The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Decision Time: Will Ford Testify Tomorrow?

A jogger runs past The U.S. Capitol Building at sunset (Zach Gibson/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Public pledges and doubts about accusers testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday; a contradiction in one accuser’s account; and some questions about whether a Democratic politician’s divorce records should be unsealed, just because a Republican’s was ten years ago.

Place Your Bets on Who’s Willing to Testify Thursday

A lot of Republicans strongly suspect that neither Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez will ever testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For what it is worth, as of this writing, Ford is still scheduled to testify Thursday. This morning on NBC’s Today Show, Ramirez’s lawyer John Clune said “That’s a decision I’ll certainly let her make. I would be very concerned about doing that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she would agree to do that.”

Her lawyer also claimed that the committee hadn’t invited her, but that the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel described a series of emails that the committee’s majority staff asked her six times when she was available for an interview or to submit a statement. Strassel writes that during that exchange, Ramirez’s lawyer referred to The New Yorker article as “evidence.”

Yesterday afternoon, Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, characterized the exchange as a refusal to testify: “Our counsel repeatedly tried to reach him,” Kennedy said of Ramirez’s lawyer. “They finally did reach him, and he said we are not issuing a statement. He said if you want our statement, read the New Yorker.”

Many Kavanaugh defenders see a clear pattern here of accusers who are willing to make stunning and horrific allegations while talking to the media, but are strangely reticent about repeating the accusations while under oath and penalty of perjury. If this is how things shake out, the accusers are asking the country to make their decision about Kavanaugh — both his Supreme Court nomination and his entire reputation, based upon their claims, but unwilling to say so under oath. And, as Kavanaugh’s defenders keep pointing out, not a single named witness has corroborated Ford’s account, and according to the New York Times, Ramirez told some of her classmates in recent days that she could not remember if the man she described was Kavanaugh.

Republicans should not be quite so quick to conclude that there’s no chance that Ford testifies, and that there’s no danger to Brett Kavanaugh from her testimony. Yes, her social media and any other web presence has been scrubbed. Perhaps she won’t come across as truthful and credible. Then again, maybe she will. She and her lawyers no doubt understand that if she refuses to testify at the eleventh hour, many people, and certainly almost all Republicans, will conclude that the allegations are fabricated or wildly exaggerated. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin put it succinctly: “If she doesn’t testify, he gets confirmed.”

USA Today reports what initially appears to be a bombshell new development about Ford’s account . . .

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.

Except . . . that contradicts Ford’s account to the Washington Post.

“She was like, ‘I can’t deal with this. If he becomes the nominee, then I’m moving to another country. I cannot live in this country if he’s in the Supreme Court,’ ” her husband said. “She wanted out.”

These were the lengths that Ford, a professor and mother of two, once considered to avoid revisiting one of her most troubling memories — one she’d discussed only in therapy and with her husband.

So she remembers the events from the 1980s clearly and accurately, but forgot discussing the events with her friend at dinner five years ago?

Should Keith Ellison’s Divorce Records Be Unsealed?

We’ve relished pointing out how conditional that the slogan “believe all women” is for most partisans, particularly self-described feminist Democrats. “Believe all women when a Republican is accused” more accurately describes their worldview.

As noted earlier this week, Congressman Keith Ellison — the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and candidate for Minnesota attorney general — faces an allegation of physically abusing an ex-girlfriend. If you’re leaning towards believing the accuser, you focus upon the three friends she told about the abuse before coming forward publicly and the medical record showing that she told a doctor in 2017 that she had been in an abusive relationship with Ellison. You would also note that this isn’t the first woman to come forward alleging abuse.

If you’re leaning towards believing Ellison, you focus upon the accuser claiming she had a video of Ellison pulling her off of the bed, then saying she misplaced it when moving, and then saying she would not share the video even if she found it. (If you had video evidence of someone committing a crime against you, wouldn’t you be exceptionally careful to hold onto that? And if you’ve got open-and-shut, absolutely indisputable evidence that your allegation is true . . . why would you pledge to never release that evidence?)

There’s a small sign that the Minnesota media is getting more interested in the allegations against Ellison:

The Star Tribune has joined a legal effort to unseal the divorce records of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

Ellison and his ex-wife, Kim Ellison, divorced in 2012. The related records have been sealed, so the public cannot access the information.

The Star Tribune’s motion to intervene and unseal the records follows a similar action by Alpha News, a right-leaning online news and opinion site.

… Ken Martin, the chairman of the Minnesota DFL, said Tuesday that the party’s investigation of the allegations against Ellison will be finished soon, then released to the public. An external investigator was hired to conduct the inquiry.

The Star Tribune argued that, given the public interest around that situation and Kim Ellison’s public support of her ex-husband, the divorce records are a matter of concern to voters. Divorce records are typically public, but judges will often agree to seal them if both parties to the case agree and no one else objects.

The Ellison campaign released a statement from Kim Ellison on behalf of both her and Keith Ellison. “Our divorce simply isn’t the public’s business, and therefore, when we separated, we jointly asked the court to seal the file. Now, one month before a closely contested election for Minnesota Attorney General, a conservative group wants to probe our divorce file in search of something to use against Keith in this race. I am disappointed that the Star Tribune would choose to file this motion.”

Kim Ellison said her ex-husband “never abused me in any way before, during, or after our marriage.” She said release of the file would exploit their privacy and the privacy of their children.

This is “the Jack Ryan maneuver.” For those who have forgotten, let me take you back to 2008 . . .

Republican Jack Ryan seemed to be out of central casting — handsome, independently wealthy, sharing the name of a Tom Clancy hero.

But once again, the [Chicago] Tribune and a local television station launched a crusade to unseal the candidate’s divorce records. Ryan, his ex-wife (actress Jeri Ryan, best known for playing a cybernetic bombshell on Star Trek: Voyager), and his supporters argued that his nine-year-old son ought to be spared the messy details of his contentious divorce. A California judge ordered the records unsealed, and the entire political world heard accusations that the candidate urged his unwilling wife to have public sex in clubs in New York and Paris. Ryan denied the allegations, but no candidacy could survive a revelation like that.

Months later, Ryan would note that no media organization ever sued to open John Kerry’s sealed divorce records, and that the Tribune seemed to be highly selective in its application of its self-described “matter of principle.”

(In light of the Stormy Daniels story, it’s hard to believe what an innocent and naïve country we were just a decade ago.)

At this moment, a lot of Republicans are probably cheering. Turnabout is fair play. But let’s say the unsealed divorce records show something embarrassing but not criminal for Ellison, and his political career is derailed from this. Each party’s lost one rising star because of unsealing divorce records.

What do we want the standard to be for unsealing divorce records of political candidates of either party in the future? Divorces are often messy and ugly, with bitter accusations and counter-accusations. Legal proceedings of the split rarely showcase people at their best and usually at their worst. Do we want to effectively rule out anyone who’s been through a messy divorce from public office?

Because if that’s really what Republicans believe, we wouldn’t have the president we currently do — nor would New York City have ever had Rudy Giuliani. We understandably recoil from married politicians who cheat on their spouses. Do we really want to enact a political price upon any elected official or candidate who had a marriage fail?

ADDENDUM: Thanks to Rush Limbaugh for his kind words about yesterday’s Jolt. As I elaborated yesterday, in today’s micro-aggression-conscious, the-personal-is-political, woke, hyper-polarized environment, no issue is too small to be inflated into a clash between identity groups, and there’s nothing more personal than one’s identity. Every disagreement becomes personal and every dispute becomes enraged.

Of course, you can’t function as a society or a country once enough people become obsessed with the idea that anyone who disagrees with them is a malevolent personal threat to them.

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