Senate Committee Probes New Allegations Against Supreme Court Nominee
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday it is investigating new allegations of sexually abusive behavior by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on the eve of a high-stakes hearing that will help determine whether he is confirmed to the nation's highest court.
Julie Swetnick alleged in sworn testimony that Kavanaugh was present at an early 1980s house party at which she was a gang rape victim. She said she "became aware" of efforts by Kavanaugh and others to taint the punch at house parties with "drugs and/or grain alcohol" in order to "cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say 'No.'"
Kavanaugh strongly denied the latest allegations, calling them "ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone."
The latest revelations were submitted to the judiciary committee by Swetnick's attorney, Michael Avenatti, who also represents Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress paid by a Trump lawyer to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
In a tweet, Trump referred to Avenatti as "a third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations."
Thursday's hearing will feature testimony from Kavanaugh and the first woman to accuse him of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford. She claims Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, when they were both teenagers.
Written testimony, statements
One day before the Senate hearing, the committee released Kavanaugh's written testimony. Kavanaugh again denied accusations of sexual assault, noting "There has been a frenzy to come up with something — anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious — that will block a vote on my nomination." He added: "These are last-minute smears, pure and simple."
Attorneys for Ford submitted to the committee Wednesday signed and sworn statements from four people who say they were aware of the allegation before it was publicized.
The lawyers said the documents were signed by Ford's husband, who said she first told him about the alleged assault during a couple's therapy session in 2012. The documents show that friend Keith Koegler said Ford broached the topic with him in 2016 and mentioned Kavanaugh's name three months ago.
Ford, a college professor in California, said when they were high school students in 1982, Kavanaugh forced her onto a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothes at a house party.
Kavanaugh has denied Ford's accusation, and his attorneys are expected to reinforce his claim he did not attend the party. His lawyers sent the committee five pages from his calendar from the summer of 1982. The pages show Kavanaugh's sleepover with friends, summer parties, a beach trip and a list of chores.
A second allegation by Deborah Ramirez was reported Sunday by The New Yorker magazine. The article prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, to call for a postponement of Thursday's hearing. Ramirez's lawyer told NBC's Today show she is willing to testify publicly to Congress.
Senate Republicans have hired a female prosecutor in Arizona to question Ford to avoid the appearance of bias by the all-male group of Republicans on the Senate panel.
A press release from committee chairman Chuck Grassley's office described Rachel Mitchell as "a career prosecutor with decades of experience prosecuting sex crimes."
The Senate's partisan brawl over Kavanaugh intensified Tuesday, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of rushing to convict Kavanaugh and "destroy his good name" with unproven allegations, abandoning any presumption of innocence — a bedrock principle of American jurisprudence.
"Justice matters. Evidence matters. Facts matter," McConnell said. "This is America here. … Everyone deserves better than this, not just Judge Kavanaugh."
Democrats accuse Republicans of treating Ford dismissively at a time when victims of sexual crimes are speaking out across the nation.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said, "Leader McConnell should rethink what he said in the heat of the moment and apologize to Dr. Ford."
The sharp exchanges on the Senate floor came one day after Kavanaugh appeared on U.S. cable television to refute all allegations of sexual misconduct.
Republicans have rejected any further delays in the confirmation process, scheduling a judiciary committee vote for Friday, which will be followed by consideration by the full Senate.
Trump said Wednesday senators should have fast-tracked Kavanaugh's confirmation process and maintained the Republican lawmakers have been respectful of Ford.
"The Senate, the Republicans, could not be nicer in the way they're handling this. They could have pushed it through two and a half weeks ago … which is frankly what I would have preferred. But they didn't do that."
Kavanaugh, a judicial conservative and Trump's second Supreme Court pick, was nominated to fill the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.