Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Flake’

Mueller Gets a New Boss Who’s Blasted His Russia Investigation

November 8, 2018
Acting Attorney General Whitaker could fire him or limit probe
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Whitaker would decide whether findings can be made public
Matt Whitaker.  Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is answering to a new boss, Matthew Whitaker, who has openly criticized his Russia investigation — and has the power to constrain it or end it, just as President Donald Trump wishes.

Trump never forgave Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the probe that Mueller now runs, and the president delivered on that long-festering frustration a day after the midterm elections were over.

He forced Sessions to resign and named Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney whose criticisms of Mueller have echoed the president’s, as acting attorney general until Trump nominates someone who would need Senate confirmation.

Whitaker, who became Sessions’s chief of staff last year, has left a paper trail of his views on Mueller’s inquiry.

In July 2017, Whitaker said during an interview on CNN that he could envision a scenario in which an acting attorney general doesn’t fire Mueller but “just reduces his budget to so low that his investigations grind to almost a halt.”

‘Witch Hunt’

The next month, Whitaker wrote an opinion article posted on CNN’s website arguing that Mueller’s investigation appeared to be going too far and may constitute a “witch hunt,” embracing one of Trump’s favorite descriptions to discredit the probe.

Citing reports that Mueller was looking into Trump’s finances and those of his family, Whitaker wrote, “If he were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt.”

Also last year, Whitaker tweeted “Worth a read” with a link to a newspaper commentary headlined, “Note to Trump’s lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob.”

Matt Whitaker 🇺🇸

@MattWhitaker46

Worth a read. “Note to Trump’s lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob” http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/commentary/note-to-trumps-lawyer-do-not-cooperate-with-mueller-lynch-mob-20170804.html  via @phillydotcom

Note to Trump’s lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob

Even if the prosecutor can’t prove that your client committed the crime supposedly being investigated, he will be charged with obstruction of justice or some similar offense for providing false…

philly.com

Demands to Recuse

There was no indication that Whitaker intended to follow Sessions’s lead and recuse himself from the Russia investigation, despite Democratic demands that he do so. That means he will supplant Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and has defended his performance, in overseeing the inquiry.

“Protecting Mueller and his investigation is paramount,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, citing Whitaker’s “previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation.”

Senator Susan Collins of Maine was one of the several Republicans who publicly expressed concern about what may happen. “Special Counsel Mueller must be allowed to complete his work without interference — regardless of who is AG,” she said in a tweet without mentioning Whitaker by name.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said he was certain Mueller’s probe will be allowed to “continue to its end” because the Senate won’t confirm a new attorney general otherwise.

All-American

Whitaker, 49, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, received his law degree from the University of Iowa in 1995. Before that, he was an All-American football player and played on the university’s Rose Bowl team in 1991.

In 2014, the Des Moines native ran for the Senate in Iowa, losing in the Republican primary to Joni Ernst, who went on to win the general election.

He also previously directed the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a nonprofit watchdog group supported by conservatives that focused mostly on allegations of conflicts and wrongdoing by Democrats including Hillary Clinton.

Whitaker also worked as chairman of Sam Clovis’s failed campaign for Iowa state treasurer in 2014. Clovis had run for the Senate as well and later worked on Trump’s presidential campaign. He has been interviewed as part of Mueller’s Russia probe.

While many Republican lawmakers were silent Wednesday on Whitaker’s appointment and the future of the Mueller probe, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley praised him.“A fellow Iowan, who I’ve known for many years, Matt will work hard and make us proud,” he said in a statement.

Whitaker, in a Justice Department statement released on Wednesday evening, said, “I am committed to leading a fair department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans.” He added that it had “been a privilege” to work under Sessions.

Here Are All the Officials Who Have Left the Trump Administration

The shake-up at the Justice Department comes at a crucial point, as Mueller is seeking to wind down parts of his inquiry and deliver some key findings, according to two officials familiar with his plans. As Mueller’s supervisor, Whitaker would decide whether those findings remain secret, are shared with congressional committees, or released to the public.

But there’s no sign that the special counsel is ready to close up shop anytime soon — unless he’s forced to do so.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee who will likely be the panel’s chairman when his party takes over the House next year, said Wednesday that interference with the investigation “would cause a constitutional crisis.”

Adam Schiff

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican critic of Trump, urged Senate action on long-stalled legislation intended to safeguard Mueller’s inquiry.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued in the past that there was no need for such measures because Mueller wasn’t at risk of being ousted. He didn’t comment on that prospect on Wednesday.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-08/mueller-gets-a-new-boss-who-s-blasted-his-russia-investigation?srnd=premium

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Where are the ‘ruthless’ Republicans the media keep talking about?

October 20, 2018

Republicans must have developed arthritis by all the extended unnatural positions they’ve put themselves in to appease Democrats, and yet there’s a meme bubbling up in the media that the GOP is full of ruthless operators, while the opposing party is perversely enjoying its own humiliation.

This, like other things you read in newspapers or watch on cable news, is the exact opposite of reality, but MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough fed this garbage to his audience on Friday.

Related image

By Eddie Scarry
Opinion
Washington Examiner

“As a former Republican, when we lose, we get really angry and we knock people’s heads off their shoulders,” he said. “It’s just a natural instinct. … Who’s the Democrat that’s a strong, tough liberal or the strong, tough moderate or the strong, tough conservative Democrat who’s going to lead this fight?”

Donnie Deutsch, a frequent “Morning Joe” guest without obvious purpose, wondered where the “fresh, aggressive, rageful voice” is in the Democratic Party.

Image result for Donny Deutsch, photos

Donnie Deutsch

Politico editor-in-chief John Harris wrote in a piece earlier this month that there’s a “fear” among Democrats “that their party loses big power struggles because Republicans are simply tougher, meaner, more cynical and more ruthless than they are.”

Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore said last month, “It’s amazing how we talk as liberals. We always want to be nice and maybe be fair.”

You know those Democrats: the Quakers of politics.

Wait, that’s not right. What I meant was: the party that, with a crucial assist from the media, nearly derailed a Supreme Court nominee by accusing him of attempted rape and, worse, getting drunk in college.

What I meant was: the chosen party of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who successfully called on the public tormenting of Republicans, like Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, who in June was chased out of a restaurant by a liberal mob, or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who enjoyed the same fate in September.

Image result for Maxine Waters,, photos

Republicans like Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley nearly drive themselves insane accommodating Democrats, as when he delayed a vote to advance Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination not once, not twice, but three times.

Then, of course, there’s Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who delayed the full Senate vote on Kavanaugh for another week, a needless cave to Democrats (and the media) who insisted Kavanaugh undergo more vetting from the FBI.

You’ll recall that Democrats then complained that the investigation wasn’t real and Flake’s status as a media hero came to an abrupt end.

The Kavanaugh episode showed that Democrats and the media have seized the #MeToo movement for political purposes and yet no elected Republican has aggressively confronted this.

This week on ABC’s “The View,” Joy Behar said of Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford: “She said it was him; you know who it is who’s assaulting you, and if that’s all true, we’re stuck with this guy for the rest of his life. He’s very young for the Supreme Court. It’s a huge problem for this country.”

Image result for Joy Behar, photos

Had a “tougher, meaner, more cynical” Republican been the guest that day, he or she would have exposed Behar for turning unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations into a political tool.

But the guest was Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who would only compliment the #MeToo movement as “really important.”

Even President Trump has shown a tendency to collapse under the ballistic pressure wave Democrats and the media can create when their hearts are in it.

During the summer, the administration did nothing more than enforce existing law — a novel concept, for sure — when authorities moved apprehended illegal immigrants at the border and put them in prison.

Minors aren’t allowed to accompany their parents to the lockup so they were instead placed in detention centers to wait.

But Democrats and the media pushed the idea that this was a “new policy” and that Trump was “separating families,” even though the Obama administration had done the same thing.

After a few weeks, Trump (one of those “ruthless” Republicans that John Harris wrote about) relented and signed an executive order that stopped the full law enforcement.

In the lead up to the midterms, Democrats have attempted to thwart a Supreme Court nomination, succeeded in getting Trump to back down on a major immigration fight, and inflamed mob protests.

The media aren’t really interested in that, but where are all the vicious Republicans we keep hearing about?

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/where-are-the-ruthless-republicans-the-media-keep-talking-about

Rage when you disagree: How ‘safe spaces’ led to today’s political mobs

October 15, 2018

What’s behind the recent spread of outraged mobs on US streets, wild-eyed and throwing violent fits because their favored political outcome didn’t happen? How did so many Americans give up on resolving disagreements through discussion and turn the fact that a disagreement exists into an excuse for a tantrum?

Campuses started setting up “safe spaces” well before 2015, when the news hit our media in earnest: College students were literally taking shelter from the possibility of hearing opinions they might disagree with.

By Karol Markowicz
Opinion
New York Post

For all the mockery the idea received, we’re seeing that principle extended to the real world. The recent outbursts on our streets have their root in the idea that only one opinion is the correct one and all others must be shut down.

And politicians are encouraging the idea that disagreement is a personal attack: “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Hillary Clinton said last week.

“If you don’t agree, unfriend me” is a common enough post on Facebook — and that’s directed toward people who are supposed to be your friends.

It’s not a big leap from there to: If you don’t agree, you can’t have dinner, as Ted Cruz found out recently when he was chased from a restaurant. Or to yelling at Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator. Or to: If you don’t agree, I can physically assault you, applied to strangers on the other side of your protest, as happened recently to the Republican son of Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

We’re also years into those pre-Thanksgiving articles about how to talk to members of your own family who have a different political perspective. Most pieces now advise you to avoid talking politics altogether. That’s normal, actually — but if you avoid the subject because it makes you bristle with anger toward the people you love, that’s a problem.

It’s not just far-off relatives with a different political perspective that raise the ire of those unable to handle disagreement. In a Washington Post op-ed, “Thanks for not raping us, all you ‘good men.’ But it’s not enough,” Victoria Bissell Brown writes that she raged at her husband because of some small comment “I yelled at my husband last night. Not pick-up-your-socks yell. Not how-could-you-ignore-that-red-light yell. This was real yelling. This was 30 minutes of from-the-gut yelling.”

This is not normal. This is not behavior that should be rewarded with publication of an op-ed column on a non-fringe Web site. Bissell Brown is a retired history professor; the lessons of safe-space campus culture weren’t limited to students.

And when she reports that “I announced that I hate all men, and wish all men were dead,” that isn’t a joke we can all be in on. The inability to resolve conflict normally even in our own homes is exactly what spills out onto our streets.

After the 2016 election, we heard lots of admissions that many of us reside in political bubbles where we never hear outside opinions. For a while, it seemed like the consensus was that this was a negative thing. But now people increasingly retreat to these bubbles, proudly, and never learn how to handle political disagreement.

The result is the rage we’re seeing now. The more we shut off hearing the other side’s point of view, the more likely we are to see these mobs spring up.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder said last week “Michelle [Obama] always says, you know, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.”

Criticized for encouraging violence, he called it “fake outrage” and tweeted that he only meant “Republicans are undermining our democracy and Democrats need to be tough, proud and stand up for the values we believe in — the end.” He didn’t explain how his kicking comment made sense in that context.

When the other side is seeking to “destroy what you stand for,” or “undermine our democracy,” violence doesn’t seem so farfetched.

In covering the early days of “safe spaces,” Conor Friedersdorf wrote for The Atlantic about student protesters who didn’t want a reporter filming them: “At various points, they intimidate him. Ultimately, they physically push him. But all the while, they are operating on the premise, or carrying on the pretense, that he is making them unsafe. It is as if they’ve weaponized the concept of ‘safe spaces.’ ”

Never learning to argue out their political beliefs, these people have graduated and now expect their opinions to always be shared and their favored political outcomes to always occur. Instead of being told to grow up, they’re encouraged to express their fury by people who should know better. Better for everyone if they had their rude awakening sooner rather than later.

With the midterm election looming, calls to impeach Kavanaugh pose awkward challenge for Democrats

October 8, 2018

Even before the judicial oath was administered and Judge Brett Kavanaugh became Justice Kavanaugh, some on the political left were sounding calls to impeach. A month before midterm elections, that makes many mainstream Democrats nervous.

As both parties move on from the most bruising Supreme Court confirmation battle in a generation, Democrats hope to harness voter anger over the explosive proceedings and the narrow outcome, but not turn the midterm contest into a polarizing referendum on whether the party should try to remove Kavanaugh — an effort that would have little likelihood of succeeding.

By Laura King
Los Angeles Times

With the midterm election looming, calls to impeach Kavanaugh pose awkward challenge for Democrats
Retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, right, administers the judicial oath to Judge Brett Kavanaugh in the Justices’ Conference Room of the Supreme Court Building, with Kavanaugh’s wife and daughters looking on. (Fred Schilling / AP)
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Republicans and Democrats have put competing spins on how the confirmation fallout might play out at the polls. The GOP says the battle over Kavanaugh has energized its voters, who have lagged behind Democrats in previous measures of enthusiasm over the election.
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“I think the Republicans are going to do great in the midterms,” President Trump told reporters on Air Force One en route to a rally in Topeka, Kan., Saturday evening. “I think we have a momentum that hasn’t been seen in years.”
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Democrats say the debate over Kavanaugh has amped up the anger that many women already felt toward Trump and the Republicans, and will lead to higher turnout on their side.
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Both could be right, at least in part. The Kavanaugh fight could produce opposite results in the contests to control the Senate and the House.
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 Greater Republican enthusiasm to vote could help GOP candidates in this year’s highly contested Senate races. Most of those are taking place in conservative states that have Democratic senators, such as Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota.
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At the same time, increased turnout among women could help Democrats trying to flip Republican-held House seats in suburban areas, including five long-standing Republican districts in Southern California that Democrats hope to win this year.
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Democrats need to pick up 23 additional seats nationwide to take control of the House. Polls in many of most contested districts indicate that goal is reachable, but by no means assured.
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A new round of Senate polls in four states released Sunday by CBS and YouGov indicated that most voters who said the Kavanaugh fight had increased their motivation to vote were partisans who already were highly likely to vote for their party’s choice.
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But in the closest race of the four, in Arizona, the polling indicated that the Kavanaugh issue might help the Democratic candidate, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who held a very slight lead, 47%-44%, over Republican Rep. Martha McSally.
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Among the small group of likely voters who said they might still change their minds about which candidate to back, three in 10 said Kavanaugh’s confirmation would make them more likely to consider voting for a Democrat, compared to one in 10 who said the confirmation would make them more likely to back a Republican, the poll found.
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As both parties analyzed polling data, Trump and his senior aides dashed any expectation that they might strike a unifying stance in the wake of a battle that pitted Americans against one another as much as any political clash in recent memory.
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“Congratulations to Justice Kavanaugh and President Trump!” senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway said Sunday, echoing the triumphal tone struck by the president and his supporters in the Senate in the wake of Kavanaugh’s 50-48 confirmation on Saturday.
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Interviewed on ABC’s “This Week,” Conway expressed no qualms about the heated tenor of the confirmation process, including the president’s public taunting at a campaign-style rally of Christine Blasey Ford, the Northern California research psychologist who testified that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high school students.
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“All of us were very respectful to Dr. Ford,” said Conway. She said Ford’s allegations in no way “tainted” Kavanaugh’s tenure, which could last decades.
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Dismayed as they were by the outcome, even some Democrats who led the charge against Kavanaugh shied away publicly from any talk of impeachment.
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“I’m much more focused on the here and now,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), also interviewed Sunday on ABC. “Focus like a laser beam on the elections.”
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Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) called impeachment talk “premature.” Coons was a key Judiciary Committee figure in the confirmation hearings, helping persuade his Republican friend Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona to demand a reopening of Kavanaugh’s FBI background check.
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Discussing impeachment prospects “at this point isn’t necessarily healing us and moving us forward,” said Coons, interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
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Even though Democrats do not want to appear overly confident about winning control of the House, some have already raised the issue of investigating Kavanaugh for untruthfulness if they gain the majority and key committee chairmanships come into their hands.
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Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, who would likely take over the chairmanship from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) if Democrats win control of the House, explicitly raised the issue even before Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
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“If he is on the Supreme Court, and the Senate hasn’t investigated [Kavanaugh], then the House will have to,” Nadler told ABC a week ago. “We would have to investigate any credible allegations of perjury and other things that haven’t been properly looked into before.”
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Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of Torrance has gone further, joining with fellow Judiciary Committee member Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) in calling for a start to impeachment proceedings against Kavanaugh if an investigation shows he lied in his testimony.
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In practical terms, impeachment of a high court justice is an extreme rarity.
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Impeachment requires a majority vote in the House to present charges that would be heard by the Senate. Two-thirds of the Senate would be needed to convict — an extremely high threshold to overcome.
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Proceedings against a sitting justice have only been brought once – against Samuel Chase in 1805. He was impeached by the House but acquitted in the Senate.
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The Democratic leadership has already spent months working to dampen public talk about trying to impeach the president for fear of energizing Trump’s base and scaring off swing voters.
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco could not contain a flash of exasperation about getting bogged down in similar debate over Kavanaugh at this juncture.
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Trying to impeach the new justice “would not be my plan,” Pelosi said during an appearance Tuesday at the Atlantic Festival in Washington. “I have enough people on my back wanting us to impeach the president.”
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Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, interviewed on CNN, said he believed the GOP would have done better to avoid turning the Supreme Court nomination into an overtly partisan battle.
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“The court, it could be a short-term win” for Republicans, Kasich said.
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“Let me tell you what I think a president should do. You’re going to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and you’re a Republican, you know you’re going to have a conservative,” he said. “But it would make sense to work with a Democrat who would say, ‘OK, I know it’s going to be conservative; all right, let me help you to pick somebody so that we don’t go through this.’”
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http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pol-kavanaugh-impeachment-20181007-story.html

 

High Noon for Judge Kavanaugh

October 4, 2018

The time for talking is over. The time has come for the Senate and nation to cast votes.

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A disruptive Code Pink demonstrator is pulled down by a U.S. Capitol Police officer in Washington, D.C., Sept. 6.
A disruptive Code Pink demonstrator is pulled down by a U.S. Capitol Police officer in Washington, D.C., Sept. 6. PHOTO: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES
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In the matter of the Democratic Party versus Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is time to have it out.

We have arrived at an inevitable moment in every classic Western showdown. There is nothing left to talk about. We don’t need any more FBI reports. It’s time to go out into the street and settle this. As a man who was done talking in Sam Peckinpah’s “Ride the High Country” said: “Start the ball, old man!”

It’s time to start the ball—first with a vote on the Senate floor, and then with votes across the country for Senate control in November.

We are a civilized people. We don’t actually shoot each other, most of the time. Street gangs do that, and the U.S. Senate isn’t a street gang. But it has begun to look more like Dodge City than the seat of a great nation.

Senate hearings have become dogfights attended by mobs. Demonstrators routinely throw themselves on the floor in front of senators’ offices. The Jeff Flake entrapment after the Judiciary Committee vote was a low point in modern Senate history, with the senator cornered inside an elevator by a woman shrieking “Look at me!” for inevitable capture by a video.

By now in the Kavanaugh saga, with all the moral intimidation, gender-baiting and bad faith thrown at their side, you would think each of the 51 Republican Senators would vote to confirm out of simple self-respect. But self-respect has become a hard thing to maintain under the weight of modern media, so people just bend.

The Kavanaugh confirmation was always going to be a big political moment, but no one could have predicted it would expand across four weeks into one of the most defining political events in a generation.

Before this began, the conventional wisdom was correct that the midterm elections would be a referendum on He Who Cannot Be Avoided—President Trump. After lying low through most of the hearings, Mr. Trump surfaced Tuesday evening in Mississippi with a diatribe against Christine Ford’s variable memory.

I’m not sure another Trump cannonball matters at this point. The Kavanaugh confirmation, watched by millions, has put in play considerations bigger than Donald Trump or Brett Kavanaugh.

Start with the other transcendent event of our time: The 2016 presidential election result. Within hours, the Trump victory put in motion an anti-Trump “resistance” that transferred control of the Democratic Party to its leftmost wing.

The nonstop war between Mr. Trump on one side and the left and the national press corps on the other has caused a few realities from the 2016 election to drop from view.

The 63 million or so Americans who voted for Donald Trump weren’t the lunatic fringe. For many, Mr. Trump was their vessel for two concerns—the future of the Supreme Court and the implications of a Hillary Clinton presidency after Barack Obama’s two terms.

The Kavanaugh nomination has put both these powerful subtexts from 2016 back in play. The Democrats have managed to shift the midterm elections away from Mr. Trump’s personality and make it about the Supreme Court, the status of the law in the U.S. and the nature of Democratic rule.

The sincerity of Ms. Ford’s testimony notwithstanding, this phase of the confirmation began with no corroborative evidence against Judge Kavanaugh and is ending with no evidence. The acceptance of this no-evidence standard, not just by the Judiciary Committee Democrats but by nearly all Democrats and most of the media, is something people have noticed.

One reader of this column said a litmus test of pure belief in the context of a nomination to the nation’s highest legal institution brought to mind a famous dictum by Fidel Castro: “Within the revolution, everything. Against the revolution, nothing.”

As to the many who said in 2016 their vote was less about Donald Trump than about preventing a Clinton presidency, the hearings have put faces on the reality of Democratic congressional control: Feinstein, Leahy, Durbin, Whitehouse, Klobuchar, Coons, Blumenthal, Hirono, Booker and Harris. As the committee’s senior Democrat, Dianne Feinstein would become arbiter of the federal judiciary.

The coverage of Brett Kavanaugh’s past has also put a whiff of anti-Catholicism in the air, with the constant invocations of “Georgetown Prep,” suggesting not subtly that this all-boys school, founded by Jesuits in 1789, was an abusers’ breeding ground. To invoke a legal term, this is a slander, and many at this point resent it.

It’s possible the Democrats are aligned with a deeper shift in the nation’s psyche. Despite a modern world created by precise algorithmic proofs, we may be entering a time driven more by inner mental states. Some are calling it an era of post-truth. For the law, I would call it an era of jury nullification. Chuck Schumer wants results without votes.

It is time for Sens. Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp to stand for one Senate tradition: a public vote.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

Appeared in the October 4, 2018, print edition as ‘High Noon for Kavanaugh.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/high-noon-for-judge-kavanaugh-1538607666

No Support in FBI Report for Claims Against Kavanaugh, White House says

October 4, 2018

Democrats have already signaled they consider the FBI investigation insufficient.

Senators are set to review the FBI’s findings Thursday.

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Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his Supreme Court nomination in Washington, D.C., last month.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his Supreme Court nomination in Washington, D.C., last month. PHOTO: POOL/REUTERS
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WASHINGTON—The White House has found no corroboration of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after examining interview reports from the FBI’s latest probe into the judge’s background, according to people familiar with the matter.

It was unclear whether the White House, which for weeks has raised doubts about the allegations, had completed its review of the FBI interview reports. Officials were expected to be sending the FBI report to the Senate Judiciary Committee late Wednesday.

Still, the White House’s conclusions from the report are not definitive at this point in the confirmation process. Senators who will decide Mr. Kavanaugh’s fate are set to review the findings on Thursday, and some of them may draw different conclusions.

The result could leave senators in much the same position as last week—faced with two witnesses providing mutually exclusive accounts and forced to decide between them. The investigation, which concluded two days before its Friday deadline, has faced mounting criticism in recent days from Democrats who have said the probe wasn’t appropriately comprehensive. Investigators spoke to one of the three women who made accusations of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh.

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

President Trump late Wednesday tweeted praise for his Supreme Court nominee. “Wow, such enthusiasm and energy for Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” he wrote, calling the judge “a fine man and great intellect.”

Republicans have said the extended background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation was a concession to Democrats and wavering Republicans, who demanded it and said its completion without a major revelation should allow Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to proceed to a Senate vote. Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee, where Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings were heard, have claimed that the White House imposed too many restrictions on who the FBI could interview—they didn’t talk to Christine Blasey Ford, Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser, for instance—to make their inquiry’s findings credible.

In an emotional hearing last Thursday, senators heard from Judge Kavanaugh and from Dr. Ford, the California psychology professor who accuses him of assaulting her when they were teenagers. Judge Kavanaugh denies the allegation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) took a step Wednesday night to set up a Friday procedural vote on Judge Kavanaugh. He said the Senate would later Wednesday receive the FBI supplemental background investigation into Judge Kavanaugh, giving senators enough time to review the bureau’s findings before voting later this week.

Senators were expected to study the report at a secure location on Thursday. Three uncommitted Republicans—Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—have said the FBI report would factor significantly into their decision.

Republicans have a narrow 51-49 edge in the Senate, so two defections would doom the nomination. In the event of a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence would cast a deciding vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s behalf.

The FBI probe was launched last Friday as the Judiciary Committee prepared to vote on sending Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor. Mr. Flake voted yes, but asked for the FBI to be given up to a week for a supplemental background check into allegations by Dr. Ford and another accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who says Judge Kavanaugh exposed himself to her in college.

Judge Kavanaugh also denies Ms. Ramirez’s allegations, saying he has never sexually assaulted anyone and characterizing the assertions as a political smear.

FBI agents have interviewed three people Dr. Ford said were at the social gathering where the alleged assault took place. The bureau also questioned two friends Judge Kavanaugh named in his 1982 calendar, Tim Gaudette and Chris Garrett, known as “Squi,” according to their lawyers.

Democrats have already signaled they consider the FBI investigation insufficient. The decision not to interview Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, among others, “raises serious concerns that this is not a credible investigation,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

An attorney for Dr. Ford late Wednesday criticized the probe. “An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford—nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony—cannot be called an investigation,” the attorney said. “We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”

Democrats also said they were concerned about Judge Kavanaugh for reasons beyond the sexual-assault allegation, including his partisan attacks at last Thursday’s hearing.

GOP leaders say the renewed investigation wasn’t necessary, given that Judge Kavanaugh had already been subjected to several FBI background checks.

Whether Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed or rejected, the fight over his nomination has added fuel to the country’s sharp political divide. It has damaged relationships in the Senate, prompted predictions of nasty confirmation fights in the future, and spurred warnings about the potential politicization of the Supreme Court.

“This cannot be the new normal, because it will destroy the ability of people to come forward and be judges,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said Wednesday at an event sponsored by the Atlantic magazine. “What goes around comes around.”

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com, Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com, Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com and Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-finds-no-corroboration-of-sexual-misconduct-allegations-against-kavanaugh-in-fbi-report-1538625927

Key senators criticize Trump for mocking Kavanaugh accuser

October 3, 2018

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, in Southaven, Miss. In his comments at the rally, the president mimicked testimony by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford over an alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press

Two moderate Republicans who could be pivotal in determining whether the Senate confirms U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh criticized President Donald Trump on Wednesday for mocking a woman who has accused the judge of sexual assault.

Image result for Jeff Flake, Photos
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) looks on during Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was called back to testify about claims by Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland.  (Sept. 26, 2018 – Source: Getty Images North America)

Senators Jeff Flake and Susan Collins were among the lawmakers who took issue with comments Trump made regarding Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor from California who detailed her sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh at an extraordinary Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

At a political rally in Mississippi on Tuesday night, Trump mocked Ford’s testimony about the alleged assault in Maryland in 1982 when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17.

Ford testified that she could not remember the precise date or location of the alleged assault, but offered a detailed account of the incident itself in which she said a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her down, tried to remove her clothing and covered her mouth when she screamed.

“What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember,” Trump said in his imitation of Ford’s testimony.

“And a man’s life is in tatters,” Trump added.

Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, Flake said that “there’s no time and no place for remarks like that, that discuss something this sensitive at a political rally.”

“It’s just not right. I wish he hadn’t … done it. I just say it’s kind of appalling,” Flake said of Trump’s comments.

Speaking briefly to reporters, Collins said, “The president’s comments were just plain wrong.” She did not respond when asked if his comments would affect her vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Image result for susan collins, photos

Susan Collins

Trump’s fellow Republicans control the Senate by a 51-49 margin. That means if all the Democrats vote against Kavanaugh, Trump could not afford to have more than one Republican oppose his nominee, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote.

So far, no Republicans have said they would vote against Kavanaugh.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate will vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation this week after each senator is given a report on the ongoing FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump’s nominee for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court.

The fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime job on the top U.S. court comes against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault that has toppled a succession of powerful men.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, McConnell again took aim at Kavanaugh opponents.

McConnell said that there is “no chance in the world they’re going to scare us out of doing our duty. We will not be intimidated by these people. This is all part of the organized effort to delay, obstruct and intimidate, including those of us who will be voting this week.”

The fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination has unfolded just weeks ahead of Nov. 6 elections in which Democrats are trying to seize control of Congress from Republicans.

Reporting by David Alexander and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurkley; Editing by Will Dunham and Paul Tait

Reuters

Photo at the top: President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, in Southaven, Miss. In his comments at the rally, the president mimicked testimony by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford over an alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press

Trump Says Democrats ‘Are Trying to Destroy’ Kavanaugh

October 2, 2018

President Trump lashed out at Democrats for trying to “destroy” Judge Brett Kavanaugh and warned Republicans at a political rally here against complacency in the November midterm elections.

“He’s a good man. Great student, great intellect. Never had a problem. They decided to go back to high school,” Mr. Trump said of his Supreme Court pick whose fate lies in an FBI investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.

“Let’s see how it all works out. But I’ll tell you what, they are trying to destroy a very fine person and we can’t let it happen.”

Partisan bickering over the probe and how extensive it should be continued Monday in Washington even as Trump said it should be thorough but quickly resolved.

MARK HUMPHREY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

By evening, before 7,000 ardent supporters who heard an opening prayer for Judge Kavanaugh and his family, the president took a more strident tone.

“If we took 10 years, they’d want more time,” Mr. Trump said taking specific aim at Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, asserting she sat on the allegation until the last minute, a charge the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee denies.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be pushed around,” Mr. Trump said.

Denham Schafer, a 26-year-old chef who attended the rally, said he listened to Thursday’s Senate hearing and called Dr. Ford’s testimony “heartfelt,” Mr. Schafer said he said he was troubled over the lack of corroborating evidence presented at the hearing. “I kind of have to believe it wasn’t him. It seems to me almost like a set-up. It came out of the woods.” Still, Mr. Schafer said he agreed with the decision to delay a vote for a week to allow the FBI to investigate.

But Angie Shingleton, 50, said Trump should have rejected calls for the FBI investigation and called for a vote. “It’s a farce,” she said. “Feinstein should have shown her hand in the beginning. That’s dirty pool. You don’t play that way to win.”

An organizer said 92,000 people requested tickets for the rally and 7,000 got inside the arena, which where banners declared, “Promises Made” and “Promises Kept.” Spectators held professionally made signs reading “Finish the Wall” and “Drain the Swamp.”

Mr. Trump, who relishes the campaign rally but has his agenda on the line with the outcome of the midterm elections, has three other rallies this week: Tuesday in Southaven, Miss., Thursday in Rochester, Minn; and Saturday in Topeka, Kan.

“This is your time to choose,” Mr. Trump said Monday night. “Look at what we’ve done.”

Former classmate says Trump court nominee lied about his drinking

October 2, 2018

A one-time classmate of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee said Monday that Brett Kavanaugh was a habitual heavy drinker, challenging the judge’s Senate testimony to the contrary.

The comments came days after the FBI opened a Senate-requested probe into allegations by three women that a drunken Kavanaugh sexually abused them or engaged in sexual misconduct while they were students in the 1980s.

“I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth,” Chad Ludington told reporters.

Brett Kavanaugh takes an oath. Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images

The North Carolina State University professor, who said he had contacted the FBI with his information, indicated in a statement Sunday that Kavanaugh was “belligerent and aggressive” when he drank.

Earlier, Trump had defended his pick but admitted that the appeals court judge has had a “bit of difficulty” with alcohol.

In a White House press conference, the US president sought to excuse excessive drinking by teenagers, while going beyond Kavanaugh’s own testimony on his past use of alcohol to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

“I was surprised at how vocal he was about the fact that he likes beer,” the president said.

“He’s had a little bit of difficulty. He talked about things that happened when he drank. This is not a man that said… he was perfect with respect to alcohol.”

He also questioned why investigators needed to examine the 53-year-old Kavanaugh’s high school record.

“I think it’s very unfair to bring up things like this,” Trump said.

“I graduated from high school and while I did not drink, I saw a lot of people drinking,” he said.

“They drink beer and go crazy and they were in high school… Does that mean that they can’t do something they want to do in their life?”

He returned to the theme during a campaign rally in Tennessee, where he accused opposition Democrats of being motivated by politics.

“They have been blind in a blind rage ever since they lost the 2016. They have gone loco,” he told supporters.

– ‘I like beer’ –

In Thursday’s extraordinary hearing, Kavanaugh vehemently denied the sexual abuse allegations, and also aggressively challenged suggestions he had a drinking problem at the time.

“I drank beer with my friends. Sometimes I had too many beers,” he told the panel.

“Yes, we drank beer. I liked beer. I still like beer,” he said.

“If every American who drinks beer or every American who drank beer in high school is suddenly presumed guilty of sexual assault, it will be an ugly, new place in this country.”

The New York Times also reported that Kavanaugh was questioned but not charged by police after a 1985 bar fight in New Haven, Connecticut where he was accused of throwing ice on a fellow patron.

A witness said that a friend of Kavanaugh’s then threw a glass that hit the same patron in the ear, causing bleeding.

US media meanwhile reported that the FBI had begun their interview of Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s former best friend and a key figure in the misconduct allegations leveled by Christine Blasey Ford.

Judge’s interview started but “has not been completed,” his attorney said in a statement quoted by Fox News.

In last week’s hearing, Blasey Ford said Judge witnessed Kavanaugh’s alleged assault and jumped on top of them as it happened, sending all three tumbling and allowing her to escape.

– Clock ticking –

Trump meanwhile said the White House would not restrict the new FBI probe, requested by senators before they take a final vote on Kavanaugh.

“I think the FBI should do what they have to do to get to the answer,” Trump said.

“I want it to be comprehensive… With that being said, I would like to go quickly,” he added.

“We don’t want to go on a witch hunt, do we?”

Senators, including Republican Jeff Flake, struck a deal Friday that gives the FBI one week to conduct its investigation and deliver its report.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate, made up of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, will be “voting this week” on advancing the Kavanaugh nomination, setting up a possible final confirmation vote this weekend or early next week.

“The time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close,” McConnell said.

Last week, Flake expressed eagerness to see Kavanaugh confirmed but said he wanted a “better process” for assessing the allegations. Flake said over the weekend that he would vote for Kavanaugh unless the FBI finds something in its investigation.

AFP

Related:

See also:

Kavanaugh Lied to the Judiciary Committee—Repeatedly

SLATE:https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/09/kavanaugh-lied-senate-judiciary-committee.html

and:

I believe Brett Kavanaugh (He’s said he and his friends are committed to hiding their bad behavior. Take him at his word.)

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/10/1/17917532/brett-kavanaugh-truth-ralph-devils-triangle-speeches-i-believe

These are the six senators who could decide Kavanaugh’s fate

September 30, 2018

No profiles in courage among this bunch.

Six on-the-fence senators – three vulnerable Democrats and three moderate Republicans – are eyeing the polls and hoping for an assist from the FBI as the fate of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh rests in their hands.

“This isn’t an easy decision. And honestly, I don’t think it should be easy for anyone,” Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) said Friday.

By  Mary Kay Linge
New York Post

She is one of three Democratic senators running for re-election in states that President Trump won resoundingly in 2016. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana are in the same boat.

On the Republican side, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are being squeezed by liberal activists on one side and their own party leadership on the other. Meanwhile, Jeff Flake of Arizona is reserving judgment until the FBI investigation he insisted on is complete.

The Senate agreed to delay its final vote on Kavanaugh for up to a week so the FBI can probe last-minute sexual-assault allegations against him. The development gives the ditherers a short respite to rework their political calculus.

The GOP holds a slender 51-49 majority in the Senate – so the Republican leadership can afford only one defection.

In that case, Vice President Mike Pence would break the 50-50 tie to elevate Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court.

“I support this sensible agreement,” Collins tweeted Friday in reaction to the Judiciary Committee’s statement announcing the FBI’s reopened investigation. But she gave no indication of how she will vote.

Murkowski has also maintained a stony silence about her intentions. On Friday, she tweeted concerns about “the process” and posted, “allowing the FBI up to one week to supplement its background investigation is appropriate.”

Collins and Murkowski’s seats are safe – for now. Neither faces re-election this November. But the blowback for defying the party leadership in such a high-profile vote could be severe.

Image may contain: one or more people
Brett Kavanaugh.  Getty Images

As two of the Senate’s least conservative Republicans, neither is comfortable voting for Kavanaugh, who is expected to tilt the Court’s balance in a decidedly rightward direction. If the FBI investigation lends any credence to the judge’s accusers, observers expect them to seize the chance to vote against him.

At the same time, they are wary of the Trump Administration’s next move, should the Kavanaugh nomination go down to defeat.

The president’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees includes several thought to be even more hardline than Kavanaugh – including Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) – who would be difficult to oppose if Kavanaugh gets the boot.

Flake is retiring from the Senate in January. While he voted Friday to send Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the Judiciary Committee and to the Senate floor, the senator said he wouldn’t ultimately confirm the nominee unless the FBI investigated sexual assault allegations against the judge.

“I’m a conservative. He’s a conservative. I plan to support him unless they turn up something — and they might,” Flake told The Atlantic on Saturday.

The comments followed emotional testimony Thursday from Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of trying to rape her when they were teenagers at a party. The judge passionately denied the allegation.

If two of the three up-in-the-air Republicans stick with the party, Kavanaugh wins the seat – potentially freeing the red-state Democrats to cross the aisle.

Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin all joined Republicans to confirm Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017, acknowledging the fact that the Supreme Court was a top issue driving Trump voters in the presidential election.

A recent poll showed Heitkamp trailing her Republican challenger by 4 points, making her vote on Kavanaugh a potential make-or-break call.

Donnelly is also underwater in Indiana. A poll taken two weeks ago showed his opponent with a 2-point lead.

He announced his intention to cast a “no” vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation Friday morning – but later appeared to backtrack.

“As it is right now, without all this information, I don’t know how I vote yes without having what I need,” Donnelly told Indiana reporters late Friday, speaking with relief of the reopened investigation.

Manchin, who huddled with undecided Republicans on Friday, has been tight-lipped about his intentions.

Polls show him with a 9-point lead in ruby-red West Virginia – but he could lose supporters if he turns against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

A poll released Friday, taken after Thursday’s explosive hearing, pegged support for Kavanaugh at 58 percent among West Virginia voters – and found that fully a third would consider Manchin’s Supreme Court decision when they head to the ballot box.

The survey was sponsored by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network.

The FBI has quickly leaped back into its investigation. It planned to interview two of the judge’s accusers – former Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez and Ford – the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.

Under Trump’s order, the probe must be completed by week’s end.

The investigation is limited to “current credible allegations,” according to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It does not include the lurid charges leveled by Julie Swetnick, the Maryland woman represented by Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, the Journal reported.

Swetnick claims that a teenaged Kavanaugh orchestrated gang rapes at house parties that she attended when he was in high school and she was a college student.

Police in Montgomery County, Maryland, where Swetnick and Ford allege incidents of sexual assault occurred, said that neither woman has filed a police report.

The statute of limitations on Ford’s allegation apparently expired more than three decades ago. At the time, sexual assault charges had to be filed within a year of their occurrence.

https://nypost.com/2018/09/29/these-are-the-six-senators-who-could-decide-kavanaughs-fate/