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Axios: Trump now sees Shulkin as a “major problem”

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What changed Donald Trump’s mind about VA Secretary David Shulkin? Assuming that Axios’ Jonathan Swan has the story right, it wasn’t an Inspector General report about Shulkin’s misuse of funds and resources on an expensive European vacation. It wasn’t Shulkin’s threadbare “one-memoed hacker” response to the report, which didn’t exactly impress the White House. It wasn’t even a second IG report on the chronic failures of the Washington DC VA facility which Shulkin never corrected as deputy AG because, as the IG reported, Shulkin didn’t bother to ask about it.

No, the final straw might end up being Shulkin’s contact with the New York Times to spin meetings with John Kelly and Trump himself. Shulkin insisted that he walked away with complete victory over political foes and the authority to remove other Trump appointees:

In an administration rife with intramural fights, the battle over the Department of Veterans Affairs has stood out, not only for its vitriol but also for its consequences. At stake is the future of the nation’s veterans health care system.

For now at least, it appears moderation has prevailed, with the Veterans Affairs secretary, David J. Shulkin, thwarting a pitched conservative push to drive him out.

“It’s my job as secretary to get the organization singly focused on making the V.A. work better for vets,” the secretary, a physician and holdover from the Obama administration, said in an interview on Monday, after the latest in a string of meetings with the White House chief of staff. “I’ve been making it clear to the organization that we will not be distracted as we have in the last couple weeks.”

“People need to get on board with that or need to leave,” he added.

Not so fast, Swan reports. Kelly felt burned by Shulkin after this got published, and not for the first time:

This paragraph in the story especially infuriated Kelly, according to two sources familiar with his thinking: “[Shulkin] said in an interview that President Trump and Mr. Kelly supported his making changes at the department, including the removal of any staff members who did not support him.”

Kelly found out about the article because the NYT reporters contacted the White House press shop before publishing the story. Kelly called Shulkin to ask him if he had said this to Times. He felt Shulkin was trying to exploit the meeting he had with him.

(This isn’t the first time Kelly felt that way. Senior White House officials were infuriated by an interview Shulkin gave Politico late last month, where he effectively said the same thing. The headline blared: “Shulkin says he has White House backing to purge VA.” But the White House gave Shulkin no such authority at the time, and in fact stymied his attempts to fire what he perceived as Trump political appointees who were conspiring against him.)

From the WH’s perspective: They agreed to work with Shulkin on fixing his staff problems. But both times they talked, he went directly to the media and declared victory. In the view of senior officials, there’s a difference between discretely and professionally handling staffing issues and publicly embarrassing and firing supporters of the president. Kelly agreed to help Shulkin with the former, and Shulkin keeps trying to do the latter.

Nothing will get under Trump’s skin faster than someone attempting to play him in the press, especially with the New York Times. If Swan’s correct, this was an exceedingly arrogant maneuver, which seems to go along with the portrait of Shulkin painted in both IG reports, especially the first. He seems much more interested in building fiefdoms than in changing the fundamental flaws at the VA.

So why is he still there? Congress sees Shulkin as a continuity champion, and members of both parties seem invested in incremental repair of the status quo rather than effective reform. Shulkin understands this too, which is why he is casting the internal war as a conservative coup in an attempt to “privatize” the VA. That has captured the attention of the congressional committees that oversee the VA, helping Shulkin maintain his political influence in DC.

Swan indicates that Trump might be tired of both Shulkin and of business as usual. During their most recent meeting, Trump called Fox’s Pete Hegseth to discuss the pace of reform. Hegseth used to helm Concerned Veterans for America and had been suggested for Shulkin’s job at one time. Hegseth wants much broader choice for veterans, especially in routine care, rather than having them stuck inside the government-run system for issues that have little to do with military service. Swan reports that the call to Hegseth made Shulkin feel awkward, which raises questions about why he would then tell the NYT that he’d gotten a “full speed ahead” from Trump. Anyone else would have seen that as a signal of less than full confidence, assuming it happened as Swan reports.

Clearly, someone needs to leave, and it’s probably not the rest of Trump’s appointees who took “draining the swamp” seriously at the VA. Rather than wait for a resignation, Donald Trump needs to put an end to the confusion at the VA and give Shulkin the boot.

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Christine Ford Says “There Is Zero Chance” She Would Confuse Kavanaugh with Fellow Student in 36 Yr-Old Incident She Just Remembered 6 Yrs Ago

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Brett Kavanaugh, Georgetown Prep school classmate Chris Garrett

Is this a case of mistaken identity? 

Accuser Christine Blasey Ford is waging a war on Trump’s SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh with decades-old, unsubstantiated claims of sexual assault in an effort to derail his confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Ford says she first remembered the 36-year-old incident just 6 years ago. Ford does not remember where it took place, when it took place, who was there but accused two other males of being present who have vehemently denied her accusations.

Judge Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations and even told Senator Orin Hatch he wasn’t at the party in question.

Ed Whelan, Justice Scalia’s former law clerk and president of conservative think tank the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), came out in defense of Brett Kavanaugh and said compelling evidence will come out next week exonerating Kavanaugh.


On Thursday afternoon, Ed Whelan started dropping pictures and evidence that may blow Christine Ford’s case wide open.

The “Maryland suburban home”–the scene of the alleged sexual assault described by Christine Ford to WaPo as being ‘not too far from the Columbia Country Club’ may have belonged to Kavanaugh’s friend named Chris Garrett, says Ed Whelan.

On Thursday night Ford’s attorneys insisted Ford knew it was Kavanaugh in the room.
Ford also said she would hang out with both men and socialized with them.

It will be interesting to hear what Judge Kavanaugh has to say about Ford’s latest claims.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

An attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said Thursday that her appearing at a hearing on Monday to detail her claims is “not possible” but that she could testify later in the week.

Debra Katz, Ford’s lawyer, relayed the response to top staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, requesting to set up a call with them to “discuss the conditions under which [Ford] would be prepared to testify next week.”…

…Amid the maneuvering, the nomination was roiled further late Thursday by incendiary tweets from a prominent Kavanaugh friend and supporter who publicly identified another high school classmate of Kavanaugh’s as Ford’s possible attacker.

Ed Whelan, a former clerk to the late justice Antonin Scalia and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, pointed to floor plans, online photographs and other information to suggest a location for the house party in suburban Maryland that Ford described. He also named and posted photographs of the classmate he suggested could be responsible.

Ford dismissed Whelan’s theory in a statement late Thursday: “I knew them both, and socialized with” them, Ford said, adding that she had once visited the other classmate in the hospital. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”

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Dianne Feinstein: ‘Twas the media that outed Kavanaugh’s accuser

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Is that right? The way DiFi puts it here, you would think Christine Blasey Ford’s name appeared like a bolt from the blue in the pages of the Washington Post on Sunday afternoon. In reality, the press had spent the previous 72 hours murmuring about a mysterious letter in Feinstein’s possession that may or may not contain a serious allegation against Kavanaugh. No one would say what the letter alleged but the Intercept knew that Feinstein knew something about it. BuzzFeed also knew that Feinstein knew something. Under pressure, Feinstein herself announced that she had finally referred the matter to the FBI. After sitting on it for two months. Six days before the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote.

All of which is a long way of asking: Who do you suppose it was that tipped the media to Ford’s accusations, putting them in a position to “out” her at the eleventh hour?

Tom Cotton has a zany theory.

Democrats outed her. Maybe not Feinstein personally or someone acting at her behest, but someone in the Capitol high enough up the chain to have known Ford’s name. (Given that the Intercept and BuzzFeed are both online-only outlets, I’d guess the leaker trended younger.) And the very obvious reason they did so was because they were frustrated that Feinstein had held this weapon for two months and never used it, even during the closed session of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, leaving him on track to join the Court before the end of the month. A liberal, possibly on Feinstein’s own staff, shoved Ford into the spotlight for reasons of political expedience. Feinstein can babble all she likes about respecting the privacy of victims but them’s the facts.

Also, not to nitpick, but no one “outed” Ford. Unless I missed something, at no point did any media outlet reveal her identity against her wishes. She chose to speak on the record to WaPo over the weekend after Ronan Farrow and outlets like BuzzFeed came knocking, believing that someone *would* end up revealing her name against her wishes before long. But no one (I think) actually did so before the WaPo story came out. Whether Democrats might have been so frantic to stop Kavanaugh that they would have forced Ford’s name into print if she had declined to speak up this past weekend is a fascinating what-if. Probably they would have — which seems to have been Ford’s conclusion too. Again, so much for the privacy of victims.

Charles Cooke wonders if Ford ever really wanted to testify at all:

Dianne Feinstein has not yet submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee the original letter she was sent by the accuser. The Democratic party is almost universally calling for an FBI investigation that it knows full well is not going to happen, and should not happen, and using its absence as a reason for the hearing to be delayed. And, right on cue, certain figures on the Left have begun to play this both ways: Originally, the lack of an invitation to testify was cast as a “silencing act.” Now, the Senate’s broad invitation to the accuser to testify in whatever way she sees fit is being cast as . . . yes, as a “silencing” act. Perhaps there is something else going on here, but sure looks to me as if the aim is to delay, delay, delay — and keep the accuser as far as is possible from being required to take an oath.

Mark Judge and Patrick Smyth have both submitted statements to Grassley’s committee via counsel, notes Cooke. That’s enough for a criminal indictment if facts emerge to show they’re lying; submitting false information to a congressional panel amounts to lying to a federal official just as submitting false information during an FBI interview does. The one and only player in this drama who has yet to send a statement to the committee, as Cooke points out, is Ford herself. That’s curious, although of course not proof that she’s afraid to tell her story under oath. I think she will testify since that’s the foreseeable outcome of her decision to go on the record with WaPo. She knew that her testimony would be demanded after the story appeared and that it’d look very bad if she refused to provide it. She must have resolved to testify this past weekend, with the last few days of will-she-or-won’t-she drama little more than a PR play to frame the upcoming hearing as unfair no matter what happens.

Here’s Scarborough, who spends most of his time bashing the Trump Party nowadays, crystal clear on who it was that “outed” Ford.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham Fires Off Midnight Tweet: “Kavanaugh Nomination is Still on Track – Stay Tuned!”

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Senator Lindsey Graham; Photo: Twitter avatar

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) fired off a midnight tweet praising President Trump and reassured the American people that Kavanaugh’s nomination is still on track.

“Stay tuned!” Lindsey Graham said.

“Great job tonight by President @realDonaldTrump in Las Vegas laying out how strong America has become economically and how much safer we are with a strong military.”

Graham then said: The President is dead right about Judge Kavanaugh being highly qualified, the right person for the job, and also right about letting process play out.

Kavanaugh nomination is still on track. Stay tuned!


Senator Lindsey Graham was referring to the President’s comments during his rally in Las Vegas wherein he praised Brett Kavanaugh.

Graham has certainly changed his tune as of late–usually no ally to the President, he vowed to get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed as quickly as possible.

Christine Ford has accused–without corroborating evidence–Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a drunken high school pool party decades ago.

Accuser Christine Blasey Ford believes she runs the U.S. Senate as she continues to make outrageous demands of how and when her hearing will be held.

The lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee her demands for her public testimony at a hearing–preeminent is that Judge Brett Kavanaugh testify first and that he not be allowed to be in the hearing room when she testifies, reported TGP’s Kristinn Taylor.

Laura Ingraham reported the scheduled Monday hearing where Kavanaugh and Ford were invited to testify may be postponed. Kavanugh accepted but Ford has declined so far to appear Monday.

“Two sources have told me that @SenateMajLdr is WAVERING and may ask to further delay Monday hearing. GOP base will be in full revolt if so. Tune in tonight!”

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