Sunday, September 30, 2018


Trump and Kavanaugh's supporters really, really didn't want an FBI investigation. Their absurd reasons not to have one, when it was obviously the only objective process for trying to get to the bottom of what happened with Ford and Kavanaugh, strongly suggests that they were afraid of what it might find. Now, thanks to the last-minute stand of Jeff Flake and three other senators, an investigation will happen after all
The exact parameters of the federal inquiry remain vague, although Trump, like his fellow Republicans in the Senate, is calling for an investigation “limited in scope and completed in less than one week.” The Judiciary Committee said the probe would cover “current credible allegations,” which appears to mean the accusations made by Ford and, the New York Times reports, the claims made by former Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, who told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh had exposed himself to her at a party in college. (Here’s a list compiled by Slate of people involved in the incident that any credible FBI investigation would need to interview.) . . .

The list:

Why not calling for an FBI investigation was a huge error by Kavanaugh
“Instead of looking hungry for truth, Kavanaugh heads into the week looking fearful of findings.” 

The FBI is talking to Ramirez
The has FBI reached out to Deborah Ramirez, a woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct . . .

Here is the other problem. Kavanaugh's testimony itself opens up new lines of investigation. And it raises an important question: If the FBI investigation turns up nothing definitive on Ford or the other assault charges, but does produce copious evidence that he lied repeatedly (under oath) about his drinking or other activities, will that be enough to drive Republican votes against him? 

I don't know if we're going to get daily dribs and drabs about the FBI investigation -- but if this is the way it's going to go, Kavanaugh is in trouble
Kavanaugh’s Yale Classmate Says He Lied About His Drinking


BUT . . . we learn that the White House is ruling certain areas off limits entirely, including, apparently, Kavanaugh's drinking habits. Will they get away with that?

The WH denies it:

[NB: Here's why drinking is central to the investigation. It is key to explaining why the alleged assault on Ford happened in the first place. It is a likely explanation for why Kavanaugh may not remember his actions (not enough has been made of this -- maybe he is denying it because he really doesn't remember it). And it goes directly to the wider credibility of his testimony if he lied repeatedly about his alcohol use -- which might also constitute perjury -- under oath to the committee.]

Kavanaugh made a big deal during his testimony that the witness statement from Ford's friend Leland Keyser contradicted her story. But that's not what Keyser says

A very effective side-by-side comparison of the Ford and Kavanaugh testimonies: when they answered the question and when they did not (I think you can guess the pattern)   

Now the real BS starts 
Republican senator urges FBI to respond to Kavanaugh assault accusations by investigating Democrats
Senator Says Kavanaugh Accuser Has ‘False Memories’

In other news . . . 

Congressional Dems press ahead with a lawsuit alleging that Trump is violating the emoluments clause

The years-old mystery of what’s in President Donald Trump’s tax returns will likely quickly unravel if Democrats win control of at least one chamber of Congress. Democrats, especially in the House, are quietly planning on using an obscure law that will enable them to examine the president’s tax filings without his permission. . . .

A NAFTA without Canada?

Oh, ick
Trump Says He ‘Fell In Love’ with Kim Jong Un 

Coal is dying, and for all his bluster and false promises, Trump can't do anything about it

Readers know I used to talk about good Lindsey/bad Lindsey Graham. Whatever happened to good Lindsey?
Bonus item: Matt Damon does Brett Kavanaugh


***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL ( with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

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Saturday, September 29, 2018


How Brett Kavanaugh and the Republicans played it
I think it’s obvious that Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth and that Kavanaugh told a lot of lies. This almost certainly means he’s lying about the assault on Ford too. The funny thing is that I’m still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt about what really happened. Like a lot of people, I refer to his actions as “attempted rape,” but there’s a pretty good chance that this wasn’t his intent at all. At the time, he may well have thought of it as nothing more than horseplay, just a bit of fun and games with no intention of ever taking it past that. And intent matters. Being an infantile 17-year-old lout is way different than being a 17-year-old rapist. But when he was first asked about all this, he panicked and denied everything. He didn’t have to: he could have admitted what happened, apologized, confessed that he never had any idea how badly it had scarred Ford, and then explained that he’d tried to make up for it by being especially sensitive in his hiring and treatment of women ever since. I’m pretty sure that this would have cooled things down pretty quickly. But once he denied the incident entirely, he had no choice but to stick to his story. 

Everything that’s happened since has hinged on that one rash mistake. And this is what explains his almost comically angry testimony. He knew he was guilty and he also knew he couldn’t admit that he’d lied about it. But the Republican playbook has a page for this. Even before his appearance, there were news reports about the advice Kavanaugh was getting: he needed to be passionate, angry, and vengeful against the Democrats who plainly orchestrated this entire witch hunt. And that’s what he did. Unlike Ford, his performance was highly rehearsed: his emotional tone was rehearsed; his lines were rehearsed (and then repeated ad nauseam); and more than anything, his angry insistence that he was the victim of a vicious liberal frame-up was rehearsed. This has been the signature of the conservative movement ever since the start of the Gingrich era . . . [read on]

The GOP Strategy to Distract From Christine Ford’s Testimony  

[NB: Not enough has been made of the fact that Kavanaugh's outraged response would be exactly the same if the charges were true or false. Of course a totally innocent man would be outraged. But a guilty man would be outraged too: you have humiliated me before the nation, you have caused pain to my wife and my daughters, you have brought up juvenile acts of bad behavior from decades ago as a measure of who I am today, and most of all you have sprung them in the 11th hour to keep me from the golden ring that I have wanted all my adult life, and which is now within my grasp.]

Trump LOVED it
Trump and senior officials were impressed by Kavanaugh’s combative defense before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which the Trump nominee, alternating between fury and tears, called several misconduct charges against him a “calculated and orchestrated political hit” and “national disgrace” that had devastated his life and family. . . . Trump was elated when Kavanaugh, whom he previously complained was not defending himself with enough force, lashed out at Democrats and the media for what Kavanaugh called casual character assassination. One senior White House official said Kavanaugh seemed to have tapped into a key element of Trump’s own personal style: hit back hard and without apology. . . . The official confirmed that Trump had watched and relished Kavanaugh’s combative opening statement . . . [read on]

Here's a thought experiment: reverse the gender roles

This repeats a point made yesterday, but it can't be stressed enough: Kavanaugh is not a normal Supreme Court nominee
One of the key reasons Brett Kavanaugh was a controversial judicial nominee in the Bush/Cheney era had less to do with his reputation as an ideologue, and more to do with his reputation as a partisan. The distinction matters. His critics didn’t see Kavanaugh as a conservative crusader, desperate to an advance an ideological mission; they saw him as a Republican, through and through, who prioritized his role as a partisan pugilist. That impression, fueled by multiple examples from throughout his career, was reinforced when his Supreme Court nomination ran into trouble . . . “[H]ow impartial can a Supreme Court nominee be when he goes on Fox News – of all possible platforms – to defend himself?” The piece went on to note that the perception of Kavanaugh “as a partisan warrior” was “reinforced” by his Fox News appearance. Yesterday, desperate to save his nomination to the nation’s highest court, Kavanaugh dropped the pretense altogether. His statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which he sketched out his view of a Democratic conspiracy, was among the most partisan remarks ever uttered by a high-ranking federal judge. . . .

Americans Politics Hits a New Low
Yesterday was a spectacle I hope we do not have to experience again. We watched two human beings, Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh, exposed in the rawest possible fashion to the entire world, over the gravest of accusations, with no definitive evidence apart from personal testimony to draw on, 36 years after an alleged crime took place. It was a grotesque political drama, in which everyone lost. . . . [read on]

Scenes from the circus

Kavanaugh's calendar

The lies
Kavanaugh Lied to the Judiciary Committee—Repeatedly
 Kavanaugh is lying. His upbringing explains why. The elite learn early that they’re special — and that they won’t face consequences. [read on]

Kavanaugh Wrongly Claims Repeatedly That He Could Drink Legally In Maryland
All the times Brett Kavanaugh refused to answer senators’ questions during Thursday’s hearing

Mark Judge has something to hide. Something bad
Yesterday Fox World found Ford's testimony to be "exceptionally credible" and "a disaster for Republicans." Today they are back on message
Joe diGenova called Ford “a deeply troubled person. She has a history of psychological discord.” “She went to the West Coast for one reason: She had so many problems in that school that they sent her away,” diGenova added. “She is a very sad woman.”

Women confront Flake. This will break your heart
‘Don’t Look Away From Me’ [watch]

But it seems to have had an effect. First Jeff Flake, then Collins, Murkowski, and Manchin say they won't vote for Kavanaugh without an FBI investigation. Trump and the GOP leadership are forced to back down. This is an important victory for fairness and the rule of law -- and maybe, just maybe, some truth may come out of it
White House orders one-week FBI background check into Kavanaugh 


"Limited scope"?
The FBI’s investigation will be limited to the “credible” allegations against Kavanaugh, including Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school — which she testified to in the Senate Thursday. A second woman, Deborah Ramirez has also claimed that he drunkenly exposed himself to her at Yale College and thrust his genitals in her face without consent. This allegation could also be part of the review — though lawmakers weren’t sure exactly what the scope of the full FBI probe would be. 

MSNBC runs a riveting account of Jeff Flake's day. It shows the exact moment when he changed his mind and decided not to support Kavanaugh without an FBI investigation. Watch this -- it is incredibly moving and dramatic

[NB: The image of Graham, Hatch, and Grassley sitting stone-faced as they realize that their rush to confirm Kavanaugh has been derailed is priceless.]

Did the confrontation with women protestors push Flake to his change of heart?
“There  were interactions with a lot of people on the phone, email, text, walking around the Capitol, you name it,” Flake said. He said it was “remarkable” the “number of people” who saw the testimony Thursday of one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford,  and “were emboldened to come out and say what had happened to them.” . . . “I am a conservative, I would love to see Judge Kavanaugh confirmed and I hope to be able to do that,” Flake said, “But I want a better process and I think involving the FBI, reopening the background investigation that so many of my colleagues have been asking for and people across the country have been asking for, this can be done.” 

Ford's lawyers say they welcome an FBI investigation

Can you do a thorough investigation in one week?

What Will the FBI Actually Investigate
FBI probe could further wound Kavanaugh 

A victory for the Dems too
ChrisCoons chokes up as he tells reporters that he & Flake "do not share a lot of political views, but we share a deep concern -- for the health of this institution and what it means to the rest of the world and to our country if we are unable to conduct ourselves respectfully"
Klobuchar: ‘We Are In A Better Place Than We Were At 8 AM’
Whitehouse On Flake Delay: ‘Good Likelihood This Might Transpire’

[NB: No one knows what an FBI investigation will reveal. But we do know this. It is what the accusers wanted. It is what the Dems wanted. It is what Kavanaugh and the GOP ringleaders did not want. So we have to celebrate this. It also shows the power of friendship in the U.S. Senate. Coons and Flake knew and liked each other, and that created an opportunity to reach across the aisle after a day in which that looked impossible. But friendships like this are disappearing in the Senate,]

In Russia news. . .  
Big Trump Donor Made Overture to Top Russian Official  
House Intel Repubs will release the transcripts of more than 50 interviews. . . while withholding others
Reps. Mark Meadows (NC), John Ratcliffe (TX), Jim Jordan (OH), Trey Gowdy (SC) Bob Goodlatte (VA) and Ken Buck (CO) will question Rosenstein in private to “avoid a public spectacle,” in Politico’s words. If the deputy attorney general doesn’t attend the hearing, he’ll be subpoenaed . . . .


In other news . . .   

Despite all Trump's threats, there won't be a government shutdown

Even the Trump admin admits that climate change is a real threat

Bad news for Jim Jordan
“At a private fundraiser at his namesake hotel, President Trump on Thursday night appeared to back Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to be the next Speaker,” several attendees told The Hill.

GOP gives up on two more House seats

Bonus item: Christine Blasey Ford Fan Art
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Friday, September 28, 2018


The GOP wrecks their relation to women
After Donald Trump again dismissed sexual-misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh as a “con job,” a reporter asked the president yesterday what kind of message that sends to women listening to his comments. . . . “I’ll tell you this: the people that have complained to me about it – the most about what’s happening – are women. Women are very angry. You know I got 52 percent with women. Everyone said this couldn’t happen – 52 percent. Women are so angry, and I, frankly, think that – I think they like what the Republicans are doing, but I think they would have like to have seen it go a lot faster.” 

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that Trump did not receive 52% support among women voters in 2016. He’s made this claim many times since taking office, and in each instance, he’s been completely wrong.  The Republican received 52% of white women voters, but 42% of women overall. To hear Trump tell it, non-white women, in a rather literal sense, simply don’t count. . . .

GOP’s Problem With Women Has Never Been More Glaring
The GOP Is Clueless About Women
Senate Republicans prepare to unite the nation's women against them
A National Reckoning With Misogyny and Power

The Ford/Kavanaugh testimony, Part 1 . . .

It started with Chairman Chuck Grassley's grumbling, stumbling opening

Then Christine Blasey Ford's opening statement

Ford: This Could ‘Absolutely Not’ Be Case Of Mistaken Identity
Ford: ‘100 Percent’ Certain Brett Kavanaugh Assaulted Me
Asked about her strongest memory of Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged assault, Ford said, “The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”
Christine Blasey Ford Schools the Senate on Memory Science

How did that decision go to have a hired female lawyer do the Republicans' questioning?

The Christine Blasey Ford hearing isn’t about finding the truth. It’s just a cross-examination.
GOP’s chosen prosecutor zeroes in on… Dr. Blasey Ford’s fear of flying?
How the Republicans used Rachel Mitchell to blame Thursday’s charade on its victim
Republican Aides On Kavanaugh Hearing: ‘What A Mess’

Meanwhile, the Democratic questioning was tight, effective, and impeccably planned

The media reaction
Fox News’ Chris Wallace: ‘This Is A Disaster For The Republicans’
Fox’s Judge Napolitano: Blasey Ford Is ‘Exceptionally Credible’
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Thursday described the situation Christine Blasey Ford is in before the Senate Judiciary Committee as “sickening.”
A Catastrophe . . .  

I guess that now that John McCain is dead, Lindsey Graham has become unmoored

[NB: Graham and others have been reduced to arguing that the Dems' timing of the release of information was designed to maximize the hurt for Kavanaugh. And that might be true: BUT THAT DOESN'T MAKE FORD'S CLAIMS UNTRUE.]
Here is the bottom line: the decision by Trump and the GOP majority not to allow an FBI investigation looks even worse now. The reason is pretty obvious

The inexcusable decision not to bring in alleged eye witness Mark Judge

The Ford/Kavanaugh testimony, Part 2 . . .

Kavanaugh goes full Trumpian in his opening statement: belligerent, defiant, unapologetic, aggressive, and openly partisan. I'm sure Trump thinks this is great "fighting back," but it sure didn't look like a Supreme Court judge speaking
“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record,” Kavanaugh said. “Revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”
A Defiant Howl of Rage Against Democrats
“This is a circus,” he said, calling it a “grotesque…character assassination.”

[NB: Looking at the language in some parts of his speech, I actually wonder if Trump sent him some helpful tips.]
A few online reactions
If you couldn't imagine an angry, drunk Kavanaugh before, you can now. . . .

Wow, it's almost as if he has a terrifying, angry dark side . . .

Kavanaugh cloaking himself in rightwing victimhood, sounding like a Fox News commentator . . .

This is not demeanor of someone one sees as a Supreme Court judge. He comes off as partisan hack ex frat boy. . . .

If confirmed, how does Kavanaugh make case he’s an independent judge when he’s just gone on a screed about “the left” and “the Clintons” ??? . . .

"What goes around comes around" sounds like a threat. This is not the kind of thing a potential Supreme Court justice should be saying. . . .

[NB: I've said this before. Kavanaugh got this nomination because he has toiled as a hyper-partisan operative for the GOP ever since Clinton's impeachment, He is their dream choice -- someone not motivated by abstract notions of Constitutional theory, but by cold calculations of party interest. He has been groomed for this job for years, and they won't let him fail easily. The most striking thing about his testimony was his open naked contempt for the Democrats.]
One little tidbit. In the written version of his comments, quoted here yesterday, Kavanaugh wrote, "I was not perfect in those days, just as I am not perfect today. I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now." That last line got cut from the version he read out loud. No one asked why 

Kavanaugh was asked repeatedly whether he would support an FBI investigation. In every instance he dodged the question, fought back, or changed the subject. One can only ask, Why not?
Kavanaugh Dodges Question About Whether He Wants Mark Judge To Testify

Kavanaugh reacted to every Democratic questioner with open hostility
He raised his voice repeatedly, interrupted Democratic senators as they asked him questions, and even brushed off some of the questions from Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor tapped by Judiciary Republicans to ask their questions. . . .

Kavanaugh goes after Feinstein in an angry tirade
In A Truly Disrespectful Exchange, Kavanaugh Attacks Sen. Klobuchar
Kavanaugh Insists He’s Never Blacked Out From Drinking. Mark Judge Suggested Otherwise.

Kavanaugh repeatedly said that four statements the Republican staff got from people Ford named proved the event did not happen -- one of them was Mark Judge, who was allegedly involved in her attack. What value did those statements have?

Kavanaugh got a lot of questions about his high school yearbook, ridiculing the trivial evidence that it was "just a yearbook." But if you have followed this story you know that his yearbook entry, contemporaneous with the Ford event, contains a lot of veiled references to drinking and sexual exploits. He lied and denied every one of them
I was also obvious that he was lying about certain things. For example, there’s not much question that he was a pretty heavy drinker in his teens. There’s not much question that “boofing” doesn’t refer to farting. There’s not much question that “Renate Alumnus” was not an affectionate reference to a girl that everyone liked. . . .
His explanation that the “Renate Alumni” was not a sexual reference is difficult to square with a fellow Renate Alumnus’s poem ( “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate”) portraying her as a cheap date. His insistence “boof” and “devil’s triangle” from his yearbook were references to flatulence and a drinking game drew incredulous responses from people his age who have heard these terms. His claim that the “Beach Week Ralph Club” was a reference to a weak stomach seems highly unlikely. . .
Based on extensive interviews by me and @katekelly with Kavanaugh's former Georgetown Prep classmates, what he just said about the meanings of "boofed" and "Devil's Triangle" is not true.


One fact that has been clearly established: Kavanaugh likes beer
‘I Liked Beer. I Still Like Beer’  

But seriously:
We need to talk about Brett Kavanaugh and alcohol

Before she got dumped by the GOP senators, the prosecutor started to drill in on the July 1 date on Kavanaugh's calendar. Then they canned her

Kavanaugh's summer 1982 calendar shows drinking at the center of his social life

The July 1 entry says that three key individuals in Ford's testimony -- Kavanaugh, Judge, P.J. and others, went to "Timmy’s for skis” (brewski's?). Wouldn't you like to know if the location and layout of that house fits Ford's description of where the assault happened? No one bothered to find out, it appears

After saying that the hired attorney would handle all the questions for both witnesses, the GOP senators violated their own ground rules, dismissed her, and used their own time for a series of pro-Kavanaugh stump speeches and attacks on the Dems. Lindsey Graham, the first to take back his turn, went utterly ballistic. By framing the whole matter as a ruthless attack by the Dems, he turned the issue into a matter of party loyalty
It appears that at least some Senate Judiciary Republicans were more interested in having a professional prosecutor question the woman accusing someone of sexual assault than the accused. . . .
Rachel Mitchell's disappearing act confirms GOP blunder

[NB: As more than one observer noted, Graham's performance, when he knew Trump was watching, sounded like an audition to be the next Attorney General.

In any event, the moment this happened, the pretense that the hearing was about trying to determine the facts of what happened was totally abandoned.]

Trump tweets praising Kavanaugh's testimony, says nothing about Ford's
"Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!" 

Wrapping up, we will see whether this performance changes the minds of key Senate swing votes. But it really is appalling that, confronted with three or four credible charges against Kavanaugh, the Repubs refused to turn them over for a proper investigation. Instead, they cooked up this he said/she said spectacle, excluded other witnesses and evidence INCLUDING AN ALLEGED EYEWITNESS TO THE EVENT, and then said, well, just given these two conflicting narratives we don't know enough to make a determination. Will this succeed? Will a man like this end up on the Supreme Court?
Looks like the Republicans plan to vote

Flake Still Undecided on Kavanaugh
Corker Will Vote for Kavanaugh
Republicans are increasingly optimistic about getting the vote of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia . . . 

In other Kavanaugh news . . .

The American Bar Association calls for a halt to the Kavanaugh confirmation and a full investigation

Kavanaugh and several committee Repubs accused Dianne Feinstein of leaking Ford's letter to the press despite Ford's request that it be kept confidential. Feinstein says, it wasn't her

Julie Swetnick, accuser #3, speaks publicly

In other news . . .        

Trump postpones his meeting with Rod Rosenstein                                          

Good luck with that
Democrats prepare to force vote on Mueller protection bill

Devin Nunes' October surprise

This could be interesting
Indiana Governor Must Turn Over Emails Between Pence, Trump And Carrier Corp. 

The overwhelming tone in Trump's press conference was aggrieved victimhood. Defending Brett Kavanaugh against sexual assault accusations morphed into defenses of himself. The U.N. wasn't laughing at me -- THEY WEREN'T! -- but you all said they were. Some people call me incompetent and talk about the 25th Amendment, but China thinks I have a "very large brain." And over and over and over again cutting off reporters, insulting them, and accusing the room of being biased against him

The "highlights":

China is running ads criticizing the Trump trade war. Trump is calling this "meddling in the election." Is this laying the groundwork for an excuse if the GOP gets swamped in the midterms? 

Another new Trump book
Winning the Election ‘Scared the Crap’ Out of Trump . . . [read on]


Five Senate races that were supposed to be close, aren't

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL ( with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

I don’t get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don’t run ads, etc.). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a “mission,” it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***