Kavanaugh Hearing: The Whole Tangled Mess

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To finish the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, the Senate Judiciary Committee has one last hurdle to clear — an allegation from more than three decades ago.

Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor at Palo Alto University. Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh and a second person assaulted her at a house party in 1982 in Bethesda, Maryland.

The allegation has halted Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. He sat through his confirmation hearing Sept. 4-7 before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The allegation was first brought to light the following week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Sept. 27 to listen to testimony from both Ford and Kavanaugh. Ford sat before the committee and laid out the details from her allegation. Kavanaugh laid out his case for why he is innocent.

The Intercept first reported about the allegation, saying that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) possessed a letter from a constituent. The letter described “an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school,” according to the report from The Intercept.

That report was published on Sept. 12. On Sept. 13, CNN published a separate report confirming that Feinstein had received a letter about the allegation, and that she had given the information to the FBI. The FBI did not open a criminal investigation.

It wasn’t until Sept. 16 that Ford’s name was introduced. In an interview with the Washington Post, Ford said that she was corralled into a bedroom at a party by two teenagers who were “stumbling drunk.” She named the two then-teenagers as Kavanaugh and Mark Judge.

Ford told the Washington Post that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her over her clothes. She said that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand to muffle her screams, and tried to remove her clothing.

Kavanaugh made a categorical denial that the party ever happened. Judge has also denied the assault happening, saying that he has never known Brett to do anything like that. Judge said in a written statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he didn’t the recall the described party ever happening.

From the time that Ford’s name was connected to the allegation against Kavanaugh, politicians, and pundits from both the Right and the Left have gone back and forth about the legitimacy of her claim. People on the Left say that Kavanaugh’s confirmation should be delayed until an investigation can conclude if the event ever happened. People on the Right accuse the Left of using the allegation as a stall tactic to delay the confirmation vote.

The U.S. Supreme Court begins its new term on Oct. 1. If Kavanaugh is confirmed after this date, he will sit on the bench, but won’t be able to vote on any cases where he wasn’t present for oral arguments. At a later date in October, the Senate will break for last-minute campaigning.

The midterm elections take place on Nov. 6. Between Nov. 7 and Jan. 3, 2019, when the new Congress is sworn in, the current Congress will be in a “lame duck” session. The window for the current Senate to confirm Kavanaugh is closing, and is the reason why the Right says the allegation is only a stall tactic.

It happened during the early 1980s

In her letter, Ford alleged that the incident happened “during the early 1980s.” She said in her letter that she was 15 years old at the time, and that Kavanaugh was 17 years old. She said she was headed to a bathroom in the house she was in when Kavanaugh and Judge grabbed her and pulled her into a bedroom.

Ford said in her letter that the two locked the door and played loud music to muffle her cries for help. She said that Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth, and she feared that he might kill her.

Ford said she was able to escape. She ran into a nearby bathroom before running out of the house. Ford said that she never saw Kavanaugh again after the incident, but she did see Judge once. She described Judge as acting uncomfortable when he saw her.

Ford told the Washington Post that she never told anyone about the incident in 2012. Sitting in couples therapy with her husband, she told the therapist that she was attacked by “students from an elitist boys school” who went on to become prominent people in Washington, D.C.

In her letter, Ford asked Feinstein to keep her story confidential until they would have “further opportunity to speak.” The Washington Post confirmed Ford’s wish to keep the allegation confidential, and said Ford had considered in late August to not go public at all. The Washington Post said the story leaked anyway.

Ford has been receiving death threats since her name was attached to the allegation.

Testimony… with conditions

The Kavanaugh confirmation was originally scheduled to go the full Senate for a vote on Sept. 20. That date has passed and the vote has been delayed.

Calls to delay the vote began on Sept. 16, and the vote was officially postponed on Sep. 18. From there, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) began the process of scheduling both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify about the allegation.

After several days of negotiations, Ford has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27. The agreement was made on Sept. 23. Some of the conditions that Ford requested before agreeing to testify include:

  • No sooner than Sept. 27
  • No questions from outside counsel, only senators
  • Judge must be subpoenaed
  • Kavanaugh must give his testimony before Ford testifies
  • Kavanaugh can’t be in the room when Ford testifies
  • Kavanaugh will not have an opportunity to respond
  • Both parties are given the same amount of time to testify

This is where some people believe this whole thing is a stall tactic. Ford has said that she can’t testify any sooner than three days before Oct. 1. Ford claims she has a fear of flying that is directly related to her sexual assault. She said that she can’t testify sooner than Thursday because she will have to travel from California to Washington, D.C. by car.

Witnesses

Ford had named four witnesses — Kavanaugh, Judge, Patrick Smyth, and Leland Keyser. Kavanaugh and Judge had already made denials when the story went public. It was days later when people saw written statements from Smyth and Keyser.

Smyth is a former classmate of Kavanaugh, and was named by Ford as one of four boys at the house party in 1982. Ford had identified Smyth as “PJ.” Smyth said in a written statement that he is, in fact, one of the people referenced by Ford, but he doesn’t know anything about the party in her allegation.

Keyser was Ford’s classmate at Holton-Arms, an all-girls school the two attended. She said in a written statement that she doesn’t know Kavanaugh and has no recollection of being at a gathering where he was present.

Keyser is the ex-wife of Democratic operative and commentator of Bob Beckel, and the executive producer of Beckel’s podcast. She has made one political donation, according to opensecrets.org, to Democratic senator Bryan Dorgan. The extra information was included in media reports because… because a written statement submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee can’t be legitimate without knowing the person’s political background, apparently.

Politicians, pundits and grandstanding

The attention given to this allegation has been nonstop. Ford told the Washington Post that she had considered in late August to not go public with her allegation, thinking it would be worth the backlash she knew she would receive. It leaked anyway.

Before this blew up into what it’s become, the only people who knew about this allegation were Ford, her husband, her state senator, and Feinstein. Somehow, word of the allegation was leaked to the press. Who leaked it?

Who could have leaked this information, when Ford’s letter states that she wanted it to stay confidential until a later time? Could it have been the person who possessed the letter? Could it have been Sen. Dianne Feinstein?

Also, Feinstein sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She participated in the vetting process. Why would she not confront Kavanaugh about this while he was seated in front of her, under oath? Also, why wouldn’t she share the information with the rest of the committee?

Feinstein and her fellow Democrats have taken to making a spectacle of this allegation, calling a delay of the vote and requesting an FBI investigation. What, and how, is the FBI supposed to investigate? The alleged incident happened in 1982. The only possible witnesses deny the party taking place. Evidence of the incident does not exist. How is the FBI supposed to investigate this?

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) gave an Emmy-worthy performance in a speech where she attacked Republicans for not wanting to put everything on hold and have the FBI investigate the allegation.

“I believe her because she’s telling the truth. She is asking the FBI to investigate her claims. She is asking for that kind of review, that investigative work, that oversight, that accountability because she’s telling the truth.

Someone who is lying does not ask the FBI to investigate their claims. Who is not asking the FBI to investigate these claims? The White House. Judge Kavanaugh has not asked to have the FBI review these claims. Is that the reaction of an innocent person? It is not. So we have to get to the bottom of this as Americans before we put someone on the Supreme Court for life,” Gillibrand.

Ford’s two witnesses have denied any knowledge of the party where the sexual assault allegedly happened, but the whole thing showed no signs of slowing down. In fact, things only escalated.

A second woman, Deborah Ramirez, has come forward with an allegation. She has alleged that Kavanaugh exposed his genitalia to Ramirez, and forced her to touch it, during the 1983-1984 academic year at Yale. That was Kavanaugh’s freshman year.

It doesn’t stop with Ramirez. Michael Avenatti, the attorney who represented Stormy Daniels earlier this year, made a claim on Sept. 23 that he has evidence that Kavanaugh participated in gang rapes at multiple house parties during the 1980s. Avenatti said that drugs and alcohol were involved.

Avenatti’s client is Julie Swetnick. She made the claim that in “approximately 1982” she was the victim of a “gang rape” where Kavanaugh was “present.” Swetnick wrote and signed a statement that named both Kavanaugh and Judge.

Swetnick wrote in her statement that she met Kavanaugh in “approximately 1980-81” (because making an approximation that covers a span of two years seems perfectly logical). She said that she had attended parties attended by both Kavanaugh and Judge, where high school girls were given alcohol and drugs before being made victims of “gang rape.”

News outlets reported that Swetnick grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland, and that she graduated from Gaithersburg High School in Maryland in 1980. If she had met Kavanaugh in “approximately 1980-81,” it’s possible she met Kavanaugh sometime after she graduated from high school and even after she began attending college at the University of Maryland. Kavanaugh was 15 years old in 1980.

Swetnick wrote in her statement that she attended more than 10 house parties between 1981-1983 where Kavanaugh and Judge were present. This would mean that she was a college-aged adult attending parties with minors where drugs and alcohol were allegedly involved.

Swetnick said that she observed both Kavanaugh and Judge drink “excessively and engage in highly-inappropriate behavior.” This included being overly aggressive and not taking “no” for an answer, she said. Swetnick also said that she observed Kavanaugh drink excessively at parties and press girls up against him and “grind” on them.

Swetnick said that during the years of 1981-1982, she became aware that Kavanaugh, Judge, and others would “spike” “punch” with drugs and grain alcohol to cause girls to “lose their inhibitions and their ability to say ‘no’.” Swetnick said that Kavanaugh, Judge, and others would target certain girls, and force them to be “gang raped.” Swetnick said she has a “firm recollection” of people lined up outside of bedrooms waiting to participate in these “gang rapes.”

Swetnick said she became the victim of a “gang rape” in “approximately 1982” and said that Kavanaugh was “present.” Her statement implies that she was raped approximately during one of the 365 days in the year 1982? Swetnick said she believes she was drugged with Quaaludes or something similar placed in the beverage she was drinking.

The Kavanaugh Hearing

The hearing where Ford and Kavanaugh both gave testimony on Sept. 27 began at 10 a.m. Ford was the first to testify.

In her testimony, Ford said she is “100 percent” certain that Kavanaugh and Judge were the two people in the room when she was assaulted, and that Kavanaugh was the person on top of her. She said that during the incident, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth, and that she was certain he would accidentally kill her.

Ford answered questions from Rachel Mitchell, a sex crimes prosecutor who was appointed by the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask questions to both Ford and Kavanaugh.

Mitchell asked questions during the five-minute intervals when Republican senators were to ask questions. Democrat senators on the committee used their time to speak, where each of them asks very few questions, if any.

The hearing started with Ford giving her opening testimony. From there, Mitchell began her questioning. After the first five minutes, Mitchell stopped and it was time for Feinstein to begin her line of questioning. It mostly consisted of Feinstein talking about Ford’s academic accomplishments and some virtue-signaling.

That was how the testimony went during Ford’s testimony. Five minutes of questioning, followed by five minutes of grandstanding. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Ford sat before the committee and resembled someone who looked afraid. It could be heard in her voice as she gave her opening testimony.

Kavanaugh’s testimony went a bit different. During his opening testimony, he resembled an angry man hell-bent on proving his innocence. He explained that he was innocent and had never assaulted anyone.

Kavanaugh answered questions from Mitchell after delivering his opening testimony. Democratic senators also asked him questions, mostly about if he would be willing to request an FBI investigation. (Note: Even if a Supreme Court nominee requests an FBI investigation, it can only be ordered by the President of the United States.)

The hearing took a riveting turn when it became Lindsey Graham’s (R- South Carolina) turn to speak. Graham called the situation “the most unethical sham he had ever seen in politics,” and said that Ford and Kavanaugh were both victims.

“What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020,” Graham said to the Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “You said that, not me.”

“Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it,” Graham said. “I hope the American people can see through this sham, that you knew about it and you held it. You had no intention of protecting Dr. Ford.”

Graham asked Kavanaugh if he considered himself at a job interview that day. Sitting before the Senate Judiciary Committee another day to answer more questions typically is a job interview, which is interesting given some of the topics that were discussed.
Some of the things discussed at Kavanaugh’s “job interview” that day included: beer (Kavanaugh likes beer, we learned), flatulence, quarters, basketball, a road trip to watch the Red Sox and Fenway Park, and putting ketchup on spaghetti.

Author’s note: I’m waiting for the day I can sit in a job interview and discuss my beer preferences, my love for the San Diego Padres and why only a four-team playoff isn’t enough to decide the NCAA Division I College Football National Championship.

Ted Cruz (R- Texas) used his five minutes to confront Feinstein about how Ford’s letter was leaked. He said that the ranking member (Feinstein, who is the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee) had the allegation on July 30, but did not refer it to the FBI or the committee for an investigation.

“This committee could have investigated those claims in a confidential way that respected Dr. Ford’s privacy,” Cruz said. “Some of the most significant testimony we heard this morning is Dr. Ford told this committee the only people to whom she gave her letter were her attorneys, the ranking member and her member of Congress. She stated that her and her attorneys did not release the letter, which means that the only people who could have released that letter were either the ranking member and her staff, or the Democratic member of Congress, because Dr. Ford told this committee those were the only people who had it.”

Feinstein responded by saying that she did not leak Ford’s story, and reiterated that Ford had asked her to keep it confidential. Feinstein suggested that Ford went public with her story because she was stalked by the media after they learned of the allegation.

Feinstein said she didn’t believe that her staff leaked the letter to the media. Sen. Bob Cornyn (R- Texas) suggested that if it wasn’t leaked from Feinstein’s office, it was in fact leaked by someone.

Feinstein said that the story was leaked before the letter went public. That statement is not entirely factually correct, however. The official letter was made public after the public became aware of its existence, yes. However, the first report of the allegation was reported on Sept. 12 by The Intercept, which has already been stated in this article.

Ryan Grim, the reporter for The Intercept, tweeted the same day that Feinstein or her anyone in her office did not leak the letter. He said that Feinstein turned the letter over to the FBI after his story was published, and that the letter became widely available after it was leaked to CNN.

Feinstein released a statement after the hearing and said that Ford asked her to keep the letter confidential, and that she honored that request. She said that she referred the letter to the FBI after it was leaked. Someone leaked the letter. Someone alert Scooby and the gang. We need them to solve a mystery.

Another investigation

The FBI investigation has opened a week-long investigation into Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago. This makes the seventh time Kavanaugh has been investigated by the FBI, but the first time he has been investigated for a sexual assault allegation. The previous six investigations were routine background checks.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 to advance the confirmation vote to the Senate floor, but there is a condition. Sen. Jeff Flake (R- Arizona) said he would vote in favor of sending the confirmation vote to the Senate floor, but only if there is a week-long FBI investigation.

President Donald J. Trump tweeted on the evening of Sept. 28 that the seventh FBI investigation of Kavanaugh had begun. Trump, who is best known for being outspoken about national matters, had mostly stayed surprisingly quiet during the process. Whether he continues on that course is to be determined.

Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced on July 23. His confirmation hearing began on Sept. 3. The calendar is only a few days from turning to October. The Supreme Court still has an empty seat. One fear among Republicans is that the seat will remain empty on Nov. 6, the day of the midterm elections.

This has been the motivation behind the RIght’s accusation that Ford’s allegation is only a stall tactic. An investigation has been re-opened, and questions surrounding her allegation might be answered. It would be disingenuous to call this a stall tactic without verifiable proof, but it is fair to say that some things behind this whole event are suspicious, and it is fair to ask questions.

The FBI investigation is expected to be finished by Oct. 5. Perhaps those suspicions could be verified or erased by that day. Perhaps the questions people are asking could be answered, and perhaps the ninth seat on the Supreme Court could be filled soon after.

However, one thing is for certain. This FBI investigation will do nothing to quiet the Right or the Left. If the investigation finds nothing, the Right will celebrate while the Left will protest. If the opposite happens, the response will be flipped. The divide in our political culture will only continue to widen. That is the only thing can be said with 100 percent certainty.

You can read more from Mike Ursery on Think Liberty here.

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