There was a plan. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee was going to defend himself in a single one-day Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. There had been no drunken attempted rape long ago. The woman who said that was just what had happened long ago was going to explain just what had happened – in detail. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee would deny it ever happened and that would be that – he’d be off to the Supreme Court in a jiffy. Trump and the Republicans knew what would come next. The women of America would be outraged that this woman was treated as if as if she were either a liar or a ditzy confused bimbo – or some sort of feminist harridan out to destroy a good man, or all men – but the outraged women of America would get over it, because the economy is doing so well, or because Trump is ridding the country of Mexicans and Muslims and Canadians and uppity black football players. That should do the trick, but it was possible that the outraged women of America would not get over this.
Trump and the Republicans could live with that. Who cares what they think? Trump and the Republicans would have their man on the Supreme Court – the swing vote. Abortion would be illegal again, treated as murder, and all forms of birth control would be illegal too – those are murder too. All the equal-pay laws would be tossed out too – to keep America’s businesses humming along. Trump and the Republicans didn’t hide that this was what they expected of this guy. There was nothing hidden about him either. His trail of legal decisions from the past showed exactly what he would do in the future. Women will obey men. That’s the future. That would outrage most women, but the women of America were going to be outraged sooner or later anyway. The might as well be outraged now, to get it out of their system.
Christine Blasey Ford knew what was coming. She was going to be attacked as a liar or a fool. Fine, but she wanted anyone attacking her – as a liar or fool – to base their accusations on established facts. Otherwise, this would be no more than nonsense. She wanted the FBI to investigate the evidence from long ago – not much of it really – that might clear up at least a few things. The Republicans said no. She wanted other witnesses to testify – she named a few. The Republicans said no. She wanted a bit more time to prepare. The Republicans said no – Monday, September 24, or just shut up. If she didn’t show, well, that meant she didn’t really care about any of this and they’d vote to confirm the guy the next morning. And that would be her fault, for not appearing before them to be called a liar and a slut and a feminist harridan by old white Republican senators, sneering at her. They’d have their questions for Brett Kavanaugh – “You’re wonderful, aren’t you?” They’d have their questions for Christine Blasey Ford – “You’re a liar, aren’t you?”
They had her trapped, and then they didn’t:
An attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said Thursday that her appearing at a hearing on Monday to detail her claims is “not possible” but that she could testify later in the week.
Debra Katz, Ford’s lawyer, relayed the response to top staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, requesting to set up a call with them to “discuss the conditions under which Ford would be prepared to testify next week.”
“As you are aware, she’s been receiving death threats which have been reported to the FBI and she and her family have been forced out of their home,” Katz wrote to the committee.
“She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.”
Why the rush? Explain that. Ford’s lawyer put them an awkward position, and there was this:
Amid the maneuvering, the nomination was roiled further late Thursday by incendiary tweets from a prominent Kavanaugh friend and supporter who publicly identified another high school classmate of Kavanaugh’s as Ford’s possible attacker.
Ed Whelan, a former clerk to the late justice Antonin Scalia and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, pointed to floor plans, online photographs and other information to suggest a location for the house party in suburban Maryland that Ford described. He also named and posted photographs of the classmate he suggested could be responsible.
This was Watermelon Dan Burton all over again. Burton led the House inquiry into the death of Vince Foster – he said that was a murder, not a suicide, and Hillary Clinton probably pulled the trigger. He re-enacted the crime in his backyard with his own pistol and a cantaloupe standing in for Foster’s head – and made the tape available to everyone. The cantaloupe became a watermelon as the whole thing became a joke.
Ed Whelan is Dan Burton here – with his “proof” – and of course Brett Kavanaugh was working for Ken Starr on all the Clinton stuff at the time, assigned to determine whether Hillary really did grab a gun and shoot Vince dead. Kavanaugh decided she didn’t do that. He hasn’t yet commented on Ed Whelan’s “proof” of a vast conspiracy in this case, and he may not:
Ford dismissed Whelan’s theory in a statement late Thursday: “I knew them both, and socialized with” the other classmate, Ford said, adding that she had once visited him in the hospital. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”
Republicans on Capitol Hill and White House officials immediately sought to distance themselves from Whelan’s claims and said they were not aware of his plans to identify the former classmate, now a middle school teacher, who could not be reached for comment and did not answer the door at his house Thursday night.
Oops. These guys did not have the Ford woman trapped at all:
Democratic senators, pointing to the highly charged Anita Hill hearings in October 1991, have defended Ford’s request to have the FBI do its own probe before she testifies. Back then, the FBI report into Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against now-Justice Clarence Thomas was finished on Sept. 26, 1991 – three days after its inquiry began, according to a Washington Post report at the time.
“Someone who is lying does not ask the FBI to investigate their claims,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Thursday at an event on Capitol Hill. “Who is not asking the FBI to investigate these claims? The White House. Judge Kavanaugh has not asked to have the FBI investigate these claims. Is that the reaction of an innocent person? It is not.”
Logic can be deadly, so it was time for trivia:
A senior Senate Democratic aide noted that reopening FBI background checks was fairly routine – ten such probes into judicial nominees had been reopened in the past three months alone, the aide said. A Republican aide didn’t dispute the figure but said those updates can be relatively minor, such as adding a nominee’s tax records or educational information that had been inadvertently excluded.
That didn’t change the logic of what Gillibrand was saying, so there was this:
Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee has interviewed lawyers to be potential outside counsel who would lead the questioning in the highly charged hearing, according to two people familiar with the process. If the outside counsel was a woman, it could help with an optics issue facing the 11 Republican senators on the committee, all of whom are men…
A variation of this plan had been discussed since at least Tuesday, when Republicans had discussed a proposal to hire a female attorney and have her do all the questioning, while the GOP senators on the committee would ask no questions, according to another Senate GOP official.
“There is a deliberate and conscious effort to not seem like we are attacking the woman in any way,” this person said.
They know better. Even Donald Trump knows better:
White House aides who steeled themselves for what President Donald Trump would say when he finally addressed the sexual assault allegation against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh were quietly stunned when Trump said the process should be followed and the accuser should be heard.
In recent days, Trump has bragged about the positive coverage he’s received for his response, according to multiple sources. That response has contributed to him continuing to say Christine Blasey Ford should come forward with her story, they said.
So, who is this man and what has he done with the real Donald Trump? This is odd:
Rather than lashing out in anger or defensiveness, Trump said Monday he’d like to “see a complete process.”
“I’d like everybody to be very happy. Most importantly, I want the American people to be happy, because they’re getting somebody that is great,” he said.
Kellyanne Conway was the first White House official to appear on television after Ford came forward publicly. During an appearance on Fox News, Conway said Kavanaugh’s accuser should testify.
“This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored,” Conway said. “I think the Senate is headed to a reasonable approach in that it seems to be allowing this woman to be heard in sworn testimony, allowing Judge Kavanaugh to be heard in sworn testimony.”
There’s only one explanation for this:
Aides have noted that the President’s measured response is partly because the allegation isn’t against him.
That may explain this odd mellowness, but others are not mellow at all:
Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono’s voice dripped with disgust as she evaluated how Republicans have treated the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school.
“You know what? They’ve extended a finger,” the junior senator from Hawaii said in an interview Thursday. “That’s how I look at it.”
She’ll have none of their nonsense:
Hirono has emerged as a leading critic of the GOP’s handling of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against Kavanaugh and one of Ford’s staunchest defenders, eclipsing higher-profile Democratic senators, including some with presidential aspirations who have angled for attention.
The 70-year-old first-term senator has gained national notice for urging men to “shut up and step up,” and telling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a Capitol hallway this week to “do the right thing.”
Hirono can get right to the point:
Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), two potential presidential candidates, grabbed the spotlight during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings by fighting Republicans over confidential documents and pressing Kavanaugh over special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe.
When she questioned Kavanaugh, Hirono made two personal inquiries that have become routine parts of her vetting of Trump’s nominees this year.
“Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?” she asked. Kavanaugh replied, “No.”
“Have you ever faced discipline or entered into a settlement related to this kind of conduct?” she asked next. He said he had not.
She knows Trump’s nominees now. These two questions come first. She knows Trump’s world. She knows our world now.
Jennifer Rubin knows something else too, that this woman isn’t trapped:
Trump, whom a flock of women has accused of harassment and assault, and the all-male Republican contingent on the Senate Judiciary Committee, might think they have Ford cornered. The reality is that she has many options, some of which are far more dangerous to Republicans than what she has demanded, namely an FBI investigation.
Ford might choose to appear on Monday, and make a powerful opening statement accusing Republicans of running a sham investigation.
Rubin suggests she simply make these points:
This concerns attempted rape, something far more serious than the allegations raised by Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas during his 1991 confirmation hearings.
The FBI investigated Hill’s claims within three days (Republicans could have sent the FBI and gotten a report back by now if they hadn’t been stalling).
Mark Judge allegedly witnessed the attack, but Republicans refuse to call him as a witness, so we can assume that they regard him as a person who would harm Kavanaugh’s defense.
Republicans’ insistence that Ford provide even more detail is hypocritical (since they don’t want an FBI investigation) and misguided, given the large body of research concerning memories of victims of sexual assault (e.g., gaps in memory are common).
If Kavanaugh was an excessive drinker in high school, as has been alleged, he’s in no position to testify accurately as to what he did and didn’t do.
Now add these two:
The unsubstantiated attacks on Ford by members such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reveal that they have predetermined the outcome of the hearing. (“She had plenty of chances to bring it up, she did not,” Graham said. “We’re not going to play this game anymore. We [want] Miss Ford to be heard but clearly to me, in August, she hired a lawyer who’s a very activist lawyer, who does not like President Trump and paid for a polygraph.”) But this is no “game,” and Ford has every right to seek counsel to fend off attacks like the very ones that Republican senators are making.
There is no need to rush to a vote in the next few days. None. Republicans have set an artificial deadline for fear that more damaging information might come out.
And here’s the short version:
In short, Ford can use the hearing to put the senators, who have behaved shabbily, on defense.
But wait, there’s more:
Ford has another option: Hold a news conference with her own experts and make the case directly to the American people. She can sit down for an interview with a respected TV journalist. She can say whatever she wants, make certain that experts are heard and even recount the much more extensive investigative efforts undertaken when Hill stepped forward. To make her case to the American people and convince them that she is sincere, honest and credible, Ford doesn’t need the Senate.
Ford also might have the ability to go to local police to investigate if the White House refuses to activate the FBI. The Hill reports: “Can Brett Kavanaugh be investigated for an attempted rape he allegedly committed over three decades ago? In Maryland, it’s entirely possible under the law, according to some experts. Now members of the American public are calling for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to open an investigation, especially if the FBI doesn’t.” That would be a process over which neither the Senate nor the Trump administration would have any control.
Who is trapped here? It isn’t Christine Blasey Ford. It’s those who would trap her:
More American voters now oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination than support it after he was accused of committing sexual assault while he was in high school, with opposition increasing 9 points since last month, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll…
In the poll – which was conducted Sunday (when the accusation from Christine Blasey Ford was first made public) through Wednesday – 38 percent of voters say they oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination to serve on the nation’s highest court, including 27 percent who “strongly” oppose him.
That’s compared with 34 percent who support his nomination, including 25 percent who “strongly” support him. Twenty-eight percent say they don’t enough to have an opinion.
The trap that the Republicans set for Christine Blasey Ford trapped Kavanaugh:
This is the first time in the NBC/WSJ poll – dating back to John Roberts’ nomination in 2005 – that a Supreme Court nominee has been underwater on this confirmation question. It’s also a reversal from the NBC/WSJ poll earlier this summer, when more voters said they supported Kavanaugh than opposed him. In July, 32 percent backed his nomination, versus 26 percent who opposed it (+6). And in August, it was 33 percent support, 29 percent oppose (+4).
This had to happen. The women of America were going to be outraged sooner or later anyway. It happened sooner:
The increased opposition to Kavanaugh has come, in particular, from women over 50 (who were +3 on Kavanaugh’s confirmation in August and are -7 now) suburban women (-6 in August and -11 now), independents (who were +15 in August and -16 now) and seniors (+9 in August to -10 now).
Note the shift was more than women. It was also those who actually like and respect and enjoy strong and smart women, with this obvious exception:
Despite those changes, support for Kavanaugh breaks down largely along party lines.
Republicans are about one hundred percent behind Kavanaugh. Now they stand alone, and there’s another trap for them:
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…
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.”
Trump got all mellow – let’s hear what the woman has to say – and these people hate that:
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.
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.
It’s all slipping away because this president, who called each and every one of the women who ever accused him of anything, ever, disgusting ugly liars, won’t call this woman a disgusting ugly liar. Does he want their vote or does he want the vote of the majority of Americans? It’s one or the other.
They have him trapped, except they’re trapped too:
Even social conservatives who describe Dr. Blasey’s account as part of a Democratic plot to upend the nomination acknowledge the bind they are in. While they decry the process as tainted and unfair, some are also arguing that they cannot be indifferent and insensitive to a victim.
“The worst thing that can ever happen to any woman or man who has been a victim is to shut them down and not listen to them,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that opposes abortion rights.
So listen to them. But don’t listen to them. Each is a trap in its own way – but Christine Blasey Ford isn’t trapped. Say what happened. No one can trap those who do that.