How did the New York Times bury this lede? While CBS Evening News’ report from last night might have been implicitly critical of the NYT’s reporting, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake leaves that mostly as subtext. However, Blake emphasizes just how big a game-changer Leland Keyser’s testimony is in the new book The Education of Brett Kavanaugh.
Far from an eyewitness that corroborates Christine Blasey Ford’s ambiguous allegation against Kavanaugh, Keyser became a character witness for the defense, Blake reports:
Keyser described having many more reservations than she initially let on. She said she tried to assemble the details as described by Ford, but she called her lawyer and told him, “You know what, I don’t feel good about something.”
First, she said she wouldn’t have just left Ford at the party without accounting for Ford’s ride home. “It would be impossible for me to be the only girl at a get-together with three guys, have her leave, and then not figure out how she’s going to get home,” Keyser said. …
Keyser said she doesn’t remember many small gatherings like the one Ford described, nor does she remember hanging out much with Georgetown Prep students, which Kavanaugh was. She maintains she didn’t even know who Kavanaugh was back then, after reviewing pictures and maps.
“Those facts together I don’t recollect, and it just doesn’t make any sense,” Keyser said. Keyser also said she spoke with many people who “wanted me to remember something different” — suggesting that there was pressure on her to toe the line — and that she told the FBI about that.
There have been more than “suggestions” about witness tampering. Reporting on that point stretches all the way back to last October, when the Wall Street Journal broke that part of the story first. It involved a former FBI agent named Monica McLean who had also reportedly helped coach Blasey Ford through her polygraph examination. The FBI sent a separate package of information to the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time dealing with the tampering allegations, but this is the first time that Keyser herself has detailed them, including the potential threat of being smeared. Whether that came from McLean or others is uncertain.
Apart from that, what does Keyser think of Kavanaugh himself? She has no recollection of him at all in her high school social circle, but despite her affiliation as a Democrat, Keyser finds him “very impressive … He has a very impressive record.”
Blake warns that Democrats can’t just ignore Keyser’s expanded testimony on these matters:
This new interview suggests that someone who could have been a star witness for Ford, though, is anything but. And as Democrats go big on calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment — despite a key clarification from the Times that the supposed victim of the newly alleged assault doesn’t recall it, either — Keyser’s account isn’t one they can simply ignore. It’s a significant implicit defense of Kavanaugh, from someone with plenty of motivation to be on the other side of this story.
They certainly can try to ignore it, even though Jan Crawford pointed out last night that it makes Blasey Ford 0-4 among her own hand-picked “witnesses” to her account. Keyser’s outright denial and her expressed lack of confidence in her friends story should have actually been the NYT’s lead in their news section. In any other circumstances, four denials from Blasey Ford’s own list of corroborating witnesses would have rendered her claims invalid. If her claims were invalid, the Deborah Ramirez claims would have had no credence, especially since it took her six days with activist lawyers to connect Kavanaugh to her claims, and her list of seven corroborating witnesses had even less connection to Ramirez’ claims than Blasey Ford’s did to hers.
In other words, the real story from this book should have been that Kavanaugh nearly got railroaded, not that he got away with anything. Blake’s a little too kind to connect all those dots, but at least he’s warning Kavanaugh’s opponents that they’re out there to be connected.
Update: Not that they shouldn’t have already known that …
@AaronBlake, saw your story in Washington Post on Christine Blasey Ford's star witness Leland Keyser telling NYT reporters she didn't buy her friend's story. Could you please include that this news was first broken by my co-author and me on July 9 in our book "Justice on Trial"?
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 17, 2019
If you want to read Justice on Trial, it’s available in hardcover, Kindle, and audiobook.