Screenshot: C-SPAN

After taking her sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh public in the Washington Post over the weekend, Christine Blasey Ford found herself the subject of an emerging smear campaign on Monday, led by the top Republicans in Washington, who are dedicated to getting Kavanaugh onto the court above all else.

It started in earnest with Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Republican from Utah, who told CNN that Kavanaugh had assured him that “didn’t do that, and he wasn’t at the party” where the alleged assault occurred.

Hatch went on to say Ford must just be “mixed up” about her story, in which she describes a high school-aged Kavanaugh drunkenly holding her down, groping her, and covering her mouth when she tried to scream.

When pressed on whether he believes Ford, a research psychologist from California, Hatch replied: “I think she’s mistaken.”

This must all evoke a feeling of deja vu for the senator, who infamously worked very hard to discredit Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings. Hatch complained that Hill was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee fairly late in the process—make note of this excuse for later use—and insisted the University of Oklahoma law professor’s story “just doesn’t add up.”

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This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who’s wisely made it his mission during his hopefully waning time left on this planet to pack the federal courts with conservative judges—laid more groundwork for the Republicans’ war on Ford from the Senate floor.

As you might expect, McConnell read Kavanaugh’s statement denying the accusations in full before turning to attack the Democrats, in particular Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee who kicked this whole thing off by cryptically confirming she was in possession of a letter that contained “information” about Kavanaugh, though she stressed that the person involved had requested anonymity.

“Now, now, at the 11th hour, with committee votes on schedule, after Democrats have spent weeks and weeks searching for any possible reason that the nomination should be delayed, now, now, they choose to reveal this allegation,” McConnell said.

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He went on to slam the Democrats for raising the allegation of attempted sexual assault “at the last minute and in an irregular manner”—because, for Republicans, this is just a poorly-timed inconvenience. He didn’t engage much with the content of the allegations except to point out they stem from an incident that transpired more than three decades ago. He also had the gall to cry “regular order” and “standard process” while the ghost of Merrick Garland smiled down on him.

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And so the Republicans’ line of attack comes into focus—attacking the character of a woman with a doctorate degree leaves them on less stable ground than making this about following the rules and shifting the blame to the Democrats. But don’t misunderstand me: should another woman come forward, or if this matter stretches through the week, as it likely will, Republicans and President Trump won’t shy away from attacking Kavanaugh’s accuser more directly. Unfortunately, we know all too well how this goes.