply political pressure: Some of them are warning that religious conservatives may feel little motivation to vote in the midterm elections unless Senate Republicans move the nomination out of committee soon and do more to defend Judge Kavanaugh from what they say is a desperate Democratic ploy to prevent President Trump from filling future court vacancies.

One of the political costs of failing to confirm Brett Kavanaugh is likely the loss of the United States Senate,” said Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition who is in frequent contact with the White House.

“If Republicans were to fail to defend and confirm such an obviously and eminently qualified and decent nominee,” Mr. Reed added, “then it will be very difficult to motivate and energize faith-based and conservative voters in November.”

The evangelist Franklin Graham, one of Mr. Trump’s most unwavering defenders, told the Christian Broadcasting Network this week, “I hope the Senate is smarter than this, and they’re not going to let this stop the process from moving forward and confirming this man.”

Social conservatives are already envisioning a worst-case scenario related to Judge Kavanaugh, and they say it is not a remote one. Republican promises to shift the Supreme Court further to the right — which just a few days ago seemed like a fait accompli — have been one of the major reasons conservatives say they are willing to tolerate an otherwise dysfunctional Republican-controlled government. If Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, and recent political history is any guide, voters will most likely point the finger not at Mr. Trump but at Republican lawmakers.

.. The reason the prospect of Judge Kavanaugh’s defeat is so alarming to conservatives is that they fear he could be the last shot at reshaping the nation’s highest court for years. If Republicans were to lose control of the Senate, where they hold a 51-to-49 majority, in November, Mr. Trump would find it difficult to get anyone confirmed before the end of the year. Even if Senate leaders were able to schedule hearings and hold a vote, there could be defections from Republican senators uneasy about using a lame duck session to ram through a lifetime appointment that would tip the court’s ideological balance.

.. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal evangelical supporters, said he did not know who was telling the truth, Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Blasey. “But I can say with absolute certainty,” he added, “that the Democrats don’t care who is telling the truth. Their only interest is in delaying and derailing this confirmation.”

.. The importance of the Supreme Court to the Trump White House and the Republican Party is difficult to overstate. Mr. Trump has heralded Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Judge Kavanaugh, his two Supreme Court nominees, as crowning achievements in an otherwise uneven presidency.

.. Conservative groups have spent tens of millions of dollars building the men up as legal luminaries, gentleman scholars and the fulfillment of Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to nominate judges who have “a record of applying the Constitution just as it was written,”

.. A relatively smooth, predictable confirmation fight has also been a key part of Republicans’ strategy to keep the Senate. In the 10 states that Mr. Trump won where Democratic senators are up for re-election, Republicans have attacked Democrats for either opposing the judge or remaining noncommittal.

.. some are also arguing that they cannot be indifferent and insensitive to a victim.

.. But many conservatives see little use in being deferential when, they argue, the Democrats play by no such rules. They look back at the failed confirmation of the Republican nominee Robert Bork in 1987, whose writings on civil rights were picked over by Democrats, and the 1991 hearings for Clarence Thomas, who faced testimony from Anita Hill that he had sexually harassed her, and they see a sophisticated and ruthless Democratic machine bent on discrediting their nominees.

.. “Republicans are right, as a moral matter as well as a political matter, to take allegations of misbehavior like this seriously,” said Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project and a veteran social conservative strategist. “At the same time, we’ve seen anything and everything thrown at Republican Supreme Court nominees for decades,” he added, noting that Republicans have been slow to understand that Democrats are “playing by different rules.”

.. Privately, some conservatives were thrilled that Dr. Blasey and her lawyer have resisted the opportunity to testify in the Senate on Monday and demanded instead that the F.B.I. first investigate her claims. That would be just enough, they said, to give Republicans the justification for moving forward without her. The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, made clear on Wednesday that he would not postpone a hearing past Monday.

.. sets up a fight that Republicans could win in the Senate but might ultimately lose at the ballot box in November. The level of outrage could run so hot among Democrats, who would likely use every procedural and political tool at their disposal to delay confirmation, that it could provide even more fuel to an already energized liberal base.

.. “Given the confirmation theatrics, followed by this allegation that was held until the last moment, this could be seen as another partisan attack and could actually fuel conservative turnout,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

.. Conservatives are likely to use protests and other forms of resistance to Judge Kavanaugh as a way to clarify for unmotivated Republican voters what Democratic control of the Senate means: a Trump-nominated Supreme Court justice would never be confirmed again.

“If Chuck Schumer is majority leader and Dianne Feinstein is chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” said Mr. Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, “it will be open season on any Trump nominee to the federal bench at any level of the judiciary.”

Republicans push to confirm Kavanaugh amid fears it will come at a political cost

Already burdened by an unpopular president and an energized Democratic electorate, the male-dominated GOP is now facing a torrent of scrutiny about how it is handling Kavanaugh’s accuser and whether the party’s push to install him on the high court by next week could come at a steep political cost with women and the independent voters who are the keystone for congressional majorities.

.. Flake lashed out at the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., for appearing to mock the allegations against his father’s nominee on social media, an example of how many Republicans are straining to both firmly support Kavanaugh and not seem hostile to Christine Blasey Ford

.. As GOP senators implored Ford to appear before the committee, there was a range in the tone of statements about her, veering from the flippant — “I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said this week — to the encouraging.

.. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) continued Wednesday to take command of the Republican response to Ford, refusing to budge on his plans for the Monday hearing and dismissing the request from Ford’s lawyers for additional investigation by the FBI.

.. Republican campaign veterans said the GOP’s reliance on Grassley — a sharp-tongued, 85-year-old conservative who has been in Congress since 1975 — as its point person brings complications as voters begin to pay closer attention

.. Supreme Court nominations have become TV shows. And if your cast is mostly older, white Republican male senators, you’re going to have issues in that environment.”

.. rising concerns about how the Kavanaugh issue is beginning to overshadow the Republican campaign touting the GOP-authored tax law and economic progress

.. several top GOP lawmakers have told colleagues that they hope Ford declines to show up for the hearing even as they issue statements urging her to do so

.. Republicans are walking a tightrope in defending Kavanaugh without reinforcing the public perception that the party and president are unwilling to hold members of their party accountable for alleged sexual misconduct against women, including Trump and former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Nomination Is in Big Trouble

Although neither the conservative federal judge nor the White House has given any indication that Kavanaugh intends to drop out, the path to his confirmation now looks much more challenging, and it is one that contains great peril for the Republican Party.

..  Katz described the alleged attack as an “attempted rape,” adding, “If it were not for the severe intoxication of Brett Kavanaugh, she would have been raped.”

.. A bit later on Monday morning, Kavanaugh issued a statement in which he repeated the denials he had made last week. “This is a completely false allegation,” he said. “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone . . . I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself.”

.. It was clear from the comments made by Christie and other Republicans that Ford’s decision to go public had irrevocably altered the political calculus.

.. Charles Grassley, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had scheduled a vote on the nomination for Thursday.

.. On Monday afternoon, he was“working on a way to hear [Ford] out in an appropriate, precedented & respectful manner.” He didn’t mention any public hearings, though, and he seemed to be referring to the possibility of phone calls between the committee and Ford. Grassley is no longer fully in control of events, however.

.. Arizona’s Jeff Flake, said the vote should be pushed back to give more time to investigate the allegations. Because the Republicans only have a majority of one on the committee, they can’t vote to approve Kavanaugh if Flake is not on board.

.. Even if Grassley could somehow secure a “yes” vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, it is far from certain that the full Senate would replicate it.

.. Now they are facing the prospect of sworn public testimony from a highly educated professional woman who has reportedly taken a lie-detector test, and who, according to the Washington Post, has notes from a therapist that show she discussed the alleged attack in 2012 and 2013, calling it a “rape attempt.”

.. Unless Ford’s allegations are discredited, it seems virtually unthinkable that the two moderate Republican women who hold the balance of power in the chamber—Susan Collins, of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska—would vote to approve Kavanaugh.
.. Even the White House appears to have given up any hope of silencing Ford or dismissing her claims entirely. “This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored,” Kellyanne Conway, a counsellor to Trump, told Fox News.
.. He also said that Kavanaugh was “somebody very special” who “never even had a little blemish on his record.”
.. The real question is: Will the White House and Republican leaders actually allow a potentially sensational set of hearings, with all the political risks that would entail, just weeks before the midterm electionsin which they are already struggling mightily to attract women’s votes in key suburban districts? Or will they decide to cut their losses and withdraw the Kavanaugh nomination?