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Mark Judge’s conspicuous absence from Thursday’s hearing

Mark Judge outside Shore Foods in the seaside village of Bethany Beach, Del. (Gabriel Pogrund/The Washington Post)

This post has been updated with a third allegation against Kavanaugh, which also involves Judge.

On Thursday, Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford will testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The White House even said it is open to Kavanaugh’s second public accuser, Deborah Ramirez, appearing, too.

But one person will be conspicuously missing, and it’s really difficult to understand why.

That person is Mark Judge. He’s the one named witness to Kavanaugh’s alleged misconduct in high school, making his version of events particularly important. But instead of preparing for Thursday, he was holed up at a beach house, as The Washington Post’s investigative reporters discovered earlier this week:

A high school friend of Kavanaugh’s, Judge has been absent from his Maryland residence for days as Democratic lawmakers and accuser Christine Blasey Ford have demanded that Republicans summon him before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions under oath.
On Monday, a Washington Post reporter found Judge holed up in the house of a longtime friend in Bethany Beach, nearly three hours away. A car in the driveway contained piles of clothing, a collection of Superman comics and a package addressed to Judge at the Potomac home where he lived three years ago.
“How’d you find me?” he said.
The reporter gestured to the car packed with belongings. Judge declined to comment further.

That Judge has skipped town isn’t surprising. He has made his desire to avoid testifying plainly evident. “I did not ask to be involved in this matter, nor did anyone ask me to be involved,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee through a lawyer. He added: “I have no more information to offer to the committee, and I do not wish to speak publicly regarding the incidents described in Dr. Ford’s letter.”

The lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, told The Post that Judge needed to avoid the spotlight for his health.

“I told him to leave town. He is being hounded. He is a recovering alcoholic and is under unbelievable stress,” she said. “He needed for his own health to get out of this toxic environment and take care of himself."

Republicans including, from left, Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and President Trump, are judging the credibility of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

The GOP-controlled Judiciary Committee has acceded to requests by Judge and his lawyer to leave him out of this, despite Ford’s legal team and Democrats trying to get him on the stand. Republicans could subpoena Judge, but they’ve indicated that they won’t. And it’s perhaps understandable that Judge doesn’t want to be involved, especially given that his past writings and personal life have been intensely scrutinized.

But stakes here are also extremely high: a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that could tilt the court rightward for years to come. Judge is the one person (besides the accused) who could publicly, on the record, rebut Ford’s accusation. He’s also now named by Kavanaugh’s third accuser, Julie Swetnick, as an apparent participant (along with Kavanaugh) in gang rapes that occurred at parties she attended in the 1980s. Swetnick said she fell victim to one of these gang rapes at a party at which both Kavanaugh and Judge were present.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) argued last week that the committee need not obtain anything else from Judge, given that he has already denied having knowledge of the Blasey Ford incident. Judge’s letter to the Judiciary Committee puts him on the record, legally speaking, and any false statements could be punished.

But if one denial were sufficient, we wouldn’t really need to have this hearing. Kavanaugh, too, has denied that the incident occurred and has said that he doesn’t remember attending a party like the one Ford described. He still will have to testify about his familiarity with his accuser and his behavior around the time of the alleged incident, and will have his statements put under a microscope.

Judge’s denials are also worth looking into, given that they have varied somewhat in their firmness. Here’s a recap:

  • “I have no recollection of that.” — Sept. 14 in the New Yorker (Judge was not named in the piece)
  • “It’s just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way.” — Later on Sept. 14 to the Weekly Standard (which revealed his name)
  • “I never saw anything like what was described . . . Something like that would stick out, which is why I don’t think it would happen.” — also Sept. 14 to the New York Times 
  • “Now that the anonymous person has been identified and has spoken to the press, I repeat my earlier statement that I have no recollection of any of the events described in today’s Post article or attributed to her letter. Since I have nothing more to say I will not comment further on this matter. I hope you will respect my position and my privacy.” — Sept. 16 after The Post released an interview with Ford

Judge’s denials have oscillated between not remembering the alleged incident and saying he never saw anything like it. Then he united both of them in his Sept. 18 letter to the Judiciary Committee, which stated:

I have no memory of this alleged incident. Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.

But one is firmer than the other, and neither exhausts possible questions Judge could be asked. Just because you don’t remember something doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Saying you didn’t actually witness it is firmer — it erases the possibility you saw it but forgot it — but it also leaves open the possibility that it happened without you physically seeing it. This is really splitting hairs, but oftentimes denials must be parsed in legal settings.

Judge’s denials, though, will not be parsed with him present Thursday. Republicans will argue that that’s because it’s unnecessary or because Judge deserves his requested space for his personal well-being. But it’s also clear that they worry about what kind of witness he would be, given his colorful history.

And it’s also difficult to believe he couldn’t potentially shed at least some light on what is one man’s word against one woman’s word — with arguably the most important job in the country besides the presidency at stake.