A case of mistaken identity?

Yesterday, word circulated in certain quarters of the D.C. legal/public policy community that the assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh may be a case of mistaken identity. In other words, the incident happened, but the perpetrator wasn’t Kavanaugh.

In the version I heard, the assault was committed by a guy who attended the Landon School, not Georgetown Prep where Kavanaugh was a student. Landon and Georgetown Prep are both elite prep schools in the prosperous Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Having no idea whether this information is reliable, I wrote nothing about it. I was struck, however, by this tweet by Ed Whelan from last night:

By one week from today, I expect that Judge Kavanaugh will have been clearly vindicated on this matter. Specifically, I expect that compelling evidence will show his categorical denial to be truthful. There will be no cloud over him.

I’ve known Ed for years and have read “Bench Memos” regularly since its inception. He’s a pretty cautious guy, and not prone to wishful thinking. Thus, I was surprised by the boldness of his tweet.

The conventional wisdom among Kavanaugh’s supporters is that this a case of “he said, she said” and that the alleged episode occurred so long ago that evidence doesn’t exist conclusively to prove or disprove Ms. Ford’s allegation. But here was Ed predicting that compelling evidence would vindicate Kavanaugh.

Is Ed basing this prediction on a more detailed and better sourced version of the “mistaken identity” narrative I had picked up? His subsequent tweets suggest to me that he is.

Then, this morning, Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post wrote a column about how mistaken identity is not uncommon in cases like these. Was this column prompted by buzz that the Kavanaugh case is, indeed, one of mistaken identity?

Finally, there is this post by Ramesh Ponnuru. He cites Parker’s column and suggests that Kavanaugh “may be confident that new evidence will emerge that strongly tends to vindicate him.”

I still don’t have an opinion on whether the Kavanaugh case is one of mistaken identity. That’s a possibility, but it’s also possible that the incident didn’t occur at all or in anything like the way Ford describes. And it’s possible that Ford has gotten it right and is telling the truth.

However, some publicly known facts tend to support the mistaken identity theory. I’m thinking of (1) Ford’s failure to remember such details as where the alleged attack took place, (2) Sen. Feinstein’s seeming unwillingness to treat Ford’s story as tight enough to push forward with for months, (3) Ford’s reluctance to testify publicly (or maybe even privately) before the Judiciary Committee, (4) the reported absence of Kavanaugh’s name in the notes of the psychologist with whom she discussed the alleged incident some years back, and (5) Patrick J. Smyth’s denial of Ford’s claim that he was at the party where the assault allegedly took place.

Lack of clarity by Ford about who really attacked her would tend to explain all of the above. I emphasize, however, that such lack of clarity is not the only possible explanation.

For now, let’s just say of the mistaken identity theory: Developing. Maybe.


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