Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley asked the Justice Department Thursday to investigate anti-Trump lawyer Michael Avenatti and his client Julie Swetnick, saying they likely fed senators “materially false” information in trying to sink Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Amid a spate of salacious and uncorroborated allegations, Ms. Swetnick’s were the most striking: She said she saw him take part in gang rapes in his high school days.
But she gave differing accounts of her story and Mr. Avenatti never produced any evidence to back her claims up. Mr. Grassley accused them of a conspiracy to interfere with the Senate’s confirmation process.
The Iowa Republican, long an advocate for whistle-blowers, said he welcomed “well-meaning” complaints from citizens.
“But in the heat of partisan moments, some do try to knowingly mislead the committee. That’s unfair to my colleagues, the nominees and others providing information who are seeking the truth,” he said.
In a letter to to the attorney general and FBI director he specifically accused Mr. Avenatti of inventing supposed witnesses to Justice Kavanaugh’s behavior.
“I ask that the FBI investigate whether Mr. Avenatti criminally conspired with Ms. Swetnick to make materially false statements to the committee and obstruct the committee’s investigation,” Mr. Grassley wrote.
Mr. Avenatti fired back on Twitter, saying Mr. Grassley had “opened up a Pandora’s box as it relates to Justice Kavanaugh’s record” — suggesting he’ll try to force the probe to focus on the unsubstantiated allegations about the high court’s newest judge.
“Let’s start the investigation tonight,” Mr. Avenatti said. “I will make my client available for a sworn interview and you can make Judge Kavanaugh available for a sworn interview. We also have 9 other witnesses we want interviewed and specific documents we want requested. Let’s go.”
Mr. Avenatti did not produce any of those witnesses to the committee when it asked for corroboration of Ms. Swetnick’s gang-rape allegations.
Indeed, of the four people Ms. Swetnick told MSNBC could back up her allegations, one was dead, two didn’t respond to the network’s outreach, and the fourth said he had no idea who Ms. Swetnick was.
Ms. Swetnick, in a sworn statement provided by Mr. Avenatti to the committee, laid out a host of allegations that Justice Kavanaugh and a school chum spiked the punch at multiple high school parties, removing girls’ ability to refuse sex, then were lined up outside the rooms where the girls were raped, waiting their turn.
In an interview with MSNBC, though, Ms. Swetnick backed off some of those claims and gave a different version of events, saying she only suspected Justice Kavanaugh may have been involved because he was near a punch bowl.
Mr. Grassley said it’s doubtful Ms. Swetnick even knew Justice Kavanaugh, since they went to different schools with different social circles, and Kavanaugh friends came forward to say they didn’t remember ever encountering Ms. Swetnick.
“The only apparent commonality between Ms. Swetnick and Judge Kavanaugh is that they both lived in Montgomery County, Maryland in the early 1980s. That is not particularly meaningful for determining whether they knew each other,” the senator wrote.
He also dissected Mr. Avenatti’s involvement, saying the lawyer had “a history of claiming to have anonymous clients who never materialize.” And Mr. Grassley recounted Mr. Avenatti’s own lengthy legal entanglements, saying they cast doubt on his credibility.
He said his committee investigators looked some of them over but stopped because it had become like “beating a dead horse.”
Ms. Swetnick came forward after another woman who claimed she was assaulted by the judge at a high school party had her identity leaked. That woman, Christine Blasey Ford, would later testify at a dramatic Senate hearing, followed by Justice Kavanaugh who refuted her claims.
Yet another woman, Deborah Ramirez, said she figured out that Justice Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a college party.
Both of those allegations were probed by the FBI, which found no corroboration.
But the FBI did not bother to probe Ms. Swetnick’s allegations. Most lawmakers on Capitol dismissed her claims out of hand — though several Democrats did use them against Justice Kavanaugh in questioning.
Mr. Grassley has already referred another accuser — a man who said Justice Kavanaugh raped a friend of his on a boat, then recanted — for prosecution.
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