Kavanaugh: Another conspiracy junkie focused on Clintons?

The angry Brett Kavanaugh ((Saul Loeb/Pool Image via AP)

To some, Brett Kavanaugh is clearing his name. To others, he’s veering into conspiracy theory.

But in blaming “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” for the sexual misconduct allegations against him, the Supreme Court nominee is drawing new attention to his time on the Kenneth Starr team investigating Bill Clinton. And in doing so, he’s shown he can deliver a Trump-like broadside against detractors even if it casts him in a potentially partisan light.

As a young lawyer, Kavanaugh played a key role on Starr’s team investigating sexual misconduct by then-President Bill Clinton, helping to shape one of the most salacious chapters in modern political history.

Kavanaugh spent a good part of the mid-1990s jetting back and forth to Little Rock, Arkansas, digging into the Clintons’ background, according to documents that were made public as part of his nomination to the Supreme Court.

It was Kavanaugh who pushed Starr to ask Clinton, in graphic detail, about the nature of his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. In a memo from 1998, Kavanaugh wrote that Starr should ask Clinton whether he engaged in phone sex and specific sexual acts with her.

Starr took Kavanaugh’s advice. His resulting report ultimately presented evidence that Clinton, in denying the affair, lied under oath. The report became the grounds for Clinton’s impeachment.

Now it’s Kavanaugh who is facing sexual misconduct allegations, including from Christine Blasey Ford, who said he groped her at a party when they were teens and tried to remove her clothes. And it’s Kavanaugh who was pushed to speak publicly in personal, painful detail.

In his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh forcefully denied ever sexually assaulting Ford or anyone else. In an emotional statement, he put the blame for the accusations against him partly on the Clintons.

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” Kavanaugh testified. The 53-year-old said it was being fueled by “pent-up anger” over President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory and outside groups stoking fear about his judicial record. He also said it was revenge on behalf of the Clintons.

The “revenge” line has reverberated this week as senators await the results of an FBI background check investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. Democrats have called the comment a breathtaking breach of judicial impartiality that should be disqualifying on its own, while Republicans have defended the tenor of his remarks, saying he had every right to be upset. GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah calls it “righteous anger.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who was in Congress during Clinton’s impeachment, acknowledged Tuesday that Kavanaugh’s “lock-her-up grace note may be appealing to some.” But, he said, “it speaks volumes about this judge and how he would serve.”

At an event Tuesday, Hillary Clinton scoffed, “Boy, I’ll tell you, they give us a lot of credit.”

Clinton tried to run the logic of Kavanaugh’s claim during an event hosted by The Atlantic. “It would’ve had to have happened 36 years ago,” she said, “and that seems a stretch, even for the vast right-wing conspiracy stories about me.”

At last week’s hearing, Democratic senators on the dais were stunned.

“Is it your testimony — that the motivation of the courageous woman who sat where you did just a short time ago was revenge on behalf of a left-wing conspiracy or the Clintons?” asked Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Others welcomed Kavanaugh taking a page from the playbook of the man who nominated him, President Donald Trump.

It wasn’t quite a “Lock her up!” Trump rally cry, but Kavanaugh’s allies appreciated a hard-hitting defense of his own name and character that name-checked the Clintons. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. backed him up.

“Would you say you’ve been through hell?” Graham asked the judge.

“I’ve been through hell and then some,” Kavanaugh testified.

While Kavanaugh’s role in the Starr investigation is a part of the appellate court judge’s resume that may have received short shrift during days of confirmation hearings, plenty of players from that era remain central to today’s confirmation fight.

Graham had been a chief House prosecutor during Clinton’s impeachment trial. Other senators on the dais straddle both eras. Clinton has been making media rounds. Starr has recently published a new book about his experience.

A former top aide to Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Brian Fallon, leads the outside group Demand Justice that Kavanaugh was likely referring to in his outburst. Fallon said Tuesday that Kavanaugh’s “unhinged, partisan rant last week is just another reason he is not fit for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.”

Democrats had tried to portray Kavanaugh as a partisan warrior from the moment he was nominated, but failed to gain much traction with it. But the Clintons’ revenge theory revealed a different side of Kavanaugh that won’t be forgotten if he makes it to the high court.

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history at Princeton University, said Kavanaugh “has been fighting the Republican war since the 1990s.”

“He revealed a great deal about who he is and what drives him,” he said.


Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

FBI: ‘No evidence’ in Trump’s claim that China hacked Hillary Clinton

Is your data safe?

The FBI said Wednesday that it has no evidence Hillary Clinton’s private email server was compromised even though President Donald Trump tweeted a news report that alleged the Chinese had hacked it.

Trump tweeted Tuesday evening about a report in the conservative Daily Caller that said a Chinese-owned company operating in the Washington area had hacked the server Clinton had used as secretary of state and obtained nearly all of her emails.

Trump’s tweet stated in part: “What are the odds that the FBI and DOJ are right on top of this? Actually, a very big story. Much classified information!”

FBI and Justice Department officials have said publicly that there was no evidence Clinton’s server was hacked by a foreign power. Former FBI Director James Comey said at a July 2016 news conference that the FBI did not find direct evidence that the sever had been successfully hacked though he also acknowledged that, “given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved,” it would have been unlikely for the bureau to find such direct evidence.

A June report from the Justice Department’s inspector general on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation said FBI specialists did not find evidence that the server had been hacked, with one forensics agent saying he felt “fairly confident that there wasn’t an intrusion.”

An FBI official said Wednesday after the Daily Caller story and Trump tweet that the “FBI has not found any evidence the servers were compromised.”

The White House did not immediately comment on the FBI’s statement.

Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

CNN stands by story detailing Trump’s involvement with Russian

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the Ohio Republican Party State Dinner. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Despite a key source backing off his assertion, CNN is sticking by a story casting doubt on President Donald Trump’s claim that he did not have prior knowledge of a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

CNN said it had more than one source for its story, co-authored by Jim Sciutto and Watergate legend Carl Bernstein.

CNN’s story, written on July 27, said that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was willing to say that he heard Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tell his father about the Russians’ offer to share material about Clinton, his Democratic rival for the presidency. It also said that Trump gave the go-ahead to take the meeting at Trump Tower. If true, that would contradict what Trump and representatives have long said, that he didn’t know about the meeting until long after it happened.

Such information would be of great interest to special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 American presidential campaign.


Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, has recently taken back earlier remarks, and now says that he is no longer certain that Cohen could legitimately claim Trump knew about the meeting, and that he didn’t have information to prove it. He said he was a source for other news organizations that tried to match CNN’s original story and, indeed, that he was a source for CNN.

CNN, in its story on Tuesday, quoted Davis as saying, “I should have done a much better job of speaking with more suspicion than certainty, and I regret my mistake.”

Some CNN critics wondered if Davis’ subsequent statement meant that CNN should retract its entire story. But CNN made a distinction: its original story did not assert that Trump definitely knew about the meeting ahead of time — only that Cohen had been making the claim while talking with prosecutors.

CNN said on Tuesday that it “we stand by our story, which had more than one source, and are confident in our reporting of it.”


The network walked a delicate line in its discussion. Its original story cited “sources with knowledge” telling the network about Cohen’s claim. The network noted in Tuesday’s story that Davis had admitted to being one of the sources for its original report. CNN technically didn’t confirm that in that Tuesday story — networks hate to be in a position of revealing confidential sources — but a spokeswoman confirmed to The Associated Press that Davis was one of the confidential sources.

The problem for CNN is that the July 27 story said “contacted by CNN, one of Cohen’s attorneys, Lanny Davis, declined to comment.”

Yet, if Davis was actually an anonymous source for CNN, the story should not also say that Cohen’s lawyer declined to comment. You can’t have it both ways. That’s a big no-no in journalism.


The president loves to rail about “fake news” telling untrue stories, and CNN arguably is his most frequent target.

Early Wednesday, the president tweeted more criticism. “‘Anonymous Sources are really starting to BURN the media.’ @FoxNews The fact is that many anonymous sources don’t even exist. They are fiction made up by the Fake News reporters. Look at the lie that Fake CNN is now in. They got caught red handed! Enemy of the People!”

He continued the attack on the network later in the day in another tweet: “CNN is being torn apart from within based on their being caught in a major lie and refusing to admit the mistake.” He also launched a personal attack against Bernstein, accusing him of “making up story after story.” (Bernstein did not immediately return an email seeking comment, but CNN reiterated its support for the story and Bernstein’s reporting in a tweet.)

If real doubt can be raised about CNN’s reporting on an important, damaging story regarding Trump and the Russia investigation, it gives Trump and his supporters major ammunition in its ongoing effort to make CNN seem like an unreliable news source._______________________________________________________

Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved