|MELINA MARA / AFP-GETTY IMAGES
Indelible is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two,
and their having fun at my expense. ~ CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD
And on the 11th day, the runaway Brett Kavanaugh train wheezed to a crawl as the weighty truth of the vile allegations against him finally eclipsed the mad rush to confirm him.
That is how long it took from the outset of the Republican-stacked Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to confirm Kavanaugh as the pivotal ninth Supreme Court justice until Jeff Flake attached a big -- and for Kavanaugh an ominous -- condition to his "yea" committee vote to send the nomination to the full Senate on Friday: Hold up a final vote for a week while the FBI investigates at least some of the allegations against him.
Republican leaders reluctantly agreed to the new FBI investigation, a sign that they don't have the votes to confirm the perjurious Kavanaugh, while Trump promptly ordered the probe, which technically is a reopened background check.
"The Senate Judiciary Committee will request that the administration instruct the FBI to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation with respect to the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court," Republicans said in a statement. "The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today."
The 11th hour move by the Arizona senator, a lame-duck conservative who has been an outspoken critic of the Predator in Chief, creates a number of complications.
Republicans, who have a slim 51-49 majority, will need to pass a motion to begin debate on the nomination on the floor of the Senate and then need to pass another motion to end debate and have a vote. They cannot do those things without at least 50 votes. Republican Senator Lisa Murkoswski of Alaska supports Flake's proposal, as probably does Susan Collins of Maine, and they can freeze any further action unless their demands are met. So the GOP leadership and White House have no choice but to do something that will satisfy them.
What, however, that "something" may be isn't clear, while a subdued Trump emphasized in a statement that "this update must be limited in scope."
Indeed. The investigation will rely on voluntary interviews and document production and is not a criminal investigation, meaning that FBI agents will not be able to get search warrants or use grand jury subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify or hand over documents. It will include Deborah Ramirez in addition to Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh's original accuser.
Meanwhile, the the new Supreme Court term begins on Monday with eight justices. Kavanaugh's nomination won't expire until and unless it is withdrawn by Trump, rejected by the full Senate, or January 3, 2019, when a new Congress is sworn in.
Through her attorneys, Ford welcomed the move, but said "no artificial limits as to time or scope should be imposed."
Washington is as broken as it has ever been and the divide between women and men and left and right as immense as it has ever been. But for the moment, there is . . . dare I say, hope that Republicans may be on the verge of a well deserved catastrophe.
In an historic mashup of #MeToo meets the Republican War on Women, the all-white male Republican majority on the committee has been bumblingly assisted by conservative organizations floating slut-shamming libels and tone-deaf defenses from Trump, himself the subject of 15 sexual harassment claims, and a small army of misogynists in helping Kavanaugh dig an ever deeper hole for himself.
It has become obvious that while there are gaps in the recollections of Kavanaugh's accusers about long-ago incidents they had spent decades trying to repress, he did attempt to rape Ford, did expose himself to Ramirez and was a ringleader at the many high school house parties Julie Swetnik said she attended where he helped spike the punch with grain alcohol or drugs to inebriate girls targeted for gang rapes.
Kavanaugh's defeat would fulfill the first part of a Democratic trifecta that was unimaginable only a few weeks ago.
The other two parts are taking control of the Senate after midterm elections -- a mere 39 days away -- and blocking any new nominee that Trump sends up, not just avenging Republican refusal to consider President Obama's last nominee in 2016, but saving America from a Supreme Court that would lurch even further to the right and perpetrate great evil with Kavanaugh as the fifth conservative justice.
Kavanaugh made an enormous strategic blunder at the outset. It is the kind of thing practiced liars -- a great qualification for a Supreme Court justice, no? -- do without hesitation.
Rather than tell the FBI that he had engaged in some youthful indiscretions at Georgetown Prep and Yale University, he wielded his Roman Catholic prayer beads like a cudgel, portraying himself as an altar boy who was above reproach. As the heat rose, the hole grew ever deeper and committee chairman Charles Grassley refused to call additional witnesses including Matt Judge, Kavanaugh's accomplice in the Ford incident, for fear they would undermine their precarious position,
Kavanaugh called himself the victim of "grotesque and obvious character assassination" despite testimony that at times was demonstrably false. Then in his climactic appearance before the committee on Thursday following compelling testimony from Ford, the best he could muster was slinging mud at Democrats, howling that "You'll never get me to quit."
The one constant over those 11 days of hole digging has been the refusal of committee Republicans to ask Trump to order an FBI investigation into the allegations or call additional witnesses.
Republicans had known about the Ramirez revelation for days before it became public, which is a reason they tried to rush the nomination while repeatedly claiming the call for an investigation was a Democratic delaying tactic and not an effort to get to the bottom of that most precious of commodities in the Washington swamp -- the truth.
Just as disingenuously, they have argued they have enough evidence to believe Kavanaugh is innocent when they haven't called a number of key witnesses. No matter, as Judge finally came out of his hidey-hole on Friday afternoon to say he would talk to the FBI.
Swetnik's gang rape allegations are unlikely to be part of the FBI redo, but her lawyer, Michael Avenatti pledged on Friday night to "take her story directly to the American people this weekend."
On Thursday, the American Bar Association, which had endorsed Kavanaugh, called for a new FBI investigation. But little noticed in the furor was that America, the magazine of the Jesuit religious order in the U.S., withdrew its endorsement. The reversal is symbolically significant because Kavanaugh repeatedly cited his Catholic faith and Jesuit education in defending himself.
Kavanaugh's youthful indiscretion dodge would not cover a fourth, anonymous accusation that cemented any doubt that Kavanaugh wasn't a hard drinking sexual predator.
In a letter sent to a Republican senator, a woman said her daughter saw a 33-year-old Kavanaugh drunkenly push a woman he was dating against a wall "very aggressively and sexually" after they left a bar in 1998, six years before he married Ashley Estes, who has woodenly stood by her man.
Four allegations and counting, and more may yet come out as the FBI digs in, the news media digs deeper and Kavanaugh, whose bad temper was on display for tens of millions of television viewers on Thursday, seethes with rage.
The all-male Republican membership of the committee also blundered -- or "overcorrected" in the word of one GOP strategist -- in bringing in Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Ford because of their concern over the visuals of male senators interrogating a sex-crime victim. Their hired gun nibbled at the psychology professor but didn't lay a finger on her, allowing Democrats to score political points unchallenged and set up Friday's high drama.
Before Flake attached the very large condition to his vote, he and a longtime friend, Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, had hastily called Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who told them the FBI could complete a background check in a week, although he warned them that it was unlikely to unearth much more than was already known.
But what may have caused Flake to have second thoughts was an incident on Friday morning when he was cornered in a Hart Senate Office Building elevator by two activists -- Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher -- who told him in impassioned terms that they were sexual assault victims as CNN captured the confrontation live.
"What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court," one of the women shouted. "This is horrible. You have children in your family. Think about them."
"Look at me when I'm talking to you," the other woman said as Flake stood largely mute and ashen-faced, his gaze mainly to the ground.
"You are telling me that my assault doesn't matter, that what happened to me doesn't, and that you're going to let people who do these things into power. That's what you're telling me when you vote for him. Don't look away from me."
"Thank you," Flake said quietly.