GOP warns time running out for Kavanaugh’s accuser to talk
By ALAN FRAM and LISA MASCARO
Thursday, September 20
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are warning that time is running out for Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser to tell Congress about her claim he sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers, even as President Donald Trump called the woman’s allegation hard to believe in one of the GOP’s sharpest attacks on her credibility.
With Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination dangling in the balance, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said his panel still planned a Monday morning hearing that Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford were invited to attend.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote Ford’s attorneys Wednesday that the panel was giving the California psychology professor until 10 a.m. Friday to submit a biography and a prepared statement “if she intends to testify” Monday.
It remained unclear, though, whether Ford would attend or if the hearing would occur without her as a drama that has riveted Washington since emerging a week ago was injected with a fresh burst of election season suspense.
After initially saying through a lawyer Monday that she was willing to appear, Ford has since said she first wants a full FBI investigation of her accusation. Trump and Senate Republicans have been emphatic that an FBI renewal of its background checks on Kavanaugh won’t happen, saying an investigation by committee staff — which Democrats are boycotting — is sufficient.
Ford’s demand has been fully backed by Democrats.
Lisa Banks, a Ford attorney, wrote that Grassley’s plan to call just two witnesses, Kavanaugh and Ford, “is not a fair or good faith investigation” and said “multiple witnesses” she did not name should be included.
“The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth,” Banks wrote.
The standoff left both parties gambling over which of their approaches would appeal to voters in November’s elections, which will determine House and Senate control.
Republican leaders trying to keep GOP senators behind Kavanaugh are offering Ford a chance to describe her allegation, either in a hearing room before television cameras or in private. Republicans have largely stood by Kavanaugh’s denials.
Democrats are casting Republicans as strong-arming a wronged woman, their eyes on a #MeToo movement that has caught fire and exploded the careers of dozens of male titans.
“Republicans are trying to bully her into a rigged hearing,” No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois tweeted about Ford.
Trump told reporters, “I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.”
That remark was noteworthy because most Republicans have handled the question of Ford’s credibility more gingerly. They say they want to give Ford, now a professor at Palo Alto University, every chance to tell her story.
Ford has contended that at a house party in the 1980s, a drunken Kavanaugh tried undressing her and stifling her cries on a bed before she fled.
Republicans are resisting all Democratic efforts to slow and perhaps block what once seemed a smooth path to confirmation that would promote the conservative appeals court judge by the Oct. 1 opening of the Supreme Court’s new term. A substantial delay could push confirmation past the November elections, when Democrats have a shot at winning Senate control, plus allow more time for unforeseen problems to pop up.
There were signs the GOP’s strategy of planning a nationally televised hearing yet also offering Ford the option to testify privately was keeping possible Republican defections in check. The party controls the Senate 51-49 and the Judiciary panel by 11-10, so it cannot afford GOP “no” votes.
Moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who’s had her share of clashes with Trump, said she hoped Ford would reconsider a decision not to testify and “it’s not fair to Judge Kavanaugh” if she refuses. “Otherwise, there are these very serious allegations hanging over the head of a nominee who has emphatically denied them,” she said on radio WVOM in Bangor.
Going further, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Democrats’ demands for an FBI investigation were a ploy to delay a confirmation vote. “It is imperative the Judiciary Committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken as soon as possible,” the committee member said in a statement.
As for a possible FBI intervention, Grassley said in his letter to Ford’s lawyers, “We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence.”
In a separate letter to Democrats, Grassley wrote that committee aides were “even willing to fly to California, or anywhere else, to meet her.” He also wrote that GOP aides tried to arrange interviews with two other “alleged witnesses.” The letter mentioned no names and committee staff declined to identify them.
Kavanaugh did not return to the White House Wednesday after spending the two previous days there. He spoke by phone with officials working on strategy, said an aide familiar with the proceedings but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Kavanaugh spent hours Tuesday in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, part of the White House complex. He prepared for Monday’s potential hearing with officials including White House counsel Don McGahn, Justice Department aides, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and communications director Bill Shine.
Shine was ousted from his previous job at Fox News in part due to his handling of sexual harassment claims at the company.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Padmananda Rama, Jonathan Lemire, Kevin Freking and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
Collins: Ford should testify, but threats are “just wrong”
BANGOR, Maine (AP) — Maine’s Republican senator says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford should testify, and added that she’s “saddened” by the threats Ford has received.
Sen. Susan Collins made the comments on WVOM-FM radio on Wednesday. Collins, a GOP moderate, is considered a critical swing vote in Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Collins says Ford has made “very serious allegations” about Kavanaugh and it’s “not fair” if she refuses to testify. Ford has claimed that Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were both teenagers.
Collins also told WVOM it’s “just wrong” that Ford and her family have been subjected to threats. She said her own office and staff have received threatening voicemails as well.
OPINION: THE ACCUSATION THAT WOULDN’T GO AWAY
By Robert C. Koehler
Sexual assault is such a nuisance, not only, but especially, for Republicans.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal editorial board, attempting, with gentlemanly politeness, to dispense with Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh as quickly as possible:
“Yet there is no way to confirm her story after 36 years, and to let it stop Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would ratify what has all the earmarks of a calculated political ambush.
“This is not to say Christine Blasey Ford isn’t sincere in what she remembers.” But …
“The vagaries of memory are well known, all the more so when they emerge in the cauldron of a therapy session to rescue a marriage. Experts know that human beings can come to believe firmly over the years that something happened when it never did or is based on partial truth. Mistaken identity is also possible.”
We respect your sincerity, Ma’am, but please get out of our way. We can’t let unreliable lady memories complicate matters. We’re pushing a serious political agenda here. And besides, if this alleged rape attempt by two drunk teenage boys was such a big deal, why did you keep it to yourself for 30+ years?
This is politically motivated obtuseness, which I don’t believe for a moment. That is to say, I think any journalist has enough awareness of the human condition to grasp the complex trauma that rape or attempted rape could inflict on a child, and that internalizing a traumatic incident rather than blabbing about it is hardly unusual.
I also think every journalist is aware that these matters aren’t simply individual issues – separate, discrete, unrelated incidents – but that a culture of sexual abuse and male domination has always been the American norm, creating conditions in which a female would know that she has one sensible option: Keep the incident to herself or risk further humiliation. Excuse me, Wall Street Journal editorial board, but have you read any of the accounts about the prevalence of rape in the U.S. military, and of the consequences the victim often faces if she reports an assault to her commanding officer?
And the elite boys’ high school Kavanaugh attended in the 1980s may well have had a military-esque atmosphere, at least regarding male sexuality and what it means to “come of age” in the American social context of winning and losing. Boys are left to figure out their sexuality all by themselves. And girls are the enticing “other” it is their job to conquer.
Thus: “Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom up a short stairwell from the living room. They locked the door and played loud music precluding any successful attempt to yell for help. Kavanaugh was on top of me while laughing with (his companion, Mark Judge), who periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh. They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh’s hand over my mouth I feared he may inadvertently kill me.”
This is the accusation the Republicans are stuck with, against their right-wing, anti-Roe.-vs.-Wade Supreme Court nominee. Dismiss it though they might – the whole thing is an attempt by the Dems to create “an election-eve #MeToo conflagration,” the Journal editorial put it – Ford’s accusation has credibility.
Indeed, it has so much credibility that more than 200 women (including actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who graduated from Ford’s alma mater, Holton-Arms, an all-female college prep school in Bethesda, Md., have signed a letter in support of her claims:
“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” the letter reads, as reported on Huffington Post. “It demands a thorough and independent investigation before the Senate can reasonably vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court.”
The accusation is “all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”
And there it is, coming forward at a time when national awareness is shifting, when male sexual domination is suddenly, you might say, naked in public. People see it for what it is. The Kavanaugh supporters, in order to make the whole thing go away, are attempting to reduce the allegation to a “he said, she said” situation, free of credibility and context and, for all anyone knows, politically motivated. But it resonates, for too many people, as part of a larger truth that simply cannot be ignored any longer and should, at the very least, be investigated outside of a political context.
If Kavanaugh is implicated, his best defense is that he was just a kid – immature, reckless, coming of age. I’m all for forgiveness, for allowing people to learn from their mistakes and to atone for the harm they have caused. This requires facing what they have done.
It also requires facing the irony that only some Americans get a chance to move past their mistakes. As Josh Rovner writes at The Atlantic:
“Yet the repercussions many young people — particularly low-income youth of color — might face for the kind of conduct described by Ford are far more severe than a failed nomination. Our current laws and practices ensure that adolescent mistakes have lifelong consequences.”
This is the prison-industrial complex in operation, spawned in the ’80s and ’90s by militarized police forces, zero tolerance and various domestic “wars” that allow wholesale arrest and imprisonment (as adults) of young people of color.
“Kids who grow up like Kavanaugh,” Rovner writes, “— white kids whose parents can afford prep school tuition and, presumably, the services of a good lawyer — rarely experience prolonged contact with the criminal-justice system. Society gives them the benefit of the doubt and takes seriously their protestations of innocence. But most kids don’t grow up like Kavanaugh.”
So what a nuisance that this accusation has wrapped its claws around his Supreme Court nomination and the agenda he would bring to the national order.
The times they are a-changing. Or so I hope.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
Memo to Kavanaugh’s defenders: Passage of time doesn’t erase youthful mistakes in the criminal justice system, especially for people of color
September 19, 2018
Eileen M. Ahlin
Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice, Pennsylvania State University
Disclosure statement: Eileen M. Ahlin receives funding from the National Institute of Justice.
Partners: Pennsylvania State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
The accusation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, made by California professor Christine Blasey Ford, has been met with a variety of responses.
Among those responses has been the idea that what happens when someone is young should not be held against them, especially if they’ve led a commendable life ever since.
My research and that of others on criminal justice shows that, in fact, that’s not the way the system treats offenses committed by minors, especially if they are a person of color. Their crimes often haunt them for the rest of their lives.
When youth commit crimes
Everyone makes mistakes they would rather leave in the past. Whether it’s a missed opportunity, a failed relationship or an unwise investment, many people move on and leave life’s regrets behind.
This is not always true if the mistake is a crime, and you are caught.
When a juvenile, a person under 18 years of age, is arrested and charged with a crime, prosecutors can decide to transfer the youth to an adult court or keep their case in juvenile court. This decision is based on several factors, including the seriousness of the offense, the offender’s age and prior criminal history. Some research indicates that race plays a role in this decision.
Youth who stay in the juvenile system may be eligible to have their criminal record closed to the public; their records would remain open to the public in adult court. If the case is transferred to the adult system, juveniles may face time in jail or prison in adult facilities. Juveniles sentenced in adult courts can get longer sentences than they would if they were sent to juvenile court.
Minority youth are more likely to be transferred to adult courts and are given significantly longer sentences than their white counterparts.
Publicly available records for crimes committed by juveniles are one way that the crimes can stick with the child as they grow into adulthood, regardless of their subsequent behavior.
There are some ways to remove offenses from an individual’s criminal history. The primary way is by petitioning the court to “expunge” the offense.
This can result in a case being sealed from public view or erased.
However, these options are not available to everyone. Not all states offer expungement and not all offenses are eligible. Examples include murder and rape.
When expungement is an option, judges disproportionately grant it to white youth.
Without expungement, criminal arrests, convictions and periods of incarceration stay on your criminal record for life for both juveniles and adults.
Escaping the past
The fact that criminal histories from a person’s youth can follow them through their lifetime has meaningful consequences.
Prior behavior and interactions with the criminal justice system – arrests, convictions and incarceration – can impede employment opportunities, reduce access to social services such as welfare and limit housing options. These punishments are most pronounced among minorities.
Take employment, for example. Many employers ask job seekers to check a box on the job application to indicate whether they have a criminal history.
Checking the box can be damaging to a person’s opportunities, even if they were found not guilty or there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction. Applicants with a criminal history who are honest and check the box may not receive an interview. Those who do not disclose an arrest, conviction or a period of incarceration run the risk of being fired if the truth is discovered.
A national “Ban the Box” initiative, started by civil rights organization All of Us or None in 2004, has brought attention to this issue. But even if employers were to no longer ask applicants to report criminal history, they can still find that information through arrest records on online search engines or state police databases.
Sociologist Devah Pager shows that having a criminal record while job hunting is particularly damaging to people of color. As Pager notes in her book “Marked,” criminal behavior has a long-term effect on employment. These effects surface at the point of arrest and do not disappear if found not guilty.
For many, the punishment for crime continues even after completing the actual punishment they were assigned by a judge – fines, probation, jail or prison.
Is the past really prologue?
Many people argue that the disadvantages of living with a criminal history, particularly a one-time offense, may be unduly burdensome.
The criminal justice system should address whether all past behavior should influence job prospects.
Is there a period of time where past behavior is no longer relevant? Or are the disadvantages that result from past mistakes inevitable?
Some would argue that it depends on the crime. For example, many people believe child sex offenders should not be able to work with children. Others argue such limitations further racial inequities.
These debates suggest it may be worth examining how blanket penalties that result from having a criminal record for life may be exacerbating already existing racial biases in the criminal justice system.
Hungary: Court cuts Syrian’s sentence over migrant riot
Thursday, September 20
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A Hungarian appeals court on Thursday lowered to five years from seven the prison sentence of a Syrian man convicted of entering Hungary illegally and of complicity in throwing rocks at police during a 2015 border riot.
The case stems from rioting at the Hungary-Serbia border on Sept. 16, 2015, when dozens of police officers, migrants and some journalists were injured in clashes a day after Hungary closed the frontier, stranding hundreds of migrants.
Amnesty International said the conviction exemplified “the erosion of the rule of law and human rights protections in Hungary.”
“Ahmed’s absurd conviction has nothing to do with justice but instead plays into the hands of the Hungarian authorities’ demonization of refugees, migrants and those seeking to protect them,” said Eda Seyhan, Amnesty International’s counter terrorism campaigner.
Since the 2015 migration crisis in Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has applied increasingly strict anti-immigration policies. Recent legislation has included constitutional amendments, the imposition of a special tax on the funding of activities the government considers to be promoting migration and the criminalization of any assistance given to refugees and asylum-seekers, whose rights have also been curtailed.
The appeals court in the southern city of Szeged said Ahmed Hamed, a resident of Cyprus, has to serve at least two-thirds of his sentence before he can be released, so he may be freed in a few months.
Hamed, who was also expelled from Hungary for 10 years, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in November 2016 but an appeals court annulled his conviction and ordered a retrial in June 2017. That resulted in the seven-year sentence which has now been reduced.
Opinion: Lots of Talk but Little Progress From Korean Summit
By Donald Kirk
The third summit between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un — their first in the North Korean capital — devolved into a talkfest in which one thing was clear: Kim is not about to give up his nukes and the missiles for carrying them to distant targets, including the United States.
He’s not giving up, though, on President Donald Trump, with whom he agreed on June 12 in Singapore to bring about “complete denuclearization.” It was “Thanks to this (U.S.-North Korea meeting),” Kim said, that “regional conditions stabilized and a more advanced outcome is expected.”
Moon, whom Kim first met in the truce village of Panmunjom on the south side of the North-South line in April, had “helped find the start of the historic North Korea-U.S. talks.”
The prospect of a second Trump-Kim summit assumed paramount importance in Moon’s meetings with Kim.
Thus Moon after the summit said Kim had “expressed willingness to continue taking additional steps” toward denuclearization, but they would be conditioned on “corresponding steps” by the United States. The statement signed by Moon and Kim said the North would even agree to “the permanent shutdown” of its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon provided the United States took “corresponding measures” a la the statement signed by Trump and Kim calling for “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.
The inference was plain: nothing would happen unless the United States agreed on a “peace declaration” viewed by Trump’s closest advisers as a prelude to a “peace treaty” under which the United States would withdraw most of its 28,500 troops from South Korea. A treaty would also mean dissolution of the U.N. Command under which U.S. and South Korean forces, and troops from 16 other countries, fought the Korean War.
Moon said Kim had agreed to shut down a site in Dongchang-ri for testing the engines of missiles, but there was no hint that North Korea would provide a list of all its nuclear facilities or an inventory of the nukes and missiles that it has already manufactured. Moon claimed, however, “the South and the North” had “discussed denuclearization steps for the first time” but did not mention “complete, verifiable irreversible denuclearization,” as the Americans have demanded.
Kim obviously viewed the outcome of the summit as a victory, saying the declaration that he signed with Moon would “open a higher level for the improvement in relations (between the South and the North) … and bring closer the era of peace and prosperity.”
Against the advice of some of those around him, notably national security adviser John Bolton, Trump appeared delighted by the results and possibly amenable to a peace declaration or at least a second summit with Kim. Trump’s tone seemed almost triumphant, as if the summit were a vindication of the rapport he claimed to have struck with Kim in Singapore.
“Kim Jong-un has agreed to allow nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts,” Trump said in the tweet. “In the meantime,” he added, “there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing.”
The test of this week’s Moon-Kim summit will not be whether the North gives up its nukes and missiles and the facilities for making them, as the Americans demand, but whether they can fulfill lesser deals reached this week. For instance, the South Koreans are closing some of their guard posts south of the military demarcation line, as agreed Wednesday, but who knows what the North Koreans are doing?
Other sensitive issues either never arose or were swiftly brushed aside. The North Koreans are saying nothing about withdrawing several hundred thousand troops within striking distance of the South or pulling back several thousand missiles that could rain fire and fury, just as Trump famously threatened last year to do to the North. Nor was anything said about systemic human rights abuses, notably those of several hundred thousand prisoners consigned to spend the rest of their shortened lives within the North’s sprawling gulag system.
But otherwise how important was the summit? We’ll know more when or if Kim pays a return visit to Seoul, as Moon said was agreed. Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, at his summit with Kim Dae-jung in 2000, promised to visit Seoul but never made it.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspaper and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.