Kavanaugh's wild conspiracy theory

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Kavanaugh's wild conspiracy theory

To defend himself against two allegations of sexual assault, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is making an outlandish claim. In a letter to the Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh claimed that his accusers are coordinating with each other.

"The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out," Kavanaugh wrote.

He did not provide any evidence to support his claim.

Kavanaugh also described the allegations of Christine Ford and Deborah Ramirez as "smears" that "debase the public discourse."

The doppelganger returns

Kavanaugh gave an interview to Fox News — a safe place to give his spin on the allegations. During the interview, Kavanaugh revived the theory that Ford may have been sexually assaulted by someone else who resembles him.

I am not questioning that perhaps Dr. Ford was sexually assaulted by someone at some time. What I know is I never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or any time.

Kavanaugh's odd claim echoes a Twitter thread posted last week by his friend, Ed Whelan. Relying on information from Zillow and Google Maps, Whelan suggested that it was another classmate, a middle school teacher who Whelan identified by name, and not Kavanaugh who assaulted Ford.

Whelan apologized for naming the man but not for advancing the theory. It still seems central to Kavanaugh's defense.

"It would have been the talk of the campus"

During his Fox News interview, Kavanaugh also addressed the allegations of Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they both were freshmen at Yale. Kavanaugh said the allegation could not be true because "if I did such a thing, it would have been the talk of the campus."

But as journalist Jane Mayer, who broke the Ramirez story, pointed out, the incident was the talk of the campus.

Jane Mayer@JaneMayerNYer

And so it was - a classmate who heard about it at the time told me he has thought of it every time he's heard Kavanaugh's name - for the last 35 years! https://t.co/T2dRDUvTG3

September 24, 2018

The dual defense

Kavanaugh's interview reflects a bifurcated response to the two allegations by Republicans. Ford, they claim, is honest but confused. Ramirez, on the other hand, is just making things up.

Orrin Hatch, who was also a chief antagonist of Anita Hill, expressed the distinction in comments to the media on Monday.

Seung Min Kim@seungminkim

Hatch refers to Ramirez’ allegation in NYer as “phony.” We asked why he’s calling it “phony.” He responds: “Because I know it is. That’s why.” When asked whether Ford allegation is also phony, Hatch: “I think she’s sincere, at least I hope so. But I think she’s sincerely wrong.”

September 24, 2018

"Renate Alumni"

Kavanaugh listed himself on his yearbook page as a member of the "Renate Alumni." The phrase, which appears 14 times in the Georgetown Prep yearbook, is a boast about exploits with a female student, Renate Schroeder Dolphin, at a neighboring Catholic girls' school. The New York Times reports:

Two of Judge Kavanaugh’s classmates say the mentions of Renate were part of the football players’ unsubstantiated boasting about their conquests.

“They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, a Georgetown Prep student at the time, referring to Judge Kavanaugh and his [football] teammates. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”

Dolphin signed a letter, along with 65 other former students, attesting to Kavanaugh's respect for women. But at the time, she wasn't aware of the yearbook entry.

"I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way," Dolphin said in a statement.

In a statement, Kavanaugh said the reference was to a time he "kissed" Dolphin. Through an attorney, Dolphin said she never kissed Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh's Yale roommate speaks out

"The men I knew in college say it is inconceivable that I could have done such a thing," Kavanaugh told Fox News on Monday.

But Kavanaugh's roommate during his freshman year at Yale is speaking out. And he believes Ramirez. The roommate, James Roche, said he remembered Kavanaugh "frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk."

It is from this experience that I concluded that although Brett was normally reserved, he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk. I did not observe the specific incident in question, but I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.

Roche was also friends with Ramirez and describes her as "exceptionally honest, with a trusting manner."

Rosenstein survives (for now)

You can smell the desperation.

In tweets, interviews with Sean Hannity and clipped remarks outside the White House, Trump has made it plain that he wants to end the Mueller investigation. It has all taken on increased urgency since two key insiders, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, began cooperating with the probe.

Standing in his way are Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump blames Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation and Rosenstein for appointing Mueller.

Trump has repeatedly and publicly insulted both men, perhaps hoping that they would resign. They have not.

Key allies, including Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and White House Counsel Don McGahn, have convinced Trump to hold off firing them. They argue moving on Rosenstein and Session before the midterms election could jeopardize the confirmation of his second nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.

Graham said that he expected Trump to fire Sessions after the midterms but warned it "would create havoc" -- and jeopardize Kavanaugh's chances -- if he did so before the election. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would make time to consider a replacement for Sessions, but only after Kavanaugh is confirmed.

But then Kavanaugh's confirmation went off the rails. That changed Trump's calculus.

On Monday, Axios reported that Rosenstein, believing he was about to be fired, "verbally resigned." According to the report, based on White House sources, he was on his way to the White House to step down. (The original headline of the piece was: "Rosenstein is resigning.")

The story was not true. Rosenstein did go to the White House but attended a senior staff meeting and emerged a couple of hours later with his position intact.

Still, Trump is toying with the idea. Following the speculation about Rosenstein, the White House released a statement saying that Trump and Rosenstein would meet in person on Thursday to discuss his future.

And thus, the country inches closer to an acute constitutional crisis. Rosenstein is overseeing a criminal investigation into Trump. Trump seems determined to fire him because he won't shut it down.

The newest pretext

Trump has longed to fire Rosenstein for months, tweeting in April that he was the most compromised person in the entire Russia investigation. He appears to hate Rosenstein more than Mueller.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!

April 11, 2018
But the recent focus on Rosenstein stems from a report on Friday in the New York Times which claimed that Rosenstein once "suggested secretly recording Trump" and removing him via the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein denied the allegation and other outlets suggested that his comments were made in jest.

But it hardly matters.

Trump doesn't need a real reason to fire Rosenstein. His allies have invented dozens of dubious justifications to oust him. (They've even introduced articles of impeachment against Rosenstein.) For Trump, just about anything will suffice.

Republican leadership claim there is no urgency to protect Mueller

The leadership of Republicans in Congress, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), claim to support the Mueller investigation. But they argue that legislation protecting Mueller from Trump is unnecessary because Mueller's position is not in danger.

"Republicans say Congress doesn't need to pass law protecting Mueller," CNN reported in March.

The events of Monday show that this is not true. With the Thursday meeting between Trump and Rosenstein looming, if Republicans were committed to supporting the Mueller investigation, they would pass legislation to protect him from Trump immediately.

There is no indication that is going to happen.

If Rosenstein is fired, then what?

If Rosenstein is fired and Sessions remains Attorney General, who oversees the Mueller investigation? According to the Department of Justice line of succession, the task falls to Solicitor General Noel Francisco.

Francisco, a political partisan with an expansive view of executive power, is a marked contrast to Rosenstein, who has thus far resisted pressure to curtail Mueller's investigation.

An experienced litigator, Francisco has represented the tobacco industry, coal companies and religious conservatives seeking to restrict access to birth control in the Supreme Court. He has echoed Trump's criticism of the FBI, authoring an op-ed that criticized the agency for treating Hillary Clinton with "kid gloves" in the investigation of her private email server. (Trump has been urging the Justice Department to reopen the inquiry.)

Francisco appears skeptical of the role of independent prosecutors like Mueller. Mother Jones reported that Francisco "in the past...has dismissed the need for special counsels—saying career prosecutors are just as well equipped to look into possible White House wrongdoing—and he has said that executive privilege shields presidents from most investigations."

If given authority over the Mueller investigation, Francisco would have the power to end it. But, short of that, he could sharply curtail Mueller's activities -- limiting the scope of the investigation, vetoing criminal charges and preventing the results of the investigation from becoming public.

Rudy and Jay call for a timeout

Trump's lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani said if Rosenstein was fired there should be a "time out" in the Mueller investigation. He was echoing a claim from another Trump attorney, Jay Sekulow, who advanced the idea on his radio show. (Pro tip: If you are facing a serious criminal investigation, don't hire a lawyer who has time to host a radio show.)

Sekulow's rationale was fuzzy. "I think it clearly becomes necessary and appropriate...that there be a step back taken here, and a review, a review that has to be thorough and complete... and basically a timeout on this inquiry," he said.

Sekulow also called for "a second special counsel to investigate the probe undertaken by the first special counsel."

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