The Morning Jolt

Law & the Courts

Swetnick Walks Back Her Initial Sworn Statement

Demonstrators protest Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., September 24, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Julie Swetnick’s accusation falls apart, Democrats risk a major mistake by putting their faith in Michael Avenatti, and Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison is almost out of the woods.

Scrutinizing a Wildly Implausible Accusation

Should we be mad that MSNBC interviewed Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick and put her on camera, considering the implausibility of her claims? Or should we be pleasantly surprised that MSNBC pointed out all of the ways that her story doesn’t add up?

Before the interview aired, NBC News’ Kate Snow declared:

NBC News, for the record, has not been able to independently verify her claims. There are things that she told us on camera that differ from her written statement last week. We’ve been trying independently to reach out to anyone who remembers attending parties with Julie Swetnick and Brett Kavanaugh and we’ve been asking her attorney for names. So far, we’ve not found anyone who remembers that. She’s also unclear about when she first decided to come forward.

In her sworn statement, Swetnick said:

During the years 1981-82, I became aware of efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to “spike” the “punch” at house parties I attended with drugs and/or grain alcohol so as to cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say “no.”

In last night’s interview, Swetnick said:

Well, I saw him giving red Solo cups to quite a few girls during that time frame and there was green punch at those parties. And I would not take one of those glasses from Brett Kavanaugh. I saw him around the punch, I won’t say bowls, or the punch containers . . . I don’t know what he did, but I saw him by them.

That’s an astonishing walk-back of the original accusation.

Snow also noted that of the four names Swetnick provided of people who went to these parties with her, “one said he doesn’t even know her, one is deceased, and the remaining two opted not to respond to NBC News.”

Snow also said, “Swetnick says after the alleged attack on her when she was 19, she never returned to those big house parties.” Swetnick was born in 1963; if her birth date has been publicly revealed, I haven’t been able to find it.

But whenever her birthday is, if she never returned to the parties after an attack that occurred when she was 19 as she said last night, she would have stopped attending parties in 1982.

From her sworn statement: “I attended well over ten house parties in the Washington, D.C. area during the years 1981 — 1983 where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present.” In her interview she said she stopped attending parties in 1982; in her sworn statement she said she attended until the following year.

What’s more, Swetnick “told NBC that she reported her assault to the Montgomery County police department, but the officer whose name she provided is deceased and the department said it could take as long as one month to locate the relevant report.”

Last night Swetnick’s ex-boyfriend appeared on Fox News and said that during their seven-year relationship, she never mentioned anything about these weekly gang-rape parties that she attended in her college years. He also said she threatened to kill their unborn child.

Deep in a Washington Post article published on Sunday, the paper offered details of Swetnick’s past legal fights that raise serious questions about her credibility:

In its civil complaint in a state court in Oregon, the company said Swetnick, a software engineer, was an employee for a few weeks before its human resources department received a report that she had engaged in “unwelcome sexual innuendo and inappropriate conduct” toward two male co-workers at a business lunch.

The lawsuit said that Swetnick in turn accused Webtrends of subjecting her to “physically and emotionally threatening and hostile conditions” and that she claimed that she’d been sexually harassed by four co-workers. The co-workers denied the allegations, the suit said.

Company officials later determined, the suit said, that Swetnick had provided false information on her employment application. The suit alleged that she had misrepresented the length of time she worked at a previous employer and falsely claimed that she’d earned an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from Johns Hopkins University.

Deeper in the same article, there was another case that suggested perjury:

Swetnick, who described herself in court records as a model and actor, claimed she had “numerous modeling commitments” with several companies at the time of the accident but missed out them because of her injuries.

To support her claim for lost wages, Swetnick named “Konam Studios” as one of the companies promising to employ her. A court filing identified Nam Ko, a representative of “Kunam Studios,” as a possible plaintiff’s witness for her case.

Ko, however, told AP on Friday that he was just a friend of Swetnick’s and that he had never owned a company with a name spelled either way and had never agreed to pay her money for any work before she injured her nose. He said he first met Swetnick at a bar more than a year after her alleged accident.

Keep in mind, from her description in her sworn statement, there should be dozens of witnesses.

You’re Making a Big Mistake, Democratic Friends

Democrats are unlikely ever to take my advice, but they need to hear it anyway: Michael Avenatti is bad news for everybody except Michael Avenatti.

I think most Americans would concur that whether or not Christine Blasey Ford is accurate in her claims, she deserved a serious hearing — although she and the country would have been better off if Senator Dianne Feinstein or Representative Anna Eshoo had honored Ford’s request that her identity not be released to the media. We can argue about the claims of former Yale student Deborah Ramirez; she confesses that her memory contains “gaps,” she told other classmates that she wasn’t certain it was Kavanaugh, and so far, no one else can even confirm he was at the party where the incident allegedly occurred. But she at least described a plausible scenario — college freshmen drinking to excess and behavior getting out of control.

But these claims by Swetnick? There’s a reason Avenatti announced the accusations on Twitter. Any journalistic institution — even MSNBC! — would have looked into them, found the lack of corroborating victims and witnesses where there should be many, checked the ages and dates (Kavanaugh was 15 going on 16 in 1981, when these drug-fueled, gang-rape parties that included college students allegedly began), and noticed the credibility issues in Swetnick’s past, and offered a report at least as skeptical as last night’s interview. Avenatti didn’t go the traditional route of bringing these accusations to the public because the traditional route would have doubted their credibility.

False accusations make everything harder for those who have to come forward with true accusations. Avenatti brings a lot of bombast and showmanship to the table, but his priorities are clear:

 A federal judge gave Michael Avenatti a choice Wednesday: If he wanted to represent his client Stormy Daniels in the federal investigation of President Donald Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen, he had to end his “publicity tour” of TV appearances and aggressive tweets about the case.

Avenatti chose instead to drop the case. He was back on MSNBC talking about Cohen less than two hours later.

And if the counterargument from Democrats is, “Trump used Twitter to make outlandish statements and implausible accusations first!” then this is a gut-check time for them. What kind of a society do Democrats want to live in? Do they want to live in a world where anyone can accuse anyone else of anything, put the accusation out on social media, and destroy someone’s reputation forever? Because what is done in this case with Kavanaugh will set the rules in politics and civil society going forward. A huge majority of Republicans are absolutely convinced that a good man is being destroyed.

A USA Today sports columnist wrote that he doubted Kavanaugh should still be allowed to coach girls youth-league basketball. A cartoonist portrayed Kavanaugh’s daughter calling her father a rapist. Every tool, method, and tactic used by one side of the political divide will inevitably be adopted by the other. This is a formula for a society where no one in his or her right mind ever wants to go anywhere near politics and governing. Once this becomes “the new normal,” the inmates truly will run the asylum.

Keith Ellison, Almost Out of the Woods

We don’t know what happened between Keith Ellison and Karen Monahan behind closed doors. Yesterday, the Minnesota Democratic party concluded they could not substantiate her claim of physical abuse but referred the claim to local law enforcement to “determine whether further investigation is warranted.” The party’s investigator, attorney Susan Ellingstad, said a major obstacle to verifying the claim was the video of the assault that Monahan claimed to have had at one point.

“An allegation standing alone is not necessarily sufficient to conclude that conduct occurred, particularly where the accusing party declines to produce supporting evidence that she herself asserts exists,” she wrote in the report. “She has thus repeatedly placed the existence of the video front and center to her allegations, but then has refused to disclose it.”

Monahan said on Twitter that she would not release the video because “you are not entitled to my pain and trauma. You are not entitled to see me getting dragged, when my body is being exposed in more ways than one.”

She’s entitled to make that choice, but she also has to accept the consequences of that choice. Fairly or not, there will be people who will doubt the credibility of an accuser who claims to have video evidence of an assault but refuses to provide it.

ADDENDUM: Color me skeptical that all of these folks who claim “I know a liar when I see one” are as good at determining veracity as they think they are.

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