Is Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination in real trouble after all?
It’s hard to say, but this can’t be good for him:
The White House has authorized the F.B.I. to expand its abbreviated investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh by interviewing anyone it deems necessary as long the review is finished by the end of the week, two people briefed on the matter said on Monday.
The new directive came in the past 24 hours after a backlash from Democrats, who criticized the White House for limiting the scope of the bureau’s investigation into President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. The F.B.I. has already completed interviews with the four witnesses its agents were originally asked to talk to, the people said.
Mr. Trump said on Monday that he favored a “comprehensive” F.B.I. investigation and had no problem if the bureau wanted to question Judge Kavanaugh or even a third accuser who was left off the initial witness list if she seemed credible. His only concerns he said, were that the investigation be wrapped up quickly and that it take direction from the Senate Republicans who will determine whether Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed.
“The F.B.I. should interview anybody that they want within reason, but you have to say within reason,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden after an event celebrating a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico. “But they should also be guided, and I’m being guided, by what the senators are looking for.”
Now of course this could all be a big game of nudge nudge wink wink for appearances sake, but the fact is that the longer this goes on the more chances there are for evidence to come forward that Kavanaugh told not just a whole passel of lies to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as he so obviously did, but also the specific kind of lie that would sink his nomination.
According to a Sunday New Yorker article, multiple people have tried to go to the FBI with pertinent information about Kavanaugh, only to be stymied by seemingly unorganized and uninterested agents.
One of these potential witnesses is Elizabeth Rasor, an ex-girlfriend of Mark Judge. Rasor says that Judge told her about an episode where he and his friends “took turns” having sex with a drunk woman, an act that seems to mirror Kavanaugh’s third accuser, Julie Swetnick’s, allegation. Judge has also been accused by professor Christine Blasey Ford of being an accomplice to Kavanaugh during a separate alleged sexual assault.
Another is an unnamed Yale classmate who wanted to corroborate Deborah Ramirez’s accusation that Kavanaugh had exposed himself to her at a college party. “I thought it was going to be an investigation, but instead it seems it’s just an alibi for Republicans to vote for Kavanaugh,” the unnamed Yale classmate told the New Yorker.
Both Rasor and the unnamed Yale classmate were allegedly stonewalled by the FBI, eventually being told to leave their accounts with an 800-number tip line.
I suspect that the Ramirez accusation could well end up being Kavanaugh’s downfall. Ramirez has been interviewed by the FBI, and has given the names of several people who she says witnessed Kavanaugh’s assault on her to the agency.
The bottom line is if McConnell knows he has a limited time to make this happen, or confirming a justice during the lame duck session will start to get tricky. He doesn’t have the votes now — if he did we wouldn’t even be discussing this — and if he doesn’t have them by a week from today I think that will be it.
Now if I had to put money on it I’d bet that they’ll still manage to ram this through by hook or by mostly crook, but I agree with Jon Chait that Kavanaugh would have never gone nuclear if had known this was going to take at least ten more days.
The issue of Kavanaugh’s lying is one his conservative defenders have only barely begun to acknowledge. It is probably the central weakness in his candidacy at the moment. Kavanaugh wrote his opening statement the night before his testimony. It was intended to rally his party with red-meat partisan rhetoric, and lead directly to a rapid vote in a flourish of tribalistic emotion. It was not intended to survive a week of close factual scrutiny by the media or potentially the FBI.