The great national question at the heart of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination is, who do you believe?
Christine Blasey Ford, who says she was attacked by Kavanaugh at a drunken high school party? Or Brett Kavanaugh, who won't apologize for his love of beer, but says he doesn't get that drunk and he certainly never assaulted anyone?
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With the swing Supreme Court seat hanging in the balance, both sides of the debate have engaged in some psychological warfare, but Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have elevated the sowing of doubt about Ford and two other women who have made claims against Kavanaugh to an art form.
Most Republicans on the committee fought like hell to keep an FBI investigation of the claims from taking place and, having lost that battle, have now fought against the results of the FBI investigation from being made public.
They've also selectively released rumors to undercut Ford and Kavanaugh's other accuser Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were in college, and Julie Swetnick, who said Kavanaugh was present at a party where she was the victim of a "gang" rape.
Like a good criminal defense team, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans stoked rumors and sprinkled out leads that seemed designed to undercut Ford, Ramirez and Swetnick and prop up Kavanaugh, throwing doubt on the women's stories without actually disputing them.
It was the Senate Judiciary Committee that put out a press release -- a press release! -- on a signed statement it had received from an ex-boyfriend of Swetnick's. No need to reprint its contents here, but it was offered, somehow, as evidence that Swetnick was not telling the truth about being raped.
Swetnick's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, issued a blistering response.
"The letter from Dennis Ketterer is garbage - the GOP is desperate," Avenatti said in a tweet. "The allegations he makes are false and without any basis. We demand that the FBI interview my client & him, and that anyone found to have submitted false info be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
It was Grassley's office that, in the lead-up to Ford's hearing last Thursday, made it known they had interviewed two still anonymous men who said it was they, and not Kavanaugh, who may have attacked Ford. The men were never named and their helpful offering has not ultimately been pursued, at least not publicly.
Democrat Dick Durbin asked Ford about it at the hearing.
"The Republican staff of this committee released to the media a timeline that shows that they've interviewed two people who claimed they were the ones who actually assaulted you. I'm asking you to address this new defense of mistaken identity directly. Dr. Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?"
"One-hundred percent," she answered.
It was Grassley's office that released, via a transcript of the questioning of Kavanaugh, some of the more outlandish and unverified allegations against Kavanaugh, including the one of a possible attack on a boat off the coast of Rhode Island.
That one had been called in to Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's office. He referred it to the committee majority.
It was offered multiple times by Republicans at the hearing last Thursday as evidence that the charges were just plain silly.
"Crazy stuff. Gangs, illegitimate children, fights on boats in Rhode Island, all nonsense, reported breathlessly and often uncritically by the media," Kavanaugh said during his angry opening statement.
The man who made the call to Whitehouse's Senate office has since apologized and may face charges for lying to Congress, since it has been referred to the FBI.
It was Grassley's office that demanded notes from Ford's attorneys of her therapy sessions and a recording of her polygraph exam after it obtained a statement from a former boyfriend who alleged that she helped a friend prepare for a polygraph.
The boyfriend was disputed by the friend Ford allegedly helped, who told CNN Tuesday that no such help ever occurred. That didn't stop the committee from suggesting with its demands that Ford was somehow a master of tricking polygraph machines.
All of this works to undermine the accusers as the country waits for the results of an FBI investigation, which the public may or may not be able to see.
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