"What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep"
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.
"What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep"
With support for Brett Kavanaugh within their party crumbling, Republicans relented and agreed to hold a hearing next Monday with Christine Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.
But will it be a fair hearing?
The announcement from the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee was titled: "Judiciary Committee to Hear from Kavanaugh, Ford in Public Hearing." The press release said the hearing would provide an opportunity "to give these recent allegations a full airing."
But on Tuesday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) admitted that the hearing was scheduled without securing a commitment from Ford to appear. When Ford didn't immediately respond to emails, Grassley just scheduled it anyway.
On Tuesday evening, Ford's attorneys sent a letter to Grassley and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the committee, asking that the FBI complete an investigation of her allegations before a hearing is scheduled.
As the Judiciary Committee has recognized and done before, an FBI investigation of the incident should be the first step in addressing her allegations. A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions.
Grassley rejects Ford’s request
Shortly after Ford’s lawyers sent the letter, Grassley issued a statement rejecting her request.
Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events. Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.
Grassley, however, is not the final word.
There are several members of the Republican caucus, including Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who have said they want to hear from Ford before moving forward. If those Senators aren't on board with confirming Kavanaugh without an investigation or testimony from Ford, Republicans don't have the votes to proceed.
Trump says he won't reopen the FBI investigation
Every Supreme Court nominee receives an FBI background check which is delivered to the White House and eventually shared with Congress. Kavanaugh's background check was completed before Ford's allegations emerged.
The FBI could reopen the background check and independently evaluate Ford's claims, but only on request of the White House. Thus far, the White House has refused to do so.
"I don’t think the FBI should be involved because they don’t want to be involved," Trump said Tuesday afternoon, before Ford’s letter was sent.
Republicans want to exclude alleged eyewitness
Grassley said Tuesday that any hearing would consist of just two witnesses: Kavanaugh and Ford. But there are several individuals with valuable information about the alleged incident, including one who Ford says was in the room when it happened.
If Ford is making up her story, as some Republicans have suggested, why would she also make up an eyewitness and place him in the room where she says the sexual assault occurred?
Ford says that, in the Summer of 1982, she was corralled into a bedroom by Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, at a party. She says both were heavily intoxicated. According to Ford, Judge laughed as he watched the sexual assault. The incident ended when Judge jumped on top of Kavanaugh and Ford, sending all three tumbling to the ground, allowing Ford to escape.
Judge would seem to be an ideal witness for Kavanaugh if the incident never occurred. He would testify that it never happened and corroborate Kavanaugh's claims.
But Grassley has rejected calls to have Judge appear before the committee. He offered no real rationale for his decision when asked Tuesday morning by radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Hewitt: Has anyone suggested that there will be a third witness of any sort on Monday’s hearing if it happens?
Grassley: Not at this point. I don’t expect it, because we have two people that have, want to testify, and we ought to, in our role as advice and consent, get all the information out. And we’ve got two people involved, and two people ought to be able to present their stories, and then we’ll have to be the jury.
Hewitt: Now according to newspaper accounts, Dr. Ford has said Mr. Mark Judge was in the room at the time of the assault. Mr. Judge has denied remembering anything like that. Should Mr. Judge testify?
Grassley: At this point, we have two people testifying. That’s all I can tell you.
Grassley's description of the event is false. There were not "two people involved." There were at least three, and he is attempting to exclude the testimony of one of them.
The nature of Judge's denial, which he made to The Weekly Standard, has changed significantly over time. Before Ford's name become public, Judge told The Weekly Standard the allegations were "absolutely nuts" and that he "never saw Brett act that way."
After Ford gave an interview to the Washington Post, he told The Weekly Standard he had "no recollection" of the events described and asked the publication to stop contacting him. Judge's second statement allows for the possibility that the incident occurred and Judge does not remember it.
This is significant because Judge wrote a book about his time at Georgetown Prep, Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk, in which he describes "his own blackout drinking and a culture of partying among students at his high school." Judge appears to include at least one story about Kavanaugh passing out drunk in a car, referring to his friend as Bart O'Kavanaugh.
Judge does not want to repeat his denials under oath
Judge, in a statement released by his lawyer, said he does "not want to speak publicly about the incidents described in Ford's letter." But this is exactly why he must testify under oath. Judge has already spoken publicly and denied the incident. His reluctance to repeat these claims under oath may be significant.
The other witnesses
In addition to Judge, there are a variety of other witnesses that could help prove (or disprove) Ford's claims. Republicans don't plan on calling any of them to testify.
Two other students at the party. Speaking to the Washington Post, "Ford named two other teenagers who she said were at the party." The Washington Post contact them, although they did not respond to messages. Given time, the Judiciary Committee could contacted them and have them appear at the hearing. At a minimum, these individuals could be helpful in placing Ford, Kavanaugh, and Judge at the party that evening. They may also have other important information about that night, including how much Judge and Kavanaugh had been drinking.
Ford's therapist. Ford told her therapist about the incident in 2012, long before Kavanaugh was being considered for the Supreme Court, and shared the therapist's notes with the Washington Post. The therapist could testify about their conversation and provide more details about what Ford said, and could also help explain some small discrepancies between the notes and Ford's story, which Republicans are using to attack Ford's credibility.
Ford's friends. According to a report in the Mercury News, Ford told several friends about the incident in 2017, before Kavanaugh being nominated this summer. Her friends could testify about what Ford told them and whether there are any discrepancies with what Ford is saying today.
The administrator of the polygraph. Polygraphs are not always accurate and are sometimes based on dubious science. But Ford did take a polygraph test and passed. The administrator of the test, a former FBI agent, could testify about the procedures used and how the conclusion was reached that Ford was telling the truth.
Experts in sexual assault. Sexual assault experts could testify about how people process incidents of sexual assault and how to evaluate allegations of sexual assault that are revealed years later. Critics claim that the fact that Ford did not contemporaneously report the alleged assault undermines her credibility. Experts in sexual assault could put Ford's claims in a broader context.
Ford gets death threats
Trump also painted Kavanaugh as a victim. "I feel so badly for him that he's going through this, to be honest with you… This is not a man who deserves this."
Ford, meanwhile, has been receiving death threats and has been forced into hiding, according to the New York Times.
Dr. Blasey, thrust suddenly into a spotlight that she never sought, has been inundated with vulgar email and social media messages, and even death threats, according to a person close to her, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private matter. “From what I’ve heard you have 6 months to live, you disgusting slime,” one message said.
Dr. Blasey, who has two teenagers, has moved out of her house, is arranging for private security for herself and her family, and is effectively in hiding, the person said.
A video surfaced on Tuesday from a 2015 speech by Kavanaugh that has new resonance in light of Ford's allegations. "What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep. That's been a good thing for all of us," Kavanaugh told an audience at Columbus School of Law.
If you are trying to assess who is lying and who is telling the truth, one thing to pay attention to is who is seeking a full airing of all relevant facts and who is encouraging people to quickly reach summary conclusions.
Thanks for reading! Please send your feedback and hate mail to email@example.com.