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Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it obvious with his fiery rhetoric from the Senate floor on Monday that he views the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh to be nothing more than a “smear” campaign against the stalwart conservative. But, according to Politico, he also is reportedly warning his colleagues in private that they need to make a decision on the Supreme Court nominee.

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Leave it to the Trump era to turn a lawyer with a credible reputation as the head of a public policy think tank — who formerly served in the Department of Justice and who still fraternizes with the likes of Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo — into a conspiracy theorist who was swiftly put out of his misery by social media.

Nearly overnight Ed Whelan fell from the upper echelons of respect in Washington to the sewer trenches reserved for those forced to apologize for unseemly tweets, all for the sake of saving face for his friend Brett Kavanaugh (and, let’s be real, Trump).

Whelan graduated from Harvard, served as a senior staffer in the Senate and even worked as a clerk for SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia, all before he decided this week to take on a tick-tock Twitter persona and suggest he had intricate insight into the details of a private prep school party in Maryland that took place more than 30 years ago, while he was living in Whittier, California.

The mystifying ordeal started earlier this week, after Christine Blasey Ford levied allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. Whelan, in a series of cryptic tweets, declared he had a bundle of information that would completely exonerate his friend. The evidence would be so powerful, he said, that it would leave Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) — who has been pegged as the boogeyman by the GOP for respecting Blasey Ford’s initial wishes to remain anonymous — begging Kavanaugh for forgiveness.

But the thread of content that ensued was hardly credible, largely bewildering and mostly just deeply weird.

On Thursday evening, Whelan published a Twitter thread in which he purported to know not only the location of the party where Blasey Ford claims she was assaulted, but also posted a rendering of the literal floor plan of the home where he claimed it took place. Perhaps the most perplexing detail of the Twitter rant: he publicly identified a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s who he thinks could’ve actually committed the assault based solely on the fact that the classmate kind of looked like Kavanaugh in high school and still does.

He then ended the thread with a disclaimer that he was just speculating and didn’t actually know the details of the sequence of events he had just meticulously outlined.

Brave.

The throngs of Twitter lashed out, not only against Whelan’s rash decision to publish the name of the former classmate, a private citizen and middle school teacher living in Georgia, but also for pretending to have credible information to back up his theory. Blasey Ford also released a statement denouncing Whelan’s claims.

Later on Thursday evening the Washington Post reported that Whelan, who has been involved in Kavanaugh’s confirmation efforts, actually spent several days crafting his libelous rant. According to the Post, Whelan’s theory fell closely in line with a narrative that Kavanaugh aides hoped to perpetuate: a case of mistaken identity.

Whelan didn’t withstand the Twitter heat for long. By Friday morning, he apologized, but only for identifying the private citizen he suspected to be the perpetrator, not for his cryptic tweets or the fact that he painted an unsubstantiated theory as fact. Hours later, he deleted the whole thread, floor plans and all.

For agreeing to publish — and take the sole blame for — a theory likely approved by many in the conservative legal establishment and possibly even the stable genius himself, Whelan is our Duke of the Week.

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