Judiciary Committee Reviews New Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Kavanaugh

September 26, 2018

Updated at 3:49 p.m. ET

The Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing a statement from a third woman who has come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The allegations, from a woman identified as Julie Swetnick, were made public by attorney Michael Avenatti on Wednesday morning.

Avenatti posted Swetnick’s three-page sworn declaration on Twitter.

NPR has not corroborated the claims; attempts to contact Swetnick had not succeeded on Wednesday morning.

Kavanaugh has denied all accusations of sexual misconduct.

“This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone,” he said in a statement released by the White House. “I don’t know who this is and this never happened.”

Trump: New charges ‘ridiculous’

President Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh, said during his visit to the United Nations on Wednesday that the accusations are “ridiculous” and repeated his counter-accusation that Democrats are playing a “con game.”

Kavanaugh is a “high quality person,” Trump said. “It’s a horrible con game. I think the people are finding it out. And hopefully for the next couple of days it will be settled up and solved, and we will have a Supreme Court justice who will go down as our greatest ever.”

Trump also fired back on Twitter against Avenatti, who has become a political enemy since his suit against Trump on behalf of porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court once appeared to be a sure thing. Those prospects now are left uncertain.

New allegations

In the sworn declaration posted on Twitter, Swetnick alleges that from 1981 to 1983, she went to several parties that Kavanaugh also attended.

Swetnick writes that she observed Kavanaugh drunk, pressing himself against girls without their consent and engaging in other such behavior. Swetnick also writes that she was raped at one party that Kavanaugh attended.

Judiciary Committee spokesman Taylor Foy said in a statement that the panel has received Swetnick’s statement and is looking into the allegations.

“This morning Michael Avenatti provided a declaration to the Judiciary committee,” Foy said. “Committee lawyers are in the process of reviewing it now.”

The committee’s minority Democrats, led by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, asked Trump on Wednesday to either direct the FBI to investigate the allegations or withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Kavanaugh addresses high school parties

The Judiciary Committee posted a statement from Kavanaugh on Wednesday morning in which he acknowledged partying and drinking but denied any sexual impropriety.

“I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends,” he wrote. “Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now. But that’s not why we are here today. What I’ve been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehavior.”

Those prepared comments to lawmakers echoed remarks that the federal appeals court judge made earlier this week in an interview that aired on Fox News.

“And yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion and people generally in high school — I think all of us have probably done things we look back on in high school and regret or cringe a bit, but that’s not what we’re talking about …”

“We’re talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”

Some of Kavanaugh’s classmates have said they remember him as a heavy drinker in high school and at college.

Sure thing no more

Swetnick’s allegations follow those of two other women who have said they were victims of sexual misconduct involving Kavanaugh more than three decades ago, when they and he were in high school or college.

The charges have disrupted what had appeared to be a sure confirmation for Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court following his hearings before the Judiciary Committee in early September, which took place before the sexual misconduct allegations became public.

The allegations that appeared on Wednesday also further complicate a much-anticipated hearing scheduled for Thursday with Kavanaugh and another of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford.

Preparations continued for that session. An attorney for Ford sent the Judiciary Committee a report from a polygraph examination that Ford underwent in August.

Opponents of Kavanaugh have called for the Judiciary Committee to hear testimony from the other accusers; Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has so far not agreed but he said on Twitter the committee is “talking to all witnesses & gathering all evidence.”

Grassley’s post suggested federal investigators have been detailed to the committee from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The FBI, however — which Democrats say should investigate the claims by Kavanaugh’s accusers — apparently is not involved.

Another Judiciary Committee leader, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters at the Capitol that he’d be open to Swetnick talking with the committee’s professional staff, but it wasn’t clear whether Grassley agreed or whether Swetnick might follow up with the committee in person.

Partisan feud intensifies

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he thinks Kavanaugh should bow out altogether.

“I strongly believe Judge Kavanaugh should withdraw from consideration,” he said. “If he will not, at the very least, the hearing and vote should be postponed while the FBI investigates all of these allegations. If our Republican colleagues proceed without an investigation, it would be a travesty for the honor of the Supreme Court and our country.”

Key Republicans said they thought the hearing scheduled for Thursday should go forward. It remains on the Judiciary Committee’s schedule, as does a meeting scheduled for Friday at which the committee could vote on whether to recommend Kavanaugh to the full Senate.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who does not sit on the Judiciary Committee but whose vote might be critical to confirming Kavanaugh, told reporters she wasn’t familiar with Swetnick’s allegations but that she thought Thursday’s session should go ahead “because we’ll find out some valuable information.”

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas agreed and called for the Thursday hearing to take place as planned.

“These most recent allegations don’t have anything to do with Dr. Ford,” he said.

President’s antagonist

It wasn’t clear how Avenatti had become involved with the Kavanaugh case, but he has spent months cutting out a role for himself as an antagonist of the president.

He sued on behalf of Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, to escape a nondisclosure agreement she signed with Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen. That kept alive Daniels’ account of a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006, a story which Cohen has acknowledged paying her to not tell ahead of Election Day in 2016.

Daniels also is telling her story in a book scheduled to be published in early October.

Trump has acknowledged the payment to Daniels ahead of the election but denies underlying allegations about sexual relationships with Daniels and another woman, Karen McDougal.

Avenatti also surfaced business relationships that Cohen forged with corporate clients early in the Trump administration. Trump’s onetime personal lawyer was paid because he said he could provide access to Trump for companies such as AT&T and Novartis.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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