Brett Kavanaugh and the G.O.P.’s Bargain with Trump

Once the Senate Republicans decided to countenance demagoguery, one step led to another.

.. Leland Keyser, a friend of Ford’s who does not remember being at such a party but has expressed her faith in Ford’s account, was also interviewed. A number of Yale classmates who offered portrayals of Kavanaugh as a belligerent drinker, and without whom, Democrats argued, the investigation was incomplete, were not. Neither were Blasey and Kavanaugh.

.. Republican senators, in the interest of getting a conservative nominee confirmed, discounted the apparent lies that he told about his role in Bush-era torture and detention policies and in judicial nominations. And it extends to their decision to tolerate the excesses of Donald Trump, in return for his promise to nominate a conservative. When you decide to countenance demagoguery, one step leads to another.

.. Last week, the Republicans had to put up with the President goading a crowd at a rally in Mississippi to laugh at Ford. Some of Kavanaugh’s supporters worried that this would make it harder for late-deciding Republicans to vote yes. In fact, Trump made the process more humiliating, not only for them but for the entire Republican Party.

.. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, was the only Republican to say that she would not support Kavanaugh.

.. In contrast, the majority of the senators who had made their choice clear weeks ago were allowed to move, unperturbed, toward what was one of the most momentous votes of their careers. They made speeches if it was opportune, but not much else was expected of them, other than party loyalty.

..  Scott Pelley, of “60 Minutes,” asked him if he would have been willing to call for the postponement of the vote if he were running for reëlection. “No, not a chance,” he said. “There’s no value to reaching across the aisle. There’s no currency for that anymore.”

Show How You Feel, Kavanaugh Was Told, and a Nomination Was Saved

When White House aides raised the issue with Judge Kavanaugh, he adamantly denied it and told them he did not even remember her.

.. They did what had never been done in a Supreme Court confirmation and put him on television to be interviewed, choosing Mr. Trump’s favorite network, Fox News.

Judge Kavanaugh, joined by his wife, seemed flat and mechanical as he retreated to the same talking points denying the allegations. Mr. Trump, who styles himself a master of television, thought his nominee came across as weak. Getting the clip of him denying the charges into the media spin cycle was important, but it was not enough.

.. The tide seemed to turn, oddly enough, when a third woman emerged with even more extreme allegations. Michael Avenatti, a brash and media savvy California lawyer who has been careening from one Trump administration brush fire to another, produced a statement from a woman alleging that Judge Kavanaugh in high school attended parties where women were gang raped. The woman, Julie Swetnick, said she was herself gang raped at one such party, though not by the judge.

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, rushed to the floor to insist that “Judge Kavanaugh should withdraw from consideration.”

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a key swing Republican, was so troubled that she took a copy of Ms. Swetnick’s statement, highlighted and marked up, to a meeting of Republican committee chairmen. Senator John Cornyn of Texas went through it point by point with her to debunk it.

.. The Republican senators got into a lengthy conversation about Mr. Avenatti and how he could not be trusted and concluded that Ms. Swetnick’s claims did not add up. Why would she as a college student repeatedly go to high school parties where young women were gang raped? No one came forward to corroborate the allegation, and news reports surfaced about past lawsuits in which Ms. Swetnick’s truthfulness was questioned.

“This was a turning point,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “That allegation was so over the top, it created a moment that was scary, quite frankly. But that moment was quickly replaced by disgust.

The involvement of Mr. Avenatti, who represents Stephanie Clifford, the former porn star known as Stormy Daniels, particularly galvanized Republicans, reinforcing the idea that the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh were a political setup. One Republican congressional official called Mr. Avenatti’s involvement “manna from heaven.” From the other side, a Democratic congressional official called it “massively unhelpful.”

the notion that Mr. Avenatti tipped the scale was “wishful thinking” by Republicans who were bent on confirming Judge Kavanaugh at all costs.

.. credited Ms. Swetnick’s story with forcing Republicans to request an abbreviated F.B.I. investigation. “If it would have just been Dr. Ford,” he said, “I don’t think the investigation takes place.”

.. But Judge Kavanaugh’s angry outburst rallied Republicans. He went so far in expressing rage that he blamed the allegations on a plot to take “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” and he sharply challenged two of the Democratic senators about their own drinking.

During a break, Mr. McGahn told him he had to dial it back and strike a calmer tone. When he returned to the committee room, Judge Kavanaugh moderated his anger and apologized to one of the senators.

.. When Mr. Durbin asked Judge Kavanaugh to turn around and ask Mr. McGahn to request an F.B.I. investigation into the charges against him, Mr. Graham erupted in a ferocious, finger-wagging lecture. Other Republican senators began channeling their inner Trump and lashing out on Judge Kavanaugh’s behalf as well.

.. Ms. Collins said she would find it hard to vote yes without a sworn statement from Judge Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge denying that he saw what Dr. Blasey described.

.. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary chairman, got a fresh statement from Mr. Judge within three hours to satisfy her.

.. the three joined other Republican senators in Mr. McConnell’s office to discuss what the F.B.I. investigation should look like. The three undecided Republicans settled on four people they wanted to hear from

Ms. Ramirez, Mr. Judge and two others identified by Dr. Blasey as being elsewhere in the house at the time she was allegedly assaulted.

.. That night Mr. Graham went to dinner at Cafe Berlin with Ms. Collins, Mr. Flake and Ms. Murkowski. They discussed whether a limited F.B.I. investigation might assuage them.

The list of four witnesses they selected, however, later struck Democrats as so constrained that they demanded a more expansive investigation. In the end, the F.B.I. interviewed 10 people, but not many others Democrats recommended.

.. Ms. Murkowski was struggling with what to do. She asked the committee staff to question Judge Kavanaugh’s friends about their understanding of terms from his yearbook like “boofing” and “Devil’s Triangle” to see if they matched his.

.. “The tactics that were used completely backfired,” said Mr. McConnell. “Harassing members at their homes, crowding the halls with people acting horribly, the effort to humiliate us really helped me unify my conference. So I want to thank these clowns for all the help they provided.”

.. Less helpful may have been Mr. Trump’s decision to mock Dr. Blasey during a rally in Mississippi

.. White House aides insisted that the president’s outburst fortified Republicans.

.. Trump and other Republicans accused sex-crime victims protesting Kavanaugh as protesters paid by George Soros
.. The GOP Senate whip, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), called the victims a “mob” and echoed the bogus claim that they were paid protesters. They deny victims’ very existence; they are non-persons — props sent by opponents to ruin a man’s life.
.. Graham snorted that he’d hear what “the lady has to say” and then vote Kavanaugh in.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he’d “plow right through” (more like plow over) Ford’s testimony and confirm Kavanaugh.

Republicans’ defense of Kavanaugh — that Ford and others were props of a left-wing plot and therefore lacked agency of their own — evidences the party’s attitude toward women.

.. You cannot say a party that embraces a deeply misogynistic president who bragged about sexually assaulting women and mocked and taunted a sex-crime victim; accepted a blatantly insufficient investigation of credible sex crimes against women in lieu of a serious one that the White House counsel knew would be disastrous; repeatedly insulted and dismissed sex-crime victims exercising their constitutional rights; has never put a single woman on the Judiciary Committee (and then blames its own female members for being too lazy); and whips up male resentment of female accusers is a party that respects women.

.. What’s worse is that Republicans who would never engage in this cruel and demeaning behavior themselves don’t bat an eye when their party’s leaders do so. Acceptance of Trump’s misogyny — like their rationalization of the president’s overt racism — becomes a necessity for loyal Republicans.

..  One either agrees or ignores or rationalizes such conduct, or one decide it’s a small price to pay (“it” being the humiliation of women) for tax cuts and judges. It’s just words, you know.

.. The Republican Party no longer bothers to conceal its loathing of immigrants, its contempt for a free press, its disdain for the rule of law or its views on women. Indeed, these things now define a party that survives by inflaming white male resentment. Without women to kick around, how would they get their judge on the court or their guys to the polls?

Who Will Pay for the Mess of the Kavanaugh Confirmation? All the Women.

The lawmaker who is likely to lose the most in this mess is Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a red-state Democrat in a tough re-election race against Representative Kevin Cramer, who suggested that he’d vote for Justice Kavanaugh even if he had sexually assaulted Dr. Blasey.

.. Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, became a target of social media scorn when The Guardian reported she told students that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s clerks “looked like models.” But that didn’t really spur a close look at Justice Kavanaugh’s hiring practices. Instead, Ms. Chua bore the brunt of the firestorm.

.. Ms. Chua and Lisa Blatt, a feminist attorney, have faced enormous pressure to denounce him, with reputational consequences that their male counterparts are unlikely to face.

.. A bigger man than Justice Kavanaugh would have apologized to Renate Schroeder Dolphin for turning her into a high school joke.

A more responsible Senate Judiciary Committee would have taken their claims seriously and demanded a thorough, fair investigation.

And all of us could direct the same energy and opprobrium that we level at moderate women at the men who prejudged the outcome of this process and proceeded accordingly.

What It All Meant

And try to imagine what would have happened if Donald Trump had behaved a fraction that well. Instead of turning everything into a debate about whether the #MeToo movement was really about persecuting men.

.. the president was thrilled when Kavanaugh transformed himself into a ranting boor who demanded to know whether one Democratic senator had a drinking problem and who blamed all his trouble on leftists and Clinton Democrats.

.. it was standing up to yelling men who feel the only problem in this world is that they’re not getting what they deserve.

.. As Senator Lisa Murkowski said when she announced she’d be a no vote, “We’re dealing with issues right now that are bigger than the nominee.” Nobody owed Kavanaugh a Supreme Court seat. His hearing was a job interview, and the Senate had a perfect right to simply decide there was more to consider than whether he had ever molested anybody.

.. In another era Franken could have gotten away with an apology, but he was at the center of a historic moment, when the country had to turn its back on the old boys-will-be-boys ethos that worked when women were supposed to stay home where they’d be safe from wandering fingers.

.. “Boy did he fold up like a wet rag,” Trump laughed at a rally this week in Franken’s home state of Minnesota. “He was gone so fast. It was like: ‘Oh, he did something.’ ‘Oh, I resign. I quit.’

.. This is exactly what the Kavanaugh nomination has come to represent. A vote for the nomination became a symbolic vote for a political ethos that thinks grabbing private parts is fun and complaining about sexual assault is a threat to young manhood.

.. This is a senator whose he-man image is so critical to his identity that he always runs campaign ads in which he shoots offensive legislation with a rifle. Imagine if someone like that had come out against the Kavanaugh nomination — just to say that Americans can behave better than this.

.. Kevin Cramer, who called the Kavanaugh controversy “even more absurd” than the Anita Hill case. And, he added, Blasey’s charges just amounted to “an attempt or something that never went anywhere.” Basically his position was that if there’s no penetration, it doesn’t count.

.. If the powerful can find a way to not take your claim seriously, they will.

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.

 

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?

The Kavanaugh hustle

While Trump is destroying the honor and reputation of the presidency, Senate Republicans are doing all they can to destroy the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

.. They want a Supreme Court that will achieve their policy objectives — on regulation, access to the ballot, social issues, the influence of money in politics and the role of corporations in our national life — no matter what citizens might prefer in the future.

.. His confirmation will be the equivalent of handing the court over to the Heritage Foundation and the legal staff of Koch Industries.

.. It is characteristic of hypocrites to be unctuous and judgmental. How else to describe the attitudes of the GOP senators rushing Kavanaugh to the bench, and their defenders in the conservative legal academy who long to undo 75 years of court precedents?

.. when Democrats on the Judiciary Committee howled about rigged hearings and did whatever they could to bring more information to light, Republicans primly accused them of lacking civility.

.. The talk of civility is laughable in light of the Republicans’ refusal to give Garland — a judge whose quality Kavanaugh himself extolled — either a hearing or a vote. That was not just incivility, it was an abuse of power reflecting the political right’s determination to seize control of the court by any means necessary.

.. But by voting to confirm Kavanaugh, they would be ratifying everything in politics they claim to be against. This is not just about their pledges to protect the right to choose on abortion. It’s also a test of whether they mean what they say about wanting politics to be less partisan and more consensual. Caving in to the power brokers and ideologues on this will follow them for the rest of their careers.

.. If the Trump era produces a backlash so strong that a Democratic president and Congress pass breakthrough economic and social policies, conservatives will count on their court majority to block, dismantle or disable progressive initiatives.

.. This is a fight about democracy itself. Right now, democracy is in danger of losing.