The White House has no plans to replace Brett Kavanaugh as the Trump Administration’s second pick for the Supreme Court, according to a new report by Axios’s Jonathan Swan.
The writing for this one has been on the wall since Kavanaugh’s hearing before the Supreme Court Judiciary Committee last Thursday, when, despite the nominee’s rage and tears, Trump immediately tweeted out a glowing review.
Kavanaugh took the stand after the Committee heard over three hours of testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge sexually assaulted her during a high-school party in the 80s.
Per Axios’s Jonathan Swan, this didn’t matter much to the Trump Administration for a number of reasons:
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.
- “He’s too big to fail now,” said a senior source involved in the confirmation process.
- “Our base, our voters, our side, people are so mad,” the source continued. “There’s nowhere to go. We’re gonna make them f—-ing vote. [Joe] Manchin in West Virginia, in those red states. Joe Donnelly? He said he’s a no? Fine, we’ll see how that goes. There will be a vote on him [Kavanaugh]. ... It will be a slugfest of a week.”
- “There’s no time before the [midterm] election to put up a new person,” a White House official close to the process told me.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which has a one-vote Republican majority, seemed to be thinking along the same lines on Friday. The Committee, including fence-sitting Republican Jeff Flake, voted to recommend Kavanaugh be confirmed by the full Senate, which currently sits 51-49 in favor of the Republicans. The decision will likely fall on the swing votes in the Senate: Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin, the above-mentioned Democrat who has appeared sympathetic to Kavanaugh in recent days (a spokesperson said he’s still officially undecided).
Swan reports that those votes are part of why there’s no backup plan: one of the only viable replacements, Amy Coney Barrett, is stridently against abortion, which might alienate Collins and Murkowski, who are both pro-choice moderate Republicans. They could nominate another man, of course, but Swan reports that Republican insiders aren’t sure they could find one who won’t immediately be accused of sexual assault:
- Sources close to the White House legal operation complained that even if they did want to rush through a new nominee, they couldn’t be sure any male nominee wouldn’t have what one called a “Kavanaugh problem.”
After helping give Kavanaugh the Judiciary Committee’s seal of approval on Friday, Flake made a halfhearted attempt to cover his own ass, by calling for the FBI to re-open Kavanaugh’s background check. This bought an extra week for the investigators and lawyers trying to get the truth, but it looks like Kavanaugh is going to come down to a straight vote sooner or later.