In this Jan. 29, 2015 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/File/AP

Grassley’s team faces new controversy at an inopportune time

After Christine Blasey Ford came forward publicly with a sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, the obvious move would’ve been for the FBI to re-open its background check of the Supreme Court nominee. Republicans, for reasons that still haven’t been fully explained, rejected such an approach.

In fact, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) specifically argued that his committee’s staff is capable of examining the controversy, writing on Twitter, “No other OUTSIDE investigation is necessary.”

It’s never been altogether clear exactly which investigatory tasks the Judiciary Committee’s staff would tackle, but relying exclusively on Grassley’s team has become a much tougher sell. Last week, for example, Mike Davis, the committee’s chief staffer for nominations, announced publicly that he was “unfazed and determined” to “confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” making clear that the investigation wouldn’t be fair and impartial.

Over the weekend, an NBC News report raised new questions about Grassley’s team.

A press adviser helping lead the Senate Judiciary Committee’s response to a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has stepped down amid evidence he was fired from a previous political job in part because of a sexual harassment allegation against him.

Garrett Ventry, 29, who served as a communications aide to the committee chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had been helping coordinate the majority party’s messaging in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago at a high school party. In a response to NBC News, Ventry denied any past “allegations of misconduct.”

I’m sure the Iowa Republican has many capable aides, but these developments hardly bolster the case that Grassley’s staff can be counted on to do the FBI’s job.

This story, however, includes a curious twist. Politico  reported on Friday:

It turns out that the Keystone Cops detective work by conservative legal activist Ed Whelan — which set Washington abuzz with the promise of exonerating Brett Kavanaugh, only to be met by mockery and then partially retracted — was not his handiwork alone.

CRC Public Relations, the prominent Alexandria, Virginia-based P.R. firm, guided Whelan through his roller-coaster week of Twitter pronouncements that ended in embarrassment and a potential setback for Kavanaugh’s hopes of landing on the high court, according to three sources familiar with their dealings.

And what makes this notable? Garrett Ventry joined Grassley’s staff while on temporary leave from CRC Public Relations.

It’s not too late for officials to reach out to the FBI, asking the bureau to do exactly what it’s always done under circumstances like these.

Chuck Grassley and Supreme Court

Grassley's team faces new controversy at an inopportune time