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Republicans have no good options on Brett Kavanaugh

President Trump said he wants to let the Senate's vetting of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh take its course, rather than let the FBI investigate. (Video: The Washington Post)

Led by President Trump, Republicans are increasingly suggesting that the timing of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Brett M. Kavanaugh is suspicious. There are plenty of reasons to doubt that theory — most notably the fact that Ford has documentation from six years ago of her raising the episode with her therapist.

But, politically speaking, this has pushed Republicans into a corner in a way few things could.

Republicans are searching for answers on what had been a surefire confirmation that would tip the Supreme Court their way, potentially for years to come. And the timing was massive. This was just ahead of the 2018 election, in which the nomination could serve the three-pronged purpose of 1) forcing red-state Democrats into tough votes, 2) rallying an un-enthused GOP base behind a big win, and, most important, 3) getting a conservative-leaning court before Democrats have a chance to take back the Senate in November.

That timing is now the GOP’s worst enemy, and Ford’s new decision to demand an investigation before testifying — which the GOP has extended her an offer to do on Monday — is dragging this out even more.

The main problem for Republicans is that they have no real arguments for why this can’t wait, apart from purely political motivations. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who implausibly argued Tuesday that the one named eyewitness to the alleged assault need not testify, said Wednesday that the confirmation couldn’t wait.

“It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP,” Graham said.

The question is why? Why is it so imperative?

Is it because the Supreme Court can’t survive with just eight members, now that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has already retired? That’s clearly not the GOP’s stance, given it kept the late justice Antonin Scalia’s seat open for more than a year by refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland when President Barack Obama nominated him.

Is it because we won’t learn anything new about the Ford-Kavanaugh situation? That doesn’t make sense either, given that just today one person allegedly at the party stepped forward to issue a statement. There are other people we haven’t heard from, and as I argued Tuesday, there are plenty of facts to be uncovered and stories to be corroborated (or disproved).

Is it because the FBI can’t investigate this? That’s what Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) claims and Trump suggests. But it’s not really true, either, as Philip Bump writes:

In 1991, when Hill’s allegations were made public, the FBI got involved at the direction of the White House.
“On Sept. 23, the allegation was brought to the attention of the Judiciary Committee,” a White House statement at the time read. “The Judiciary Committee immediately informed the White House. In consultation with the committee, the White House promptly directed the FBI to conduct a full, thorough and expeditious investigation. Upon completion of the FBI investigation on Sept. 26, the report was submitted to the White House and the committee.”
Note that the investigation only lasted three days, as CNN’s Kevin Liptak points out.
Again: This is not unprecedented. The three-day investigation into Thomas may not have fully explored what Hill alleges took place, but it nonetheless occurred, with the White House’s blessing.

Is it because Ford’s allegation is spurious? Not according to the GOP senators who have said she needs to be heard. Trump even declared Tuesday that “there shouldn’t even be a little doubt” when Kavanaugh is confirmed. Even Wednesday, while casting doubt on the allegation, Trump left open the possibility that Ford’s testimony could change his mind. Clearly, this has not been settled, and by Trump’s own standard, it requires more due diligence.

About the only argument, then, for it being “imperative” to move forward on Kavanaugh “ASAP” is politics. It’s the possibility that the GOP might lose the opportunity to confirm a conservative justice. But that’s not really an argument that the GOP can make publicly. To do so, they basically need to call Ford a liar and admit they are jamming something through for political reasons.

None of this is to say Kavanaugh did what Ford says he did, or that there isn’t a definable, reasonable amount of due diligence to be performed before a decision is made to proceed.

It’s just that Republicans need to treat the situation delicately — including the possibility that they confirm Kavanaugh only to have it come back to bite them because of further revelations — and yet they are running up against a very real, very political deadline that they can’t acknowledge is the real reason for their haste.