The longer Brett Kavanaugh twists in the wind, the more likely it is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump will consider the risks ― and decide to pull the plug.
With every passing day, more and more witnesses are coming out of the woodwork to contradict this or that aspect of Kavanaugh’s story. There are now multiple people who knew him well who say he was a much more reckless drinker than he claimed.
There is one date on his calendar, July 1, that increasingly looks as if it could be the date of the infamous party that Christine Blasey Ford described. The FBI will explore all of this, and more.
As McConnell and the Republicans get a clearer sense of just whom the FBI will be talking to and what will come out, the following is their nightmare scenario:
More and more credible sources will make a liar out of Kavanaugh. When the FBI reports back in a week, there will be allegations that the Senate Judiciary Committee will have to pursue, burning more time.
Kavanaugh will have to be called back to testify, both about the new allegations and his previous evasions. For the committee to do less would be to risk losing the votes of Republican Sens. Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. But the FBI findings, once reported, could also cost Kavanaugh their votes on the merits ― and his confirmation.
“There is a fair chance that early this week, Kavanaugh will be asked to fall on his sword.”
At that point, another two weeks will have gone by, Kavanaugh could be utterly humiliated and possibly vulnerable to a charge of perjury. It will be that much harder to get another nominee vetted and confirmed two weeks closer to the election. So Trump and McConnell could lose not only Kavanaugh personally, but the court seat.
Trump and McConnell are nothing if not opportunists. They have no personal loyalty to Kavanaugh. Trump is famous for firing people when they outlive their usefulness. McConnell takes situational ethics to a new low.
So Trump and McConnell will surely consider the risks and benefits of standing by Kavanaugh, and the odds of his prevailing. Those odds are worsening.
There is a fair chance that early this week, Kavanaugh will be asked to fall on his sword. You know the routine. “I have decided to spare my family and our country further ordeal and embarrassment, and blah, blah, blah.”
That way the FBI investigation is short-circuited and the subject is changed. The spectacle of Republican men defending a likely sexual assaulter against a highly credible woman goes away.
Trump and McConnell get to fast-track another nomination, preferably female, such as the ultraconservative Amy Coney Barrett, who was appointed last year to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The court seat is saved, the optics on women shift, while the ferocious white male base is furious at Kavanaugh’s treatment and turns out to vote in November.
As McConnell and Trump take a close look at the risks and alternatives, dumping Kavanaugh has to be very tempting. As for Kavanaugh himself, even withdrawing may not spare him further trouble in the investigation of what actually occurred at that fateful party. He could be the subject of further inquiry by the House or Senate, or by Maryland prosecutors.
One more item. At Thursday afternoon’s hearing, Kavanaugh’s ferocity caught the committee Democrats off guard. In playing the outraged, innocent alpha male, he intimidated the decorous Democrats in fine Trumpian fashion. But if the Democrats get another shot at him, they will be better armed and better prepared. Expect an opening statement something like this:
Judge Kavanaugh, last week you told us that these hearings were a partisan ambush, a deliberate withholding of material until the eleventh hour. You knew that was a lie. You knew that Dr. Blasey Ford agonized for several weeks over whether to come forward, and your bullying performance was evidence of why she was right to be wary.
You also dissembled, to put it charitably, about several aspects of your prior life and behavior. We now have several credible sources, who told the FBI under oath of your dishonesty.
Several of your answers were carefully crafted to avoid admitting you were ever drunk enough at social events in high school to black out, which would in turn admit that if something like what Dr. Blasey Ford described occurred, you just might be the one with the faulty memory. This dissembling was calculated to allow you to deny that the assault happened, while barely skirting the risk of perjury.
One of you lied to this committee and to America. To put it bluntly, the accumulating evidence suggests that the liar is you. All the bullying in the world will not convince us otherwise. And the more you try to bully, the more you display the character and temperament consistent with the attack that Dr. Blasey Ford described ― and inconsistent with a Supreme Court justice.
Judge Kavanaugh, you feign outrage that your confirmation was delayed a couple weeks so that we could find out the truth. You sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit with Judge Merrick Garland. When he was nominated to the Supreme Court, Judge Garland had no charges of misconduct against him. He was not only delayed eight months, he was not granted a hearing at all. So kindly spare us the self-righteous indignation.
I yield back the balance of my time.
There is no honor among thieves. Contemplating the potential damage of letting this show continue, Trump and McConnell have to be weighing whether to throw Kavanaugh overboard.
Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and a professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School. His new book is Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? Follow him on Twitter at @rkuttnerwrites.