Kavanaugh and the GOP hit men screw the pooch

Kavanaugh and the GOP hit men screw the pooch

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

Donald Trump held a rally in Las Vegas for Sen. Dean Heller. R-Nev., on Thursday night. (Heller faces a tough re-election fight against Rep. Jacky Rosen, a moderate Democrat well liked in Nevada.) His crowd was as ecstatic as usual, lustily chanting "lock her up" and booing energetically when Trump asked sarcastically, "What about our Justice Department, huh?" It's still jarring to see a president ginning up citizens to demand that his former political rival be put in prison, but this new disgust for federal law enforcement is downright disorienting.

Trump was introduced by Wayne Allen Root, author of "Angry White Male: How the Donald Trump Phenomenon Is Changing America." Root claimed that Trump had specifically requested him, which is probably true. They are both conspiracy theorists, having originally bonded over the "birther" craze that first put Trump on the wingnut radar. If they had a chance to chat last night in Vegas it is almost certain they talked about this:

That story had been teased in right-wing circles for a few days, even making it into the Washington Post opinion page when Kathleen Parker published a fatuous op-ed suggesting that Brett Kavanaugh must have an evil twin (she called it a "Kavanaugh doppelganger") who attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party. Most people not steeped in the right-wing fever swamps thought Parker's piece was just a bizarre fantasy, but those who are tuned in to social and professional GOP establishment circles understood that she was previewing a quasi-official alternative theory of the case.

What makes this whole thing important is that the person who concocted this story is a man named Ed Whelan who operates at high levels of the conservative legal establishment and is close to major players in the White House and to Kavanaugh himself. It is a testament to his reputation inside the Beltway that members of the press, as well as top Republicans, were all aquiver for the last few days waiting to hear what Whelan had.
When he finally laid it out on his twitter feed on Thursday night, with diagrams and floor plans that prove nothing and a lot of speculative folderol, it landed with a thud that sent shockwaves through the media and the political world, for reasons nobody expected. The story he lays out is not just embarrassingly feeble, it is recklessly defamatory. His alternative theory claims that Ford mistakenly identified Kavanaugh as her attacker, a charge which was telegraphed early on by Senator Orrin Hatch when he said that he'd spoken with Kavanaugh and believed she was "mixed up." But then Whelan actually throws suspicion on to a named individual who went to school with Kavanaugh. It's a shocking thing to do to this private person who, as it happens, even signed one of the letters of support for Kavanaugh.

The Washington Post characterized the reaction this way:

Republicans on Capitol Hill and White House officials immediately sought to distance themselves from Whelan’s claims and said they were not aware of his plans to identify the former classmate, now a middle school teacher, who could not be reached for comment and did not answer the door at his house Thursday night.
Saying they weren't aware that he was going to name another man as the attacker doesn't really get those Republicans off the hook. As the Post reports:
Whelan has been involved in helping to advise Kavanaugh’s confirmation effort and is close friends with both Kavanaugh and Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society who has been helping to spearhead the nomination. Kavanaugh and Whelan also worked together in the Bush administration.

Kavanaugh and his allies have been privately discussing a defense that would not question whether an incident involving Ford happened, but instead would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

That means Kavanaugh was personally involved in this inane charade which would be in keeping with his experience as a professional political operative and hardcore partisan hit man. Unfortunately for him, his skills are obviously a little bit rusty.

n any case, Kavanaugh's supporters seem to have done no real investigation beyond looking at a couple of yearbook photos and determining that the two high school boys looked similar (although anyone can see they aren't the same person). They neglected to inquire if any relationship had existed between Ford and the other man. As it turns out one did:

“I knew them both, and socialized with” the other classmate, Ford said, adding that she had once visited him in the hospital. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”
The fact that Kavanaugh and his allies would think it is necessary to go to this ridiculous length speaks to serious insecurity about his denials. If he was involved in this inane plot it is yet more evidence that Kavanaugh is completely unfit for the Supreme Court --- or any court.

And this may explain why they are so reluctant to get the FBI involved. As I mentioned, Orrin Hatch (as well as his deputy chief of staff) gave away the game early on as to why the Senators were pretending that there is no precedent for asking the FBI to interview some witnesses if new information emerged during a confirmation hearing. The last thing they wanted was for the FBI to go around checking on a story everyone was working madly to cover up.

And one can imagine the FBI doesn't really want to get involved in a partisan maelstrom like this either.  The president and his minions' relentless smearing of the bureau has to be making them second guess themselves in ways they normally wouldn't --- which is exactly the point. (Senator Sheldon Whitehouse D-DE,  told CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday that he's concerned about this and he probably should be.)

Trump, on the other hand, had his own reasons for keeping the FBI out of it by falsely asserting that the FBI doesn't do such background checks. After all, he called the agency a "cancer on the country" so he undoubtedly assumes they will retaliate in any way they can. (That's how he operates, so he thinks everyone else behaves the same way.)

Trump's staff has urged him to hold fire on Kavanaugh's victim which he has done, for the most part, staying on message even though it obviously pains him to do it. But in a live interview with Sean Hannity at his Las Vegas rally, he couldn't hold back entirely, saying, "frankly, Sean, to see what is going on is very, very sad. Why didn’t somebody call the FBI 36 years ago," proving once more that he is incapable of ever learning anything.

Get ready for a very eventful week. As of right now, Ford's attorneys and the Senators are negotiating terms for her to appear for a public hearing. I don't think anyone knows how this one is going to turn out.