Who Owns Kavanaugh #4: The Operatives & The Op
Mark Judge, Chuck Johnson, and the weaponization of Christine Blasey Ford
This series is written by Greg Olear in collaboration with Lincoln’s Bible.
I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school. I have described the events publicly before. I summarized them in my letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, and again in my letter to Chairman Grassley. I understand and appreciate the importance of your hearing from me directly about what happened to me and the impact it has had on my life and on my family.
I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I attended the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, from 1978 to 1984. Holton-Arms is an all-girls school that opened in 1901. During my time at the school, girls at Holton-Arms frequently met and became friendly with boys from all-boys schools in the area, including the Landon School, Georgetown Prep, Gonzaga High School, country clubs, and other places where kids and their families socialized. This is how I met Brett Kavanaugh, the boy who sexually assaulted me.
In my freshman and sophomore school years, when I was 14 and 15 years old, my group of friends intersected with Brett and his friends for a short period of time. I had been friendly with a classmate of Brett’s for a short time during my freshman and sophomore year, and it was through that connection that I attended a number of parties that Brett also attended. We did not know each other well, but I knew him and he knew me. In the summer of 1982, like most summers, I spent most every day at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland swimming and practicing diving.
One evening that summer, after a day of diving at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in the Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember specifically being at the house: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, a boy named P.J. [Smyth], and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I remember my friend Leland Ingham attending. I do not remember all of the details of how that gathering came together, but like many that summer, it was almost surely a spur of the moment gathering. I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked about how I got to the party, where it took place, and so forth. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are the ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.
When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room/ family room type area on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the restroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom across from the bathroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding into me. I yelled, hoping that someone downstairs might hear me, and I tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was very inebriated, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit underneath my clothing. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They seemed to be having a very good time. Mark seemed ambivalent at times, urging Brett on, and at times urging him to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.
During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. Then the last time that he did this, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room. Directly across from the bedroom was a small bathroom. I ran inside the bathroom and locked the door. I waited until I heard Brett and Mark leave the bedroom, laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairs, pin-balling off the walls on the way down. I waited and when I did not hear them come back up the stairs, I left the bathroom, went down the same stairwell, through the living room, and left the house. I remember being on the street and feeling an enormous sense of relief that I had escaped that house and that Brett and Mark were not coming outside after me.
The above transcript is from Christine Blasey Ford’s opening statement, given at her Senate testimony on September 27, 2018 (boldface is ours). We have only three questions to ask because of it—the same three questions we asked at the time:
1. Who is Mark Judge?
2. Why wasn’t Mark Judge subpoenaed to testify for the Senate hearing on the alleged assault, when he is the only other witness?
3. What happened to the two (known) FBI investigations that arose from Dr. Ford’s allegation?
To answer them, we need to understand a broader world…
Dirty Ops, What Are They Good For
A political operative is someone working to achieve the objectives of a larger political interest—winning an election, getting out the vote, boosting a piece of legislation, and so on. The job involves the (usually covert) manipulation of public opinion. Political operatives are as old as governments. You can’t have one without the other.
Political operatives trade in opposition research—“dirt” gathered on a political opponent. A famous example: a Republican primary opponent seeking “oppo” on Donald John Trump hired Fusion GPS, who then hired ex-spy Christopher Steele to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.
Op is short for operation—a coordinated effort to control the narrative by disseminating information. Often, a political op is nothing more than a timed released of damaging material: The Access Hollywood tape. John Edwards’ extramarital affair. Gary Hart’s escapades aboard Monkey Business. That stuff is ugly, but it’s not dirty—because it’s true.
An op becomes “dirty” when it weaponizes a lie, or omits a portion of the truth. Roger Stone, the grandfather of the current crop of dirty operatives, is a self-styled “dirty trickster.” His aim is not to reveal a covered-up truth, but to set a narrative. The birther conspiracy—which holds that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and therefore is ineligible to be president—is an example of a dirty op. There is no truth to that allegation; Obama was born in Hawaii. It’s crafted disinformation. Republican dirty operatives—among them Donald Trump—disseminated it anyway.
Conspiracy theories, lies crafted out of weaponized information, manipulated images, hacked emails—nothing is off limits for the dirtiest operatives, as long as the content can fuel a narrative, knock down opponents (from politicians to entire demographics of citizens to the press itself), and feed the beast. Trump got his ass kicked in November? Claim the election was stolen. A D.C. pizza parlor is popular with Dems on the Hill? Turn it into a child-trafficking headquarters. A laptop has something on it that Rudy can’t figure out, but it’s bad, and there’s a blind guy who runs the computer shop…okay, even we couldn’t follow that one. Sometimes ops are based on kernels of truth. Often, they’re crafted from straight lies. It doesn’t matter. As long as the content derived from it can be used on an audience to push the desired narrative.
Republicans have a history with dirty ops that dates back to Nixon. Along with Stone and his onetime partner Paul Manafort, other O.G. GOP operatives include: Michael Ledeen, a Mike Flynn ally, who was involved in the 1980 “Billygate” disinformation campaign around Jimmy Carter’s brother; his wife, Barbara Ledeen, a Chuck Grassley staffer, who in 2016 launched her own “investigation” into Hillary Clinton’s emails; Greg Mueller of Creative Response Concepts Public Relations, who was involved with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign that smeared John Kerry; Ed Whelan, former head of the Ethics & Public Policy Center, who in 2018, as we shall see, authored the “mistaken rapist” theory that gave Republican Senators an “out” to confirm Kavanaugh; and—wait for it—Brett Kavanaugh himself.
Oh, yes. For a decade and a half prior to being a Federal Appeals judge, Kavanaugh was a political operative, prone to the dirtiest tactics. Have you heard the kook-right conspiracy theory about how Hillary Clinton had Vince Foster killed, but the death was made to look like a suicide? When Brett worked for Kenneth Starr during the Clinton impeachment, he was tasked with looking into the Foster file for signs of foul play; he was also Bob Woodward’s Deep Throat in Starr’s office. Is it a stretch to think that Kavanagh had something to do with the dissemination of the “HRC killed Vince Foster” lie? Bill Clinton sure thinks he did.
The cadre of dirty operatives went through a dramatic mutation when Donald Trump first announced his candidacy. Prior to Trump’s 2016 campaign launch, individuals from the recesses of 4Chan troll-land had been trickling like heavy water into the political operative game. With his campaign, they were flooding the field, many cultivated by Steve Bannon and Roger Stone. By the time Trump gained the nomination, they were fused to the world of conservative political ops, and the game was forever changed.
Where oppo research, gathered by the old school pros, once made its way into the bloodstream of news outlets solely to cause damage to a politician, now the dirt was content for the sake of the media eco-system itself. For conservative trolls, content is king. It’s a food source, derived from dirty ops, that exists to feed an audience. And because of the grip it has on that audience, the content has raw power. Rather than politicians surfacing dirt to use on their opponents, the content is now surfaced—if not created out of whole cloth—to serve itself, and the politicians are beholden to the themes that the content is driving.
This is not to suggest that this new breed of operatives aren’t still paid by others (including foreign intelligence services) to find, hack, or craft the dirt. But regardless of where an op’s start-up costs came from, the content from it is now its own revenue stream. In the conservative political sphere, dirty operatives have built an architecture of connected media outlets and social media accounts that can amplify, weaponize, and monetize any event—any theme—from covid-19 numbers to Nancy Pelosi visiting a hair salon. In the Trump era, operatives that supplied and amplified the content became their own brand of celebrity influencer: Jack Posobiec, Mike Cernovich, Cassandra Fairbanks, Laura Loomer, Ali Alexander, and so on.
The content is in control.
Information warfare expert Molly McKew coined a new term for the worst of these next-gen dirty tricksters: “information terrorists.” Among the most successful is 32-year-old Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson. Often referred to as a “notorious far-right troll,” Johnson is actually a political operative in the Roger Stone mold. Perhaps the best summary of Chuck’s ratfucker resume was done by writer and researcher Patrick @Trickfreee in this mega-thread from 2017:
Let’s summarize some of the sourced highlights in that thread and add some recent exploits. Note that many of the claims were made by Chuck Johnson himself (often on social media), and that this is far from a complete list of his “accomplishments.”
Worked for Breitbart and is close with Steve Bannon.
Worked for Alan Dershowitz.
Claims he helped set up Anthony Weiner, so that the FBI could access Weiner’s laptop and restart the Clinton email investigation.
Worked on the “Macron Leaks” op with Jack Posobiec.
Is close with Richard Spencer of “Heil Trump” fame. They have worked together on many occasions.
Paid for Bill Clinton’s accusers to attend the 2016 Presidential debate.
Helped Proud Boy founder, Gavin McGinnis, with the Proud Boys.
With Mike Cernovich and Jeff Giesa, created the MAGA3X voting campaign/ troll team, and hired future insurrectionist Tim Gionet, aka “Baked Alaska,” to help.
In 2017, Johnson traveled to London with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher to visit Julian Assange. Recent reporting, with footage from inside the Ecuadorian embassy, claims they offered Assange a Presidential pardon in exchange for saying that the Russians did not help Trump:
In her Wired piece, Molly McKew explains how these “information terrorists” rallied behind Brett Kavanaugh. As a veteran operative himself, Brett would have known exactly what kind of content to provide for them for his SCOTUS confirmation hearing. And if you think he wasn’t still connected to this realm, let’s revisit what happened in the chamber.
There was Zina Bash, a member of Brett’s team, twice flashing an alt-right “okay” sign. Despite the pearl clutching denials, and dismissal by mainstream press, this was a visual indication that Kavanaugh was aligned with the alt-right. So too was his snub of Parkland father turned gun control advocate Fred Guttenberg, a white-hot target in the hate-ecosystem of far-right trolls who had been weaponizing every element of the mass shooting. It would be a stretch to think that anyone from the conservative operative realm would not recognize Guttenberg, especially Brett.
Kavanaugh reminded us how deep inside the conservative grievance-content bubble he lived (a bubble he’d helped to create with Ken Starr) with his “I like beer” partisan rage-and-cry fest. It was a Greatest Hits album of persecution, conspiracy, and sheer lunacy:
This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups!
Again: Chuck Johnson, as McKew shows in her piece, and he himself admits, was involved with MAGA dirty ops by 2018. Which is what makes it especially interesting that someone whose work Johnson once published—a conservative content generator who was no stranger to dirty tricks himself—just so happened to be the only other eyewitness to the alleged sexual assault of Christine Blasey Ford: Mark Gavreau Judge.
Although Senator Feinstein received Ford’s letter in July of 2018, she did not pass it on to the FBI until September 12—after the letter’s existence, and its broad contents, had been leaked to the press.
Both Feinstein and Ford’s attorneys adamantly denied the leak, before and during the hearing. As controversial as this could have become, even the extremely conservative Washington Free Beacon published Feinstein’s words accurately, around the issue of the leak. An FBI investigation was finally launched at the request of Senators from both sides of the aisle, once Ford and Brett had testified.
That investigation was frustratingly limited in scope and ultimately went nowhere. The former FBI Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi gave a cogent explanation on what was likely happening with the FBI at the time. It turns out, the FBI does background on a SCOTUS nominee (called a “SPIN investigation”)—which is why Feinstein eventually gave them the letter. And a SPIN on a Supreme Court nominee is controlled by the President:
When the FBI closes a SPIN and turns their report over to their “client” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, only the White House can ask that it be re-opened. This effectively handcuffs our nation’s premier investigative agency from doing what they do best — conducting objective and independent inquiries devoid of political agenda or intent.
When Trump opened the investigation again, he controlled the scope. In addition to witnesses Ford, Kavanaugh, and Mark Judge, there were others who were aware of the alleged attack and prepared to give statements to the FBI. Those interviews never happened. Why not? POTUS skunked it.
But what about the other FBI investigation? The one that happened before Sen. Feinstein turned the letter over to the FBI? The one that might explain how the letter was leaked? The FBI investigation into the hacked email of Christine Blasey Ford.
Unlike the SPIN investigation, this was an investigation of an actual crime that happened in the days leading up to Ford’s hearing—if not all the way back in July, just after she composed and sent her email to Sen. Feinstein. Like the SPIN investigation, we never got answers as to when it happened or by whom. It barely registered in the press at the time.
In a letter to Chuck Grassley, Dr. Ford’s attorneys gave an account of what their client was going through since her name hit the press: Her address had been leaked by an alt-right Twitter account with white nationalist talking points, “protestors” menaced her outside her home, Ford went into hiding with her family. And sometime before that, per the letter: “Her email has been hacked, and she has been impersonated online.”
In the movies, every Millennial with a Macbook Pro can hack an email. In real life, it’s not the usual skill-set. It’s also, like lying during a Senate confirmation hearing or giving false information on a mortgage application, a crime.
Now, what kind of dirty operative would have the resources and/or tools to hack into Dr. Ford’s emails? And how would they know to do it before anyone knew about her letter?
“How’d You Find Me?”
Mark Judge’s name is mentioned at least ten times in Dr. Ford’s testimony. Ten. This is no accident. At the time of the alleged assault, Judge was dating one of Ford’s closest friends. Ford and Judge knew each other. Judge himself implies this, in a harangue he wrote just a few months ago:
One thing that I always wondered…was why Ford had never attempted to contact me in the summer of 2018, before everything blew up…It was a devastating accusation about an alleged event that I have no memory of…Why not ask me about it before triggering World War III?
Judge used the question of why Ford didn’t contact him personally to refute the entire story of the assault. His logic is that if the assault were true, and Brett belonged nowhere near the Supreme Court because of it, then she alone could have stopped the nomination simply by ringing Mark up—instead of making a federal case out of it.
But really, the answer to his question was in her testimony: A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not. Why would she want to speak with him ever again?
Mark was hiding behind his false logic, shifting the narrative away from himself and onto his accuser. It was his twist on the old “he said/she said” trap—an effective tactic in courtrooms for the defense, due to its inherent deniability, and a good place for the guilty to hide.
Hiding is a strength for Mark Judge. When he should have been being questioned under oath about the assault, he was holed up in the beach house of a “longtime friend.” A reporter tracked him down; the FBI could not or did not. “How’d you find me?” he asked the intrepid reporter, as if he did not expect to be found.
In a Washington Post expose on Judge, one of his high school classmates, former Maryland State Senator Richard S. Madaleno, described Mark Judge as “an unhappy person who was happy to make other people unhappy. ‘Bully’ may be an overused term, but he regularly belittled people he perceived as being lower on the high school hierarchy.” (Note that this is also a perfect description of an internet troll.)
But that’s from a young man’s days in high school—a time when conservatives forbid us from judging his character. So let’s look at his adult years.
By the time of Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS confirmation hearing, Mark Judge was an established writer (mostly freelance) and wannabe short filmmaker with his own YouTube channel. Although he declined to be interviewed by the WaPo journalists who found him, Mark had already been very public about his life, his philosophy on life, and his conservative political views. Oh, and high school. Like big boy Brett, grown man Mark had a lot to say about Georgetown Prep:
Judge has written about his Prep years as a time of drunken debauchery. Beach Week, a summertime excursion with classmates, was a nonstop roller coaster of drinking, sexual encounters with girls from other prep schools, blackouts and more drinking. “It was impossible to stop until I was completely annihilated,” he wrote.
Such experiences filled weekends during the school year as well, and on Monday mornings during senior year, the boys would tell their Marriage and Sex teacher, Bernie Ward, about their excesses.
“The drinking was unbelievable,” said Ward, who later spent two decades as a radio talk-show host in San Francisco and served six years in federal prison for distributing child pornography. “It was part of the culture. A parent even bought the keg and threw one of the parties for the kids.”
Ward, who taught Judge, Kavanaugh and future Supreme Court justice Neil M. Gorsuch in his religion and sexuality courses, said his students “talked plenty about men and women and taking advantage and respect for each other. They took umbrage when I compared their rooting around with girls to dogs in heat. They’d say they were in love, and I’d say, ‘Wait a minute — then how come you have another girlfriend in two weeks?’ We’d have heated arguments.”
Judge wrote that he came to view Ward as an example of his school’s fall from Catholic orthodoxy and traditional discipline into a New Age emphasis on feelings and liberal notions about faith and politics.
There’s certainly a lot to unpack there, especially the part about the convicted child porn distributor being the “Marriage and Sex” professor for Mark Judge and two Supreme Court Justices. But more stunning is the article’s portrayal of a deeply troubled subject, with much of the sourcing coming from Mark’s own writings about himself.
In Judge’s memoir Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, he details his journey with alcoholism and recovery. In God and Man, he further recounts his time at Georgetown Prep, where he was “bombarded with drugs, alcohol, widespread homosexuality among the clergy.” As the Washington Post journalists note, Mark describes the faculty at Prep as having “morphed from ‘tough guys’ to ‘hippies and leftists.’ ” This appears to be the reverse-morphing of Mark’s own self-assessed journey from liberal thinker to conservative blogger. And therein lies an even more character-revealing story.
Before we get to Mark’s YouTube website, there are some notable moments from his life as a freelance “journalist”. In the late 90s, after a bitter, homophobic tirade against an editor at Landscape Architecture, he was banned from ever writing for the publication again. Over the next 20 years, his writings became more and more drenched in hard-right themes. And, like a proper troll, one of his favorite targets was women. This oft-published insert, from a rant that included the derisive and obligatory “Social Justice Warriors” drop, says it all:
Of course, a man must be able to read a woman’s signals, and it’s a good thing that feminism is teaching young men that no means no and yes means yes. But there’s also that ambiguous middle ground, where the woman seems interested and indicates, whether verbally or not, that the man needs to prove himself to her. And if that man is any kind of man, he’ll allow himself to feel the awesome power, the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion.
Perhaps the best summary of who and what Mark Judge is comes again from Molly McKew, who calls him “a generator of content for the alt-right machine, using his high school bad-boy, ‘real man’ credentials as a springboard to comment on the whole suite of social issues that the alt-right feels is eating away at our Americanness.”
It is any wonder that Mark Judge and Chuck Johnson found one another?
In December of 2014, on his now-defunct website GotNews, Chuck Johnson published an article from Mark Judge that Mark claimed no one else would—an article about what would become a galvanizing story at the heart of conservative misogyny pertaining to “men’s rights.” The story and its theme were acutely specific: men are the real victims of women who falsely cry rape. And the story that Mark Judge wrote, and Chuck Johnson published, solidified this brewing far-right grievance.
Judge’s article rebutted a Rolling Stone article published on November 9, 2014, titled “A Rape on Campus”—a shocking account from a female student at the University of Virginia. The student alleged that she became a victim of gang rape as part of a fraternity initiation ritual. As a reaction to the Rolling Stone article, the university president suspended all fraternities. There were protests on campus on behalf of survivors. National news crews were everywhere. More articles were written. The MeToo-before-#MeToo battle cry BELIEVE THE WOMAN seemed to finally be given voice. Traumatized survivors of assault and rape were, at long last, being heard and believed.
Then, roughly five weeks later, the Charlottesville police informed the university that its investigation into the allegations failed to turn up any evidence. On March 23, 2015, the police officially suspended their investigation. And on April 5, Rolling Stone retracted the entire article. In essence, with regard to the provable veracity of the Rolling Stone article, Mark Judge was right.
It’s nearly impossible to describe how much “men’s rights” grievance content came out of this journalistic adventure, especially for young conservative men and, interestingly, their mothers. The boys were now the ones to be protected when a sexual assault allegation is made (Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, used this belief to fuel changes to Title IX rules). The life that is ruined by an assault was not that of the girl/woman, but the boy/man. That narrative stuck—and stuck hard. Mark Judge had more than earned his far-right stripes, and Chuck Johnson was the one who made it happen for him.
When we recall exactly who Chuck Johnson is, and in what realm he operates, this chapter in Mark Judge’s journey is even more significant.
Is Chuck Johnson the type of political operative with the means and history of doing something like hacking Dr. Ford’s email and/or doxxing her address with calls for protesting outside her home? Is Chuck Johnson the type who would leak Dr. Ford’s letter to Sen. Feinstein as a way to hijack a confirmation hearing focused on Brett Kavanaugh’s history of perjury and inexplicable finances? Is Chuck Johnson the type who would short-circuit the entire public discourse, reducing it to a “he said/she said” claim from the 80s? Is Chuck Johnson the kind of guy who would intentionally trigger and traumatize a nation of women assault survivors in order to get Mark Judge’s buddy onto the Supreme Court?
To be clear: we are NOT accusing Chuck Johnson of doing any of those things. But he is absolutely that type. That is exactly how Chuck Johnson and the world around him works. And he had the cleanest path for getting his hands on a potential accusation against Brett Kavanaugh: Mark Judge.
Mark must have known Ford was a threat to Brett, since that long ago summer night, at a small impromptu gathering, when the two of them (allegedly) got wasted, trapped her in a bedroom, and tried to have their way with her—inflicting a life-long trauma on her mind, body, and soul. As CBS News reported:
In her testimony, Ford recalled the “uproarious laughter” of Kavanaugh and Judge during the alleged attack. She later told lawmakers she might be able to pinpoint when the alleged attack happened if someone could tell her when Judge worked at a local supermarket.
Ford testified that she ran into Judge at the Potomac Village Safeway supermarket in Maryland six to eight weeks after the alleged attack. She said Judge, who she has identified as being in the bedroom during the alleged altercation, was arranging shopping carts and seemed “nervous” and didn't want to speak with her.
Judge wrote in his book Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk that he worked for a few weeks at the local market the summer before his senior year at Georgetown Prep, meaning the summer of 1982. Judge called the experience helping people to load groceries into their cars a “nightmare,” saying he was often still hungover or drunk when he got to work in the morning.
Judge said he worked at the store for "a few weeks" to pay for football camp. According to 1982 annotated calendars that Kavanaugh released to the committee, football camp began that summer on Sunday, Aug. 22.
If Judge worked at the store for the weeks leading up to football camp, the gathering where Ford says the assault took place would have likely happened sometime in late June or early July.
Those are some damning data points that would help corroborate Dr. Ford’s story. It’s beyond unfortunate that the FBI was restricted, by Trump, from fully investigating Mark Judge and the elements around this story.
The FBI is also silent about the more recent crime—the hack of Dr. Ford’s email in the summer of 2018. This is important, because it stands to reason that whoever hacked her email also leaked the letter she sent to Rep. Eshoo and Sen. Feinstein. In this scenario, the hacker wanted the Ford allegations to come out. Why? Because he/she knew that it would divert attention away from Kavanaugh’s shady finances and fishy activities in the Bush 43 OLC. And, sadly, because a “he said/she said” allegation would not be enough to torpedo Brett’s confirmation.
And what about the argument that a dirty operative, like Chuck or Mark, would never cultivate and release damaging information about the person they were trying to protect and elevate? Well, let’s look at the Access Hollywood tape as if it were an op from the forces behind Donald Trump. That tape absolutely injured the Trump campaign, but, sadly, not enough to prevent his election win (the lady had emails, after all). What dropping the tape also did was overshadow the other big news that happened that day: all of our Intel Chiefs testified that Russia had hacked the DNC with the intent of attacking our democratic processes. By the time an FBI investigation caught up to the assessment of those Intel Chiefs, the Republican base had hardened around their alternative facts that President Trump was the victim of false accusers and that Russian interference was “a hoax.” Counterintuitively, damaging info can help a politician, as long as it’s appropriately managed, timed, and weaponized.
One more note on the intersection of Mark Judge and Chuck Johnson. Chuck was responsible for promoting Barack Obama’s half brother, Malik Obama, as a media figure against President Obama.
Which brings us, finally, to Judge’s YouTube channel.
When Mark Judge’s name hit the press as the third teenager in the room with Kavanaugh and Ford, he ripped down his YouTube site. But not before some quick and clever citizens archived it. We have seen the videos, or “short films.” We saw them at the time. And, to us, they are disturbing. They include young women, who don’t speak. The videos are scored with “mood music,” and the camera zooms and moves over the women’s bodies. In one film, a woman lies on a bed, wearing a bra, covered in far-right propaganda pamphlets. The text of the pamphlets are of Malik Obama’s claims against his half-brother and “Obama’s Betrayal of Israel.” Yes: Mark Judge made videos of young women literally covered in Chuck Johnson’s content.
No one has been able to clarify what this YouTube channel was all about, who the women are, or where Mark found them. And although “the internet is forever,” Mark Judge’s YouTube channel is gone.
Indelible in the Hippocampus is the…
As Ford and Kavanaugh gave their testimonies, the world around them was at a fevered pitch. Sexual assault survivors had descended on the capital—protesting, subjecting themselves to Orrin Hatch’s dismissive hand gestures, begging Jeff Flake to hear them before the elevator doors closed.
The O.G. operative Ed Whelan took to Twitter, generating a conspiracy theory suggesting that Ford had gotten the wrong house, and therefore it wasn’t Kavanaugh, but another of their friends, Chris “Squee” Garrett, who was the rapist. Never mind that this was defamation, or that Garrett and Dr. Ford had dated in high school, and thus she was unlikely to confuse Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge with her own boyfriend. Whelan’s “mistaken rapist” theory won the day. When the GOP Senators said that they believed both Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh, they were tacitly endorsing this Loony Tunes conspiracy theory.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump was mocking Dr. Ford’s account at his rallies. He called on women to “Think of your son! Think of your husband!” Donald has plenty of content operatives around him, then and now, to keep him up to speed on the trigger points and themes coursing through the hate-ecosystem. He knows exactly what works and how to advance it. In the midst of the Senate deliberations, Trump was in front of the cameras, evolving the narrative that Mark Judge, Chuck Johnson, and nearly every far-right operative had long been injecting into the conservative media bloodstream: It was up to women now, moms and wives, to protect their boys and men from the hateful tramps, who falsely accuse innocents like Donald and Brett. The Kavanaugh hearing was a fountainhead of content, being used by a President to radicalize his base.
By the end, the American discourse had been completely hijacked, grown men and women convulsing in trauma and fury and lunacy. Then Lindsey Graham screeched that an innocent man was being persecuted, and brought it all to a stop. The FBI investigation was shuttered, the Senate shrugged, and Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.
If we’re looking at the entire episode as a dirty political op, it is arguably the most successful one in history.
We left one question on the table: why wasn’t Mark Judge subpoenaed to appear in front of the Senate? Well, that was never going to happen as long as Republicans were in control. Not because they feared Mark’s testimony would damage Brett, but because a continued spotlight on Mark Judge would eventually expose the world behind them.
Look what happened with this article, when we pulled just one thread connected to Mark: Chuck Johnson. Do you really believe the Senators on that Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Grassley, who had Barbara Ledeen on his staff, were ignorant as to who and what Mark Judge was? Not a chance.
What America didn’t get to see—what the universe around Republican Senators and Donald Trump cannot afford for us to see—is how their dirty-op, content-churning machine works. This is their “precious.” It helps keep them in power. And if there’s daylight on it—if we get wise to their sleazy operatives and dirty shit, then that pretty hate machine grinds to a halt.
We can treat details like Zina Bash’s “okay” signaling and the Fred Guttenberg snub as unrelated data points in a “Twitter-sleuth” conspiracy narrative, as Matt Schlapp and the media machine around him is currently doing with the 2021 CPAC Nazi stage design. Or, we can see these details as moments when the dark underbelly of one silo in a bifurcated information sphere breaches the surface and finds daylight. Details take on meaning and appropriate context, when you understand the world from which they come.
We, all of us, can avoid having our trauma weaponized in the future by understanding how, when, and why these ops happen and work. We have to learn how the engine works, before we can shut off its gas supply and rip out the spark plugs. In 2018, if the broader public was well-versed in this machinery—and Republicans knew that we were—Kavanaugh would have been seen for what he was before any of us knew the name Christine Blasey Ford. Brett would have been exposed the moment he first sat in front of the Senate.
In the case of Brett Kavanaugh, the world behind him includes a hate eco-system produced and maintained by far-right operatives and content creators, like his old friend Mark Judge. The larger purpose of this article in our series is to get you to get that. Just see it. Understand that this world exists. Grasp how it works.
Otherwise, when these dirty operatives fling their ops at us, we’ll continue to be distracted from the corruption, paralyzed by outrage, and helpless as the op benefactors walk away with even more power.