Might Chuck Grassley soon receive an RSVP in the positive? Politico’s Anni Karni reports that Christine Blasey Ford has hired a new adviser, and it’s no political novice. Ricki Seidman, a longtime Democratic operative, has joined the team — potentially to assist Ford to “navigate a potential hearing”:
Seidman, a senior principal at TSD Communications, worked as Joe Biden’s communications director during the 2008 general election campaign, after he was named Barack Obama’s running mate. In 2009, according to her online biography, she helped the White House manage the confirmation of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
Before that, she worked in the Clinton White House as deputy communications director.
“I believe her and I think she’s very courageous for coming this far,” Seidman said in a brief interview, confirming her role advising Ford.
And lo and behold, here’s Ford’s attorneys suddenly deciding that an FBI investigation might not be necessary after all. They wrote to Grassley to set up a call to arrange a possible appearance for Ford, but insist that “Monday is not possible”:
Here’s the email – first reported in NYT – about Christine Blasey Ford’s willingness to testify next week. They rule out Monday – and don’t say whether it will be public or private. Next question: Will Grassley accommodate moving the hearing to another day? pic.twitter.com/gpnnQayK9B
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 20, 2018
Frankly, this is a pretty weak play here. Having failed to bluff Grassley into abandoning the hearing, it looks like Ford’s attorneys are trying another method of stringing this out as long as possible. Why isn’t Monday possible, especially when the committee set up the hearing for a week after Ford’s attorneys went on national television demanding an opportunity to speak to them?
After the bad faith shown by Ford’s attorneys this week in attacking Grassley for providing the forum they initially demanded, Grassley’s under no particular obligation to reschedule now. That doesn’t mean he won’t, as the politics of this will get tricky if the difference is only a day or two. Beyond that, though, the answer will likely be a polite refusal and a re-invitation to Monday’s scheduled hearing.
The addition of Seidman is interesting, too, as it ties the Democratic activist base closer to Ford herself. Karni reports that Democrats were hoping to avoid that look:
Democratic operatives in Washington, D.C. have been cautious about linking Ford and her claims to partisan activists working on her behalf over concerns about further politicizing an already complicated case. “[Ford] didn’t come at this through anyone political and needs to keep her distance from it,” said one Democratic operative.
That turns out to be tougher than it looks. CNN took notice of an invitation to a fundraiser for incumbent Democrat Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Guess who was slated as the headliners for the meet-and-greet?
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s campaign listed Brett Kavanaugh accuser’s attorneys as headliners at a Washington fundraiser slated to take place next month, according to a copy of the invite obtained by CNN.
Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is being represented by attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, both of whom are listed as headliners in a “cocktails and conversation” event for Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat who is facing re-election this fall. People are asked to contribute up to $1,000 to attend the October 1 event, and a source familiar with the matter said it is slated to take place at their law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks.
As soon as CNN started asking questions, everyone hit retreat:
The timing comes at an awkward time as Ford is considering testifying Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and allege that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school in the 1980s. … After CNN contacted the Baldwin campaign and the attorneys, Katz called CNN to say that the event was being canceled. The invite was sent Thursday morning, but a campaign spokesman called it an “old invite” scheduled before Ford’s accusation became public.
“The short answer is this: We did a fundraiser for Sen. Baldwin six years ago when we ran for the Senate, we supported her then,” Katz told CNN. “We are not going to be doing a fundraiser now. We’re going to be focused on the issues involving the Kavanaugh confirmation process.”
Awkward doesn’t begin to cover it. The use of Democratic Party activists and operatives all around Christine Blasey Ford makes the machinations of Dianne Feinstein and the other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee look a lot more suspicious than before. It expands the universe of leakers in this allegation in a particularly activist direction, which lends more credence to the idea that this was a planned campaign from the start.
Under these circumstances, Grassley should hold his ground and keep the hearing on Monday. But he might want to expand the witness list to add Katz and Banks to drill into just how this whole debacle got started.
Update: Seidman’s career as a Democrat operative seems … pretty comprehensive:
“During the Clinton Administration, Seidman served as White House Deputy Communications Director, Counselor to the Chief of Staff and Director of Scheduling and Advance for the President. She also served as Deputy Associate Attorney General in the Department of Justice.
During the Obama Administration, she assisted the White House in the successful confirmation effort for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She worked on President Obama’s general election campaign as Vice President Joe Biden’s Communications Director, ran the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign War Room, and directed a campaign that led to the successful passage of the Clinton economic plan in 1993. Seidman worked for Senator Ted Kennedy, of Massachusetts, as Chief Investigator on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. She has also worked in senior positions for Rock the Vote and People for the American Way. Earlier in her career, she was a Harvard University Institute of Politics fellow.”
But hey, Ford’s allegation has nothing to do with politics …
Update: This from 25 years ago shows a much more interesting tie to another hyperpartisan Supreme Court confirmation hearing:
Meanwhile, word of Hill’s allegation reached a Labor Committee aide to Senator Edward Kennedy by the name of Ricki Seidman (now a Clinton White House official). On September 6, Seidman also called Hill, telling her what she had heard. Three days later, in another phone conversation, Seidman became the first Senate staffer to whom Hill claimed that she had been sexually harassed by Thomas, although she did not offer many specifics.
Seidman suggested that Hill might be more comfortable discussing the matter with someone she knew—an acquaintance from her law-school days named James Brudney, who was now a Metzenbaum aide working for the Labor Committee. According to Fleming, “Hill began the conversation [with Brudney] by saying she did not wish to testify publicly.” But Brudney allowed her to believe that she could remain anonymous. He then told Hill’s story to Harriet Grant, a key aide to Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Judiciary Committee to which the complaint would have to be made.
Now, one can conclude that Seidman might be the right person to choose in this situation once Ford’s name got out, given her experience. Or, on the other hand, that Seidman might have been driving this on the same Anita Hill game plan for a while.