feibisi / 2018年9月29日

Michael Avenatti’s next move is unclear after Senate agrees to Kavanaugh FBI investigation

Lawyer Michael Avenatti outside of a California court in September 2018.

Avenatti says if his client isn’t part of the FBI probe, he’ll take his case to the American public.

Since Michael Avenatti and his client Julie Swetnick, who claims she witnessed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assault girls in high school and says he was at a party where she was gang raped, came forward, they have insisted they want an FBI investigation into her claims. Now the FBI is probing “credible allegations” against Kavanaugh — but it’s not clear where that leaves Avenatti, or his client.

The Senate on Friday agreed to allow the bureau to conduct a “supplemental FBI background investigation” into the allegations against Kavanaugh. The move came after Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing heavily implied, but did not say outright, that he would vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation on the Senate floor unless a one-week investigation was opened.

On Thursday, Kavanaugh and Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford testified before the committee about her allegations that he sexually assaulted her in high school. Ford says that while at a party in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh pinned her down, tried to take her clothes off, and put his hand over her mouth as she screamed while one of his friends, Mark Judge, looked on. Kavanaugh vehemently denied Ford’s allegations, and all other allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Senate in a statement announcing the week-long delay in a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh said that FBI would look into “credible allegations” against him. That certainly includes Ford’s claims. It’s not clear whether that means the bureau will also look into claims made by Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were both drunk at a party in college, or the allegations from Swetnick.

What Avenatti’s up to has been a bumpy ride from the start

On Wednesday, Avenatti posted on Twitter a sworn affidavit from Swetnick in which she alleges that Kavanaugh, Judge, and others targeted women with drugs and alcohol to cause them to “lose their inhibitions” so they could be “gang raped” — and says she was a victim of one of these “train” rapes. (She says that Judge and Kavanaugh were present when she was raped but does not accuse them of participating.)

But even before she was named, Avenatti has been tweeting about Swetnick’s claims — and insisting that she sit down with the FBI to tell her story. As the Judiciary Committee was preparing to vote on advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday, Avenatti tweeted he and Swetnick would “thoroughly enjoy embarrassing” Republican members of the panel over the weekend “when her story is told and is deemed credible.” He added that he doesn’t “traffic in nonsense.”

Avenatti’s threat was contingent on the committee advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination, which it did, but with the stipulation of the week-long FBI investigation. It’s not clear whether that’s appeased the combative lawyer, or whether his client will be involved. After Flake’s request became public, Avenatti tweeted another email he sent Friday afternoon reiterating his request that Swetnick be able to speak to the FBI. He also retweeted a tweet from screenwriter Allison Burnett saying that Swetnick’s claims are true.

Republicans have been swift to dismiss Avenatti and his claims, using the fact that he also represents Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claims she had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006, to discredit him. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Wednesday characterized him as a “lawyer to porn stars,” and Sen. Chuck Grassley said that Avenatti “wants to protect people that are involved in pornography and that he’s running for president.”

Trump himself has also responded to Avenatti, calling him a “third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations” in a tweet.

Whether Avenatti and his client have more to say — or whether they’ll take part in the FBI’s Kavanaugh investigation — remains to be seen. At the moment, Avenatti appears to be getting at least part of what he’s wanted, including for Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend, to cooperate with the FBI.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s AM Joy on Saturday, Avenatti said that if the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans try to “hide” his clients and witnesses and they aren’t included in the FBI investigation, he’ll keep pushing. “Then we’re going to take our case to the American public,” he said, “and we’re going to let them decide who’s telling the truth and who’s lying to them.”

feibisi / 2018年9月29日

Francis Fukuyama recommends 2 books on tribalism in politics

The author of Identity makes a case against identity politics on the Ezra Klein Show.

At the end of each episode of The Ezra Klein Show, guests are asked to name three books they think the audience should read. Recommendations from past guests can be found at vox.com/EzraKleinShow.

In his new book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, Stanford political scientist Francis Fukuyama makes the case that identity politics creates more division and bitterness. On The Ezra Klein Show this week, Fukuyama discusses the history of identity politics, its impact on economic and racial anxieties, and people whose identities are seen as simply politics.

Fukuyama’s recommendations for books “to better understand how identity politics has operated in America or in other societies” argue that our identities are much more tribal that we’d like to believe.

1) Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartel

Political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartel argue against the “folk view of democracy: that we are all these rational, NPR-listening voters that have opinions about policy issues and will vote for representatives that best reflect our policy preferences.” Their research suggests that we instead pick a political party — a team — and support whatever policies our team advocates for.

2) The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt’s book on moral psychology argues essentially the same thing — that our political decisions are much less rational than we’d like to believe — but “broadens the scope of view not just to politics but to cognitive activity in general.” Fukuyama says, “It’s very depressing if you actually believe in democracy.”

You can listen to the full conversation with Francis Fukuyama on The Ezra Klein Show by subscribing on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, or by streaming the episode here.

feibisi / 2018年9月28日

Brett Kavanaugh’s yearbook: the “boof” joke, explained

Brett Kavanaugh’s 1983 high school yearbook entry.

The raunchy joke isn’t a good look considering the allegations against the Supreme Court nominee.

For all the nostalgia they can inspire, school yearbooks are often full of things we’d rather forget: unflattering pictures, suggestions from people we may have liked more than they liked us urging to “keep in touch” or “have a good summer,” and awkward memories of who we once were.

Rarely do they serve as anything more than a sometimes bittersweet record of a very specific time in our lives. But in a major exception, the meaning of yearbooks and what young humans write in them, or rather used to write in them, is currently at the center of a national conversation with history-making repercussions, because of what Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his longtime friend and former classmate Mark Judge wrote in corresponding 1983 senior yearbook messages.

Three women have brought allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Kavanaugh, describing drunken acts they say Kavanagh committed in high school and college. Kavanaugh has flatly denied those allegations, including in a televised interview with Fox News in which he presented himself as a virginal square. Now, there’s a debate over what type of person Kavanaugh really was in high school and who he is today, and his yearbook entry has become an artifact that might help discern the truth from fiction.

Of particular interest is the phrase, “Judge, have you boofed yet?” which appears on Kavanaugh’s senior yearbook page and seemingly corresponds to the phrase, “Bart, have you boofed yet?” which appears on Judge’s page. Judge, as Slate explains, published Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, a 1997 memoir about his experience with alcoholism in high school that featured a character named “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” a reference to his real-life friend with the strikingly similar name.

Many have subsequently wondered what it means to “boof,” and the definition may now underpin the argument that a man who’s being considered for a seat on the Supreme Court might also be someone who has demeaned and assaulted women.

The history of the word boof, explained

There’s certainly no shortage of entries for “boof” on Urban Dictionary, which frequently comes up in internet search results for anyone Googling the term. But the key to the etymological puzzle behind the word is knowing how it was used in the 1980s, when Kavanaugh and Judge included it in their yearbook entries. And most of the available evidence seems to point toward it being a slang term for anal sex.

One of the most concrete examples of it being used, though in a different context, is in the cult classic movie Teen Wolf. The movie was released in 1985, a couple years after Kavanaugh and Judge wrote their yearbook entries. In it, Scott (Michael J. Fox) has two love interests, the blonde dreamgirl Pamela Wells (Lorie Griffin) and the brunette girl next door, Lisa “Boof” Marconi (Susan Ursitti).

Who Scott chooses isn’t as telling as the shock felt by some viewers — there’s actually an old message board conversation about it — that the movie featured a character known as Boof.

To some who were familiar with the term at the time, boof was slang for anal sex, hence the shock over Teen Wolf’s Boof.

There’s also another, totally different instance of “boof” being used in the 1980s. In 1981, two years before Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry, a man named John Paul Bonser was born. Bonser would grow up to become a professional baseball pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, and the Oakland A’s. If the name John Paul Bonser doesn’t ring a bell even to baseball fans, it’s because he legally changed his name to Boof Bonser in 2001.

Bonser has said that his mother gave him the nickname when he was a child, but never explained what it meant. “I don’t really want to know why, to be honest with you,” he told the New York Time in 2006. “I guess I had no reason to go up and ask her. I just left it at that.”

It’s very difficult to find established usage of “boof” in publications of the era, which is understandable given its risqué apparent definition and that it was slang. But in that message board conversation about Teen Wolf, a user who self-identified as being from the East Coast provided a corroborating account that “boof” grew out of “Bu-Fu (pronounced boo-foo), which was in turn short for butt fuck.”

There’s a similar account, posted in 2006, on this kayaking message board. In the kayaking world, “boof” is the name for a technique kayakers use when paddling toward a waterfall, and has nothing to do with sex of any kind. Kayaking aficionados who participated in the discussion were tickled to learn that the maneuver had another, very different meaning.

A recent community post on Daily Kos, written in response to news reports about Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry, affirms the anal sex definition. And earlier this week, John Lomax, an editor at Texas Monthly, noted that even though he is younger than Kavanaugh and from a different geographical region, the word also had “bufu” origins and a similar meaning when he was in school:

The most sensible guess, then, is that when Kavanaugh and Judge each appeared to ask via their public yearbook entries if the other had “boofed yet,” they were two friends joking about whether they’d ever had anal sex.

The modern meaning of the word “boof” is different than the one Kavanaugh is likely to have known

Today, the slang version of the term has mutated slightly. It still involves one’s rear end, but it now appears to mean ingesting alcohol or drug through one’s butt. A simple search on Reddit, Quora, Urban Dictionary or Twitter confirms as much (and yields multiple tips and tricks for doing it, too).

Trying to talk about anal sex is like trying to talk about a lot of things involving the human body — just think of all the slang involving genitalia — in that it can be embarrassing. Coming up with a nickname like boof adds a layer of comedy and allows people to more comfortably incorporate a mention of it into casual conversation. But in Kavanaugh’s case, it’s actually quite serious.

What we talk about when we talk about Brett Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry

Trying to read between the lines of someone’s senior yearbook page is a strange exercise. But it’s not unlike the way, in 2018, we write our own narratives on social media, or piece together stories about other people we follow on social media.

We regularly share things that we think define us — from a cause we’re volunteering for to a joke we find funny to a political argument we agree with to a picture we think we look attractive in. We may have a desired outcome in mind, but we can’t control what the people who see our updates think. The way outsiders interpret the way we present ourselves is completely up to them.

On one hand, it’s easy to compare Kavanaugh’s senior yearbook entry to a Twitter or Instagram feed and write it off as a kid being a kid. Kavanaugh undoubtedly put forth a specific persona in his yearbook, just like any modern teen would do today.

But on the other hand, Kavanaugh is now up for one of the most powerful positions in the United States and his senior yearbook entry, along with a wall calendar he maintained at the time, is one of the only concrete things we have to refer to when processing serious allegations of sexual assault that have been brought against him from that time. Like it or not, they paint a picture of what he was like a teen and a young man.

Christine Blasey Ford, who attended an all-girls high school while Kavanaugh attended Georgetown Prep, says that Kavanaugh pushed her down on the bed, covered her mouth to muffle her protests, and tried to remove her clothes. She says that Kavanaugh’s friend Mike Judge was in the room at the time.

Deborah Ramirez, the second woman to come forward with an allegation against Kavanaugh, says that in college, he thrust his penis into her face while laughing.

And Julie Swetnick, the third woman to come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh, says that she witnessed Kavanaugh and his friends take advantage of inebriated women at parties and that she was assaulted at one of these parties. (She did not directly say that Kavanaugh assaulted her.)

Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied all of the allegations made against him and presented a very chaste version of himself as a teenager:

“I was focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects, and friendship,” he said in his Fox News interview. “I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter.”

And to be clear, one can still go to church, perform service projects, and not have sexual intercourse, yet still commit sexual harassment or assault. But the disconnect here is that when he was a teen, Kavanaugh presented himself in a very different way, in part through a yearbook entry that appears to be rife with jokes about heavy drinking (“100 kegs or bust” and “Beach Week Ralph Club”) and sex, including “Have you boofed yet?” among others (“The Devil’s Triangle” and “Renate Alumnius”).

None of these things confirm that Kavanaugh committed sexual assault, nor do they confirm that he isn’t the man that he says he is. It’s possible that they were empty brags and jokes.

But Kavanaugh hasn’t really provided a compelling reason to believe who he says he is. And regardless of what he actually meant by “Have you boofed yet?” it’s no wonder, in light of the allegations made against him, that many people searching for answers have questioned his intentions in using the term.

feibisi / 2018年9月26日

Trump accuses China of 2018 election interference: “They do not want me or us to win”

President Donald Trump accuses China of interfering in the 2018 midterm elections during a UN meeting on September 26, 2018.

It’s a big escalation in the growing row between Washington and Beijing.

President Donald Trump just publicly accused China of interfering in the 2018 US midterm elections in front of more than a dozen world leaders at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

“Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election coming up in November against my administration,” Trump said on Wednesday. “They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.“

Trump notably failed to mention Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and in the upcoming November vote. But US officials have warned about China’s interference efforts for months.

In August, National Security Adviser John Bolton named China as one of four countries — along with Russia, Iran, and North Korea — that aim to meddle in the midterms. And according to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, America’s top spy, China has the most skilled government hackers of the four countries.

Beijing has a history of attacking the US in cyberspace. In 2009, it hacked Google in part to spy on the accounts of Chinese human rights activists and other dissidents. Five years later, Beijing hacked the US Office of Personnel Management’s database and stole sensitive information on around 22 million people who had or previously held security clearances in the US government.

But interfering in a US government election is wholly different from stealing secrets from the private sector. So why, if Trump’s accusations are true, would China be escalating its attacks all of a sudden?

Perhaps because the president is right: He started a trade war with China, and China wants it to stop. Removing him from office is the surest way to do that.

Why China hates Trump’s trade war

Trump has placed tariffs — taxes on imported goods — on roughly $250 billion worth of Chinese products since coming into office. He’s unhappy that the US imports more goods from China than it sends to other way and hopes that the tariffs will help close the $335.4 billion trade deficit.

Beijing has retaliated with tariffs of its own on US products, making it harder for US companies to sell in the Chinese market.

Three sources familiar with the Trump administration’s economic strategy toward China told me last week that the White House has two main objectives in the trade war.

The first is to remove China from the center of the global supply chain. Here’s one example of Beijing’s importance: Apple has around 27 China-based suppliers, mainly in the electrical components sector.

Imposing tariffs on Chinese products, some of which form parts in complicated items like automobiles, could prompt manufacturers to look elsewhere for those components. That would seriously hurt China’s economy as money flows to other companies in other countries.

The second goal is to make multinational corporations wary about doing business in China. If large companies — say, South Korea’s Samsung or America’s Google — decide it’s too expensive or too politically dangerous to operate in the country and choose to build plants elsewhere instead, that would also harm China’s economy.

There are already signs of stress in China. For instance, the New York Times reported Monday that because of the trade war, “many companies are considering cheaper places to make their products, like Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Ethiopia.” Those countries may prove safer places to do business because they aren’t on the receiving end of billions in tariffs.

China, which for years has aimed for economic growth and stability in its society, sees the trade war as a threat that could soon lead to a sharp downturn in its economy and unhappy workers.

Three days ago, China took out four pages in the Des Moines Register newspaper in Iowa — a state that’s home to many American farmers as well as US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad — on how China is buying soybeans and other products outside of the US market.

It’s clear, then, why China might want Trump’s Republican Party out of power this November. The question now is if Trump’s pugilistic stance toward China is about to turn more confrontational. If it is, then the world’s two biggest economies may be in for an even bigger fight.

feibisi / 2018年9月25日

The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight is also about the future of the economy

Protesters rally in front of the Supreme Court while demonstrating against the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the court on September 24, 2018.

His jurisprudence would render economic and environmental regulation nearly impossible.

There’s a reason that groups like the US Chamber of Commerce are still backing Brett Kavanaugh despite serious accusations that he sexually assaulted one or more women in his younger days, which Kavanaugh denies. Big business knows that Kavanaugh could be a boon to their bottom line.

One of the biggest questions facing the American judiciary is whether the Constitution allows elected representatives to meaningfully regulate the national economy.

Kavanaugh clearly believes it does not: He has called the existence of independent regulatory agencies — notably including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but potentially the entire alphabet soup of FCC, FTC, CFTC, SEC, FEC, etc. — a “threat to individual liberty.”

But rather than debate this squarely, we are instead faced with grifters like Kavanaugh’s former boss Ken Starr insisting in the pages of the Washington Post that Kavanaugh stands for nothing more than a simple “pro-democracy, let-the-people-govern-themselves vision.”

The truth is quite the opposite — Kavanaugh’s vision, which he shares with Starr and the bulk of the conservative legal academy, is one in which the courts should stand as staunch allies of capital and block any effort at democratic control of big business.

The deference grift

The notion that Kavanaugh holds a pro-democracy vision is what the Post put in Starr’s headline, but the full sentence makes it clear that the former special prosecutor is running a shell game. Starr’s claim is not that Kavanaugh believes in deference to the elected branches of government and will be reluctant to strike down laws as unconstitutional. Rather, what Starr argues (emphasis mine) is that Kavanaugh’s “pro-democracy, let-the-people-govern-themselves vision has been evident in his incisive questioning of the modern-day judicial emphasis on courthouse deference to administrative agencies.”

In short, Starr praises Kavanaugh for favoring judicial activism in pursuit of a light-touch regulatory agenda.

The way the American political system works is that passing laws is clunky and difficult. Between bicameralism, the presidential veto, the committee system, and the filibuster, it’s just very hard to get new legislation enacted. At the same time, the business world moves fast to try to exploit profit-making opportunities. So if you want to regulate business effectively, you can’t play legislative whack-a-mole and spot abuses in real time. What reformers do instead is try to create regulatory agencies that are given broad mandates to police areas of conduct.

A classic example is the Clean Air Act, which charges the Environmental Protection Agency with identifying forms of harmful air pollution and promulgating rules to cost-effectively reduce it, rather than counting on Congress to pass new laws every time science or business practice changes.

To make this system work, judges need to show deference to the regulatory agencies and acknowledge that the congressional reformers who created them wanted the agencies to have some flexibility and discretion. Kavanaugh, as Starr correctly observers, does not believe that this deference should be granted. This is a crucial aspect of his judicial philosophy, and Starr is right to call attention to it.

But Kavanaugh’s doctrine is not about the promotion of self-government or even about deference, it’s about viewing discretion as a one-way street that is always biased against regulation.

Kavanaugh is never deferential, unless he is

If you read Kavanaugh’s decisions on cases regarding EPA regulations, you see a judge who poses as a defender of congressional prerogatives over an executive run amok. But if you glance instead at his ruling on a case relating to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, you see the opposite.

When creating this agency, Congress decided that the best way to create effective consumer protection would be to grant the agency a good measure of independence from the president — giving the agency a single director (rather than a five-person commission like the SEC or FCC) and giving the director a fixed-term. This, according to Kavanaugh, is unconstitutional because it violates the unitary nature of the executive branch.

So we cannot allow executive agencies to regulate aggressively because that would step on the prerogatives of Congress, but we cannot allow Congress to set up an aggressive regulatory agency because that would step on the prerogatives of the president.

Perhaps most tellingly of all, in an aside on a ruling related to the Affordable Care Act, Kavanaugh suggests that a president could simply choose not to enforce the law’s provisions. The absence of regulation, in other words, is always a permissible form of discretion and deference, whereas its presence is always suspect — with the question of who is supposed to defer to whom tossing like a hot potato according to the nature of the case.

The point, however, is not that Kavanaugh has some peculiar and inscrutable ideas about deference. It’s that he and the broader conservative legal movement have the very scrutable idea that the Constitution should be read primarily as a property owners’ charter, whose purpose is to stymie economic regulation. All kinds of specific provisions and doctrines can be pressed into service for this purpose, the most interesting of which in the short term is probably going to be the First Amendment.

A constitutional right to plutocracy

In one of the most startling developments of American history, the Reconstruction-era Congress passed the 14th Amendment to try to establish black people’s civil rights, only to see Gilded Age courts rule that the 14th Amendment’s reference to “due process” prohibited all kinds of economic regulations — including civil rights laws! This ultimately culminated in the Lochner-era jurisprudence that was discredited in the 1930s but that many conservative intellectuals are now trying to rehabilitate.

Meanwhile, we have in recent years begun to see the outlines of a new form of it, this time invoking the First Amendment rather than the 14th. This began with the discovery that the constitutional prohibition on censorship also prevents Congress from enacting any kind of meaningful restraint on rich people’s ability to purchase influence in the electoral system, which was first decided in Buckley v. Valeo and then later in McConnell v. FEC and continuing to the better-known Citizens United case.

In this year’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Court opened a new front, arguing that the First Amendment limited states’ ability to enact anti-discrimination laws. The justices decided the case narrowly, but with Anthony Kennedy replaced by the more conservative Kavanaugh, we may well see further rulings in this direction.

They also found, even more curiously, that the First Amendment prohibits states from requiring that workers who decline to join their union pay a representation fee to prevent free-riding. The ruling in the Janus case was limited to public-sector unions, but most of the reasoning seems to apply equally well to private sector cases and, again, swapping out Kennedy for Kavanaugh could easily push it in this direction.

Kavanaugh himself has pushed the First Amendment even more aggressively than the Supreme Court has, deciding, for example, that net neutrality regulations violate the free speech rights of cable companies.

There’s no telling exactly how far the Court will push this logic. But the pernicious thing about it is that the initial premise in the campaign finance cases that there is an intimate connection between money and speech is not totally absurd.

Most economic activity, at the end of the day, has at least some kind of expressive component, and one could conceivably invalidate anything from a statute punishing fraudulent banking practices to a minimum wage law as a limit on people’s right of self-expression. The crucial issue is the lens of values and priority through which one sees the world.

A charter of self-government or a charter for property owners?

The point, however, is not that Kavanaugh is an aggressive invalidator of government action. He does not think, for example, that the Fourth Amendment curbs the National Security Agency’s ability to engage in bulk, warrantless surveillance of Americans.

But where a progressive judge might see judicial intervention as primarily warranted in order to protect the powerless against assaults from the powerful, Kavanaugh and the conservative legal mainstream see it as a tool to protect business owners from majority rule. If one is a sufficiently unprincipled liar — which Brett Kavanaugh certainly is, as we saw in his remarks after Trump introduced him to the nation — one can dress this up in the language of democracy or originalism or whatever else.

But in truth, the clash of constitutional visions represents not a disagreement about originalism or novelty, but an ongoing disagreement that dates back to the founding of the Republic.

Is the Constitution a charter of self-government that allows the people’s elected representatives to try to find reasonable institutional solutions for the varied problems of the world? Or is it a charter for property owners that allows them to craft a state that’s well-armed and capable enough to defend their rights but incapacitated to govern the economy in any way?

feibisi / 2018年9月24日

What we know — and still don’t — about the sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

There are now possibly three allegations of sexual misconduct.

Two women have now accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, and attorney Michael Avenatti says that a third has “credible information” as well.

Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto University professor who’s accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assaulting her in high school, and Deborah Ramirez, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale who’s also accused him of sexual misconduct, both want an FBI investigation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Sunday night for all confirmation proceedings to halt until an investigation can be conducted.

A big reason for this push? The FBI might not be able to weigh in on the credibility of their allegations, but the agency can conduct a fact-finding review that could help shed more light on the alleged incidents, Democrats say. By doing an in-depth probe — something that would include interviews with witnesses — the FBI could provide a better assessment of the evidence surrounding the allegations.

It’s the kind of assessment that’s especially vital in this case, which has become overrun with misinformation and contradictory accounts, argues Vox’s Anna North.

Absent an official investigation, what we have are Ford, Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s own statements, secondhand impressions from other witnesses, and a lot of haphazard character testimony. Here’s what we know so far about what Ford, Ramirez, and Kavanaugh have said, as well as the context that’s come out about their respective backgrounds.

What we know about Ford’s story

  • Christine Blasey Ford first detailed her allegations in a letter shared with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Sen. Feinstein earlier this summer. At the time, she requested anonymity.
  • Ford publicly came forward in a Washington Post story last Sunday; she accused Kavanaugh of forcing himself on her while the two were at a party in high school. She says he pinned her down on a bed, attempted to remove her clothing, and covered her mouth when she tried to scream. Kavanaugh has unequivocally denied these allegations.
  • Ford says she did not talk about the allegations with anyone until 2012, during a couples therapy session with her husband. She provided the Post with notes from therapy sessions in 2012 and 2013 when she described an attempted rape that she experienced while she was in high school.
  • In these notes Kavanaugh is not named, but Ford describes an attack by students from an elite boy’s school. These students are now “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington,” she said.
  • Ford also took a polygraph test, which indicated the veracity of her claims. (It’s worth noting that the reliability of polygraph tests have been heavily scrutinized in recent years.)
  • Ford’s husband confirms that she mentioned the attack in their 2012 therapy sessions. He said he recalled her mentioning Kavanaugh by last name.
  • A friend of Ford’s has said he’s witnessed the lasting trauma the attack has had on her life. Jim Gensheimer told the Los Angeles Times that Ford discussed her struggle to come forward with him in early July.
  • He added that Ford was averse to purchasing a master bedroom that does not have a second exit. “Obviously, something happened that traumatized her so much that she’s afraid of being trapped,” Gensheimer said.
  • Ford admits that there are key details about the incident that she does not remember.
  • She believes the incident took place when she was 15, in the early 1980s — but she’s not clear on the exact ownership and location of the house. She also says that everyone at the party had at least one beer, but notes that Kavanaugh and a classmate named Mark Judge had been drinking more heavily.

What we know about Deborah Ramirez’s story

  • Deborah Ramirez was a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale. She told the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer she was attending a dorm room party as a freshman when Kavanaugh “exposed himself … thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.”
  • Ramirez said she was wary of coming forward because she had been drinking at the time of the incident and admits there are holes in her memory.
  • She emphasizes, however, that she is certain of the aspects of the allegation that she has detailed.
  • “I remember a penis being in front of my face,” she told the New Yorker. “I knew that’s not what I wanted, even in that state of mind.” She also has a vivid memory of another student yelling, “Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face.”
  • One unnamed classmate of Ramirez and Kavanaugh said he had heard about it secondhand and was 100 percent certain that Kavanaugh was the person who was mentioned. Richard Oh, a second classmate, said he had also heard of the incident secondhand but could not confirm the identities of those involved.

What we know about the account publicized by Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti

  • Michael Avenatti, an attorney who’s recently risen to fame for his representation of Stormy Daniels — a porn actress who alleges that she had an affair with Trump — tweeted on Sunday evening that he was representing a woman who had credible information about Kavanaugh and Judge.
  • “My client is not Deborah Ramirez,” he added.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee quickly reached out to Avenatti for more details about the information he was referencing and he outlined additional allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh and Judge.
  • Avenatti that he’s “aware of significant evidence of multiple house parties” that took place in the DC area in the 1980s, where he alleges Judge and Kavanaugh targeted women with alcohol and drugs and enabled multiple men to gang rape them.
  • In Sunday’s New Yorker story detailing Ramirez’s allegations, Elizabeth Rasor, a woman who had dated Judge for three years, said she wanted to come forward to rebut claims that Judge has made about the culture of Georgetown Prep.
  • She said that Judge had previously confided in her about “an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman.”

What we know about Kavanaugh’s version of events

  • Kavanaugh has denied both Ford and Ramirez’s allegations completely. “This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in a statement relayed by the White House, which responded to Ford’s allegations. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
  • Judge, Kavanaugh’s classmate who Ford has also implicated in the high school incident, has said he has “no recollection” of it. Ford claims that Judge and Kavanaugh were “stumbling drunk” when they pushed her into a bedroom at the party in question.
  • She also says that Judge was in the room while Kavanaugh forced himself on her and intermittently offered his encouragement during the encounter.
  • “Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner that Dr. Ford describes,” Judge has said.
  • Patrick J. Smyth, another individual who Ford named as being at the party, has denied attending as well. Both Smyth and Judge have signaled that they are not interested in providing further testimony.
  • A fourth person who Ford is believed to have said was at the party, a woman named Leland Keyser, said she does not recall attending the event, according to a New York Times report.
  • Keyser informed the Senate Judiciary Committee that she “does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.”
  • Regarding Ramirez’s allegations, Kavanaugh released the following statement: “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name—and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building—against these last-minute allegations.”
  • Two male Yale classmates whom Ramirez has also allegedly implicated in the incident denied involvement or said they had no recollection of the party. “I don’t think Brett would flash himself to Debbie, or anyone, for that matter,” one of the male classmates said.
  • Six classmates of both Ramirez and Kavanaugh from Yale have written a letter offering their support for Kavanaugh: “We can say with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it—and we did not. The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett.”

What we know about Georgetown Prep culture and Kavanaugh’s time at Yale

  • Kavanaugh, Judge, and Smyth were all students at Georgetown Prep, an elite all-boys private high school in Bethesda, Maryland.
  • Former students of Georgetown Prep have described a pervasive culture of heavy underaged drinking. In his senior-year yearbook entry, Kavanaugh referenced drinking multiple times, according to the Post. In those mentions, he said that he was a member of the “Beach Week Ralph Club” and “Keg City Club.”
  • Judge, who is now a writer and filmmaker, went on to pen a memoir about his personal struggles with alcoholism titled Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk. In the book, he describes the party culture at his high school, which he renamed “Loyola Prep.”
  • In Judge’s book, there’s a character named Bart O’Kavanaugh — who purportedly drinks too much and passes out after attending a party.
  • In 2015 remarks, Kavanaugh made passing reference to his time in high school while speaking at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law.
  • “Fortunately, we’ve had a good saying that we’ve held firm to this day, as the dean was reminding me before the talk, which is, ‘What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep,’” he quipped as part of his talk. “That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.”
  • The New Yorker also pointed out that during the Supreme Court nominee’s time at Yale, “Kavanaugh was also a member of an all-male secret society, Truth and Courage, which was popularly known by the nickname ‘Tit and Clit.’” He was also a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, which was known at the time for its “wild and, in the view of some critics, misogynistic parties,” according to student accounts given to the New Yorker.

What we’ve heard about Kavanaugh, Ford, and Ramirez’s characters

  • Friends and classmates of both Kavanaugh and Ford, respectively, have put forth an outpouring of support for their respective characters.
  • Sixty-five women who said they knew Kavanaugh in high school have signed a letter emphasizing their perceptions of his integrity and decency. “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect,” the letter reads.
  • More than 1,000 women who attended Ford’s high school, Holton-Arms, over several decades, have also signed an open letter expressing their support for her and noting that they believe her. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves,” the letter reads.
  • Advocates for Kavanaugh emphasize that he’s an affable family man who is widely liked. In an analysis of reviews he received from students of his Harvard Law School courses, the New York Times finds that many had positive things to say.
  • Ford’s friends describe her as a rigorous and thoughtful academic. “I know her to be an honorable, honest, straightforward, decent person. I can’t conceive of her doing this for any other reason than she is honestly reporting what she’s experienced,” Daniel Spiegel, a Stanford psychiatry professor who’s worked with Ford, told the Los Angeles Times.
  • Multiple college classmates of Ramirez’s have said they see her as credible. “She stood out as being exceptionally honest and gentle. I cannot imagine her making this up,” said James Roche, a roommate of Kavanaugh’s during the time of the alleged incident told the New Yorker.
  • Ford and Ramirez’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh — and his subsequent denial — come in the wake of Democrats’ concerns that he may have perjured himself during his confirmation hearing.
  • Democrats have suggested that he misled lawmakers on a variety of topics including his work on Bush-era detainee policy and controversial judicial nominees — spurring questions about the reliability of his testimony.
  • Kavanaugh has also been under scrutiny for his ties to retired federal judge Alex Kozinski, who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by at least 15 women.
  • Kavanaugh had previously clerked for Kozinski and appeared to consider him an important professional influence. He has since distanced himself from the former judge and said he was not aware of the concerns about Kozinski’s sexual misconduct. He’s also made some other surprising claims about his time with Kozinski, including noting that he doesn’t remember a widely circulated email list of dirty jokes.
  • Republicans have sought to paint Ford and Ramirez as individuals with political agendas. Ford is a registered Democrat, who has donated to progressive groups. She attended a women’s march in California in 2017, according to the San Jose Mercury News. One of her attorneys, Debra Katz, has also publicly protested Trump.
  • Ramirez said she is a registered Democrat and that she “works toward human rights, social justice, and social change.”

feibisi / 2018年9月23日

Alyssa Milano: I was sexually assaulted as a teen. Here’s why I didn’t report.

Actress Alyssa Milano arrives at Spike TV’s 7th Annual Video Game Awards on December 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

It took me 30 years to tell anyone. And I’m far from alone.

The courage of survivors will always be stronger than Donald Trump’s hate. The lives of survivors will always be more important than Brett Kavanaugh’s career.

When I was sexually assaulted, I wasn’t that much older than Christine Blasey Ford — now a PhD in psychology — was when she was allegedly assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (Kavanaugh denies the incident occurred). I’ve watched, horrified as politicians and pundits refused to believe or take seriously these allegations.

Then, on Friday morning, President Trump tweeted that if Ford’s words were true, she would have filed a report with local law enforcement years ago. This statement chilled me to my core.

Far too many of us know that what President Trump said is simply not true. Victims of sexual assault often don’t report what happened because they know all too well that our stories are rarely taken seriously or believed — and that when it comes to sexual misconduct, our justice system is broken. Now, we are seeing our worst nightmares realized when we see the disbelief, pushback, hate, and death threats Ford is receiving just because she had the courage to speak up.

It took me years after my assault to voice the experience to my closest friends. It took me three decades to tell my parents that the assault had even happened. I never filed a police report. I never told officials. I never tried to find justice for my pain because justice was never an option.

For me, speaking up meant reliving one of the worst moments of my life. It meant recognizing my attacker’s existence when I wanted nothing more than to forget that he was allowed to walk on this Earth at all. This is what every survivor goes through. Telling our stories means being vulnerable to public attacks and ridicule when our only “crime” was to be assaulted in the first place.

And we are not alone. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. This is the reality for survivors of sexual assault: our journey begins in fear and, for many of us, it continues in fear for the rest of our lives.

Yet, today, we will not be silenced.

On Friday, in response to President Trump’s tweet I decided to speak out about my own experience—and I welcomed other survivors of sexual assault to do the same. I encourage you to read the replies of people across the country who have carried the burden of being a survivor, sometimes for years, and never reported it.

Our stories are not rare — they are tragically common. This is the pain that people across the country carry with them every single day. I encourage you to listen to members of your family, to your neighbors, to those in your community who are living with an experience similar to Blasey Ford’s. But, most importantly, if you are also a survivor, I encourage you to honor your own experiences and your own voice, in your own time.

Despite the alleged actions of Brett Kavanaugh, despite the words of President Trump, and despite the silence from so many of our lawmakers, you are valuable. You are human. You are important.

And no one—not a Supreme Court nominee and not a President—can take that away from you.

So let me be as clear as possible: I believe Christine Blasey Ford and I demand that our Senators vote to reject Brett Kavanaugh as the next Justice on the Supreme Court. Every person who refuses to loudly and openly reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is telling every generation of Americans that an alleged abuser’s career is more valuable than a survivor’s humanity. And the highest court in our land is no place for an alleged sexual offender to sit.

To every survivor reading this, know that I am here with you. Know that I see you. I believe you. I am you. And know that we will do whatever we can to stop Brett Kavanaugh from serving on the Supreme Court of our United States.

Alyssa Milano is an actor, activist, and producer. She is also the founder of #NoRA and Patriot NOT Partisan and a co-chair of Health Care Voter and a board member of the ERA Coalition.


First Person is Vox’s home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us at firstperson@vox.com.

feibisi / 2018年9月22日

The fall equinox is Saturday: 8 things to know about the first day of autumn

Stock up on your pumpkin spice — fall is coming.

A brief scientific guide to the first day of fall.

The autumnal equinox is upon us: On Saturday, September 22, both the Northern and Southern hemispheres will experience an equal amount of daylight. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of fall, with daylight hours continuing to shorten until the winter solstice in December. For those south of the equator, it’s the beginning of spring.

Technically speaking, the equinox occurs when the sun is directly in line with the equator. This will happen at 9:54 pm Eastern time on Saturday.

Below is a short scientific guide to the most equal night of the season.

1) Why do we have equinoxes?

The fall and spring equinoxes, the seasons, and the changing length of daylight hours throughout the year are all due to one fact: Earth spins on a tilted axis.

The tilt — possibly caused by a massive object hitting Earth billions of years ago — means that for half the year, the North Pole is pointed toward the sun (as in the picture below). For the other half of the year, the South Pole gets more light. It’s why we have seasons.

 NASA

Here’s a time-lapse demonstration of the phenomenon shot over the course of a whole year from space. In the video, you can see how the line separating day from night swings back and forth from the poles during the year.

 NASA/Meteosat/Robert Simmon

And here’s yet another cool way to visualize the seasons. In 2013, a resident of Alberta, Canada, took this pinhole camera photograph of the sun’s path throughout the year and shared it with the astronomy website EarthSky. You can see the dramatic change in the arc of the sun from December to June.

This is a 6 month pinhole photo taken from solstice to solstice, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. We are one of the sunniest cities in Canada, and this shows it nicely.

Posted by Ian Hennes on Saturday, December 21, 2013

(You can easily make a similar image at home. All you need is a can, photo paper, some tape, and a pin. Instructions here.)

2) How many hours of daylight will I get Saturday?

Equinox literally means “equal night.” And during the equinox, most places on Earth will see approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.

But not every place will experience the exact same amount of daylight. For instance, on Saturday, Fairbanks, Alaska, will see 12 hours and 16 minutes of daylight. Key West, Florida, will see 12 hours and seven minutes. The differences are due to how the sunlight gets refracted (bent) as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at different latitudes.

You might also notice that both of these locations have daylight times longer than 12 hours. Aren’t day and night supposed to be equal? Daylight time is slightly longer than nighttime on the equinox because of how we measure the length of a day: from the first hint of the sun peeking over the horizon in the morning to the very last glimpse of it before it falls below the horizon in the evening. Because the sun takes some time to rise and set, it adds some extra daylight minutes.

Check out TimeAndDate.com to see how many hours of sunlight you’ll get during the equinox.

3) Can I really only balance an egg on its tip during on the equinox?

 AFP/Getty Images
This man is very good at balancing eggs.

Perhaps you were told as a child that on the equinox, it’s easier to balance an egg vertically on a flat surface than on other days of the year.

The practice originated in China as a tradition on the first day of spring in the Chinese lunar calendar in early February. According to the South China Morning Post, “The theory goes that at this time of year the moon and earth are in exactly the right alignment, the celestial bodies generating the perfect balance of forces needed to make it possible.”

This is a myth. The amount of sunlight we get during the day has no power over the gravitational pull of the Earth or our abilities to balance things on it. You can balance an egg on its end any day of the year (if you’re good at balancing things).

4) When do the leaves start changing colors?

Fall foliage in the mountains. Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

When days begin to grow shorter, deciduous (green leafy) trees start signaling to their leaves to stop producing chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for the leaves’ color and photosynthesis.

Because the color change is more dependent on light than temperature, it takes place at basically the same time year after year, according to the US National Arboretum.

Temperature and weather conditions, though, can impact the intensity of fall colors and how long they linger. They can also subtly affect the timing of when the leaves start to change. And drought can change the rate at which the leaves turn. For instance, drought in Maine has meant the state’s trees have turned amber a bit early.

Because of all the variables at play, it can be tough to predict precisely when fall colors will peak, and how long they’ll last, in a particular area. But here’s an admirable effort: The website SmokyMountains.com (a site promoting Smoky Mountains tourism) created this interactive map (click the link to play with it) to determine peak fall colors across the United States by county.

5) What is actually in “pumpkin spice”?

Pumpkin spice” is not a single spice but a blend of them. And it contains no pumpkin.

This recipe from Epicurious includes cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. It’s autumn — go ahead and sprinkle it on whatever you like.

6) Is there an ancient monument that does something cool during the equinox?

During the winter and summer solstices, crowds flock to Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. During the solstices, the sun either rises or sets in line with the layout of the 5,000-year-old-monument. And while some flock to Stonehenge for the autumnal equinox too, the real place to be is in Mexico.

That’s because on the equinox, the pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula puts on a wondrous show. Built by the Mayans around 1,000 years ago, the pyramid is designed to cast a shadow on the equinox outlining the body of Kukulkan, a feathered snake god. A serpent-headed statue is located at the bottom of the pyramid, and as the sun sets on the day of the equinox, the sunlight and shadow show the body of the serpent joining with the head.

This is easier to see in a video. Check it out below.

7) Are there equinoxes on other planets?

Yes! All the planets in our solar system rotate on a tilted axis and therefore have seasons. Some of these tilts are minor (like Mercury, which is tilted at 2.11 degrees). But others are more like the Earth (23.5 degrees) or are even more extreme (Uranus is tilted 98 degrees!).

Below, see a beautiful composite image of Saturn on its equinox captured by the Cassini spacecraft (RIP) in 2009. The gas giant is tilted 27 degrees relative to the sun, and equinoxes on the planet are less frequent than on Earth. Saturn only sees an equinox about once every 15 years (because it takes Saturn 29 years to complete one orbit around the sun).

 Cassini Imaging Team/NASA

During Saturn’s equinox, its rings become unusually dark. That’s because these rings are only around 30 feet thick, and when light hits them head on, there’s not much surface area to reflect.

8) I clicked on this article accidentally and really just want a mind-blowing picture of the sun

 Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA
The sun blew out a coronal mass ejection along with part of a solar filament over a three-hour period on February 24, 2015. Some of the strands fell back into the sun.

The image above was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in 2010 to better understand the sun.

This past summer, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will come within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun (much closer than any spacecraft has been before). The goal is to study the sun’s atmosphere, weather, and magnetism and figure out the mystery of why the sun’s corona (its atmosphere) is much hotter than its surface. Still, even several million miles away, the probe will have to withstand temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s essential to understand the sun: It’s nothing to mess with. Brad Plumer wrote for Vox about what happens when the sun erupts and sends space weather our way to wreak havoc on Earth.

feibisi / 2018年9月21日

Ed Whelan, a top conservative activist, thinks he knows who really assaulted Christine Ford

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh leaves his home September 19, 2018 in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

This was a “stunningly irresponsible” defense of Brett Kavanaugh.

Ed Whelan, an attorney and president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, believes he has found the person who really assaulted Christine Blasey Ford. And it wasn’t Brett Kavanaugh.

On Thursday evening, Whelan, a prominent figure in conservative political circles in Washington, set Twitter on fire by not only arguing in favor of Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh’s innocence against Ford’s accusation that he sexually assaulted her in 1982, but also accusing someone else of being the culprit — by name, home address, floor plan, and yearbook photo.

Whelan has become one of Kavanaugh’s most prominent defenders. He became friends with Kavanaugh when Whelan served as principal deputy in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and Kavanaugh was working in the White House counsel’s office during the George W. Bush administration.

On Tuesday, Whelan tweeted a promise: “By one week from today, I expect that Judge Kavanaugh will have been clearly vindicated on this matter. … There will be no cloud over him.” He added in another tweet: “Senator Feinstein will soon be apologizing to Judge Kavanaugh.”

The tweets caused a stir, particularly among conservatives, and even reached the White House. According to Politico, Whelan was so sure of his ability to prove Kavanaugh’s innocence that he “told at least three associates that his confidence level in his assertions is “close to 100 percent.”

But then came the Twitter thread that Whelan shared on Thursday evening. In short, using a map of homes surrounding the Columbia Country Club (near where both Ford and Kavanaugh attended high school) and floor maps available on the real estate website Zillow, Whelan argued that based on Ford’s statements of what happened that night back in 1982, the perpetrator was likely not Kavanaugh. Instead, he pointed to a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep who, in Whelan’s view, looked a lot like Kavanaugh.

In doing so, he shared the address and room layout of the classmate’s childhood home, photographs of the classmate, and the classmate’s full name. I reached out to the classmate, who is not involved in politics and signed a letter in support of Kavanaugh’s nomination in July, and will update if and when I hear back.

Whelan’s tweetstorm was the rare set of missives that veers so close to defamation it included, at its end, a tweet specifically meant to protect Whelan from charges of defamation by suggesting Whelan was not saying what he was obviously, clearly, saying.

“Stunningly irresponsible”

The response to the unsubstantiated assertions was immediate, as journalists and legal observers decried Whelan for committing what some were calling defamation, and many of Whelan’s conservative allies who had been awaiting the information Whelan promised to reveal backed away from his accusation.

A conservative writer told me that though the tweetstorm might not result in legal action, “its legality doesn’t make it proper. A private citizen simply shouldn’t be identified under those circumstances.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper and the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman both deleted tweets sharing the thread and apologized for doing so. Tapper then called Whelan’s tweets “stunningly irresponsible.”

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who had discussed Whelan’s promises of incoming information that would exonerate Kavanaugh on his podcast on Thursday, tweeted that Whelan might “end up in court for defaming a private figure.”

And the Senate Judiciary Committee backed away from Whelan’s assertions.

Whelan was not alone in making a “mistaken identity” argument regarding Kavanaugh’s accuser. On Monday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said Ford must be “mixed up” and “mistaken” about the identity of the person who allegedly assaulted her.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board made the same assertion on Monday. The Washington Post published a piece on Tuesday by opinion columnist Kathleen Parker arguing a similar line of reasoning, saying, “In a case without evidence, witnesses or corroboration, mistaken identity would provide a welcome resolution to this terrible riddle.”

In a statement to the Washington Post, Ford rejected Whelan’s speculation:

“I knew them both, and socialized with them,” Ford said, adding that she had once visited the other classmate in the hospital. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”

feibisi / 2018年9月20日

Where Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation process stands

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh at his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

A committee vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been delayed after an accusation of sexual assault.

When Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University in California, came forward with a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over the weekend, all eyes turned to the Senate: Would this stop the confirmation proceedings in their tracks?

By Monday evening, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s scheduled vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation had been delayed. Both Ford and Kavanaugh have also been invited to testify publicly in at a Senate hearing on Monday, September 24, but Ford has said that she wants an FBI investigation conducted into the allegations before she testifies.

Ford told the Washington Post that Kavanaugh held her down at a high school party in the 1980s and attempted to force himself on her, covering her mouth to quiet her protests. Her allegations were documented by her therapist in notes from sessions in 2012 and 2013, in which Ford talked about a “rape attempt” and being attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school.” Kavanaugh denied the allegations, as did another male classmate who Ford said was involved in the incident. The White House, so far, has stood by Kavanaugh.

Senate Republicans have been pushing to get Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court this fall, before the midterm elections, and spent Monday spinning the allegations as a last-ditch Democratic attempt to hold up the confirmation. But as more details emerge, and with Ford’s identity now public, pressure has mounted to investigate the allegations and hear from Ford and Kavanaugh.

There are still a lot of moving parts and unanswered questions. Here’s what we know so far about where things stand, what the White House is saying, and what kind of investigation might be conducted.

Where the confirmation process stands

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday, September 24, and for both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify. This hearing effectively delays a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation that was scheduled for this Thursday.
  • Ford has not agreed to testify Monday and has called on the FBI to investigate her claims first. A statement from her lawyer says she does not think a hearing with just two witnesses qualifies as a “fair or good faith investigation,” though she said she is willing to cooperate with the committee.
  • Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were not informed of the hearing prior to news reports and a public notice, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the committee’s top-ranking Democrat.
  • The public hearing comes after both Republican and Democratic senators called to hear from Ford and Kavanaugh. Democratic senators both on and off the Judiciary Committee called to delay the committee’s vote. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who sits on the committee, called it a “constitutional responsibility” to scrutinize Supreme Court nominees.
  • A committee vote on Kavanaugh’s hearing has not been rescheduled — yet. This would be the first vote in the process of confirming Kavanaugh to the Court and serves as a recommendation to the Senate as a whole. The full Senate can still vote — and confirm — Kavanaugh even without the Judiciary Committee’s approval.

Are the allegations against Kavanaugh going to be investigated?

  • Statements from both Republican and Democratic senators suggest an interest in investigating these allegations. But there is a big question about what that investigation would look like.
  • Republican staff on the committee held calls with Kavanaugh and tried to get in touch with Ford on Monday, which Democrats did not participate in. From the start, Democrats, said that Republicans aren’t capable of handling this review in an impartial manner and think the FBI needs to conduct an investigation. However, Republicans proceeded with investigating the matter regardless.
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has referred the case to the FBI, which is in charge of background checks for nominees. The FBI said it has added the letter to Kavanaugh’s background file, which means that the White House and the full body of senators now have access to it. The background check is something that all Supreme Court nominees in recent memory have had to undergo.
  • Democrats want the FBI to spearhead the investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, not Congress. They argue that these allegations require a formal investigation and note that the partisan handling of Kavanaugh’s nomination thus far suggests that Congress is not up to the task. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, especially, has said Senate Republicans are incapable of “impartially investigat[ing].”

The White House is starting to comment on the allegations

  • On Monday, Trump praised Kavanaugh as one of the “great intellects and one of the finest people.” Trump added, however, that he wants the Senate “to go through a full process … If it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay.”
  • Over the weekend, anonymous sources told Politico that they expected Trump to go after the accuser. But the response from the White House has for the most part left Ford out of it. On Monday morning, the White House released a statement standing by Kavanaugh’s denial. The statement read: “On Friday, Judge Kavanaugh ‘categorically and unequivocally’ denied this allegation. This has not changed. Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement.”
  • According to CNN’s Abby Phillip, there is some concern in the White House that going after the accuser could lose Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, whose votes are needed to confirm Kavanaugh.
  • Kellyanne Conway, who is currently serving as the counselor to the president, said on Fox News that Ford should be heard. “This woman should not be ignored and should not be insulted. She should be heard,” she said.
  • Trump appeared to throw cold water on the idea of an FBI investigation on Tuesday: “I don’t think the FBI should be involved because they don’t want to be involved, if they wanted to be I would certainly do that,” he said. “As you say, this is not really their thing. The senators will do a good job.”
  • In 1991, the FBI did conduct an investigation regarding allegations of sexual harassment that Anita Hill brought against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas — a contrast Democrats have repeatedly highlighted. At the time, the agency opened its investigation via the direction of the president.
  • The DOJ issued a statement on Wednesday outlining the FBI’s role in this process. “The FBI does not make any judgment about the credibility or significance of any allegation,” the statement reads. “The purpose of a background investigation is to determine whether the nominee could pose a risk to the national security of the United States.”