Text messages unearthed by FBI suggest sophisticated effort by Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford’s team to coordinate messaging and possibly influence witness testimony.
Here’s what you need to know
Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982.
Leland Keyser was the high school friend of Ford who Ford testified was also at the party where Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her. Keyser had initially testified that she had no recollection of this party, but then later clarified that she was not trying to undermine Ford’s testimony.
Ford speculated during her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Keyser might not remember the party because, except for the alleged assault, it was largely unremarkable. According to Ford, Keyser was also downstairs at the time of the assault (which allegedly occurred in a second floor bedroom), so may not have been aware of it.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ford’s friend Monica McLean, a retired FBI agent, had contacted Keyser and pressured her to clarify her statement. During their investigation into Kavanaugh, the FBI reportedly obtained text messages showing McClean reaching out to Keyser about this topic.
This is the same Monica McLean who an ex-boyfriend of Ford testified Ford had coached in case McLean needed to take a polygraph for her job at the FBI. In an interview with CNN, McLean strongly denied these allegations, but the CNN report itself was not without problems.
CNN talked to Ford beach friend Monica McLean and didn't ask whether she was with Ford in Rehoboth Beach in July? Whether she helped write the Feinstein letter? Whether she leaked it? What a waste. https://t.co/swehwpsOCB
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) October 3, 2018
Right-leaning reporters on Twitter were quick to point out that McLean was also part of the team that sat with Ford during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) October 4, 2018
A person close to Ford and Keyser told The Wall Street Journal that McLean and other mutual friends of the two women had reached out to Keyser and told her that her original statement could be used to discredit Ford. This person insisted that nobody had “pressured” Keyser, although it is also not clear if the source had been one of these friends.
McClean’s lawyer, David Laufman, has put out a statement denying this report:
Any notion or claim that Ms. McLean pressured Leland Keyser to alter Ms. Keyser’s account of what she recalled concerning the alleged incident between Dr. Ford and Brett Kavanaugh is absolutely false.
McClean previously worked as a spokeswoman for Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who had been fired by President Donald Trump in 2017. Bharara also used to work for Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Keyser was interviewed by the FBI during their final weeklong investigation into Kavanaugh. It was interviews like hers that Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said were the most telling, people who were friends with Ford and had been “sympathetic in wishing they could [corroborate her story], but they could not.”
On Thursday, the same day the Senate saw the FBI’s final report, Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Ford’s lawyers demanding that they turn over records that included communication between Ford’s representatives and Keyser “in light of recently uncovered information. Grassley wrote:
In addition to the evidence I requested in my October 2 letter, in light of recently uncovered information, please turn over records and descriptions of direct or indirect communications between Dr. Ford or her representatives and any of the following: (1) U.S. Senators or their staffs, particularly the offices of Senators Feinstein and Hirono, other than your communications with me and my staff in preparation for the September 27 hearing; (2) the alleged witnesses identified by Dr. Ford (Leland Keyser, Mark Judge, and Patrick “P.J.” Smyth); and (3) Debbie Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, or their representatives.