Christie: Fairness dictates delaying Kavanaugh confirmation after second accuser comes forward

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s pick for Supreme Court, at his Senate confirmation hearing in Washington. (Eric Thayer/The New York Times)

What about now?

Last week, as the fast-moving drama surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh unfolded, I asked whether his equally fast-moving confirmation process should be delayed.

Well, 60 percent of you said “yes”. Likely with the desire to hear out Professor Christine Blasey Ford on her allegations that Kavanaugh, as a drunken 17-year-old Georgetown Prep student, sexually assaulted her at a house party. She was 15 years old at the time.

RELATED: Poll: Should the Senate delay a confirmation vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh?

But wait. That was last week. We now have what Republican supporters of Kavanaugh feared more than anything else: a second woman.

The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday night that Senate Democrats were investigating a second woman’s accusation of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh dating to the 1983-84 academic year, Kavanaugh’s first at Yale University.

RELATED: Senate Democrats Investigate a New Allegation of Sexual Misconduct, from Brett Kavanaugh’s College Years

Just as he did with Ford, Kavanaugh has denied the new allegations.

With regard to Ford, he denied ever attending such a party. Although Mark Judge, his best friend at the time, has written a book (and more) implying how they used to get drunk and attend such parties on the regular. Judge, now a well-known “conservative,” has said he has “no recollection” of the party that Ford has mentioned. He also has no desire to repeat that statement under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Christine Blasey Ford, the Palo Alto, Calif., professor accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. (ResearchGate.net/Zuma Press/TNS)

As you can imagine, in the past week Ford has been vilified by Republicans and Kavanaugh supports, as well as lifted up by Democrats and supporters of the #MeToo movement.

Conspiracies abound. The biggest being that this is an attack on a good man engineered by the Democrats to keep the nation’s highest court from leaning too far right. (Denying President Donald Trump another victory is just icing on the cake.) That the Dems withheld this information for months (it was six or seven weeks) just so they could spring it at the last minute.

The latter is ludicrous, of course, given that Ford never wanted to have her name used when this was first brought to the attention of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Regardless of how the respected California professor came forward. She did. On the record.

So Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has spent a week walking a fine line between belittling Ford’s recollection of a traumatic teenage experience and trying to coax her (through her attorney) into testifying soonest before his committee.

The week was a news whirlwind. Grassley scheduling Ford to testify before talking to Ford about testifying. Ford insisting on an FBI investigation into her allegations before testifying. President Trump publicly questioning Ford’s allegations because she didn’t report it at the time. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell guaranteeing the Christian-conservative Family Research Council a Kavanaugh confirmation before either Ford or Kavanaugh has even testified. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a senior Republican member of the committee, saying that Ford is likely “confused” and probably has “the wrong guy.”

Gee, why would anyone think that Ford wouldn’t get a fair hearing?

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., addresses the Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on Friday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anyway, by the end of the week, there were reports that Ford had come to an agreement to testify before the Judiciary Committee this Thursday. Kavanaugh would testify the same day.

But then came Sunday.

The New Yorker said 53-year-old Deborah Ramirez described a traumatic sexual assault incident in an interview after being contacted by the magazine. Ramirez recalled that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away, the magazine reported.

Deborah Ramirez, 53, is accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while they were students at Yale University. (New Yorker)

In a statement provided by the White House, Kavanaugh said the event “did not happen” and that the allegation was “a smear, plain and simple.” A White House spokeswoman added in a second statement that the allegation was “designed to tear down a good man.”

Again, this is the one thing that Republicans did not want to happen, One woman willing to testify that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her can possibly be dismissed. But two — well-educated and respected — women testifying denotes a possibly disturbing pattern and adds pressure for an investigation.

As one former prosecutor said on CNN last week: “In my experience, these types of incidents are not one-offs,” he said. “There is typically a pattern of behavior… that means there’s likely more than one.”

The irony is not lost on me that on Monday, a Pennsylvania judge would decide whether 81-year-old comedian Bill Cosby would be labeled a “sexually violent predator” for alleged incidents that took place 30-plus years ago. Cosby was found guilty by a jury on all three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. But make no mistake what one the case for prosecutors was the testimony of five other women that Cosby had done the same to them.

We must remember that there is no evidence beyond two women’s allegations that Kavanaugh has done anything wrong — so far.

But politics aside, it’s difficult to see how the Senate Judiciary Committee can push ahead with this confirmation process without allowing the FBI to investigate these specific allegations.

It’s not fair to Ford and Ramirez. It’s not fair to Kavanaugh. And it’s not fair to the American people.

Christie: Moore sex controversy throws moral test for political candidates out the window

NEW YORK — Beverly Young Nelson (L) speaks to the media with her lawyer Gloria Allred, at a news conference where she has accused Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually abusing her when she was 16 on Monday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

There is no more moral test for political candidates. There is only hypocrisy.

That’s about the only conclusion you can come to in the wake of the sexual assault allegations against former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, the Republican candidate to fill an Alabama seat in the U.S. Senate.

For those of you who’ve been too busy binge-watching “Stranger Things 2” on Netflix or traveling overseas like President Donald J. Trump, The Washington Post published an explosive report last week in which four women say Moore pursued them sexually or romantically when they were in their teens — allegations corroborated by more than two dozens witnesses. The youngest accuser, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 and Moore was 32 when he sexually touched her.

Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Roy Moore.

Moore has repeatedly denied the allegations made by Corfman, and is staying in the race.

But as expected, this news touched off an avalanche of condemnation from Democrats. And more importantly, dozens of Republicans — including Marco Rubio of Florida — have also offered more tepid calls for Moore to drop out of the Senate race, “If the allegations turn out to be true.”

Well, at least in Corfman’s case, her stepfather has corroborated her story. And Mike Ortiz, an ex-boyfriend of Corfman told CNN she relayed the story to him when they dated for about two years around 2009. Corfman’s description to the Post fits what she told him to a tee, he said.

“But I believed her when she told me and I still believe her,” he said on CNN. “She wouldn’t lie about something like that.”

What’s been eye-opening for many observers is hearing Bible-thumping, morality preaching evangelicals in Alabama imply just the opposite. Yep… these same evangelicals who castigate liberals and progressives for the slightest moral failing are willing to set aside the word of four women accusing the former judge of sexual assault. A fifth woman, Beverly Young Nelson, came forward on Monday with a detailed and particularly creepy encounter with Moore when she was 16 years old.

Conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity asked Moore Friday on his show whether Moore would have dated teenagers when he was in his 30s.

“No, not generally,” said Moore, who also said he always asked the permission of a girl’s mother before dating her.

Uh… “not generally”?

Small wonder Republicans are scrambling ahead of the Dec. 12 special Senate election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, with the deadline for replacing a candidate on the ballot well past. The polls now have them virtually tied at about 46 percent; putting the GOP’s already tenuous 52-48 Senate majority in further jeopardy on big votes like tax reform.

Dozens of Republicans — including Marco Rubio of Florida — have offered tepid calls for Moore to drop out of the Senate race, “If the allegations turn out to be true.” (Editorial cartoon by Ken Siers)

On Monday, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell had enough. The Kentucky conservative  came around to calling for Moore to drop out of the race, after saying “I “believe the women.” Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Steve Daines of M0ntana publicly rescinded their endorsements after the Hannity interview. And the Republican’s senatorial campaign committee has pulled its funding.

Even those recriminations, however, smack more of political calculus than moral turpitude.

Over the weekend, a former prosecutor who once worked alongside Moore in the early 1980s told CNN it was “common knowledge” at the time that Moore dated high school girls.

“It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird,” former deputy district attorney Teresa Jones told CNN in comments aired Saturday. “We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall … but you really wouldn’t say anything to someone like that.”

Still, Moore remains defiant.

“To think grown women would wait 40 years before a general election to bring charges is unbelievable,” he said at an event in Alabama over the weekend. He later added, “Isn’t it strange after 40 years of constant investigation, that people have waited four weeks before a general election to bring their complaint? That’s not a coincidence.”

I agree. This is the kind of stuff that doesn’t usually come out unless someone is running for office. The bigger the office, the more stuff that will typically come out.

The Rev. Tom Brown, pastor at First Baptist Church of Gallant, speaks to the media before the church service Sunday, Nov. 12, in Gallant, Ala. The First Baptist Church of Gallant is the church the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore attends. “He’s always been a man of character, of integrity, of honor, and there’s nothing in those 25 years that I’ve seen that would challenge that,” Brown said. “That’s all I can go by.” (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Again, that hasn’t much weakened Moore’s support among the evangelical Christian voters of Alabama who write the whole thing off as a Washington establishment plot.

That would be a bit easier to accept if these same good people hadn’t bought, hook line and sinker, the false allegations that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. These same voters, with regard to Moore, now ask: “Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

Here’ another couple questions: Whatever happened to their morality test? Does anyone really believe these same Moore supporters would give Democratic rival Jones the benefit of the doubt if such allegations were made?

Moore says he will sue The Washington Post over the story.

No, he won’t.

He says that he will come forward this week with evidence that some of the women have been paid to make the accusations.

No, he won’t.

But will that matter to the moral hypocrites who still support Moore despite these awful allegations?

No, it won’t.

Christie: Just one question, President Trump, ‘Where’s the plan?’

President Donald Trump aims to reset his agenda with the American people through his first speech to a joint session of Congress tonight. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump aims to reset his agenda with the American people through his first speech to a joint session of Congress tonight. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

When President Donald J. Trump speaks to a joint session of Congress tonight to lay out his budget priorities, he hopes to reset his agenda with the American people.

It’s been a rough month or so for the new president as he’s stubbed his toe more times than he would have liked stumbling around the dimly-lit hallways of government policymaking.

This Joint Address to Congress — not technically called a State of the Union because he’s in his first year — though comes at a pivotal moment and with a crucial bottom-line question: What’s the plan, Mr. President?

To this point, there has been plenty of rhetoric (some of it caustic and divisive) and arguably ill-conceived executive orders that have certainly pleased the base of supporters who voted for him. But poll after poll has shown that these moves — and Twitter rants — haven’t galvanized a broad swath of the American people behind him. A mere 44 percent of Americans approve of the job President Trump is doing as a newly inaugurated commander-in-hief. In contrast, 48 percent of Americans say they disapprove of Trump’s performance, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Feb. 18–22.

Again, this won’t begin change until he begins answering the big question: What’s the plan?

It’s no longer good enough to call Obamacare “a disaster” despite the facts showing otherwise. Trump now needs to show us a viable plan for repealing and replacing the beleaguered and belittled health care law. There are at least 20 million increasingly vocal and impatient Americans waiting on an answer.

And Trump’s statement before the National Governors Association on Monday that no one knew how “unbelievably complex” and complicated the nation’s heath care system is didn’t give anyone confidence that a plan is coming anytime soon.

It’s no longer good enough to say “we’re going to destroy ISIS,” also known as Islamic State. How are we going to do that without putting more military on the ground, and thus put more U.S. soldiers in harm’s way? Do Americans really have the stomach for another foray into Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or even Yemen? And for how long?

Where is the plan to deliver the promised help to the nation’s inner-cities beyond sending in U.S. troops? How will that bring the jobs and better schools that Trump promised on the campaign trail and since?

Then there’s the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Where is the plan to rebuild roads and bridges that seem to be collapsing on a weekly basis from California to Missouri to Texas to Georgia?

The time for tough talk, and incremental executive orders attempting to erase the previous president’s legacy is over. We know that President Trump can talk a good game, and can sign paperwork accompanied by specious claims of creating 70,000 jobs.

What we need to know is now is whether he can govern and push through legislation to fulfill promises to fix whatever problems ail us.

In other words, “What’s the plan, Mr. President?”

Christie: GOP silencing of Elizabeth Warren was outrageous, divisive

The U.S. Senate’s rebuke of Elizabeth Warren last night for reading a letter from Coretta Scott King that criticizes Sen. Jeff Sessions is an outrageous abuse of freedom of speech and a dismaying display of the extreme partisanship that has helped poison our politics.

Republican senators formally silenced Sen. Warren, the Democratic firebrand from Massachusetts, during debate on Sessions’ nomination for attorney general as she read from a letter that King wrote in 1986, when Sessions was being considered for a federal judgeship.

In that 31-year-old letter, the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged senators to reject the then-U.S. Attorney in Alabama because he had “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, interrupted Warren as she read the letter, objecting that she had demeaned a peer, invoking a rule against insulting fellow senators. The Senate then voted, 49-43, along strict party lines, to force Warren into silence, at least on the Senate floor, until the battle over Session’s attorney general confirmation is finished.

In one blow, the Republicans moved to muzzle both Warren, who has been a piercing critic of the new Trump administration, and Mrs. King, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement.

They looked clumsy in doing so. Warren later went on Facebook Live outside the Senate chambers to read the letter in full. Twitter and social media erupted with support for her.

And hours later, Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, picked up the Coretta King letter and read it in full. He received no censure.

That fact alone suggests powerfully that, as much as Republican senators wanted to protect the reputation of Sessions, one of their own, they were equally keen to squelch Warren. She must be getting under their skin.

They sure didn’t worry about the optics of sexism. Especially when McConnell justified his move by saying this:

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

The hashtag #ShePersisted became a top trender on Twitter.

And quite frankly, the notion of being forbidden to criticize a fellow senator when that senator is up for confirmation for a Cabinet post — especially top law-enforcement official — is ludicrous.

Animosities are clearly rising to boiling point in the Senate, where the Democrats are doing all they can to slow, if not defeat, the confirmation of Trump cabinet nominees. Republicans, some of whom had once promised to be a check on Trump, are complaining that the Democrats are being obstructionist. But the Democrats are fighting an almost comically inappropriate host of nominees: an education secretary who doesn’t believe in public education; an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who opposes the Environmental Protection Agency; and an attorney general who disdains the Voting Rights Act.

But these heavy-handed tactics by McConnell are likely to backfire. Yes, the Republicans look like heroes to their base, but Warren is also looking more heroic to progressives.

As Barack Obama’s former political adviser, David Axelrod, put it:

 

 

Goodman: In inaugural address, Trump comes out like a boxer, squaring off for a fight

President Donald Trump takes the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts, as his wife Melania holds the Bible, and with his children Barron, Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany, Friday on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jim Bourg/Pool Photo via AP)
President Donald Trump takes the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts, as his wife Melania holds the Bible, and with his children Barron, Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany, Friday on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jim Bourg/Pool Photo via AP)

A billionaire who has spent his lifetime enriching himself and feeding an insatiable ego began the 45th presidency of the United States by telling the American people that “this moment is your moment, this moment belongs to you.”

In his inaugural address, the newly installed President Donald J. Trump revisited the dark caricature of the United States that he depicted in campaign rally after rally: a nightmare of shuttered factories and gang-infested inner cities, of out-of-touch elites that ignore the forgotten man and woman, of a government that placates foreign countries but leaves its own southern border unprotected.

“The American carnage,” as he called it, “stops right here.” He sounded more like a guy squaring off for a fight than a statesman celebrating the peaceful passing of power and the continuance of America’s traditions of freedom.

Read Donald Trump’s inaugural speech: the full transcript

The new president did not mention that the Dow is approaching 20,000, the unemployment rate is down to 4.7 percent, average hourly wages are almost 3 percent higher than a year ago, or that we’ve had 75 straight months of job growth, a record for the modern era. These facts did not fit his narrative of a country in dire straits, desperate for a dramatic rescue.

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land,” Trump declared. “It’s going to be only America first, America first.”

Surely Trump knows that the phrase “America First” was the name of Charles Lindbergh’s pro-German isolationist movement that preceded World War II. Just as surely, he doesn’t care.

Consistent with his campaign, Trump insisted that every decision on economics, foreign affairs and immigration will be made “to benefit American workers and their families.” That’s a worthy goal, but how will that be accomplished with a Cabinet led by billionaires who oppose environmental regulation, public schools and universal access to affordable healthcare?

“Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” the new president said — an assertion that must surprise the many economists who warn that protectionism is more likely to lead to countermeasures, trade wars and possible recession.

Trump invoked no history in his address. He gave no indication that he stood on the shoulders of giants. Instead, he spoke of his inauguration as the beginning of a new glorious epoch, a separation from a disappointing past. “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams,” he said.

Although he talked about how this day, this moment, belongs to “the people,” Trump had nothing to say about how these decisions would be arrived at. There was mention of the people’s collective wisdom. No talk about the give-and-take of democratic discussion. Instead, he told Americans, “You will never be ignored again.” And, “I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down.”

Trump wants us to enter a new mythos. He, the superhero who takes down the selfish elites. He, the fighter for the little guy who would be helpless without him.

“The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”

He finished by pumping his arms in the air, the gesture of a winning prizefighter.

Trump protesters gather in West Palm, just west of Mar-a-Lago

Goodman: New House GOP’s first action doesn’t exactly ‘drain the swamp’

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2016 file photo, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans' grip on all levers of power stands as a mandate to the GOP-led Congress, which will move swiftly to try to undo eight years of outgoing President Barack Obama's agenda. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 8. On Monday, Ryan opposed the changes in House rules voted on by members, but today he defended them. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

UPDATE (12:24 p.m.): Shortly after noon today, the House Republicans backed off their plan to gut the ethics watchdog, after receiving the critical tweet from President-elect Donald Trump. 

UPDATE 2 (12:43 p.m.): So, apparently, Donald Trump, with a couple of tweets, has more power than Paul Ryan and the other ostensible House leaders to influence the rank and file Republicans. Is the House leadership now actually in the hands of the president-elect?

As their first major act of the 115th Congress, House Republicans on Monday night voted behind closed doors to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.

That’s right. Less than two months after Americans chose the presidential candidate who promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Donald J. Trump’s own party voted to rein in an independent ethics office, created eight years ago after a series of embarrassing congressional scandals, and put it under the control of the House Ethics Committee.

In other words: let House members police their own darn ethics.

Trump himself criticized the House for making the weakening of the ethics watchdog their first priority, saying, in a pair of tweets this morning, that there were better things to work on: “Tax reform, healthcare, and so many other things of far greater importance!”

Of course, to the public it seems no accident at all that Congress would make its first priority the weakening of the independent agency: It looks like they’re clearing the way for all sorts of skulduggery.

It’s a bad sign of how this Congress intends to do business that this vote was reached in a private conference vote, meaning that no Democrats were involved or forced to vote.  If, as alleged, the independent ethics office has acted unfairly against some members, why not make that a public discussion, rather than offer up that explanation after the secret vote was taken?

It’s not the first sign of anti-democratic tendencies from this new Congress. Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan and his Republican lieutenants proposed new penalties for lawmakers if they live-stream or cause disruptions on the House floor. It’s a direct response to House Democrats’ 25-hour sit-in last summer over GOP inaction on gun-control legislation.

As Bloomberg News reported:

Under the proposed new rules package, which was seen by Bloomberg News, members could face a $500 fine through deductions to their paychecks for a first offense of using electronic photography or audio or visual recording, as well as for broadcasting from the chamber’s floor. A $2,500 fine would be leveled for the next such offense and each subsequent violation.

The new rules also clarify which conduct is to be deemed disorderly or disruptive during floor proceedings, including blocking access by other members to microphones or what is known as “the well” — the front of the chamber.

In our editorial on Sunday, we urged citizens to be vigilant in this new year to “keep the politicians from shredding the safety net, betraying the environment and knee-capping our democracy.”

These moves, which smack of a ruling party making things cozy for itself, are just the kind of knee-capping we were talking about.

Let us know here if you think House Republicans are being hypocrites, and have gone too far?