Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

So Now NBC News Tells Us

Attorney Michael Avenatti speaks to reporters in Los Angeles, Calif., September 24, 2018. (Andrew Cullen/Reuters)

Yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether Julie Swetnick and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, illegally conspired to provide materially false statements or otherwise obstruct the Committee’s investigation of allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Grassley’s letter to DOJ may be found here.

Also yesterday, NBC News reported on “new questions” about Swetnick’s and Avenatti’s claims about Justice Kavanaugh. The report notes that when NBC interviewed Swetnick about her allegations against Kavanaugh, she refused to corroborate some of the claims made in her sworn statement or by her attorney, Avenatti. (NBC aired the interview anyway.)

The report also notes that a second woman, identified by Avenatti as someone who could corroborate Swetnick’s claims, also provided inconsistent accounts and refused to reiterate specific charges made in her sworn statement provided to the network by Avenatti. For example, the woman’s statement claims she witnessed Kavanaugh “spike” the punch at high school parties in an effort to get girls drunk. Yet when asked about this by NBC News, “the same woman told NBC News a different story,” much like Swetnick.

What’s interesting about the NBC News story is that all of the relevant interviews and reporting occurred weeks ago, while the Senate was still considering whether to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Yet only now is NBC disclosing this information and claiming there are “new questions” about Avenatti’s allegations.

To be fair, Swetnick’s allegations fell apart rather quickly. Nonetheless, this additional information would seem to have been particularly relevant when the Senate was still considering Kavanaugh’s nomination. Why, then, is NBC News only reporting on these discrepancies now?

Jonathan H. Adler is the Johan Verhiej Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

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