After a roller-coaster week of dramatic hearings and a last-minute push for an FBI investigation, the White House seems to be sticking with Brett Kananaugh as their Supreme Court nominee, unwilling to accept an alternative.
As Axios reports, “For the White House, it’s Brett Kavanaugh or bust. They have no Plan B and there’s not even discussion of one, according to five sources with direct knowledge of the sensitive internal White House talks.” One senior source told the news outlet that Kavanuagh is “too big to fail now.”
Whether the president is as set on Kavanaugh as his White House is remains up for interpretation. In a press conference on Monday morning, Trump said merely: “My White House will do whatever the senators want.”
The White House’s all-or-nothing gambit is aimed at wavering Senate Republicans. The message is that either they support Kavanaugh or the Republicans could lose a Supreme Court seat. The desperation of this message is echoed by multiple reports over the weekend that the White House was limiting the scope of the FBI investigation, including offering an extremely circumscribed list of who could be interviewed. Democrats denounced this move as a “farce.”
Bolstering the do-or-die strategy was a report issued by Rachel Mitchell, the outside counsel the Senate Republicans hired to interrogate one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford. Mitchell’s report, addressed to Senate Republicans, said that a reasonable prosecutor would not bring charges against Kananaugh. Leftists are unlikely to find the report convincing, both because of Mitchell’s link to the Senate Republicans, and also because the question here is not actually whether the assault allegations are prosecutable, so much as whether Kavanaugh should be given a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.
The White House’s Kavanaugh-or-no-one strategy is risky, given polls showing that in the wake of the hearings substantially more Americans (42 percent) believe the accusations than disbelieve them (31 percent). Yet it may be a different figure, from a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last week, that the White House is looking at: According to the survey, 54 percent of Republicans thought Kavanaugh should be confirmed even if the allegations were true.