"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," Christine Blasey Ford, now 51, tells The Washington Post. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing." The he in question is federal appeals judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's pick to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Rumors about Ford's alleged encounter with Kavanaugh when she was 15 and he 17 started to swirl last week; they now threaten to at least delay a vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation, if not entirely derail his chances.
Earlier this summer, Ford had revealed her claims to "a senior Democratic lawmaker," as the Post reported Sunday. That lawmaker, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, failed to question Kavanaugh about the alleged assault while he was under oath But she did allude to it in a statement, saying she had referred "the matter to federal investigative authorities." Since then, Ford "has watched as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent, drawing a blanket denial from Kavanaugh and roiling a nomination that just days ago seemed all but certain to succeed."
A psychology professor in California, Ford had contacted the Post previously but not wanted to attach her name to the story. Now that things were already circulating, she decided to come forward. And since the Sunday publication of her story, statements from senators—including some Republicans—suggest they could be swayed to vote no on Kavanaugh.
"Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tells me in an [interview] he that doesn't think the Judiciary [Committee] should move ahead with its Thursday vote on Kavanaugh until they hear more from Christine Blasey Ford," Washington Post reporter Sean Sullivan tweeted last night.
"For me, we can't vote until we hear more," said Flake, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Without Flake's "support, the committee cannot advance the nomination," notes Politico. Republicans could, however, try to get a direct full-Senate vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation.
Another Republican on the committee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said that the Ford story "demands a response" and told CNN that the committee "might have to consider" a postponed vote.
Delaying the vote until more information is known "wouldn't just be for [Ford's] sake," writes former federal prosecutor David Lat in The New York Times, "but for the sake of Judge Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court itself."
The fact that Ford took a polygraph test and passed has helped her credibility, even if science says it shouldn't.
Find someone who will treat you the way Diane Feinstein treats an opportunity to horribly fuck up a delicate and politically charged situation
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) September 17, 2018
The fact that Feinstein sat on Ford's letter about the alleged assault hasn't helped. "Dianne Feinstein should have questioned Kavanaugh, under oath, in the closed hearing," tweeted The National Review's Tiana Lowe. "Not doing so, in tandem with the release of her statement, still makes these allegations look as politically charged as possible."
"What is puzzling to me," GOP Sen. Susan Collins tells The New York Times, "is the Democrats, by not bringing this out earlier, after having had this information for more than six weeks, have managed to cast a cloud of doubt on both the professor and the judge."
That the vote should be postponed until after the midterm elections is becoming a popular refrain.
"Republicans held the Scalia seat vacant for over a year on the 'principle' the voters deserved a voice," tweets Vox editor Ezra Klein. "There's a midterm election 50 days from now, and troubling new information about Kavanaugh is emerging. Shouldn't voters get a chance to weigh in here, too?"
Temporal issues aside, the thornier questions here surround what is right should further investigation prove the allegation credible. Does an attempted sexual assault as a teenager disqualify one from future employment as a Supreme Court Justice? (Would it be different if the job was different?) Is it even possible to determine, this far from the event, if the allegations are credible?
Look, I don't pick my battles. I just say what I think is right and wrong.
Doing something awful—a felony, even—as a teenager is not a lifetime disqualification.
Lying about it as an adult? Much more so. https://t.co/LhX2Ykpt0M
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) September 16, 2018
Georgetown law professor Rosa Brooks said that while she opposes Kavanaugh's nomination "based on his judicial record," she's "uncomfortable with asserting that his behavior as a teen tells us anything about his 'character'" at this point. "I don't think teen behavior is predictive of adult behavior, and I am also skeptical of the very idea of 'character' as we use the term in American politics," she writes on Twitter:
There is a ton of solid research on the general idiocy of teenagers, especially teenaged boys, and the neuroscience that explains their general idiocy….as a lawyer I also think there are sound reasons behind statutes of limitations. After 35 years it is nearly impossible to conduct a full or fair investigation.
This does not mean I consider sexual assault "excusable" or "minor." It just means that I think the bad behavior of minors should be treated differently than the behavior of adults, and that adults should not be shadowed forever by misdeeds as children.
Those considerations don't seem likely to win the day here. That the Republicans should simply ditch Kavanaugh now and move on has been taken as a given in some circles.
I honestly don't know what's in it for Republicans in continuing to back Kavanaugh.
He withdraws, Trump appoints Kethledge, Hardiman, or Coney Barrett instead, and they confirm in the lame duck anyway. Plus that way they don't smear a sexual assault accuser.
— Dylan Matthews (@dylanmatt) September 14, 2018
But the White House and others now seem to view this as a proxy for larger battles surrounding sexual assault and harassment allegations and the #MeToo movement.
"A lawyer close to the White House said the nomination will not be withdrawn," tweeted Carrie Budoff Brown yesterday.
"If anything, it's the opposite," the source supposedly told her. "If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried."
Wikileaks denies Russian visa story. AP says a "new cache of internal WikiLeaks files obtained by @AP shows that WikiLeaks staffers discussed having Julian Assange skip bail and escape Britain as authorities closed in." The story also reported that Assange had sought a visa from Russia. Wikileaks responds:
Mr. Assange did not apply for such a visa at any time or author the document. The source is document fabricator & paid FBI informant Sigurdur Thordarson who was sentenced to prison for fabricating docs impersonating Assange, multiple frauds & pedophilllia. https://t.co/xzMfhctFx4
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) September 17, 2018
Thordarson "distributed these docs to Scandinavian media outlets years ago who found them to be untrustworthy," Wikileaks asserts, calling him "a proven serial document fabricator & media hoaxer."
- Juan David Ortiz worked for nine years as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent while spending his spare time murdering sex workers. He has now confessed.
- The creepy clown panic of 2016 is still claiming victims.
- "The headline on the ThinkProgress article was false. Kavanaugh didn't say he would kill Roe. And [The Weekly] Standard was right to point this out," writes William Saletan at Slate.