The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Who Is Ford’s Unknown Therapist?

Christine Blasey Ford on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (Michael Reynolds/Reuters)

Monday is Columbus Day, so the next Morning Jolt will be on Tuesday.

Making the click-through worthwhile: The economy reaches a milestone that it hasn’t been able to reach in nearly half a century, someone was pressuring a witness in the Kavanaugh investigation, some hard questions about the unnamed therapist at the heart of Christine Blasey Ford’s account, and an opportunity you won’t want to miss.

Unemployment Rate Lowest in 49 Years — Yes, You Read That Right

It’s understandable that everyone’s focused on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight, including this newsletter, but there is other news going on, and it’s important. In fact, this is exactly the sort of headline that Republicans want to see one month before Election Day:

Job creation for September fell to its lowest level in a year though the unemployment rate dropped to a point not seen in nearly 50 years, according to Labor Department figures released Friday.

Nonfarm payrolls rose just 134,000, well below Refinitiv estimates of 185,000 and the worst performance since September 2017 when a labor strike weighed on the numbers. The unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.7 percent, the lowest since December 1969 and one-tenth of a percentage point below expectations.

I know the common argument among Democrats is that Obama did all the hard work of getting companies hiring again and that Trump is just coasting. But Justin Wolfers, a staunch critic of Trump and Republicans in general, is raving about the state of the job market:

The labor market is motoring along . . . You’re seeing average job growth over the past three months of +190k. That’s strong, and even stronger for this point in the cycle. It’s great news to see the recovery — now well into its 8th year — is continuing to draw more people in from the sidelines.

Leland Keyser Told the FBI That She Felt Pressured to ‘Revisit’ Her Initial Statement

The award for the Most Interesting and Consequential Article Behind a paywall goes to the Wall Street Journal today:

A friend of Christine Blasey Ford told FBI investigators that she felt pressured by Dr. Ford’s allies to revisit her initial statement that she knew nothing about an alleged sexual assault by a teenage Brett Kavanaugh, which she later updated to say that she believed but couldn’t corroborate Dr. Ford’s account, according to people familiar with the matter.

Leland Keyser, who Dr. Ford has said was present at the gathering where she was allegedly assaulted in the 1980s, told investigators that Monica McLean, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and a friend of Dr. Ford’s, had urged her to clarify her statement, the people said.

Remember in Ford’s testimony, when she commented about Keyser?

MITCHELL: Are you aware that they say that they have no memory or knowledge of such a party?

FORD: Yes.

MITCHELL: OK. Do you have any particular motives to ascribe to Leland?

FORD: I guess we could take those one at a time. Leland has significant health challenges, and I’m happy that she’s focusing on herself and getting the health treatment that she needs, and she let me know that she needed her lawyer to take care of this for her, and she texted me right afterward with an apology and good wishes, and et cetera, So I’m glad that she’s taking care of herself. [Emphasis added.]

That seemed a little strange, didn’t it? It didn’t really address the question of why Keyser would not recall the party — other than to perhaps imply that the health issues would impede her memory.

The Missing Therapist and the Withheld Therapist’s Notes

Earlier in the week, I started doing some digging into the therapist described in the account of Christine Blasey Ford. It’s a little surprising that the name of the therapist hasn’t leaked, isn’t it? The therapist could be the very best in the profession, or the therapist could be a quack who specializes in “recovered memories.” There’s been intense debate among psychologists about the reliability of recovered memories and new research raising questions about the reliability of memories in investigating long-ago crimes:

Contrary to what many believe, human memories are malleable, open to suggestion and often unintentionally false. “False memories are everywhere,” she says. “In everyday situations we don’t really notice or care that they’re happening. We call them mistakes, or say we misremember things.” In the criminal-justice system, however, they can have grave consequences.

Until Ford chooses to disclose the therapist’s name, we are likely to never know. And unless Ford gives the therapist permission to discuss what was said in therapy, it is likely we will never hear from the therapist.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and California state law put tough restrictions on when a therapist can discuss a patient without the patient’s consent — basically, they can discuss their records only when the patients are threats to themselves or others. It is extremely likely that the Fords’ therapist believes he or she cannot come forward and verify (or contradict!) Ford’s account without serious professional and perhaps legal consequences.

A therapist who currently lives in Oregon sold her house to the Fords, and when asked if she was the therapist who treated them by a reporter for RealClearPolitics, refused to say. A few observers interpreted that as confirmation, but I don’t think that’s accurate. (For starters, this therapist appears to have moved to Oregon before 2012, which is when Ford said she discussed it in therapy.)

You may recall that when Ford began her testimony, she said, “My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you could take into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed.”

And yet . . . she won’t turn over even excerpts of the therapist’s notes. Those notes could be helpful. Or they might contradict her account more than we already know.

There was this odd exchange during the hearing:

FORD: She [presumably the therapist ] helped me go through the record to locate whether I had had record of this conversation that I had remembered.

MITCHELL: Did you show a full or partial set of those marriage therapy records to The Washington Post?

FORD: I don’t remember. I remember summarizing for her what they said. So I’m not – I’m not quite sure if I actually gave her the record.

MITCHELL: OK. So it’s possible that the reporter did not see these notes.

FORD: I don’t know if she’s – I can’t recall whether she saw them directly or if I just told her what they said.

MITCHELL: Have you shown them to anyone else besides your counsel?

FORD: Just the counsel.

MITCHELL: OK. Would it be fair to say that Brett Kavanaugh’s name is not listed in those notes?

FORD: His name is not listed in those notes.

(A question that I wish Mitchell had asked: Do those notes list any other names?)

Ford spoke to the Post sometime between July 10 and September 16. The article ran September 16. The hearing was September 27. Why was it so difficult to remember whether she had given a full or partial set of the therapist’s notes?

The Post wrote in that initial article:

The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part.” [Emphasis added.]

Ford said, “I can’t recall whether she saw them directly or if I just told her what they said.” If it was the latter, then the Post was mischaracterizing what its reporters had seen.

A couple of years back, I saw a therapist for a while. Thankfully nothing traumatic to deal with, just a sense of being overwhelmed and never having enough hours in the day to be the father, husband, worker, son, brother, and friend to everyone that I wanted to be, and always feeling like I was leaving somebody important shortchanged. I don’t think I said anything unbearably embarrassing in there, but I can completely understand being reluctant about putting a therapist’s notes out for public consumption . . .

But if I needed those notes released to strengthen my case to prove that a crime occurred, then it would be worth it, wouldn’t it?

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