I was Brett Kavanaugh’s college roommate. He lied under oath

James Roche writes:

In 1983, I was one of Brett Kavanaugh’s freshman roommates at Yale University. About two weeks ago I came forward to lend my support to my friend Deborah Ramirez, who says Brett sexually assaulted her at a party in a dorm suite. I did this because I believe Debbie.

Now the FBI is investigating this incident. I am willing to speak with them about my experiences at Yale with both Debbie and Brett. I would tell them this: Brett Kavanaugh stood up under oath and lied about his drinking and about the meaning of words in his yearbook. He did so baldly, without hesitation or reservation. In his words and his behavior, Judge Kavanaugh has shown contempt for the truth, for the process, for the rule of law, and for accountability. His willingness to lie to avoid embarrassment throws doubt on his denials about the larger questions of sexual assault. In contrast, I cannot remember ever having a reason to distrust anything, large or small, that I have heard from Debbie.

I did not want to come forward. When the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow contacted me while researching a story about Debbie and Brett, I told him that I didn’t see the point. There is no way that Brett will face legal consequences after this much time. Either he will be confirmed or another conservative judge will be. There would be a high cost. I was raised in a Republican family. My mother, who has since passed away, was a Republican state representative in Connecticut. My father owns a MAGA hat. I have close friends who are very conservative. In recent years I have had disagreements over politics with some of these friends and family, but I care deeply about them. My involvement has and will come with personal, professional, and reputational damage. [Continue reading…]


Don’t expect Federalist Society members, Wray and Rosenstein, to protect the FBI this time

Nelson W. Cunningham writes:

In President Donald Trump’s long and strange war on the FBI and Justice Department, we have become accustomed to the sight of FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein bravely standing up to the president. Again and again, these men have been objective tribunals standing up for independence, thoroughness and freedom from political interference.

Now it seems they might have another reason to speak up, as reports swirl that political figures at the Senate and the White House are limiting the FBI’s investigation into Brett Kavanaugh’s background. Trump said on Monday that the FBI could interview whomever it wanted, but only “within reason.” He added, “But they should also be guided, and I’m being guided, by what the senators are looking for.”

But we shouldn’t expect Wray and Rosenstein to stand up and push back against this political interference. For one, different rules apply to background checks than to independent investigations. Another reason might lie in shared history: These three men go back—way back—in their relationships and shared aspirations.

First, background checks are not independent investigations. Here, the FBI is very much an organ of the White House, assisting the Senate (meaning today, the Republican majority) in an inherently political mission to examine a presidential nominee. In my experience as Judiciary Committee general counsel working on Supreme Court nominations (under Chairman Joe Biden), FBI background checks are conducted in a spirit of close cooperation between the White House and the president’s political allies on the committee. (Trump admitted as much Monday when he said, “I’m guided by the senators.”) The senators nominally set the direction of the background check, requests from the Senate go through the White House before reaching the FBI, and the results come back to the senators, who can ask for more.

But there is another reason we cannot expect Wray and Rosenstein to buck White House direction of the investigation. To them, Kavanaugh is not merely the target of an FBI investigation. Kavanaugh is a longtime colleague, political ally and perhaps even friend. The three men have known each other for decades, working closely on the shared mission of advancing conservative judicial and policy goals. We simply cannot expect Wray and Rosenstein to block the advancement of their fellow conservative and longtime colleague to the highest court in the land. [Continue reading…]

I know Brett Kavanaugh, but I wouldn’t confirm him

Benjamin Wittes writes:

[I]f I were a senator, I would vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. I would do it both because of Ford’s testimony and because of Kavanaugh’s. For reasons I will describe, I find her account more believable than his. I would also do it because whatever the truth of what happened in the summer of 1982, Thursday’s hearing left Kavanaugh nonviable as a justice.

A few days before the hearing, I detailed on this site the advice I would give to Kavanaugh if he asked me. He should, I argued, withdraw from consideration for elevation unless able to defend himself to a high degree of factual certainty without attacking Ford. He should remain a nominee, I argued, only if his defense would be sufficiently convincing that it would meet what we might term the “no asterisks” standard—that is, that it would plausibly convince even people who vociferously disagree with his jurisprudential views that he could serve credibly as a justice. His defense needed to make it possible for a reasonable pro-choice woman to find it a legitimate and acceptable prospect, if not an attractive or appealing one, that he might sit on a case reconsidering Roe v. Wade.

Kavanaugh, needless to say, did not take my advice. He stayed in, and he delivered on Thursday, by way of defense, a howl of rage. He went on the attack not against Ford—for that we can be grateful—but against Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and beyond. His opening statement was an unprecedentedly partisan outburst of emotion from a would-be justice. I do not begrudge him the emotion, even the anger. He has been through a kind of hell that would leave any person gasping for air. But I cannot condone the partisanship—which was raw, undisguised, naked, and conspiratorial—from someone who asks for public faith as a dispassionate and impartial judicial actor. His performance was wholly inconsistent with the conduct we should expect from a member of the judiciary. [Continue reading…]

How Trump enriched himself by helping his parents dodge taxes

The New York Times reports:

President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

These maneuvers met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service, The Times found. The president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances.

The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show. [Continue reading…]

All the ways a Justice Kavanaugh would have to recuse himself

Laurence H. Tribe writes:

Much might be said about Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s possible confirmation to the Supreme Court: in terms of his still only partly disclosed professional record, the allegations of sexual assault and his candor, or lack of it, in testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But apart from all that — and apart from whatever the reopened F.B.I. investigation might reveal — the judge himself has unwittingly provided the most compelling argument against his elevation to that court.

His intemperate personal attacks on members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and his partisan tirades against what he derided as a conspiracy of liberal political enemies guilty of a “calculated and orchestrated political hit” do more than simply display a strikingly injudicious temperament. They disqualify him from participating in a wide range of the cases that may come before the Supreme Court: cases involving individuals or groups that Judge Kavanaugh has now singled out, under oath and in front of the entire nation, as implacable adversaries.

Well before last week’s hearing, public officials and scholars of legal ethics were already debating whether a Justice Kavanaugh, with his unusually expansive views of presidential power, would be required to recuse himself from cases involving the legal fate of the president who nominated him. [Continue reading…]

Trump personally directed effort to silence Stormy Daniels after he took office as president

The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Trump personally directed an effort in February to stop Stormy Daniels from publicly describing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, people familiar with the events say.

In a phone call, Mr. Trump instructed his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to seek a restraining order against the former adult-film actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, through a confidential arbitration proceeding, one of the people said. Messrs. Trump and Cohen had learned shortly before that Ms. Clifford was considering giving a media interview about her alleged relationship with Mr. Trump, despite having signed an October 2016 nondisclosure agreement.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Cohen to coordinate the legal response with Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons, and another outside lawyer who had represented Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization in other matters, the people said. Eric Trump, who is running the company with his brother in Mr. Trump’s absence, then tasked a Trump Organization staff attorney in California with signing off on the arbitration paperwork, these people said.

Direct involvement of the president and his son in this year’s effort to silence Ms. Clifford hasn’t previously been reported. The accounts of that effort recently provided to The Wall Street Journal suggest that the president’s ties to his company continued into this year and contradict public statements made at the time by the Trump Organization, the White House and Mr. Cohen. [Continue reading…]

Kavanaugh’s problem with alcohol

Jessica Francis Kane writes:

Alcoholism runs through my family, and what I saw every time Kavanaugh was questioned about his drinking was achingly familiar. The defiance, the casual references to “liking beer,” the mentioning of a friend who has a real problem, the insistence that he was the “Ralph King” because he has a “delicate stomach,” the turning the question on the questioner—all are tactics of the person with alcoholism who has been cornered. I’ve seen this scene before—in a kitchen, and in a driveway. But I was stunned to see it on the floor of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

I watched some of the news analysis of the hearing, hoping this angle would be discussed. But while there’s been quite a bit of discussion about Kavanaugh’s high school and college habits, there’s been very little discussion about his drinking now. Yet Kavanaugh used the present tense often. He said “I like beer” a number of times. He even asked two of the senators what they like to drink, the implication being now, not when they were in high school. When pressed during the hearing about whether he drank to excess in the past, Kavanaugh avoided the question and instead recited his accomplishments: Yale, Yale Law School, 12 years a federal judge. But high achievement in these realms doesn’t actually tell us anything about Kavanaugh’s drinking habits, now or in the past. Going to Yale is not an assurance of sobriety, and it does not rule out the possibility that he was also a problem drinker.

Based on the testimony of Ford and numerous accounts of people who knew, and drank with, Kavanaugh in college, we have good reason to believe that he abused alcohol in his youth. Liz Swisher, a former classmate, has said, “He drank heavily. He was a partier. He liked to do beer bongs. He played drinking games. He was a sloppy drunk.” Another acquaintance, Charles Ludington, released a statement saying, “On many occasions I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive.” We do not know whether he continues to drink this way, but the way he responded to questions about his past drinking makes it a relevant question. And yet, even in one of the most charged Senate committee hearings in decades, no one was willing to ask about his current drinking habits. [Continue reading…]

Kavanaugh in 2015: A judge must keep ’emotions in check’ and not be a ‘political partisan’

David Corn writes:

At Thursday’s historic and dramatic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Judge Brett Kavanaugh issued a fiery and angry response to the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her more than three decades ago. An upset Kavanaugh—who alternated between bursts of belligerence and tear-suppressing sniffles—assailed the hearing as “a calculated and orchestrated political hit.” He railed against “outside left-wing opposition groups” and claimed this “circus” was a Democratic plot fueled by “revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” whom he investigated in the 1990s. When questioned by Democratic senators, Kavanaugh was contentious, argumentative, and combative.

Kavanaugh’s performance at the hearing immediately raised questions about his judicial temperament. During his first set of confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh had declared, “The Supreme Court must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution.” Yet here he was now, hurling politicized vitriol. Judith Resnik, a law professor at Yale, told the New York Times his remarks were “partisan and not judicious.” And legal experts quickly began discussing whether Kavanaugh—whose previous work for independent counsel Kenneth Starr and the George W. Bush administration had already cast him as one of the more partisan federal judges—could be a fair-minded and politics-free arbiter as a Supreme Court justice.

Judicial temperament—and its importance—is a topic much discussed by legal mavens. One described it this way: “Judicial temperament, at its best, is a form of restraint that appears as an even-handedness of vision, a thorough-going fairness that eschews anger in favor of reason and clings to respect of all parties as an essential ingredient for the operation of justice.” Certainly, Kavanaugh’s testimony did not meet those standards.

And Kavanaugh’s appearance might not have met his own standards for judicial temperament. [Continue reading…]

Rachel Mitchell’s former colleague slams her Kavanaugh memo as ‘absolutely disingenuous’

Mother Jones reports:

A former colleague of Rachel Mitchell, the sex crimes prosecutor hired by Senate Republicans to question Christine Blasey Ford, blasted Mitchell for writing a memo casting doubt on Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Matthew Long, a former sex crimes prosecutor who was trained by Mitchell in the Maricopa County, Arizona, attorney’s office, told Mother Jones the memo was “disingenuous” and inconsistent with Mitchell’s own practices as a prosecutor. “I’m very disappointed in my former boss and mentor,” Long said.

On Sunday, Mitchell submitted the memo to the Republicans who had hired her, stating that Ford’s case would be too weak to bring charges in a criminal trial. “A ‘he said, she said’ case is incredibly difficult to prove,” Mitchell wrote. “But this case is even weaker than that…I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the Committee.”

The memo rankled Long, beginning with how Mitchell framed it. “I find her willingness to author this absolutely disingenuous. She knows better,” Long said. “She should only be applying this standard when there’s an adequate investigation.” Rather than jump to conclusions, Mitchell should have laid out the steps that needed to be taken in order to gather enough information to make a determination about the case. “Mitchell doesn’t have sufficient information to even draw these conclusions,” he said. [Continue reading…]

When Sen. Grassley announced that the Republicans had hired Mitchell, it seems noteworthy that he said she had “stepped forward” and that she “came to the committee staff” — in other words, it sounds very much like she sought out this position rather than that she was found. The implication being that rather than serving to “de-politicize the process,” Mitchell came with her own agenda. The contents of her memo make it apparent that, at least in part, that agenda was to defend the nomination of Kavanaugh.

The FBI will treat Kavanaugh’s lies as ‘a flashing signal to dig deeper’

James Comey writes:

F.B.I. agents are experts at interviewing people and quickly dispatching leads to their colleagues around the world to follow with additional interviews. Unless limited in some way by the Trump administration, they can speak to scores of people in a few days, if necessary.

They will confront people with testimony and other accounts, testing them and pushing them in a professional way. Agents have much better nonsense detectors than partisans, because they aren’t starting with a conclusion.

Yes, the alleged incident occurred 36 years ago. But F.B.I. agents know time has very little to do with memory. They know every married person remembers the weather on their wedding day, no matter how long ago. Significance drives memory. They also know that little lies point to bigger lies. They know that obvious lies by the nominee about the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to dig deeper. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports:

President Trump said on Saturday that the F.B.I. will have “free rein” to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, but the emerging contours of the inquiry showed its limited scope.

Four witnesses will be questioned in coming days about aspects of the assault accusations against Judge Kavanaugh, according to two people familiar with the matter. Left off the list were former classmates who have contradicted Judge Kavanaugh’s congressional testimony about his drinking and partying as a student.

The White House will decide the breadth of the inquiry, though presidential advisers were working in concert with Senate Republicans, said the two people, one a senior administration official, who both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation.

The White House can order investigators to further examine the allegations if their findings from the four witness interviews open new avenues of inquiry, and Mr. Trump seemed to stress that part of the plan in a tweet late on Saturday.

“I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion,” Mr. Trump wrote. He denied an NBC News report that he was limiting the inquiry and that investigators were not permitted to examine the claims of Julie Swetnick, a woman who has said she witnessed a severely drunken Judge Kavanaugh mistreat women at parties in high school, and that he had attended parties where high school boys gang-raped teenage girls.

Investigators will interview one of the witnesses, a high school friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s named Mark Judge, about Ms. Swetnick’s accusations, the two people said. [Continue reading…]