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How Republicans Are Trying to Fast-Track the Kavanaugh Confirmation

Christine Blasey Ford has been forced to move out of her house and hire private security after accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct; Republicans remain focused on the Supreme Court seat

Chuck Grassley

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wields his gavel as Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, appears before the panel for the second day of his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

J Scott Applewhite/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Though lawmakers invited her to speak at a public hearing next Monday, Christine Blasey Ford said through her lawyers on Tuesday that she believes the FBI should investigate her sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before she testifies publicly. The request makes sense; it’s also not without precedent. When Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, the FBI investigated the claim before Hill offered testimony. But common sense and precedent seem antiquated notions as Republican senators conspire to force Kavanaugh onto the nation’s highest court before the November midterms. “The FBI does not do investigations like this. The responsibility falls to us,” tweeted Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). “Chairman @ChuckGrassley moved our committee vote to accommodate Dr. Ford’s lawyer’s offer on TV yesterday to have her client testify before the Judiciary Committee.”

If anyone should know that the FBI does indeed do investigations like this, it’s Hatch, who was on the Senate Judiciary Committee in ’91 when the agency investigated Hill’s allegations. So, too, was Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who, like his colleague, dismissed the idea of a proper investigation: “Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events,” he said in a statement. “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.”

The likelihood of the FBI investigating Ford’s allegation is small, as it would have to be ordered by the White House. Then-President George H.W. Bush called for Hill’s claims to be investigated in 1991, but it’s unlikely President Trump will request a similar search for the Kavanaugh facts. “I don’t think the FBI really should be involved because they don’t want to be involved,” Trump said without evidence on Tuesday. It was a restrained statement by the president’s standards. He even added that “we should go through a process” and that there “shouldn’t be a doubt.”

Though he didn’t launch any vindictive attacks on Ford’s character, Trump made sure to defend the alleged sexual abuser in typical fashion. “I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this,” the president said of Kavanaugh. “This is not a man that deserves this.” Trump also wondered why Ford’s claims are only being brought to light now, attributing the delay to political maneuvering by the Democrats. “Why didn’t she bring it up then?” he asked. “Because they obstruct and because they resist — that’s the name of their campaign against me. They just resist and they just obstruct.” Just before midnight on Tuesday, he tweeted about the “Democrats Playbook.”

Citing the timing of the allegation has been a common, facile way for Republicans to cry foul. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) criticized how the claim was “brought forward at the last minute in an irregular manner.” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said that the Democrats have “had tons of time to do this” while likening the allegation to a “drive-by shooting.”

The GOP is complaining in bad faith, as it’s clear why the allegation is just now being made public despite Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) learning about it back in July. In the letter she wrote to her senator detailing the incident, Ford asked for confidentiality, and has since been reluctant to come forward, fearing an onslaught of attacks from the right. She revealed her identity by way of an interview with the Washington Post Sunday night only after it was reported last week that Feinstein possessed a letter detailing a sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh.

Her concerns about the impact that coming forward would have on her life proved to be well founded. She’s been harassed online. Her email has been hacked. Her life has been threatened. She’s been forced to move out of her house and enlist private security. “Her worst fears are coming true,” a person close to Ford told the New York Times.

But Republicans aren’t able to understand why it may be difficult for Ford to suddenly have to detail maybe the most traumatic experience of her life on national television and under duress from a group of lawmakers who may not  believe her. As Ford’s attorney’s wrote in a letter to Grassley on Tuesday, the senators who would be interrogating her already “appear to have made up their minds” that she is not credible. After speaking with Kavanaugh about the allegation, Hatch posited that Ford must be “mixed up” in regard to what happened. “The judge, who I know very, very well [and] is an honest man, said this didn’t happen,” he said.

Sen. Graham cast doubt on how Ford, on a professor’s salary, would be able to afford the $300 polygraph test she took to validate her claim, and later tweeted that Kavanaugh needs to be confirmed as soon as possible. Forget about how Graham and other Senate Republicans held the seat meant for Merrick Garland open for nearly a year for explicitly political reasons. “Requiring an FBI investigation of a 36 year old allegation (without specific references to time or location) before Professor Ford will appear before the Judiciary Committee is not about finding the truth, but delaying the process till after the midterm elections,” he wrote. “It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP.”

Like Trump, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) painted Kavanaugh as the victim. “I’ve been impressed with all that I’ve heard about him and again it’s unfortunate,” he said. “I mean I can’t imagine the horror of being accused of something like this.” Though the accusation could derail Kavanaugh’s bid to sit on the Supreme Court, the incident has derailed Ford’s entire life. She brought it up during a couples’ therapy session back in 2012, for which the therapist has produced notes. One of Ford’s friends said in a statement that she has talked about how she needs to have more than one exit in her bedroom, out of a fear of being trapped. “I know from the things she has told me … that this event was serious enough to have a lasting impact on her life,” the friend, Jim Gensheimer, said.

On Tuesday night, Crooked Media Editor-in-Chief Brian Beutler tweeted an unattributed quote about how “conservatism consists of the lone proposition that there must be in-groups the law protects but does not bind and out-groups the law binds but does not protect.” Kavanaugh belongs to the in-group, and Republicans are going to  move to protect him at all costs, regardless of the expense to Ford, a member of the out-group. They do not want to “hear her out”; they want to smear her as mercilessly as they can get away with politically. Her credibility is irrelevant, as is whether her allegation is true. “I’d hate to have someone ask me what I did 35 years ago,” Grassley said in defending potential sexual assault.

It’s not surprising that Republican senators want to avoid looking into the rearview mirror as they do everything they can to discredit Ford and confirm Kavanaugh, who has already demonstrated to a tendency to lie in service of his own ambition. Thirty-five years ago, Grassley was a 50-year-old senator voting against making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday. Five years ago, he was one of just 22 senators to vote against the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. Joining him in attempting to vote the act down were Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Hatch and Graham, all of whom are on the Senate Judiciary Committee that would presumably be questioning Ford should she agree to testify on Monday.

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