Monday, October 1, 2018

State of the Kavanaugh

Alessandra Mondolfi/The Nation.

I'm having a hard time transitioning from the way I felt on Thursday, and the statements of Kavanaugh and Graham like allegorical representations of evil taking off its mask and showing its serpent fangs, and likely to triumph in the end, to the way I ought to feel after Friday, whatever that is. I hadn't finished processing the first thing, at all, and now it's all changed, or not, as the case may be, with Senator Jeff Flake's quixotic moment of allowing himself to see why somebody different from him could feel disrespected and ignored and dehumanized, if that's what he did, and to try to do something about it.

Because I definitely don't want to buy the widespread hypothesis offered, for instance, by bmaz at emptywheel, that the whole thing, the offer of an additional week of FBI investigation of the allegations against Kavanaugh before the Senate votes on the nomination, is nothing but a "trumpian sham". In part because that's just senseless paranoid-style thinking; I don't mean to claim there's no sham in it, even on Flake's part, though I'm honestly more inclined to think he meant well—I mean I don't see it as possibly confabulated between Flake and the White House, for some kind of mutual benefit. That's just too complicated, if nothing else, especially for this chaotic administration.

As the situation develops, we start to get a more familiar picture of what's going on in Trumplandia, where there's no real plan at all, just competing power centers in the White House reacting to events over on the Hill, the better organized getting their oars in first, starting with White House Counsel Don McGahn seizing the initiative to issue that list of instructions to the FBI:
This list appears to prevent any follow up on a number of leads raised in Thursday’s hearing, such as conflicting accounts of Kavanaugh’s college drinking and the reference to Mark Judge’s high school employment which was referenced as a possible corroboration of Blasey Ford’s testimony.
But without any regard to whether he has the authority to do it, and possibly without informing Trump, who was watching NBC News on TiVo Saturday night, during the SNL broadcast, for some reason, and enraged by what he heard, though not at McGahn. He clearly got a lawyer to help him with the phrasing of his response, though not a lawyer who knows how to use the word "whomever":
Kellyanne Conway then showed up on Sunday morning to split the difference:
"The White House is not getting involved in the FBI investigation in that way," Conway said. "The President has said he very much respects the independence of the FBI and feels, as he said last night, that they should look into anything that is credible within that limited scope."
When pressed on what "limited scope" means, Conway said, "That's up to the FBI. In other words, I'm not involved in those specific conversations."
You can go anywhere you want as long as you don't leave your cell. Revealing who limited the scope of the investigation is above her pay grade. But I actually do have some faith that the FBI will follow its leads thoroughly and interpret its instructions (including Trump's tweet, since presidential tweets are definitely official statements and can at least order anything that he could have ordered viva voce), and are bound to discover that Kavanaugh's lies in Senate testimony are pretty bad. Late last night we learned about one new piece of evidence going unsolicited to the FBI by a Yale basketball teammate:
“When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive. On one of the last occasions I purposely socialized with Brett, I witnessed him respond to a semi-hostile remark, not by defusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man’s face and starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail.”
Greg Sargent, on the other hand, isn't very optimistic, and neither are the FBI veterans he spoke to.

If they do make it thorough, will it be bad enough to trigger Flake's promise?
Scott Pelley: If Judge Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, the nomination is over?
Sen. Flake and Sen. Coons: Oh, yes. I would think so.

We'll see, as Trump would say, but just that far, it looks good to me.

P.S. I'm just kidding about not knowing why, or at least how, Trump was watching hour-old NBC on Saturday night. Of course he denied it before anybody said anything:

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