Once more, I started a day determined to blog about something other than the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination mess, and once more, I realize that there’s no point (until the hard economic data flow resumes – which will be soon – unless some globalist and/or free trade extremist writes something beyond even the pale of their increasingly loopy standard; or until something equally nutty happens with the Rod Rosenstein Justice Department mess).
Here, therefore, is a scorecard approach to where we stand in terms of Kavanaugh’s accusers, their credibility, and the related subject of his credibility – and why some points matter to varying degrees, and some points don’t matter at all, or hardly at all.
The first group of developments is pretty easily disposed of, and concern attorney Michael Avenatti’s claim that a client of his is a third Kavanaugh accuser (in addition to Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez) who is “100% credible.”
That she may be. But having initially promised that she would come forward by tomorrow night, the outspoken lawyer, who initially burst into the spotlight by representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump, may be backtracking. Yesterday morning, he tweeted that the accuser would reveal her identity and her allegations “only when SHE is ready and we have adequate security measures in place.” He added, “it is her choice and hers alone as to when to surface bc it is her life. We expect it within the next 36 hrs.” So keep clock-watching.
At the same time, it looks as if the accuser is not a victim. In a email to the Senate Judiciary Committee (which is considering Kavanaugh’s suitability for a Supreme Court seat), Avenatti certainly never described her as such. Instead, he insisted that she was
“aware of significant evidence of multiple house parties in the Washington, D.C. area during the early 1980s during which Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge [the Kavanaugh friend who has denied Ford’s charge that he was present during the sexual assault she’s charged the federal judge committed against her as a high school senior] and others would participate in the targeting of women with alcohol/drugs in order to allow a ‘train’ of men to subsequently gang rape them.”
Avenatti also contended that multiple witnesses could corroborate these facts.
Examined closely, however, it’s not clear at all how conclusive her revelations will be, and whether they are even facts. After all, Avenatti isn’t saying that his client saw Kavanaugh and Judge participate in these rape gangs. He isn’t even saying that his client saw any such activity herself. Apparently she’s simply “aware of” some evidence. And aware how? Is there any documentation? Will it really be “significant” – whatever Avenatti thinks that means. At this point, who knows?
Further, although it’s true that many women have attested to the frequency of abusive behavior by Kavanaugh’s peer generation in this particular Washington, D.C.-area prep school scene, that’s not to say that this behavior amounted to gang rapes, or – as I noted last Saturday – that Kavanaugh himself was personally involved in any of it. These rebuttals also need to be kept in mind whenever the “multiple witnesses” testify in support of Avenatti’s client.
Comparable problems – and then some – plague Deborah Ramirez’ allegations of sexually abusive Kavanaugh behavior during their freshman year at Yale, the year after Ford claims the judge assaulted her. These charges appeared in a New Yorker article on Sunday, and Ramirez, like Ford, has put her name behind them. But you can believe (as I do) that it’s as difficult as it is courageous for any victim to make a sex crime accusation public; that because of the cruel reactions often generated by these charges, even victims who go public often understandably do so only after many years; that for similar reasons, victims often don’t confide even in close family or friends; and that memories of even such traumatic events can age badly, and still be legitimately troubled by Ramirez’ story – and The New Yorker‘s decision to publish it and role in developing it.
First, as widely noted, New Yorker reporters Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer acknowledge that they could not confirm
“with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party [where the incident allegedly took place]. The magazine contacted several dozen classmates of Ramirez and Kavanaugh regarding the incident. Many did not respond to interview requests; others declined to comment, or said they did not attend or remember the party.”
Two other major news organizations made the same kind of effort – The New York Times and CNN. Both failed. And neither has been accused of shilling for Republicans or for the Trump administration.
As a result, it’s legitimate to wonder why Farrow and Mayer, and their editors, at the least didn’t decide to wrap the article up at that point – excepting some basic background information about the Kavanaugh battle, and the story of how Ramirez’ experience came into the public domain (which might be crucial, as will be explained below). After all, every other piece of evidence they serve up is either hearsay or opinion that rarely even qualifies as plain gossip.
The most convincing support for Ramirez comes from the first Yalie presented by Farrow and Mayer:
?A classmate of Ramirez’s…said that another student told him about the incident either on the night of the party or in the next day or two. The classmate said that he is ‘one-hundred-per-cent sure’ that he was told at the time that Kavanaugh was the student who exposed himself to Ramirez. He independently recalled many of the same details offered by Ramirez….”
The big problem – this person insisted on anonymity.
Not quite as strong, but deserving to be taken seriously: “Ramirez told her mother and sister about an upsetting incident at the time, but did not describe the details to either due to her embarrassment.” So that looks like contemporaneous corroboration. But it’s disturbingly vague.
Falling into the literal hearsay category – the account of another classmate. Richard Oh did agree to be identified. But he simply “recalled overhearing, soon after the party, a female student tearfully recounting to another student an incident at a party involving a gag with a fake penis, followed by a male student exposing himself. Oh is not certain of the identity of the female student.”
Classmate Mark Krasberg told Farrow and Mayer that “Kavanaugh’s college behavior had become a topic of discussion among former Yale students soon after Kavanaugh’s nomination.: In addition, “In one e-mail that Krasberg received in September, the classmate who recalled hearing about the incident with Ramirez alluded to the allegation and wrote that it ‘would qualify as a sexual assault,’ he speculated, ‘if it’s true.’” In other words, he sounded much less sure about the charges’ veracity in the email than he did when speaking with the New Yorker reporters – quite some time later.
And if you closely examine the rest of the Yale student statements presented in the article, you see that whether they’re anonymous or not, they amount to nothing more than general endorsement’s of Ramirez’ (or Kavanaugh’s) candor and/or character, or lack thereof (in Kavanaugh’s case); expressions of confidence that Ramirez would have told them of the incident had it happened; and various descriptions of some of the Yale undergraduate social scene at the time as an alcohol-drenched zoo where women were often “sexually tormented” (according to then-roommate James Roche), and “victimized and taunted” – including by “male students in [Kavanaugh’s] social scene” (the reporters’ words).
Also fishy: How Ramirez decided to tell her story on a for-attribution basis. To begin at the beginning, Ramirez didn’t initiate the process at all. At one point, Farrow and Mayer write:
“As Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings became a national story, the discussions among Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s classmates took on heightened urgency, eventually spreading to news organizations and to the Senate. Senate aides from Ramirez’s home state of Colorado alerted a lawyer, Stanley Garnett, a former Democratic district attorney in Boulder, who currently represents her. Ramirez ultimately decided to begin telling her story publicly, before others did so for her. ‘I didn’t want any of this,’ she said. ‘But now I have to speak.’”
The role of the classmates is at least an orange flag. Remember: None of them professes to have been present when Ramirez says she was abused. Some of them have been just fine with conveying hearsay and evidence-free speculation to the media. But once the confirmation hearings “became a national story” (not, apparently, once Kavanaugh was first appointed, but possibly once his confirmation looked certain?) they were engaged in urgent discussions among themselves. And then, their discussions “spread” (like an oil slick?) to “news organizations and to the Senate.”
At that point, moreover, the fingerprints of Democratic operatives are everywhere to be seen. As Farrow and Mayer tell readers at the start of their article, “The allegation was conveyed to Democratic senators by a civil-rights lawyer” (presumably Garnett, a prominent Colorado Democrat). The reporters go on to write that Ramirez “was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident.”
To me, as suggested above, that’s perfectly understandable on all counts. As Ramirez has confessed, she was “embarrassed” – even though there is no reason to believe she did anything wrong, unless you count getting sloshed.
But contrary to the Farrow-Mayer description above, Ramirez didn’t simply decide to go public merely because some time had passed (“ultimately”) or even (mainly?) because she knew it would leak and wanted – again, understandably – to prevent her story to be distorted, at least according to her recollections. And she didn’t make the decision autonomously.
Instead, as the reporters themselves say, “The New Yorker contacted Ramirez after learning of her possible involvement” in the incident in question. Can anyone doubt that the aforementioned Democratic Senators gave her name to Farrow, whose dogged reporting was central to unmasking serial predator Harvey Weinstein, the former King of Hollywood (and major funder of Democrats) and Mayer? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it was this move, not anything that Ramirez initially said, that guaranteed she would lose her anonymity.
Further, her decision to go public-for-attribution evidently wasn’t made autonomously, either. As Farrow and Mayer put it:
“In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.”
It’s difficult to finish these sentences and avoid the conclusion that Ramirez was prompted – including by a former Democratic public official.
Yet Ramirez may have been more than an entirely moldable piece of clay. In its own aforementioned investigation of the story, The New York Times also reported, “Ms. Ramirez herself contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the incident and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.” So Ramirez’ confidence in her recollections may be anything but confident.
Not that Kavanaugh is home free on the merits (as opposed to the politics) by any means – mainly for two reasons. First, although he has categorically denied all allegations, the judge’s efforts to portray himself as a near choirboy in private school who may have occasionally had a few too many beers don’t square well with some compelling counter-evidence. And it’s not just that the early-1980s social landscape surrounding Kavanaugh’s alma mater and similar Washington, D.C. area institutions of learning sounds like a coed Lord of the Flies-type scene on steroids. It’s that several Kavanaugh peers have depicted him for attribution as a problem drinker in college, and that according to his close high school buddy Mark Judge (the alleged first-hand observer of the attack Ford claims) called their circle of friends “Alcoholics Anonymous.”
The point is not how much of a boozer Kavanaugh was or wasn’t, particularly since an alcohol problem wouldn’t by itself prove that he committed any sexual assaults or engaged in harassment in high school or in college. It’s that if his credibility is convincingly challenged on this score, his blanket denial of the sex crimes looks a lot dicier.
Second, the charges of Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, have been called into question because aside from the judge, three of the five total individuals (including herself) that she’s stated attended the party where the alleged attack took place deny any memory of the evening. (One, a close friend, added, however, that she believed Ford.) Nonetheless, Ford is not completely lacking for corroborating witnesses.
As mentioned in my post last Saturday, Ford told a therapist of the incident in 2012. The therapist has no record of Kavanaugh’s name being mentioned. But Ford’s husband says that it was. (They were in couples therapy.) In addition, just this morning, her attorneys submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee four sworn affidavits supporting her charges. They included one in which her husband restated his claim that Kavanaugh’s name was mentioned at the therapy session, and one in which self-described “close friend” Keith Koegler professed that Ford identified Kavanaugh as her assailant in an email in June, 2016 – right after the judge was listed as a likely Supreme Court nominee.
As a result, it seems clear that a cloud is going to remain over Kavanaugh’s head no matter what happens at the upcoming hearing – a cloud much like that which the uproar and its fiendish complexity has formed over the nation’s entire politics.