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Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation chances just took a hit

On Thursday afternoon, ...

Posted: Sep 21, 2018 10:41 AM
Updated: Sep 21, 2018 10:41 AM

On Thursday afternoon, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford indicated she would be willing to come to Washington to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee sometime next week, a major shift from her stance earlier in the week that she would not sit for an interview unless and until the FBI looked into her allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in the 1980s.

That now means that Ford is nearly certain to tell her story publicly sometime next week. And that is bad news for Kavanaugh's chances at confirmation.

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Here's why. Prior to her latest response, the growing expectation in Washington was that Kavanaugh's confirmation had been righted after being rocked by Ford's allegation last week. The belief was that Ford would not meet the deadline of 10 a.m. Friday that Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, set to let the committee know whether she planned to attend to the Monday hearing. Which meant the hearing wouldn't happen. Which meant a vote in the Judiciary Committee would happen. And given Republicans' Senate majority -- and the unity emerging behind Kavanaugh -- that meant he was almost certainly going to be confirmed to the Court.

If I had to put a percentage on Kavanaugh's chances of confirmation prior to Thursday, I would say 90%. Maybe higher.

But assuming that Ford and Grassley can come to some sort of agreement on a) a day for her to appear next week and b) the parameters of her testimony, Kavanaugh's confirmation chances drop -- maybe precipitously. (For the record: I am assuming that Ford will be accommodated -- even if the hearing on Monday needs to be moved back a few days. Everyone -- from Grassley to President Donald Trump -- has expressed a desire to hear her side of the story.)

It's hard to imagine that Ford will cut anything other than a sympathetic figure in front of the committee. An accomplished professional woman sacrificing her privacy -- and her safety -- to step forward to tell her story, facing down a group, at least on the Republican side, of mostly men? It's a visual Republicans badly wanted to avoid. It now seems likely they will not dodge that scene.

For Kavanaugh's part, he has already repeatedly denied the Ford allegations. He is likely to do so again -- and to lean heavily on a series of testimonials from women in his life over the years to argue that this is a case of mistaken identity or misremembering on Ford's part. And if his past testimony during his confirmation hearing is any indication, he will come across as a genuine and self-effacing.

What Kavanaugh can't control is how the senators questioning him and Ford act. And how the public watching the proceedings react to all of it. Ford testifying injects a massive amount of fluctuation and uncertainty into the proceedings. And uncertainty is Kavanaugh's enemy -- and the enemy of Republicans desperately trying to get him confirmed before the 2018 midterms.

The Point: None of the above means Kavanaugh can't or won't be confirmed to the Supreme Court. He may well still make it. But assuming Ford makes good on her willingness to appear before the Judiciary Committee next week, the future for Kavanaugh is now much blurrier.

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