At any other time, and under any other president and party leadership, Brett Kavanaugh would’ve been out of here weeks ago.
Under President Donald Trump and Congress’ ruthlessly determined GOP leadership, however, two women who have accused the Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault have been publicly harassed by prominent Republican senators.
Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been bullying Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for nothing short of a week now over how she’ll testify during Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised other Republican leaders last weekend that they would “plow right through” these extended confirmation hearings, dismissing Blasey’s potential testimony before it even began.
And after Deborah Ramirez, one of Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmates, came forward with allegations on Sunday, McConnell lashed out further, calling the accusation a “smear” orchestrated by Democrats.
Kavanaugh, in an unprecedented action for a Supreme Court nominee, took his case to Fox News on Monday night, promising viewers, “I’m not going anywhere.” The nominee portrayed himself as a choir boy during his high school and college years, even saying (completely irrelevantly) that he didn’t have “sexual intercourse” in high school nor for “many years” after. (But his college roommate remembers Kavanaugh as a frequent drinker and an “aggressive and belligerent” drunk and said he is “inclined to believe” Ramirez’s allegations).
And still, Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings continue, even while attorney Michael Avenatti warns a third accuser will shortly come forward ― someone whose charges Avenatti said include gang rape corroborated by multiple witnesses.
All of this could be over if two Republican senators in the closely divided Senate simply decided they’d had enough (and that Americans had had enough) and displayed the courage to stand up to Mitch McConnell and announce they won’t be supporting the judge’s confirmation ― or, better yet, that Kavanaugh should withdraw himself from consideration. Whether they announce it beforehand or not, if McConnell pushes this fiasco to an up-or-down vote, as he threatened on Monday, any two Republican senators could simply vote against Kavanaugh.
It’s mind-boggling to me that Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have allowed this nomination to go this far. Murkowski has held herself up as a defender of women’s rights, as has Collins ― who, along with Flake and Corker, has said she needs to hear from Blasey before she can vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
That’s the only reason why a hearing is even scheduled for Thursday. Senate Republicans would’ve happily voted as soon as possible if not for the calls by Collins, Flake and Corker for a hearing with Blasey. Aware that additional allegations were coming over the weekend, senior GOP staffers on the Judiciary Committee last week allegedly tried to speed up the confirmation process instead of slowing it down to investigate.
Collins has now said Ramirez should be called to testify as well, which could push any vote well into next week or even later (though Republican leaders seem set on a faster vote in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s new term starting next Monday). The White House claimed on Tuesday that Ramirez could testify on Thursday with Blasey, but Collins had earlier rejected that idea, noting that Ramirez hadn’t even been interviewed by committee investigators yet.
Yes, Collins’ new demand would create more time to consider Kavanaugh’s nomination, but it seems like she’s simply seeking cover for her eventual yes vote. If Collins ― and Murkowski, Flake, Corker or any other GOP senators ― actually wanted the full truth on which to make a decision, they’d be demanding that the Judiciary Committee subpoena witnesses like Mark Judge; bringing forth classmates, faculty, trauma experts and others; and calling for a thorough FBI investigation. (Murkowski made a vague statement alluding to the latter idea when pressed on Tuesday, but her comment fell far short of actually calling for an FBI probe.)
From the moment Trump nominated Kavanaugh, Collins has telegraphed that she’s likely a yes vote by claiming she didn’t think the judge would overturn Roe v. Wade, which she’s defended as an abortion rights senator. Last Friday (in an interview released Monday), well after Blasey’s accusations became public (though before Ramirez’s allegations had surfaced) Collins said again that she doesn’t believe Kavanaugh is going to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The Maine senator has got to be one of the last people in America who actually believes that nonsense, since many advocates on both sides of the issue, as well as many legal and judicial experts, are confident that he will. Collins also said she was “very close” to making her decision on the nomination.
As I noted in a previous column, Collins reportedly signed off on Kavanaugh during a consultation with Trump before the president even nominated him ― something she strenuously denies. It seems like she’s either worried about a primary challenge that Trump could help stoke in 2020 or has made some other deal no one knows about. The bottom line is that she desperately wants to vote yes on this nomination even though it goes against everything she claims to stand for.
Murkowski, who’s spoken out in Alaskan media on her support of the Me Too movement and even introduced a bill last June with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to combat sexual harassment, faces opposition from Alaska’s independent governor, Bill Walker, who came out against the nomination. She’s also making a decision on Kavanaugh amid outrage in her home state over a judge’s recent slap on the wrist (no prison time) for a man who’d sexually assaulted a woman and been charged with felony assault.
That Murkowski is even still in the process of making up her mind is pretty gutless ― and exposes her fealty to McConnell.
Flake and Corker have both spoken out strongly against Trump’s recklessness, his ugly rhetoric and the damage he’s done to the office of the presidency. They both chose not to run for re-election this year, so this is their chance to say no to the excesses and abuses of a president who they agree has made horrendous decisions. Beyond Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophies, which they likely support, the evidence that the nominee has engaged in the very same kind of abuses of women that Trump has allegedly engaged in should have them voting no. Is backing Kavanaugh really how they want to end their tenures in the Senate?
As support of Kavanaugh’s nomination sinks in the polls, Democrats are now likely unified against voting to confirm. Any hint that a GOP senator or two would turn against Kavanaugh would surely solidify that.
Just two or three of these Republicans could end this national nightmare. The question comes down, as it has throughout Trump’s presidency, to whether they put their party loyalty above women, above the American people and above the country itself.
Michelangelo Signorile is an editor-at-large for HuffPost. Follow him on Twitter at @msignorile.
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