Tuesday Reads: Will Whiny White Men Win?

Good Morning!!

Julie Swetnick, Christine Blasey Ford, and Deborah Ramirez

I’m confused. It’s not clear to me what written instructions the White House has given to the FBI for their supposed expanded background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh and the sexual assault accusations against him. So far agents have not interviewed either Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford. It would seem that those interviews would provide a baseline for interviews with other witnesses. Until we see the written instructions, I don’t see how we can trust the Trump administration to do the right thing.

The New York Times is reporting that the investigation has been expanded from the original order to interview only four witnesses–Kavanaugh friends Mark Judge, P. J. Smyth, and Blasey Ford friend Leland Keyser; but they don’t seem to have any specifics about the required written instructions. Senator Diane Feinstein has sent a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn asking for a copy of the directive he sent to the FBI, but so far she doesn’t seem to have received it.

The New York Times: White House Tells F.B.I. to Interview Anyone Necessary for Kavanaugh Inquiry.

The White House 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 as the review is finished by the end of the week, according to two people briefed on the matter.

At an event on Monday celebrating a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, President Trump said he instructed his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, over the weekend to instruct the F.B.I. to carry out an open investigation, but the president included the caveat that the inquiry should accommodate the desires of Senate Republicans.

Don McGahn

The new directive came after a backlash from Democrats, who criticized the White House for limiting the scope of the bureau’s investigation into Judge Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. The F.B.I. has already interviewed the four witnesses it was originally asked to question, and on Monday it reached out to others.

The broadening inquiry produced an unusual spectacle as friends and classmates from Judge Kavanaugh’s past provided dueling portraits of the nominee in his younger days — either a good-natured student incapable of the alleged behavior or a stumbling drunk who could easily have blacked out and forgotten inappropriate behavior at alcohol-soaked parties.

How far the F.B.I. will now delve into these questions beyond the original high school-era sexual assault allegation lodged by Christine Blasey Ford remained unclear. Senate Democrats sent the bureau a list of two dozen witnesses they insisted must be interviewed for an inquiry to be credible. Another accuser, Deborah Ramirez, has given the bureau the names of more than 20 people she said witnessed Judge Kavanaugh exposing himself to her during a college party or heard about it at the time or later, according to someone involved in the investigation.

It’s a long article, so check it out if you’re interested in more details.

Meanwhile, the media is moving much faster than the FBI on the Kavanaugh story. Two big reveals from yesterday–that Kavanaugh himself tried to short-circuit the New Yorker story about Deborah Ramirez and that he was involved in a violent drunken bar fight as a Yale student.

NBC News: Text messages suggest Kavanaugh wanted to refute accuser’s claim before it became public.

In the days leading up to a public allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to a college classmate, the judge and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim, according to text messages obtained by NBC News.

Kerry Berchem, who was at Yale with both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Deborah Ramirez, has tried to get those messages to the FBI for its newly reopened investigation into the matter but says she has yet to be contacted by the bureau.

The texts between Berchem and Karen Yarasavage, both friends of Kavanaugh, suggest that the nominee was personally talking with former classmates about Ramirez’s story in advance of the New Yorker article that made her allegation public. In one message, Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked her to go on the record in his defense. Two other messages show communication between Kavanaugh’s team and former classmates in advance of the story.

In now-public transcripts from an interview with Republican Judiciary Committee staff on September 25, two days after the Ramirez allegations were reported in the New Yorker, Kavanaugh claimed that it was Ramirez who was “calling around to classmates trying to see if they remembered it,” adding that it “strikes me as, you know, what is going on here? When someone is calling around to try to refresh other people? Is that what’s going on? What’s going on with that? That doesn’t sound — that doesn’t sound — good to me. It doesn’t sound fair. It doesn’t sound proper. It sounds like an orchestrated hit to take me out.”

The texts also demonstrate that Kavanaugh and Ramirez were more socially connected than previously understood and that Ramirez was uncomfortable around Kavanaugh when they saw each other at a wedding 10 years after they graduated. Berchem’s efforts also show that some potential witnesses have been unable to get important information to the FBI.

The New York Times: Kavanaugh Was Questioned by Police After Bar Fight in 1985.

As an undergraduate student at Yale, Brett M. Kavanaugh was involved in an altercation at a local bar during which he was accused of throwing ice on another patron, according to a police report.

The incident, which occurred in September 1985 during Mr. Kavanaugh’s junior year, resulted in Mr. Kavanaugh and four other men being questioned by the New Haven Police Department. Mr. Kavanaugh was not arrested, but the police report stated that a 21-year-old man accused Mr. Kavanaugh of throwing ice on him “for some unknown reason.”

A witness to the fight said that Chris Dudley, a Yale basketball player who is friends with Mr. Kavanaugh, then threw a glass that hit the man in the ear, according to the police report, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The report said that the victim, Dom Cozzolino, “was bleeding from the right ear” and was treated at a hospital. A detective was notified of the incident at 1:20 a.m.

The police report, which described the incident as an “assault,” is reproduced in the article.

Susan Collins is calling for the FBI to investigate the claims of Julie Swetnick, the third woman to come forward against Kavanugh. Portland Press Herald: Sen. Collins calls for FBI to investigate 3rd woman’s accusation in broader Kavanaugh probe.

Sen. Susan Collins wants the FBI to investigate the allegations brought by Julie Swetnick as part of the agency’s probe of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Collins and Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska “advocated for the additional background investigation because she believed that it could help the senators evaluate the claims that have been brought to the Judiciary Committee,” Collins’ spokeswoman Annie Clark said in a statement to the Press Herald on Monday. “That would include the allegations that were brought by Julie Swetnick.”

Clark said FBI investigators “can determine whom they need to speak with and should follow appropriate leads. Senator Collins was encouraged by the President’s statements that he would give the FBI agents the latitude they need to do their work. It makes sense to start with the four named witnesses from the hearing and then the FBI can follow any leads that it believes need to be pursued, as Senators Flake, Murkowski, and Collins indicated at the time this agreement was made.”

There’s also breaking news this morning about the Stormy Daniels case. It’s behind the paywall at the Wall Street Journal, but here’s a report from Talking Points Memo: Trump Directed Son Eric To Oversee Restraining Order Against Stormy.

President Donald Trump was personally involved in efforts to enforce a hush agreement with porn actress Stormy Daniels and directed that his son, Eric Trump, be involved in the legal response, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

According to people familiar with the matter who spoke to the WSJ, Trump asked his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to get a restraining order against Daniels to keep her from discussing the details of her alleged affair with Trump, after he had learned that she planned to outline the alleged sexual encounter in a media interview. Trump asked Cohen to work with Eric Trump and another lawyer, who had previously worked with the President, to handle the legal work. Eric Trump then directed a Trump Organization lawyer to authorize the paperwork.

From Philip Bump at The Washington Post, a timeline of Trump’s attempted coverups of the Stormy story: The coverup uncovered: How Team Trump tried to bury or confuse the Stormy Daniels story.

One of the ironies at the heart of President Trump’s effort to hide an alleged sexual encounter in 2006 with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels is that, had the story emerged shortly before Election Day 2016, it’s not clear it would have done much damage. We say that in part because a hint of the story did come out before the election, and Trump won. We say it in part, too, because the emergence of the story after his inauguration nestled neatly into the well-worn grooves of public opinion in the Trump era: His supporters mostly wave it off while his opponents splutter with irritation.

But Trump, his campaign team, his administration and his private business all contributed to trying to bury the Daniels story. We keep learning new ways in which this coverup was constructed, with the addition Tuesday morning of a report in the Wall Street Journal indicating that Trump personally pushed earlier this year for a restraining order to be issued against Daniels.

That report runs contrary to comments from both the president and the Trump Organization, a conflict that, by now, is par for the course in the Daniels situation. But it’s still important to highlight, specifically because it reinforces the extent to which Trump and those around him tried to cover up and lie about something that, had another path been taken, might not have been a big deal at all.

Check out the cover up timeline at the WaPo.

More stories of possible interest, links only:

Politico: GOP operative who sued Trump says FBI referred hacking of her email to Mueller.

The Washington Post: Dear dads: Your daughters told me about their assaults. This is why they never told you.

The Harvard Crimson: Kavanaugh Will Not Return to Teach at Harvard Law School.

Buzzfeed: Brett Kavanaugh’s Comments In That Hearing Raise Ethics Questions That Will Likely Follow Him Whether Or Not He’s Confirmed.

Forbes: How Trump Is Trying—And Failing—To Get Rich Off His Presidency.

Politico: Manafort meets with Mueller prosecutors.

Paul Krugman at The New York Times: The Angry White Male Caucus. Trumpism is all about the fear of losing traditional privilege.

The Washington Post: ‘The trauma for a man’: Male fury and fear rises in GOP in defense of Kavanaugh.

CBS News: Americans to receive cell phone alert from Trump in first national test.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Kavanaugh Will Not Be Confirmed (IMHO)

Brett and Ashley Kavanaugh on Fox News last night

Good Morning!!

I said a few days ago that I didn’t believe Brett Kavanaugh would be confirmed to the Supreme Court. I’m even more sure of that now. It’s looking like the Republicans don’t have the votes as of now, and each days that goes by more ugly information comes out about Trump’s nominee.

Politico: GOP support for Kavanaugh wavers.

Senate Republicans have gone from confidently predicting the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to a new message: It all comes down to Thursday.

The GOP is staking Kavanaugh’s prospects to his hearing later this week, when he and Christine Blasey Ford will testify publicly about her allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school more than 30 years ago. It’s a shift that puts some of the onus on Kavanaugh to convince a growing number of wary senators whether his word is more credible than hers in the battle over the high court seat.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is warning his colleagues publicly and privately that his plan is to hold a floor vote on Kavanaugh no matter what happens in the Judiciary Committee, possibly as soon as early next week. Though Kavanaugh currently lacks the votes to be confirmed, the GOP leader is signaling that he will hold the vote anyway to force all 100 senators to go on record and put maximum pressure on red state Democrats that the GOP is hoping to defeat this fall, Republican senators said.

Whether that vote will be successful remains in doubt, the senators said.

That’s quite a shift. And more information could very well come out. Even a Yale professor who strongly supported Kavanaugh’s nomination is now having second doubts. The Yale Daily News: Second thoughts on Kavanaugh, by Akhil Amar.

Akhil Amar

Minutes after President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 to the Supreme Court, I published a controversial op-ed in The New York Times endorsing the nomination. I later testified in support of Kavanaugh on the final day of his confirmation hearings.  I still stand by what I have said about Kavanaugh’s uniquely impressive judicial and scholarly record over the last dozen years. But now that serious accusations have arisen about his conduct in his teenage years, I believe that these accusations deserve the best and most professional investigation possible — even if that means a brief additional delay on the ultimate vote on Judge Kavanaugh, and even if that investigatory delay imperils his confirmation.

As agonizing as this delay might be for all concerned, in the long run this additional investigation is the best way forward, not just for the Court and the country and Kavanaugh’s accusers, but also for Kavanaugh himself. If the investigation’s facts and findings support him, then he will join the Court in the sunshine and not under a cloud. If instead the investigation uncovers compelling evidence against him, President Trump should be ready with a pre-announced back-up nominee.

Read the rest at the link.

I don’t know whether to buy into Michael Avenatti’s claims about a woman he represents or not. I really don’t like the way he’s hyping whatever he knows on Twitter and in TV appearances instead of having the woman and her other witnesses talk to someone in the media. The Daily Beast:

On Sunday evening, just as The New Yorker revealed the identity of a second woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, attorney Michael Avenatti announced that he, too, had “credible information” about Kavanaugh and his high-school friend Mark Judge.

Michael Avenatti interviewed by Rachel Maddow last night

The media-savvy lawyer told The Daily Beast on Monday that his client would be coming forward “in the next 48 hours” with details and accusations that mirrored those already leveled and could, in his estimation, torpedo Kavanaugh’s confirmation—all of which would seem helpful for Democrats as they make the case that Kavanaugh is morally unfit to sit on the Supreme Court….

Avenatti, who has flirted with a 2020 presidential bid, has so far revealed only some information about the allegations he is set to bring forward. He has yet to provide evidence or identify the woman he is representing, only teasing that he may do so via a television interview before Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford—who has accused the federal judge of sexual assault—appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Still, Rachel Maddow thought it was worth having Avenatti on her show last night, so I’ll reserve judgement until  I see what he reveals tomorrow.

Based on watching his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and what I’ve seen of his Fox News interview last night, I have to say that Kavanaugh is a completely unimpressive person. I have to wonder if he would have gotten as far in his career as he has if he had not been dialed into the right wing anti-Clinton forces back in the 1990s.

Last night on Fox News, Kavanaugh came across as weird–wearing heavy pancake makeup, repeating the same talking points over and over, and seeming almost whiny about what he’s going through. Some clips from Aaron Rupar’s Twitter feed:

Kavanaugh repeatedly claimed that he always treated women with respect, but that claim was destroyed by a disgusting report in The New York Times last night: Kavanaugh’s Yearbook Page Is ‘Horrible, Hurtful’ to a Woman It Named.

Brett Kavanaugh’s page in his high school yearbook offers a glimpse of the teenage years of the man who is now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: lots of football, plenty of drinking, parties at the beach. Among the reminiscences about sports and booze is a mysterious entry: “Renate Alumnius.”

The word “Renate” appears at least 14 times in Georgetown Preparatory School’s 1983 yearbook, on individuals’ pages and in a group photo of nine football players, including Judge Kavanaugh, who were described as the “Renate Alumni.” It is a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school.

Two of Judge Kavanaugh’s classmates say the mentions of Renate were part of the football players’ unsubstantiated boasting about their conquests.

“They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, a Georgetown Prep student at the time, referring to Judge Kavanaugh and his teammates. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”

The woman who was the butt of these sickening “jokes” never knew about it until recently.

This month, Renate Schroeder Dolphin joined 64 other women who, saying they knew Judge Kavanaugh during their high school years, signed a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is weighing Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. The letter stated that “he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”

When Ms. Dolphin signed the Sept. 14 letter, she wasn’t aware of the “Renate” yearbook references on the pages of Judge Kavanaugh and his football teammates.

“I learned about these yearbook pages only a few days ago,” Ms. Dolphin said in a statement to The New York Times. “I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”

Brett Kavanaugh is on the right

Obviously, Kavanaugh was not respectful to women when he was in high school and he isn’t now based on his judicial opposition women’s bodily autonomy. Read more about the yearbook page vs. the Fox News interview in this piece by James Hohman at The Washington Post: The Daily 202: Kavanaugh’s memory of himself in high school is very different than his portrayal in the yearbook.

Last night, a man who was Kavanaugh’s roommate during his freshman year at Yale came forward, speaking to ABC News in San Mateo, CA: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Yale roommate says he believes second accuser.

James Roche says he was Kavanaugh’s roommate in the Fall of 1983.

“We shared a two-bedroom unit in the basement of Lawrence Hall on the Old Campus. Despite our living conditions, Brett and I did not socialize beyond the first few days of freshman year. We talked at night as freshman roommates do and I would see him as he returned from nights out with his friends,” Roche said in a statement….

“It is from this experience that I concluded that although Brett was normally reserved, he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk. I did not observe the specific incident in question, but I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.”

Roche says he became friends with Debbie Ramirez. “She stood out as being exceptionally honest, with a trusting manner. As we got to know one another, I discovered that Debbie was very worried about fitting in. She felt that everyone at Yale was very rich, very smart and very sophisticated and that as a Puerto Rican woman from a less privileged background she was an outsider. Her response was to try hard to make friends and get along.”

Deborah Ramirez is the woman who accused Kavanaugh of exposing his penis and waving in her face during a drinking game. In case you haven’t read it yet, here’s the article in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer published on Sunday: Senate Democrats Investigate a New Allegation of Sexual Misconduct, from Brett Kavanaugh’s College Years.

In his Fox News interview, Kavanaugh claimed this couldn’t possibly have happened because it would have been the talk of the campus. But according to the article, students were talking about it then and are still doing so now.

Kavanaugh also claimed in the interview that he never had intercourse in high school and for years afterward. But of course he hasn’t been charged with that and there are many ways to sexually assault someone without vaginal penetration. Yuck I can hardly believe he said that on TV. So embarrassing for him and his wife!

Now people have come forward to say either that’s not true or he lied to them.

Kantrowitz is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin and an award-winning author.

I guess that’s it for me today. I really think Kavanaugh’s nomination will be withdrawn before the scheduled Thursday hearing. If it isn’t, the Republicans are going to look even worse than they do now.

I know there’s lots more happening in the news. What stories are you following?