Dems: Yes, Avenatti hurt us on Kavanaugh

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The only thing that’ll make the Kavanaugh saga sweeter for righties at this point is watching their least favorite lawyer get the Billy Batts treatment from his Democratic frenemies. He’s spent the past six months telling them to go get their shinebox. They were destined to stomp him as soon as an opportunity presented itself.

“Well you know at some point there were a lot of folks coming forward making all sorts of accusations,” said Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, when asked about the allegations raised by Avenatti and his client. “It turns it into a circus atmosphere and certainly that’s not where we should be.”…

“Democrats and the country would have been better off if Mr. Avenatti spent his time on his Iowa vanity project rather than meddling in Supreme Court fights,” a senior Senate Democratic aide fumed, referring to Avenatti toying with the idea of seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. “His involvement set us back, absolutely.”

A Democratic senator, who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly, said: “Not helpful at all. I think Susan was always yes, but Avenatti was a useful foil.”…

“It wasn’t helpful because the story became about Avenatti,” [a] Democratic senator [on the Judiciary Committee] said.

“One Republican congressional official called Mr. Avenatti’s involvement ‘manna from heaven,’” noted the Times in a story today. “From the other side, a Democratic congressional official called it ‘massively unhelpful.’” His enemies outside Congress are windmill-dunking on him too:

“I think a lot of people, including many of my Democratic colleagues, felt like we had gotten into the foothills of preposterous” when Avenatti came forward with Swetnick’s gang-rape claims, said Republican John Kennedy on “Meet the Press.” Avenatti himself was defiant and indignant (always on-brand!) at the idea that he wrecked Democrats’ chances of borking the nominee so he doubled down this morning with a new statement. It’s nominally from Swetnick but written in fluent Avenatti-ese:

That’s the second post from the top at his Twitter account as I write this, by the way. The top post, which has been pinned there for weeks, is a statement of his policy positions ahead of his 2020 run. Ahem.

To be fair, his Democratic enemies’ motives in knifing him aren’t entirely pure. They’re annoyed that he hurt them on Kavanaugh but they’re also worried about him pulling a Trump in the 2020 primaries. His core appeal to liberals is that he alone among would-be nominees, supposedly, is both smart enough and ruthless enough to outmaneuver Trump; the progress of Stormygate, with Michael Cohen ultimately pleading guilty in federal court and implicating Trump in campaign finance violations, is the alleged proof. By pinning the Kavanaugh failure on him, Democrats are trying to drive home to his fans that not only is he not some master strategist, he just handed Trump one of the biggest political victories POTUS will ever have. If that perception catches on, that he got called for a dumb penalty as Dems were driving for the winning touchdown, it’ll smash whatever mystique he presently enjoys among lefties as some unbeatable political athlete.

The irony of the Avenatti/Swetnick matter is that a guy who’s omnipresent in media was done in by media. He makes a fair-ish point in the statement about Susan Collins and others ruling out Swetnick’s allegations as zany despite the fact that the FBI never interviewed her or looked into them. But the media, which was highly motivated for ideological reasons to substantiate Swetnick’s claims, did look into them. They found nothing. Swetnick’s interview with NBC did more to damage her credibility than to enhance it. Republicans and Democrats each operated on the assumption, I think, that if Avenatti had anything of substance he wouldn’t be playing cute by claiming corroborating witnesses and then declining to name them or produce them. He would have run with them to his friends at CNN and been on twice every hour of the day instead of his usual single hourly appearance. Because he didn’t, and because the press found nothing independently in Swetnick’s allegations to back him up, the conclusion was made in Congress that the feds needn’t bother investigating the Swetnick matter in light of the deadline they were facing. You would think a guy as supposedly media-savvy as Avenatti would have grasped that and acted accordingly from the start.

Or it could be that he did grasp it but felt obliged to keep Swetnick and the “witnesses” away from the cameras as much as possible because he knew they wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. Plus, let’s be real: The FBI could have spent a month investigating the Swetnick allegations and Avenatti would have whined afterward that it was insufficient if they turned up nothing credible. He’s Trumpy in many ways, but particularly in the sense that emanates from him that he’s incapable of seeing an outcome as fair if it goes against him. (That’s the essence of “He fights!” logic, really.)

But here’s the good news for Billy Batts: If he really does have the goods, nothing’s stopping him from blowing up Kavanaugh now. Bring out the witnesses and sit down for a full hour with Anderson Cooper or whoever to go through the story piece by piece. The fact that Kavanaugh has been sworn in as a justice only raises the stakes for substantiating a big reputation-destroying claim about youthful “rape parties” right now. Imagine how much that would achieve for Avenatti. Kavanaugh would be wrecked personally and professionally. If he didn’t resign immediately, it would turbo-charge the demands for impeachment. Trump and Republicans would be shattered, left to explain why they ignored Swetnick in the first place and saddled with the fact that they confirmed a likely rapist to the Supreme Court. The party would be torn in half as the impeachment debate played out. The FBI would be humiliated for having overlooked Avenatti’s evidence in its own investigation. And the left would be so ecstatic about his ability to turn defeat in the Kavanaugh matter into an unlikely total victory that he’d become the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination overnight. All he has to do his show cards.

If he doesn’t, what are we to conclude about the strength of the hand he’s holding? What are we to conclude about it if he and Swetnick don’t demand that Maryland police launch a very belated investigation of the “rape parties”?

Via the Right Scoop, here’s Susan Collins making an underappreciated point about how Avenatti and Swetnick changed the process. It’s not just that their more outlandish claims intensified perceptions of a smear campaign, it’s that they helped justify Kavanaugh’s display of anger at his hearing. That anger, which rallied the base to his side, was what saved his nomination. If he had been that angry with only the Ford allegation against him, it likely would have put everyone off and sunk him. Exit question: Would Swetnick have gotten more traction if she had chosen a different lawyer to represent her? Both Republicans and Democrats had political reasons to want Avenatti to fail here. If Swetnick had gone to, say, Gloria Allred instead, what would have happened? It still would have been a circus but maybe not one that Dems would have shied away from.

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