Senate vote 50-48 for Kavanaugh

The US Senate is due to vote on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court this morning NZ time.

It looks like being a done deal for Kavanaugh, but that may not be the end of the controversy.

New Zealand has a cl;ear separation between the appointment of judges and politicians, as it should be, so it is strange and alarming to see how political important appointments to the highest judicial position are.

The vote was 51-49

Division over Kavanaugh nomination continues towards vote

the Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court wil go to a preliminary vote soon, but a final vote won’t happen until Sunday NZ time.

The Hill:  Bitter partisan battle over Kavanaugh enters final chapter

The Senate will take a pivotal vote Friday on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as the battle over President Trump’s pick enters its final chapter.

Four senators — three Republicans and a Democrat — remained undecided on Thursday, though two of them signaled a sense of satisfaction with the FBI’s investigation of sexual misconduct allegations that threatened to torpedo Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Senate Republican leaders plan to hold a key procedural vote Friday morning, setting up a confirmation vote for Saturday afternoon. Friday’s cloture vote is scheduled to happen at 10:30 a.m.

That’s 6.30 am NZ time.

If senators vote Friday to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination, as expected, they will have to allow another 30 hours for procedural debate, putting the final vote in mid-afternoon the following day.

Kavanaugh went to the extraordinary length of writing an op-ed. Fox News: Kavanaugh, in op-ed, decries ‘vicious’ attacks while saying he ‘might have been too emotional’ at hearing

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh penned an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, decrying what he described as “vicious” attacks against him while admitting he “might have been too emotional” during his hearing on Capitol Hill last week.

“I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times,” Kavanaugh wrote. “I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said.

Some have said that this sort of emotion is not good for a judge, and others have questioned Kavanaugh’s partisanship – Reuters:  Kavanaugh does not belong on Supreme Court, retired Justice Stevens says

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said on Thursday that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh does not belong on the high court because of “potential bias” he showed in his recent Senate confirmation hearing.

Speaking to an audience of retirees in Boca Raton, Florida, Stevens, 98, said he started out believing that Kavanaugh deserved to be confirmed, “but his performance during the hearings caused me to change my mind.”

Stevens cited commentary by Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe and others suggesting Kavanaugh had raised doubts about his political impartiality when he asserted that sexual misconduct accusations he faced stemmed from an “orchestrated political hit” funded by left-wing groups seeking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

However partisanship in judicial matters appears to be an accepted norm in the US.

The four editorials listed at RealClear Politics give an indication of the division over the nomination.

Many have taken sides and put reason aside to defend their entrenched positions.

Whichever way the votes go today and tomorrow a lot of people are likely to be very unhappy.

In a number of ways this nomination has been an indication of how much of a mess politics, democracy, and increasingly the judiciary, has become in the US. And there is no indication it will go anywhere other than downhill from here.

One thing that Donald Trump has already achieved as President is the most huge amount of division imaginable, and he gives every indication he intends to continue to play his game that way.

I’ll update this post today as the results of the first vote become known

Kavanaugh inquiry seems like a political sham

Both Democrats and Republicans have dragged the Supreme Court nomination process down into a debacle, and the rushed and hobbled FBI inquiry has just added to a spectacle that should be an embarrassment to the United States.

It looks like the limited inquiry has just initiated more controversy, which is hardly surprising given how rushed it was.

Fox News: White House receives FBI report on Kavanaugh, ‘fully confident’ he’ll be confirmed

The White House on Thursday announced that it has received the FBI’s supplemental background investigation into President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, and is “fully confident” that he will eventually be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

The FBI was tasked by Trump last week to look into allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against Kavanaugh by three women. The investigation commenced after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — the first woman to come forward — testified before the Senate Judiciary last week about her claims against the federal judge.

Raj Shah, the principal deputy press secretary for the White House, said the FBI report is currently “being transmitted to the Senate.”

“With [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell’s cloture filing, Senators have been given ample time to review this seventh background investigation,” Shah said in a statement posted to Twitter.

‘Ample time’ is a joke.

“This is the last addition to the most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history, which includes extensive hearings, multiple committee interviews, over 1,200 questions for the record and over a half million pages of documents.”

Shah said the “White House is fully confident” Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the Supreme Court in the Senate vote.

Fox News: Grassley says new FBI report backs Kavanaugh, urges Senate to send him to high court

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, declared earlier Thursday that nothing in the document changed his mind, and that it was time to vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

“I’ve now received a committee staff briefing on the FBI’s supplement to Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation file,” Grassley said Thursday. “There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know. These uncorroborated accusations have been unequivocally and repeatedly rejected by Judge Kavanaugh, and neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations.

Republican swing senators on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination indicated Thursday they were satisfied with the FBI’s investigation into sexual assault allegations against the Supreme Court pick, stirring speculation they could back the embattled judge in the end.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has stayed mum on her Kavanaugh stance, said Thursday that the bureau’s supplemental background probe “appears to be a very thorough investigation.”

And Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who originally requested the FBI re-open its investigation into the claims leveled against Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford, agreed.

“No new corroborative information came out of it,” Flake said on Capitol Hill Thursday. “Thus far, we’ve see no new credible corroboration—no new corroboration at all.”

But Flake continued to keep the public guessing, returning to view the report again saying he has “more reading” to do. He pulled a surprise last week when he publicly backed Kavanaugh, and then demanded the FBI probe before a final vote.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who also is considered a swing vote, was going to view the document Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to read it myself,” Murkowski said on her way to read the report for the first time. “I’m gonna go in with my eyes to it.”

But Fox News: Ford’s lawyers slam FBI investigation after McConnell signals Kavanaugh vote later this week

Attorneys for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford late Wednesday slammed the FBI background investigation into President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, after it was revealed that the agency’s probe appears to be over.

“An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford– nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony– cannot be called an investigation,” the statement read. “We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”

Sources previously told Fox News that Senators and some aides would be able to start looking at the FBI’s background investigation on Thursday morning and that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would be given the first chance to look at the report.

It sounds like conclusions have been reached before most people have had a chance to read the report.

Business Insider: ‘Our fears have been realised’: Democrats slam FBI investigation into Kavanaugh

  • Senate Democrats condemned the FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, calling it “incomplete.”
  • Democrats have accused the White House of limiting the probe, and they point to the fact that the FBI didn’t interview either Kavanaugh or his most prominent accuser, professor Christine Blasey Ford.

Senate Democrats condemned the FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, arguing that the probe was limited by the White House and plagued by a lack of transparency.

After being briefed on the report, of which only one hard copy has been made available to senators under time limits and intense security, Democratic leadership called the probe “incomplete” and pushed for Republicans to release a redacted version of it and of the White House’s directive to the FBI instructing the law enforcement agency on how to conduct the investigation.

“We had many fears that this was a very limited process that would constrain the FBI from getting all the facts,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a brief press conference on Thursday morning. “Having received a thorough briefing on the documents, those fears have been realised.”

Schumer said that he disagrees with Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley’s description of the report as containing “no hint of misconduct.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called the report “a product of an incomplete investigation” and accused the White House of blocking the FBI from “doing its job.”

“The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” she said during the press conference.

Democratic lawmakers were given one hour on Thursday morning to view the report in a secure room in the Senate.

A rushed inquiry and rushed reading are very poor ways of dealing with such an important nomination.

Fox News: GOP senator said he urged Trump to pick someone other than Kavanaugh

During a passionate speech to his Senate colleagues, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse told lawmakers he “urged” President Trump earlier this summer to consider choosing another Supreme Court nominee after discovering Judge Brett Kavanaugh was his top pick.

Speaking about the #MeToo movement and the rancorous debate over Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the sexual assault allegations against him, Sasse said on the Senate floor Wednesday he asked Trump to “make a different choice” for the nation’s highest court as early as June. He also sharply rebuked the president for mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — the woman who accused the federal judge of sexual misconduct more than 30 years ago.

Sasse, from Nebraska, didn’t reveal who he asked Trump to nominate but did hint it was a woman. Amy Coney Barrett and Joan Larsen were considered on the short list for Trump’s consideration.

“Part of my argument then was that the very important #MeToo movement was also very new and this Senate is not at all well prepared to handle potential allegations of sexual harassment and assault that might have come forward,” Sasse said, adding his warning “was absent of knowing a particular nominee.”

The inquiry may may now lead the way to a vote for the appointment of Kavanaugh, but it is unlikely to calm the controversy down.

There have been a number of reports like this from the New Yorker: The F.B.I. Probe Ignored Testimonies from Former Classmates of Kavanaugh

Frustrated potential witnesses who have been unable to speak with the F.B.I. agents conducting the investigation into sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, have been resorting to sending statements, unsolicited, to the Bureau and to senators, in hopes that they would be seen before the inquiry concluded.

NBC News reported that dozens of people who said that they had information about Kavanaugh had contacted F.B.I. field offices, but agents had not been permitted to talk to many of them. Several people interested in speaking to the F.B.I. expressed exasperation in interviews with The New Yorker at what they perceived to be a lack of interest in their accounts.

The FBI did not interview either Kavanaugh himself, nor Christine Blasey Ford.

I’ve just heard a very slanted speech by Mitch McConnell who lauded Kavanaugh and slammed accusers. He said that the FBI couldn’t find any corroborating witnesses, but there have been a number of claims from people that they were ignored by the FBI.

This nomination is a mess that reflects very poorly on politics and justice in the US.

One thing seems sure – this will do nothing to calm the controversy down.

 

Kavanaugh unsuited for Supreme Court

While there is a concerted campaign by Brett Kavanaugh supporters to play down accusations and to discredit accusers, his suitability for the Supreme Court looks increasingly untenable.

There are valid points about ‘innocent unless proven guilty’ to some degree, but a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States must meet higher standards. Kavanaugh’s manner at the Senate hearing last week alone raised questions about his demeanour and his political bias. And claims of drunken behaviour and belligerence keep emerging.

Ana Navarro (CNN): For the good of us all, Brett Kavanaugh should step aside

The ideology of a nominee, and factors like race, gender, ethnicity and creed, are all solely the President’s choice. But there are other requirements for a Supreme Court appointment that should not be optional. A Supreme Court Justice should have intellectual heft, judicial temperament and lifelong fitness of character.

There is no doubt Kavanaugh meets the intellect requirement.

In his first hearings, he came across as calm and deliberative — a cross between a Boy Scout and an altar boy.

That all changed once Professor Ford’s allegations emerged.

Let me say clearly and unequivocally, I believe Christine Blasey Ford.

I believe her because she is not a partisan activist. I believe her because during his hearing, Kavanaugh lied about little things he didn’t need to. I believe her because his good friend, Mark Judge, wrote a book called, “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk,” which mentions a character named “O’Kavanaugh” he frequently got wasted with.

(See FBI interviews Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge)

A lot of people think we should not define a person’s entire life because of grave mistakes made as a teenager. I tend to agree with that. Kavanaugh is certainly not alone in doing things as a teenager that most of us as adults would rather forget.

But his nomination is for the Supreme Court. It is different than any other position in government. Once named, you can’t be fired. You are not accountable to voters or even a President. It is a lifetime appointment. And unlike appointments to lower courts, there is no retirement age and impeachment is almost unheard of. All of this makes the standard for confirmation higher.

I now believe Kavanaugh lacks the judicial temperament and character to serve on the Supreme Court. In the last hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was screaming, crying, disrespectful and partisan.

In his testimony in front of the committee, Kavanaugh was a partisan attack dog. He showed resentment and disdain for Democrats. He questioned Senator Klobuchar about her drinking habits. He brought Trump’s election into it. He blamed Professor Ford’s allegations on Clinton allies seeking revenge for his role in the Starr investigation.

But again, this is for the Supreme Court. Justices are supposed to be free from external political pressures. Given what we heard from Kavanaugh and the emotional scars this process will leave him with, given his animosity for Democrats and his indebtedness to Republicans, would he ever be capable of judicial independence? Every Senator, regardless of party, should ask themselves that question.

If Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court there will always be questions about his character and his political bias.

Mike Godwin is an attorney, author, and creator of Godwin’s Law.

And more and more facts against Kavanaugh are emerging.

NZH: Brett Kavanaugh and his staff reportedly sent text messages to cover up indecent exposure allegations

Last week, a separate report claimed he exposed himself during a drunken dormitory party in the same period, with various former classmates now publicly weighing in on his alleged out-of-control drinking habits in detail.

And now it has emerged that Kavanaugh and his staff were allegedly sending text messages to silence reports of indecent exposure — before the story had even broken.

Late last month, The New Yorker published a story in which Kavanaugh’s former classmate Deborah Ramirez claimed he exposed himself to others at a party in the early 1980s.

In the report, Ramirez, 53, claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself “at a drunken dormitory party” where she alleged he “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away”.

The story noted she had “gaps” in her memory from drinking, and that she couldn’t clarify his role “with certainty” for six days after first speaking with the journalists who published the story.

Kavanaugh denies the claims.

“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen,” he wrote in a statement. “The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations.”

But it’s now emerged that Kavanaugh, 53, and his staff were reportedly sending text messages to former Yale classmates to underplay these allegations — before the story was actually published.

In one message, Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked her to go on the record to defend him. Another two messages show communication between Kavanaugh’s team and former classmates before The New Yorker story broke, suggesting Kavanaugh knew about Ramirez’s allegations in advance.

A judge trying to influence potential witnesses should raise legal eyebrows.

A one-time classmate of Kavanaugh said he was a habitual heavy drinker, challenging the judge’s Senate testimony to the contrary.

“I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth,” Chad Ludington told reporters.

The North Carolina State University professor, who said he had contacted the FBI with his information, indicated on Sunday in a statement that Kavanaugh was “belligerent and aggressive” when he drank.

A separate report published by The New York Times today claims Kavanaugh has a history of alcohol-related violence during this period of his life.

Sure, valid criticisms can be made of how Democrats have politicised the nomination – but so have Republicans and Trump.

But partisan crap aside, Kavanaugh is looking increasingly risky for, if not outright unsuitable for, a position on the US Supreme Court,

FBI ‘background investigation’ requested before Kavanaugh vote

The US Senate Judiciary Committee has requested that the FBI conduct a background investigation before a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They want this done in just a week, but it seems a prudent pause in proceedings.

Reuters (Twitter):

Republican Senator Flake says it would be proper to delay floor vote on Kavanaugh for up to one week.

Senate Judiciary Committee will request Trump administration has FBI conduct background investigation into Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh.

Senate panel says supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to ‘current credible allegations’ against Kavanaugh, must be completed in one week.

One week isn’t a lot of time for this, but it is better than a highly politicised Senate hearing that proved little apart from vested interests and manipulation of both Republicans and Democrats.

Vox:  Trump says he’ll defer to senators on Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote

President Donald Trump praised his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, for his “riveting” testimony during his Senate Judiciary hearing on Thursday night, then demanded, “The Senate must vote!”

But on Friday, answering reporters’ questions as he met with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, Trump said he’d defer to senators on how they wanted the nomination to play out. “Well, I’m going to let the Senate handle that, they’ll make their decisions,” Trump told reporters.

When asked if Trump would approve a reopening of an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, Trump said he would rely on lawmakers. That’s going to “be a decision that they’re going to make,” the president said. “And I suspect they’ll be making some decision soon, whether to take a vote, or to do whatever else they want to do.”

“I will be totally reliant on what Sen. Grassley and the group decides to do,” Trump added.

Also from Vox: Every time Ford and Kavanaugh dodged a question, in one chart

Beyond the style of their testimonies, there was a striking difference in the content of their words. Both Ford and Kavanaugh fielded questions from senators and the prosecutor hired by Republicans, Rachel Mitchell.

But only Ford made an effort to answer every single question.

Kavanaugh actively dodged questions. He often repeated the same non-answer over and over. Other times, he insisted on answering a question with “context” — which inevitably was a long story about his childhood — but never actually answered the question.

It may be up to the FBI now to get some questions answered.

A dramatic last-minute demand by Republican Senator Jeff Flake on Friday prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to seek an FBI investigation into President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over sexual misconduct allegations that have riveted the country and imperiled his confirmation chances.

The Republican-led committee approved Kavanaugh’s nomination and sent it to the full Senate over Democratic opposition, with Flake providing the decisive vote.

But Flake, a moderate Republican, cast his vote only after asking the panel to request that the Trump administration pursue an FBI probe of the explosive allegations against Kavanaugh and delay a final Senate confirmation vote for up to a week to allow the investigation to run its course.

Flake’s action came a day after the Judiciary Committee’s jarring and emotional hearing into the allegations against Kavanaugh that gripped the country, with a university professor named Christine Blasey Ford accusing him of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when both were high schools students in Maryland. Kavanaugh denied the accusation.

Flake’s action put the confirmation prospects for Kavanaugh, a conservative federal appeals court judge nominated for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court, in further jeopardy in a Senate only narrowly controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Republican Senate leaders agreed to Flake’s demand but the White House would have to direct the FBI to act. Trump said earlier he would rely on the Senate’s decision about how to move forward.

I think the White House will have to direct the FBI to act, otherwise a could will keep hanging over Kavanaugh’s nomination.

It sounds like Trump may have been given a choice of this or insufficient votes in support of the nomination.

Ford testimony, Kavanaugh response

Christine Blasey Ford has been giving testimony on Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the US Senate.

This is on events alleged to have happened a long time ago.

Ford seems like a genuine and credible witness, but memories are no always accurate over long periods of time in particular. However it does seem that she has genuine beliefs about what happened.

Kavanaugh has not looked or sounded convincing in what I have seen of him denying things.

From Reuters:

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies on Capitol Hill regarding sexual assault accusations by Christine Blasey Ford

Kavanaugh says he was not at the party described by Dr. Ford

Kavanaugh says he had demanded a hearing, says his family and name have been destroyed by accusations against him

Kavanaugh says Democratic rhetoric, reaction against him aimed to ‘blow me up and take me down’

Kavanaugh cites a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare him and drive him out of the process, ‘crazy stuff’, says the opposition against him has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled by anger against Trump; ‘This is a circus’

Kavanaugh says he will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process, says while he may be defeated in the final vote, he will never quit; says due process means listening to both sides

Kavanaugh says he is ‘innocent’ and that he has ‘never done this’ to Ford ‘or to anyone’

Kavanaugh says no one ever accused him of any kind of sexual misconduct through his career; categorically and unequivocally denies the accusations against him by Ford

The increasingly messy US Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominations in the US have a history of being strongly contested and political, but the current nominee process for Brett Kavanaugh  is particularly messy, with multiple claims of historic sexual abuse that Kavanaugh denies.

If the accusations are true it would justify disqualifying Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court role, but if the accusations are false it would reflect very poorly on the complainants.

Kavanaugh has been put in an invidious and very difficult position if he is innocent, but if the accusations are true the complainants have put themselves into the public glare with extreme attacks leveled at them, including death threats.

And as this may amount to some people’s words against other from thirty years ago it may never be properly resolved.

Donald Trump stands by his nominee. NPR: Trump Calls Kavanaugh ‘Outstanding,’ Dismissing Latest Sexual Misconduct Allegation

Trump, speaking to reporters on his way into the United Nations on Monday morning, said Kavanaugh “is an outstanding person, and I am with him all the way.”

He said the charges “could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen for a candidate for anything.” The women making the allegations, Trump said, “were coming out of the woodwork,” and he said “in my opinion totally political.”

The accusations:

The latest accusation comes from Deborah Ramirez, who in a story published in The New Yorker, alleges Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken party at Yale when both attended college there in the 1980s.

This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing into the allegation by Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh groped her and tried to remove her clothes during a party when both were in high school in Bethesda, Md.

Ford and Kavanaugh have agreed to testify, although Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for the panel to postpone the hearing following the latest allegation.

Kavanaugh’s denial in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“These are smears, pure and simple. And they debase our public discourse. But they are also a threat to any man or woman who wishes to serve our country. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination—if allowed to succeed—will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service.”

It’s hard to see this ending up in anything but a contentious improperly resolved mess.

If the complainants are right it is another step forward in the #MeToo movement addressing widespread inappropriate sexual behaviour and habits.

If they are trumped up charges This would be one of the highest profile and most insidious political hit jobs.

The claims don”t sound particularly serious – “groped her and tried to remove her clothes during a party” and “exposed himself to her during a drunken party”.

The reality may be that some women did really feel that Kavanaugh acted inappropriately while at university (not an abnormal thing) and were genuinely offended, while Kavanaugh and his supporters think there was nothing out of the ordinary or offensive with anything he did.

What it may amount to is that what was not ‘out of the ordinary” thirty years ago is now deemed offensive – but does that justify declining Supreme Court nomination?