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Brad Schimel

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has been advocating for Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, and suggested the reaction to Christine Blasey Ford's accusations against Kavanaugh might discourage other survivors of sexual assault from coming forward. PHOTO BY MICHELLE STOCKER

President Trump does not get along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The two men were close when Trump was campaigning for the presidency as an anti-immigrant, anti-refugee xenophobe, since Sessions has devoted his legal and political career to dividing Americans along lines of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual preference.

But Sessions has not proven to be sufficiently loyal to Trump, especially when it comes to shutting down inquiries into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So the president regularly trashes on the attorney general of the United States.

But at least Trump has Brad Schimel.

The attorney general of Wisconsin is an all-in Trump man who refers to his office as “a strong partner” with the Trump administration. It’s hard to argue with Schimel. Last year, he spent a weekend at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and a nearby resort — joining $125,000 donors to the Republican Attorneys General Association for lavish good times.

Trump and the donors have every reason to be happy with Schimel, who has played a leadership role in advancing a lawsuit that is designed to overturn key sections of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, Schimel has refused to join responsible attorneys general in suing to block the administration’s lawless assaults on refugees, immigrants and communities across the country.

Schimel’s loyalty to Trump was on full display last week, when the attorney general was fretting about the circumstance of Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s embattled Supreme Court nominee.

Schimel has been advocating for Kavanaugh since July, when the president nominated the Bush administration political operative for a place on the high court. The controversial nomination was tripped up when Christine Blasey Ford said that she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, however. And then several more women come forward with allegations.

Kavanaugh denied any wrongdoing, at which point allies of the administration rallied to try to save the nominee. Schimel took to the task enthusiastically. The Associated Press reported that, on the day Ford testified to the Senate, Wisconsin’s attorney general was asked “if he still thought Kavanaugh deserved to be a Supreme Court justice. Schimel responded that Kavanaugh is as qualified as any judge in the nation and has served honorably as a federal appellate judge.”

The attorney general — who has faced sharp criticism for the slow work of the state crime lab on evidence of sexual assaults and other crimes — then mused about the fact that Ford said the attack occurred in the early 1980s, when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17. “I don’t know what’s true about these allegations or not and I don’t know if something that happened 36 years ago should prevent someone from ever serving,” announced Schimel, who griped that the confirmation process had been “turned into a political game.”

Schimel claimed: “I worry that the way this has been turned into such a political football that we might set that back — that we might now have survivors of sexual abuse look at this and say, ‘Wow, I don’t want to become part of that. I don’t want to be caught up in this kind of mix.’”

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That statement stirred an outcry. “Dr. Blasey Ford and all women who stand up and share their stories are courageous,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning. “Brad Schimel’s comments, claiming that their courage could cause other women to stay silent, is disgusting and a vile way to discourage other victims from coming forward."

Schimel’s challenger in this fall’s election, former federal prosecutor Josh Kaul, summed up the sentiments of advocates for assault victims when he said: “Any suggestion that the women who have come forward with allegations about Brett Kavanaugh could discourage others from coming forward is offensive.”

It is striking that a state attorney general — especially one who is seeking re-election in a volatile political year — would respond to the Kavanaugh controversy in the way that Schimel did.

Presumably Donald Trump was impressed, however, and that seems to mean a lot to Brad Schimel.

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com and @NicholsUprising. 

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