The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Why are accusations against Kavanaugh coming out now?

After a sexual assault allegation surfaced against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, Republicans have been pushing to hear from both parties quickly. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

To defend Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh from an on-the-record allegation that he sexually assaulted someone in high school, his supporters — including some of the most powerful Republicans — are coalescing around this question: Why is this all coming out now?

The implication is that this allegation is a politically motivated attack by Democrats to sink Kavanaugh’s nomination, since they can’t stop it with votes alone. The allegation surfaced within a week of when the Republican-controlled Senate was set to start voting to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

“This is something that should have been brought up long before this. They had the information in July, as I understand,” President Trump told reporters Monday.

As The Fix noted last week, that Democrats decided to announce last week that they shared her story with the FBI did seem suspicious, especially before we knew details of the allegation. Even some who weren’t fully in Kavanaugh’s camp, such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), have questioned the timing since Kavanaugh’s accuser came forward.

That’s why “Why now?” is a tricky question for Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), to answer. But from the accuser’s perspective, the answer is simple: Christine Blasey Ford says she felt she had no choice but to speak out after her identity was on the verge of being revealed against her will. She told The Post’s Emma Brown that she didn’t want to come forward publicly — she had even decided last month she wouldn’t say anything beyond the private letter she gave to Congress — and that she only changed her mind after others leaked her story.

As Ford tells it, the events that precipitated her decision went like this: She contacted her congresswoman and The Post in early July when Kavanaugh’s name was on the shortlist for Supreme Court nominees and shared her allegation, requesting anonymity.

On Thursday, Feinstein announced she had referred Ford’s accusation, with her name unredacted, to the FBI. The letter, with Ford’s name redacted, was also placed in a background file for all senators on the Judiciary Committee to see. Somehow, Ford’s name leaked to the media, which led to reporters knocking on her door and showing up at her classroom at Palo Alto University. Late Friday, the New Yorker published an article about the alleged assault without naming her. Ford said she was reading inaccurate information about herself and was unable to do anything about it while maintaining anonymity.

By Sunday, she was on the record with The Post about everything, even sharing therapists' notes and a polygraph test. “These are all the ills that I was trying to avoid,” she told Brown. “Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.”

Ford isn’t just blaming the media for having this all go public right now. Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, appeared to blame Democrats as well, since they were the ones who had her story before it leaked to the media and was sent to the FBI. Katz said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “She made the decision not to go public, and those who were not satisfied with that decision essentially created pressure for her to come forward by alerting members of the media and others.”

That would mean that if Ford had her way, “now” would have never happened.

It’s also worth noting Ford had shared her story privately well before the week of Kavanaugh’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee. She contacted The Post and her congresswoman in early July, before Trump had nominated Kavanaugh.

What’s still unclear is how her anonymous allegation got shared against her will. Before this weekend, only one Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee — Feinstein — had the letter and thus knew Ford’s identity. Last week, the Intercept reported that other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wanted Feinstein to share the letter with them, but she rebuffed them.

Feinstein has since said she was protecting the woman’s confidentiality by keeping it from other senators, though it’s unclear why she decided to make a public statement a week before a key vote on Kavanaugh that she shared it with the FBI. As The Fix’s Aaron Blake wrote Friday, it seems like the Intercept story drew attention to the accusation and forced Feinstein to confirm the letter’s existence.

The broader point is that, somehow, Ford’s anonymity got blown, and it’s pretty clear that it was never her choice. That renders moot any attempt to argue that the accusation or the accuser herself is politically motivated.

Loading...