WASHINGTON — Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh sat in the anteroom of Room 216 in the Hart Senate Office Building, a sterile, living-room-like space with a couch and a couple of armchairs and a large television on the wall. His chances of joining the Supreme Court seemed to be vanishing. “Disaster,” read the text message from one Republican.
Christine Blasey Ford had just that he had tried to force himself on her as a teenager, and nearly everyone in both camps found her credible, sincere and sympathetic. President Trump called Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, and they agreed she was impressive. “We’re only at halftime,” Mr. McConnell said, trying to be reassuring.
Mr. Trump thought it was time to bring in the F.B.I. to investigate, as many opponents of Judge Kavanaugh had urged, but when he called the Hart Building, Donald F. McGahn II, his White House counsel, refused to take the call. Instead, Mr. McGahn cleared the room and sat down with Judge Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley Kavanaugh. The only way to save his nomination, Mr. McGahn said, was to show the senators how he really felt, to channel his outrage and indignation at the charges he had denied.
Judge Kavanaugh did not need convincing. He was brimming with rage and resentment, so when he went before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he did not hold back. His fire-and-fury performance — “you have replaced ‘advice and consent’ with search and destroy” — suddenly turned the tables. While Democrats thought he went too far, demoralized Republicans were emboldened again. In their war room, White House aides watching on television cheered and pumped their fists.