With new reporting from Vanity Fair lending weight to speculation that premature stories of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's imminent resignation or firing were planted by the White House to distract from the sexual assault allegations roiling Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process, progressive groups and commentators were quick to make clear that the fights to stop Kavanaugh and protect Rosenstein's ability to oversee the FBI's Russia probe are deeply interwoven and that they are fully prepared to fight both battles at once.
"Stay focused people. We can and will protect our courts and our future and make sure this president faces justice. Women multitask. That's what we do."
—Ilyse Hogue, NARAL
"I urge you to resist saying the Rosenstein story is a distraction for the Kavanaugh story. Both are the same story: how the Trump administration wants to subvert rule of law and have its people do its corrupt bidding," freelance journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy wrote in series of tweets on Monday. "Everything has been called a distraction—from the Muslim Ban to every abominable thing the Trump administration has done. Things that have massive impact on our lives are not 'distractions.' Trump et al know what they are doing and will keep doing it."
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, added: "Stay focused people. We can and will protect our courts and our future and make sure this president faces justice. Women multitask. That's what we do."
Because Kavanaugh has shown in his past writings and opinions that he has an expansive view of presidential power—the judge once argued sitting presidents should not burdened with "civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecutions"—Rosenstein's possible firing and Kavanaugh's possible promotion to the most powerful court in the nation could have massive implications for the future of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
"Donald Trump is working to sabotage the Trump-Russia investigation and wants Kavanaugh (on record saying he believes a sitting president should not be investigated for alleged crimes) on the Supreme Court," noted MoveOn.org in a tweet on Monday. "This is a crisis."
.@realDonaldTrump is working to sabotage the #TrumpRussia investigation AND wants Kavanaugh (on record saying he believes a sitting president should not be investigated for alleged crimes) on the #SCOTUS. This is a crisis. https://t.co/Guk5NP37Ee
— MoveOn (@MoveOn) September 24, 2018
This. Let's not forget about Brett Kavanaugh's extreme and disturbing views about presidential power – and what that could mean if Rod Rosenstein is out. https://t.co/Kozf6qTcCG
— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) September 24, 2018
Initial reporting by Axios's Jonathan Swan suggesting that Rosenstein had "verbally resigned" to White House chief of staff John Kelly broke just hours after a second woman came forward and accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault—fueling suspicions that the Rosenstein story was leaked by White House officials as part of a coordinated strategy to bump Kavanaugh from the news cycle.
After it became clear that Rosenstein will likely remain in his job until at least Thursday—when he is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump—Vanity Fair reported that there "may have been an underlying logic" to the premature leaks about Rosenstein's coming ouster or resignation.
Citing "a source briefed on Trump's thinking," Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman reported:
Trump decided that firing Rosenstein would knock Kavanaugh out of the news, potentially saving his nomination and Republicans' chances for keeping the Senate. "The strategy was to try and do something really big," the source said. The leak about Rosenstein's resignation could have been the result, and it certainly had the desired effect of driving Kavanaugh out of the news for a few hours.
Rosenstein still has his job, at least until Thursday, leaving open multiple possibilities regarding the underlying reality.
Many were quick to argue that it's likely not a coincidence that Trump scheduled his meeting with Rosenstein on the same day Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is set to testify about her sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh before the Senate.
(which could also explain why he chose to meet with Rosenstein on Thursday, the day of the Kavanaugh--Blasey Ford hearings.) https://t.co/XNLcH7krnT
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) September 24, 2018
With massive protests inside the Senate building and nationwide walkouts protesting Kavanaugh and expressing support for the women he allegedly assaulted, U.S. residents demonstrated that they will not be deterred by Trump's attempts to shift their focus elsewhere.
"The stories we're hearing from survivors are chilling," Women's March tweeted as demonstrations inside the Senate building kicked off on Monday. "They're all too devastating and all too common. They're why we're here today. They're why we'll be back Thursday."