Brett Kavanaugh, as Special Assistant to Ken Starr, Was Adamant About Asking Bill Clinton Graphic Sexual Questions, But Played the Outraged Victim When Confronted With His Sexual Past

September 17, 2019

Poster in Washington DC during the Kavanaugh confirmation process ( John Brighenti )

Poster in Washington DC during the Kavanaugh confirmation process (John Brighenti)

According to an August, 2018, article in The Guardian, Brett Kavanaugh, serving as a top legal advisor to Ken Starr’s Independent Counsel inquisition of Bill Clinton over an act of fellatio, advised in a memo that he was “strongly opposed to giving the president any ‘break.’” In fact, Kavanaugh drew up for Starr a series of highly graphic questions for Clinton that included,

One was: “If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”

Another: “If Monica Lewinsky says that you ejaculated in her mouth on two occasions in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”

Kavanaugh also suggested asking Clinton “if Monica Lewinsky says that on several occasions in the Oval Office area, you used your fingers to stimulate her vagina and bring her to orgasm, would she be lying?” and “If Monica Lewinsky says that you masturbated into a trashcan in your secretary’s office, would she be lying?”

“The idea of going easy on him [Clinton] at the [depostion] questioning is thus abhorrent to me,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Kavanaugh indignantly, scornfully and angrily accused Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee of smearing his good name during his confirmation hearings. Clearly, he did not think his Clinton questions should apply to him. He, a product of male white privilege and an elite education, was above reproach, as far as he was concerned, and he successfully played the victim in a performance of outraged defiance. So, he apparently committed perjury while playing the scorned victim.

In short, even though we now know more about the specifics of the allegations against him due to a new book by journalists at the New York Times, Kavanaugh did not for a moment believe that the standards he applied to Clinton were anything other than vile accusations when applied to him.

Although some Democratic presidential contenders are calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment (which Nancy Pelosi will never let take place), it is worth remembering that Kavanaugh is part of the incestuous Republican bench that is derived of members of the right-wing Federalist Society. It is also part of the Republican and Democratic party dynamic that the GOP is ruthless, unscrupulous and shameless in its political battles over court appointments on the Hill, while the Democrats generally tip toe around as if they are afraid of appearing unruly.

Remember that Clarence Thomas was confirmed when the Democrats controlled the Senate in 1991. Joe Biden was the chair of Judiciary, and he gave wide latitude to the Republicans shrilly shilling for Thomas. Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of creepy sexual harassment, was left without the Democrats, including Biden, backing her up with the merciless intensity with which the Republicans had Thomas’s back. It was only in recent times that Biden called Hill, now a professor of law at Brandeis, and apologized for mistreating her, and, remember, Biden was the Democratic chair.

The Republicans orchestrate their nominations to the Supreme Court like battles. In fact, the members of the Justice Department team that helped orchestrate Kavanaugh’s confirmation are to be awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service soon. This is an honor that is normally given to prosecutors who are successful in complicated high-profile lawsuits. However, it is a testament to the Republicans that they consider Supreme Court nominations akin to doing battle.

Kavanaugh himself, working as a legal counsel to George W. Bush (who made calls in support of Kavanaugh’s confirmation to SCOTUS), assisted in the war room that strategized the nomination of John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He also provided legal counsel that is preserved in voluminous memos and emails. Unfortunately, to this day, the Trump White House will not allow that written record of Kavanaugh during his Bush years be turned over to Congress.

The Democrats treat each Supreme Court nomination as if it is an exercise in civility, while the Republicans don their suits of armor. Yes, Mitch McConnell made sure that Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley, then chair of the Judiciary Committee, kept the Democrats and witnesses on a short leash during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Meanwhile, the White House gave marching orders to the FBI to conduct an extremely narrow and cursory examination of the charges against Kavanaugh.

The Democrats, one could argue, had their hands tied by a ginned-up charade of a confirmation hearing. However, one never knows how it might have turned out if the Democrats took their case to the public, but as usual they were on the defensive, worried that they might energize Trump’s base by calling out Kavanaugh for being a sexual predator in prep school and at Yale. Neither did they lambaste him for not having the comportment or demeanor to serve on the Supreme Court given his hostile and seething testimony.

Remember, of course, Neil Gorsuch was only nominated because Moscow Mitch McConnell would not hold a vote for a year on Merrick Garland, who had been nominated by Barack Obama. If this scenario had happened to the Republicans, they would have turned on a full-court propaganda press and also excoriated and maneuvered against the Democrats at every turn in the Senate and in the public arena.

But the Democrats don’t roll like that. They play by Marquess of Queensberry Rules, and don’t like to get into scuffles, even if democracy is at stake.

As a result, Kavanaugh and a rapidly growing Federalist Society bench will be with us for generations:

Next year, BuzzFlash will celebrate 20 years online. In those years, we have continually brought up the threat to US democracy for generations to come because of the long-term vision of the Republicans to seize control of the Federal courts. In fact, Mitch McConnell has said on several occasions that GOP control of the federal courts will be his legacy.

Let’s take a look at Kavanaugh’s Federalist Society genealogy. In 1992, Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr when he was Solicitor General under George Herbert Walker Bush. (John Roberts was Principal Deputy Solicitor General under Starr.) Kavanaugh worked two different stints on the senior staff of Starr’s multi-year inquisition. (Starr was only appointed after then Senator Jesse Helms and Senator Lauch Faircloth intervened and had prosecutor Robert Fisk removed because he had found that the Clintons had committed no crime.)

In his second period with Starr, Kavanaugh played a major role in the legal hunt to entrap Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh is said to have been a major writer of the Starr Report, which recommended the impeachment of Clinton. Contrast that to the Mueller report, which made no such recommendation, even though there were serious legal violations raised, not perjury over fellatio.

Kavanaugh transitioned to private practice before working with the Bush campaign on its Florida “stop the recount” team to steal the election from Al Gore. Bush apparently liked his fellow Yalie, and Kavanaugh was hired as legal assistant to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez. Later, he was promoted to become White House Staff Secretary. During his White House stint, he helped coordinate the nominations and confirmations of Federalist judges. He also, in his later years with Bush, controlled what documents were sent on to Bush.

In 2003, Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, but Democrats actually exhibited some some spine and held up his nomination because he was considered too partisan. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) called him the “Forest Gump of Republican politics.” Later, there were also charges by the Dems that he perjured himself in Judiciary Committee nomination testimony regarding his role in drafting legal torture guidelines for the Bush-Cheney administration. This also became a point of contention in his Supreme Court nomination, and one of the reasons the Democrats wanted Kavanaugh’s memos when he was with the Bush administration.

There are many more Federalist Society connections that thread there way through Republican presidential administrations and the courts. (For example, John Roberts worked in the Reagan administration for six years, four of them as Associate Legal Counsel.)

What does all of this have to do with calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment? It isn’t going to happen, if for no other reason than Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are no match for Mitch McConnell and the GOP propaganda machine. Schumer has practically no influence on the political narrative outside of DC. He is purely an inside-the-capitol minority leader, and has been very accommodating in confirming Trump’s appointments from a Federalist Society list.

Pelosi is forever scared that her Congressional Reps from districts that Trump won in 2016 are at risk, but it appears that the greater risk is to continue legitimatizing the lawlessness of Trump. Why have a court system or police when the president of the United States breaks the law with relentless and complete impunity?

That is the context in which the cries for Kavanaugh’s impeachment take place. The Democrats have been outmaneuvered by the Republicans and their placement of Federalist Society judges on the Supreme Court and on the federal bench.

The GOP is even ready for moments such as this weekend when Kavanaugh came under renewed scrutiny. A pro-Federalist Society organization called Article III promises to “put on the brass knuckles and fight back.”

There is a river that runs through Republican power plays over the past three decades to take over the federal courts, and the Democrats in the Senate hardly seem to put up more than a token opposition. And in cases, such as the nomination of Clarence Thomas, the Dems let the partisan hacks slip through their fingers because they don’t have the guts or know-how about how to fight to ensure inclusive Jeffersonian democracy as adjudicated by the courts.

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