The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

A Heart-Wrenching Accusation, Followed by an Adamant and Impassioned Denial

Christine Blasey Ford testifies about sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (Gabriella Demczuk/Reuters)

Everybody’s going to have their own personal response to the testimony by Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. If you’re interested in the nomination fight, you owe it to yourself to watch her and his opening statements in their entirety.

After watching Ford’s testimony, it is not the least bit surprising that she passed a lie-detector test, despite whatever questions some may have about the test administered to her. I don’t think anyone watching could come away believing that this is all a cynical ruse on her part. She believes what she says, and she is utterly convinced that Kavanaugh was the young man who attacked her. We cannot travel back in time and see the time and place that Ford described — even if we had a time machine, we wouldn’t have a specific date and place to look — but short of that, she convinced almost everyone watching that something absolutely terrible happened to her in a house in suburban Maryland one night in the early 1980s, and that the perpetrator was never held responsible.

A few hours later, Brett Kavanaugh offered a tour de force. I suspect everyone who’s ever been falsely accused of anything will relate to his tone, which was angry, but not, as some axe-grinding reporters exaggerated, enraged or unhinged.

He laid out every piece of counter-evidence and laid out the glaring fact that all four witnesses named by Ford said they couldn’t recall any such event, including “her longtime friend, Ms. Keyser, [who] said under penalty of felony that she does not know me, and does not believe she ever saw me at a party, ever.”

He forcefully denied all of the allegations, and said:

The day after the allegation appeared, I told this committee that I wanted a hearing as soon as possible to clear my name. I demanded a hearing for the very next day. Unfortunately, it took the committee ten days to get to this hearing. In those ten long days, as was predictable, and as I predicted, my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations.

Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin asked Kavanaugh to urge the president to suspend his own nomination until the FBI investigates the accusations further. But in his opening statement, Kavanaugh had already addressed the question: He welcomes any investigation, but he’s not suspending or withdrawing.

The committee now has conducted a thorough investigation, and I’ve cooperated fully. I know that any kind of investigation — Senate, FBI, Montgomery County Police — whatever, will clear me. Listen to the people I know. Listen to the people who’ve known me my whole life. Listen to the people I’ve grown up with, and worked with, and played with, and coached with, and dated, and taught, and gone to games with, and had beers with. And listen to the witnesses who allegedly were at this event 36 years ago. Listen to Ms. Keyser.

Those are not the words of a man who is afraid others will uncover his long-forgotten crime.

Both Ford and Kavanaugh made emotionally powerful statements — a heart-wrenching accusation, followed by an emotional and adamant denial. This is why cops and prosecutors look for evidence separate from testimony — forensics, DNA, things that can’t be faked and that are not subject to the frailty of human memory. She says it happened; he says he was never there. Unfortunately for her, the witnesses she named aren’t supporting her account.

There are other small incongruities. Ford says she does not remember how she got home after the alleged attack, other than she did not drive home herself. She also testified:

MITCHELL: Would it be fair to say that somebody drove you somewhere, either to the party or home from the party?

FORD: Correct.

MITCHELL: OK.

Has anyone come forward to say to you, “Hey, remember, I was the one that drove you home?”

FORD: No.

Ford described herself, quite compellingly, as being in a state of relief after getting out of the house, no doubt frightened and shaken and traumatized by what she had just experienced. While anything is possible, one would think that anyone who encountered her immediately after that event — such as someone who drove her home — would notice that something was terribly wrong.

Secondly, on the calendar Kavanaugh submitted, the nickname “Squi” pops up 13 times, suggesting that this character and Kavanaugh were friends during that time. During yesterday’s testimony, Ford affirmed that the person nicknamed “Squi” was the Maryland man named by Ed Whelan as a potential doppelgänger for Kavanaugh.

Yesterday, Ford affirmed that she had a preexisting relationship with the man nicknamed “Squi.”

“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.”

According to her testimony, Ford had been going out with Squi for months before the alleged incident in the summer of 1982. This would mean that in her account, Kavanaugh and Judge didn’t merely attack a casual acquaintance (which is awful enough, and criminal); they attacked a girlfriend of one of their friends, inexplicably confident that she would never tell him or anyone else. In this account, Kavanaugh and Judge look less likedrunken teenagers who ignore consent to the point of criminality and more like absolute sociopaths.

The notion that Kavanaugh was secretly a high-school sociopath, so reckless and malevolent that he would attack his friend’s girlfriend, contradicts every other bit of information we have about him.

(For what it’s worth, Kavanaugh can be confirmed and the FBI could still investigate the allegations. If the FBI investigation found evidence of criminal acts, Kavanaugh could resign or be impeached.)

Kavanaugh spoke for many Republicans when he said the process had become “a national disgrace.” No doubt in the coming days, we’ll get some instant polls, but in addition to the general public, Kavanaugh’s statement and answers were aimed at a handful of wavering Republicans and a handful of nervous red-state Senate Democrats. I suspect he made it exceptionally difficult for them to vote against his confirmation in the near future.

The Vote

Last night, our old friend Elaina Plott reported:

A source close to Senator Manchin tells me now,“Short of claims that definitively prove Dr. Ford’s allegations or a realization that Kavanaugh will gut the healthcare law, Manchin will side with the overwhelming number of people in WV who want Kavanaugh confirmed.”

For what it is worth, it was separately reported that “Donnelly, Manchin, Murkowski and Collins are all expected to vote the same way, per senators and aides.”

If the vote indeed shakes out that way, Indiana’s Joe Donnelly and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin will be able to point to a vote that absolutely outraged the grassroots of the national Democratic party, strengthening the argument that they don’t just follow the party line. Of course, some chunk of Indiana and West Virginia grassroots Democrats are likely to be livid with them, too.

Who Leaked Ford’s Accusation?

Neither Christine Blasey Ford nor Brett Kavanaugh had to go through this ordeal. The Senate Judiciary Committee has a way to handle confidential information and can hold private interviews and closed hearings. The letter containing the accusation could have been passed through appropriate channels, and Ford could have been invited to a closed hearing or chosen to simply submit written testimony. If Senator Dianne Feinstein had used those procedures, Ford’s name might well have never been released to the public, and she would never have been subjected to all of the horrific death threats and reporters showing up at her workplace.

Some Senate Republicans pointed this out yesterday, and Feinstein denied that she leaked the letter, and said she believed no one on her staff had either. (In other news, the man who was Dianne Feinstein’s driver for 20 years turned out to be a spy for the Chinese government.)

For what it’s worth:

The Intercept Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim tweeted Feinstein’s staff did not leak the letter to The Intercept. He followed up with a tweet saying “Nor did she or her staff leak the existence of the letter to The Intercept. After our story, she turned it over to the FBI, which placed it in his background file, which meant that it became widely available and soon after it was leaked to CNN.”

Assuming that Grim is telling the truth, there’s a person and group he didn’t deny leaked the letter and Ford’s identity.

The other member and office of Congress who heard from Ford: Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and her staff.

This Guy Is Such a Richard

Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal, at yesterday’s hearing:

BLUMENTHAL: “As a federal judge, you’re aware of the jury instruction falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, are you not? You’re aware of that jury instruction.”

KAVANAUGH: “I am.”

BLUMENTHAL: “You know what it means.”

KAVANAUGH: “You can translate it for me, Senator, you can do it better than I can.”

BLUMENTHAL: “False in one thing, false in everything, meaning in jury instructions, that we — some of us, as prosecutors, have heard many times, is told a jury that they can disbelieve a witness if they find them to be false in one thing. So, the core of why we’re here today really is credibility.

From the New York Times, May 17, 2010:

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

Blumenthal is exceptionally lucky that the voters of Connecticut do not operate under falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.

ADDENDUM: I know we’re all supposed to hate Hillary Clinton with an undying passion forever, but I thought her cameo on the premiere of the reboot of Murphy Brown was pretty funny. Much funnier than, you know, the rest of the show, but credit where it’s due.

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