Ruh roh, Ritch. If Mitch McConnell’s hoping to hold the Senate Republican caucus together on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, this reframing of the issue by Lisa Murkowski is not a good sign. It’s no longer about Kavanaugh’s qualification, the Alaska Republican told the New York Times — it’s about believing the victim:

“We are now in a place where it’s not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified,” Ms. Murkowski, a key swing Republican vote, said in an extended interview in the Capitol Monday night. “It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed.”

One of two Republican woman in the Senate who supports abortion rights — Susan Collins of Maine is the other — Ms. Murkowski was always expected to be a critical vote in Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. But she is making clear that, beyond matters of reproductive rights, she is deeply troubled by Christine Blasey Ford’s story of a sexual assault by Judge Kavanaugh when she was 15 and he was 17.

In the interview, Ms. Murkowski emphasized how invested she is in assessing Dr. Blasey’s story. She said she worked behind the scenes last weekend to ensure negotiations between Republicans and the accuser’s lawyers did not fall apart because of an “arbitrary timeline.” She canceled a meeting of the Senate committee she chairs on Thursday to ensure her schedule was clear. And although she is not on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she will be watching.

“All you can try to do is be as fair as possible to ensure that at the end of the day justice is delivered,” Ms. Murkowski said.

While Murkowski doesn’t explicitly say this, that reframing puts her a lot closer to Chris Coons than the rest of her caucus. This assumes that Ford has not only established herself as a victim, but as Kavanaugh’s victim. Shouldn’t the point of the hearing be whether that’s the case at all? Perhaps Murkowski offered more nuance on the burden of proof in the interview, but that statement doesn’t offer much reason to believe she did.

How can we get any resolution to this conundrum? Murkowski earlier told CNN’s Manu Raju that an FBI investigation might have cleared all this up:

A key Republican senator is indicating she believes there should be a new FBI investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is one of a handful of Senate Republicans undecided on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. When asked Tuesday if there should be a full FBI investigation about the claims, she said: ‘‘Well, it would sure clear up all the questions, wouldn’t it?’’

Be sure to read Allahpundit’s analysis of this point yesterday, but color me skeptical about both the utility and value of an FBI probe at this point. More than three decades later, the FBI is not going to find “evidence” of a crime or a non-crime. It’s impossible to investigate whether a crime took place when the accuser can’t remember the specific place or date and the other people named in the accusation either deny anything happened or can’t recall any such incident, as is the case with Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation. Few law enforcement investigators would be able to do much Deborah Ramirez’ recovered-memory allegation either, in which by her own admission she took more than thirty years to settle on the perpetrator because she was so drunk at the time.

The best the FBI would be able to do under these circumstances is take statements from everyone involved under theoretical legal jeopardy for any false claims, and then present them to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Realistically, though, prosecuting under 18 USC 1001 for false statements would be as problematic as making a case against Kavanaugh, for the same reasons — the passage of almost four decades of time. All we’d get from an FBI probe is what we have now — unsubstantiated allegations and competing denials. Murkowski and the other Senators would still face the same choice with the same set of circumstances, except that an FBI probe would likely delay it a few days, or maybe longer.

If the hearing is about “believing the victim” rather than determining if there’s any factual basis for the claim, then Kavanaugh’s going to face a kangaroo court on Thursday. Bob Corker says it’s already sliding into circus status as it is, and that the Senate needs to wrap this up”

It’s feeling more like a trainwreck, actually. For a small breath of fresh air, here’s Joe Manchin reminding everyone about the actual burden of proof — or at least what it used to be.