In his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 26, Brett Kavanaugh argued that the allegations of sexual misconduct raised against him were part of an orchestrated attempt to block his nomination by congressional Democrats and their allies. We likely haven’t seen anything to match the phony indignation coming from Democrats in response to that charge since the famous scene in “Casablanca,” when Claude Rains expresses astonishment to find gambling in an illicit casino his character regularly patronizes. U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) had her Rains moment, laughably describing Kavanaugh’s testimony as “shocking.”
Everyone knows the accusations against Kavanaugh were raised purely for political purposes. The campaign against Kavanaugh was ready to go the moment his name was announced. Even if his accusers were sincere, the claims never would have seen the light of day if his judicial philosophy was more congenial to the Left.
Nevertheless, Kavanaugh’s enemies insist his accusers should be heard and believed. But Christine Blasey Ford’s claims do not hold up under scrutiny. And the New Yorker article by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow that broke the story of his second accuser Deborah Ramirez’s allegations is strangely vague on crucial points.
Moreover, once the gaps are filled in, it looks like the narrative we’ve been fed about how the Senate first learned of Ramirez’s story is false and, as Kavanaugh suggested, Democratic politicians were involved in creating and promulgating at least her allegations from the very beginning.
Alarming Vagueness About Sources
Farrow and Mayer are silent about how they learned of Ramirez’s story. All we’re told is that the reporting duo contacted Ramirez “after learning of her possible involvement in an incident involving Kavanaugh.” Their reticence about who tipped them off suggests, as is often the case with mainstream journalists, the real story here might be who wanted us to know about the story they’re telling rather than the story itself.
After all, if their source was someone associated with Ramirez who wanted to keep his or her role a secret, they might simply have said that the story came to them from an anonymous acquaintance of hers. And, if their source isn’t associated with Ramirez, the only other option seems to be that someone linked to the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee leaked the story to the New Yorker, which, of course, goes some way towards confirming Kavanaugh’s “shocking” allegations.
Farrow and Mayer are also short on details about how the Senate Judiciary Committee learned of Ramirez’s allegations. First, they say her story was “conveyed to Democratic senators by a civil-rights lawyer,” without giving any indication whatsoever of who this person is or how he or she learned of it. Since Ramirez’s allegations fall loosely under the rubric of “civil rights,” their description of the committee’s source masks how strange the little information they give us is. Farrow and Mayer tell us nothing about how this civil rights lawyer is connected to their story, so, stripped of the false sense of relevance their description imparts, their account isn’t any less bizarre than if they had told us without any further explanation that “a chiropractor conveyed her allegations to the Senate.”
Much later in the New Yorker story we’re given more details, but the anonymous civil rights lawyer’s role remains completely mysterious:
As Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings became a national story, the discussions among Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s classmates took on heightened urgency, eventually spreading to news organizations and to the Senate. Senate aides from Ramirez’s home state of Colorado alerted a lawyer, Stanley Garnett, a former Democratic district attorney in Boulder, who currently represents her.
A casual reading of this statement is likely to leave the impression that some unidentified classmates of Ramirez and Kavanaugh became so concerned by the “heightened urgency” that one of them, presumably the civil rights lawyer mentioned much earlier in the piece, informed the committee’s Democrats. But on a more careful reading, it turns out that the appearance of content is an illusion and the paragraph tells us almost nothing about how the story got from Ramirez to the Senate.
A “discussion among Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s classmates,” after all, might very well include Ramirez herself. And the story having “eventually spread” from such a group is about as imprecise an account as is possible. It would be true if Ramirez herself told the committee. Nor would Farrow and Mayer be guilty of any explicit lies if someone entirely unconnected to the unidentified classmates got the story from Ramirez and passed it to the Senate.
Moreover, “the discussion” among Ramirez’s classmates to which Farrow and Mayer refer isn’t quite what the description they use makes it seem.
Roughly 1,000 words in to the story (well after Ramirez’s sordid tale has been given credibility by the presumption that the New Yorker wouldn’t possibly tell it without corroboration), Farrow and Mayer write that after contacting “several dozen” of Ramirez’s classmates, they could find no one to confirm her account and only one person who’d heard anything about it at all. And “the discussions among Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s classmates” that play such an important role in the story’s account of how Ramirez’s tale got to the Senate comes from an earlier passage in which we’re told that a classmate of Ramirez’s named Mark Krasberg said,
Kavanaugh’s college behavior had become a topic of discussion among former Yale students soon after Kavanaugh’s nomination. In one e-mail that Krasberg received in September, the classmate who recalled hearing about the incident with Ramirez alluded to the allegation and wrote that it “would qualify as a sexual assault,” he speculated, “if it’s true.”
That’s all Farrow and Mayer say about what they describe as “the discussions among Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s classmates.” For all we’re told, the phrase might refer to nothing more than one classmate emailing a bunch of others in an unsuccessful attempt to get them to confirm Ramirez’s account.
The fact that Farrow and Mayer contacted at least 36 of Ramirez’s classmates and could only find one person providing only hearsay evidence would help explain why the New York Times initially passed on Ramirez’s story. But even if there was more to “the discussions among Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s classmates” than what Farrow and Mayer mention, the lack of confirmation also leaves completely mysterious who the “fellow classmates” Farrow and Mayer mention could be. If such a group were concerned enough to take her allegations to the Senate, one would think they’d have been willing at least to provide anonymously some kind of confirmation, however tenuous. Moreover, if some of Ramirez’s classmates did relay the story to the Senate, what possible reason could there be for not explicitly but anonymously saying so?
That one person providing only hearsay evidence of Ramirez’s allegations refused to go on the record for Farrow and Mayer’s first article. But 10 days later, the duo published a sequel that identified him as Kenneth G. Appold, “the James Hastings Nichols Professor of Reformation History at Princeton Theological Seminary.”
Farrow and Mayer are being tricky with Appold’s title here. Contrary to what their description might lead you to believe, Appold does not hold a named chair at Princeton University, which would make him one of the world’s most respected historians at the very top of the academic pecking order and, thus, for many, lend some credence to his words. The only connection between Princeton University and the Princeton Theological Seminary is that both happen to be located in the same town, allowing the latter to cash in on the former’s prestige by adopting a name designed to cause confusion about its nonaffiliation. So, whatever other virtues he may possess, Appold is at the bottom rather than the top of the academic pyramid.
Moreover, Appold’s homepage at the seminary is itself designed to leave the false impression that he’s a named chair at Princeton University. For the very first sentence after his credentials are listed reads, “Prior to coming to Princeton, he served as a research professor at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France . . . ”
And, of course, very few readers will realize that by “Princeton,” he’s referring to the town and not the university. So, the only person providing even hearsay evidence for Ramirez’s allegations is guilty of the most vulgar dishonesty. And Farrow, who has a J.D. from Yale—the university, not the manufacturer of locks—certainly wouldn’t have been fooled by Appold’s crass deception. Yet he and Mayer made a point of using Appold’s full title, but couldn’t be bothered to clarify the misimpression it was sure to leave and, hence, are equally dishonest.
More responsible journalists—or at least one of the New Yorker’s famously obsessive fact checkers—would have made the theological seminary’s nonaffiliation with Princeton University evident; just as they wouldn’t have written a sensational story they were utterly unable to confirm. If for some reason they did produce such a story, more responsible journalists would have mentioned the lack of confirmation upfront rather than 1,000 words deep, when all but committed researchers have long stopped reading. Farrow and Mayer have already reached an astonishing level of journalistic malfeasance and one wonders whether their editor, David Remnick, would have published the story if Farrow weren’t the official scribe of the #MeToo movement and the journalist who shot to fame exposing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual misconduct and assault.
Alarming Vagueness About Ramirez’s Professional Life
Farrow and Mayer’s story is also vague about Ramirez’s professional life. All we’re told is that “she spent years working for an organization that supports victims of domestic violence.” Here, though, a puff piece about Ramirez in Westword, a local news outlet in Ramirez’s current hometown of Boulder, Colorado, fills in some of the gaps. We learn that Ramirez “once worked” at an organization called Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) “as a volunteer coordinator before taking a position with the Boulder County’s Housing and Human Services department.” Sadly, even Westword isn’t giving us the full story. Like Farrow and Mayer, the publication presents Ramirez’s association with the organization entirely in the past tense, for some reason neglecting to mention that Ramirez is still affiliated with SPAN.
A story in the New York Times gives a truer picture of Ramirez’s involvement with SPAN, saying she “has worked with a domestic violence organization, both as a volunteer and in a paid position. She joined the board of the organization in 2014.” But even the Times declines to name SPAN. Nor does it tell us Ramirez’s role on SPAN’s board of directors. The information is available on SPAN’s website, however, and it turns out that Ramirez is actually co-vice chairman, along with another woman but listed before her even though Ramirez’s name comes alphabetically second.
In an interview with the Boulder NPR affiliate, Anne Tapp, the executive director of SPAN, explains how the group was in a position to release a statement supporting Ramirez the very day after the New Yorker story appeared. “When Debbie was first approached by a reporter—by Ronan Farrow—by happenstance we had a board executive committee meeting that evening,” she said. Total happenstance, nothing to see here, according to Tapp.
So why don’t Ronan and Mayer, the New York Times, or Westword mention the simple fact that Ramirez currently serves on the board of directors of Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence as co-vice chair?
A clue seems to be provided by the identity of the gentleman who briefly served as her first attorney. In their first article, Farrow and Mayer say, “Senate aides from Ramirez’s home state of Colorado alerted a lawyer, Stanley Garnett, a former Democratic district attorney in Boulder, who currently represents her.” But once again the journalists don’t tell us all we might like to know. Garnett isn’t just some one-time local Democratic D.A.; he’s a huge figure still active in the state Democratic Party with national political ambitions.
In 2010, Garnett ran unsuccessfully for Colorado attorney general. In March 2017, Garnett announced that he wouldn’t try again in 2018, stepping aside to let civil rights attorney Joe Salazar run for the nomination unopposed. There was speculation that Garnett would instead run for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District’s vacant seat this year. But in July 2017, Garnett stepped aside and allowed another civil rights attorney, Joe Neguse, to run in his stead. Garnett cited his commitment to “staying focused on the reform work we’re doing at the D.A.’s office.”
In response to requests that he reconsider entering the congressional race, however, Garnett replied that he intends “to look closely at a certain 2020 U.S. Senate race,” all but saying that he has bigger ambitions and plans to challenge Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who is up for reelection in that year. In January, Garnett’s commitment to “staying focused” on his job in the Boulder district attorney’s office suddenly evaporated. Garnett resigned and took a job with Colorado’s powerhouse political law firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
Though few ordinary citizens would know the name, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck happens to be one of the most powerful lobbying firms, not just in Colorado, but in the nation. Like any such firm, they employ lawyers and lobbyists from both sides of the aisle. But the firm tilts decidedly toward the Democrats. The New York Times called its first partner, Norman Brownstein, a “longtime power broker in state and national Democratic politics.” The second partner, Jack Hyatt, retired 17 years ago and passed away in 2017. But the third partner, Steve Farber, who the New York Times claimed is one of the most well-connected lobbyists alive, as well as a golfing buddy of Bill Clinton’s (we suppose he would have to be), was the chief fundraiser for the 2008 Democratic convention for Barack Obama. The final name on the firm’s masthead, Frank Schreck, belongs to one of Bill Clinton’s chief fundraisers.
Moreover, the firm’s lawyers and lobbyists are well known in Colorado for moving back and forth between positions in the firm and local and state Democratic administrations. For example, current Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper’s chief of staff returned to the firm this year and also once served as city attorney under Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. So it’s not surprising that Stan Garnett took a job with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, given his stature in Colorado Democratic politics and apparent plans to run for the Senate in 2020.
The upshot is that Garnett isn’t just the humble former Boulder D.A. that most readers of Farrow and Mayer’s story might assume. Ramirez’s first attorney is a major player in Colorado’s Democratic Party, with a hankering to be its next junior Senator, who now works for a powerful law and lobbying firm with deep connections to the Democratic Party at the local, state, and national levels.
Moreover, according to Farrow and Mayer, when they first contacted Deborah Ramirez, “she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty,” and it took “six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with” this well connected big wheel in Colorado Democratic politics with national ambitions before “she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers” the allegations she made against Kavanaugh.
Alarming Vagueness and Unanswered Questions
We’ve been deservedly hard on Farrow and Mayer. Here, in fairness, it must be said that they explain Garnett’s involvement in getting Ramirez to relay her allegations to them toward the very beginning of the article. Even here, however, they only refer to Garnett as “her attorney” and don’t name him or describe him as a “former Democratic district attorney in Boulder” for another 2,280 words. So only the most committed readers who also know Boulder politics would know of the connections between the Democratic Party and the man who appears as though he may have coached and convinced Ramirez to go public.
Though Farrow and Mayer reported that Garnett was Ramirez’s attorney; and, though a notice was posted the next day at Ramirez’s home directing any questions to him while he was inside meeting with her; when reporters enquired at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, they were told that another lawyer, John Clune, from a different firm was handling the case. And when reporters tried to question Garnett as he was leaving Ramirez’s home, he pointedly refused to comment.
Given that Farrow and Mayer’s article from the preceding day as well as the sign on Ramirez’s home while Garnett was inside identified him as her attorney, obviously the switch in legal counsel must have been done at the last minute.
What could have precipitated it?
And why do Farrow and Mayer give zero information about their source?
And why are they so deceptively vague about how the Senate became aware of Ramirez’s allegations?
And why leave out the fact that Ramirez is co-vice-chairman of Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence?
And why do Farrow and Mayer present Garnett as a humble ex-district attorney rather than what he is: a big wheel in Colorado Democratic politics, working for one of the most powerful lobbying firms in the nation that also happens to have strong connections to the Democratic Party, who’s all but announced his intention to run for the Senate in 2020?
And who is the mysterious “civil rights attorney” who Farrow and Mayer say passed Ramirez’s allegations to the Senate?
A clue to the answers to these questions is provided by something Farrow and Mayer do say and something else they don’t.
The journalists tell us that Garnett became Ramirez’s attorney when, “Senate aides from Ramirez’s home state of Colorado alerted a lawyer, Stanley Garnett.” An NPR story that came after but on the same day as Farrow and Mayer’s tells us what we could have guessed; that it was Democratic Senator Michael Bennet’s office that contacted Garnett. But neither Farrow and Mayer nor NPR nor any other media accounts mention the surprise Ramirez surely must have felt to find out that someone with whom she was well acquainted with through her work on the board of directors of SPAN would be her attorney.
Garnett has been involved with SPAN for at least almost a decade, and it’s impossible to believe that Kavanaugh’s second accuser and the big wheel Democrat weren’t previously acquainted. In chronological order:
2010: An article on then-District Attorney Garnett’s response to the 2009 Bolder homicide rate in Colorado Daily quotes “Alexandra Lynch, development director for the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence.” Anyone who knows how these things work will realize that Garnett must have referred SPAN to its author.
2010: The Boulder D.A.’s office and a group called “Community Justice Services” issued a “Domestic Violence Statistical Report.” Garnett signed the opening statement and SPAN Executive Director Anne Tapp, the woman who claimed that the SPAN board of directors meeting on the day Farrow and Mayer’s piece came out was mere “happenstance,” was on the committee that produced it.
2012: Garnett prosecuted a SPAN employee for stealing money from their clients.
2014: Garnett was quoted in a puff piece on SPAN in the Daily Camera praising the group’s work. Again, anyone who knows how these things work will tell you that SPAN likely sent the reporter to Garnett.
2016: Garnett was on the discussion panel at a film screening/fundraiser for SPAN.
2018: SPAN partnered with the D.A.’s office and a few other charitable organizations to host a panel discussion called “Smart Parenting in a World with Sexting.” Garnett’s name appears on the list of sponsors along with Ann Tapp. Probably she would say it was just more happenstance.
2018: In one of his final public appearances as Boulder district attorney, Garnett was the keynote speaker at SPAN’s annual fundraiser in February.
Boulder’s population is only around 100,000. So, the odds of SPAN board of directors’ co-vice chair Deborah Ramirez and Stan Garnett having no prior acquaintance are astronomically small given the connections between Garnett and SPAN. It’s also possible Garnett being referred to Ramirez by Michael Bennet’s office really was mere happenstance. But then, why didn’t Farrow and Mayer or any of the other journalists covering the story mention their previous acquaintance? Either they are hiding something, or Ramirez and Garnett are. Moreover, their prior acquaintance provides simple answers to all the puzzles mentioned above.
Ramirez switched lawyers at the last minute because she or somebody on her team realized that her prior acquaintance with Garnett and his deep connections to national Democratic politics were likely to emerge if he remained her counsel.
Farrow and Mayer give us zero information about who tipped them off to Ramirez’s allegations because it was someone connected with Democratic Party.
Farrow and Mayer are deceptively vague about how Ramirez’s story made its way to the Senate because it involved Democratic politicians and was one part of an orchestrated plot involving the well-connected Democratic politician who spent six days coaching her before she was willing to tell them of her allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.
None of the outlets covering the story reported that Ramirez is currently serving as co-vice-chair of SPAN because it would have made it too easy to discover she was already acquainted with Garnett.
Farrow and Mayer present Garnett as a simple district attorney because describing him as an important player in Colorado’s Democratic Party establishment would have raised suspicions that her emergence was a coordinated effort by Democratic politicians rather than a spontaneous grassroots phenomenon.
Finally, the mysterious civil rights attorney who Farrow and Mayer claim told the Senate about Ramirez’s allegations may be either Joe Salazar, who you’ll recall was put on the ballot for attorney general when Garnett decided not to run, or Joe Neguse, who was put on the ballot for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District when Garnett declined to seek that office.
This last answer is mere conjecture on our part. But if, as surely must be the case, Deborah Ramirez and Stan Garnett knew one another before he took her on as his client and spent six days encouraging her to speak with Farrow and Mayer about her lurid allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, then Farrow and Mayer’s silence about the pair’s prior acquaintance is damning. It becomes almost impossible to believe that Garnett wasn’t involved in bringing her allegations to Michael Bennet’s office.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has said Dianne Feinstein and her staff will be investigated to determine their role, if any, in leaking Christine Blasey Ford’s letter to the press. We hope Cotton and his fellow Republicans’ disgust with their colleagues from across the aisle isn’t feigned or forgotten. The last thing we need right now is a return to the kind of collegiality that allows the Democrats to play the dirtiest game imaginable while Republicans blather on about their “principles.” Republican principles are only good insofar as they protect Americans from the disastrous effects of the Democrats’ policies and political appointments. More often than not, however, those “principles” serve only to protect GOP lawmakers from those terrible effects, leaving Americans twisting in the wind.
So we very much hope that Feinstein’s role in the macabre charade that was inflicted on the nation in the last half of September receives the thorough investigation it deserves. While they’re at it, Senate investigators might look into Michael Bennet and Stan Garnett. Americans need to know whether the story Farrow and Mayer and other news outlets are peddling about how Ramirez’s allegations reached the Senate is a ruse to conceal just the sort of collusion that Kavanaugh denounced in his opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Given all we’ve uncovered, we’d be sincerely shocked if it weren’t so.