Is the hearing tomorrow still on?

As of noon ET, yes. But stay tuned.

Even by 2018 standards, it would be beyond surreal to hold the hearing as scheduled with Ford (and maybe Ramirez) while a signed affidavit by a new accuser alleging gang rape is floating around, possibly supported by other as-yet-unknown witnesses. How would Rachel Mitchell and the GOP ignore this elephant in the room? How would Democrats fairly expect Kavanaugh to respond to it without his accuser testifying first?

Unless Julie Swetnick, the new accuser, is prepared to testify tomorrow, Grassley will either end up postponing the hearing or scheduling a separate hearing for Swetnick, which would only drag this nightmare out further. Even if Swetnick is prepared to testify tomorrow, Mitchell and the GOP obviously aren’t prepared to question her yet.

There are at least three questions hanging over Swetnick at first blush:

1. She says she saw boys, including Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, lined up outside rooms at “many of these parties” to participate in gang rapes. How many gang-rape parties did Swetnick attend, exactly? Even in the relatively benighted age of 1982, that would have been treated as a serious crime. Any attendee who was afraid to go to the cops would at least have stopped attending the parties.

2. Good question:

The NYT’s story about this does indeed say that Swetnick graduated in 1980. Her affidavit says she attended parties in the D.C. area where Kavanaugh and Mark Judge were present between 1981-83. Were Kavanaugh and Judge attending *college* parties and, uh, somehow organizing gang rapes there? Or was Swetnick attending high-school parties for as many as three years after she becoming a college student? The timeline doesn’t make sense. Most college students party on campus, not with younger kids.

3. It’s passing strange that Kavanaugh has undergone six federal background checks and this utterly spectacularly claim that he was involved in repeated major felonies as a teen has never been detected. Democrats have been looking for something on him since at least 1998, when he was one of Ken Starr’s attack dogs on Bill Clinton’s sex scandal. They produced nothing. Until the day before the Ford hearing.

4. Was Christine Blasey Ford aware of any of these gang rapes, even secondhand? She lived in the area and socialized with many of the same people Kavanaugh did. If she’d heard of anything this sordid, you would think she would have brought it up in describing her memories of Kavanaugh to WaPo.

Be careful with the fourth point, though. It’s possible that Ford did mention something about this to WaPo and WaPo sat on it because they lacked hard evidence. If you read the New Yorker piece from Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer about Deborah Ramirez, though, you might remember this part tucked away towards the end:

After seeing Judge’s denial, Elizabeth Rasor, who met Judge at Catholic University and was in a relationship with him for about three years, said that she felt morally obligated to challenge his account that “ ‘no horseplay’ took place at Georgetown Prep with women.” Rasor stressed that “under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t reveal information that was told in confidence,” but, she said, “I can’t stand by and watch him lie.” In an interview with The New Yorker, she said, “Mark told me a very different story.” Rasor recalled that Judge had told her ashamedly of an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman. Rasor said that Judge seemed to regard it as fully consensual. She said that Judge did not name others involved in the incident, and she has no knowledge that Kavanaugh participated. But Rasor was disturbed by the story and noted that it undercut Judge’s protestations about the sexual innocence of Georgetown Prep. (Barbara Van Gelder, an attorney for Judge, said that he “categorically denies” the account related by Rasor. Van Gelder said that Judge had no further comment.)

Another woman who attended high school in the nineteen-eighties in Montgomery County, Maryland, where Georgetown Prep is located, also refuted Judge’s account of the social scene at the time, sending a letter to Ford’s lawyers saying that she had witnessed boys at parties that included Georgetown Prep students engaging in sexual misconduct. In an interview, the woman, who asked to have her name withheld for fear of political retribution, recalled that male students “would get a female student blind drunk” on what they called “jungle juice”—grain alcohol mixed with Hawaiian Punch—then try to take advantage of her. “It was disgusting,” she said. “They treated women like meat.”

Nothing there points directly to Kavanaugh but there were already stories floating around, one by a woman on the record (Rasor) based on what Mark Judge allegedly told her, before Swetnick came forward about girls being plied with spiked booze and boys taking turns with them. If you thought Democratic demands for Judge to testify were intense before, wait and see what they look like this afternoon. If the hearing does somehow go forward as scheduled, they’ll spend half their time tomorrow calling the proceeding a farce because it lacks Judge’s testimony about “gang rape” and what role Kavanaugh might have played in it, if any.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Sherman reports:

Here’s the hard math: Unless something dramatic happens to discredit Swetnick and soon, Kavanaugh might be done. You might hate that; you might think he’s being railroaded; you might see it as ultimate proof that the GOP won’t “fight.” But what we have is a math problem and the math isn’t good. Susan Collins is up for reelection in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Asking her to ignore not one, not two, but now three different women on the record accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, with today bringing the most sordid allegation yet, is asking a lot. At some point she’ll have more to fear from alienating Democrats and independents than she will from alienating Trump’s base. What if she votes yes and then Avenatti and Swetnick do produce three or four witnesses to corroborate her claims?

Murkowski might be slightly more inclined to give Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt since she comes from a red state but she didn’t sound enthused yesterday about the way this was headed. She’ll be less enthused today. And even if Murkowski hangs on, I think Jeff Flake would quietly relish the opportunity to stick it to Trump and stand up for the idea of “higher standards in government” or however he’ll end up phrasing this as a reason to oppose Kavanaugh. All Schumer needs is two of those three to flip; barring someone stepping up to nuke Swetnick’s credibility, I think it’s likely at this point that at least two of them will conclude that “there’s too much smoke now for there not to be some fire — and even if there isn’t, we don’t want the Court to be smoky.”

Maybe there’s a silver lining for the GOP insofar as righties will be so angry at the Collins/Murky/Flake betrayal that they’ll take it out on red-state Democrats like Manchin and Heitkamp in November. That outcome could produce a redder Senate and a firmly conservative nominee confirmed anyway. In which case we’d have, uh, Michael Avenatti to thank. In fact, I’d bet this tweet loosely tracks with McConnell’s own thinking at this point:

We’ll see. In the meantime, it’s Grassley’s move. Are we having a hearing tomorrow or not?

Update: A second hearing?

Grassley can’t possibly want that on the merits. If you’re going to put Kavanaugh under the lights and have his credibility attacked, better to do it all in one shot and get it over with than give Democrats two bites at the apple. The mere fact that two hearings are required to address all the accusations against him will itself be cited as a reason to oppose confirmation. People will watch and think, “How much bad stuff did this guy do that they couldn’t cover all of it in one go?”

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