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Home / US / "Ready to go to the mat": How Trump and the Republicans brought Kavanaugh to the threshold of confirmation

"Ready to go to the mat": How Trump and the Republicans brought Kavanaugh to the threshold of confirmation



Again and again, President Trump was told not to. A cadre of counselors, confidants and lawmakers urged him – in effect – imploring him not to personally attack the women who accused Supreme Court spokesman Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

So he did it anyway.

Address Thousands at a rash rally in Mississippi relied on Trump's own visceral sentiment of the moment and derided Christine Blasey Ford for gaps in her memory, directly challenging the credibility of the prosecutor.

Establishment Republicans initially reacted with horror. But Trump's 36-second off-script Jeremiad turned out to be a crucial turning point in the polarizing candidate's victory, the White House officials and the Kavanaugh allies said that Kavanaugh's upswing was most in doubt as his fate was most doubted , raged.

On Tuesday night in Southhaven, Miss, Trump put in with the recklessness of an attacking dog and the going of a stand-up comedian in Ford. The crowd roared with laughter and applause. Assistants who were privately cheered when the performances of the performance were played and repeated many times shifted the national discussion from reviewing Kavanaugh's honesty and drinking habits to doubts about Ford's memory. And in Washington, Republican Senators, despite condemning Trump's farce from Ford, felt encouraged to aggressively demand Kavanaugh's affirmation, which became a near-certain Friday on Friday and seems official with a vote on Saturday.

"As long as he was ready to go to the mat for him, it probably also strengthened up here," said Senator John Thune (SD), the chamber's Republican leader.

The three-week whirlwind – since Ford first shared it A Washington Post story expected on Saturday to validate the election – fused the country's cultural coverage of sexual assault with tribal politics and not only had consequences for the interim elections of the country next month, but also for the long-term identities of both parties.

In Focus As always, Trump, who used his cavalry pulpit Kavanaugh and accused men everywhere. At first he limited his fighting impulses and transferred the process to the Senate, but the president followed his own gut feeling as if, in the description of an adjutant, he was "a strategic Boogeyman".

The result will be, according to Counselor of President Kellyanne Conway, "a coronation of his presidency."

"When people consider this as an apocalyptic struggle, he is the ultimate fighter who does not give up, does not give in and does not give up, even if there is an avalanche of criticism and vicious, hideous reactions from the other side", said Conway.

Despite Trump's public statements, the real deciders of Kavanaugh's fate were a trio of Senate Republicans with independent charisma – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Jeff Flake of Arizona calling for one FBI investigation extended the process, but also ensured Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Republican leaders, who had been holding Trump's fires for a common agenda for nearly two years, searched the chaos to properly fulfill a movement's desire to replace the Swing seat of the Supreme Court, Anthony M. Kennedy, with a conservative one ideologues.

The hardball approach of the GOP left the Democrats shaken and defeated.

"They succeed because they have broken all rules and norms," ​​said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "They adopted the strategy that the best defense is a good insult."

This portrait of Kavanaugh's tense affirmation process is the result of interviews with more than two dozen Senators, Senate officials, White House officials and outside Republican advisers, some of whom spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to discuss the scenes machinations.

After three weeks of uncertainty and partisan plea, it was Collins on Friday that pinpointed the result in an extraordinary 44-minute adress on the Senate floor.

The Maine-moderate had earlier signaled her with a "yes" on a procedural vote to move ahead before sitting down for lunch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) In the members (19659020) Collins hit Kavanaugh defiantly defended himself and berated liberal activists and senators who, she claimed, had never given the nominee a fair blow. Although she said that she found Ford's statement "sincere, painful and compelling" and believes that she survived a sexual assault, she explained at length that she saw no incriminating witnesses or evidence for her allegations that Kavanaugh was the aggressor.

The last words in their speech were those that many GOP leaders had wanted to hear: "I will vote to ratify Judge Kavanaugh."

McConnell led the Republican senators – nearly two dozen participants – with a standing ovation. One by one, Collins compatriots celebrated their decision. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the US Justice Committee, hugged Collins in a giant bear hug.

Senator Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) Within a few moments, he was the only Democrat who wanted to confirm Kavanaugh, and in connection with Flake's previous statements of support he guaranteed the candidate's rise to the Supreme Court.

"I do not even know him"

From the moment Kennedy announced his retirement on June 27, the White House recognized the struggle for his seat would be much more difficult than Justice Neil M. Gorsuch's to replace the deceased Antonin Scalia. The election of a successor to Kennedy's swivel chair gave Trump the opportunity to consolidate a conservative majority on the court over the next few decades – and the White House advisors decided that they would have to launch a vigorous political campaign.

The chief strategist was Donald McGahn, the adviser to the White House, who had a stormy relationship with Trump, but stood up by the conservative movement.

Trump also understood the stakes, Helpers said. If he could solidify the conservative majority of the Supreme Court, the president figured that this move could make him permanently attractive to Republican voters, especially evangelical Christians, and dispel doubts about his administration.

Trump had no particular personal affinity for Kavanaugh, although a dinner was arranged between the two men and their wives to maintain a relationship. "I do not even know him," said the president of the Mississippi crowd, "so it's not like, 'Oh, gee, I want to protect my friend." Nonetheless, Trump felt invested in Kavanaugh, and he entrusted McGahn, with whom the president could barely speak, with his final victory, before leaving the White House later this fall.

"Kavanaugh is an establishment-type, he was a Bush-type," said Senator Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.), Citing the candidate's experience as a White House employee under President George W. Bush. "There was a lot of pushback, you know -" Do not go [down] this road, "" That's not why you won, "and he said," Hold on. I want to pick the best people I can on the court, "and he said he was unbelievably impressed by his background, just the whole package from Kavanaugh.

McGahn built a war room on the fourth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with nearly a dozen lawyers, two communications agents and a stable of Kavanaugh's Former Attorney General A Justice Department farm team researched and drafted topics of conversation Leonard Leo, a longtime leader of the conservative Federalist Society and, to a lesser extent, Republican Attorney William A. Burck, were key advisors and a selection of financially well-resourced outreach groups, including of the Judicial Crisis Network, worked to remove Kavanaugh's public image see and improve online advertising and replacement media appearances.

The team treated Kavanaugh as a presidential candidate and choreographed his audience's movements. When Kavanaugh visited Capitol Hill, McGahn and an entourage of employees and aides accompanied the judge to meetings with senators and worked out routes to avoid interactions with protesters.

Even so, even the Kavanaugh operation sharply criticized Republican allies on Capitol Hill and others in Trump's circle, who at times questioned everything from the selection of Kavanaugh to the ability of the war zone to effectively master a bloody partisan hate.

& # 39; Say from your heart & # 39;

The story of Kavanaugh's nomination can be told in two parts. Until September 16, he was a milquetoast Bush Republican, whose confirmation hearings failed to arouse much of the country. But this Sunday, when Washington Post published Ford's detailed report on sexual assault when she and Kavanaugh were teenagers in a suburb of Maryland, the Supreme Court's nomination attacked the nation – Kavanaugh being a predator with a drinking problem for some and an unfairly smeared one Folk heroes for others.

The initial Ford allegations momentarily sent the White House mad as they tried to gauge their credibility and the accuracy of their claims. The president was immediately warned, including Conway, not to attack Ford, but to say that she deserved to be heard – he stayed one line for several days.

The following day, stories of Kavanaugh's alleged debauchery as a high school and college student dripped from former classmates and two other allegations of sexual misconduct: Deborah Ramirez claimed in the New Yorker that Kavanaugh had become a student at Yale University and Julie Swetnick, represented by lawyer and potential Democratic presidential candidate Michael Avenatti hinted that Kavanaugh had been to parties where women had been raped.

But the additional allegations had an unexpected effect: they gave Kavanaugh's supporters, who were far less credible than Ford's assault charges, new ammunition all the charges as a political hit job.

Kavanaugh, a former political officer who had completed his confirmatory process to a micromanager The coverage of his media nomination was eager to publicly defend himself – and McGahn, McConnell, Trump and other advisors encouraged him to do just that , Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley sat in a television interview with Fox News Channel's Martha MacCallum.

The interview has been widely criticized – "objectively a terrible idea," the words of a White House official. Kavanaugh looked wooden and dispassionate, pausing for a few points of discussion, and Trump, an avid consumer and television news critic, believed he was weak and unconvincing.

But the Kavanaugh team believed that the assembly seat served its purpose: he was in front of the camera denying allegations in clips that helped fill the news vacuum in the run-up to Thursday's Senate testimony from him and Ford.

"It filled the void," said a second representative of the White House.

Then came the whiplash – more than eight hours of Senate testimony, first from Ford, then from Kavanaugh, which intrigued the nation and even swayed the president from fatalism to enthusiasm over Kavanaugh's confirmation prospects.

When Ford finally finished, McGahn privately spoke with Kavanaugh, who had not watched him and urged him to be passionate. "Speak from the bottom of my heart," McGahn advised the nominee, someone who was familiar with their discussion.

Kavanaugh roared into the conference room and called his opening speech, which he personally wrote the night before with the help of a trusted employee. In the eyes of his advisors-and perhaps the president in particular-the hotly defiant idea was so effective that a group gathered in the office of Vice President Pence in Capitol Hill began to cheer and pump their fists. Some even had tears in their eyes.

"It Fires Its Base"

The hearing upset activists on both sides, leaving nervous senators – including Flake, one of eleven Republicans in the Judiciary Committee – between rival accounts and party loyalty.

Flake, who has repeatedly criticized Trump's rhetoric and positioned himself as the ultimate swing vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, decided last Friday to vote "yes" to bring Kavanaugh's nomination from the committee to the entire Senate. 19659051] But Flake was confronted that day in a Senate elevator by two women who, in tears, accused him of rejecting credible allegations of assault. He told senator colleagues that the FBI should resume his background investigation to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct.

Flake met with Murkowski and Collins with McConnell and the republican members of the committee in the capitol's office of the Leader, saying they would not vote for Kavanaugh until there had been an FBI investigation. The trio set the scope of the probe, which was to last no longer than a week and did not include Swetnick's allegations.

"How can we limit it to credible claims compared to a number of things we would have expected to come out?" Recalled Sen. lawyer Thom Tillis (RN.C.).

McConnell spoke with Trump, convincing him that the only option was to delay a vote and continue the FBI exploration with their conversation.

McConnell understood that Murkowski, who generally holds her own advice, was the real joker. After being personally influenced by survivors of Alaskan sexual assault, she announced Friday morning that she would not confirm Kavanaugh.

In the last days of the Kavanaugh battle, Trump's role was primarily public. His advisors acknowledged that the president would not have much influence with the trio of Republicans who were on the bubble.

"I think in terms of the people we ended up winning, sometimes less is better," said Thune, referring to Trump's role.

At the election campaign, however, Trump had the partisan war germinated in his rallies. In Mississippi, the president – already angered by an investigation into the allegedly fraudulent taxation of his family by the New York Times – felt that the media was not scrutinizing Ford's account and determined to get involved.

"How did you get home?" I do not remember, "Trump said, repeating Ford's hearing." How did you get there? "I can not remember." Where is the place? "I can not remember." How many years ago? I do not know. I dont know. I dont know.

The reef lasted less than a minute but had lasting consequences, with the Senators, whose election Kavanaugh courted, said they were appalled by the President's conduct at the rally stage, but Kavanaugh allies saw a clear advantage: An argument from the president that angered Kavanaugh discredited Ford and became a fan of conservatives.

More than two dozen Trump supporters interviewed in the presidential election campaign on Thursday in Minnesota said they wanted it not fondling Ford and annoyed that this was not the case, but many also acknowledged that the President had simply spoken aloud what many of them privately thought.

"There are things he says that I wish he would not say it, but I'll take it – for all he did, I & # 39; I'll take it, "said Matthew Hoffland, 24, a web developer from Sparta, Wisconsin." It has lit his base.

Jenna Johnson of Rochester, Minnesota, contributed to this report.


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