Law & the Courts

Senate Judiciary Refers Swetnick, Avenatti for Criminal Investigation into False Kavanaugh Allegations

Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York, April 26, 2018. (Lucas Jackson/REUTERS)

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley on Thursday referred attorney Michael Avenatti and his client, Julie Swetnick, to the Justice Department for criminal investigation in response to Swetnick’s unsubstantiated allegation that Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh participated in a gang-rape ring while in high school.

In the midst of the heated, partisan battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation sparked by Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation of sexual assault, Avenatti publicized Swetnick’s claim that Kavanaugh routinely organized drug-and-alcohol-fueled gang rapes at high-school parties.

Swetnick presented those allegations to the Committee on September 26 in a sworn statement, but later backed off her claims during an October 1 interview with NBC News, conceding that she never witnessed Kavanaugh spike anyone’s drink or participate in gang rape.

Grassley, who called for the investigation in a lengthy letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, presented his rationale for doing so in a Thursday statement:

When a well-meaning citizen comes forward with information relevant to the committee’s work, I take it seriously. It takes courage to come forward, especially with allegations of sexual misconduct or personal trauma. I’m grateful for those who find that courage,” Grassley said. “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. It stifles our ability to work on legitimate lines of inquiry. It also wastes time and resources for destructive reasons. Thankfully, the law prohibits such false statements to Congress and obstruction of congressional committee investigations. For the law to work, we can’t just brush aside potential violations. I don’t take lightly making a referral of this nature, but ignoring this behavior will just invite more of it in the future.

Avenatti embraced Grassley’s referral as an opportunity to expose Kavanaugh’s high-school conduct in his response on Twitter.

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