Last week something important happened to us. It was one of the most telling moments in our country’s history. A huge cry for empathy and action for the victims of sexual assault roared out from behind closed doors. C-Span was inundated with callers telling their stories of sexual abuse. Women victims crowded the halls of the Capitol. Jeff Flake stood, eyes cast down, in the elevator on his way to the Senate Judiciary committee to vote yes on Kavanaugh while two victims of assault shouted and pleaded to be heard by him. Last week was deeply impactful. Are we a country that listens to truth and acts to do the right thing, or are we a country that covers up and denies the truth to protect the powerful, especially powerful, entitled men?
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate was riveting. Everyone in the country watched in real time or saw the hearing later on their devices. Ford was a very credible witness whose pain in the retelling of what happened to her 35 years ago was visceral, emotional and clearly honest. She was nothing short of heroic to overcome her anxieties to tell the world what Brett Kavanaugh did to her. She was 100% certain he did it. She was not only an excellent witness, but she stood in as her own expert witness as well, describing the after affects of trauma- you vividly remember the traumatic event, but the rest of the details like how you got to the house and back home, get washed away. I used to do rape cases in state court. Dr. Ford was more credible because she did not claim to remember every detail from that day. The trauma was seared in her memory as it is for most survivors of sexual assault. Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony would have been a slam dunk in a court of law. But this wasn’t a court of law. It was the Senate Judiciary committee. And what followed was sickening.
Brett Kavanaugh took center stage and lit into the Democrats with a fury that belied his claim that he would never be that guy who would attack a woman and not take no for an answer. His demeanor, his anger, his irritable interruptions of Senators, his conspiracy theories about how the Clintons and Democrats were out to get him showed him to be a man who should not sit as a judge because he lacks judicial temperament. He showed his true colors in that opening statement. Kavanaugh is a partisan warrior for the right. But beyond that, he is also a man who will lie to get what he wants. He does not belong on the bench. At all.
After that, Lindsey Graham erupted with venom, attacking the Democrats and supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The Old Boy network seemed to have won the day after that display of grievance and outrage calculated to overwhelm and outshout the anguish and truth of the victims of sexual assault.
Right before the Senate Committee was preparing to vote Kavanaugh out of committee to get a full Senate vote, Jeff Flake stepped into an elevator and was confronted by two victims of sexual assault. Someone captured that moment on his or her cell phone and it went viral. It was a moment of raw pain. After that encounter, Flake, who looked tortured and does have empathy, went up to the committee room and stopped the clock on the immediate confirmation vote of Kavanaugh saying that unless there was a one-week investigation done by the FBI, he would be a no vote for the final confirmation. Kavanaugh’s confirmation made it out of committee and onto the next phase, but Senator Grassley made the call for an FBI investigation. Democrats had asked for that over and over again in the hearing but were summarily rebuffed by Grassley. The FBI is now tasked with doing a fast series of interviews with a few limited people and a search for the house described by Dr. Blasey Ford. Will that open the door to a fuller picture?
According to Frank Figliusi, who is a former FBI agent with current connections to people in the FBI, and who is a commentator on MSNBC, the FBI had already anticipated that this turn of events could happen and were ready to go. The agents had already been assigned the people they were to interview and get 302s from. (302s are witness statements given under oath which are used by prosecutors when they question witnesses in court.) The FBI is very capable of getting to the truth here. They work cold cases and rape cases all the time. Having worked with FBi agents, I feel certain that they could, if given the time and allowed to proceed on their own, find us the truth about Kavanaugh and what happened with Dr. Blasey Ford. However, most FBI investigations are not time limited or done under this kind of political pressure as this one is.
Will this FBI investigation get us the truth? I am skeptical. Very skeptical. I think the Republicans are planning to use this limited investigation to shut up the #MeToo victims and the Democrats (See, we did your little FBI investigation like you wanted and it turned up NOTHING. Now let’s get on with this confirmation of this wonderful man who has been wrongly maligned and unfairly victimized by the nasty Democrats.) How do I know the investigation will turn up nothing damaging for Kavanaugh? Because it is under the control of the White House and they want this partisan Republican jurist on the Supreme Court before the midterm elections. Since it takes at least 60 days to vet another candidate for the Supreme Court, they are out of time. It’s Kavanaugh or bust. This is the steaming pile of manure upon which Republicans are going to throw themselves.
The way they will play their cards goes like this- if a key witness like Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s buddy who was in the room when he assaulted Christine Blasey based on her testimony, does not want to talk with the FBI, he can say no to an interview. Show of hands- who thinks Mark Judge will want to talk with the FBI and tell the truth? Nobody. If he did tell the truth about that night, he would probably be implicating himself as a co-conspirator, and he would certainly be forever shunned by Kavanaugh and their mutual friends. In addition, since Mark Judge is a conservative commentator, he would become a target of the right wing if he told the truth. He will not want to tell the FBI what really happened. Then the question becomes, will the White House subpoena him, forcing his testimony? My guess is they will not, what’s your guess? I thought so.
The other victim, Ramirez, who has an uncertain recollection of whether it was Kavanaugh who pulled down his pants freshman year at Yale, can be more easily disposed of. The Republicans will say she must have been wrong about the guy who did this. Let’s move on.
As for the Michael Avenatti connected victim, Julie Swetnick, this a woman who is ready to testify about what she saw involving Kavanaugh and Mark Judge and others engaged in shocking incidents in college involving drugging women and train raping, or gang raping them. Those allegations are damning and need to be investigated. But from what I have heard so far, NONE of that is going to be investigated by the FBI. If those allegations are not investigated by the FBI, then it would be up to Avenatti to bring out the testimony maybe on a TV show or news conference. The Republicans will say that Avenatti has political aspirations to be president and will debunk every witness he brings forward as part of a charade to disparage Kavanaugh. Without a neutral FBI investigation, those claims will be less credible in the public space or with Senators who have to vote yes or no on this nominee.
In addition, the FBI has been under attack by Trump. Over and over Trump has assaulted the agency as compromised and full of people who are not doing their jobs. Of course, what Trump really means is that they are not behaving as loyalists to him. He is a mob boss and he demands that HIS DOJ and FBI protect him and his interests. With the Kavanaugh nomination Trump has control over what the FBI can and cannot investigate. He will be sure that what comes out of this limited investigation will not damage Kavanaugh’s confirmation. They are already saying: “this is not a fishing expedition,” meaning that it will be limited and held in check. If the FBI can help Trump get what he wants, maybe they can get back in the good graces of Dear Leader.
That is what I think is coming. I hope I am wrong.
If this is what is coming and if Kavanaugh gets on the Supreme Court, the only good news is that it will inflame women across the country. The blue wave will become a blue tsunami this November. Even with Republican women, net support for Kavanaugh before and after the hearing plummeted 18 points. Before the hearing Republican women gave Kavanaugh an 80% approval rating. After the hearing it dropped to 68%. Disapproval rose from 19% to 26%. Along with Kavanaugh’s fall, Trump’s approval rating went into the dumper. It is down 16 points with all GOP voters and 19 points with GOP women. With GOP women, Trump’s approval is under 70% now (68%). Democrats oppose Kavanaugh in larger numbers: women 92%, men 64% opposed to him. Independent women: 55 % are opposed to his confirmation.
Because of the growing negative response to Kavanaugh, there might still be another possible outcome. If women and men who are outraged by this nominee keep pressure on their Senators to vote no to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, that outcry could win the day as it did with the Affordable Care Act. Public outcry matters as we saw with the women holding Flake hostage in the elevator while they expressed their pain and pleaded with him to listen. There are about 10 to 12 uncertain Republicans. They are not the ones you see every day before the cameras. They are quietly uncertain about this nominee. It helps that the ABA has withdrawn its support of Kavanaugh. It helps that the Jesuits have withdrawn their support of him as well. But if ordering what I think is a bogus FBI investigation shushes up the voices of the #MeToo movement, Trump and the Republicans will have won by tricking the #MeToo women into watchful silence and hopefulness where continued action and outrage are crucial.