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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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In a week of incredibly high-stakes drama on Capitol Hill, it’s easy to forget that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein almost lost his job on Monday.

Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and will decide if his final reports are released to the public, was the subject of a torrent of rumors about his job prospects as the week began: He had already resigned, he was planning to resign, and then, by later morning, he had marched over to the White House, where he expected to be fired. None of the predictions came to pass.

At issue were reports that Rosenstein last year discussed secretly recording Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to try to get him ousted from office. Trump had called the reports “very sad” and said he was looking into the matter.

But Monday came and went with no decision on Rosenstein’s job, as Trump was in New York at the United Nations. They scheduled a sit-down for Thursday. But in a Wednesday press conference, Trump hinted that he might reschedule because he wanted to watch Christine Blasey Ford testify about her alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He also told reporters that Rosenstein was a “very nice” man who had denied the substance of the allegations.

On Thursday, the White House delayed the meeting until next week because Trump and Rosenstein didn’t want to “interfere” with the Ford-Kavanaugh testimony.

Whatever happens, congressional Republicans smell blood in the water. The House Freedom Caucus members who had previously introduced articles of impeachment against Rosenstein said that he must testify under oath about the reports, or risk being impeached.

House GOP leadership has reportedly scheduled a private hearing with Rosenstein to take place in the next few weeks.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) also announced that he intends to issue a subpoena to the Justice Department for memos written by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Those documents were cited as one of the sources for Rosenstein’s claims about removing Trump from office.

This flurry of activity comes with under six weeks to go before the midterm elections, when the GOP may lose control of the House. That means committee control would be ceded to Democrats, along with subpoena power.

Republicans are taking full advantage of the time they have left, issuing requests for high-profile witnesses to testify about FBI and Justice Department actions taken in 2016 and 2017. Former FBI Director James Comey, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are among the officials who have been summoned to appear before Congress.

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Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) came out strongly against Brett Kavanaugh on Friday, saying he could not vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court over “concerns” about the judge’s record and the sexual assault allegations against him.

“I have concerns that Judge Kavanaugh defended the PATRIOT Act instead of Montanans’ privacy,” the red-state Democrat said in a statement. “I have concerns about his support for more dark money in politics. I have concerns about who he believes is in charge of making personal health decisions. And I have deep concerns about the allegations of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh.”

Tester added that Kavanaugh “couldn’t find time to discuss these concerns with me in person,” leaving him to judge the nominee on his performance in hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I’ll be voting against him,” Tester said.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), another red-state Democrat who voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch, also announced his plan to vote against Kavanaugh on Friday.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Friday solemnly critiqued Brett Kavanaugh’s “belligerent” testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about sexual assault allegations against him.

As the GOP-controlled committee plowed forward with its plans to vote to confirm Kavanaugh, Feinstein said his conduct did not befit a federal judge who wants a seat on the country’s highest court

“Candidly, in the 25 years on this committee, I have never seen a nominee for any position behave in that manner,” Feinstein said. “Judge Kavanaugh used as much political rhetoric as my Republican colleagues. And what’s more, he went on the attack.”

Kavanaugh’s claims that the allegations were a “calculated and orchestrated political hit,” backlash to President Trump, and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” were, Feinstein said, “unbelievable.”

“This was not someone who reflected an impartial temperament or the fairness and evenhandedness one would see in a judge,” Feinstein continued. “This was someone who was aggressive and belligerent. I have never seen someone who wants to be elevated to the highest court in our country behave in that manner.”

During Thursday afternoon’s hearing, Kavanaugh cried, yelled, and repeatedly interrupted and talked back to senators. At one point, he asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who had described her father’s struggle with alcoholism moments earlier, if she had experienced alcohol-induced blackouts. (He later apologized.)

Feinstein said his performance made for a stark contrast with that of his accuser, psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford.

“The person who testified yesterday and demonstrated a balanced temperament was Dr. Ford,” Feinstein said. “She gave powerful testimony about her experience of being physically and sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh.”

“She was poised,” Feinstein went on. “She was credible. And she should be believed. Unfortunately, despite assuring Dr. Ford her allegations would be taken seriously, and she would be treated respectfully, that is not what ultimately happened.”

The committee will convene again at 1:30 p.m. to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

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Some of the same pundits who criticized Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony on Twitter chimed in hours later to praise the emotion displayed by Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee she accused of sexual assault.

Both mainstream and far-right conservatives praised Kavanaugh’s 45-minute opening statement, in which he forcefully denied the allegation and expressed blistering anger at the predicament he found himself in.

“I love Kavanaugh’s tone,” Donald Trump Jr. wrote. “It’s nice to see a conservative man fight for his honor and his family against a 35 year old claim with ZERO evidence and lots of holes that amounts to nothing more than a political hit job by the Dems. Others in the GOP should take notice!”

Trump Jr. had previously shared over a dozen tweets questioning Blasey Ford’s credibility and emotionality during her testimony.

“She was fake crying. Fake tears,” far-right conspiracy theorist and journalist Laura Loomer opined. “Kavanaugh was actually crying.”

“Number one thing I’m hearing from female friends is that they’re crying or even ‘sobbing’ while watching Kavanaugh’s testimony,” the Federalist’s Molly Hemingway weighed in.

The consensus seemed to be that Kavanaugh’s anger was justified given the weight of the allegations against him, and that it was refreshing to see a man behave so emotionally.

“Judge Kavanaugh dug deep down and did something most of us will never do in front of the world stage He showed us his immortal soul,” said Pizzagate promoter Jack Posobiec.

The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson even likened the 53-year-old federal judge’s bearing to that of a child who had been bullied.

“If you’ve ever had your child come home after being seriously, abusively bullied, you recognize Brett Kavanaugh right now and your heart breaks for him,” Erickson wrote.

The Federalist’s Sean Davis turned on his own profession, calling the response to the proceedings evidence that the American media is “much, much worse” than the “enemy of the people.”

“As we are watching right now, they delight in evil and scoff at decency,” he wrote.

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Brett Kavanaugh admitted Thursday that aspects of his Georgetown Prep yearbook, which documented a hard-partying atmosphere at the exclusive high school, make him “cringe.” But he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that they do not reveal evidence of his own misconduct.

“For one thing, our year book was a disaster,” Kavanaugh said.

“This past week my friend and I have cringed when we read about it and talked to each other,” he added.

Kavanaugh’s page listed him as “treasurer of the Keg City Club” and a “Renate Alumnius.”

Kavanaugh told the committee that the latter label, which appeared on the pages of several other classmates, was most painful for him. A New York Times story reported that it was a boasting reference to sexual conquests of a female classmate, Renate Schroeder.

“The media has determined the term was related to sex,” Kavanaugh said. “It was not related to sex. She and I never had any sexual interaction at all. So sorry to her for that yearbook reference.”

Michael Walsh, a fellow Georgetown Prep student, included this short poem along with the term: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”

Kavanaugh also reiterated comments he first made in a Fox News interview about remaining a virgin throughout high school and for “many years after that.”

Christine Blasey Ford testified earlier Thursday that Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her at a high school gathering in 1982.

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President Trump has officially delayed the meeting he’d planned to hold with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Thursday. The White House said the pair made this decision out of deference to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

“They do not want to do anything to interfere with the hearing,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Trump had suggested at a Wednesday press conference that he might postpone the conversation with Rosenstein for this reason. Though he dismissed sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh as a “con job” manufactured by Democrats, Trump said he wanted to assess Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony himself.

During the freewheeling presser, Trump also said that he would prefer to keep Rosenstein in his position, calling him a “very nice” man.

That response came as a surprise given the uproar that ensued following reports that Rosenstein last year suggested trying to produce evidence of Trump’s erratic behavior to force him from office. Trump called the reports “very sad,” but noted that Rosenstein denied trying to invoke the 25th Amendment or to secretly record him.

Rosenstein himself reportedly believed he was going to be fired on Monday. Reports circulated that he’d offered his resignation.

But decisions about Rosenstein’s job were repeatedly postponed until he could sit down for an in-person meeting with Trump once the President returned from New York, where he was meeting with foreign leaders at the UN, on Thursday.

Rosenstein and Trump now plan to meet next week, according to the statement released by Sanders.

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Testifying before the Senate on Thursday, Christine Blasey Ford recalled the story of her alleged sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh as a teenager and described the trauma of having to relive that experience at a public hearing aired live on TV.

For some on the far-right, her account was mockable. In Twitter posts, they heaped scorn on Blasey Ford as a Democratic Party pawn who was unreliable because some details of the 36-year-old account changed over multiple retellings.

At one point Ford, a psychologist, said that what stuck with her most is the “uproarious laughter” Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge shared during the alleged assault.

“’Indelible in the hippocampus’ Ford says,” tweeted conservative radio host Buck Sexton. “She is an expert in memory, you see, but is missing some very important memories here.”

Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin joked about the “giant black hole through which” the details of Ford’s account “disappeared.”

Several others mocked Ford as faking the emotion she expressed while reading her prepared statement and answering questions.

“I wonder if she cried the first hundred times she practiced the stmt prepared by her lawyers for her to read?” legal blogger Scott Greenfield wrote.

“Oooo I’m such a baby that I need coffee in order to stop fake crying and I’m going to use a baby voice so you all think I’m a little girl,” Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer said in one of a stream of mocking tweets.

“I’m laughing,” senior Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter said in response to author Molly Jong-Fast’s tweet: a photo of Ford speaking captioned “I’m crying.”

Stefan Molyneux, a prominent voice on the far-right, claimed that Ford was only providing this account publicly because “the Democrats hate Kavanaugh, and she is a Democrat.”

Donald Trump Jr. retweeted over a dozen posts casting doubt on Ford’s credibility and noting that she could not recall details of some conversations she had this year. He also joked that she managed to fly to Washington, D.C. for the hearing and make other trips via airplane despite a professed fear of flying.

Many mainstream conservatives distanced themselves from these critiques and cruel jokes, saying that they found Ford to be a credible, compelling witness.

GOP congressional aides told TPM that the proceedings were a “mess” and that Ford’s testimony “was bad for Kavanaugh and Republicans.”

Fox News’ Brit Hume called her “very sympathetic” in the network’s live coverage, while his colleague Chris Wallace called the hearing “a disaster for the Republicans.”

The National Review Online’s Jonah Golberg wrote that Ford appeared “very sympathetic and sincere.”

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