Christine Blasey Ford and the Search for a Standard of Proof

In a likely redux of the 1991 Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, Washington appears headed for dramatic public testimony by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who’s accused him of sexual assault when they were teens, research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford. Negotiations between Ford’s lawyers and Judiciary Committee Republicans seemed to be moving forward after a head-spinning week of back-and-forth talks. Reports on Sunday afternoon suggest agreement on a Thursday hearing.

But what should that hearing look like? How can senators determine what happened at a high school house party in the 1980s? How should they treat a private citizen who has come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against a man up for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court? How should they treat the nominee who categorically denies assaulting anyone, ever? What should be the standard of proof?

On Sunday morning’s talk shows, no one had a clear answer.

Republicans who want Kavanaugh on the bench before the court’s first arguments Oct. 1 also wants to avoid long-term damage from the committee’s 11 male GOP senators grilling a woman alleging sexual assault, a reprise of the Anita Hill hearings but in the age of #MeToo and President Trump’s own fraught history with female accusers and his Access Hollywood admission.

“I hope that Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford both get a fair hearing,” Senator David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, said on NBC’s Meet the Press. He said Ford had brought forward “serious allegations” that needed to be heard. When asked how senators should assess the testimony, Perdue avoided a specific answer and described the goal as “to find the truth, just like in any courtroom in our land.” Asked about a push to get Kavanaugh confirmed quickly–as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Friday at a conference …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics

Christine Blasey Ford Agrees to Testify As Frustrated Republicans Ask ‘When?’

Attorneys representing Christine Blasey Ford, the 51-year-old research psychologist who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said on Saturday afternoon that she would testify this coming week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Dr. Ford accepts the committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” they said in a statement issued at a 2:30 p.m. deadline that had been set late Friday night by the committee’s chairman, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa.

But the statement appeared to settle nothing beyond the need for more negotiations, and the Republicans, who remain determined to confirm Kavanaugh as quickly as possible, were none too happy about it.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas retweeted a news story about the update and added one word: “When?” The staff Twitter account for Orrin Hatch said that “this is exactly where we were on Monday morning—without agreeing to a date, time, and terms we are no closer to hearing from Dr Ford.” The only GOP positive note came from Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Trump critic who is not running for re-election: “Progress on a Judiciary Committee hearing is being made. This is good.”

A senior White House official seemed to capture the Republican frustration as Ford’s attorneys finessed Grassley’s deadline and sent the ball back into the GOP’s court without a clear end to the negotiation in sight. “This is an ask to continue ‘negotiations’ without committing to anything,” the official told The Washington Post.

In contrast, Judiciary Committee Democrats criticized the GOP’s treatment of Ford. “Why the rush? Why the bullying?” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, asked Friday night, adding that “the dismissive treatment of Dr. Ford is insulting to all sexual assault survivors.” Senator Richard …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics

Christine Blasey Ford Weighs the Risks and Rewards of Testifying

Will she or won’t she?

The question has captivated much of official Washington as lawmakers await Christine Blasey Ford’s decision on testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley offered Ford the chance to speak publicly about her allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party some 35 years ago.

Late Friday night, after hours of tense negotiations with Ford’s lawyers, Grassley extended a deadline until 2:30 p.m. Saturday by which Kavanaugh’s accuser must decide whether she will testify on Monday and under what terms. Ford had earlier signaled her willingness to testify later next week, so long as senators, not outside counsel, ask the questions, and Kavanaugh speaks first; Grassley has held firm to a Monday hearing.

It’s not unusual, of course, for a private citizen to testify in a congressional hearing. But Ford’s hypothetical appearance has prompted discussion about the risks and rewards of a layperson—that is, someone unaccustomed to the public eye—subjecting themselves to the no-holds-barred atmosphere of a congressional hearing. The rules (or lack thereof) dictating a hearing, coupled with the spectacle-like nature of the event, makes for one of the most high-pressure climates in Washington. All of which is only compounded by the fact that Ford would be testifying about something deeply personal and intimate.

“A lot of the things she says seem very believable. But every single story has gaps in it—sometimes you win or lose based on how you handles those gaps,” Jennifer Loven, managing director of Glover Park Group, told me.

Loven has prepped scores of clients for congressional hearings—from low-profile, private citizens to major CEOs—but said, ultimately, the risks will be weighed by the client alone. “It’s such a personal decision. Every woman who has a story to tell, …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics

Donald Trump Might Be the ‘Client From Hell’

On the 268th page of the bestselling book Fear, Bob Woodward quotes President Trump: “I don’t have any good lawyers. I have terrible lawyers. … I’ve got a bunch of lawyers who are not aggressive, who are weak, who don’t have my best interests in mind, who aren’t loyal. It’s just a disaster. I can’t find a good lawyer.”

It’s not clear when Trump reportedly voiced his despair, but it does appear to contradict the sunny tweet he typed on March 25 of this year:

Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case…don’t believe the Fake News narrative that it is hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on. Fame & fortune will NEVER be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted. Problem is that a new……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2018

In truth, veteran Philadelphia lawyer David Rudovsky tells me, most of his esteemed brethren are wary of representing “nightmare” clients like Trump; their ethical concerns vastly outweigh the lure of fame and fortune. He read Trump’s lament in the Woodward book and was not surprised. For some lawyers, he says, “a high-profile case like [Trump’s] is attractive, it’s interesting work.” But within the legal profession, there’s broad agreement that Trump is unusually difficult—that he doesn’t listen, that he actively undermines the lawyers working for him, and that, perhaps worst of all, he is incapable of learning. “We’re talking about the client from hell,” Rudovsky says. “I know that’s a hackneyed term, but for most lawyers, notwithstanding all the publicity and attention they’d get, representing him has got to be very, very difficult.”

Some of the latest developments in the Russia story confirm that. According to an article Tuesday in The New York …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics