Democrats didn’t leak Dr. Ford’s letter—it was most likely the White House

Guardian News / YouTube Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford...
Guardian News / YouTube

The White House and Trump are clearly outraged over what poor Brett Kavanaugh had to endure before becoming the newest right-leaning corporate justice on the Supreme Court. They are livid and verklempt over his horrible treatment after Democrats “viciously and strategically” released horrible “lies and deceptions” about him in a failed attempt to derail his confirmation. This is exactly how they first responded to the news about the Blasey Ford accusations way, way back on Sept. 13.

In a statement, White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said that the FBI “has thoroughly and repeatedly vetted Judge Kavanaugh, dating back to 1993, for some of the most highly sensitive roles.”

“Not until the eve of his confirmation has Sen. Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him,” Kupec said. “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.”

So clearly Schumer and Feinstein were plotting secretly to strategically use Dr. Ford as a pawn in an attempt to destroy Kavanaugh. They had the letter, they had kept it hidden, and then, in the “11th hour” had decided to ambush Judge Kavanaugh in order to embarrass him using this poor, poor woman in their desperate and evil plan.

The problem with this argument is that nearly all the press reports prior to and including the New Yorker report that first detailed the contents of Dr. Ford’s letter indicate that Sen. Feinstein’s office didn’t share anything about the letter with anyone except the FBI on Sept 12. In fact, the most likely source for the ultimate release of Dr. Ford’s name and identity was the White House itself.

All their outrage is false.

During the ceremonial second victory-lap swearing-in of Kavanaugh this week, Trump took the amazing step of apologizing on behalf of America to the nominee and his family—something he still hasn’t done for the Central Park 5, or for practically anyone or anything else—and yet again viciously attacked Democrats who had stood against Kavanaugh’s confirmation and supported Dr. Ford.

Trump:

I would like to begin tonight’s proceeding differently than perhaps any other event of such magnitude. On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure.

Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception. What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency, and due process.

Our country, a man or woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is the standard for criminal trials, and Kavanaugh wasn’t on trial. He was being vetted for one of the most exclusive jobs on the planet, and, frankly, there really wasn’t enough evidence to meet legal standards, since the FBI didn’t actually bother to interview all 40 witnesses against him. But they didn’t do that; they only interviewed nine witnesses after Don McGahn told Trump to limit the FBI investigation, or else it might prove disastrous.

“Tell the F.B.I. they can investigate anything, [Trump] told Mr. McGahn, because we need the critics to stop,” the Times reports.

However, McGahn convinced Trump that “a wide-ranging inquiry like some Democrats were demanding — and Mr. Trump was suggesting — would be potentially disastrous for Judge Kavanaugh’s chances of confirmation to the Supreme Court.”

Wow, do tell.

Consequently, the FBI didn’t investigate everything, only just enough to appease Jeff Flake and then get Kavanaugh through anyway while proclaiming there was “no corroboration” of Dr. Ford’s claims—although there was also no corroboration of Kavanaugh’s claims, either.

During a convention of police chiefs this week in Orlando, Trump again strongly defended Kavanaugh for “toughing it out,” and claimed that those who criticized him were “people who were evil.”

“It was very, very unfair what happened to him,” Trump continued, “false charges, false accusations, horrible statements that were totally untrue that he knew nothing about.”

“It was a disgraceful situation brought about by people that are evil,” the president added. “And he toughed it out.”

I think those “evil people” are in a completely different place than Trump claims.

Trump has been so outraged by the behavior of Dianne Feinstein supposedly plotting against Kavanaugh that he pulled out the golden oldie “Lock Her Up” chant during a recent rally, but not for Hillary Clinton—this time, it was for Feinstein.

During a rally in the Iowa community of Council Bluffs, President Donald Trump’s supporters began chanting one of their most famous (or infamous) lines, “Lock her up!” The difference is that, whereas it had usually been directed against former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, this time its target was Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein.

The chant began after Trump accused Feinstein of leaking a confidential letter by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in which she accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers, according to The Washington Post. “Can you believe that?” Trump asked the audience, prompting them to begin their chant against Feinstein.

Following this up, Sen. Tom Cotton has threatened to have Feinstein investigated for violating Senate rules and sharing confidential Senate materials with the press.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office will be investigated to determine if it leaked a confidential letter from one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, Sen. Tom Cotton said Sunday.

Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, also said lawyers recommended to Christine Blasley Ford by Democrats will face a Washington, D.C., Bar investigation for telling her that committee staffers would not travel to California to interview her about her alleged assault.

“They have betrayed her,” Cotton said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “She has been victimized by Democrats … on a search-and-destroy mission for Brett Kavanaugh.”

He also said Democrats would be at fault if women become less likely to report sexual assaults now because they did not keep Ford’s request confidential, as she had asked.

Cotton also said that he would refer Dr. Ford’s lawyers to the District of Columbia Bar for failing to inform their client of the Judiciary Committee’s offer to meet privately with her in California instead of under the bright lights of national TV during a public hearing.

The problem with this is that none of that happened.

On CNN, Dr. Ford’s attorneys stated that they shared all their correspondence with the committee with their client and that there was no offer for the full committee to travel to California; the offer was committee staffers to make the trip, not the actual senators.

Katz: What they were offering was to send staffers to California. What Dr. Ford wanted was to speak to the committee.

Similarly, Cotton is totally wrong about what happened with Sen. Feinstein’s office and Dr. Ford’s letter.

The first thing that rational people have to remember is that the first report about Dr. Ford’s letter to Sen. Feinstein was a complaint by other Democrats who had heard about the existence of the letter, saying that Feinstein had so far refused to show it to them.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have privately requested to view a Brett Kavanaugh-related document in possession of the panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, but the senior California senator has so far refused, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation. [Emphasis added.]

The specific content of the document, which is a letter from a California constituent, is unclear, but Feinstein’s refusal to share the letter has created tension on the committee, particularly after Feinstein largely took a back seat to her more junior colleagues last week, as they took over Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings with protests around access to documents.

[…]

The letter took a circuitous route to Feinstein, the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. It purportedly describes an incident that was relayed to someone affiliated with Stanford University, who authored the letter* and sent it to Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents the area.

Different sources provided different accounts of the contents of the letter, and some of the sources said they themselves had heard different versions, but the one consistent theme was that it describes an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school.  Kept hidden, the letter is beginning to take on a life of its own.

Ryan Grimm of The Intercept has noted that Feinstein and her office weren’t the sources for the letter or the rumors about the letter.

It’s eminently clear from this original report that, other than Feinstein, none of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had a copy of the letter. They weren’t able to even describe it consistently.

As The Intercept describes, the letter had been sent to Washington through Ford’s local Representative Anne Eshoo’s office; Eshoo passed it on to Feinstein. Instead of Feinstein leaking the letter’s existence, it’s very likely that members of Eshoo’s staff were aware of the letter, but not of the contents; and to be fair, they may have unwittingly gossiped about it with other Democratic staffers, who ultimately passed on these rumors to The Intercept without even knowing what they were talking about.

They couldn’t possibly have known that Feinstein had personally pledged not to release the letter and to keep it confidential, as she ultimately testified.  The same day that The Intercept report was released, Sept. 12, Feinstein instead shared the letter with the FBI—as noted above by Grim—but she still didn’t let other Democrats see it, as reported by CNBC on Sept 13.

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein of California, said Thursday that she has referred a letter concerning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to federal authorities.

“I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” Feinstein said. “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 incident involved possible sexual misconduct between Kavanaugh and a woman who was also in high school at the time, two officials familiar with the matter told The New York Times. CNBC has not independently confirmed the contents of the letter.

[…]

Feinstein has not shared details about the letter beyond her statement Thursday, and no other senators on the Judiciary Committee have been permitted to see it, according to reports.

That same day the Washington Post reported that Feinstein had sat down with her fellow Democrats to explain why she had kept the letter confidential, but, as noted above, she didn’t give them copies of the letter—only a general description of its contents.

Democrats on the committee first learned about the letter’s contents at a meeting called at the last minute on Wednesday night. The letter had been relayed to Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), two people familiar with the matter said.

[…]

Other Democratic senators on the committee — who have, for weeks, been furious with the GOP over how they’ve proceeded with Kavanaugh’s nomination — declined to comment on the letter’s contents and the uncertainty that it caused. But privately, some Democrats had asked Feinstein about the letter’s substance as chatter about its existence emerged within the last week or so, prompting the last-minute meeting just off the Senate chamber.

The Washington Post report also confirms that Feinstein gave the letter to the FBI, but notes that, rather than launching a new investigation, they instead placed it in Kavanaugh’s background file, which meant that it was immediately available to the White House. It also notes that Rep. Eshoo’s office also refused to share any information about the letter or Ford.

Emma Crisci, a spokeswoman for Eshoo, said she could not comment because of a confidentiality policy involving constituent casework.

[…]

Several officials confirmed that the letter was referred to the FBI. But the bureau does not plan to launch a criminal investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter — a probe that would normally be handled by local authorities if it were within the statute of limitations.

Instead, the FBI passed the material to the White House as an update to Kavanaugh’s background check, which already has been completed, the person said. The move is similar to what the bureau did when allegations were leveled against former White House aide Rob Porter, who resigned earlier this year after the emergence of domestic abuse accusations from two former wives. [Emphasis added.]

Again, that same day the White House immediately began roaring that this was a “Democrat plot,” accusing Feinstein of being “in cahoots” with Sen. Schumer.

Kupec noted that the FBI has “thoroughly and repeatedly vetted” Kavanaugh through his 25-year public-service career, which includes work in the Office of Independent Counsel under Kenneth Starr, the George W. Bush White House, and his current position on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The spokeswoman also accused Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) of masterminding the latest developments surrounding the letter. But a Schumer aide said the senator has not had access to the letter.

Let me pause right here and recap: One day after The Intercept’s initial report, Feinstein has a copy of the letter; the FBI has a copy of the letter; and the White House has a copy of the letter—but no other Democrats have a copy of the letter, not even Minority Leader Schumer, because Feinstein, even though she may be willing to talk to them about it, has made a promise to Dr. Ford.

One more day later, on Sept 14, Ronan Farrow and Jane Maher at the New Yorker fully describe just about the entire contents of the letter.

‘The woman, who has asked not to be identified, first approached Democratic lawmakers in July, shortly after Trump nominated Kavanaugh. The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself. Although the alleged incident took place decades ago and the three individuals involved were minors, the woman said that the memory had been a source of ongoing distress for her, and that she had sought psychological treatment as a result.

They clearly had a copy of the letter. This is further shown because not only did they talk directly to Kavanaugh for a comment, but they also reached out to Mark Judge and to Dr. Ford for comments as well.

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

Kavanaugh’s classmate said of the woman’s allegation, “I have no recollection of that.”

The woman declined a request for an interview.

Again in this story, Farrow and Maher point out that Feinstein didn’t provide any information about the letter to the press, or even to other Democrats. In fact, Feinstein’s office actually tried to get them to drop the matter and waved them off of the issue by saying that it was “too distant in the past to merit public discussion,” and that she’d already “taken care of it” by referring the matter to the FBI.

Feinstein’s decision to handle the matter in her own office, without notifying other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stirred concern among her Democratic colleagues. For several days, Feinstein declined requests from other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to share the woman’s letter and other relevant communications. A source familiar with the committee’s activities said that Feinstein’s staff initially conveyed to other Democratic members’ offices that the incident was too distant in the past to merit public discussion, and that Feinstein had “taken care of it.” On Wednesday, after media inquiries to the Democratic members multiplied, and concern among congressional colleagues increased, Feinstein agreed to brief the other Democrats on the committee, with no staff present.

[…]

Sources familiar with Feinstein’s decision suggested that she was acting out of concern for the privacy of the accuser, knowing that the woman would be subject to fierce partisan attacks if she came forward. Feinstein also acted out of a sense that Democrats would be better off focusing on legal, rather than personal, issues in their questioning of Kavanaugh. Sources who worked for other members of the Judiciary Committee said  that they respected the need to protect the woman’s privacy, but that they didn’t understand why Feinstein had resisted answering legitimate questions about the allegation. “We couldn’t understand what their rationale is for not briefing members on this. This is all very weird,” one of the congressional sources said. Another added, “She’s had the letter since late July. And we all just found out about it.

Despite all the GOP talking points on this, all the reporting says that Feinstein did everything she possibly could— at least until The Intercept report came out— to keep Dr. Ford’s identity and the details of the letter confidential. It was actually the fact that she did that so completely that irritated some other Democrats; it was their grumbling that eventually reached the Intercept and started the snowball tumbling down the Hill.

That is not a “plot”; that is not a plan; that is a clusterfuck.

On Sept. 16, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward, revealing her name and the details of her story for the first time publicly in the Washington Post. The story notes that the FBI had sent a redacted copy of the letter to the White House, which in turn had shared a copy in the next few days with the full Judiciary Committee.

The FBI redacted Ford’s name and sent the letter to the White House to be included in Kavanaugh’s background file, according to a Judiciary Committee aide. The White House sent it to the Senate Judiciary Committee, making it available to all senators.

[…]

By then, Ford had begun to fear she would be exposed. People were clearly learning her identity: A BuzzFeed reporter visited her at her home and tried to speak to her as she was leaving a classroom where she teaches graduate students. Another reporter called her colleagues to ask about her.

On Friday, the New Yorker reported the letter’s contents but did not reveal Ford’s identity. Soon after, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) released a letter from 65 women who say they knew Kavanaugh when he attended high school from 1979 to 1983 at Georgetown Prep, an all-boys school in North Bethesda.

[…]

As the story snowballed, Ford said, she heard people repeating inaccuracies about her and, with the visits from reporters, felt her privacy being chipped away. Her calculation changed.

“These are all the ills that I was trying to avoid,” she said, explaining her decision to come forward. “Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.”

Katz said she believes Feinstein honored Ford’s request to keep her allegation confidential, but “regrettably others did not.”

Others did not.  Obviously, somebody talked.

But there is every indication that the somebody wasn’t Sen. Feinstein or her office. It also wasn’t any other Democrat, because, up until the point that the New Yorker began to publish excerpts from the letter, none of them besides Feinstein had a copy of it. The only people who had actual copies of the letter were the FBI and the Trump White House.

I’m willing to throw doubt on the FBI being the source of the leak largely because it’s fairly unlikely: not that long before, deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe was fired just days from becoming fully vested for retirement because he didn’t immediately admit to the Inspector General’s office that he had authorized a leak to the Wall Street Journal about continuing FBI investigations into the Clinton Foundation.

McCabe has filed a defamation and wrongful termination suit in response, claiming that he has emails between himself and James Comey that show that he did take responsibility for the leak before he was questioned by the Inspector General. Still, the chances are pretty low that the FBI leaked the letter and details of Kavanaugh’s background report to the press. Also, none of the supplemental background check investigation and interviews that were prompted by Dr. Ford’s testimony have been released to the press.

Also, if the FBI had done it, Trump and the GOP would be screaming bloody murder over it.

The leaves one single solitary source for the leak: the White House.

As soon as the FBI added the letter to Kavanaugh’s background file, it was available for White House counsel Don McGahn to review and share with whomever he liked. I submit he deliberately shared it with the press for various reasons.

First, it was reported back in August by Politico that Trump would welcome being impeached because he feels that it would backfire on Democrats, because he’d never be convicted and removed by the Senate.

“If they take the House, he wins big,” explained former Trump adviser Barry Bennett, with others hearkening back to the impeachment of ex-President Bill Clinton, who grew more popular after his impeachment in 1998. “Well-respected thinkers believe that the more extreme the Democrats go, the more middle of the road voters will gravitate to Trump,” suggested a prominent conservative who wished to remain anonymous.

Technically, the piece makes a strong point. That the Ed Whelan doppelganger theory, which suggests that Dr. Ford was absolutely telling the truth, but at the same time so was Kavanaugh because she didn’t know what she was talking about when she said she was “100 percent certain” that her attacker was Brett Kavanaugh, was so easily adopted as an uncomfortable straddling position by Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin shows us that similar ridiculous politically convenient positions are likely to be assumed if the Senate were to take up the conviction and removal of Trump.

The probability that both were telling the truth and that Kavanaugh simply didn’t remember because of his drinking was ignored because all the witnesses who supported that argument, such his former Yale roommate Jamie Roche (who fully backed up Deborah Ramirez’s credibility), were ignored by the FBI on the orders of Don McGahn.

“As Brett’s roommate, I’m in a singular position—I saw him use words in a different way than the way he said under oath. If a person isn’t truthful about these little things, then we ought to think very seriously about whether we should tell Debby that she’s wrong or crazy.”

To the GOP, it doesn’t matter that Papadopoulos was personally authorized by Trump to illegally interact with and reach out to the Russians, and was the first to discover that they had obtained a trove of illegally hacked emails connected to Hillary Clinton, and that he not only didn’t bother to inform the FBI that he’d been made aware of a felony, but he was directed by Jeff Sessions to “find out everything he could” about them. It doesn’t matter that Paul Manafort had a Russian military intelligence officer on his payroll and was repeatedly making offers to provide a Russian gangster/oligarch with inside information on the Trump campaign. It doesn’t matter that Don Jr. had a meeting in Trump Tower with an admitted informant for the Kremlin and yet another Russian intelligence asset to attempt to illegally trade influence on U.S. policy in exchange for access to political dirt on Hillary Clinton, and that Trump dictated a covering lie about that meeting being “mostly about adoptions.” It doesn’t matter that Rick Gates had taken various proposals from an Israeli intelligence firm to influence the delegates during the nomination process and also potentially against Hillary Clinton in the general. It doesn’t matter that Michael Cohen actually did travel to Prague during the campaign, most likely to meet with Manafort’s GRU associate Konstantin Kilimnick. It doesn’t matter that Cambridge Analytica, which also used social media to influence voters after stealing the personal data of millions of Americans, also has several direct ties to Russian firms and the FSB.

None of that matters to them any more than Kavanaugh’s obvious perjury matters. The Senate is not going to remove Trump, even if Mueller gets Putin to confess on steps of the Capitol.

Secondly, the White House had already released Dr. Ford’s identity to multiple GOP operatives, including Ed Whelan, as soon as they were informed of her name by the Washington Post on Sept. 16, just before she herself came forward.

After preparing the story in which Professor Christine Blasey Ford  told her story, in which she says she worrying [sic] that a drunken Kavanaugh might kill her in his attack, the Post contacted the Trump White House for comment, as is standard reporting procedure.

At that point, the Post now reports, Raj Shah, the Deputy Press Secretary who would be responsible for coordinating an official response reportedly “called a number of Trump allies to warn them about the upcoming story.”

[…]

“[Raj Shah] disclosed Ford’s identity to a number of people,” the Post reports.

However, the source and the Post sought to distance Shah from the conduct of Kavanaugh ally Ed Whalen. Whalen, a close friend of Kavanaugh, searched Blasey Ford’s LinkedIn page before the Post’s story was published as part of his research.

If they were willing to do that, exactly why wouldn’t they release the letter itself as soon as they received it from the FBI on Sept. 12-13?

Similar to the impeachment backfire argument, Trump has even claimed that “poor treatment” of Kavanaugh would be a boost for Republicans in the midterms.

The president’s calculation, however, is that conservative voters who for most of the year have been lethargic about the congressional elections can now be motivated to turn out by anger over the Democratic attacks on Justice Kavanaugh. Liberal voters, in this view, were already animated by their opposition to Mr. Trump and likely to vote even before Justice Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault and exposing himself during drunken school parties, so Democrats have less to gain at this point.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of things happen on Nov. 6 that would not have happened before,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Monday before flying to Orlando to address the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “The American public has seen this charade, has seen this dishonesty by the Democrats.”

The Trump White House frankly was the only suspect with the opportunity, means, and motive to release Dr. Ford’s letter to the press before she came forward herself. Now they’re using that revelation to do exactly what Trump said he would: attack Democrats and gin up massive outrage among his base for the poor treatment of Justice Kavanaugh, and even claim that Democrats used Dr. Ford as a pawn, when in fact it was their own release of her letter that ultimately forced her to come forward.

Unfortunately, the record shows that this outrage is false, it’s a scam, just like the Trump family scammed the IRS for decades to avoid paying nearly a half-billion dollars in inheritance taxes.

He will stoop to anything, and stop at literally nothing.

I submit that the facts and evidence show that Sen. Feinstein and her office have been proven innocent by Ryan Grim and Dr. Ford’s own attorneys. Trump is the guilty one here, and he’s trying to exploit his base’s blind rage to keep the Democrats from taking the Senate or the House and protect himself from any real investigation.

The first thing that should be investigated is who in the White House outed Dr. Ford’s letter to the press.

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3 Comments on "Democrats didn’t leak Dr. Ford’s letter—it was most likely the White House"

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Alfred Higgins
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Alfred Higgins

Oh, there’s no outrage like fake outrage, there’s no outrage I knowooooo….!

Debra
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Debra

But of course there will be no investigations because it’s all a big game to this White House and the rethugs. So Trump says things are going to happen on Nov 6. I wonder what that is? More Russian intervention?

William Bell
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William Bell
“[In the Intercept article that disclosed the gist of Ford’s accusatory letter] Farrow and Maher point out that Feinstein didn’t provide any information about the letter to the press, or even to other Democrats.” According to Walton, this means that the leak came either from the FBI or the White House. Whoa right there! That deduction — which is the linchpin of Walton’s ultimate contention that the leak came from the White House — is a non sequitur. It’s a non sequitur because Farrow and Maher merely denied that the leak came from Feinstein, which doesn’t narrow down the possible… Read more »