The education of Bart O'Kavanaugh
Welcome to Popular Information, a political newsletter for people who give a damn — written by me, Judd Legum.
If you like this newsletter, tell someone about it! If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up at popular.info.
I'd love to hear from you. Send me feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The education of Bart O'Kavanaugh
Almost 27 years ago, Anita Hill said she was serially sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas, then a nominee to be a Supreme Court Justice, and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Her treatment by the all-male panel left a permanent stain on the United States Senate.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) publicly suggested that Hill was fabricating her accusations because she was frustrated that Thomas did not show "any sexual interest in her."
"If that's sexual harassment, half the Senators on Capitol Hill could be accused," Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) reportedly said after learning of the accusations.
Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), then the chairman of the committee, refused to allow four women who corroborated Hill's story to testify because he had promised a Republican Senator, John Danforth (R-MO) that he would move Thomas' nomination to the floor quickly.
On Sunday, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of clinical psychology, spoke to the Washington Post and said that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when they were both in high school.
Has anything changed?
Hours after the Washington Post published its story, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee issued a statement accusing Ford of being part of a Democratic plot to derail Kavanaugh's nomination.
As was the case with Thomas, despite the allegations, Republicans and the White House are focused on pushing Kavanaugh's nomination through as quickly as possible.
But there is a problem: They might not have the votes.
“He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing”
Ford described the alleged sexual assault in harrowing detail to the Post.
Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.
While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.
Kavanaugh, through the White House, denied the allegation. "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time," the statement said. He issued an identical denial when the outlines of the allegation first leaked last week.
The corroborating evidence
Ford said she didn't tell anyone about the alleged sexual assault, which she considered "a rape attempt," at the time because she was scared. She spoke to her husband, Russell Ford, about the incident in general terms in 2002.
In 2012, she discussed her allegations against Kavanaugh in more detail with a couples therapist.
Ford said she told no one of the incidents in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. 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.”
Russell Ford says that, in that therapy session, "she recounted being trapped in a room with two drunken boys, one of whom pinned her to a bed, molested her and prevented her from screaming. He said he recalled that his wife used Kavanaugh’s last name."
Her prior descriptions of the incident undercut the notion, advanced by Republicans since the allegations first surfaced last week, the story was concocted as part of a partisan plot to derail the nomination.
Ford also passed a lie detector test administered by a former FBI agent.
Mark Judge is Kavanaugh's friend who was allegedly present at the time of the assault. "It's just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way," Judge told the Weekly Standard last week.
But Judge has written extensively about his time at Georgetown Prep, the elite all-boys school he attended with Kavanaugh. In his 1997 memoir, Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, Judge describes "black-out drinking while he and Kavanaugh were Georgetown Prep students." Judge writes that at Georgetown Prep he "reached the point where once I had the first beer, I found it impossible to stop until I was completely annihilated."
In the book, Judge made slight alterations to the names of the people and places, using "Loyola Prep" in place of Georgetown Prep. He also appears to reference Kavanaugh, recounting a story of "Bart O'Kavanaugh."
"So how do you like Prep," Mary asked.
"Do you know Bart O'Kavanaugh?"
"Yeah, he's around here somewhere."
"I heard he puked in someone's car the other night."
"Yeah. He passed out on his way back from a party."
In his high school yearbook, Kavanaugh listed himself as treasurer of "Keg City Club — 100 Kegs or Bust" and referenced the "Beach Week Ralph Club."
Kavanaugh also fondly remembered his days of heavy drinking at Yale Law School during a 2014 speech to the school's Federalist Society.
Judge now has "no recollection"
After details of the story emerged on Sunday, Mark Judge adjusted his statement in a significant way. Instead of issuing a denial, he said that he had "no recollection" of the events described.
I have no recollection of any of the events described in today’s Post article or attributed to her letter. Since I have nothing more to say I will not comment further on this matter. I hope you will respect my position and my privacy.
Anonymous no more
Republicans have deflected reports of the sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh by noting that the details were secret and the accuser was anonymous. This is what Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) told Fox News' Chris Wallace on Sunday morning:
I don't know what our Democratic friends expect us to do. We got a letter, it's secret, we don't know who wrote it. Who are we going to cross-examine? Senator Feinstein? I mean give me a break.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), in a statement released on Friday, said he would not allow the Kavanaugh nomination to be delayed because there are no potential witnesses who remember the events.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) dismissed the issue as a "secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person."
Let me get this straight: this is statement about secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right. https://t.co/G6qVWdITboSeptember 13, 2018
Grassley statement: "The committee vote on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination will proceed as scheduled, next Thurs. Here’s what we know: Judge Kavanaugh has undergone six FBI full-field investigations from 1993 to 2018. No such allegation resembling the anonymous claims ever surfaced"September 16, 2018
Now, the details of the assault are public, and the alleged victim is speaking out.
Conference call cover-up
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have switched tactics. They are now dismissing the allegations because they allege it’s all part of a Democratic plot.
In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, committee Republicans dismissed Ford's account as "uncorroborated accusations from more than 35 years ago" and said the news "raises a lot of questions about Democrats’ tactics."
This didn't, however, appease all Republicans. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said that he would not feel comfortable proceeding with a committee vote, scheduled for Thursday until he heard from Ford. Bob Corker (R-TN), who is not on the committee, made a similar statement.
So Grassley is working to arrange a conference call to speak with Ford.
NEWS — Grassley and Feinstein jointly working on scheduling follow up calls with both Kavanaugh and Ford, per spox pic.twitter.com/71PYAU9OqQSeptember 16, 2018
Conference calls are not public and therefore would have the effect of shielding the information about the allegations from the public.
The White House stands by their man
In the face of serious allegations of sexual assault, the White House is standing by Kavanaugh. They did so explicitly in a statement to Fox News.
The White House stood by that denial on Sunday in the wake of the Post's report.
“As the story notes, we are standing with Judge Kavanaugh’s denial," White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told Fox News.
Trump is personally invested in the idea that women who allege sexual assault are liars. At least 14 women have accused Trump of sexual assault. He says they all are lying.
Three people "close to the White House," told Politico "they expect the president to go after Kavanaugh's accuser."
It's not just about Collins and Murkowski anymore
Much of the focus thus far regarding the Kavanaugh nomination has revolved around Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). This made sense. Kavanaugh is a likely a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and Collins and Murkowski are pro-choice.
But the allegation of sexual assault are different. It should be of concerns to all Senators.
As of publication, a committee vote on Kavanaugh is still scheduled for Thursday.
Thanks for reading! Please send your feedback and hate mail to email@example.com.