Of all the absurdities we’ve been asked to swallow throughout the Brett M. Kavanaugh saga, perhaps none is more insulting than this one: the sight of President Trump rooting his defense of Kavanaugh in the idea that Kavanaugh has been treated with profound unfairness and is the true victim in this situation.
The notion that Trump is driven by any concept of moral desert, other than “If I can get away with grabbing that p—-y, I deserve it,” is laughable. (If that sounds crude, let me remind you that Trump himself used that language while boasting of his ability to get away with committing that particular act.)
But in the context of the Kavanaugh fight, Trump’s view that he and people like him should be able to do whatever they like with impunity has stained and corrupted the process of selecting a new Supreme Court justice from top to bottom.
Some new reporting in The Post sheds light on Trump’s state of mind, now that the Kavanaugh nomination is in some doubt. Trump is “simmering with frustration” over the sluggish pace of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and he and his aides are angry at Senate Republicans over it (emphasis added):
Despite their public projections of unity, Trump and his aides behind the scenes see Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) as having been too accommodating to Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when he was 17, by delaying her hearing until Thursday. The president has said that Republicans are too easily manipulated by Democrats, that he is sick of Ford’s attorneys getting their way and that he does not believe her accusations are credible, according to a Republican briefed on Trump’s private comments.
Trump is also in a rage over the Russia probe — which is currently playing out in the drama around whether he’ll fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — and there is a murky overlap in his mind between that and his anger over Kavanaugh. The Post reports this remarkable detail:
Both issues are especially personal for Trump: He sees the Russia investigation as an existential threat looming over his presidency, and, as someone who has been accused of sexual assault by over a dozen women, he is sensitive to the fear that a powerful man’s career could be ruined by a single accusation, the president’s associates have said.
Publicly, Trump has repeatedly said that Kavanaugh is being horribly victimized. Trump tweeted Monday night that Democrats are trying to “destroy” Kavanaugh “with an array of False Accusations the likes of which have never been seen before.” Trump told reporters that “this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen for a candidate for anything.” Trump previously said that he feels “so badly” for Kavanaugh, and that he “is not a man who deserves this.”
Trump’s private musings shed additional light on how absurd this posture really is. In Trump’s view, Republicans should have given less in the way of concessions to Ford than they already have. But Republicans are doing the absolute minimum in accommodating Ford and treating her allegations with procedural fairness that they can get away with — even though they themselves claim to want to give her a fair hearing.
Republicans are doing the minimum
To recap: Grassley first wanted to give Ford a hearing by only setting up private calls between her and senators. When that became politically untenable, Republicans agreed to a public hearing — but only if Ford did it on their supposedly unalterable schedule. It was only after Ford and her legal team called their bluff that Republicans agreed to be more accommodating on timing — because the politics of the situation left them no choice.
Even now, Republicans have largely done everything they can to prevent a full accounting of this episode. They have denied requests for any further witnesses to be called, such as Mark Judge, the man whom Ford claims was present when Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted her.
In a perfectly fitting revelation, it turns out that Judge is literally in hiding right now: A Post reporter was able to track him down, finding him holed up at a friend’s house nearly three hours away. He refused to say anything, other than: “How’d you find me?”
Republicans have also refused to consider Ford’s request for the FBI to reopen the background check process, which would go great lengths toward ensuring that lawmakers — which is to say, them — have as much information as possible as they assess testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh. But even if Republicans were to call for this, there is no way Trump would do so — after all, he’s already denounced the FBI as a “cancer” on this country, because the Russia investigation is subjecting him to accountability. In this sense, the Rosenstein and Kavanaugh affairs are oddly entangled with one another, and Trump’s own corruption is at the root of why a legitimate and independent fact-gathering effort in the Kavanaugh situation is impossible.
On top of all this, as Jonathan Chait notes, Kavanaugh’s supporters are demanding that we genuflect to them as the true champions of due process and procedural fairness, as they are insisting Kavanaugh is innocent until proven guilty. This, even as they openly cheer on Republicans’ efforts to place as many limits as possible on the amount of third-party testimony and independently gathered information brought to bear on this process, information that you’d think would exonerate Kavanaugh if what they themselves say is true about his innocence.
It is of course true of Kavanaugh as an individual is entitled to the presumption of innocence. But in this case he is asking to be elevated to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. The brute bottom line of the situation is that individual senators are the ones who decide on what is procedurally appropriate in this situation. A fair process is what they say it is, with their votes, and their use of their votes as leverage. Two Republican senators could declare right now that they cannot support Kavanaugh unless more witnesses are heard from or unless the FBI is asked to reopen the background check, or both. By not doing these things, they — and no one else — are deciding that the current process is fair and adequate in selecting someone for a lifetime position with immense influence over our society and the rest of us.
The crowning absurdity
In that regard, it is telling that their view of what counts as a fair process is also animated by the idea that Kavanaugh is the true victim here. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday uncorked a diatribe about supposed Democratic efforts to “destroy” Kavanaugh. Or, as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) put it, Kavanaugh is the target of a “drive-by shooting.” Politico reports that Graham and other Trump allies want GOP leaders to “jam” Kavanaugh through — that is, with even less of an effort to get a full accounting than we may get now.
The fact that Trump not only believes Kavanaugh is being brutally victimized but also relates this supposed unfairness to his own treatment at the hands of his own female accusers is the crowning absurdity on this whole affair — but it’s also weirdly revealing as well. After all, Trump was not just credibly accused by a dozen women of sexual assault and harassment — he was caught on tape proudly admitting to the act.
The true threat of victimization lies in the idea that Trump might be held accountable for that conduct. We don’t yet know whether Kavanaugh is guilty of similar conduct — he very well may not be — but Trump and Republicans are doing all they can to forestall the most comprehensive possible effort to find out, because so doing, by their own declaration, would amount to victimizing him.