The White House ties the hands of the FBI, severely limiting the scope of the Kavanaugh investigation

Remember how we were talking yesterday about how, thanks in large part to Republican Senator Jeff “I Think I May Have Located My Vestigial Backbone” Flake, there was going to be an FBI investigation into the charges of sexual abuse against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh? Well, the more time that passes, the more it looks as though the investigation may in fact be a sham. NBC News is now reporting that White House counsel Don McGahn has intervened to severely limit the scope of the investigation. In fact, it’s looking now as though the FBI is only planning to interview four people, and Christine Blasey Ford isn’t even on the list.

This, for what it’s worth, directly contradicts what President Donald Trump said to reporters this morning on the South Lawn of the White House. “The FBI is all over,” Trump said, “talking to everybody.” He then added, “They have free rein, they’re going to do whatever they have to do.”

But, it would seem, that’s simply not the case. And this isn’t just Democratic fear-mongering intended to rile up the base. Sources inside the White House are saying that McGahn is “trying to make (the investigation) as narrow as possible.”

Here’s an excerpt from the NBC News report about what that means in practice.

…Investigators plan to meet with Mark Judge, a high school classmate and friend of Kavanaugh’s whom Ford named as a witness and participant to her alleged assault.

But as of now, the FBI cannot ask the supermarket that employed Judge for records verifying when he was employed there, one of the sources was told. Ford said in congressional testimony Thursday that those records would help her narrow the time frame of the alleged incident which she recalls happening some time in the summer of 1982 in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Two sources familiar with the investigation said the FBI will also not be able to examine why Kavanaugh’s account of his drinking at Yale University differs from those of some former classmates, who have said he was known as a heavy drinker. Those details may be pertinent to investigating claims from Ramirez who described an alleged incident of sexual misconduct she said occurred while Kavanaugh was inebriated. Ramirez’s lawyer said Saturday that she had been contacted by the FBI and would cooperate.

The conditions under which the FBI’s reopened background check are occurring appears to differ from the one envisioned by Flake, who used his leverage as a swing vote to pressure the Trump administration to order the FBI investigation…

As you might imagine, this isn’t exactly sitting well with Democrats, who were assured that this would be a real and thorough investigation. First, the White House stepped in, demanding that the investigation be limited to one week, and now they’re restricting the scope significantly, telling the FBI who they can speak with, and what they aren’t allowed to explore. Congressman Adam Schiff, demanding that the White House not dictate who the FBI can and can’t speak with, called the investigation a “whitewash.” Senator Mazie Hirono said earlier this morning that the investigation was shaping up to be a “farce.” And Senator Kamala Harris, as you can read below, called this latest development “outrageous.” The question I have, is what does Jeff Flake think? Is this what he had in mind when he demanded an FBI investigation? And, if not, can we expect him to speak up, vote “no” on Kavanaugh, etc.? Or was this part of his plan all along?

As for the four people to be interviewed, word is that they are Kavanaugh high school friends Mark Judge and PJ Smyth, Blasey Ford friend Leland Keyser, and Deborah Ramirez, the Yale classmate of the Kavanaugh’s who just recently came forward with new allegations of sexual assault. Here’s video from MSNBC.

If you’re as upset about this as I am, please call the offices of your Senators today, and, if they haven’t already, demand that they speak out in favor of an independent and thorough FBI investigation into the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. And, while you’re on the phone, maybe also mention that, even putting aside these serious allegations of sexual assault, Kavanaugh has still proven himself to be unfit for the lifetime appointment. As the editorial board of Maine’s largest newspaper, the Press Herald, said today, “The man who testified Thursday can’t control his temper, he is overtly partisan and he doesn’t always tell the truth,” and he should not be on the bench. [Did you hear that, Senator Collins?]

update: An update from Maine.

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Could a rino with human hands lift that light fixture?

Linette and Clementine drove to Cleveland on Friday to see the Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, leaving Arlo and me home alone to eat banana splits while watching Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Before settling in the for the night, though, he and I headed out for pizza. And it was there, sitting at Bigalora, that he posed the following question, while looking up at the light fixture that hung above us. “If a rino had hands, could it lift that?,” he asked. After we spent a little time discussing what the light fixture was made of, I told him that I was pretty sure that a rino with human hands, assuming that it could stand up on its back legs and maneuver its arms in such a way to get its hands on the light, could probably lift it without too much trouble. I added, however, that I’d try to look into it a little further for him. So, if any of you happen to be scientists who study what different animals could do if they had human hands, I’d appreciate a little help.

I don’t know how much I should encourage this interest of Arlo’s in giving animals human body parts, but I’m thinking that, maybe, the next time Linette and Clementine are out, he and I should either watch Charles Laughton in The Island of Lost Souls or read The Island of Dr. Moreau. [Would that scare him away from vivisection, or draw him further in, I wonder.]

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Thursday, July 1, 1982

I’m not a huge fan of Republican Senator Jeff Flake, but it looks as though we have him to thank for today’s news that the FBI will be reopening the investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, at least temporarily, and I wanted to publicly thank him. Flake, who released a statement earlier this morning stating that he would be voting to pass Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee, apparently then had a change of heart, which some are attributing to an encounter on an elevator with two women who identified themselves as sexual assault survivors. Whatever the motivation, Flake, who will likely run for president in 2020, returned to the Senate chamber determined to at least explore whether or not an FBI investigation could be conducted in relatively short order. According to press accounts, his fellow Republicans on the judiciary Committee attempted to talk him out of the idea, but, eventually, he and Democratic Senator Chris Coons left the chamber and placed a call to the offices of the FBI. While FBI Director Christopher Wray wasn’t in, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was, and he assured them that an investigation could be conducted in one week’s time, although, according to the report in the New York Times, he told them that it was unlikely they’d discover anything new. But, with that, a deal with struck, and we now have at least a glimmer of hope that federal investigators might find more evidence to substantiate the claim of Dr. Christine Blassey Ford that, 36 years ago, a 17 year old Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her.

And, for what it’s worth, I don’t know that I agree with Rosenstein that investigators likely won’t find anything new. Just in the last 24 hours, there are already new leads… thanks, ironically, to those 1982 calendar pages that Kavanaugh submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee in his defense. As you may recall from yesterday’s hearing, the Judge said that the calendars proved he was otherwise engaged every weekend night during the time period in question. And that may well be true. But, according to the calendar, there was one week night when he got together with friends for “skis.” [“Skis” is short for “brewskis.”] Kavanaugh, as you might recall, said during his questioning that he couldn’t have gone out on a weeknight, as he worked cutting grass all summer, and needed to remain sharp for it, but there’s the proof that, at least on this one Thursday night, he went over to a friend’s house for beers. And what makes this even more interesting is the fact that three of the people mention as being there that night, in Kavanaugh’s calendar entry, are people that Dr. Blasey Ford said were present at the get-together the night she was attacked… Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, and PJ Smyth… Here’s the entry in question.

Could this be the day the attack against Dr. Blasey Ford took place? Could it be that this small gathering at “Timmy’s house” on Thursday, July 1, 1982, was the event she talked about during her statement to the Judiciary Committee? Prior to this, all Dr. Blasey Ford could say for certain was that it happened that summer, before she turned 16, and at a time around when Mark Judge was working at the Potomac Village Safeway. [She said that she saw Judge working there approximately six to eight weeks after the attack.] Now, though, investigators have at least something a little more solid to go on. They have a possible date. They have a possible location. And they have the names, thanks to Kavanaugh, of other people who could have been there. In addition to the people noted above, Kavanaugh’s calendar entry fro that day notes that Tim Gaudette, Tom Kaine, Bernie McCarthy, and Chris “Squi” Garrett were to attend this event. And, I suspect, the FBI will want to talk with all of them. I also suspect they’ll look at floor plans for the house Tim Gaudette lived in at the time, to see if they line up with Dr. Blasey Ford’s memory of events. [She talked of a narrow staircase leading upstairs, a bedroom at the top of the staircase, and a bathroom right across the hallway from it.]

I could go further down this rabbit hole, but I think I’ll just hand things off to Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who commented about this particular calendar entry of Kavanaugh’s earlier today.

Personally, I don’t think much will come of this, as I suspect most people, even if they were there that night, probably wouldn’t remember wether or not Blasey Ford was there. I do think, however, it’s possible that Mark Judge, who Blasey Ford says was in the room at the time of her assault, egging Kavanaugh on, and laughing, could tell them something. I know that Blasey Ford said he was extremely drunk at the time, but she also said that, when she saw him six to eight weeks after the attack, he was visibly uncomfortable, and avoided speaking with her. This would indicate to me that he knew what had happened, and knew that what he and Kavanaugh had done was wrong. And, if that’s the case, I suspect he still remembers.

[One last thing on Flake’s decision to change his mind. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know why he decided not to vote Kavanaugh out of committee, and instead pushed for the FBI to re-open the investigation, but it’s very possible that he did so either because those two protesters convinced him to do so, or, more likely, because he saw that the video of him attempting not to engage with them was going viral. And, if either of those things is true, it demonstrates just how much power we all have in this age of social media. This was just two women roaming the halls of a Senate office building, and it’s conceivable that they changed the course of history. Just think what might happen if thousands of people were stalking Senators, looking to have exchanges like this.]

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Blasey Ford comes across as infinitely credible. Kavanaugh, aping Trump, comes out yelling about a conspiracy against him orchestrated by the Clintons.

It’s not often that I quote Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on this site, but he was exactly right when he described Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony today as “extremely emotional, extremely raw, and extremely credible.” Having listened to all of her testimony, I have no reason not to believe her when she says that she is “100%” sure that it was Brett Kavanaugh who had tried to rape her when she was 15 years old. Her story, which was absolutely heartbreaking, rang incredibly true. As Fox News anchor Bret Baier said, reading Blasey Ford’s allegations is one thing, but hearing her recount her experiences, “is a totally different thing.” Here, for those of you who might have missed it, is her powerfully emotional opening statement, in which she recounts the events of that night 36 years ago.

The Republicans, instead of asking Blasey Ford about the attack, spent the majority of their time either looking for “gotcha” opportunities, or making the case that all of this was nothing more than an orchestrated political attack against Kavanaugh masterminded by the diabolical Diane Feinstein. The woman the Republicans brought in to question Blasey Ford spent her time, among other things, trying to prove that the professor had lied when she told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was afraid of flying, and suggesting that, if she couldn’t remember how she got to the party that night 36 years ago, then she probably also couldn’t remember who attacked her. Blasey Ford, however, remained calm throughout, answering the questions of the Republicans to the best of her ability, and, when the opportunity arose, putting her PhD in psychology to use, explaining to the Senators how the human brain processes traumatic events. And, perhaps most importantly, she made it very clear that she had nothing to gain by doing this, and only came forward reluctantly, as she felt it was her civic duty.

I get that the Republicans don’t have a lot to work with, but them going after Blasey Ford for possibly exaggerating her fear of flying in order to delay the hearing, when Kavanaugh has lied so many times under oath, is absolutely laughable and pathetic.

And Kavanaugh lied. A lot. And it was obvious… Insultingly obvious… Kavanaugh, for instance, said that, when he and his fellow football players had self-identified as “Renate alumni” in their yearbook, they weren’t insinuating that they’d all had sexual relations with Renate Dolphin, a student at a local girls school. No, he said in his prepared remarks, they’d all written that out of respect for a young woman that they very much admired. And somehow he was able to say it with a straight face. [Renate Dolphin, who had originally signed a letter of support for Kavanaugh, recanted once she became aware of how he and his friends had referenced her in their yearbook, saying, “the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue, (and) I pray their daughters are never treated this way.”] But that was just the start. The lies kept coming.

Trump’s nominee for the highest court in the land also said that his yearbook reference to a “Devil’s Triangle” had to do with a drinking game, when it’s commonly known to be a sex act involving two men and woman. [Interestingly, someone with a congressional IP address just edited the Wikipedia entry for “Devil’s Triangle” to match the Judge’s definition.] And then there was all the stuff about “ralphing,” where Kavanaugh told the members of the Judiciary Committee, again with a straight face, that his references to vomiting in high school had more to do with his delicate stomach, and inability to digest spicy foods, than his drinking. [No one asked him about the reference to “100 kegs” on his calendar. I’m sure he would have explained that “kegs” were a kind of exercise.] And, when when asked what he and his friends meant by the word “boof,” which they used often in their yearbook, Kavanaugh said it was slang they used for farting, which doesn’t really make sense in the context that the word was used. [Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge writes to him in the yearbook, “Bart, have you boofed yet?“] Oh, and how about the part where he said that he couldn’t possibly have drank during that summer of 1982, except on weekends, as he had a job mowing lawns that required his focus and attention? Or what about the time he was asked if he’d watched Blasey Ford’s testimony, responded that he hadn’t, and then news came out that he had? Or what about his claim that he never, in his entire life, had drank to the point of blacking out, when several of his classmates had come forward to call him a “sloppy drunk,” and he himself had laughed publicly about drinking to the point of blacking out? I could go on, but I need to stop for my own mental health. Suffice it to say that many lies… obvious lies… were told, both small and large.

Here he is, talking about his entry in the Georgetown Prep high school yearbook. Watch it and tell me that he has the temperament to be a Supreme Court justice.

Speaking of the lies, my favorite moment of the hearing was when Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal asked Kavanaugh to translate the Latin phrase “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” which appears in jury instructions. Kavanaugh deferred to Blumenthal, who then translates it as, “False in one thing, false in everything.” And that’s what this comes down to for me.

Kavanaugh has no credibility. And, given the choice between the two, I’d say that Blasey Ford has proven herself to be infinitely more believable. She had nothing to gain by coming forward, and she did so anyway. That, I think, speaks volumes. As does the fact that Kavanaugh continues to push back when asked if he’d support a full FBI investigation and the questioning under oath of his old friend Mark Judge, who Blasey Ford says was in the room, laughing alongside Kavanaugh, during her assault… Here’s one of the many exchanges where Kavanaugh is asked by Democrats to state on the record that he supports an investigation, only to respond that it’s not his place to weigh in one way or the other.

Oh, and it’s probably worth noting that Kavanaugh came right out of the gate loud and angry. If I had to guess, I’d say that Donald Trump coached him on his performance, as it seemed like he was playing to the base in a way that Trump would approve of, but maybe it’s authentic. Maybe this is the way entitled little prep school boys act when they don’t get what they want. But it was fucking crazy. He even went so far as to attribute all of this to the Clintons. “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.”

As Senator Kamala Harris reminded him, though, it wasn’t too long ago that Trump’s last Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, sailed through his confirmation. So, from the looks of it, it’s not so much that Democrats are obstructionists, as the Republicans, in this instance, nominated a deeply flawed political operative with a dark past and a penchant for lying.

I could go on for hours about this (I haven’t even gotten to Lindsey’s Graham’s hissy fit), but I need to watch some old episodes of Sgt. Bilko or something before I slide into a pit of despair that I’m not capable of climbing back out of.

Oh, one last thing… How’d you like Kavanaugh’s pissy, passive-aggressive response to this line of questioning about his binge-drinking? [He reminds me of Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul, with a little Nathan Thurm mixed in.]

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, he didn’t attack Blasey Ford… I think it’s pretty clear he still lacks the character and temperament to be a Justice on the Supreme Court. How about you?

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Brett Kavanaugh, amid serious new allegations of sexual assault, prepares to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, face his first accuser

Thursday morning, assuming things continue as planned, both Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Professor Christine Blasey Ford are supposed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where they’ll be questioned about a sexual assault that’s alleged to have taken place in ’82, at a house party in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Blasey, who was 15 years old at the time of the alleged assault, says that a drunken Kavanaugh, assisted by his friend Mark Judge, held his hand over her mouth as he attempted to rape her. Kavanaugh, who would have been a Junior at the prestigious D.C. boys school Georgetown Prep at the time, has proclaimed his innocence, but, given his history of lying under oath, and the fact that Blasey Ford has come forward with both the results of a polygraph test, and sworn statements from four individuals who swear under penalty of perjury that she had told them of the attacks years before Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, one gets the sense that she’s the one telling the truth. [note: The photo above is of Dr. Blasey taking her polygraph test on August 7 of this year.]

To be fair, however, Kavanaugh has come forward with “evidence” as well. Yesterday, he made public his day-planner from 1982, which doesn’t appear to have “get drunk and rape someone with Mark” written anywhere on it. And, for what it’s worth, that appears to be enough for most Republicans, who continue to fight tooth and nail to keep the FBI from looking into the claims of Blasey, and ignoring requests that Mark Judge be called to testify.

Tomorrow, as I suspect you all know, is going to be an absolute nightmare, with the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee… who are all men… attacking Ford’s credibility through a female intermediary that they hired to ask their questions, knowing full well that they couldn’t attack Dr. Blasey without coming across as the withered, misogynistic throwbacks to an earlier day that they are.

And, of course, this is all happening as more women come out against Brett Kavanaugh, sharing their stories. Yesterday, as you’ll recall, there was his Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, who alleged that the Supreme Court nominee shoved his penis in her face as his friends chanted encouragement. And, today, attorney Michael Avenatti came forward with a sworn statement from a woman by the name of Julie Swetnick, who claims to have witnessed Kavanaugh drugging women while in high school so that he and his friends could “gang rape” them. Here, for those of you who have yet to read Swetnick’s sworn statements, is an excerpt.

[note: While Kavanaugh’s ’82 calendar doesn’t show any sign of having attempted the rape of Blasey, it does show how many kegs he’d be getting for “Beach Week,” which is where Swetnick claims to have been raped by Kavanaugh’s prep school crew.]

For what it’s worth, this would seem to be corroborated to some extent by a piece in Slate a few days ago written by Alexandra Lescaze, about how, in the DC prep school scene, it was common practice for boys to serially rape incapacitated young women at parties. She said they referred to the practice as the “lineup.” Furthermore, it’s being reported by the Washington Post today that Mark Judge’s former girlfriend has offered to talk to FBI and Judiciary Committee about discussions she’d had with Judge about him and his classmates taking turns having sex with a drunk woman.

We, of course, have no way of knowing how truthful these claims are, but it certainly seems as though a lot of evidence is pointing toward some downright evil behavior on the part of our privileged young protagonist. And, just as importantly, as I noted before, we know for a certainty that Kavanaugh has lied repeatedly throughout this process, fought to keep the FBI from conducting a thorough investigation, and, it would seem, likely worked behind the scenes through his friend Ed Whelan to put the blame on a high school classmate who had the incredible misfortune of looking somewhat like him.

Kavanaugh has lied from the beginning, about small and large things alike. He lied about receiving stolen Democratic documents when he worked in the Bush White House, and he lied on the day he was officially nominated by President Trump for the Supreme Court, when he stated that “No president has ever consulted more widely or talked with more people from more backgrounds to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination,” knowing full well that his name had just been handed to Donald Trump on a list prepared by the far-right Federalist Society. And, we saw it again yesterday, when, in an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court nominee took his case to Fox News, where he described himself as a churchgoer who drank the occasional beer as a young man, but never drank to the point of blacking out, which we know from several sources to be categorically false. Classmates at Yale have referred to him as a “sloppy drunk,” and, as we discussed before, his old friend Mark Judge, in his memoir about his hard drinking youth, even included a binge-drinking buddy by the name of Bart O’Kavanaugh. So, yeah, he’s a liar.

And for the record, he’s also a hypocrite. While, from what we’re told, he recently refused to answer certain questions, saying that they were “too personal,” he wasn’t always so sensitive. When he worked for special counsel Ken Starr, he said the following. “It is our job to make [the witness’s] pattern of revolting behavior clear—piece by painful piece,” he said.

I could go on, but I’m running out of steam. There is one thing, however, that I want to share… In addition to the three women noted above, there are at least two more stories in the press tonight. One involves a women who claims to have been physically assaulted by Kavanaugh in 1998. The other allegation involves a rape on a boat. While both of these charges are getting a lot of attention this evening, neither involves a named accuser, let alone a sworn statement, leading some to think that they could be the work of GOP operatives looking to muddy the water with claims that can easily be debunked, in hope of making “all allegations look frivolous.”

Oh, for what it’s worth, I should also add that Donald Trump said this afternoon that the Kavanuagh nomination was “working out very well“… Of corse, he also said that China has respect for his “very, very large’a brain.”

[The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Kavanaugh and Blasey will be streamed live tomorrow, starting at 9:45 AM.]

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