We Know Brett Kavanaugh Has Lied Already

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This nation is suffering a significant breakdown of civility, bipartisanship and ethical behavior. For the Trump administration and the Republican leaders who enable it, truth is no longer a cherished value. To them, lying seems to be part of the strategy, a cynical weapon to be used against their opponents.

This week, we are witnessing the full depth of that cynicism, as the White House and its supporters smear a woman who makes credible, significant accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. At the same time, another fact has become clear: Kavanaugh himself has a casual relationship with the truth ― and in that, he fits right in with the way President Donald Trump and his party behave.

Lying under oath cannot and must not be rewarded with a seat on the nation’s highest court.

At the White House event announcing Kavanaugh’s nomination, the appellate judge offered a remark that seemed odd. Praising Trump, he said, “No president has ever consulted more widely, or talked with more people from more backgrounds, to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination.”

I personally found this hard to believe. How would Kavanaugh know that? Why would he be so sure and definitive about it? I did what we all do these days with the overwhelming list of lies coming out of this White House — I figured that Republicans were all “in on it,” that this comment would stand as just another obviously false spin in the process of getting another illegitimate seat on the Supreme Court for a conservative judge. But it turns out this was only a glimpse into the nominee’s disturbing willingness to avoid the truth.

In fact, there’s clear evidence showing that Kavanaugh lied under oath during the 2006 confirmation hearing for his spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. I should know: I was one of the senators on the Judiciary Committee who questioned him.

I asked Kavanaugh about his involvement as White House staff secretary in the highly controversial 2001 nomination of Charles Pickering Sr. to the 5th Circuit. Many of us were concerned about a 1994 hate crimes case in which Pickering decided that a 25-year-old, who had participated with two others in a cross burning, was deserving of a reduced sentence. 

During the Senate’s consideration of Pickering’s nomination, we had also learned that the federal trial judge solicited and collected letters of support from lawyers who had appeared in his courtroom, some of whom had cases still pending before him. This was a clear breach of judicial ethics, so I asked Kavanaugh about it

Sen. Russ Feingold: My first question is this. Did you know that Judge Pickering planned to solicit letters of support in this manner before he did so? And if not, when did you become aware that Judge Pickering had solicited these letters of support?

Brett Kavanaugh: The answer to the first question, Senator, is no. This was not one of the judicial nominees that I was primarily handling.

But newly released emails show that Kavanaugh appeared to be the primary person handling Pickering’s nomination, at least by 2003, and was heavily involved in pushing for his confirmation as early as March 2002. There are emails showing that Kavanaugh coordinated meetings with and about Pickering; that he drafted remarks, letters to people on the Hill and at least one op-ed for then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales about Pickering; that he advised Gonzales on Pickering strategy; and much more.

One Department of Justice official even asked for Kavanaugh’s “blessings and instructions” before calling the nominee.

Others may have been involved, but Kavanaugh played a decisive leadership role in managing Pickering’s nomination and then lied to me about it.

In another example, Kavanaugh had worked to advance multiple controversial judicial nominations from President George W. Bush during a time when a Republican Senate staffer named Manuel Miranda accessed and downloaded thousands of computer files belonging to Democratic senators. Because Kavanaugh could have been in receipt of the stolen documents, he was grilled by senators of both parties on the matter at his first confirmation hearing in 2004 and he denied any involvement.

But emails released this year show that Kavanaugh received material from numerous emails, draft letters and memos laying out the legal arguments Democrats were going to make regarding Bush’s judicial nominees, including talking points written by a staffer to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). One email even had the subject line “Spying” on it. Kavanaugh not only received that message, which mentioned a “mole,” but forwarded it to Gonzales. Leahy asked Kavanaugh about this regrettable episode in the 2004 confirmation hearing, and Kavanaugh’s responses were both unsatisfying and evasive.

Taking all his testimony together, we see a clear pattern emerge: Brett Kavanaugh has never appeared under oath before the U.S. Senate without lying.

As a onetime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I considered the truthfulness of judicial nominees as a non-negotiable quality. Lying under oath cannot and must not be rewarded with a seat on the nation’s highest court, and lies cannot remain unchallenged.

So as an illegitimate administration goes to work attacking the credibility of a brave woman recounting her assault, let’s recognize the enormously cynical hypocrisy: The nominee they’re desperate to protect is a calculated liar who uses dishonesty to advance his own career. And any denial of these accusations by Kavanaugh before the committee must be viewed in the context of his multiple earlier lies under oath to that same committee.

This nomination can and must be withdrawn. Nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court must be held to a higher standard, and it is the job of determined senators to do just that.



History-making runs turn black governor nominees into stars

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It was a raucous scene that could have been backstage at a rock concert: camera flashes, fans clamoring for autographs, scowling bodyguards, reporters hungry for a scoop. But the center of this attention wasn't Beyonce or the Rolling Stones. It was three black gubernatorial candidates who stood side by side in a throng of admirers, soaking up all that love.

If elected, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, Ben Jealous of Maryland and Andrew Gillum of Florida would give America its largest number of black governors ever. That historic possibility was not lost on them, or the black voters who hope to make that history happen, as they shared the stage at the Congressional Black Caucus' annual legislative conference this week.

"This moment, and the significance of it, won't seep in for some time from now," said Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, and at 39 the youngest of the three.

"What this signals is not only the continued evolution of our country but the increasing recognition of diversity, not only of capacity but of backgrounds," said Abrams, 44, later.

Abrams, who could become the nation's first black female governor, is getting the most national attention. But all three were squired around the Washington Convention Center by black politicos who are strategizing ways to help on turnout, campaigning and fundraising.

Jealous, 45, faces the steepest challenge, down in polls against incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Abrams and Gillum are running for open seats.

After the three spoke together on stage, Jealous listened attentively backstage as Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas laid out plans to help him with voter turnout and fundraising. Gillum, meanwhile, stood nearby shaking hands with other state elected officials and Abrams conducted a media interview.

"I believe what we see in this current electoral cycle is not going to stop," Abrams said. "We have more diversity in the candidates running and in the candidates winning and particularly for women of color. ... I'm proud to be part of a national trend and I think it's a trend that's becoming a permanent one for America."

None of them were heavy favorites in their primaries. Abrams is a longtime state official and former state House leader; Gillum has been a fixture of local Tallahassee politics since his college days; and Jealous is a former head of the NAACP and was a venture capitalist and activist before entering the governor's race last year.

Their historic primary wins — and the national attention it brought — will bring out Democratic voters who might not have voted in a midterm election otherwise, they said. Midterm elections typically draw fewer than half of those eligible to vote.

"I know we have people keep wanting to hedge on these races: 'Oh, you can win in the primary, but what happens in the general?'" Gillum said. "I honestly believe for all three of us, we are the best, and frankly, the most likely of the whole lot we were in to bring the kind of energy necessary in order to win states like ours."

The political trio seem comfortable together and readily quote one another in interviews. They also tease one another, as they did when they turned Abrams' observations about overcoming gender and racial barriers into jokes about their respective skin tones.

"I'm of a very rich brown hue," Abrams said.

"I'm richer," Gillum interrupted. "It's the only thing I'm rich in."

Jealous, who is biracial, smiled, then quipped: "No comment."

The three of them have known one another for many years, Jealous said. He met Abrams when they were both around 20 years old, he said, and they've known Gillum since he was about that same age.

"It's a special joy when you look to your left and look to your right and the people you see are the people you know and the people you trust," Jealous said.

P.B.S. Pinchback of Louisiana was the nation's first black governor during Reconstruction, serving from 1872 to 1873. The next would not come until 1990, when Douglas Wilder would be elected in Virginia. Deval Patrick was elected in 2007 and David Paterson served as New York governor from 2008 to 2010.

There has never been a black female governor in American history.

"What's more important to me is that I'm opening the doors for others who may not have seen themselves in positions of power and leadership, and I can speak for communities that are unseen and unheard," Abrams said.

All of them recognize the change their campaigns represent and what could be a unique place in history if they are all successful.

"It is a wonderful season we are in," said Bernice King, a daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., at a later event honoring black female lawmakers. "I'm excited about the midterm elections, and I know that regardless of what the outcome is that God still has his hands on us."




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Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Sunday became the first Republican on the Senate judiciary committee to suggest the group delay moving forward with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, amid allegations that the judge sexually assaulted a woman as a teenager.

The Senate judiciary committee may be unable to move ahead with a Thursday vote that would send Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the full Senate, after the judge’s previously unnamed accuser came forward Sunday.

Flake said Sunday that he would not be “comfortable” moving forward now that Christine Blasey Ford has revealed herself as the woman behind a letter detailing the allegations.

“If they push forward without any attempt with hearing what she’s had to say, I’m not comfortable voting yes... We need to hear from her,” Flake told Politico. “And I don’t think I’m alone in this.”

Republican members of the committee initially released a statement Sunday calling Ford’s motive into question, and seemed ready to continue with Kavanaugh’s nomination as scheduled.

Flake’s statement is significant and could potentially throw Kavanaugh’s bid for the high court in jeopardy, as the GOP holds a slim 11-10 advantage on the judiciary committee.

Moreover, Flake’s voice is likely to weigh heavily on the minds of GOP moderates such as Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who have not yet said how they intend to vote on Kavanaugh. Asked if the committee should proceed to vote this week as scheduled, Collins told CNN Sunday, “I’m going to be talking with my colleagues,” and declined to comment further.

Murkowski told CNN late Sunday that she was open to the idea of a delay on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The senator told the outlet’s Steve Brusk that “if there are more questions that need to be asked and answered, then I think it would be appropriate for that time.”

“This is not something that came up during the hearings,” Murkowski said. “The hearings are now over. And if there is real substance to this, it demands a response.”

Ford revealed her identity on Sunday in The Washington Post after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) confirmed on Thursday that she was in possession of a letter accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting a woman in his high school years. Ford alleges that Kavanaugh was “stumbling drunk” at a party in the 1980s when he pinned her to a bed, groped her, ground his body against hers and attempted to pull off her clothing. 

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. 

Senate judiciary committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Sunday he was working on setting up bipartisan calls to keep Kavanaugh’s confirmation on track.

Grassley’s office said it was working to hold calls alongside Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, to speak with Kavanaugh and Ford.

“The Chairman and Ranking Member routinely hold bipartisan staff calls with nominees when updates are made to nominees’ background files,” Grassley’s office said in a statement. “Given the late addendum to the background file and revelations of Dr. Ford’s identity, Chairman Grassley is actively working to set up such follow-up calls with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford ahead of Thursday’s scheduled vote.” 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the judiciary committee, said he shared Grassley’s concerns about the timing of the accusations, but noted that he would be willing to listen to Ford if she “wished to provide information to the committee.” 

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is not on the committee, echoed Flake’s sentiments. He told Politico he doesn’t believe there should be a vote without Ford’s testimony.

Corker added that if Ford “does want to be heard, she should do so promptly.” 





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