Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Tuesday said he "strongly suspects" Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) was behind the leak of an explosive letter that almost derailed Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.
“We learned last week that a woman named Monica McClean was Ms. Ford’s roommate, and she was one of the so-called beach friends who encouraged Ms. Ford to go to Dianne Feinstein and the partisan Democrats on the Judiciary Committee,” Cotton said, referring to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary panel.
Cotton said the fact that McClean once worked for former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara indicates that Schumer’s political operation was involved in the leak because Bharara used to work for Schumer on Capitol Hill.
“So I strongly suspect that Chuck Schumer’s political operations knew about Ms. Ford’s allegations as far back as July and manipulated the process all along,” he said.
Overlooked in the excitement: During the Kavanaugh hearing, in the course of denying that her staff leaked the Ford information, Sen. Feinstein speculated that the Ford leak came from Ford's friend:
FEINSTEIN: May I — may I — may I respond? It’s my understanding that her story was leaked before the letter became public. And she testified that she had spoken to her friends about it and it’s most likely that that’s how the story leaked and that she had been asked by press. But it did not leak from us, I assure you of that.
That ties in to a bonus question - why was the name "Monica L. Mclean" unredacted in the letter leaked by the Senate Judiciary Committee? A late-game screw-up, or an attempt to flush out a non-cooperating potential witness? Or did Fox News get the letter directly from the ex-boyfriend? In any case, internet sleuths tracked down Ms. McLean within twelve hours, so I am confident that Senate staff knew who she was.
Moving on. The Peet Bharara connection is tenuous. The WaPo explains why, although those with eyes understood this days ago - Monica McLean was in the FBI press Information office. She did not "work for" Bharara, who was the AUSA in the NY Southern District. However, the press offices of the FBI, the SDNY and others did coordinate on some press releases, so for Ms. McLean to contact a former associate who knows Bharara would be easy.
On the lighter side, Freudian detectives will love this aspect of Bharara's denial: "I couldn't pick [Ms. McLean] out of a line-up..." Whoa, who says she belongs in a line-up? WHAT is the hidden message here?
Those determined to tie this to Sen. Schumer might try Michael Bromwich, who was a late (and normally very expensive) addition to the Ford legal team. He has been a Washington player since the 80's and has testified before Schumer on committee hearings, so a connection is possible. Bromwich also oversaw Apple during their e-book price-fixing case; one presumes that NYC publishers followed the case and may have mentioned it to Senator Pothole, who is all about constituent service. That case was handled by the DoJ Anti-Trust division but filed in the SDNY, so Bharara should have had a passing familarity with the players. [Also worth highlighting Andrew McCabe connection noted by Slate. FBI-friendly.]
Well. I still think the most likely candidates for the outing Dr. Ford are the Eshoo staffers (who, as best I know, have no Senate Judiciary Committee investigatory laws obliging their silence) or the staffers of other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. All it it would take is a Feinstein or Eshoo staffer to grumble to a colleague about a bombshell letter Feinstein is sitting on and eventually rumors would reach the press.
Ford's lawyers seems like a longshot, although activist, agenda-oriented lawyers might be confident the press won't rat them out.
And Monica McLean? She had to have press contacts - that was her job. Would she betray her friend by urging a reporter to start asking about a letter to Feinstein (while keeping coy about the contents)? And would that "look over there" leak be a betrayal? Dr. Ford's early call was to the Washington Post tipline, which may not have been the ideal way to keep this story out of the news.
I strongly suspect that Time Will Not Tell.