Posts

In Defending His Whitaker Pick, Trump Attempts to Placate Both Republicans and Lawyers

President Trump flew all the way to Paris to (as far as we know) sit in the US Ambassador’s residence rather than attend the World War I remembrance he had flown all that way for. The stated reason was weather — basically some light drizzle in 50 degree temperatures.

I’m reminded that the other most prominent time Trump inexplicably blew off a high profile international event — when he had Ivanka sit in for him at the G-20 in July 2017 — he used the time instead scrambling with aides about how to craft a story about the June 9 meeting.

Given the way the Matt Whitaker appointment is blowing up — on top of persistent questions about the legality of the appointment, stories about the criminal investigation into his firm, (sketchy) claims that the White House knew nothing about his comments or past when they picked him, and additional reports of Whitaker’s radical legal belief, including that states can nullify federal law — I suspect he may similarly be huddled somewhere trying to prevent the Whitaker move from making his plight worse than it already was. (Though he’s demonstrably also working the phones in hopes of squeezing an extra Senate seat out of the process.)

Which is why I’m interested in the two tweets Trump made on the topic last night.

First, while also affirming his qualifications, Trump claimed (falsely) that he didn’t know Whitaker.

Yes, his claims here are narrower than the ones already debunked by his statements on Fox News the last time he tried to install Whitaker. He now admits to knowing Whitaker. But he falsely pretends that Sessions, not the White House, picked Whitaker. And he suggests, incorrectly, that he and others at the White House (including, per the NYT, Don McGahn when he was looking for an attack dog to work Trump’s defense) didn’t have direct contact with Whitaker.

President Trump first noticed Matthew G. Whitaker on CNN in the summer of 2017 and liked what he saw — a partisan defender who insisted there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. So that July, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, interviewed Mr. Whitaker about joining the president’s team as a legal attack dog against the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

[snip]

The decision to fire Mr. Sessions and replace him with Mr. Whitaker had been in the works since September, when the president began asking friends and associates if they thought it would be a good idea, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The goal was not unlike the first time the White House considered hiring Mr. Whitaker. As attorney general, he could wind down Mr. Mueller’s inquiry like the president wanted.

Mr. McGahn, for one, was a big proponent of the idea. So was Leonard A. Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society who regularly advises Mr. Trump on judges and other legal matters. Mr. Whitaker had also developed a strong rapport with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff. Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, was a fan, too.

A team that has spent over a year claiming intermittently that Robert Mueller has a conflict because he interviewed to be FBI Director the day before he got named Special Counsel has made a guy who interviewed to be part of his defense team Attorney General.

All this creates an overwhelming appearance of a conflict, one DOJ’s ethical advisors — if they get the opportunity — would surely say disqualifies Whitaker from overseeing the Russian investigation.

So Trump, with his first tweet, is making false claims to try to deny these conflicts. It’s an appeal to lawyers — ethics lawyers at DOJ, constitutional lawyers questioning the legality of the appointment, and probably Mueller’s lawyers, who’ve been Hoovering up evidence relating to this latest obstruction of justice. This is the kind of performance tweeting Trump does all the time. It has no legal value — the lawyers he’s trying to influence will instead work with actual evidence — but it might lead his supporters to overlook egregious conflicts.

I’m more interested in his second tweet, posted 12 minutes later, touting that Republicans — most who worked or fought campaigns with him in IA — think highly of him.

Along with selling lawyers a lie, it seems, Trump feels the need to assure fellow Republicans (in the wake of losing many suburban women voters in part because of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process) that it will be worth fighting for Whitaker. Sure, Iowa politicians matter for anyone thinking of running for office. It definitely helps that the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee has driven to all Iowa’s counties with Whitaker.

But the key validator here, of course, is Leonard Leo, who has been pushing Whitaker as part of a defense strategy. That is, Leo is not (yet) pushing Whitaker to be a judge, though I think it likely that’s how he expects to be paid off, which makes Leo’s involvement even more suspect. For now, though, Leo is instead pushing Whitaker to help wind down the Mueller probe.

And Trump wants fellow Republicans, who just got shellacked in the House and may not even extend their advantage in the Senate, to risk political capital to defend Whitaker, all the while blowing up a half century of conservative beliefs about appointments.

Yet, even with these two bids to placate two different audiences about the Whitaker move (and all the related bullshit about not knowing what a hack Whitaker is), Trump simply doesn’t address all the glaring problems with Whitaker, starting with the question about whether the appointment is even legal.

It’s always a mistake to underestimate Trump’s survival ability, and it may be that he’ll find a way to persuade the two audiences he’s trying to reassure that Whitaker is worth the risk.

But these tweets suggest a heavy-handed move he probably imagined would bring him salvation has just added to his headaches.

No, Mueller Probably Didn’t Subpoena Trump, Yet

Nelson Cunningham, who has far better legal qualifications than I do but who, as far as I’ve seen, has written very little on the Mueller investigation has taken Politico’s very good reporting on a second appeal involving the Mueller inquiry and started a parlor game among people convinced this means Trump got a subpoena. Jay Sekulow has already denied the report.

Cunningham bases his argument on the following observations, along with the observation that the initial court filings came the day after Rudy Giuliani announced he had completed writing a challenge to an as yet unserved subpoena:

  • The parties and the judges have moved with unusual alacrity. Parties normally have 30 days to appeal a lower court action. The witness here appealed just five days after losing in the district court – and three days later filed a motion before the appellate court to stay the district court’s order. That’s fast.
  • The appeals court itself responded with remarkable speed, too. One day after getting the witness’s motion, the court gave the special counsel just three days to respond – blindingly short as appellate proceedings go. The special counsel’s papers were filed October 1.
  • At this point an unspecified procedural flaw seems to have emerged, and on October 3, the appeals court dismissed the appeal. Just two days later, the lower court judge cured the flaw, the witness re-appealed, and by October 10 the witness was once again before appellate court. Thanks to very quick action of all the judges, less than one week was lost due to a flaw that, in other cases, could have taken weeks or months to resolve.
  • Back before the D.C. Circuit, this case’s very special handling continued. On October 10, the day the case returned to the court, the parties filed a motion for expedited handling, and within two days, the judges had granted their motion and set an accelerated briefing schedule. The witness was given just 11 days to file briefs; the special counsel (presumably) just two weeks to respond; and reply papers one week later, on November 14 (for those paying attention, that’s 8 days after the midterm elections). Oral arguments are set for December 14.

I suspect the subpoena — if that’s what this is — is either for a White House figure (John Kelly or Don McGahn might be possibilities), a lawyer (Trump Organization lawyers Alan Garten and Alan Futerfas both had non-privileged conversations about the pushback on the June 9 meeting, as did Agalarov lawyer Scott Balber), or a journalist (Chuck Johnson and Lee Stranahan have denied having been contacted by Mueller; Hannity would be another possibility).

I’ve laid out the underlying timeline, below. There are three dockets involved in the mystery challenge: 18-gj-41-BAH, which is sealed, and 18-3068 and 18-3071 before the DC Circuit. For point of comparison, I’ve included Andrew Miller’s appeal of a grand jury subpoena in the timeline (which Cunningham doesn’t mention at all), in italics, as well; those docket numbers are 18-gj-34-BAH and 18-3052. I’ve also included some key public reports that Cunningham doesn’t mention that provide key context.

Miller’s docket easily disproves one of Cunningham’s arguments: that the appeal itself was very quick. Miller, like the mystery challenger, both filed their appeal within days (suggesting that timing came from Beryl Howell, not the appellants). With Miller, there was a pause to litigate the issue of Concord Management’s status, but that pause was litigated on the same accelerated schedule as the jurisdictional issue for the mystery appellant. With the mystery appellant, there appeared to be some slam dunk procedural issue for why the Circuit did not yet have jurisdiction. It was suggested to me that the mystery person may not have taken the legal step of being held in contempt before appealing, as Miller did, which would explain the quick jurisdictional response for the mystery challenger.

Miller’s docket also shows that the results of motion to expedite aren’t that dramatic. With no expedited schedule, Miller’s initial schedule (including the Concord litigation) provided him 24 days for his opening brief, gave Mueller 16 days to respond, and Miller 5 days to reply, with 41 days for the Circuit to consider the appeal or a total of 85 days after the filing. As Cunningham notes, the mystery appellant got just 11 days to file the initial brief, Mueller got two weeks to respond, and the mystery appellant got 7 days to reply. The Circuit gave themselves a month to consider the appeal, or a total of 65 days from second appeal. But that works out to be 81 days from the initial September 24 appeal, about the same amount of time as Miller’s appeal. The expedited time here mostly came out of the appellant’s time for the initial brief and the Circuit consideration (which might be a fair outcome given the appeal without jurisdiction); Mueller’s schedule remains roughly similar. It has been suggested that the mystery appellant’s decision to appeal in spite of that procedural flaw may have provided more urgency for the appeal (for example, if Howell had not stayed contempt for the mystery appellant, then the risk of jailing would be greater than it would be for Miller, for whom she stayed the contempt).

Finally, Cunningham doesn’t consider something else in the public record. On October 11, right in the middle of this litigation, CNN revealed that Mueller had given Trump — and Trump was working on — a set of questions pertaining to conspiracy. The other day, Bloomberg reported that Trump had finished answers to that question, but was withholding them pending the outcome of the election. It’s possible that the White House would voluntarily answer questions on conspiracy while litigating a subpoena for testimony on obstruction. Perhaps they would adopt that approach if their subpoena challenge pertains exclusively to actions Trump took as President, and if that were the case, that might explain the real reason Rudy was stalling on returning the answers, to see if the subpoena challenge worked. If that were the case, though, he would have to invent new reasons to explain the delay from November 6 past December 14, when the case will be heard (and he has promised to appeal any subpoena to SCOTUS). Alternately, Rudy could be stalling on the answers to await the appeal and using the election as his excuse just to avoid making this appeal public before the election.

One other thing that might support Cunningham’s argument that he doesn’t raise is Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation on October 6. Having confirmed Kavanaugh might explain the decision to ask for en banc consideration of what is probably a slam dunk procedural issue, in hopes of short circuiting the route to SCOTUS. But everyone in this investigation, including Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s team, have tailored their actions to Kavanaugh’s presence on SCOTUS since even before he was confirmed.

Still, I think all that less likely than other explanations, not least because this White House has never kept things like this secret, nor would they if they could use it to argue that Trump needs a good electoral turnout to keep him safe, legally.

I’m at least as intrigued by the way the timeline overlaps with Don McGahn’s last big press push, around the same time as the initial filing before Beryl Howell. A lawyer like McGahn would also have reason to want to avoid the jurisdictional step of being held in contempt (indeed, if he had been held in contempt, it might explain one reason for the urgency of the appeal). It’s also one possible explanation for why someone would skip that step — another being that whoever is making this challenge is even less well-lawyered than Miller. Finally, if it were McGahn appealing a grand jury subpoena, Katsas’ recusal would be a no-brainer (though he has said he would recuse more generally).

There are, still, plenty of other possibilities, though. And Cunningham’s case is nowhere near as strong as suggested once you compare it with what happened with the relatively anonymous, powerless Andrew Miller challenge in the very same matter.

Timeline

6/13/2018: Date filed (18-gj-34-BAH) [For more on Miller’s stalling, since May 10, on this subpoena, see this post]

7/6/2018: Report that Emmet Flood had been contesting Mueller request for John Kelly testimony for a month

8/10/2018: Date of judgment (18-gj-34-BAH)

8/14/2018: Notice of appeal (18-3052)

8/15/2018: Clerks order to file initial submissions on 8/30/2018 (18-3052)

8/16/2018: Per curium order setting briefing Appellant 9/7/2018, Appellee 9/23/2018, Reply 9/28/2018  (18-3052)

8/15/2018: Rudy Giuliani states, “we’re pretty much finished with our memorandum opposing a subpoena”

8/16/2018: Date filed (18-gj-41-BAH)

8/18/2018: NYT story describing third Don McGahn interview claiming unprecedented cooperation for a White House Counsel

8/30/2018 : Statement of issues (18-3052)

8/30/2018: Motion to extend time to file to 9/10/2018  (18-3052)

9/10/2018: Motion to extend time to file to 9/11/2018  (18-3052)

9/12/2018: Appellant brief submitted; Length of Brief: 10,869 Words (18-3052)

9/19/2018: Date of judgment (18-gj-41-BAH)

9/24/2018: Notice  of appeal  (18-3068)

9/27/2018: Motion to stay underlying appeal  (18-3068)

9/28/2018: Per curium order directing response from Mueller (18-3068)

9/28/2018: Appellee brief submitted  (18-3052)

10/01/2018: Mueller response in opposition (18-3068)

10/01/2018: Appellant response  (18-3068)

10/03/2018: Per curium order dismissing case for lack of jurisdiction  (18-3068)

10/05/2018: Date of order  (18-gj-41-BAH)

10/05/2018: Petition for re-hearing en banc  (18-3068)

10/6/2018: Brett Kavanaugh confirmed

10/09/2018: Appellant brief submitted (18-3052)

10/09/2018: Notice of appeal (18-3071)

10/10/2018: Appeal docketed (18-3071)

10/10/2018: Joint motion to expedite  (18-3071)

10/11/2018: Report that Trump preparing answers to Mueller’s questions about conspiracy with Russia

10/12/2018: Per curium order granting motion to expedite Appellant 10/23/2018, Appellee 11/07/2018, Reply 11/14/2018:  (18-3071)

10/22/2018: Hearing scheduled for 12/14/201 (18-3071)

10/22/2018: Appellant brief submitted; Length of Brief: 12904 words (18-3071)

10/24/2018: Per curium order denying re-hearing en banc (with Greg Katsas recused) (18-3068)

10/29/2018: Rudy Giuliani states legal team has prepared written responses to several dozen questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller but say they won’t submit them until after next week’s elections and only if they reach a broader agreement with Mueller on terms for the questioning

11/8/2018: Hearing scheduled (85 days after filing)

12/14/2018: Hearing scheduled (65 days after filing) (18-3071)

Judicial Watch’s Eighteen Month Soros Conspiracy Theory

Over the weekend, Judicial Watch’s head of investigations Chris Farrell went on Lou Dobbs and referred to the group of migrants Trump has dubbed a “caravan” as a,

highly organized, very sophisticated organization — I have that from the highest levels of the Guatemalan government — they’re investigating those groups criminally, and I strongly urge President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do the same here, a lot of these folks also have affiliates who are getting money from the Soros-occupied State Department, and that is a very grave concern.

When people noted that Farrell had been spewing the same kind of Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy that Robert Bowers had embraced before shooting up the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and that such conspiracy theorizing had led Cesar Sayoc to send a bomb to Soros, Fox took down the segment (but not before showing it twice) and claimed it would no longer welcome Farrell.

Today, Radio Televisión Martí also pulled a Judicial Watch sourced segment attacking Soros in Cuba that Mother Jones pointed to in the wake of last week’s assassination attempt.

Radio Televisión Martí, a network overseen by the U.S. government that broadcasts to Cuba, pulled a video segment it produced months ago that relied on material from the conservative group Judicial Watch and referred to Democratic donor George Soros as a “multimillionaire Jew,” Mother Jones reported last week.

“George Soros has his eye on Latin America. But Judicial Watch, an American investigative legal group, also has its eye on Soros and what it sees as his lethal influence to destroy democracies,” the narrator of the segment says in the video, according to an English translation published by Mother Jones. “It describes him as a millionaire investor and stock market speculator who exploits capitalism and Wall Street to finance anti-system movements that fill his pockets.”

The video also refers to Soros as “the multimillionaire Jew of Hungarian origin whose fortune is estimated at $8 billion” and “a non-believing Jew of flexible morals,” according to Mother Jones.

While the assassination attempt has generated focus on Judicial Watch’s actions, what has not been explained, is how Judicial Watch came to include Soros on its beat, which otherwise for the last several years has remained focused on the themes of the 2016 election (and for basically the history of the organization has been focused unrelentingly on Hillary Clinton). They’re still looking for Hillary emails, and other than a break to push the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, currently spend most of their time trying to discredit the Mueller investigation. They’re even still trying to use Tony Podesta’s involvement in Paul Manafort’s corruption to suggest John Podesta had a role in such things.

The organization is awful, but they’re not primarily awful in an unreconstructed racist sense.

There are some thematic sympathies, to be sure. JW has supported Trump’s Muslim ban. They’ve done some lawsuits on where refugees were resettled under the Obama Administration. JW sued for information on unaccompanied minors in custody under the Obama Administration, claiming they had ties to gangs and other crimes. Even before Farrell’s “caravan” comments, he and JW President Tom Fitton were calling to militarize the border.

Just as notably, the premise behind Farrell’s coverage of this issue and presence on Lou Dobbs’ show over the weekend (though he has been a very regular guest on Dobbs’ show) — that he recently took a fact-finding trip to investigate the “caravan” — is also a departure from Judicial Watch’s normal investigative approach, which involves endless FOIAs rather than reporting trips.

JW is pitching its coverage of the “caravan” as part of its “corruption chronicles” which are normally focused on the US government, perhaps based on its claim that there is financial support for migrants in Central America.

Here’s one of the reports from his trip — which seems more like an effort to air right wing governments’ propaganda about migrants than any evidence of corruption.

The migrant caravan marching northbound through Central America is an “elaborately planned” movement that’s benefiting human smugglers and bringing disturbing numbers of violent gang members and other criminal elements through Guatemala, according to government sources in the capital city. “MS-13 gang members have been detained and coyotes (human smugglers) are joining the march with clients who pay to get smuggled into the United States,” a Guatemalan official told Judicial Watch. People from Asian countries waiting to get smuggled into the U.S. through Central America are also integrating with poor Hondurans in the caravan, a high-level Guatemalan government source confirmed. Among them are nationals of Bangladesh, a south Asian Islamic country that’s well known as a recruiting ground for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). “There are lots of dirty businesses associated with this,” Guatemalan authorities told Judicial Watch. “There’s lots of human trafficking.”

Sandwiched between Honduras and Mexico, Guatemala has been overrun with the onslaught of migrants that began their journey last week in the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. At last count around 7,000 have participated in the trek, a great deal of them rowdy, angry men ages 17 to 40. President Jimmy Morales has ordered the military and police to detain all of the migrants and facilitate their safe return back to Honduras, though thousands have already reached the Mexican border. In a morning interview with Judicial Watch at the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense, Secretary of Defense General Luis Miguel Ralda Moreno said more than 2,000 Hondurans have been sent back home on buses. “We’re doing everything possible to stop the caravan while still respecting human rights,” General Moreno said.

During an afternoon interview at the National Palace, President Morales said that Guatemala has absorbed the huge cost of mobilizing police and military to return thousands of people to Honduras. He would like the United States to help him find the organizers of the caravan so they can face legal consequences. “Mass immigration like this endangers lives,” Morales said. “This is unprecedented. We are in the process of investigating who is behind the caravan.” Morales assures that Guatemala is doing everything possible to curb illegal immigration and asked for cooperation from the United States.

But as it turns out, and as the Radio Televisión Martí piece makes clear,  JW’s attacks on Soros go back further, at least 18 months.

The effort publicly started in February 2017, as tensions between the right wing government and the opposition in Macedonia started heating up. At that point, JW accused Soros of engaging in a “clandestine” effort to overthrow the government, one based on a Viktor Orbán accusation (remember that Orbán is about to shut down Soros’ Central European University, an effort launched around the same time as this JW effort).

Here’s how the clandestine operation functions, according to high-level sources in Macedonia and the U.S. that have provided Judicial Watch with records as part of an ongoing investigation. The Open Society Foundation has established and funded dozens of leftwing, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Macedonia to overthrow the conservative government. One Macedonian government official interviewed by Judicial Watch in Washington D.C. recently, calls it the “Soros infantry.” The groups organize youth movements, create influential media outlets and organize violent protests to undermine the institutions and policies implemented by the government. One of the Soros’ groups funded the translation and publication of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” into Macedonian. The book is a tactical manual of subversion, provides direct advice for radical street protests and proclaims Lucifer to be the first radical. Thanks to Obama’s ambassador, who has not been replaced by President Trump, Uncle Sam keeps the money flowing so the groups can continue operating and recruiting, sources in Macedonia and the U.S. confirm.

With a population of about 2 million, Macedonia has one of the more conservative governments in Europe. This includes the lowest flat tax in Europe, close ties with Israel and pro-life policies. The country recently built a border fence to crackdown on an illegal immigration crisis that overwhelmed law enforcement agencies. Between 10,000 and 12,000 illegal aliens were crossing the Greek-Macedonian border daily at the peak of the European migration crisis, a Macedonian official told Judicial Watch, and the impact was devastating. This is likely of big interest to Soros, a renowned open borders advocate who pushes international governance, diminished U.S. global power and an increase in Muslim immigration. Soros spent tens of millions of dollars to support Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Just this month Hungary’s prime minister lashed out against Soros for funding groups to secretly influence the country’s politics. “Large-bodied predators are swimming here in the waters,” said Viktor Orban in his annual state of the nation speech. “This is the trans-border empire of George Soros, with tons of money and international heavy artillery.”

JW started suing for State documents on Soros’ involvement in Macedonia in April 2017. In May of that year, Mike Lee and five other GOP Senators started probing why State fosters democracy. This year, JW has sued for information on State-funded Soros programs in Romania, Colombia and Albania. The Radio Televisión Martí piece makes it clear they’re focusing on Cuba, too.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is a May 21 piece Farrell did on Lou Dobbs, (this came in the wake of the Concord Management filing complaining about the same, but I’m still working on pulling up the full episode to see if that’s what it was a reference to) in which he claimed that President Obama pursued a policy of regime change overseas, at times funded by Soros, which Dobbs suggested may have prompted Putin’s own tampering.

That is, not only are JW and Dobbs complaining that Soros is undermining right wing governments, but at least once, they made the argument that Soros’ open society work justified Putin’s own tampering in 2016.

Update: This InfoWars piece pointing to JW’s Albanian documents to sustain a claim that JW has proven the caravan is funded by Soros relies on both JW’s FOIAed documents and documents leaked by dcleaks in 2016. While I’m definitely not suggesting a link, by using both JW FOIAed documents and GRU stolen ones, InfoWars ties Putin’s 2016 effort to JW’s current ones.

Update: This post says the conspiracy theory linking Soros to the caravan dates to March.

The claims of a direct link between intentional SºRºS funding and the Latin/Central America ⊂⟑r⟑v⟑n appeared on March 30th. Of course, this was a different caravan. But it is the origin of the larger theme and keywords. It was amplified in April and May by TheBl⟑ze, WND, along with the usual actors, rage blogs, and sketchy K.⟑.G. cyborg accounts. And by MSN headlines, fact checks, and aggressive left-wing “retort” sites.

Let’s begin from the start. To be clear, I don’t mean all the SºRºS-funding rumors, but specifically the damaging Latin America-related ⊂⟑r⟑v⟑n-funding, midterm election impacting one.

Update: The employees behind the Radio Televisión Martí ads have been suspended and may get fired.

The federal government’s state-funded broadcasting arm is placing a number of employees on administrative leave and opening an investigation into how it ended up airing a story this year attacking liberal financier George Soros as a malignant “multimillionaire Jew.”

The story aired in May on Radio Televisión Martí, a Spanish-language broadcaster housed in the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami. OCB is a division of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency that oversees government-funded news organizations around the world.

[snip]

“Those deemed responsible for this production will be immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into their apparent misconduct,” Lansing added. “Disciplinary action appropriate under federal law may then be proposed, including the potential removal of those responsible, depending on the outcome of that investigation.”

 

Photo: Pavan Trikutam via Unsplash

Three URGENT Things: POTUS’ Alert Text, Facebonked, Kavanuh-uh

Let’s get right to it, no time for preamble (and don’t forget to check the byline above).

~ 3 ~

There will be an unblockable nationwide test of the Presidential Alert system on all cell phones today at 2:18 p.m. ET.

This infuriates me to no end, especially after Trump’s insulting bullshit at his fan club rally last night in which he denigrated assault survivor Dr. Blasey Ford. It’s as if he’s going to grab us all by the privates at the same time today without our consent.

Think about it: so much of your private personal life goes through your phone and now Trump’s FEMA has decided it will inject itself into your phone?

Lifehacker has a decent article suggesting some methods for mitigating or avoiding the text if not blocking it — you can read about it at this link.

Make sure you tell friends and family ASAP about this alert so they don’t freak out and aren’t in the middle of something important when this alert shows up.

Pity the poor residents of Hawaii, having to face this crap first thing this morning.

Time zone conversion for the alert:

Eastern: 2:18 p.m. ET
Central: 1:18 p.m. CT
Mountain: 12:18 p.m. MT
Pacific: 11:18 a.m. PT
Alaska: 10:18 a.m.
Hawaii: 08:18 a.m.

Check time conversion at this link. I’m going to shut my phone off at 2:00 p.m. ET and take an hour-long break.

~ 2 ~

The half-assed FBI investigation will likely be finished today; don’t expect to see the Swiss cheese-y results riddled with holes where testimony wasn’t collected. It’s unlikely the public will see this report.

This means McConnell will likely pursue a vote on cloture today to end debate in order for the full Senate to vote on Kavanaugh before the end of the week.

Which in turn means CALL YOUR SENATORS. Yes, even the steadfast Democrats who are unlikely to sway because their offices are being flooded with right-wing calls demanding their poor rich white frat boy judge be seated for a lifetime on the Supreme Court.

Screw that. Just MAKE THE CALLS.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Need a script for your call? @Celeste_pewter has them broken into four categories:

– The Democrats who have already said yes, and won’t flip no matter what.
– The red state Democrats.
– The potential GOP flips.
– The GOP senators who will vote yes, no matter what.

And a universal, all-senators script.

Pick the appropriate script and have at it. (Thanks, Celeste!)

HOOSIERS: Make a special effort to thank Joe Donnelly who came out last night as a NO on Kavanaugh. He is surely being pummeled today by Indiana’s finest red staters.

NORTH DAKOTANS: Heitkamp is down but within margin of error of her Republican opponent. Make sure you call so that she doesn’t feel pressure to backslide.

Trouble getting through switchboard or full mailbox? Try contacting your senators’ local offices. Look them up at:

Contacting Congress: https://www.contactingcongress.org
Ballotpedia: https://ballotpedia.org/Who_represents_me%3F

~ 1 ~

Facebook’s massive breach exposes what a bad, BAD idea it was to allow a Facebook login to become a universal login for other applications. Let’s not forget Facebook has also appropriated users’ phone numbers for advertising without users’ consent. It’s a security cataclysm and Facebook is once again flat-footed.

NEVER LOG INTO SITES WITH FACEBOOK USERID.

Never use the same password for more than one site.

Use a password manager.

Read up here about the problem.

What did I do? I gave up Facebook years ago when it was clear to me they were a security cesspool.

~ 0 ~

Now get going. Run!

Treat this as an open thread.

One Question: Why Kavanaugh?

[NB: As always, check the byline.]

I don’t have anything new to add to the work Marcy has done so far in her analysis of SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony and statements and those of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Nor can I add to bmaz’ criticism of the subsequent investigation.

Voluminous amounts of material have been generated by this confirmation process, including a redacted transcript of a Senate Judiciary Committee phone interview with Kavanaugh released last evening. Myriad questions have been asked about Kavanaugh’s past and his false statements. Given the confirmation process is a job interview, after all we’ve seen and heard publicly, it must be asked: Why Kavanaugh?

Why is the White House and the GOP portion of the Senate Judiciary Committee so deeply invested in Kavanaugh’s confirmation?

Why do they remain staunchly behind him when they’ve long had a list of other identified SCOTUS justice candidates?

Why were those candidates, the first 11 identified in May 2016 during the Trump campaign, inadequate such that Kavanaugh was added later in November 2017 to the candidate list?

Is the man we’ve seen and read so much about really the very best candidate this White House could produce for this lifetime appointment?

Why is a man whose behavior was so disrespectful of the Senate, of the Constitution, of the need for neutral nonpartisan mindset so important that the White House and GOP SJC are willing to burn down what little goodwill remains with centrists and with women and minorities?

Why the sustained commitment to a nominee who so easily lies under oath, in full view of the public?

Why stand so pat behind a nominee whose license to practice law could yet be suspended or worse because he has lied repeatedly under oath?

Do the White House and GOP SJC believe the average American would hire somebody who is supposed to be a careful arbiter of the law but who yells at and lies to his employers’ representatives during an interview?

Why are the White House and GOP SJC willing to risk exposing yet more unpleasantness about Kavanaugh given how much has already surfaced about his iffy finances and his lying about his behavior in high school and college?

Why are White House and GOP SJC willing to risk negatively affecting the mid-term elections with their commitment to Kavanaugh?

Why the investment in social media to prop up support behind Kavanaugh — both in the form of “revisions” to Wikipedia entries related to terms questioned during last Thursday’s hearing, and tweets from the SJC’s account?

Why was a Fox cable network interview necessary for the nominee of a nonpartisan job?

Media is marketing — why does this nominee need to be promoted with the public?

Why haven’t they teased an alternative nominee to test the public’s willingness to support them in lieu of Kavanaugh?

Given an alternative candidate of comparable educational and work history, would the average American as an employer offering a lifetime appointment really pick Kavanaugh over anyone else?

Why are the White House and the GOP SJC insisting Kavanaugh’s confirmation be rushed for what appear to the public to be wholly arbitrary reasons?

Everything about this confirmation process makes no sense; it undermines faith in the Senate Judiciary Committee and may taint the Supreme Court. We must know: Why Kavanaugh?

__________

This is an open thread.

Rachel Mitchell Is Not Very Good at Propaganda

The Senate Judiciary Republicans’ hand-picked sex prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, has released a report that is generating the desired headlines from credulous journalists. It should take reporters no more work than to compare what Mitchell claims in her memo with what actually happened last Thursday to declare it a sham report. But since journalists are reporting it as an honest submission, I guess I’ll have to debunk it.

Mitchell’s report makes no mention of July 1

Start with the fact that Mitchell’s report makes no mention of the July 1 get-together that included all of the boys Christine Blasey Ford has claimed were at the event where she was assaulted. Here’s how Mitchell got Brett Kavanaugh to confirm that fact in the hearing.

MITCHELL: I would like you to look at the July 1st entry.

KAVANAUGH: Yes.

MITCHELL: The entry says — and I quote — “Go to Timmy’s (ph) for skis (ph) with Judge (ph), Tom (ph), P.J. (ph), Bernie (ph) and Squee (ph)”?

KAVANAUGH: Squee. That’s a nick…

MITCHELL: What does…

KAVANAUGH: … that’s a nickname.

MITCHELL: OK. To what does this refer, and to whom?

KAVANAUGH: So first, says “Tobin’s (ph) house workout”. So that’s one of the football workouts that we would have — that Dr. (inaudible) would run for guys on the football team during the summer.

So we would be there — that’s usually 6:00 to 8:00 or so, kind of — until near dark. And then it looks like we went over to Timmy’s — you want to know their last names too? I’m happy to do it.

MITCHELL: If you could just identify, is — is “Judge,” Mark Judge?

KAVANAUGH: It is.

MITCHELL: And is “P.J.,” P.J. Smith?

KAVANAUGH: It is.

So — all right. It’s Tim Gaudette (ph), Mark Judge, Tom Caine (ph), P.J. Smith, Bernie McCarthy (ph), Chris Garrett (ph).

MITCHELL: Chris Garrett is Squee?

As I have noted, Mitchell got Kavanaugh to confirm that Judge, PJ, and Kavanaugh — and other boys, as Ford has testified — were drinking at a suburban Maryland home on a weekday around the same time as Ford’s testimony said the event would have happened. This by itself refutes the key prong of Kavanaugh’s defense, that he was never at a party like the one Ford described, as Kavanaugh had claimed in response to Mitchell just minutes earlier.

MITCHELL: Dr. Ford described a small gathering of people at a suburban Maryland home in the summer of 1982. She said that Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth and Leland Ingham also were present, as well as an unknown male, and that the people were drinking to varying degrees. Were you ever at a gathering that fits that description?

KAVANAUGH: No, as I’ve said in my opening statements — opening statement.

He was at such a party, and the calendars he say validate his claims actually undermine his credibility.

But Mitchell makes no mention of the fact that, in her limited questioning of Kavanaugh, he had both provided possible corroboration to Ford and contradicted a statement he made minutes earlier.

The report makes no mention of Mitchell’s truncated questioning of Kavanaugh, at all

Of course Mitchell didn’t mention that, in her limited questioning of Kavanaugh, she obtained evidence from him that actually helps Ford and hurts Kavanaugh. That’s because she’s utterly silent about what happened in her questioning of Kavanaugh.

That’s important because it obscures both what did happen and what didn’t happen. The Republicans subjected Kavanaugh to just three rounds of questioning from Mitchell before Lindsey Graham took over in a rant almost as belligerent as the nominee’s. Over the course of those rounds, Kavanaugh showed visible discomfort — and a professed need to refer back to the definition of sexual behavior — after Mitchell provided that to him.

MITCHELL: I want you to take a moment to review the definition that’s before you of sexual behavior.

MITCHELL: Have you had a chance to review it?

KAVANAUGH: I have. I may refer back to it, if I can?

MITCHELL: Yes, please.

I’d like to point out two specific parts. Among the examples of sexual behavior, it includes rubbing or grinding your genitals against somebody, clothed or unclothed. And I would also point out that the definition applies whether or not the acts were sexually motivated or, for example, horseplay. Do you understand the definition I have given you?

KAVANAUGH: I do.

In round two, under Mitchell’s questioning, Kavanaugh offered up his first really troubling denial of drinking to excess, including a refusal to describe, in behavioral or even legal terms, what it means to drink too much.

MITCHELL: Dr. Ford has described you as being intoxicated at a party. Did you consume alcohol during your high school years?

KAVANAUGH: Yes, we drank beer. My friends and I, the boys and girls. Yes, we drank beer. I liked beer. Still like beer. We drank beer. The drinking age, as I noted, was 18, so the seniors were legal, senior year in high school, people were legal to drink, and we — yeah, we drank beer, and I said sometimes — sometimes probably had too many beers, and sometimes other people had too many beers.

MITCHELL: What do you…

KAVANAUGH: We drank beer. We liked beer.

MITCHELL: What do you consider to be too many beers?

KAVANAUGH: I don’t know. You know, we — whatever the chart says, a blood-alcohol chart.

MITCHELL: When you talked to Fox News the other night, you said that there were times in high school when people might have had too many beers on occasion. Does that include you?

KAVANAUGH: Sure.

MITCHELL: OK. Have you ever passed out from drinking?

KAVANAUGH: I — passed out would be — no, but I’ve gone to sleep, but — but I’ve never blacked out. That’s the — that’s the — the allegation, and that — that — that’s wrong.

Kavanaugh would go on to deny more specific questions about blacking out, but this initial response shows that Kavanaugh is too defensive about his drinking to be reliable.

Immediately after that second round of questioning, Kavanaugh took his first break.

In Mitchell’s third round, she got Kavanaugh to confirm that he had, in fact, been at a party the likes of which he said he had not been, though she didn’t call attention to that fact. Also in that round, she asked him about his interview with the committee about the alleged assaults.

MITCHELL: Since Dr. Ford’s allegation was made public, how many times have you been interviewed by the committee?

KAVANAUGH: It’s — it’s been a — three or four. I’m — I’m trying to remember now. It’s — it’s been several times. Each of these new things, absurd as they are, we’d get on the phone and kind of go through them.

MITCHELL: So have you submitted to interviews specifically about Dr. Ford’s allegation?

KAVANAUGH: Yes.

MITCHELL: And what about Deborah Ramirez’s allegation…

KAVANAUGH: Yes.

MITCHELL: … that you waved your penis in front of her?

KAVANAUGH: Yes.

MITCHELL: What about Julie Swetnick’s allegation that you repeatedly engaged in drugging and gang-raping, or allowing women to be gang-raped?

KAVANAUGH: Yes. Yes, I’ve been interviewed about it.

MITCHELL: Were your answers to my questions today consistent with the answers that you gave to the committee in these various interviews?

KAVANAUGH: Yes, ma’am.

MITCHELL: OK. I see I’m out of time. [my emphasis]

And that was it, Mitchell was yanked by Republicans before she asked any more questions that helped Ford and hurt Kavanaugh.

Mitchell held Ford’s statements to a much higher standard than she did Kavanaugh’s

Now compare that last bit — where Mitchell simply asked Kavanaugh to judge from himself whether his responses to her were consistent with just the interviews he had had with the committee — with how Mitchell asked Ford to review her statements and point out anything she would change.

MITCHELL: OK.

We’ve put before you — and I’m sure you have copies of them anyway — five pieces of information, and I wanted to go over them.

The first is a screenshot of a WhatsApp texting between you and somebody at the Washington Post. Do you have that in front of you?

FORD: Yes.

MITCHELL: The first two texts were sent by you on July 6th. Is that correct?

FORD: Correct.

MITCHELL: And then the last one sent by you was on July 10th?

FORD: Correct.

MITCHELL: OK. Are those three comments accurate?

FORD: I will read them.

(UNKNOWN): Take your time.

Ford did so, and corrected a number of things that were made, often in non-legal contexts, quite specifically. Her corrections of her non-legal statements were a key part of her credibility, because they showed her to be a careful person with attention to detail.

As a threshold matter, Mitchell assessing the consistency of Ford’s statements across five different kinds of statements: statements to her therapists, her spouse and friends, to the WaPo, before a polygraph, and to the committee. She’s only asking Kavanaugh to validate one kind of statement — his interviews with friendly staffers on the committee — with his responses to her questioning, and her questioning didn’t even touch on the topics of one of those interviews (that is, the other allegations). She specifically left out the Fox interview where (among other things), Kavanaugh defined “sexual assault” to be limited to vaginal intercourse, which is far different than the one Kavanaugh squirmed at when presented with it by Mitchell. That’s also where Kavanaugh claimed seniors were legal to drink, and everyone drank that much, and his friendship with girls extended just to those at sister Catholic schools, not Holton-Arms where Ford attended.

friendship, friendship with my fellow classmates and friendship with girls from the local all girls Catholic schools.

There was even an exchange where Kavanaugh might be taken to have claimed he never met Ford.

MACCALLUM: And to this date, no one has corroborated the story that she has told. As you accurately point out, but is there – so there’s no chance that there was something between the two of you that maybe she misunderstood the exchange that you had?

Nothing ever physical, you never met her, never kissed her, never touched her, nothing that you remember?

KAVANAUGH: Correct

Though earlier, he had said he may have met her, even though he claimed they did not travel the same circles.

KAVANAUGH: I may have met her, we did not travel in the same social circle, she was not a friend, not someone I knew—

And, of course, the Fox interview is where he claimed he was the last American virgin.

Particularly given the content of the hearing, where Ford testified that Squi was the guy through whom she met Kavanaugh, the judge’s claims that she didn’t travel in his same circles appear absolutely false, as do a number of other details Kavanaugh made public. But by narrowly.construing the validation she asked Kavanaugh to make (as compared to the broad comparison she demanded of Ford), Mitchell avoided making Kavanaugh swear that some of his obviously bullshit comments are true and in the process absolved herself of conducting the same assessment of whether Kavanaugh’s claims were consistent over time. And all that’s before you look at other claims — such as that he claimed the 65 women who signed a letter backing him knew him well, including those who went to Holton-Arms along with Ford, even though he claimed he was only friends with Catholic school girls. Or, his comments in the yearbook.

Kavanaugh’s statements would not survive the kind of apples to orange comparison Mitchell subjected Ford’s statements to

Mitchell’s failure to conduct the same scrutiny of Kavanaugh’s statements matters because that’s a key prong of her finding that Ford’s statements were not consistent, of which these two passages are representative of the problems with Mitchell’s claims.

Dr. Ford has not offered a consistent account of when the alleged assault happened.

  • In a July 6 text to the Washington Post, she said it happened in the “mid 1980s.” • In her July 30 letter to Senator Feinstein, she said it happened in the “early 80s.” • Her August 7 statement to the polygrapher said that it happened one “high school summer in early 80’s,” but she crossed out the word “early” for reasons she did not explain.
  • A September 16 Washington Post article reported that Dr. Ford said it happened in the “summer of 1982.”
  • Similarly, the September 16 article reported that notes from an individual therapy session in 2013 show her describing the assault as occurring in her “late teens.” But she told the Post and the Committee that she was 15 when the assault allegedly occurred. She has not turned over her therapy records for the Committee to review.
  • While it is common for victims to be uncertain about dates, Dr. Ford failed to explain how she was suddenly able to narrow the timeframe to a particular season and particular year.

[snip]

Her account of who was at the party has been inconsistent.

  • According to the Washington Post’s account of her therapy notes, there were four boys in the bedroom in which she was assaulted.
  • She told the Washington Post that the notes were erroneous because there were four boys at the party, but only two in the bedroom.
  • In her letter to Senator Feinstein, she said “me and 4 others” were present at the party.
  • In her testimony, she said there were four boys in addition to Leland Keyser and herself. She could not remember the name of the fourth boy, and no one has come forward.
  • Dr. Ford listed Patrick “PJ” Smyth as a “bystander” in her statement to the polygrapher and in her July 6 text to the Washington Post, although she testified that it was inaccurate to call him a bystander. She did not list Leland Keyser even though they are good friends. Leland Keyser’s presence should have been more memorable than PJ Smyth’s.

Note how central the WaPo is to this (and, though I won’t deal with it here, to her timeline of Ford’s disclosures). That is, Mitchell is holding Ford responsible for how a text submitted to a tipline gets developed into more specific timelines that appeared in the WaPo. And she may be holding Ford accountable to inaccuracies in the WaPo story and her therapist’s report, neither of which Ford had final control over.

Plus, Mitchell is absolute incorrect when she claims that Ford offered no explanation for how she narrowed in on the summer of 1982 for the assault — because, given that she didn’t drive, it must have been before she got her driver’s license.

MITCHELL: In your polygraph statement you said it was high school summer in ’80s, and you actually had written in and this is one of the corrections I referred to early and then you crossed that out.

Later in your interview with The Washington Post, you were more specific. You believed it occurred in the summer of 1982 and you said at the end of your sophomore year.

FORD: Yes.

MITCHELL: You said the same thing I believe in your prepared statement.

How were you able to narrow down the timeframe?

FORD: I can’t give the exact date. And I would like to be more helpful about the date, and if I knew when Mark Judge worked at the Potomac Safeway, then I would be able to be more helpful in that way.

So I’m just using memories of when I got my driver’s license. I was 15 at the time. And I — I did not drive home from that party or to that party, and once I did have my driver’s license, I liked to drive myself.

It’s remarkable Mitchell completed ignored this explanation, because mapping relationships in time via what friends drove him is something Kavanaugh did, too.

MITCHELL: And how did you know Patrick Smyth?

KAVANAUGH: Also ninth grade, Georgetown Prep. Went by P.J. then. He and I lived close to one another. Played football together, he was defensive tackle, I was the quarterback and wide receiver. We carpooled to school along with De Davis (ph) every year, the three of us for two years. I didn’t have a car, so one of the two of them would drive every day. And I’d be in the (ph), you know, they’d pick me up.

All of which is to say the key basis by which Mitchell declares Ford unreliable is a methodology she protects Kavanaugh from. Had she subjected him to the same treatment, he would have looked far more unreliable.

Both witnesses had short term memory loss

The same is true of Mitchell’s claim that Ford struggled to remember details of the recent past.

Dr. Ford has struggled to recall important recent events relating to her allegations, and her testimony regarding recent events raises further questions about her memory.

  • Dr. Ford struggled to remember her interactions with the Washington Post.

[snip]

  • Dr. Ford refused to provide any of her therapy notes to the Committee.
  • Dr. Ford’s explanation of why she disclosed her allegations the way she did raises questions.
  • Dr. Ford could not remember if she was being audio- or video-recorded when she took the polygraph. And she could not remember whether the polygraph occurred the same day as her grandmother’s funeral or the day after her grandmother’s funeral.

First, the second and third bullets are not memory issues at all — she treats the anxiety of coming forward, and the differing choices she made, as a memory issue rather than a stress one.

But as to the others, she holds Ford accountable for interactions with the WaPo, not all of which may be her doing. And she treats uncertainty about a foreign process, the polygraph, as a memory issue.

And Kavanaugh himself had troubles remembering something even more recent — how many times he had been interviewed by the committee, three or four.

MITCHELL: Since Dr. Ford’s allegation was made public, how many times have you been interviewed by the committee?

KAVANAUGH: It’s — it’s been a — three or four. I’m — I’m trying to remember now. It’s — it’s been several times. Each of these new things, absurd as they are, we’d get on the phone and kind of go through them.

There’s likely a good reason for this memory loss: the committee has only released transcripts from two conversations. So if there were four interviews, it suggests there may be two where he was massaging his story. Whatever the explanation, though, these interviews were just weeks and days before this hearing, and Kavanaugh couldn’t remember them.

In short, this report is an attack on Ford. It’s not a measure of a he said she said dispute. To assess such a dispute, Mitchell would have had to examine how badly Kavanaugh flubbed his responses to her.

And she wasn’t paid for that kind of scrutiny.

Kavanaugh’s Tell: “Revenge on Behalf of the Clintons,” Plural

There’s a part of Brett Kavanaugh’s bombastic statement Thursday that has stuck with me, because it reveals the foundational logic of his statement — indeed, his entire candidacy for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.

After complaining about how the nomination has destroyed his family, he accuses a shady, largely fictional, mirror image of the Right Wing Noise Machine of seeking revenge.

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions, from serving our country.

The guy who insisted that–

I am strongly opposed to giving the President any ‘break’ in the questioning regarding the details of the Lewinsky relationship — unless before questioning on Monday, he either (i) resigns or (ii) confesses perjury and issues a public apology to [sexual assault cover-up expert Ken Starr].

That guy thinks the scrutiny of his own sexual past is just “revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” plural. Not just Hillary for — as he explicitly mentions — “President Trump and the 2016 election.” But also Bill Clinton, the man whom Kavanaugh demanded describe details of his use of sex toys and enjoyment of blowjobs under oath, and perhaps even Chelsea, the young girl who had to watch her parents be humiliated before the entire nation.

In spite of Kavanaugh’s suggestion that this imagined campaign would have consequences for decades, his admission that it might be revenge means it must be revenge for something. For something done to the Clintons. Hillary. And Bill.

For a guy who is unashamed about using stolen emails, the notion that he considers this revenge for Hillary is troubling enough. If this is revenge, it is revenge for Hillary being wronged during the 2016 election, and a big part of that wrong was using stolen emails. And Kavanaugh is no more embarrassed about using stolen emails than the guy who appointed him.

Kavanaugh suggests, in the same breath, that Hillary was wronged, but that denying him a seat on the Supreme Court, even for behavior that resembles that wrong, would be an outrage, even if his nomination was due entirely to the fact that she was wronged.

Brett Kavanaugh is not going to quit, no matter if his entire nomination is illegitimate because Hillary was wronged.

Perhaps more plausibly, Kavanaugh’s use of the plural, “Clintons,” suggests he thinks this is revenge for his own actions 20 years ago, his own demand that a man and his family be publicly humiliated.

But, again, if this is revenge, it suggests what happened to Clinton — the insistence that Bill confess under oath to Kavanaugh about cumming into Monica’s mouth — was itself wrong.

And once again, Brett Kavanaugh, the guy whose career was launched by demanding to hear the sordid details of sex under oath, does not care. Kavanaugh does not care that (as David Brock laid out early in this process) he himself “set a perjury trap for Clinton, laying the foundation for a crazed national political crisis and an unjust impeachment over a consensual affair.” He may recognize this as revenge and in so doing acknowledge that it is akin to the coordinated campaign he wrongly assumes is amassed against him, but he does not care that Democrats are (he imagines) adopting his own playbook.

You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit. Never.

In using that word “revenge” and imagining that Democrats are exacting revenge for both the Clinton impeachment and the use of corrupt means as a means of winning the 2016 election, Kavanaugh admits that he’s just getting a taste of the medicine he once administered. But his response to that is not to take a step back from the edge of the abyss that he himself created (and imagines himself to be standing on), take a step back with the recognition that he himself is not immune from his own tactics, but instead to complete the next logical step, the adoption of those same measures on the highest court of the land.

Never mind that by imagining credible questions about his past treatment of women is solely about the Clintons strips the agency of the millions of women trying to prevent abusers from again getting promoted in spite of it.

Kavanaugh, wrongly, thinks this is revenge for tactics he pioneered long ago. Having faced those tactics and discovered how painful they are, he has doubled down.

On Squi and the 65-Lady Letter

This is an insight I owe entirely to a reader, BI.

There should be an explanation for why Christine Blasey Ford was (presumably) not invited to be on the 65-lady letter backing Brett Kavanaugh pulled together just as allegations of sexual assault became public.

In spite of the fact that it got entered into the record multiple times in Thursday’s hearing, it already had diminishing value as a measure of Kavanaugh’s character. After Ford’s identity was made public, some of the women who signed the letter grew reluctant to stand by their support publicly.

Five of the women who signed the letter declined to comment when reached by POLITICO following the public revelation of Ford’s identity.

Dozens of others either didn’t respond to POLITICO’s inquiries or could not be reached.

The AP reported that “more than a dozen” stood by the letter after Ford came forward, which is not 65.

More strikingly, one of the signers of the letter, Renate Schroeder Dolphin, upon realizing that she was mocked in the yearbooks of 14 boys, including Kavanaugh, spoke instead about how hurtful his circle of friends was.

This month, Renate Schroeder Dolphin joined 64 other women who, saying they knew Judge Kavanaugh during their high school years, signed a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is weighing Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. The letter stated that “he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”

When Ms. Dolphin signed the Sept. 14 letter, she wasn’t aware of the “Renate” yearbook references on the pages of Judge Kavanaugh and his football teammates.

“I learned about these yearbook pages only a few days ago,” Ms. Dolphin said in a statement to The New York Times. “I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”

So the letter should not, now, be treated as a validating document.

That said, if Ford was not invited to be on the letter, then it is itself proof that the letter does not reflect the views of all the women who were spending time with Kavanaugh during the summer in question.

Having spoken to some folks who were in these circles at the time, I’m not at all suspicious of the explanation behind how the letter came together immediately after Ford’s allegations — but not her identity — were made public.

It started as a series of phone calls among old high-school friends and ended up embroiling 65 women in the firestorm over a sexual assault allegation that could shape the Supreme Court.

In a matter of hours, they all signed onto a letter rallying behind high court nominee and their high school friend Brett Kavanaugh as someone who “has always treated women with decency and respect.”

I don’t regularly use Facebook. I’m not even in close contact with friends from college (who remain a tight-knit network), much less either of my high schools. But for those who do remain close with friends from their youth, especially on Facebook, such a feat would be easy to do. The network that remains close would easily come up with 65 signers. (For what it’s worth, the one network from my youth where I could be relied on to pipe up this quickly includes at least two men I know raped women in the women in the network.)

But Ford presumably wasn’t invited to be on the letter.

There are several possible explanations why she wouldn’t be, but both discredit the letter itself.

The most plausible is that she simply doesn’t run in those circles anymore. She lives on the west coast, she suffered a trauma associated with this network, she found socializing generally more difficult in the years immediately after the assault, which would have been precisely the period when she might keep up those ties.

That’s all well and good, except testimony in Thursday’s hearing makes clear that — regardless of what happened between Kavanaugh and Ford — she is one of the women who might have insight on his behavior at the time. That’s because both Kavanaugh and Ford each spent a lot of time, individually and (at least according to Ford) together that summer with the guy Ed Whelan falsely accused of the assault, whom I’ll refer to only as Squi.

On 13 occasions, Kavanaugh refers to someone named “Squi” on his calendar. It’s the name that crops up the most. Kavanaugh and Squi, who played on the Georgetown Prep football team with him, went to a Washington Bullets game, to Squi’s house in Rehoboth, to see movies, to the beach. On July 1, Kavanaugh, Judge, PJ, Squi and two others go to “Timmy’s for skis” — an apparent reference to going to a friend’s house for beers (“brewskis”).

[snip]

Ford explained. The shared connection to Kavanaugh was the person who Whelan suggested might be the real culprit.

“How long did you know this person?” Mitchell asked.

“Maybe for— a couple of months we socialized,” Ford replied. “But he also was a member of the same country club, and I knew his younger brother as well.” That was a couple of months prior to the alleged attack, Mitchell clarified.

Mitchell then asked Ford to explain the nature of her relationship with that person.

“He was somebody that, I will use the phrase ‘I went out with,’ ” Ford said, using air quotes. “I wouldn’t say ‘date.’ I would say ‘went out with’ for a few months. That was how we termed it at the time.”

[snip]

Ford, in other words, claims that she had been going out with Squi for months before the alleged incident in the summer of 1982. Kavanaugh’s calendar from that year shows that he spent a lot of time with Squi as well. And Kavanaugh further alleges that he “may” have met Ford but that they “did not travel in the same social circle” and that “she was not a friend, not someone I knew.”

Ford went out with Squi (though earlier than the assault, it sounds like), and Kavanaugh spent tons of time with him. If you want to know how Kavanaugh and his buddies treated women that summer, you’d want to ask the women who were dating his buddies. But the letter signers apparently didn’t ask Ford.

Which means they asked a sample of women who remain close whether Kavanaugh treated women well, not the sample that might be best situated to attest to how he treated women that summer. (It’s also possible that Kavanaugh treated the girls from Georgetown Prep’s sister Catholic schools differently than they treated girls from other schools, though the letter includes women who attended both Catholic and non-Catholic schools.)

Of course, there’s a more nefarious possibility, the counterpart to the nefarious possibility that Ed Whelan targeted Squi precisely because he had learned who Ford was before her name became public and knew her connection to Kavanaugh went through Squi and knew that by falsely accusing Squi (who signed the male letter of support for Kavanaugh but has since gotten furious at being falsely accused of assault), he would discredit a key piece of evidence showing that Kavanaugh did travel in the same circles as Ford. That nefarious counterpart possibility is that enough women heard of the attempted rape at the time, knew which woman had been victimized, and so when calling around for supporters, avoided Ford.

The former is the more likely explanation: that the circle of women who — before knowing Ford’s identity, at least — were willing to make a show of a support for a powerful man who was about to become even more powerful, self-selected for those remain close to those who did have positive experiences with this crowd back in the day.

But if it is indeed true that Ford was not asked to sign, then it cannot be considered the proper sample to understand how Kavanaugh was treating women that summer.

The Record Supports Christine Blasey Ford

This may sound counterintuitive. But the Republican-led whitewash hearing into allegations that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford actually ended up supporting her case, not Kavanaugh’s.

Ford withstood Rachel Mitchell’s interrogation

As bmaz noted, the Republicans hired a skirt: Maricopa sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell.

Mitchell conducted all of the questioning — save one impetuous outburst from Lindsey Graham — of Ford. And Mitchell tried diligently to challenge Ford’s account. She started by asking Ford to review all her statements and correct and inconsistencies in her past statements, something she did not do thoroughly with Kavanaugh. She then challenged Ford’s story in a few places, first by shadowing the Ed Whelan theory that the house in question must belong to the parents of Kavanaugh’s doppelganger, Chris Garrett (later testimony would make clear Garrett was how Ford first got introduced to the Kavanaugh crowd); Ford dismissed that by answering that the house in question might be in a broader area. Mitchell tried to suggest that Ford’s symptoms — including PTSD and anxiety — might come from other reasons; but because this is Ford’s academic expertise, Ford swatted those away with science. Mitchell made much of the fact that Ford declined to travel to DC in spite of her dislike of air travel, even though she travels for a yearly family visit and vacations. Mitchell also tried to insinuate that some political actors either coached her or paid for Ford’s polygraph, but Ford’s lawyers pointed out they had paid for it, as is the norm. And Ford’s own timeline simply didn’t support the claim she was politically coached. Mitchell invented a claim, out of an indistinct claim by Ford, that she had wanted to keep her testimony confidential up until the original hearing. In the end, Mitchell got Ford to admit — relying on her expertise — that five minute sessions like this hearing weren’t the best way to get the truth from victims of trauma, which would seem to support a longer investigation, not the kind of hearing Mitchell had been paid to star in.

Ford withstood all those questions with grace (and the timely intervention of her attorneys).

Kavanaugh spent 45 minutes ranting like a belligerent drunk

Chuck Grassley unwisely let each witness take as much time as they wanted for opening statements.

After Ford took a normal amount of time, Kavanaugh, bidding for Trump’s support, took a full 45 minutes for his statement.

His statement was delivered shrilly, with an angry red face, just short of screaming. Coming after hours of testimony he was sometimes a violent drunk, Kavanaugh looked during his statement like the drunk you avoid in the parking lot of a bar, because it’s just not worthwhile human interaction. I don’t rule out him drinking while watching Ford’s testimony, nor did others.

In short, Kavanaugh looked like a guy who could not manage rage, just as numerous witnesses had described him being as as a drunk.

The Mark Judge Safeway timing suggests a late June/early July assault

One reason Ford repeatedly said she’d like an FBI interview is because she assumed that if she could date an exchange she had with Mark Judge after her assault, she might be able to narrow down when the actual event occurred. Republicans want to avoid having Judge’s public comments about drunken debauchery in the time period reviewed by any credible questioner.

Judge has written about that in his book, describing working at the local Safeway for a few weeks to pay for Football camp.

According to Kavanaugh’s calendar, football camp started on August 23 that year.

Ford testified that her exchange with Judge took place 6 to 8 weeks after the incident.

Ford: We had always been friendly with one another. I wouldn’t characterize him as not friendly. He looked ill. Says it happened 6-8 weeks after the incident.

If Judge was working for the few weeks prior to Football camp to pay for it and his and Kavanaugh’s exchange with Ford happened 6 to 8  weeks earlier, that would put the assault in early July.

That would mean this entry, for an event on Thursday, July 1, 1982, in Kavanaugh’s calendar would be solidly within that range.

The Republicans fire their prosecutor after she corroborates Ford’s story

And Kavanaugh’s testimony actually supports Ford.

Start with the claim, in his opening rant, that he usually only drank on weekends. That makes no sense because Judge’s book about the period describes being dysfunctionally hungover routinely while he worked at the Potomac Safeway to earn money for Football camp.

Kavanaugh claims this had to be a weekend bc they all worked. But Judge said he routinely went to work badly hungover.

Then Mitchell started questioning Kavanaugh. She started by asking him to review the definition of sexual assault, as she asked Ford to do. Kavanaugh got a weird set to his lips.

Shortly thereafter, she turned to his calendar, getting him to confirm that he wrote everything in there. In her next round, Mitchell’s first questions were about the July 1 entry. After filibustering about the earlier workout session (about which he wasn’t asked), Kavanaugh admitted that the entry showed he got together at Tim Gaudet’s —  with Mark Judge and PJ Smith — and Chris Garrett, whose nickname is Squi.

In other words, Kavanaugh confirmed he was at a small gathering with the boys Ford said were there, as well as the guy who had introduced her to these boys.

Durbin’s questioning followed, after which Lindsey Graham took over questioning from Mitchell and went on a tear, calling it an unethical sham. Having gotten Kavanaugh to identify a get-together that matched Ford’s description, Mitchell was done questioning for the day.

Effectively, the GOP hired a prosecutor to question a victim, but decided the alleged perpetrator could not withstand the same prosecutor’s questions as soon as she had him identify a get-together that resembled the one described by Ford.

Kavanaugh thrice stopped short of denying being a blackout drunk

One problem with Kavanaugh’s testimony is that he and his alleged accomplice, Mark Judge, are reported to be blackout drunks. Judge even wrote a book admitting to the fact. So Kavanaugh went to some lengths trying to avoid admitting that he had ever blacked out, even while he admitted, “I like beer,” over and over.

The first came, in her first round, when Mitchell asked Kavanaugh what he considered too many beers.

Mitchell: What do you consider to be too many beers?

Kav: I don’t know, whatever the chart says.

[snip]

Mitchell: Have you ever passed out from drinking?

Kav: Passed out would be no, but I’ve gone to sleep. I’ve never blacked out. That’s the allegation, and that’s wrong.

That’s when Republican Senators started to look worried. They gave Kavanaugh one of his three lifeline breaks.

Kavanaugh repeatedly dismissed his freshman roommate’s claim that he was a shy man who became belligerent after drinking by pointing to the squabble that one freshman roommate had with another, as if the normal animus between freshman roommates makes the observation of one invalid.

Finally, Blumenthal raised an incident from college that Kavanaugh had admitted he didn’t recall, only to have Kavanaugh insist he remembered all of it.

Let me ask you this. In a speech that you gave, you described, quote, falling out of the bus onto the front steps of the Yale Law School, at 4:45 AM.

Kavanaugh interrupted to try to prevent Blumenthal from finishing the quote.

The quote ends that you tried to piece things back together, end quote, to recall what happened that night. Meaning?

I know what happened. I know what happened that night.

The appellate court judge actually didn’t claim that he remembered it, just that he knows what happened.

Kavanaugh refuses to call Mark Judge

As a reminder, Ford alleges that Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in the presence of admitted dead drunk Mark Judge. Republicans refused to call Judge over and over.

Then Kavanaugh refused to answer questions about Judge’s own accounts of the period. In response to a question from Patrick Leahy about whether he was the drunk described as Bart O’Kavanaugh in Judge’s book, Kavanaugh refused to answer.

3rd Q: Are you Bart O’Kavanaugh.

Kav: not answering.

Kav finally says, “you’d have to ask him.” Which is the point.

Blumenthal noted to Kavanaugh that Judge’s statement was just six cursory and conclusory sentences signed by Judge’s lawyer, not a sworn statement.

So here’s what we saw yesterday: Christine Blasey Ford was unflappable and consistent. By comparison, Kavanaugh — at least in his statement — appeared to be precisely what he denied he was. His denials that he was a blackout drunk (and therefore that he assaulted Ford but didn’t remember it) were not credible and stopped well short of supporting his claim. And his own calendar, and the Republicans own prosecutor, identified a get-together that matches the time and attendees identified by Ford.

The GOP tried to set up a whitewash of this evidence. But instead, it failed, and they were left with screaming men.

And that won’t stop them from voting out his nomination.

Contra Kavanaugh, Redux

[NB: CHECK THE BYLINE.]

I wanted to put this post up earlier for the purposes of an open thread to accompany today’s political theater — I mean, the next Kavanaugh hearing.

Unfortunately I have been too upset to touch my keyboard. It was Rachel Mitchell’s grilling of witness Dr. Ford, treating her like a criminal instead of a victim, which flipped my switch.

Oh I am wholly enraged now. Do NOT fuck with me today.

I can see all the women in my multiple social media timelines equally upset and angry, swaying back and forth between crying and raging at the Republican assholes seated as Senate Judiciary Committee members.

Even now Grassley is interrupting the hearing’s flow to insert his own testimony of the timeline to questioning Dr. Ford, thereby reducing the amount of time the Democratic members have to question Dr. Ford. It’s a filibuster and he can’t yet explain why he didn’t ask for an FBI investigation.

Absolutely enraging.

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and the subsequent abuse of Dr. Ford has been a gross unforced error on the part of the Republican Party and the Trump administration. The questionable election of admitted sexual abuser Trump encouraged the largest number of women ever to run for public office. The 116th Congress will be very different because of this ongoing pink wave, first seen in the streets the day of the 2017 Women’s March.

This hearing and everything that led up to it will trigger an avalanche, a tsunami.

Get your rage on, let it out here. Burn it down and salt the earth, pave the way for that massive wave to come.

“In exchange for fire we women
Were made, another fire, greater
Much harder to fight.”

“We are women: in some things, we hesitate.
But in others, no one can surpass our courage.”
— Euripides

Gods help Kavanaugh when he appears later today. Gaia may slip her axis if he and the GOP senators fuck up any more badly than they have with women.

UPDATE: Kavanaugh’s performance today proved he does not have the appropriate judicial temperament appropriate to his current job let alone the Supreme Court.

CALL YOUR SENATORS NOW and tell them to vote NO on Kavanaugh.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

If their D.C. line is busy or their mailbox is full, try contacting your senators’ local office numbers. Time is of the essence given the Republicans are meeting this evening to tally votes.