• Christine Blasey Ford Wants to Testify, but Not on Monday
• Kavanaugh Preferred Clerks That "Looked Like Models"
• Kavanaugh Battle Could Affect the Supreme Court Itself
• Heller Eats Crow, Embraces Trump
• Trump Rallies, Can Barely Contain Himself on Kavanaugh Situation
• Another Day, Another Racist Incident for De Santis
• Today's Senate Polls
In public, former Donald Trump fixer Michael Cohen has been very coy, suggesting that he might be available to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller if the price was right. In reality, he has been talking to Mueller for weeks, in multiple sessions that have lasted for hours. They have focused on all aspects of Russiagate, including collusion during the campaign, but also Trump's business and financial dealings with the Russians. The interviews have taken place in D.C. and New York. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York also sent prosecutors to attend them.
As if this wasn't enough to give Trump a headache, Cohen has also been cooperating on separate investigations of Trump's company and his charity. All in all, Mueller and the SDNY folks already know a great deal about Trump's activities on many fronts.
Oh yes, and the New York Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, is investigating Trump's foundation as well. In particular, she is not enamored of Trump's practice of using foundation money for personal expenses, paying off legal bills, and doing other things that are illegal for charities to do. So Trump has to worry about three offices going after him: Mueller's, Underwood's, and the SDNY's. If he were to fire Mueller, that wouldn't eliminate the latter two. And probably worst of all for Trump is that Cohen likely knows the answer to many of the questions the three offices have, and is apparently spilling all the beans in hopes of getting a lighter sentence for the eight counts he pleaded guilty to last month. (V)
Christine Blasey Ford has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault/attempted rape. Yesterday, her attorney, Debra Katz, said that her client is willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but not on Monday. The lawyer said that Ford would be happy to appear before the panel, but only if the terms are fair and her safety is ensured. Specifically, Ford wants Kavanaugh to go first, she does not want to be in the same room as him when she testifies, and she does not want to be examined by a government lawyer (especially since Kavanaugh is not going to be examined in that manner). Katz says that Thursday is the best day for Ford, at least in part so there is time for her to make security arrangements for her trip.
This could be a stunt on the part of Katz. If Republicans give in, Katz will have won a small victory. If they don't and just vote on Kavanaugh, it could alienate women who have had a similar experience to Ford's and weren't believed when they talked about it. While that wouldn't affect Kavanaugh's confirmation, it could affect the midterms.
Republicans are having none of this. They have a Supreme Court justice to confirm before it gets too close to the election. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) said it would be nice if Ford and Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) could work something out. If not, his view is "After the time we've spent on this, it's time to move forward and get the votes in next week." Democrats are speaking out, although they have no power to stop the confirmation. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said what everyone actually knows: "They're going to get this guy on the court come hell or high water."
If the Republicans force a vote in the next few days, there is a fair chance it will be 51-49 exactly along party lines. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), one of the most vulnerable Democrats running for reelection this year, is now on record as a definite "no" vote. There is a decent chance that all the Democrats will vote with her, saying they are fine with conservatives, just not fine with people who may have committed sexual assault. When attacked on their vote, they will also say there was no reason to rush to judgment. The panel could have waited another week or two to let the FBI investigate. If the vote is indeed 51-49, Kavanaugh will win confirmation by the narrowest margin in more than 130 years, ever since James Garfield's only pick, Stanley Matthews, squeaked by on a 24-23 vote in 1881. The narrowest margin since then is Clarence Thomas's, at 52-48.
If the Republicans play hardball, the Democrats could do so as well, although that is not in their nature. There is no statute of limitations for rape, attempted rape, and related crimes in Maryland. Maryland AG Brian Frosh (D) could decide to take up the case, even after Kavanaugh is confirmed. If his investigation concludes that Kavanaugh committed a crime, Frosh could indict Kavanaugh, even as a sitting justice. If he were to be convicted and the case got up to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh would be expected to recuse himself, but it is up to the justices themselves to determine when recusal is in order. (V)
American media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, CNN, MSNBC, and Bloomberg have been digging up dirt on the Trump administration since the day it began. And now, their colleagues from across the pond are getting in on the act. Wading right into the middle of the ongoing Brett Kavanaugh soap opera, The Guardian (UK) is reporting that the Judge's taste for "women with a certain look" as his clerks. That look, apparently, was slim, very feminine, and model-like.
The key figure in the Guardian's reporting, beyond Kavanaugh himself, is Yale professor Amy Chua, who helped the Judge vet potential clerking candidates and was also one of the folks who vouched for his character and his even-handed treatment of women. Chua allegedly advised many female students on exactly how to dress in order to catch Kavanaugh's eye. Jed Rubenfeld, who is Chua's husband and also a Yale professor, often seconded the advice. In some cases, the duo went so far as to demand pictures of candidates in various outfits, so that they could identify the "right" one. Several students reported being put off by all of this, and at least one decided not to pursue a clerkship with the Judge once the unwanted fashion advice was proffered.
Chua and Rubenfeld, who are very high profile members of the Yale Law faculty, also helped connect students with other judges, but with the others, there were no "how to dress" talks. Rubenfeld was already the subject of an internal investigation at Yale, centered on his conduct toward female students, before this story broke. Now, the University says that Chua will also be investigated.
There is, of course, no proof that Kavanaugh gave specific instructions to the pair, nor is it likely he did so quite so directly. Nonetheless, his biases were clear enough that Chua and Rubenfeld were able to infer them. And that rises to the level necessary for someone to get in serious trouble for sexual harassment. Which, in turn, speaks to a pattern of behavior that is consistent with the story being told by Christine Blasey Ford. This is precisely the sort of thing that will pop up if this nomination is put on hold for weeks or months, and is also exactly the kind of thing that the FBI (or other investigators) would look at if they were asked to check on the Judge and on Ford's claims. It is for both of these reasons that Chuck Grassley & Co. want to get this vote done ASAP. (Z)
It is well known that Supreme Court justices read the newspapers. In particular, Chief Justice John Roberts is surely aware of the confirmation battle playing out in the Senate and the country. Roberts is also aware that if Kavanaugh is confirmed and in the upcoming term, the Court makes a large number of 5-4 rulings along partisan lines on hot-button issues, it could turn public opinion against the Court and ruin its reputation. The last thing Roberts wants is to be known as the Chief who presided over the complete and total politicization of the Court. It would be especially bad if the four justices in the minority united in bitter dissents on all the cases, accusing the majority of ignoring the Constitution and the law and just acting as an arm of the Republican Party.
For this reason, the Court may refuse to accept any highly political cases this year to give people time to forget the intense battle over Kavanaugh. Justices are there for life, so they can afford to play the long game. If they want to ban abortion, 2020 or 2021 is just as good for them as 2019. So if Kavanaugh is confirmed, the Court may decide this is a good year for taking on lots of copyright, patent, and trademark cases that most people don't care much about.
Given his interest in the long game, there is another way Roberts could play this. He could side with the Democratic appointees on cases that are hot button but in the long run, not really so important, like Obamacare, abortion, and same-sex marriage. While these issues have intense constituencies, they don't really change the balance of power in the country at all. On the really important stuff, like presidential power, voting rights, gerrymandering, election security, and union-busting, he could vote with the Republican appointees. This would give the media the story line of "Roberts is the new Kennedy," while cementing Republican political power for generations. If the Republicans control all the levers of power indefinitely, the Court won't have to make any controversial calls on culture-war issues. It can just say these issues are the province of Congress and the state legislatures. (V)
If nothing else, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) has demonstrated the hold that Donald Trump has on Republican voters. During the 2016 campaign, Heller said of Trump: "I vehemently oppose our nominee because he denigrates human beings." Not exactly a ringing endorsement. On Wednesday, though, Heller called Trump "a great leader." What happened? An election, that's what. In 2016, Heller was not on the ballot and was free to speak his mind. This year he is the only Republican senator up for reelection in a state Hillary Clinton carried. He faces a strong opponent in Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and needs every last Republican to vote for him. Even that may not be enough, since Nevada has 70,000 more registered Democrats than registered Republicans. So Heller ate a large plate of crow, asked for more, and then begged Trump to come campaign for him, which he did yesterday.
Whether this helps or hurts Heller remains to be seen. When Trump mocked Rosen as "Wacky Jacky" in June, she raised $342,000 in a week in small donations. Trump's appearance yesterday could have the same effect. Complicating the race, Rosen is not running as a fiery anti-Trump candidate. She is emphasizing health care and bread-and-butter issues in an attempt to win over moderate Republicans. This is expected to be one of the most expensive races in the country, and polls have shown it to be extremely close. (V)
As noted above, Donald Trump rallied in Nevada on Thursday. The opening act was notorious Las Vegas gambler, flim-flam man, and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root, who firmly believes the following:
- Barack Obama's birth certificate is fake
- The Las Vegas shootings were the work of Muslims and/or ISIS
- Seth Rich was murdered by the DNC, probably former New York AG Eric Schneiderman or Bill Clinton
- All liberal men are gay, and all liberal women are ugly
- Joe Scarborough only criticized Trump so he could hop into bed with Mika Brzezinski
- The Q-Anon conspiracy theory is 100% correct
- That the woman killed in Charlottesville was a paid actor in the employ of George Soros
If the last one is true, then that is really committing to a bit. Most presidents, of course, would be skinned alive if they were so much as seen in the same place at Root. Trump, on the other hand, specifically requested that he do the introduction.
In any case, Trump has shocked aides with his response to the Kavanaugh situation, curbing his instinctive response to jump on Twitter and lay into Christine Blasey Ford. However, in front of an adoring crowd that is hungry for some red, red meat, it is very difficult for the President to remain disciplined. And so, in an interview shortly before he went on stage, he wondered why Ford didn't call the FBI when the original incident happened 36 years ago, since, of course, frightened 15-year-olds call the FBI on a daily basis. Once Trump got on stage, he gushed that Kavanaugh is among the "finest" people he's met (though he once said that about Jeff Sessions, so toss a grain or two of salt in with that), and then announced to the crowd, "We're gonna get Brett." That is not as bad as openly trashing Ford, of course, but it certainly implies a clear judgment about the seriousness of her claims, and also speaks to his view that the GOP senators are going to ram this through, one way or another.
Only Trump knows exactly why he's played things so close to the vest so far. Ivanka's influence? Staff members doing what they can to block him from speaking out (like, for example, flooding his phone with calls on Sunday morning when the Ford news first broke)? Someone slipping quaaludes into his coffee? But we shall see if it lasts, particularly if the Ford-Kavanaugh showdown drags on for many more days or weeks. For what it is worth, his next rally is tonight in Missouri. (Z)
Steven Alembik is among the biggest supporters of Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron De Santis (R), having donated more than $20,000 to him over the years, and also arranging for a high-profile speaking appearance at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club. Alembik is known for his outspoken views on racism, such as his irritation that white folks are not allowed to use the n-word. In fact, after De Santis first got into trouble for using racially-charged language, Alembik gave this interview:
So somebody like Chris Rock can get up onstage and use the word and there's no problem? But some white guy says it and he's a racist? Really? I grew up in New York in the '50s. We were the kikes. They were the ni**ers. They were the goyim. And those were the spics.
Yesterday, meanwhile, a tweet came to light in which Alembik described Barack Obama as a "fu**ing Muslim Ni**er." He insists, however, that he is not a racist. He said exactly the same after the interview above was published. It brings to mind the line from the movie "The Princess Bride": "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
In any case, this is at least the fifth or sixth high-profile racist controversy for De Santis' campaign, from the candidate's own "monkeying things up" dog whistle, to the white supremacist robocalls made on his behalf, to the racially-charged Facebook group of which De Santis was a member, to the numerous campaign officials and volunteers who have been shown the door when their past remarks about slavery, or race wars, or Muslim ni**ers. Given that the candidate only secured his nomination three weeks ago, that means he's averaging two of these a week. Meanwhile, he consistently trails Democrat Andrew Gillum in polls, with the gap getting bigger and bigger. This contest is a big deal, because not only will the winner have a lot of power over the district maps that emerge from the 2020 census, but there's also a good chance that as goes the governor's mansion, so goes the Senate seat. So, GOP pooh-bahs are undoubtedly pulling their hair out trying to get their candidate to stop stepping in it. (Z)
Another Texas poll today. Given all the recent polling, it looks like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is ahead of his challenger Rep. Beto's O'Rourke (D-TX), but only by a whisker. That could change, of course, but so far it is a surprisingly close race. (V)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Rhode Island||Sheldon Whitehouse*||54%||Robert Flanders||35%||Sep 14||Sep 17||Fleming and Assocs.|
|Texas||Beto O`Rourke||45%||Ted Cruz*||48%||Sep 19||Sep 20||PPP|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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