The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh for hours Thursday about an allegation that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were both in high school in 1982.
But lawmakers failed to ask Kavanaugh about a conspiracy theory put forward by a long-time friend and conservative operative that laid the blame for the alleged assault on another person.
Ed Whelan, a friend of Kavanaugh’s and the president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, took to Twitter last week with an elaborate and poorly sourced theory that named one of Kavanaugh’s high school classmates as the real attacker. The “lookalike” theory proposed that Ford was attacked by a man who looked just enough like Kavanaugh that she got them confused.
Whelan later deleted the tweets and apologized for accusing the former classmate, and he called his conspiracy-theory routine “an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment.” But the tweets raised questions about whether Whelan — a former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia who is close to the highly influential Federalist Society, which pushed Kavanaugh’s nomination — could have gotten some of his information from Kavanaugh and his team, Senate Republicans, or the White House.
Whelan has advised Kavanaugh on his confirmation process, according to The Post, and has been one of the embattled judge’s most vocal public defenders.
Suspicions about Kavanaugh’s role in L’Affair Whelan were piqued after The Washington Post reported that Whelan looked at Ford’s LinkedIn page before her name was public but after the Post gave her name to the White House for comment, raising the possibility someone in the White House or on Kavanaugh’s team gave Whelan her name and set the whole drama in motion.
Ford testified Thursday that the man Whelan falsely named the “real” attacker was her only mutual friend with Kavanaugh in high school, and that she briefly dated him. But when it came time for Kavanaugh’s testimony, both Democratic and Republican senators failed to follow through on this same line of questioning. No one asked if Kavanaugh, either directly or through intermediates, had contact with Whelan or helped propose the “lookalike” theory to cast doubt on Ford’s account.
Whelan wasn’t the first to raise the possibility of mistaken identity. Kavanaugh’s team had privately discussed the strategy, according to The Washington Post’s reporting, and Whelan’s friend Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-TK) floated the possibility publicly before Whelan tweeted.
The White House and congressional Republicans denied feeding Whelan information in response to questions from The Washington Post. An unnamed White House spokesman also said Kavanaugh did not give Ford’s name to Whelan.
Ford has repeatedly asserted that she is not at all mistaken about who attacked her, testifying Thursday that she is “100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh.
By not raising Whelan during Kavanaugh’s testimony Thursday, senators on both sides left many questions unanswered about coordination between Whelan, Kavanaugh, and the White House — and none of them answered under oath.