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Newly released Christine Blasey Ford letter debunks rumors about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s role
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On Sunday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) released the letter that Christine Blasey Ford sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), in which the college professor described her alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The letter’s release confirms that it was addressed to Feinstein, debunking a rumor that Ford sent the letter to another lawmaker, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), instead — and solidifying Feinstein’s culpability for how the letter was handled.
A conservative pundit floated a theory that Ford sent the letter to Eshoo instead of Feinstein to avoid criminal liability for making false statements to the Senate, which has jurisdiction over Supreme Court nominations.
Feinstein releases letter
On Sunday, Grassley released the letter Ford sent to Feinstein. In the letter, Ford alleges that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her “in the early 1980s” at a “suburban Maryland area home” where Ford had gathered with “4 others.”
“On July 6, I notified my local government representative to ask them how to proceed with sharing this information. It is upsetting to discuss sexual assault and its repercussions, yet I felt guilty and compelled as a citizen about the idea of not saying anything,” Ford wrote, apparently referring to Eshoo.
Feinstein forwarded an unredacted version of the letter to Grassley on Thursday together with a memo asking that he maintain its confidentiality. Feinstein has been criticized for a lack of transparency in handling the letter, but she has argued that she wanted to respect Ford’s request for confidentiality.
The letter is marked “CONFIDENTIAL” and signed, “in confidence.” It is dated July 30, which shows that Feinstein had it for almost two months before it was leaked to the press.
The letter’s public release by the Senate confirms that Feinstein was the intended recipient. CNN published a redacted version of the letter, addressed to Feinstein, on September 17.
JUST IN: Senate Judiciary Cmte. Chairman Grassley releases original letter that Dr. Ford first sent to Sen. Feinstein, as well as Feinstein’s letter to Grassley. pic.twitter.com/SbYswpltpV
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) September 24, 2018
The letter is addressed directly to Feinstein, confirming her responsibility for handling its contents and undercutting rumors that Ford sent the letter to Eshoo instead. Sean Davis of The Federalist had speculated that Ford sent the letter to Eshoo to avoid criminal liability for making false statements to the Senate.
A plain reading of 18 USC 1001 suggests that in the matter of a specific presidential nomination pending before the U.S. Senate, statements made to a House member on that matter may not be covered by the statute’s prohibition on false statements. pic.twitter.com/gla8uiBqUE
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) September 23, 2018
Davis cited a section of the U.S. code that makes it a crime to lie to Congress “with respect to any matter within its jurisdiction,” which includes “investigations or review.” Presumably, that would make Ford liable for making false statements about a Supreme Court nominee to the Senate, but not to the House, which has no authority over the nomination process.
Some were skeptical of the theory on the basis that it appeared to cite esoteric laws that the average person knows nothing about. In theory, Ford could have been aware of the technicality and taken advantage of it.
In light of the fact that Ford actually addressed the letter to Feinstein, though, the theory sounds a little far-fetched. Still, Eshoo was the first member of Congress to hear about the allegation in a private meeting with Ford, and she reportedly passed the letter along to Feinstein on Ford’s behalf.
Either way, it looks like Feinstein bears the brunt of the responsibility for how this allegation was mishandled. And either way, now that a fourth witness is denying the incident, it looks like there won’t be any need for conspiracy theories.
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