Why you should care
Because a nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States has been accused of a serious crime.
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
What happened? Conservative appeals court judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, which just last week appeared on a glide path to confirmation, has been thrown into uncertainty after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her while the two were in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation, but his accuser, 51-year-old Christine Blasey Ford, who came forward publicly Sunday, is willing to testify about the alleged incident.
Why does it matter? Kavanaugh, 53, has been nominated to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, a key swing vote on the court for decades. If confirmed, it could be Kavanaugh’s vote that determines how the body rules on key issues like the status of legal abortion in the United States. Ford and Kavanaugh were to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday to answer questions about the allegations, but Ford has said she wants an FBI investigation into the incident before such a hearing. Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has so far refused to delay her testimony.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
Going public. Ford is a research psychologist at Palo Alto University who is married with two sons. She attended a private girls’ school in Bethesda, Maryland, and it was in 1982 while in high school that Ford alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party, attempting to remove her swimsuit and covering her mouth when she tried to scream. Ford went public amid mounting speculation over her identity after Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein disclosed last week that she had received a confidential letter informing her of the incident in July.
Mounting concerns. Ford’s allegations aren’t the only recent strike against Kavanaugh’s nomination. Newly released documents suggest he had knowledge about a former Senate Republican aide’s unlawful infiltration of confidential files of Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats during the Bush-era “Memogate” scandal, knowledge Kavanaugh denied having under oath while being confirmed as an appeals court judge.
Nominations in the #MeToo era. Republican leaders have been largely restrained in questioning Ford’s story, possibly a result of #MeToo’s focus on believing victims. Skepticism has largely been on the details — like whether Kavanaugh truly was the attacker — rather than claiming Ford invented the episode. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch argued that Ford was possibly “mistaken” or “mixed up.”
Holding steady. Donald Trump is still backing his nominee, with no indication he’ll drop support for Kavanaugh. “Brett Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough,” the president said Wednesday morning. “And his family, I think it is a very unfair thing what’s going on.” Instead he accused Sen. Feinstein of not bringing up Ford’s allegations earlier in an attempt to obstruct the nomination. Meanwhile, Kavanaugh spent much of the day Monday and Tuesday behind closed doors at the White House, preparing for further questioning with White House counsel Don McGahn and others.
Still to come. If Kavanaugh’s confirmation is held up pending further investigation of Ford’s claims, it could be delayed through the upcoming midterm elections. But, even in the event that Democrats reclaim the Senate this November — still an unlikely scenario given the Republicans have an 85.6 percent chance to hold the Senate, according to the latest OZY-0ptimus predictive model— Republicans could still clear his nomination during the Senate’s lame-duck session and their final weeks in power.
WHAT TO READ
Brett Kavanaugh and the Revealing Logic of ‘Boys Will Be Boys,’ by Megan Garber in The Atlantic
“And here is the deeper venality of the boys-being-boys defense: It normalizes. It erases the specific details of Christine Blasey Ford’s stated recollections with the soggy mop of generalized male entitlement. What red-blooded guy, after all, its logic assumes, hasn’t done, in some way, the kinds of things Ford has described?”
The #MeToo Kavanaugh Ambush, by the Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal
“The timing and details of how Ms. Ford came forward, and how her name was coaxed into public view, should also raise red flags about the partisan motives at play.”
WHAT TO WATCH
Kavanaugh Talks About His Days at Georgetown Prep in a 2015 Speech
“Fortunately we had a good saying that we’ve held firm to till this day. … ‘What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.’ That’s been a good thing for all of us.”
Watch on CNN
Lawyer for Brett Kavanaugh’s Sexual Assault Accuser Speaks Out
“Most victims of sexual assault and sexual violence never come forward. [Ford] came forward when she believed that it was her civic duty.”
Watch on Guardian News on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Plan B? Even if the Kavanaugh nomination goes down, don’t expect the Supreme Court’s rightward trajectory to change. Trump is likely to appoint instead 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett. At 46, she is younger than Kavanaugh, carries strong conservative religious convictions and has less stated deference to legal precedent.