With Brett Kavanaugh, as with Donald Trump, Conservatives Defend a Tainted Nominee

The implication was that the court of public opinion is trying not Brett Kavanaugh but the very idea of the All-American boy—good-natured, mischievous, but harmless. That Brett Kavanaugh was a decent kid who may have erred here and there but only did so in good fun, and that investigating the allegations levelled by Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick in earnest would amount to marching Tom Sawyer, Opie Taylor, and the Beaver single-file to the guillotine.

.. This was what moved Senators John Cornyn and Ben Sasse to seemingly genuine tears during Kavanaugh’s testimony. But it was Lindsey Graham who went apoplectic. “What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020,” he shouted at Democrats during his turn for questions. “This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.”

“Boy, y’all want power,” he continued. “God, I hope you never get it.”

.. The Kavanaugh nomination is now, in part, a referendum on the #MeToomovement—on whether the goodness of successful men, with families and the respect of their peers, should be taken for granted, and whether the women who have suffered abuse, but who don’t possess the kind of evidence a prosecutor might find satisfying, should remain silent and invisible lest they sully sterling reputations.

.. Kavanaugh—by appearing in a prime-time TV interview, and in casting the accusations, incredibly, as a conspiracy against him orchestrated by allies of the Clintons—has shown himself to be exactly the political operative he was when he was working under Ken Starr and as a hired gun for the Bush Administration.

.. He is, backed into a corner and stripped of his robes, the quintessential Fox News man—both gladiator and perpetual victim, another “white male,” as Graham called himself on Friday, told to shut up and go away by feminists and a vindictive left.

.. Belligerent, wounded, proud, timorous, and entitled—a man given to gaslighting and dissembling under pressure.

..  Should he be confirmed, he will have the power to color rulings from the highest court in the land with the biases and emotionality he has revealed this past week until, if he so chooses, he drops dead.

.. Conspiracy theories about Kavanaugh’s accusers—that Ramirez was an agent of George Soros, for instance, or that Kavanaugh’s mother, a district-court judge, had ruled against Ford’s parents in a foreclosure case—were offered not only by the likes of the Daily Caller and Trumpists at the site Big League Politics this week but also by the NeverTrumper Erick Erickson, who has called Ford a “partisan hack,” and a reporter for National Review.

.. It was Ed Whelan—who heads something called the Ethics and Public Policy Center and is a man Washington conservatives consider “a sober-minded straight shooter,” according to Politico—who potentially defamed a Georgetown Prep alumnus with unfounded speculation about a Kavanaugh “doppelgänger,” a theory that could have originated on the right-wing message boards that birthed Pizzagate and are now fuelling QAnon.

.. The kind of discrediting rhetoric that was deployed by supporters of Trump and Roy Moore in the wake of allegations against them—that the charges had come after too many years, that the women bear blame or should be regarded skeptically for being in situations in which abuse might take place—was let loose by respected figures like the National Review editor, Rich Lowry. “Why,” he asked, of Swetnick, on Wednesday, “would she constantly attend parties where she believed girls were being gang-raped?”

.. And the Times’Bari Weiss and the former Bush Administration press secretary Ari Fleischer, both on the center-right, were among those who suggested that Kavanaugh should be advanced even if the allegations levelled by Ford are true.

.. It is often argued by this crowd that broad criticisms of the right risk pushing sensible conservatives toward Trumpism. But the events of the past two weeks have made plain just how illusory and superficial the differences between the respectable establishment and the Trumpists really are.

.. it cannot be said now, as it was in November, 2016, that the man in question is the best or only option for those committed to conservative policy objectives. Backing Brett Kavanaugh is a choice conservatives have made over viable alternatives—qualified conservative candidates who could be spirited through the nomination process before November’s elections or in the lame-duck session by a Republican Senate that has already proved itself capable of sidestepping the required procedural hurdles.

They have chosen this course because the Kavanaugh nomination has presented the movement with a golden opportunity to accomplish two things more valuable, evidently, than merely placing another conservative on the court: standing against the new culture of accountability for sexual abuse and, at least as important, thumbing their noses at an angry and despairing Democratic Party.

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.

 

‘Incredibly frustrated’: Inside the GOP effort to save Kavanaugh amid assault allegation

But Kavanaugh grew frustrated when it came to questions that dug into his private life, particularly his drinking habits and his sexual proclivities, according to three people familiar with the preparations, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. He declined to answer some questions altogether, saying they were too personal

“I’m not going to answer that,” Kavanaugh said at one point according to a senior White House official, who said that the questions were designed to go over the line and that he struck the right tone.

.. “The Republicans need women voters, but all hell will break loose (or it will be chaos) if this nomination unravels,” Dan Eberhart, an Arizona-based GOP donor, wrote in an email. “If we can’t get the nomination done, why vote Republican?”

.. Kavanaugh was calling Republicans on the Judiciary Committee and other key allies, urging them to publicly support him

.. In one key call, Kavanaugh told Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) that Ford had the wrong guy in mind, saying he had not attended a party like the one she described to The Washington Post. He and his allies also privately discussed a defense that would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh, rather than try to dispute that an incident involving Ford had happened.

.. Yet McGahn was originally opposed to a public hearing — as were many within the orbit of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — but it became clear one would have to happen

.. Ford, through her attorneys, said she would be willing to testify publicly, and several potential pivotal votes, such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), signaled that his confirmation could not move forward unless Ford was given a public airing.

.. McGahn has kept other key aides out of the process, afraid they would leak damaging material, relying on special counsel Annie Donaldson and spokesman Raj Shah. He has also talked on several occasions with McConnell, who is fond of McGahn.

.. His tweet on Friday morning in which he directly targeted Ford was not seen as helpful by White House aides, but Trump told senior officials that it was becoming a political issue that could affect the midterms. Republicans did not believe the woman’s claims, Trump added privately.

.. Republicans have also talked about enlisting female lawyers on the committee, who Grassley said would be “sensitive to the particulars of Dr. Ford’s allegations and are experienced investigators,” to the lead the questioning. They might also help the GOP avoid an optics problem of 11 men grilling a woman about her sexual assault allegation.

The hearing could end “without new conclusive evidence either way,” one senior Republican official said. “Members have to determine their threshold for credibility. And that will be the challenge.”

Senate Republican officials had repeatedly vented in private that it seemed, at least to them, Ford’s lawyers were doing more press than responding to their emails or requests for calls. Her attorneys would return that sentiment in kind, complaining in a late Friday letter to top Grassley aides that they would learn of the Republican hearing counteroffer “through the media” and got it officially through the committee “hours after those media accounts first appeared.” On Saturday they accused GOP senators of “bullying.”

.. Democrats are also plotting their own strategy for the hearing. Furious about Grassley’s ­decision to limit testimony to just Kavanaugh and Ford, Democratic aides planned to find other potential witnesses — such as a trauma expert — who could help bolster their case.

.. If they couldn’t be heard under oath, Democrats discussed holding news conferences where those other experts would speak, aides said. A top priority, according to Democratic officials, was ensuring Ford felt supported, whether it was having enough friends and family in the hearing room with her or finding people who can speak publicly about Ford’s character.

We’re not accepting the premise that it’s going to be a he-said, she-said hearing,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said.

.. As for questions for Kavanaugh, Democrats planned to hold nothing back. Democratic staff have been researching the broader culture of the prep academy world in which Kavanaugh lived while reading the writings of Mark Judge

.. Judge, who has said he doesn’t want to testify, has written about how much alcohol he and his classmates consumed while in high school and details about other debaucherous behavior.

.. Democrats also planned to grill Kavanaugh on what he knew about a controversial Twitter thread from Ed Whelan

.. Ford’s July 30 letter outlining the allegations sent to Feinstein and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.). Republican senators, initially cut off from accessing the unredacted version of the letter, prodded Feinstein repeatedly to hand over her copy so they could conduct their investigation.

..  “They want her to publicly testify . . . but the infamous letter is still not public. They won’t allow it to be.”

Kavanaugh ally says he did not communicate with White House or Supreme Court nominee about theory of another attacker

Whelan’s claims on Twitter on Thursday evening that Ford might have been assaulted by someone else raised immediate questions about whether he had spoken to or coordinated with Republican leaders about his theory.

.. Whelan has been involved in helping to advise Kavanaugh’s confirmation effort and is close friends with Kavanaugh and Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society, who has been helping to spearhead the nomination.

On Sunday, Ford noticed that — even before her name became public — Whelan appeared to be seeking information about her.

That morning, Ford alerted an associate via email that Whelan had looked at her LinkedIn page, according to the email, which was reviewed by The Post. LinkedIn allows some subscribers to see who views their pages. Ford sent the email about 90 minutes after The Post shared her name with a White House spokesman and hours before her identity was revealed in a story posted on its website.

.. A White House spokesman said Friday that neither Kavanaugh nor anyone in the White House gave Ford’s name to Whelan before it was disclosed by The Post.

.. After The Post contacted the White House for comment Sunday morning, deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah called a number of Trump allies to warn them about the upcoming story

.. He disclosed Ford’s identity to a number of these people but did not talk to Whelan

.. Other White House officials, including McGahn, also made calls

.. Kavanaugh and his allies have privately discussed mounting a defense that would not question whether an incident involving Ford happened, but instead would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh

.. Whelan also worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1992 to 1995 as a senior staffer to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah)

.. Shortly after Ford went public with her allegations in an interview with The Post, conservatives began floating the idea that she was misremembering the night of the alleged attack — or mistaking the identity of her attacker.

.. “Somebody’s mixed up,” Hatch told CNN

.. “Mistaken identity is also possible,” the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board wrote Tuesday.

.. Whelan hinted throughout the week on Twitter that he was gathering information that would vindicate Kavanaugh and show Ford “got the wrong guy.”

On Thursday, Whelan posted detailed and unverified exhibits as he identified a possible location for the party where Ford said she was assaulted, including a map, floor plans and photos of a house in Chevy Chase and photos of a former Kavanaugh classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School. The theory was discussed on “Fox and Friends” and promoted by right-wing online media outlets such as Gateway Pundit.

.. Ford dismissed the notion that she had identified the wrong person, saying in a statement late Thursday that she knew both men and had “socialized with” the classmate and once visited him in the hospital.

“There is zero chance that I would confuse them,” she said in a statement.

.. On Twitter and in columns for National Review Online, Whelan has been one of Kavanaugh’s most active defenders, pushing back against those on the right who have suggested he is not sufficiently conservative.

.. Whelan is no stranger to controversy online, having apologized in 2009 for revealing the identityof pseudonymous blogger “Publius” and retracted a post in February 2017 arguing that “liberal judicial activism” contributed to the shooting death of a Whittier, Calif., police officer.

Conservative Pundit Points Finger at Another Man to Deflect from Kavanaugh

The White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill tried to distance themselves from the matter, saying they had only learned about Mr. Whelan’s theory when they began receiving questions about it from reporters. But it does bear a resemblance to a defense strategy under discussion in recent days by White House advisers and allies of the nominee in which they would accept that Dr. Blasey was assaulted but would insist the perpetrator was not by Judge Kavanaugh, who categorically denies it.

Mr. Whelan once clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, served as a counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and worked with Judge Kavanaugh in the White House of President George W. Bush. He is a well-connected member of Washington’s conservative legal establishment, an informal network that exercises considerable influence over the choice and confirmation fights of judicial nominees.

Mr. Whelan did not respond to an email or phone calls seeking comment on Friday, but he told The Washington Post in a brief interview that he had not communicated with Judge Kavanaugh, the White House counsel or others at the White House “about the topic of the Twitter thread.”

Conservative operatives who have worked with Mr. Whelan raised doubts that he could have acted alone.

Steve Schmidt, an outspoken critic of the president who worked for Republicans before leaving the party, said that Mr. Whelan had been the “singularly most important and effective outside adviser involved in the confirmation effort” of two earlier Republican court nominees whom Mr. Schmidt helped lead.