On this episode: The hearing we’ve been waiting for – slash – dreading features moving, credible testimony from Dr. Ford, and rage-filled invective from the nominee.
A reminder. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accuses Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge of drunkenly physically assaulting her in a bedroom upstairs from a gathering in 1982.
Doctor Ford’s Testimony
- The small room lent an odd sense of intimacy compared to the larger room we’re used to seeing these.
- Dr. Ford’s personal statement was moving and gave her a firm platform of credibility.
- Rachel Mitchell asked all questions on behalf of the GOP. It was a cross-examination and did not sit well.
- Democrats all took their five minutes… some asking questions, others making statements.
- One line of questions from Mitchell included the wildly inappropriate alternate attacker theory made famous by Ed Whelan.
- The most powerful moments:
- She first raised the alarm on Kavanaugh BEFORE he was nominated.
- What is your strongest memory? “Their laughter. Their uproarious laughter”
- How sure are you it was Kavanaugh? “100%”
- For those of us who are old enough to remember the Anita Hill hearings, this was an awful reminder, and it felt worse. The saving grace was the support Dr. Ford had from committee Democrats in the face of the garbage she had to endure.
- To quote Ezra Klein regarding the end of the cross-examination… “What’s the opposite of a mic drop?”
Judge Kavanaugh’s Testimony
- Kavanaugh’s opening statement was punctuated with open anger directed toward committee Democrats. It was brazenly political, which was in huge contrast to the earlier hearing testimony. Pure Kavanaugh.
- At times his volume upped to yelling, and he cried on several occasions.
- His defense was built on the statements of several contemporaries, but he notably did not mention Mark Judge, who was present according to Dr. Ford, but is not being called before the committee.
- He mentioned the “Renate (reh-NAH-tah) Alumnius” yearbook entries as a term of endearment meaning she was “one of us.” This rang very hollow and untrue, particularly since he apologized about it.
- He accused Democrats of him no longer likely being able to teach law or coach girls basketball again.
- By the end it felt like his energy pointed to (perhaps) a sense on his part that his nomination is doomed, his dream to be on SCOTUS is slipping away, and this was all about causing some damage on the way down.
- Mitchell asked questions on behalf of the GOP members of the committee.
- DiFi: he was openly hostile in response and dodged the question of whether he wants the FBI to investigate the allegations. “You’re interviewing me!” “That is a farce!”
- Next round with Mitchell, he seemed almost annoyed by her questions. His high emotional state made him a bad witness for himself.
- Then, mercifully a break.
- Leahy: asked about Judge testifying before the committee. K still dissembled on him coming before the committee or being investigated by the FBI. Tried to suggest Leahy was “making fun of a guy with addiction.”
- Mitchell line went into the calendar for a bit. Denied any entry being possibly related to the accusation. Then went into the 2nd and 3rd accusations.
- Durbin: Quoted him back to himself: “I welcome any kind of investigation” to get him to ask for an FBI investigation. That… didn’t work. He continued to resist. There was even a brief “answer the question Claire!” moment of silence to Durbin’s question about whether he supported an FBI investigation
- THEN Mitchell was benched for the remainder of the day. Graham took over and boy did he take over! His questions were as angry as anything we saw. Shit got ugly. Compared Kavanaugh’s victimhood to Ford’s. Stared down Flake when he came to a crescendo in boiling anger about the prospect of Republican colleagues voting against the nomination.
- Whitehouse: asked about the yearbook entries and got a lot of answers that seemed confident, but not likely true. Devils Triangle drinking game? He was straight rude in responding.
- Cornyn…. It seemed at this point that the memo was received from someplace that Mitchell was being benched, and the Senators were taking over.”Don’t give up!” Was more of a filibuster break for K.
- Klobuchar: another ask for the FBI. Another rebuffing. Mark Judge provided sworn statement… “but we would like the FBI to ask followup questions.” K continued asking the Senators posing questions whether they liked beer… it got weird and was stunningly rude and partisan. After the break he apologized to her.
- Merciful break. It seems very clear at this point that
- A – he’s lying about drinking and is very defensive about it, because if he ever got blackout drunk, then there is a possibility he could have attacked Dr. Ford and truthfully not remember.
- B – he is afraid of what an FBI investigation into Mark Judge would reveal.
- Hatch… “worse than Bork” and “worse than Thomas.” Also worth underscoring here that there were a ton of mentions of Avenatti. Probably because they know he’s an easier target than Dr. Ford. His questions tore into the “The Dems his this for months!” line.
- Coons… included another opportunity to ask for an FBI investigation *to help clear his name* and Kavanaugh repeated the line about the submitted statements. Kavanaugh said each day of delay has been a lifetime, and ignored the question.
- Grassley yelled a bit and submitted something.
- Lee… complained about the delay. Complained about calls for FBI investigation by saying “hey ask him here and now.” Extended profound sympathies first to Kavanaugh, then hastily to Ford.
- Sasse… hit the same note on DiFi not bringing this up during the first hearings. Notably says he thinks Dr. Ford is a victim.
- Blumenthal… “false in one thing, false in everything” jury instruction. Credibility. Asked about Renatte Alumni issue. Kavanaugh was very upset about her “being dragged through the mud.” Asked if Mark Judge statement was equivalent to the FBI investigating him… was it best evidence? Kavanaugh dodged.
- Crapo… asked softballs about FBI investigations.
- Hirono… asked what about her questions in the previous hearings were an embarrassment, but he didn’t go there. Then asked questions on temperament. K would make extended rambling answers to run out the clock. She hit him with college roommate commentary about K being a belligerent drunk. K shifted to how much he busted his tail to get into Yale… and did sports.
- Tillis… hits again on “the delay” and then said the Dems didn’t participate in the majority’s partisan investigation. Doesn’t mention Dems request for additional witnesses that were turned down, including Mark Judge. Goes after Ford about the coming to CA thing.
- Booker… got into drinking on weekdays… “skis” is brewskis… Is Ford a political operative? (“no ill will to Dr. Ford”). “I know you have a lot of political animus toward me and my colleagues” Do you think people who believe Dr. Ford are engaging in something despicable?
- Cruz… boo Senate Dems and media! Brings up the non-Ford allegations because that definitely helps. Lengthy filibuster break for K. Dan Pfeiffer tweet: Ted Cruz always sounds like he practiced his lines for hours in the mirror while the theme song to the West Wing ran through his head
- DiFi finally responds to all the accusations of “holding onto the allegation” – she did it at Dr. Ford’s specific request (as Dr. Ford outlined in the morning testimony, which at that point felt like was in the 1980s). Cornyn asked if her staff leaked it. He clearly was fishing for it. She said no.
- Harris … Asked questions from the jump with no windup. polygraph? No. Willing to ask the WH to authorize the FBI? “Willing to do what committee wants.” Not responsive. Kept pushing for yes or no. Non-responsive – “take it as a no and move on.” If this is so partisan why didn’t this happen to Gorsuch?
- Flake…Not a good process, but it’s all we’ve got. No questions.
- Kennedy…. Look me in the eye before God yadda yadda… denies all three allegations.
- And then… it ended.
- Dr. Ford was compelling and believable
- Kavanaugh is a terrible witness. Belligerent, partisan, angry, and demonstrably not being straight. “Revenge on behalf of the Clintons!” Really? “I like beer! Do you like beer?”
- Dems did well for Dr. Ford. Took too long to wind up questions for Kavanaugh (Kamala Harris excluded)
- GOP and Kavanaugh are terrified of Mark Judge. They are actively blocking further investigation of him. They are throwing up roadblocks for FBI investigation and being insincere about their investigation. His “sworn statement” has not been subject to questioning under oath or additional scrutiny. To say it is under penalty of perjury is technically true, but he’s not tested on the veracity of his comments so it is incomplete. And they know this. And they’re afraid of what he will say under oath or under questioning by the FBI with the possibility of felony charges if he lies. It’s obvious.
- Kavanaugh disqualified himself as a Justice. He cannot be a credible arbiter on a plethora of issues. He is and always was a partisan. This just confirmed it.
- Republicans will use this as a cudgel just like Bork and Thomas forever. And it’s equally bullshit.
- Can you imagine this person has the temperament to serve on SCOTUS?
- Stunningly, there is a vote scheduled tomorrow. (WaPo)
The vote is just to go to start the debate on Kavanaugh. They can’t have a final vote until next week
Now, on the hearing: When we are dealing with someone lying about what a Devil’s Triangle and what Renate Alumnius means, we are really at a low point. I had hoped that after Dr. Blasey Ford’s strong testimony, Kavanaugh would pull a Vontae Davis (hi Tim) and quit during the break between her testimony and his testimony–halftime if you will. But Kavanaugh doesn’t seem to have a principled bone in his body.
My impression of Dr. Blasey Ford was that she was so poised and strong. But I don’t think anyone, including the prosecutor, realized just how much her psychology expertise would become involved. She was able to explain why certain things were seared into her memory and who wasn’t.
Kavanaugh: Bad orator. Worse witness.
What was the prosecutor doing? Not a litigator, but in real life where people don’t get a witness to admit that they are lying (or did commit the crime) on the staff, much of cross-x is about getting little contradictions that they’ll weave together not with the witness, but during the closing argument. While there was no closing argument here, there will be a debate, and senators will use the little contradictions they think they’ve found to raise doubts about her story. I’ve heard the Federalist Society is already circulating a memo about the phantom driver who drove her home from the party.
But first, will this really do anything to raise doubts from people not firmly with Kavanaugh? And second, the strategic problem with this is that far fewer people will watch the debates than watched today. Today was the day people were tuning in to see if they believed her story. And neither Republicans nor the prosecutor they hired made her seem anything besides totally believable.
And then: Why did they let her do two rounds on Kavanaugh and then stop her? Seems like a bizarre choice.
I think Republicans realize they’ve lost the PR war on this. It’s bad for them electorally, but they can’t cut him loose without getting a huge uprising from their base.
Kavanaugh was in full bully mode: I think he realized he couldn’t control his bullying nature or his rage (although doesn’t that make it seem like Kavanaugh could totally have committed the assault he is accused of). But who was he bullying? He’s certainly not going to bully Democrats to support him. He’s not going to bully viewers. He isn’t bullying Dr. Blasey Ford who is incredibly strong. If Rs don’t think they can win the PR war with the American people, the audience is Trump and the moderate Republican women, Collins and Murkowski. He’s not bullying Trump, but Trump loves bullies like Kim and Putin, so Kavanaugh got Trump firmly in his corner by bullying. That leaves the targets of the bullying as Collins and Murkowski. Kavanaugh yelling and all the Republicans men yelling showed how much they will make life hell for Collins and Murkowski if they break ranks. It seems to me that they were the targets of the bullying. And I hope that they stand up to it. We’ll see.
Served as an expert witness as much as a personal witness
Stark contrast to Kavanaugh’s behavior and energy – would not have been tolerated by a woman
The truth didn’t seem to matter to Republican committee members
“Have you ever been blackout drunk?” to Sen. Klobochar was low moment
Final exchange with Sen. Kennedy was telling (100% sure moment)
- Committee vote confirmed for Friday 9:30am
- Reported floor vote Saturday at noon. It’s clear this is meant to pressure potential flips that they are going to have to go public on their vote.
- Dems can object to that scheduled floor vote and go to Exec Session, so it’s unlikely Saturday noon will happen
- Cloture motion would come quickly, maybe right after the committee vote? That would mean a Sunday vote.
- If cloture motion can’t come to later, things go to Monday. This is all less clear, but there’s 30 hours of debate after the cloture motion.
- That puts final full floor confirmation vote on Tuesday evening at the earliest… if all things go right… and McConnell has the votes.
- Watch for a speaking filibuster – that might put a delay on final vote
- All eyes on:
- Jeff Flake
- Lisa Murkowski
- Susan Collins
- Joe Manchin
To be continued.