Dianne Feinstein Refers ‘Secret’ Letter About Kavanaugh To F.B.I.

Some last minute dramatics in the Kavanaugh nomination fight, but it seems unlikely to impact the outcome of the nomination fight.

The contents of a secret letter that California Senator Dianne Feinstein allegedly received in July and which she has now referred to the F.B.I. have become the latest controversy in the confirmation battle over Judge Brett Kavanaugh:

WASHINGTON — The senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee referred information involving Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, to federal investigators on Thursday, but the senator declined to make public what the matter involved.

Two officials familiar with the matter say the incident involved possible sexual misconduct between Judge Kavanaugh and a woman when they were both in high school. They spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California came a week before the Judiciary Committee is to vote on his nomination. “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” Ms. Feinstein said in a statement. “That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

The information came in July in a letter, which was first sent to the office of Representative Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, and accuses the judge of sexual misconduct toward the letter’s author, a person familiar with the letter confirmed.

Ms. Feinstein, who received the letter from Ms. Eshoo’s office, informed fellow Democrats on the Judiciary Committee about its existence and its contents on Wednesday evening but did not share the letter itself. Several Democrats advised her to take its claims to the F.B.I., and others pressed for it to become public.

In addition to criminal investigations, the F.B.I. conducts background checks on all major government appointees, including Supreme Court nominees. The F.B.I. said in a statement on Thursday that it had received Ms. Feinstein’s referral and included it in Judge Kavanaugh’s background file. A bureau official also said that no criminal investigation had been opened related to the matter.

Including the letter in Judge Kavanaugh’s file allows the White House, and potentially other senators, to view its contents. A copy of the letter was included in an updated background file sent on Thursday to the office of Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

The White House responded almost immediately.

“Throughout his confirmation process, Judge Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators — including with Senator Feinstein — sat through over 30 hours of testimony, addressed over 2,000 questions in a public setting and additional questions in a confidential session. Not until the eve of his confirmation has Senator Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him,” said White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec. She added, “Senator Schumer promised to ‘oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have,’ and it appears he is delivering with this 11th hour attempt to delay his confirmation.”

Aides to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said he has not seen the letter, but he believes the committee is handling the matter appropriately.

(…)

The move by Ms. Feinstein came after the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a series of party-line votes, rejected Democrats’ efforts on Thursday to subpoena documents and testimony into Judge Kavanaugh’s years as a top White House aide under President George W. Bush.

Democrats have accused Mr. Kavanaugh of evading and misleading the committee during last week’s confirmation hearings, and continuing those charges, volleyed a series of requests for more information centering on some of the most contentious issues that surfaced, including his views on executive power and his relationship with a former Republican Senate aide who stole documents from Senate Democrats.

“We have more questions than answers and the only way to address these concerns about Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility before this committee is to hear from those witnesses,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said.

The Democratic demands included testimony from the Senate aide, Manuel Miranda, who passed Mr. Kavanaugh documents that were illegally copied from Democratic computers. Senate Democrats grilled the judge during the hearings on whether he knew or suspected that materials he received from Mr. Miranda as staff secretary under President Bush had been taken from the files of Senate Democrats without their authorization.

Committee Democrats also sought to subpoena documents related to Mr. Kavanaugh’s knowledge of Bush-era enhanced interrogation and warrantless wiretapping policies. Democrats have accused Mr. Kavanaugh of playing down his role in each program; he has maintained he was not aware of the policies and learned of them only from news reports.

Republicans rejected each of those requests on Thursday, and dismissed the Democrats’ efforts as theatrical bids to appeal to their bases. Mr. Grassley said they will go ahead with a committee vote on Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination in Senate on Sept. 20.

Subsequent to the news of the referral, The Washington Post reported that the Bureau had declined to open an investigation into the matter and had instead referred the matter to the White House. As noted, though, the letter is now apparently part of the file generally available to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate as a whole. Obviously, the news about the letter set off a wild round of speculation on social media regarding what might be alleged in the document, but the rumors that have emerged don’t seem to amount to very much:

News of the letter came as Judge Kavanaugh faced fresh scrutiny about his relationship with another judge, who was forced to resign from the bench last year.

“I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court,” Feinstein said in a statement.

“That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities,” she said.

A source who said they were briefed on the contents of the letter said it described an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman that took place when both were 17 years old and at a party. According to the source, Kavanaugh and a male friend had locked her in a room against her will, making her feel threatened, but she was able to get out of the room. The Guardian has not verified the apparent claims in the letter. It is not yet clear who wrote it.

It seems rather obvious that this letter, and the manner in which it has been released, is part of a last-minute effort to undermine Kavanaugh’s nomination against what appears to be an inevitable confirmation. Yesterday, the Republican majority on the Judiciary Committee easily beat back a series of Democratic efforts to subpoena additional documents from the George W. Bush Presidential Library related to the time that Kavanaugh served as Bush’s Staff Secretary, a position that meant that he reviewed virtually every document that eventually crossed the President’s desk. Additionally, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley set a final committee vote on the nomination for September 20th. At that point, barring anything unforeseen, the Committee will vote on a party-line vote to send the nomination to the floor where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will no doubt seek to act quickly to get Kavanaugh confirmed before the Supreme Court reconvenes on October 1st.

As for the letter itself, it’s hard to reach any conclusions without knowing the nature of the accusations being known, and I would submit that it is unfair to both Kavanaugh and anyone else who may have been involved in the alleged incident. It’s also worth noting that other rumors regarding the contents of the letter differ from those reported by The Guardian and suggest that whatever may have happened between Kavanaugh and the unnamed woman was entirely consensual, although it technically may have violated age of consent laws that were in place at the time. Even if the narrative set forth in the excerpt from The Guardian above is accurate, it’s hard to see how this would derail Kavanaugh’s nomination in any significant respect unless there was evidence of more contemporaneous behavior of a similar nature. Given how detailed the examination of Kavanaugh’s background has been, though, one imagines that any such incidents would likely have come forward by now.

Update: As I suspected they would the contents of the letter have largely become public:

WASHINGTON — A secretive letter shared with authorities by the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee charges that a teenage Brett M. Kavanaugh and a male friend trapped a teenage girl in a bedroom during a party and tried to assault her, according to three people familiar with the contents of the letter.

According to the letter, Mr. Kavanaugh, then a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in suburban Washington and now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, had been drinking at a social gathering when he and the male friend took the teenage girl into a bedroom. The door was locked, and she was thrown on the bed, the letter says. Mr. Kavanaugh then got on top of the teenager and put a hand over her mouth, and music was turned up, according to the account.

But the young woman was able to extricate herself and leave the room before anything else occurred, the letter says.

The woman considered the incident an assault. She has declined to be publicly identified, and asked Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, not to publicize the letter.

The episode took place more than 30 years ago, when all three individuals involved were minors. The New York Times has not seen the letter, but its contents were described by the three people.

In a statement shared by the White House, Mr. Kavanaugh said the charges were false.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” he said. “I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

As of Friday morning, senators were still planning to move ahead with Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a key vote to advance the nomination next Thursday, and Republican leaders hope to hold a final vote of the full Senate before the end of September to allow Mr. Kavanaugh to be seated before the start of the Supreme Court’s fall term.

On Thursday, the White House all but accused Democrats of playing dirty, withholding mysterious information until the eve of Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation in a last-ditch effort to derail a nominee they have always opposed.

“Senator Schumer promised to ‘oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have,’ and it appears he is delivering with this 11th-hour attempt to delay his confirmation,” said Kerri Kupec, a White House spokeswoman, referring to the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer. Aides to Mr. Schumer said he had not seen the letter.

This pretty much matches the rumors that had been circulating since yesterday and, as I say in the original post above, it doesn’t seem to me that this allegation from forty years ago when both Kavanaugh and the woman in question were minors amounts to anything significant enough to stop his negotiation. This would seem to be especially true given the fact that the woman involved did not want the letter made public and is declining to come forward.

Update #2 (9/16/2018): The woman behind the letter has come forward in an interview with The Washington Post. More information and analysis in my post on the new aspects to this report.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Law and the Courts, Politicians, Supreme Court, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    Oh, FFS this is so desperate, sorry. I’d love for there to be something on Kavanaugh, but this isn’t it.

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  2. Modulo Myself says:

    It surely is a stretch to believe that a guy who would lock a woman in a room and then threaten her until she escapes would end up a staunch Republican devoted to controlling women’s bodies.

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  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    If you think this is a bombshell, there is another secret letter indicating the in first grade, Kavanaugh may have given a girl “The Cooties” against her will.

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    If there isn’t a lot more here than is so far suggested then this is some McCarthyite smear bullshit. Not OK.

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Much ado about nothing.

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  6. JKB says:

    Feinstein had this letter since July but never shared it with fellow committee members. Never brought it up in the hearings. Then suddenly there is a big announcement of it being sent to “federal investigators”. The latter gave cover for Dem cronies in the media to breathlessly speculate in their yellow journalism fashion.

    As this allegation is about 17 yr olds, the proper referral would have been to Maryland juvenile authorities to be investigated by officials younger than the time elapsed since the alleged incident.

    Harry Reid had some success with his lies to facilitate yellow journalism over Romney’s taxes. The same by McCain and others with the Clinton/Steele dossier public “referral” to the FBI against Trump but failed. The public is on to this yellow journalism ploy. Senators debase themselves with these obvious gambits.

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  7. Jen says:

    Agree with the commenters above. If this is it–locking a girl in a room–it smacks of desperation, and isn’t an issue. It certainly isn’t a nice thing to do, but I’m questioning the suggestion this is somehow sexual assault. It’s run of the mill bullying/jerk behavior, of course.

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  8. grumpy realist says:

    1. both in high school (long time ago)
    2. very much a he-said she-said situation
    3. looks to be at most the sort of stupid bullying dumb kids get up to.

    Result: a nothingburger. Next we’re going to be going into hysterics over the lack of paying a parking ticket in another state.

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  9. James Pearce says:

    Let your body move to the music, Diane…

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  10. Mikey says:

    Here’s how the NYT is reporting the contents of the letter:

    According to the letter, Mr. Kavanaugh, then a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in suburban Washington and now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, had been drinking at a social gathering when he and the male friend took the teenage girl into a bedroom. The door was locked, and she was thrown on the bed, the letter says. Mr. Kavanaugh then got on top of the teenager and put a hand over her mouth, and music was turned up, according to the account.

    But the young woman was able to extricate herself and leave the room before anything else occurred, the letter says.

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  11. Moosebreath says:

    I will reserve judgment until more facts are out there, but if it doesn’t go beyond he-said, she-said, then it’s nothing.

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  12. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Nothingburger, but to be fair, even if it weren’t, there is literally nothing that would convince Senate Republicans to reject his nomination.

    For them, ethics do not matter. Morals do not matter. Values do not matter. Nothing – and I repeat absolutely nothing – matters to them besides winning.

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    You’re right, Doug. This is probably going to amount to nothing, although it does give Red state Dem Senators a smidge more cover if they want it. If the FBI looks at it and finds something significant, great. If they have a good laugh and reject it, well, how many fake investigations have GOPs launched, or threatened to launch? There really are no grounds for opposing Kavanaugh except ideology. But then there were really no grounds for nominating him except ideology. He can be counted on to oppose reproductive and minority rights and to support corporations and the establishment generally. If a case involving Trump comes before the Court, Trump is expecting Kavanaugh to be loyal. (That could be more interesting than assumed. Kavanaugh has said the Prez should not be subject to subpoena, but IIRC he’s said that under current law, the Prez can be subpoenaed.)

    You’re right, Doug, that Kavanaugh’s confirmation will sail thru on a party line, or near party line, vote. But why do you seem to be happy about it?

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  14. Mikey says:

    OT: Paul Manafort has done the full flip.

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  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mikey:

    The hits just keep on coming … 🙂

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  16. Jack says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    For them, ethics do not matter. Morals do not matter. Values do not matter. Nothing, and I repeat nothing matters to them besides winning.

    Says a supporter of a party that elected Robert Byrd, a Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan.

    “I shall never fight in the armed forces with a negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”

    — Robert C. Byrd, in a letter to Sen. Theodore Bilbo (D-MS), 1944

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  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jack:

    We’ve been through this before …

    “Well, you suck too” is just sad.

    Your party is in control, so you get to own what they’re doing NOW, in the present. If the best you’ve got in response is a 74 year old letter from a time when the sentiments expressed (while indeed vile) were exceedingly common across BOTH parties, maybe you should just leave this discussion to the adults.

    Note: I’ll bet you that here, in the present, you can’t find a single Democrat who’d say that sort of thing.

    Want to bet I can’t find some currently serving Republicans who would?

    We can start with the KKK’er in the White House. 🙂

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  18. Gustopher says:

    @Jack: It’s nice that there is finally a Republican willing to condemn white supremacists.

    Now, what about the enablers of child molesters, like Jim Jordan?

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  19. Jack says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Bill Clinton said “A few years ago, this guy (Obama) would be getting us coffee.”

    Meanwhile members of your party are trying to scapegoat someone over something that happened 36 years ago. The Democrats were the most racist bitches in this country then and they remain so now.

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  20. Jack says:

    @Gustopher: Until you get past Weinstein…your party can’t even begin to lecture about sexual abuse, cupcake. The entire Democrat party enabled Weinstein and his ilk. While we’re at it, let’s discuss Bill Clinton’s Lolita Flights and Jeffrey Epstein.

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  21. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jack:

    Really. You’re going with that in regard to a quote Clinton meant in the context of how far society had moved forward?

    Nice of you to admit, though, that sexual assault only matters when it’s recent (assuming you think it’s a bad thing at all, about which I have my doubts …). Boys will be boys, right? 🙄

    Think you may have missed it though: the Klan states all vote Republican now …

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  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jack:

    but whatabout whatabout whatabout ….

    You need to be telling people why your party is better (although I can’t remotely imagine what that could entail), not telling them why it’s just as bad as the one you hate.

    Give it up, Jack.

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  23. Jack says:

    @HarvardLaw92: The Klan states…is that really a thing or are you just pulling shit out of your ass…like most days? The “Klan” is less than 2200 people now…as opposed to the Democrat hayday when they overtly wanted to keep ol’ darkie down.

    No one is excusing sexual assault, except Democrats and their knob slobberers…like you.

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  24. MarkedMan says:

    WRT to Kavanaugh, this may indeed not be “it”. But there is something serious and ugly that the Republicans have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide. Even after killing the filibuster for the Supreme Court they have conspired with the White House in order to hide the vast majority of documents related to Kavanaugh. The small percentage they have allowed to go forward (less than 20%) have been vetted only by partisan Republicans. No one neutral or Democratic has been involved. There is something stinking here, and I hope that if the Dems gain control of the Senate and the Presidency again they expose all these secret documents.

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  25. Jack says:

    @HarvardLaw92: My party is better because we won, suck it up buttercup.

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  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jack:

    Well that was easy …

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  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jack:

    LOL, stay tuned … 🙂

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  28. Jack says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Stay bent over.

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  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jack:

    LOL, stay classy as always, Jack.

    Deplorable indeed …

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  30. Jack says:

    @HarvardLaw92: More flatulent emissions from an emasculated pajama boy. Stay bent, cupcake.

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  31. Gustopher says:

    @Jack: Forgive me if I am misremembering, but Harvey Weinstein was not elected to anything, was he? And the Lolita Flights are just the fever swamp dreams of PizzaGaters?

    The KKK votes Republican these days. And the Republican House wants to make Jim Jordan, the enabler and protector of a pedophile, Speaker of House. And that’s happening now, not 70-100 years ago.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats pushed Al Franken out of the Senate for pinching bottoms.

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  32. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Does me enjoying tweaking Jack’s nose & getting him to show his true colors make me a bad person?

    I ask because Yom Kippur is coming up and I might need to atone for it.

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  33. Jack says:

    @Gustopher: Weinstein was a major donor to Democrats and you cannot deny Epsteins relationship with Bill and the Democrat party. You guys love taking money from rapists and pedophiles, values and morals be damned. As far as Jim Jordan, this is unproven speculation, but don’t let that keep you from grasping at straws, cupcake.

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  34. Jack says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You enjoy it the same as you enjoy your wife pegging you nightly. But hey, I don’t care what goes on between consenting adults, but that Yellow Lab you were with didn’t provide consent.

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  35. Guarneri says:

    Let’s cut through the BS here. Kavanaugh most assuredly killed Vince Foster, is the real producer of an offensive YouTube video, works for the Russians and after ravaging the young teen advised her “to put some ice on that.”

    I know its true, CNN, MSNBC and NYT, sleazeballs like China Di, and sycophants like MarkedMan and Harvard “The Glorified Scribe” Law tell me so. Oh, where are the other valiant Spartacus’…………..or is it Spartaci.

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  36. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Oh look, “Jack” changed personas …

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  37. Jack says:

    @HarvardLaw92: So, anyone that disagrees with you must be the same person or a bot. Go back to the yellow Lab, her intellect is more to your level.

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  38. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Dude, you have to change emails when you pretend to be other people.

    And you have absolutely lost your fcking mind. I don’t know if it’s Alzheimers or you’re just suffering some unrelated massive drop in IQ but you ought to be worried.

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  39. Michael Reynolds says:

    This thread demonstrates the moral, ethical and intellectual superiority of the anti-Trumpers: not a single person here supports this allegation. Not a single Republican here is remotely capable of that level of objectivity.

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  40. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jack:

    Not anyone.

    Just you … 🙂

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  41. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher:

    And the Republican House wants to make Jim Jordan, the enabler and protector of a pedophile, Speaker of House.

    Well, Dennis Hastert was the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in history, and he’s an actual pedophile. He diddled teenage boys and then paid them off for their silence.

    Paying people off to stay quiet about illicit sex seems to be the Republican thing to do.

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  42. Gustopher says:

    @Jack: I know nothing about Epstein and the Clintons beyond rich people having rich friends. And lots of people donate.

    The accusations against Jordan are credible, and likely to be true.

    The accusations against Clinton… it must be frustrating to be in a party that has embraced the crazy so much that when you finally have incontrovertible evidence that Clinton took plane flights over international waters where age of consent is governed by maritime law, that it just seems like more crazy stuff. PizzaGate, Vince Foster, Drug Deals in Arkansas, Lolita Flights, BENGHAZI!!! — it all blends together into a frothy mixture of nonsense.

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  43. drj says:

    From “Jack’s” comments:

    Democrats and their knob slobberers

    Stay bent over.

    emasculated pajama boy. Stay bent, cupcake.

    You enjoy it the same as you enjoy your wife pegging you nightly.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of homophobia and/or misogyny. Some sort of warning (or perhaps ban) would seem quite appropriate here.

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  44. Gustopher says:

    Senator Feinstein should have forwarded this to the FBI when she got it, not waited until the last minute. That was grossly irresponsible of her.

    The FBI is responsible for background checks, and they should have had a chance to look into it. I don’t know if there is anything to these claims, and without collaborating evidence, or a pattern of behavior I would tend to dismiss them.

    (The behavior, if it was as described, was disgusting and sounds like attempted rape. It could also be a drunken pass, and years of retelling the story to her therapist — remembering something pulls it from your memory and writes it back, so memories are not very reliable on their own. It could also be completely made up.)

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  45. Michael Reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92: @Guarneri:
    Guarneri’s wetting himself. Remember when it was all ‘bwah hah hah?’ Poor Drew is looking at a heaping helping of rancid crow and he’s panicking. All the people he was so sure were wrong are right, and he’s the fool. Bwah hah ha hah hah hah!

    Grab your fork and knife, Drew boy, and tuck in. Trump is done. You’ve spent whatever credibility you had, obliterated any respect you may have thought you were due. You toadied a loser! You bought a time share Stooopidville. You’ve just spent your money on resurfacing your driveway. You paid extra for the floormats. You’re a sucker. A mark. A rube. And the sweetest thing f all, Drew, is that the conman you fell for isn’t even any good at it, everyone but you and the rest of the left side of the bell curve saw it, but not you.

    You know who you are, Drew? You’re the guy who actually sends money to Nigerian princes.

    And who is going to turn out to be right, Drew? Can you guess? Can you say it? Nah, you’re too weak. Weak, weak, weak little man.

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  46. Jack says:

    @drj: You left out “I don’t care what goes on between consenting adults”. But thanks for playing, retard.

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  47. Jen says:

    @Mikey: Okay, that is a bit creepier than just “locked in a room,” but still unlikely to derail the nomination.

    I still find his magically disappearing debt and the absolute refusal to release previous documents strange, but this thing is looking like it’s going forward no matter what comes out.

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  48. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    This thread demonstrates the moral, ethical and intellectual superiority of the anti-Trumpers: not a single person here supports this allegation.

    Your senator does, though. What does that demonstrate?

    Trump is done.

    He’s so far from “done” it’s not even funny, dude…

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  49. Kylopod says:

    @Jack:

    1. While there isn’t much of a Klan left, white-nationalist hate groups flourish in the United States today–and nearly all of them are wild, enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump. Several open neo-Nazis are running for office on the Republican ticket this year, including the GOP nominee for Illinois’s 3rd Congressional district. At least two Republican nominees for statewide office–VA Senate candidate Corey Stewart and KS gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach–have direct ties to white nationalists. Kobach actually wrote a piece for Breitbart in which he cited a made-up stat about immigrant crime from Peter Gemma, a Holocaust denier who worked for a group opposed to “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”

    https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/08/21/kris-kobach-s-campaign-website-cites-white-nationalist-writer-who-s-been-involved-holocaust-denial/221041

    2. The Democratic Party didn’t embrace Harvey Weinstein after the revelations about him came out; they’ve completely abandoned him and condemned his behavior in no uncertain terms. In contrast, much of the GOP continued to embrace Roy Moore after the assault allegations about him came out, and they continue to embrace Donald Trump long after he was not only accused of assault by over a dozen women but openly boasted about it on tape.

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  50. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    You’ve been almost as wrong as Guarneri. But that’s OK. I try not to be that guy, but, well, I am that guy. So I’ll tap dance on your head just like I am on Guarneri’s.

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  51. Gustopher says:

    @Jack:

    Robert C. Byrd, in a letter to Sen. Theodore Bilbo

    Bilbo? There was a Senator Bilbo?

    If I were a Lord of the Rings fan, I would be delighted by this.

    (If the navy has a Captain Ackbar, I demand that he be promoted to admiral immediately)

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  52. george says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    You need to be telling people why your party is better (although I can’t remotely imagine what that could entail), not telling them why it’s just as bad as the one you hate.

    Well, while I can’t even begin to think of a way of arguing that the Dem’s are as bad on racism as the GOP is (the GOP is many times worse), if he could somehow show that the Dem’s were as bad as the GOP on racism then it would remove racism as a deciding factor for the undecided.

    Calling things ‘whataboutism’ makes sense in many contexts, but not in discussions of morality; moral hypocrisy (ie its only wrong when you do it) is seen as both hilarious, and as fatally weakening moral judgments … for instance, when conservative family values politicians turn out to have affairs.

    In this case I’d say the problem with Jack’s case is not ‘whataboutism’, but that its simply factually incorrect; the number of racist incidents coming from currently active GOP politicians is far greater than the number coming from currently active Dem politicians.

    We only vote for currently active politicians, so what retired and dead politicians did plays no roles in elections.

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  53. Jen says:

    This whole aspect of the Kavanaugh situation is getting weirder. Grassley has released a list of 65 women attesting to knowing Kavanaugh in high school and saying he treated women with respect…this is just strange. First, Kavanaugh went to an all-boys school–how did he know 65 girls during that time period well enough for them to attest to his character? Second, Grassley had this waiting, which means they’ve known for a while.

    Does anyone else find this really weird?

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  54. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    So I’ll tap dance on your head just like I am on Guarneri’s.

    No.

    You won’t.

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  55. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Tell you what, let’s bet a thousand or so, we’ll let Doug hold the stakes, and the winner will be decided by the votes of regular commenters here. You on?

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  56. MBunge says:

    This thread demonstrates the moral, ethical and intellectual superiority of the anti-Trumpers

    (Checks rest of internet)

    Not exactly.

    Mike

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  57. Kylopod says:

    @george: At the most abstract level, the problem with whataboutism is that it’s based on a logical fallacy (the fact that the “other side” did something wrong doesn’t exonerate your own side); however, in practice there’s a lot more to what makes it such a pernicious tactic. It usually involves false equivalence, sometimes comparing things that are scarcely related at all (notice how quickly Jack here shifted from the subject of sexual assault to ideological racism), and it typically ignores distinctions of context. So for example, if you criticize the Soviet Union for human-rights abuses, they respond by saying (and this is in fact where the term originated) whatabout slavery, whatabout Japanese internment, whatabout Jim Crow, and so on–as if to suggest that America’s past sins permanently disqualify it from ever uttering a word of criticism against other countries.

    So it isn’t just a fallacy, it’s an attempt at deflection and a propaganda technique designed to focus attention on the other side’s faults (real or alleged). Pointing out that it’s a fallacy doesn’t necessarily dislodge the idea that the charges are accurate; maybe everyone’s a hypocrite! Used by our Foxoid trolls, this technique gets combined with the Gish Gallop–spewing a bunch of talking points where even if they’re all individually weak, there are so many of them it seems a waste of time and energy to try to sit and debunk them all. But the troll achieves his purpose: giving a negative impression of whoever he wants to smear. That’s what Fox and all the rest of the right-wing outlets do to keep their followers within their brainwashed loop.

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  58. Leonard says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Tell you what, let’s bet a thousand or so,

    Brave.

    we’ll let Doug hold the stakes,

    Brave.

    and the winner will be decided by the votes of regular commenters here.

    Cowardly.

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  59. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’ll vote for Pearce, just because he needs the money more than you.

    Remember when Romney wanted to bet someone $10,000 dollars in a debate, and everyone thought he was an asshole flashing money around? You’re doing that.

    Your worst instincts are usually much more entertaining than this, and usually show you to be better than this.

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  60. Stormy Dragon says:

    The door was locked, and she was thrown on the bed, the letter says. Mr. Kavanaugh then got on top of the teenager and put a hand over her mouth, and music was turned up

    This is a certainly a much bigger deal than the original “locked in a room” account.

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  61. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Mmhmm. Off the top of my head I could make false imprisonment, battery, sexual assault, and as a long stretch attempted rape. This is not a minor thing.

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  62. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Tell you what, let’s bet a thousand or so, we’ll let Doug hold the stakes, and the winner will be decided by the votes of regular commenters here. You on?

    Again with the thousand dollar bets?

    This is what I meant: You will NOT “tap dance on my head” because I will not let you. You wanna discuss this stuff respectfully? Cool. I do that all the time.

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  63. wr says:

    Okay, so as good, reasonable liberals, we’re all happily stroking our chins and admitting that this letter is pretty weak tea and nothing to hold up Kavanaugh’s coronation for. And on first blush, I admit I agreed.

    But now it turns out that Chuck Grassley, who says he only heard about the existence of a letter on Thursday and had no idea of its contents until today, has magically produced letters from 65 women who knew the nominee in high school, all applauding him for not raping them.

    Yes, the Republicans are claiming they managed to track down and contact 65 people who knew Kavanaugh three decades ago AND get letters from him, all within two or three hours.

    Something really stinks here. The best possible scenario is that the Republicans knew this was coming and had the letters in their back pocket in case it leaked out. Which of course demands the question — what else are they hiding? And that’s the BEST-case scenario.

    We reasonable liberals may not think this amounts to much, but the chairman of the judiciary committee clearly does… and I’m inclined to believe him.

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  64. Jen says:

    @wr: Agreed. Pretty much what I was trying to get at in my comment above.

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  65. Gustopher says:

    @wr: or the Republicans have no knowledge of this letter, but did have knowledge of the alleged incident. Or other incidents.

    All of which says that Feinstein should have brought this up long ago, when she first got it. IF there is something there — and that is a big IF — she flubbed it badly.

    (We know nothing about the woman, so I do not believe her or disbelieve her — but if we are taking allegations seriously, and we should, then we should bring them up when they will be taken seriously)

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  66. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You can tell that Jack is really bothered by what people are saying when he starts calling people “cupcake.”

    As to Yom Kippur, that’s up to you, but one take is that atonement is always good, even in “just in case” situations. Remember that Job was said to have offered sacrifices on behalf of his children in case they forgot to.

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  67. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen: Well of course it’s weird. And it’s roughly from the same playbook that Roy Moore used when things started to spin out of control for him. Sadly, none of this matters because Republicans have no principles and will vote for whomever they are told to vote for. In this case, Kavanaugh.

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  68. Hal_10000 says:

    @wr:

    But now it turns out that Chuck Grassley, who says he only heard about the existence of a letter on Thursday and had no idea of its contents until today, has magically produced letters from 65 women who knew the nominee in high school, all applauding him for not raping them.

    Except that’s not what happened. The women organized it themselves.

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  69. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Unless there are more allegations I don’t see evidence to think that Kavanaugh was a serial harasser. Maybe a jerk and a spoiled brat, but not a harasser. On the other hand these letters defending people accused of harassment are incredibly dumb.

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  70. Modulo Myself says:

    Apparently Kavanaugh’s friend is Mark Judge. He’s written about being a teenage alcoholic and how their prep school had been degraded by liberalism:


    If I compare the slavery that has resulted from our “liberation” to what we learned from some people at Prep, I would only add that I’m guilty as well, at least of the bouts of dehumanizing lust that is part of the fallen world and being human. We all are. We all have that monster in us to some extent. But the orthodox at least know what it is. We recognize it, fear it, and try to walk away from it. I would only say what I said when “God and Man” was published: I am willing to come to the school and speak, or debate, at any time. They may even do well to put my recent book “A Tremor of Bliss” on the syllabus.

    Blah blah blah. I’m a believer in repentance, but not creepiness, and everything about Kavanaugh is so f–ing creepy, up to and including the fact that his alleged accomplice writes for the Daily Caller. And this weirdo letter with Brit Hume’s daughter defending it is part of that.

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  71. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce: @Gustopher: @Leonard:

    Yep, you are right. I was being an asshole. I apologize unreservedly.

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  72. wr says:

    @Gustopher: Sure. And we can all gripe about Feinstein — as a lifelong Californian (until three years ago) I’ve been doing that for decades. But she’s really not the issue here, is she?

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  73. wr says:

    @Hal_10000: “The women organized it themselves.”

    And I believe that. Just like I believe the Republicans had already decided to release exactly the documents Booker leaked just moments before he did that.

    Because I’m a Republican, and if that means believing in 12 impossible things before breakfast, sign me up!

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  74. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yep, you are right. I was being an asshole. I apologize unreservedly.”

    Sorry. You’ve just broken the one inviolable rule of the internet, and now you are banned for life.

    Apologizing for your actions — who would do such a thing?

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  75. george says:

    @Jen:

    Played sports? Played music? Does he have sisters? I easily knew 65 girls not in my school when I was in high school. I doubt I could get all 65 to say I was a nice guy though, I’m sure some of them thought I was an asshole (just as I’m sure a lot of the guys I knew thought I was an asshole – probably because I’m sure at times I am an asshole).

    In fact, someone with that many people (boys or girls) who thought he was a nice guy in high school suggests someone without the strength of character to be a supreme court judge – way too boring, unlikely to know anything about the normal range of human emotions.

    Slightly more seriously, I don’t think he should be judge (Garland should be on the court), but if the standard becomes that a single anonymous letter is enough to derail a nominated judge, then we’re never going to have another supreme court judge, because its trivial for anyone to write such a letter.

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  76. george says:

    @Kylopod:

    I agree its a fallacy in most contexts, but not in a context where a moral argument is being made that you should choose one side because the other side is immoral. In that case its very relevant if both sides are equally immoral (and note I explicitly said that the GOP is much more racist than the Dem’s, so Jack’s cherry picking a few examples of Dem racism doesn’t equal racist equivalence).

    Consider this case: we have a bridge that can hold ten tons, and only time for one truck to cross. Person A argues that person B’s truck shouldn’t be chosen, because it weighs eleven tons. Suppose person B responds that person A’s truck also weighs eleven tons – that would be a case of whataboutism. However, whataboutism or not, it would be a valid reponse to person A … and an impartial engineer would check the weights of both trucks and if both were indeed eleven tons, not allow either to cross.

    In this case, the GOP truck weighs 20 tons, the Dem truck weighs 5 tons. So the problem is not whataboutism, but that Jack’s claim that the Dems are as racist as the GOP is simply false.

    BTW, outside of mathematics all equivalencies are false, because things are never 100% equal. That is, false equivalency is a meaningless term. A much better term is relevant equivalencies; that is, are the points in which two entities or events similar relevant? For instance, in the two trucks above, parts of the identities of the trucks include their make, model, year and color. The trucks may or may not be equivalent in all of those, but it would be irrelevant either way, because the only relevant equivalence (or non-equivalence) in the bridge scenario is their weight.

    And interestingly enough, a fallacy in an argument means the argument is bad, but it doesn’t mean the conclusion is necessarily wrong. That is, its a fallacy to argue that a fallacy proves an argument’s conclusion to be incorrect.

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  77. Kylopod says:

    @george:

    and note I explicitly said that the GOP is much more racist than the Dem’s, so Jack’s cherry picking a few examples of Dem racism doesn’t equal racist equivalence

    The problem with Jack’s argument isn’t numerical proportions, it’s time period. Before about a half-century ago, most fervent white supremacists in the country were in fact Democrats. Today, however, most white supremacists are Republicans. Jack was focusing on elements of the past that are no longer applicable in the present day.

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  78. george says:

    @Kylopod:

    Okay, that’s a fair point, I simply assumed he was arguing about current numbers of racists in two parties, given that its the current politicians who we will be voting for. He does seem to be reaching into the past, which as you point out is irrelevant.

    Its also kind of weird philosophically – does he believe that a political party has a consciousness or entity beyond that of the people in it, so it retains views even when the people holding the views change? I suppose that fits into a conservative view that a corporation is some kind of ‘person’, though the conservatives I know think that’s a legal description, not a belief that corporations are actually conscious entities independent of the people in it. Kind of a science fiction world.

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  79. Kylopod says:

    @george:

    I simply assumed he was arguing about current numbers of racists in two parties

    He began with a 1944 quote by Robert Byrd. Byrd was a sitting US Senator from 1959 until his death in 2010, but he evolved on race and by the 1970s he had thoroughly renounced his past white-supremacist views.

    Its also kind of weird philosophically – does he believe that a political party has a consciousness or entity beyond that of the people in it, so it retains views even when the people holding the views change?

    I think that is getting over-analytical. He’s a Foxoid troll, spoon-fed a steady diet of right-wing propaganda that’s all about being armed with an arsenal of quick factoids they can shoot at liberals without bothering about contextual accuracy. He’s not trying to make a coherent point, all he cares about is “owning the libs,” which he always thinks he’s succeeded at no matter how cogently the liberals respond.

    I would agree that modern American conservatism does tend to maintain a static view of history; that’s why they practically worship the Founding Fathers and are so resistant to an evolving understanding of the Constitution. But when they dwell on the Democratic Party’s racist past as well as the GOP’s origin as an anti-slavery party, it’s nothing more than a propagandic attempt at deflection. In one breath they’re boasting about being the “Party of Lincoln,” and in the next they’re acting as apologists for the Confederacy. They’re not advancing a coherent worldview, they’re trying to cover up their own embrace of racism by reaching for anything at their disposal.

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  80. The woman who wrote the letter in question about Kavanaugh has come forward, details in my new post on the allegations.

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