Lights Out.

Lights Out.

Lights Out.

Yesterday, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as America’s 114th Supreme Court Justice. This took place despite all of the following:

  • A confirmation process that appeared rushed by Republicans at every step
  • President Trump declaring 90% of Kavanaugh’s legal writings  to be covered by “executive privilege” and therefore unviewable by the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Five women expressing a willingness to testify under oath that Kavanaugh had behaved in a sexually inappropriate way toward them – including accusations of gang rape
  • Only one of those women, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testifying to the Senate under oath, despite death threats against her and her family
  • Fox News and President Trump declaring immediately after Ford’s testimony that she was very credible
  • Republicans forcing Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimony to be merely a “he said/she said” by refusing to allow a thorough FBI investigation before they testified: such an investigation could have added valuable facts to help corroborate one side or the other
  • Kavanaugh telling the Senate Judiciary Committee numerous lies under oath, according to many who knew him during the era in question, including former roommate James Roche, and former classmates Charles “Chad” LudingtonLynn Brookes and Liz Swisher. Such false statements under oath before the U.S. Senate constitute perjury – a prosecutable federal crime that should absolutely be a disqualifier for a Supreme Court seat. Most notably, Kavanaugh denied ever having had so much to drink that he couldn’t remember his actions, and gave clearly misleading testimony about the meanings of terms that he had used in his high school yearbook around the time of Ford’s assault
  • Kavanaugh’s proclamation that he was a victim of a smear campaign to avenge Hillary Clinton – a highly partisan statement that raises questions about his ability to be an impartial Supreme Court Justice
  • Republicans trying to avoid any FBI investigation into these allegations until they were forced by a reluctant Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to allow one
  • An FBI investigation that:
    • Was limited in subject matter by the White House solely to the Ford assault and allegations by one other woman, Deborah Ramirez – not any of the other women who had come public
    • Was limited in scope by the White House to a handful of pre-specified witnesses: numerous individuals were not allowed to be interviewed, despite having relevant information, and despite the fact that many were making every effort to provide the FBI with their testimonies
    • Did not include FBI interviews with the key individuals, Kavanaugh and Ford: their Senate testimonies had to be considered their interviews
    • Could not look at Kavanaugh’s drinking habits, information about which might have helped corroborate part of Ford’s story and uncover additional evidence, and which would also have likely proven that Kavanaugh had perjured himself before the Senate
    • Was limited by the White House to no more than a week – apparently an unnecessary constraint because, with so few witnesses allowed to be interviewed, the FBI completed their report more than a day early
  • Republicans proclaimed this to a legitimate and sufficient investigation, despite its clear deficiencies and despite protests by Democrats

Senators who voted for Kavanaugh conceded that “something” happened to Dr. Ford, but placated themselves and their constituents with the pathetic and insulting claim that she must have just been confused, because it could not possibly have been Brett Kavanaugh. After all, he sounded genuinely upset during his testimony, and he went to Yale.

Yesterday was a dark, dark day for women, a dark day for justice, a dark day for America, and a dark signal for what the future holds. Kavanaugh’s nomination was a grotesque slap in the face to the legitimacy of our political process and to basic decency and morality. Admittedly this is one of hundreds by the Trump Administration and its Republican enablers, but this one somehow seems much uglier. Perhaps it is compounded by the President’s mocking of Christine Blasey Ford at a recent rally, to the gleeful cheers of his supporters. This is where we are at as a nation.

I’ve concluded – perhaps late in the game – that social media posts, participating in protests, and writing this blog are in large part a waste of time and energy. For those who oppose Trump, these activities are merely comforting self-reinforcement. For those who support Trump, these actions do not convince, but rather provide inspiration and a fresh supply of kindling, reassuring them that they are getting under the skin of the weak and overly sensitive “snowflakes” that they blame for their hardships. And for those who might be swayed, these actions are all little more that annoying background noise.

My political energy therefore will now be spent door knocking, phone banking, and doing other activities to help Democratic candidates for the House and Senate – particularly those who are in tough races – between now and November. I intend to keep my emotions in check, be polite and respectful to all whom I encounter, and disengage quickly and cordially from those who clearly cannot be convinced so that my time is not wasted. I hope to see you out there too. Time to leave the screen.

Lights out.

– rob rünt

Brett Kavanaugh: Parties and Perjury

Brett Kavanaugh: Parties and Perjury

Brett Kavanaugh: Parties and Perjury

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee spent several hours questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh about a sexual assault that Dr. Ford alleged took place in 1982. Ford’s painful testimony of a “stumbling drunk,” hysterically laughing Brett Kavanaugh pushing her onto a bed, groping her, and putting his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t scream came across as deeply moving and highly credible to any objective observer. Kavanaugh responded fiercely with a pained testimony of his own, portraying himself as a victim of a Democratic smear campaign seeking to avenge Hillary Clinton.

At the last minute on Friday, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) called for what Senate Democrats had been urging throughout the hearing: an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, rather than needlessly forcing the situation to remain merely a “he said/she said.” President Trump, lacking the Senate votes to push Kavanaugh through, relented and called for a brief FBI investigation that would be “limited in scope.” Close to the same time, an alleged witness to the drunken sexual assault – Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge – agreed to be interviewed privately by law enforcement.

Kavanaugh now faces the possibility of multiple criminal charges.

First, there is no statute of limitations for sexual assault in Maryland, meaning that Christine Blasey Ford could potentially bring criminal charges against Kavanaugh if she wishes. Realistically, after 36 years, it would be very difficult to successfully prosecute such a case in a court of law, even after the completed FBI investigation. Those present at the party (other than Kavanaugh, Judge and Ford) likely have no recollection of what for these other party-goers was just another small, run-of-the-mill teenage party of many that happened regularly in the area. And Judge, being a potential accomplice to the crime, and who also has admitted in his book to having engaged in drinking to excess, is unlikely to provide any valuable corroborating testimony beyond “I don’t remember anything.” The same dynamic would likely be the case for any investigations of pubic allegations against Kavanaugh by two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.

However, far more recently and with millions of television viewers as witnesses, Kavanaugh may well have committed the federal crime of perjury numerous times before Congress in his testimony on Thursday. Beyond the possibility of lying under oath about the assault on Ford, he made several far more easily provable or disprovable statements.

Kavanaugh was asked several times if he ever drank to the point that he couldn’t remember the next day what he had done. He said that he had not. Several people who knew him at the time have disputed that. Among them:

Lynn Brookes:
(Yale classmate of Kavanaugh and college roommate of Deborah Ramirez)
“There is no doubt in my mind that while at Yale, he was a big partier, often drank to excess, and there had to be a number of nights where he does not remember. In fact, I was witness to the night that he got tapped into that fraternity, and he was stumbling drunk, in a ridiculous costume, saying really dumb things, and I can almost guarantee that there’s no way that he remembers that night … drinking to excess was a big thing on Saturday night, so it wasn’t every night…there were a lot of e-mails and a lot of texts flying around about how he was lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
(CNN interview – 9/27/18)

Liz Swisher:
(Yale classmate of Kavanaugh)
“I’ve known Brett since the very beginning of freshman year. He was always one of the beer drinking boys, and I drank beer with him. I liked beer. There’s no problem with drinking beer in college. The problem is lying about it. He drank heavily. He was a partier. He liked to do beer bongs. He played drinking games. He was a sloppy drunk … I don’t think many of his answers were credible … I would have stayed on the sidelines if he had said ‘I drank to excess in high school, I drank to excess in college, I did some stupid things, but I never sexually assaulted anybody.’ That I would have stayed on the sidelines for – I didn’t have any credible evidence to the contrary. But to lie under oath, to lie about that, then what else is true?”
(CNN interview – 9/28/28)

An unnamed Yale classmate of Kavanaugh who spoke with the New Yorker also recalled that Kavanaugh belonged to a social group that often drank to excess, and that while Kavanaugh was normally “relatively shy,” he would become “aggressive and even belligerent” when he was drunk.

KavanaughHighSchool-pics2
High school era photos: Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey ((Ford)

Then there are the references on Brett Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook page – the relevance of which has been laughed off by Republicans, despite the fact that they give insight into Kavanaugh’s mindset, lifestyle and behavior at the time of the alleged assault on Ford. Kavanaugh was not asked about being part of the “Keg City Club (Treasurer) – 100 Kegs or Bust” (“100 Kegs or Bust” was listed on Mark Judge’s yearbook page as well – an apparent pledge by the high school seniors to drink 100 kegs of beer that year) or Kavanaugh’s unattributed quote: “He that would live in peace and at ease must not speak all he knows, nor JUDGE all he sees,” which one could interpret as an allusion to things that he and Mark Judge may have done together.

However, Kavanaugh was asked under oath about several other references on his yearbook page, to which he gave misleading answers:

Renate Alumnius:
This was listed on a number of yearbook pages of boys at Kavanaugh’s high school, Georgetown Prep. Kavanaugh admits that this is a reference to a girl at a neighboring Catholic girl’s high school. High school classmates of Kavanaugh told the New York Times that it was a disrespectful, boasting reference to (unsubstantiated) sexual conquests of some of the football players. Kavanaugh asserted under oath that it was meant to be a sign of respect to communicate that she was “one of us.” He said that he regrets that a “media circus” has portrayed it as anything else. The woman in question, when informed of the yearbook references, described them as “hurtful.”

Ralphing:
Kavanaugh mentioned in his yearbook that he was part of the “Beach Week Ralph Club – Biggest Contributor.” According to the Chicago Tribune, Mark Judge describes Beach Week as “an annual drunken vacation of private school pals convened as soon as school ended, a week earlier than public schools.” The week-long party involved male and female students. Urban Dictionary describes ralphing as throwing up, so it is reasonable to interpret Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry to mean that his degree of alcohol consumption resulted in him throwing up more than anyone else at Beach Week. Kavanaugh told the Senate under oath that this was not due to excessive drinking, but rather due to his sensitive stomach.

Devil’s Triangle:
The Urban Dictionary describes a “Devil’s Triangle” as a threesome with two males and one female – the exact scenario that Christine Blasey Ford describes Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge having tried to force her into against her will. Kavanaugh stated under oath that it was a reference to a drinking game, like “quarters.” It should be noted that, immediately after Kavanaugh’s testimony, this “drinking game” definition also began appearing on Urban Dictionary, which accepts public input to stay current. This definition had not been there before that.

Boofing:
Kavanaugh wrote on his high school yearbook page “Judge – Have You Boofed Yet?” Mark Judge similarly wrote on his yearbook page “Bart, have you boofed yet?” (Bart appears to have been a nickname that Kavanaugh was referred to due to a teacher’s mispronunciation of his name.) When I was in high school in the 1980s, around the same time as Kavanaugh, “boofing” referred to anal sex. This is also one of the definitions provided by Urban Dictionary, although it can also apparently refer to putting illicit substances in one’s anus. It should be noted that Kavanaugh is a Catholic, and many Catholics believe that one can have anal sex and still consider themselves a “virgin.” Kavanaugh stated under oath that “boofing” was another word for farting – a definition that I had never heard until his testimony.

Whether or not the horrific act against Christine Blasey Ford or any of the other women can be proven, all of these other minor but important inconsistencies in Kavanaugh’s testimony are likely to be revealed in the course of the FBI’s investigation this week. As Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Liz Swisher said, “there’s no problem with drinking beer in college: the problem is lying about it.” Lying under oath to Congress is a federal crime, and numerous parts of Kavanaugh’s testimony to Congress appear to have been deliberately misleading, regardless of his guilt or innocence in the alleged sexual assaults. Kavanaugh may or may not be prosecuted, but at the very least, he should not be rewarded for perjury by being appointed to the Supreme Court.

– rob rünt

The Potential Pros and Cons of Rachel Mitchell

The Potential Pros and Cons of Rachel Mitchell

The Potential Pros and Cons of Rachel Mitchell

In what appears to be a cowardly move, the Republican majority Senate Judiciary Committee has decided to bring in an outside female attorney to question Christine Blasey Ford on this Thursday regarding allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. The initial appearance is that the Committee, whose Republican members are all old white men, do not want a repeat of the optics from the hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, where an all male panel – some of them the same old white men – aggressively questioned Anita Hill about her allegations of harassment by Thomas.

Yet there may be a number of benefits of this approach – benefits to Ford and to the truth.

Having a woman interview Ford may be less emotionally traumatic for Ford, the victim, than being surrounded by a group of old white men interrogating her. It is likely that this female attorney will be more capable of asking questions in a sensitive way.

More importantly, though, is the background of this particular female attorney, Rachel Mitchell. She is a sex crimes prosecutor with a track record of handling cases where the crime was committed years ago. Surely such an individual will have a degree of expertise that the Senators do not have regarding what questions to ask.

Mitchell’s ability to perform her responsibility here will be impaired by the Committee’s unwillingness to have the FBI include an investigation of these allegations in their background check of Kavanaugh. Prosecutors in court typically have the benefit of an attempt at fact-finding by law enforcement.

Mitchell’s political allegiance to hardcore Republican former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, as well as her appointment by a highly partisan Republican Senate Committee bent of pushing Kavanaugh through regardless of the facts, make her presence worthy of skepticism. However, if she can be balanced in her pursuit of the truth with both Ford and Kavanaugh, the results may be more humane and effective than if the task had been left to the likes of Committee members Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Kennedy (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Michael Lee (R-UT), Ben Sasse (R-NB), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

Perhaps the Democrats should consider bringing in their own prosecuting attorney with specific expertise in sex crimes as well.

– rob rünt