An up-to-dater on Kavanaugh as of Sep. 26th, 2018

Trump’s attacks on Kavanaugh’s second accuser show why the GOP hired a woman to question Ford

*********via WaPo 202 Daily – by James Hohmann – Sep. 26th, 2018******

THE BIG IDEA: Senate Republicans have hired a female prosecutor from Arizona to question Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday about her allegation that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her whey they were teenagers.

The goal is to spare themselves the level of public outcry that followed Anita Hill’s cross-examination 27 years ago by a group of all-male senators and thus avoid a redux of the Year of the Woman that followed in 1992.

It’s no coincidence that Republicans announced the selection of Rachel Mitchell at the end of another day in which President Trump forcefully criticized the women who have accused his Supreme Court nominee of sexual misconduct.

After speaking at the United Nations, Trump harshly dismissed the account of Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale who told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during an undergraduate party. The president said Ramirez was “totally inebriated and all messed up.”

“The second accuser has nothing,” Trump told reporters. “The second accuser thinks maybe it could have been him, maybe not. She admits she was drunk. She admits time lapses.” Then he used sarcasm: “Oh, gee, let’s not make him a Supreme Court judge because of that.”

The president’s comments highlighted why polls show a widening gender gap as the midterm elections approach and also added fresh urgency to congressional GOP efforts to appear as sensitive and humane as possible, even while they push to confirm Kavanaugh as soon as possible.

— A registered Republican, Mitchell is the chief of the special victims division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which deals with sexual assault cases. She’s worked in the county attorney’s office for 26 years, and people in Phoenix who have worked with her from both parties are saying nice things about her this morning.

Mitchell’s name was being held close to the vest through late Tuesday night, with Senate Republicans declining to disclose her identity to Ford’s own lawyers. But my Post colleagues Sean Sullivan, Josh Dawsey, Rosalind S. Helderman and Michelle Ye Hee Lee ferreted it out last night.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s office then confirmed her identity. “The goal is to de-politicize the process and get to the truth, instead of grandstanding and giving senators an opportunity to launch their presidential campaigns,” the Iowa Republican said in a statement. He was on the committee when Hill testified and mentioned the experience to reporters earlier Tuesday.

Other Republicans, on and off the committee, signaled support for this approach. “Inadvertently somebody will do something that’s insensitive. I would not be wanting to ask questions about something like this,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

— Even 27 years after Clarence Thomas was confirmed, all 11 Republicans on the committee that confirms judges remain men. (Four of the 10 Democrats are women.) The Democratic senators plan to ask the questions themselves of both Ford and Kavanaugh, though Grassley has announced that the lawmakers will only get five minutes each to question Ford and then Kavanaugh. When Kavanaugh appeared earlier this month, all 21 senators on the committee got two rounds of 30 minutes.

— In another plot twist: On NBC’s “Today” show this morning, Ramirez’s attorney John Clune announced this his client is willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Savannah Guthrie asked if Ramirez will agree to testify even if there’s no FBI investigation, as she has requested. “That’s a decision I’ll certainly let her make … but it wouldn’t surprise me if she would agree to do that,” he said. “We’ll wait to see if she gets that invitation and we’ll go from there.”

Asked about the New Yorker article’s report that it took Ramirez six days of carefully assessing her memories and talking to her attorney before speaking to the magazine, something Trump mentioned on Tuesday, Clune replied: “She wanted to make sure that her recollection of what happened and what information that she was going to put forth … was accurate. So she hired Stan Garnett, who is a career prosecutor and someone who is very experienced in handling sex crimes. [He] knows how to work with victims, knows how to talk with victims in ways that are not suggesting information to make sure they can work through their recollections and come up with the information they know is accurate. That’s what they did.”

Nervous that more damaging revelations about Kavanaugh could still emerge and prodded by Trump in private phone calls, Senate Republicans have decided to step up the pace to get Kavanaugh across the finish line. Even before Ford’s testimony, the majority scheduled a mark-up for 9:30 a.m. on Friday morning to advance Kavanaugh out of committee. They’re also considering the unusual step of keeping the Senate in session through the weekend so that they can run down the clock and force a vote of the full Senate next Tuesday – or possibly earlier. GOP leaders told their members during a closed-door caucus lunch yesterday that they should prepare to stay in Washington this weekend for Kavanaugh and not plan to return home to their states.

“I’m confident we’re going to win,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared Tuesday afternoon, during a news conference after the lunch. He described Kavanaugh as a victim of “the weaponization of unsubstantiated smears,” but he also insisted that he wants Ford to be heard. McConnell said Republicans hired “a female assistant” to “ask these questions in a respectful and professional way” and thus avoid “a political sideshow.”

— “Respectful” was the key word the Republican rank-and-file were encouraged to use. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the No. 2 in GOP leadership, echoed McConnell at the news conference: “As the father of two adult daughters,” he said, “as I’m approaching this hearing, I’m thinking, ‘I want to make sure I treat Dr. Ford the same way my daughters would be treated in the event they were making an accusation, or my mother, or my wife.’ To me that’s, I think, the appropriate way for me to think about it.”

— But the cementing narrative in the press is that this is not the case. “GOP adopts Trump’s tactics in Kavanaugh battle,” Annie Linskey writes on the front page of the Boston Globe: “Deny the accusation. Attack the victims. Then soothe the political base by going on Fox News to explain it all away. And most importantly: Never back down. That’s the playbook President Trump has used to sidestep multiple allegations of womanizing and sexual misconduct against him. And there was a time these tactics made the Republican establishment both nauseous and nervous. But in another sign of how Trump has taken over the GOP, he and Republicans … have ripped up the rules for a high court confirmation and adopted Trump’s battle-tested, hyper-combative ways for the Kavanaugh fight. They’re turning the confirmation process into a drawn out, sex-infused slugfest that court-watchers say is topping the list of partisan court nominee battles.”

— To support his firm denials of the allegations by Ford and Ramirez, Kavanaugh insisted on Fox News Monday night that he never drank so much that he couldn’t remember what happened the night before. The judge painted a picture of himself as a teenager who was primarily focused on his studies, sports and service projects – a portrayal at odds with how he presented himself in his high school yearbook.

— After the interview aired, two women who knew both Kavanaugh and Ramirez at Yale publicly challenged the nominee’s protestations that he wasn’t such a heavy drinker.

“He’s trying to paint himself as some kind of choir boy,” said Lynne Brookes, a Republican and former pharmaceutical executive who was roommates with Ramirez. “You can’t lie your way onto the Supreme Court, and with that statement out, he’s gone too far. It’s about the integrity of that institution.”

“Brookes said she was present one night when Kavanaugh participated in an event with his fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon,” Aaron C. Davis, Emma Brown and Joe Heim report. “Brookes said she believes there was ‘no way’ he remembered all of the behavior she observed that night, when fraternity brothers pushed pledges to get ‘ridiculously drunk’ and do ‘ridiculous things.’ Brookes said she remembers seeing Kavanaugh outside the Sterling Memorial Library, wearing a superhero cape and an old leather football helmet and swaying, working to keep his balance. He was ordered to hop on one foot, grab his crotch and approach her with a rhyme, Brookes said. He couldn’t keep balanced, she said, but belted out the rhyme she’s remembered to this day: ‘I’m a geek, I’m a geek, I’m a power tool. When I sing this song, I look like a fool.’”

“Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him. I watched him drink more than a lot of people. He’d end up slurring his words, stumbling,” added Liz Swisher, a Democrat and chief of the gynecologic oncology division at the University of Washington School of Medicine who describes herself as a friend of Kavanaugh’s in college. “There’s no medical way I can say that he was blacked out. … But it’s not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess.”

“The Post contacted Brookes and Swisher last week because they lived with Ramirez at different points during their undergraduate years,” per Aaron, Emma and Joe. “Neither returned calls or emails until Tuesday. Ramirez previously told neither of them about her allegation … but Brookes and Swisher said they believe her account. …

Kavanaugh acknowledged heavy drinking in a 2014 speech to the Yale Federalist Society,” they add. “He recalled organizing a boozy trip for 30 of his Yale Law classmates to Boston for a baseball game and a night of barhopping, complete with ‘group chugs from a keg’ and a return to campus by ‘falling out of the bus onto the steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m.’ According to his scripted remarks, he said: ‘Fortunately for all of us, we had a motto. What happens on the bus stays on the bus.’”

White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec responded with this statement: “No one has claimed Judge Kavanaugh didn’t drink in high school or college.”

— A Post researcher also noted that Kavanaugh could not legally drink at 18 when he was in high school:— Separately, three former Yale Law School classmates who previously endorsed Kavanaugh called Tuesday for an investigation into both women’s allegations. “Kent Sinclair, Douglas Rutzen and Mark Osler were among roughly two dozen of Kavanaugh’s law school classmates who lauded Kavanaugh’s qualifications in an Aug. 27 letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Elise Viebeck reports. “Separately, former Kavanaugh classmates Louisa Garry and Dino Ewing on Monday asked the New Yorker magazine to withdraw their names from a statement defending Kavanaugh from claims made by [Ramirez] … An editor’s note said the two did not ‘did not wish to dispute Ramirez’s claims.’ [Garry] was featured praising Kavanaugh in a television ad released last week by the Judicial Crisis Network.”

— And Yale Law professor Akhil Amar – who taught Kavanaugh, testified on his behalf earlier this month and wrote an effusive New York Times op-ed that called him a “superb nominee” — is now having “second thoughts” and wants a full investigation into what he describes as “serious” accusations. “If the investigation’s facts and findings support him, then he will join the Court in the sunshine and not under a cloud,” Amar writes in an op-ed for the Yale Daily News.

USA Today reports that Ford’s attorneys have provided the Senate with sworn and signed declarations from four people who corroborate her claims of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, including her husband and three friends:

“In her declaration, Adela Gildo-Mazzon said Ford told her about the alleged assault during a June 2013 meal at a restaurant in Mountain View, California, and contacted Ford’s attorneys on Sept. 16 to tell them Ford had confided in her five years ago. ‘During our meal, Christine was visibly upset, so I asked her what was going on,’ Gildo-Mazzon says in her declaration. ‘Christine told me she had been having a hard day because she was thinking about an assault she experienced when she was much younger. She said she had been almost raped by someone who was now a federal judge. She told me she had been trapped in a room with two drunken guys, and that she had escaped, ran away and hid.’

“In another declaration, Keith Koegler said Ford revealed the alleged assault to him in 2016, when the two parents were watching their children play in a public place and discussing the ‘light’ sentencing of Stanford University student Brock Turner. ‘Christine expressed anger at Mr. Turner’s lenient sentence, stating that she was particularly bothered by it because she was assaulted in high school by a man who was now a federal judge in Washington, D.C.,’ Koegler said.

“In another declaration, Rebecca White, a neighbor and friend of more than six years, said Ford revealed the alleged assault against her in 2017. ‘I was walking my dog and Christine was outside of her house,’ White said. ‘I stopped to speak with her, and she told me she had read a recent social media post I had written about my own experience with sexual assault. She then told me that when she was a young teen, she had been sexually assaulted by an older teen. I remember her saying that her assailant was now a federal judge.’

“In his declaration, Ford’s husband said he learned of his wife’s experience with sexual assault ‘around the time we got married’ but that she didn’t share details until a couple’s therapy session in 2012. ‘I remember her saying that her attacker’s name was Brett Kavanaugh,’ Russell Ford said.”

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