Second Impartial Named Witness Denies Knowledge of Kavanaugh Accusation

Christine Blasey Ford put "two teenagers" at the party where she alleges a rape attempt occurred. Neither remembers any such party.

Last Sunday, Christine Blasey Ford, the author of a confidential letter to the Senate accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of an attempted rape back in 1982, came forward in a Washington Post story wherein she went public with the charges. In that interview, she named four people as witnesses: Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, both of whom she alleged took part in the alleged crime and whose denials are therefore unsurprising, and  “two other teenagers who she said were at the party.” Both of those former teenagers have now denied any knowledge of the incident.

Earlier this week, CNN reported that Patrick J. Smyth, a classmate of Kavanaugh and Judge, had signed a sworn statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“I understand that I have been identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person she remembers as ‘PJ’ who supposedly was present at the party she described in her statements to the Washington Post,” Smyth says in his statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

“Personally speaking, I have known Brett Kavanaugh since high school and I know him to be a person of great integrity, a great friend, and I have never witnessed any improper conduct by Brett Kavanaugh towards women. To safeguard my own privacy and anonymity, I respectfully request that the Committee accept this statement in response to any inquiry the Committee may have.”

Given Smyth’s relationship with Kavanaugh, that denial hardly made a ripple. The second is more interesting.

CNN (“Committee contacts Ford’s friend about party; ‘she has no recollection’ of it, lawyer says“):

CNN has learned that the committee has reached out to a longtime friend of Ford named Leland Ingham Keyser.

“I understand that you have been identified as an individual who was in attendance at a party that occurred circa 1982 described in a recent Washington Post article,” a committee staffer wrote Keyser earlier this week.

On Saturday night, her lawyer, Howard Walsh, released a statement to CNN and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Simply put,” Walsh said, “Ms. Keyser 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.”

The lawyer acknowledged to CNN that Keyser is a lifelong friend of Ford’s.

Ford’s lawyer Debra Katz said in response to Keyser’s attorney’s statement that it makes sense that Keyser wouldn’t remember, because Ford has said she did not share her allegations “publicly or with anyone for years.”

“It’s not surprising that Ms Keyser has no recollection of the evening as they did not discuss it,” Katz said in a statement. “It’s also unremarkable that Ms. Keyser does not remember attending a specific gathering 30 years ago at which nothing of consequence happened to her. Dr. Ford of course will never forget this gathering because of what happened to her there.”

Keyser is the latest person alleged to be at the party to say she has no recollection of it.

That someone who was not in the room has no knowledge of an alleged rape attempt that may or may not have taken place in 1982 is hardly dispositive. But she doesn’t even remember there being a party Ford and Kavanaugh both attended. Keyser is not only a “lifelong friend” of Ford but also the ex-wife and current producer of longtime Democratic operative Bob Beckel (who turned a stint at the manager of Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign into a career as a pundit). She certainly has no reason to side with Kavanaugh over Ford here.

There’s no reason to think Ford, who is a successful professional, would make up this story and go through the life-changing firestorm that would inevitably follow. She clearly thinks the version of events she is telling is true.

But Ford doesn’t remember who hosted the party. Or how she got there. Or got home. Or even what year it took place. And the two neutral parties she says were at the event have zero recollection of it.

According to the second-hand account we have now from her interview with the Post, “she came to understand the incident as a trauma with lasting impact on her life” only “after going through psychotherapy” many years later. By her own account, she suffered “post-traumatic stress disorder.”

I believe something awful happened to her at a party sometime during her high school years. That she hid it from her parents and subsequently tried to repress it and move on is perfectly consistent with how victims of sexual assault behave—and especially during an era where female victims were routinely shamed for somehow bringing it on themselves. But that doesn’t mean that her post-therapy reconstruction of events is reliable. Or that Kavanaugh was the perpetrator of the awful thing that happened.

Maybe her testimony before the Judiciary Committee Thursday will clear up some of the confusion. Or other witnesses will come forward between now and then.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. For what it’s worth I’m not surprised that two people who may or may not have been at a party 36 years ago don’t remember it specifically. If nothing memorable happened from their perspective, it’s unlikely they would remember.

    I suppose it would be more significant if a third-party said “I remember the party. I remember Ford and Kavanaugh being there. And I know for sure that they were never alone together or with Mark Judge.” But, of course, that’s not what these two people are saying.

    At the very least, though, this is why I said last week that an FBI investigation would have been pointless. If Dr. Ford was attacked, it’s easy to understand why she’d remember the event. It would be unusual for someone for whom this was just another party in the summer of 1982 to remember even being at the party much less who else was there or what might have happened in a room they were never in.

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  2. Guarneri says:

    “That she hid it from her parents and subsequently tried to repress it and move on is perfectly consistent with how victims of sexual assault behave—and especially during an era where female victims were routinely shamed for somehow bringing it on themselves.”

    A someone who experienced sexual assault as a child, and who ultimately went through a rather famous childhood trauma program located in AZ, and listening to the stories of probably two dozen similarly victimized people, almost all women, I can tell you that to a person I/they all recalled in sometimes excruciating detail the events. Everyone of them remembered. And my therapist would in no way, shape or form, corroborate the notion that more than a small percentage suppress all memories for years. Its only my experience, but it simply adds to the list of fantastical circumstantials in this case.

    The real point here is that there is no way to adjudicate this case. None. All we can do is speculate on the basis of scant third party recollections, the highly irresponsible handling of the situation by Feinstein, the obvious agenda driven political atmospherics and the disingenuous negotiating stance of Katz. None of those circumstantials point towards resolution or credibility at this time, nor will they ever. This is now just mob justice.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Oh, I agree. It just puts both parties in a maddening position. Ford is sure Kavanaugh assaulted her sometime in the distant past, maybe 1982. He vehemently denies it and there’s no evidence of any subsequent incidents. There’s essentially no way she can prove he did it and no way he can prove he didn’t. He’s denied even being at a party with her and the two neutral participants Ford remembers being at the party don’t remember the party. That certainly lends credence to Kavanaugh—but not as much as their remembering him being at the party would point to him being a liar.

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  4. @Guarneri:

    “there is no way to adjudicate this case.”

    This is a job interview, not a court of law.

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  5. @James Joyner:

    As I said, this is why I said last week that an FBI investigation would not be helpful.

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  6. wr says:

    @James Joyner: Then wouldn’t you, as a neutral observer, think it would be a good idea to have Mark Judge testify under oath, since Dr. Ford says he was in the room? Is there any other believable reason other than fear of what he’ll say under penalty of perjury not to have him speak?

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  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Maybe her testimony before the Judiciary Committee Thursday will clear up some of the confusion.

    Hmmmm…. Maybe Kavanaugh’s testimony could clear up some of the confusion?

    Just as he did several weeks ago to prepare for his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, Brett M. Kavanaugh was back inside a room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building — again facing questioners readying him for a high-stakes appearance in the Senate.

    This time, the questions were much different. An array of White House aides, playing the role of various senators on the Judiciary Committee, quizzed Kavanaugh last week about his sex life and other personal matters in an attempt to prepare him for a hearing that would inevitably be uncomfortable.
    …………………
    But Kavanaugh grew frustrated when it came to questions that dug into his private life, particularly his drinking habits and his sexual proclivities, according to three people familiar with the preparations, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. He declined to answer some questions altogether, saying they were too personal, these people said.

    Well yeah, one’s sex life is personal. Funny how he didn’t have a problem with “getting too personal” during the Clinton/Lewinsky imbroglio.

    I guess IOKIYAR.

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  8. xenos says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: This is certainly some serious karma at work on poor ol’ BK.

    Unlike most people, I grew up in prep school culture of the mid 80s, including with some very wealthy kids from right-wing, profoundly (if subtly) misogynistic Catholic families. Ford’s story is very believable to me, as is the sad reality that getting a real shit of a man like BK or Judge to discuss this honestly or honorably is just not gonna happen.

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  9. James Joyner says:

    @wr: I don’t object to calling him, although I don’t think he’s going to tell us anything useful. But, sure, it’s easy to understand why someone telling the truth about not remembering something nonetheless wouldn’t want to sbuject himself to grilling by hostile Senators on national television.

    @OzarkHillbilly: I think being grilled about the drinking habits and consensual sexual activities of one’s youth is entirely different than being asked about a grossly unequal senior-subordinate relationship that took place in the Oval Office while serving as the President of the United States.

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  10. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis: There’s a huge difference between having the roughly non-partisan FBI look and find nothing, and having the very partisan Senate majority not look and find nothing.

    The FBI lends some credibility to the outcome, and restores a bit of confidence in the system — a confidence that the Supreme Court needs to be seen as impartial in even the least political cases.

    And, if the FBI does find something, then we dodged a bullet.

    It seems like all upside for America to me.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: If there is a credible accusation that some of those consensual sexual activities might not be as consensual as described, it makes sense to look into them, double check, etc.

    I believe that Dr. Ford was sexually assaulted at some point, probably at a party, and likely by Kavanaugh. I also believe that sex offenders do not do it just once. And further, I believe that we have an environment where very, very few people are going to voluntarily come forward unprompted.

    An reasonably thorough investigation would clear most of this up. It would be invasive, but the prize is a seat on the Supreme Court.

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  12. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: This is a job interview, not a court of law.

    This isn’t a “job interview” and to state something like that is impressively stupid and irresponsible, even for you and the fellow numbskulls who upvote your comment. For starters, you can’t go to jail for lying in a job interview.

    This is an official government proceeding that could determine the operating ideology of the U.S. Supreme Court for decades. It involves a woman who may have been sexually assaulted and a man of previously unimpeachable personal character now being casually branded an attempted rapist on the basis of no credible evidence whatsoever. There’s also the issue of long overdue societal concern for sexual harassment and assault of women possibly being perverted into a moral panic to serve partisan interests.

    “Job interview.” Good grief.

    Mike

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  13. MBunge says:

    @Gustopher: An reasonably thorough investigation would clear most of this up.

    First, an investigation is already underway. Witnesses have given statements under penalty of perjury.

    Second, beyond interviewing named witnesses (which is already occurring), what else is supposed to happen? Investigators don’t even have a specific time and place to start with?

    Just admit you don’t care about Dr. Ford or whether or not she was attacked and this is nothing more than taking a bat and smashing the other side. I could at least respect that honesty.

    Mike

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  14. James Joyner says:

    @MBunge: While I’m not fond of the “job interview” analogy myself, because I think a Presidential nominee has already passed the interview and is now simply being vetted through something akin to a background check, your ad hominem here does nothing to advance the argument.

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  15. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “But, sure, it’s easy to understand why someone telling the truth about not remembering something nonetheless wouldn’t want to sbuject himself to grilling by hostile Senators on national television.”

    I certainly understand why he doesn’t want to be called, even if he honestly can’t remember. I don’t understand why the Senate doesn’t want to call him.

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    1) Is it a job for which Kavanaugh would be paid by the taxpayers? Yes. Is the current process about deciding whether or not he’ll get the job? Yes. So is this a job interview? Yes.

    2) Should the FBI investigate this as they normally do? Yes. Duh. This is the normal course of business, the FBI vets federal appointees on a daily basis.

    3) Should we assume an FBI investigation will be either useless or dispositive? No, we should assume nothing, we should let the feebs do what the feebs do. When they come up with a report we’ll know whether it was useful or not.

    4) Should Mr. Judge be subpoenaed? Obviously.

    5) Is there some dire tick tock on this? No, of course not. What’s the rush? We weren’t in a rush when McConnell was refusing to consider Merrick Garland. What’s the rush now?

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I don’t think public grilling by politicians is a reasonable way to get at the truth here. I think Ford, Judge, Kavanaugh, Ford’s shrink, and anyone else who has information ought give testimony but would prefer that it be conducted in private by neutral, competent investigators.

    The FBI has already done multiple background investigations on Kavanaugh, given that he’s had a variety of sensitive posts, including his current post on the second highest court in the land. And I gather that they’ve investigated this particular claim, although it’s unclear to what extent. But, yes, if they have more to do they ought be given a reasonable amount of time to do it.

    I thought the Garland gambit was outrageous and bound to be used to justify worse treatment down the road when things are reversed. Right now, though, there’s a GOP President and GOP Senate, so the Garland precedent doesn’t much matter. The Senate majority has a strong incentive to get someone on the bench fast to cast deciding votes in a term that starts in just over a week. And, of course, they’d like it to happen while they’ll sure they’ll have a majority (which I think they’re likely to have, anyway.

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  18. JKB says:

    Kavanaugh, Judge, PJ, and this latest woman have all given on the record, subject to criminal prosecution for perjury through their written letters to the committee.

    Interestingly, Dr Ford is the only person who has not given a statement subject to perjury prosecution. The manner of her letter being sent to a member of the House instead of a member of the Senate committee seems to disrupt the perjury risk under the statute. Similarly, in how Feinstein will not provide the memo to the committee but rather the committee only have access to the redacted letter sent to the FBI who then did a supplemental background investigation and included it in the file to the committee.

    My feeling is Ford will not appear for some reason and Grassley will call a vote on Thursday. Ford’s lawyers have not presented her in a good light with the demands and sudden changes in demands. Of course, if Ford appears and gives lucid testimony that won’t matter.

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  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I’m going to disagree on the FBI investigation aspect. In this case, the most powerful argument is that the FBI found nothing. Of course, I also still agree with Harvard Law that the best course of action would have been to apologize profusely–on national television if possible–while being “shocked” that anyone could think that of me, still noting that it is possible. And I didn’t go to parties not held at my church in high school and didn’t start binge drinking until I was 25 or 26. (And I did enough embarrassing things at the parties my church had to last my lifetime. Still managed to do more as I got older, too.)

  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think public grilling by politicians is a reasonable way to get at the truth here.

    Neither do I, but that’s the process we have under advise and consent. It’s a process that’s been perverted by politics over generations now, but it’s what we got. If you want to amend the constitution, we can talk, but as of now this is what we’ve got.

    The FBI has already done multiple background investigations on Kavanaugh, given that he’s had a variety of sensitive posts,

    That’s very weak. New, credible information requires new investigation. There is no ‘hey, I got away with this long, unfair!’ exemption. There’s no statute of limitations because this is not a criminal charge. Mike Flynn passed a whole lot of background investigations and guess what? Jonathon Pollard passed background investigations. I could go on and on. Credible new allegations = new investigation.

    The Senate majority has a strong incentive to get someone on the bench fast to cast deciding votes in a term that starts in just over a week.

    Right, they have a political motive to get decisions they like. Though tittie. Would an 8 person court decision be invalid? Never has been in the past.

    This guy is being rammed through for reasons both political – pleasing the base – and obstructionist – covering for Trump’s (alleged) crimes. There is no real rush, there is no honest reason the FBI should not investigate, there is no honest reason not to call witnesses.

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  21. Guarneri says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I know Doug. Don’t be a pedant. There is no way to determine the reality or falsity of this situation.

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  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner: ” I don’t think public grilling by politicians is a reasonable way to get at the truth here.”

    I don’t either. Unfortunately, that brings us back to one more FBI investigation and makes people who make even potentially reasonable arguments about it look like they’re in the bag on this. On the other hand, Dr. Joyner, you can take whatever comfort there is in knowing that you must be pretty close to the center when you’re getting shot at by guys like Reynolds and me AND guys like MBunge.

    ETA: And the additional irony is that if the FBI had been asked to start an investigation on Tuesday of the week that that this brouhaha started, the report would have been in Grassley’s hands when he was making the Thursday threat that he backed down from on Friday if the additional Anita Hill accusations investigation can be used as an example.

    1
  23. John430 says:

    The thing I dislike most about the #MeToo thing is that it turns the rule of law on it’s head. We have long held that a person (any person) is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Now the Left wants Guilty until proven Guilty. Prof. Ford says it happened, Kavanaugh denies it, Ford’s three witnesses say it didn’t happen but still the left wants to hang him because…shut up.

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  24. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: The Constitution doesn’t require that Senators conduct circus hearings on television. They can render their judgment on the matter based on a private investigation if they so choose. I agree new information should be investigated. My preference would be to have the FBI do it and then issue a report to the Senate. I also agree that the need for speed is purely political; I’m just pointing out that the political difference between this and the Garland fiasco was that the same party is in charge of nominating and confirming this time.

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  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    If people would stop electing clowns we could shut down the circus. But the idea that these same clowns should make their decisions in private just makes things worse. I much prefer transparent buffoonery to back room buffoonery. Back room buffoonery might lead gullible people to believe this is a bunch of Solons weighing evidence in a rational way. The voters have a right to know that the decision is made by drooling, incoherent, sclerotic relics of a by-gone age acting on nothing but party loyalty.

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  26. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    I have a huge problem with people in the left because it’s very difficult to prove or disprove a sexual assault allegation and that’s why you should be willing to let some rapists get jailfree. But no is entitled to a seat in the Supreme Court(Not even Merrick Garland), and making public officials feel entitled to their job is a horrible idea.

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  27. Modulo Myself says:

    This committee didn’t even look at how Kavanaugh paid off his debt. No he said/she said going on there–it’s money being paid to credit cards and an 401(k) loan. They didn’t bother with that because they’re corrupt and Kavanaugh is one of them.

    My guess is that Ford’s testimony is going to be good and believable, whereas Kavanaugh is going to sound deluded. The Republicans know in their bones that he actually did this to Ford, just as they knew that something was quite right in his finances. They hang out with this guy and they know what he sounds like behind closed doors. That’s why they’ve been fighting and screaming about her testifying.

    As I said when this dropped, it’s not 1991, despite Hatch and Grassley still being around. The Republicans are living in a colony of bullshit while mainlining on white evangelical votes and crank oligarch dollars. But they can’t control time. Even the Fox people must be getting a bit suspicious.

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  28. Raoul says:

    JJ: what people are pointing out the nature of the questioning by BK- E.g. did we really need to know about cigar insertions and whether she was being pleasured? Yea, karma.

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  29. Teve says:

    Back room buffoonery might lead gullible people to believe this is a bunch of Solons weighing evidence in a rational way. The voters have a right to know that the decision is made by drooling, incoherent, sclerotic relics of a by-gone age acting on nothing but party loyalty.

    Anybody ever tell you that you have a way with words? 😀

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  30. Lynn says:

    @Guarneri: “, I can tell you that to a person I/they all recalled in sometimes excruciating detail the events. ”

    And I can tell you that my experience, both as psychologist and as client, is different.

    I remember his face, his words, his actions but I do not remember exactly when it was or where it was. I think he was a blind date, but I don’t know who introduced us or what the event was.

    Much the same was true for many, though not all, of my clients. They remembered the immediate details, but not necessarily the larger context.

    There are no absolutes for how all this works.

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  31. Lit3Bolt says:

    @MBunge:
    @Guarneri:

    Since Bill Clinton was never convicted by a jury, he is therefore innocent. Right?
    Since Ted Kennedy was never convicted by a jury, he is therefore innocent. Right?
    Since Osama Bin Laden was never tried and convicted by a jury of his peers, BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT, he was therefore an innocent man. Right?

    See how this game you’re playing works?
    Maybe you’re allowed to make judgements of people that don’t need to meet the highest possible standard under the law…

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  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    You missed my restaurant reviewer days. Back then I was mean.

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