The confidence game

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The confidence game

Ever since September 16, when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford went public with her claim that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the summer of 1982, Republican leaders have had a simple message: resistance is futile.

They have attempted to portray Kavanaugh's confirmation as an inevitability.

"You’ve watched the fight, you've watched the tactics, but here's what I want to tell you, in the very near future Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court...we're going to plow right through it," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on September 21.

Four days later, McConnell was singing the same tune: "We’re going to be moving forward. I’m confident we’re going to win, confident that he’ll be confirmed in the very near future."

Following Thursday's hearing, when Ford delivered a credible account of Kavanaugh's alleged assault, and Kavanaugh responded with an adamant and angry denial, Republicans went into overdrive.

They quickly scheduled a committee vote the next morning and announced plans to hold a series of votes on the Senate floor that would allow Kavanaugh to be seated on the court in a few days.

Kavanaugh may ultimately be confirmed. But it is far from a certainty.

It was a manipulation, designed to create the appearance of unstoppable momentum. The purpose was to depress and discourage Kavanaugh's opponents.

The events of the last few days are a vivid example of why it is critically important to ignore the Republicans' confidence game.

Your voice matters

On Friday morning, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) released a statement announcing he would support Brett Kavanaugh's nomination. Flake, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, was among the handful of Republican Senators who had not previously announced their intentions. It was not a good sign.

But two women at the Capitol that day did not give up. They confronted Flake in an elevator and told him their stories of being victims of sexual assault. Here is what one of the women said to Flake.

I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them. That’s what happened to me, and that’s what you are telling all women in America, that they don’t matter. They should just keep it to themselves because if they have told the truth, you’re just going to help that man to power anyway.

That’s what you’re telling all of these women. That’s what you’re telling me right now. Look at me when I’m talking to you.

You can watch the confrontation here.

A few hours later, Flake told a stunned Senate Judiciary Committee that he had changed his mind. He would vote to report Kavanaugh's nomination out of the committee, but would not vote for Kavanaugh's confirmation until the FBI completed a one-week investigation of the sexual assault allegations.

In an interview later that night, Flake said he was influenced not only by the women in the elevator but also by the thousands of people who wrote and called his office -- and the offices of other Senators.

Q: What was it like hearing from some of those women?

Flake: I didn’t expect it. I mean, we’re getting women writing into the office. People we don’t know. Other offices, I’m told, are having the same experience.

Q: The footage of sexual-assault survivors confronting you in the elevator Friday has been widely viewed. What was going through your mind when they were talking to you?

Flake: Obviously, it’s an uncomfortable situation. But it was—you know, you feel for them. It was poignant....it certainly struck a chord.

This is important. Yes, our political system is extremely screwed up. But people still matter. The voices of thousands of people, coming together, changed the mind of one Republican Senator and the course of the Kavanaugh nomination.

Never let Mitch McConnell convince you that your voice doesn't count.


The White House rigging of the FBI investigation

The FBI investigation, from the outset, was placed under artificial constraints. The initial deal hammered out by Flake limited the time of the investigation to no longer than one week. If the purpose of the investigation were to uncover the truth, such a time limit would not exist. But the FBI has considerable resources and it’s not implausible that it could complete a thorough investigation in that time.

But the White House wasn't satisfied.

Instead, White House Counsel Don McGahn, a friend of Kavanaugh and the chief advocate for installing him on the court, is restricting the scope of the investigation. Instead of allowing the FBI to pursue whatever leads it deems relevant, McGahn has imposed severe limitations on the scope of the inquiry.

The FBI has only been authorized to speak to four people: 1. Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge, who Ford said witnessed the assault, 2. Ford's friend Leland Keyser, who Ford says was at the party where the assault occurred but did not witness it, 3. P.J. Smyth, another person Ford says attended the Party and, 4. Deborah Ramirez, the woman who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at Yale.

McGahn has prohibited the FBI from pursuing a host of relevant leads. For example, The FBI cannot interview "former classmates who have contradicted Judge Kavanaugh’s congressional testimony about his drinking and partying as a student." This testimony is extremely probative because Kavanaugh claimed under oath that he never drank so much that he forgot what happened.

Trump claimed on Twitter that the FBI can interview anyone as part of its probe.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people. Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!

September 30, 2018

This is false. The FBI can expand the inquiry only with permission from the White House.

What is the White House afraid of?

The FBI investigation is already limited to a week in duration. If Don McGahn believes Kavanaugh was innocent, why would he artificially limit the scope of the investigation within that timeframe? What does the White House think the FBI would uncover if the FBI talks to other witnesses?

The tactics of the White House suggest that, at a minimum, administration officials are not convinced that Kavanaugh's hands are clean and are concerned about what a fulsome investigation would uncover.


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Kavanaugh's krumbling kredibility

A confirmation hearing is not a trial -- it's a job interview. Nevertheless, Republicans supporting Kavanaugh's confirmation have attempted to apply legal concepts to the hearing. Chiefly, they argue that Ford has the "burden of proof."

Following the hearing, many Republicans said they found Ford's testimony credible, but her testimony is not proof of sexual assault because Kavanaugh denied her claims.

So let's play the Republicans' game and pretend this is a courtroom. It's not uncommon for one person to say one thing and another person to say the opposite. If that happens, the judge or jury assesses the credibility of each witness to help determine who is telling the truth.

A close look at Kavanaugh's testimony shows his credibility is in tatters. He made many claims that are either demonstrably untrue or strain credulity.

July 1, 1982

In her testimony, Ford described where she was assaulted as "a small gathering at a house in the Bethesda area." She remembered that four boys, "Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, a boy named P.J., and one other boy whose name I cannot recall," and her friend Leland were in attendance. Everyone was "drinking beer in a small living room."

In response, Kavanaugh claimed that his calendars from 1982 show that "[N]one of those gatherings included the group of people that Dr. Ford has identified. And as my calendars show, I was very precise about listing who was there; very precise."

But on July 1, 1982, a Thursday, Kavanaugh’s calendar details an event precisely like the one that Ford describes.

Kavanaugh acknowledged that "Skis" referred to beer ("brewskis"). It is precisely the kind of event Ford describes with the same combination of people: Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, and P.J. Smyth. ("I can’t guarantee that there weren’t a few other people there, but they are not in my purview of my memory," Ford testified.)

So while Kavanaugh said his calendar proves he never attended an event like the one Ford describes, it proves the opposite.

The witnesses

"All the witnesses who [Ford says] were there say it didn’t happen. Ms. Keyser, her longtime friend, said she never saw me at a party with or without Dr. Ford," Kavanaugh said. On numerous other cases, Kavanaugh claimed the other witnesses "refute" the existence of the party.

This is a lie.

Keyser said she does not remember the party but believes Ford's account. In other words, she has specifically said she believes it did happen.  

P.J. Smyth also did not "refute" the event Ford described. "I have no knowledge of the party in question," Smyth said in a statement. Smyth isn't saying the party didn't happen. He's saying he doesn't remember it.

Even Kavanaugh's good friend, Mark Judge, does not go further than saying he "does not recall" the party described by Ford. He also wrote a book about getting blackout drunk during his high school years.

"Renate Alumnus"

Kavanaugh claimed that the reference to "Renate Alumnus" was a term of endearment for a woman named Dolphin Renate who attended a nearby school.

[O]ne of our good female friends who we would admire and went to dances with had her names used on the yearbook page with the term “alumnus.” That yearbook reference was clumsily intended to show affection, and that she was one of us.

This is not credible. The phrase "Renate Alumni" was used by many of Kavanaugh's classmates on the football team. Another one of Kavanaugh's friends included a poem: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”

One person who isn't buying Kavanaugh's spin: Renate. "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," she told The New York Times.

Devil's Triangle

Kavanaugh said the term "Devil's Triangle" on his yearbook page referred to a drinking game. It is not a drinking game.

Yale Law School

"I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college," Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh's grandfather was an alumnus of Yale Law School, making Kavanaugh a legacy and likely giving him an advantage in admissions.

How to evaluate two witnesses

Ford delivered testimony that even Republican supporters of Kavanaugh admit, was highly credible. Kavanaugh delivered a rebuttal that was dishonest and misleading. It is not a case of he said, she said. They both spoke, and she spoke far more credibly.

"Make no mistake: Brett Kavanaugh's a liar. He lies about little things. He lies about big things. He lies under oath," the Boston Globe editorial board concluded.


The Trump administration is still separating families

The Trump administration said that its policy of separating children from their parents has ended and it is now working to reunite families.

That isn't true.

KPBS reports the "U.S. government is still separating families at the Southwest border when children involved are U.S. citizens." According to federal government data "since July, at least 54 U.S.-citizen children have been transferred to Child Welfare Services by law enforcement agencies." The separations occur when children who are U.S. citizens show up with asylum-seeking parents at the border.

In a statement, the U.S. Customs and Border Control acknowledge that children "may be separated as CBP and ICE are unable to detain United States citizens in these instances."


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