Judiciary committee report clears Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault allegations

Judiciary committee report clears Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault allegations
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 08: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) puts his hand on Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh's shoulder during his ceremonial swearing in in the East Room of the White House October 08, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was confirmed in the Senate 50-48 after a contentious process that included several women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

According to a 414-page report released by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), there is “no evidence” that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted any of his accusers, but there is evidence that some of Kavanaugh’s accusers may have been involved in a criminal conspiracy to mislead the committee.

In a lengthy series of tweets, the Judiciary Committee announced the report and explained some of the work that went into its compilation.

The report took special aim at Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick, who issued a sworn statement just days before a planned Judiciary Committee vote that accused Kavanaugh of having participated in numerous parties where he drugged women in order to gang rape them. Swetnick was represented by Michael Avenatti, who also represents porn star Stormy Daniels, who has accused President Trump of having an affair with her several years ago. Avenatti is widely expected to run for president as a Democrat in 2020.

Swetnick’s original statement was initially revealed in a tweet from Avenatti. According to the committee report, judiciary committee staffers contacted Avenatti “ten minutes” after the tweet was posted. According to the report, “Although Avenatti alluded to having evidence to support his client’s claims, he refused to produce anything for several days, notwithstanding the Committee’s repeated requests. Ultimately, Avenatti provided the Committee with only a sworn declaration from Swetnick. He posted a redacted declaration from an alleged supporting witness on his Twitter account on October 2 and 3, but he refused to identify the author.”

The report also claims that committee investigators attempted to schedule an interview with Swetnick, but that Avenatti refused the request. The report notes, however, that Swetnick granted an interview to MSNBC, where she “made several statements that differed from her declaration.”

For example, although she maintained that she saw Justice Kavanaugh drink heavily and act aggressively toward women, she did not say that she actually saw him spike the punch or wait in a line to take part in gang rapes at the parties, as she asserted to the Committee via her declaration. Despite the fact her signed statement claimed it was based “on personal information,” when challenged by CNN about the inconsistencies, Avenatti later conceded: “One of her friends informed her of what she just put in the declaration or what was attested to in the declaration.”

The report claims that committee staffers conducted numerous interviews with individuals who knew either Kavanaugh or Swetnick at the time of the allegations, and none of them “witnessed any behavior that even approached the conduct described in Swetnick’s declaration.”

According to the report, committee staffers conducted additional investigation into Swetnick’s background, and found that she had a “lengthy history of litigation,” including litigation in which she was represented by the same firm that represented Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford, that she was significantly in debt, that she was accused by a previous employer of having engaged in “unwelcome sexual innuendo and appropriate conduct at work.”

The report concluded that

The Committee found no verifiable evidence to support Swetnick’s allegations. Indeed, the evidence appears to support the position that Julie Swetnick and Mr. Avenatti criminally conspired to make materially false statements to the Committee and obstruct the Committee’s investigation. Accordingly, the Committee referred both to the Department of Justice and FBI for investigation and potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 371, § 1001, and § 1505 on October 25, 2018. In addition, on October 26, 2018, the Committee made a second criminal referral against Michael Avenatti to the Justice Department and FBI for investigation of potential violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 (knowingly providing materially false statements) and 1505 (obstruction of a congressional investigation), based upon the NBC story that evidenced that Mr. Avenatti may have fabricated allegations by a second declarant.

The report also explained the committee’s decision to refer a woman named Judy Munro-Leighton to the FBI for possible investigation.

After the Committee released the transcript of the interview with Justice Kavanaugh, a woman named Judy Munro-Leighton sent an email to the Senate Judiciary Committee claiming to be Jane Doe. She included a version of the letter’s text and said she felt compelled to contact the Committee because she “refuse[d] to allow Donald J. Trump to use me or my story as an ugly chant at one of his Republican rallies.” The Committee quickly concluded that Munro-Leighton was unlikely to be the author. The text of the letter in Munro-Leighton’s email to the Committee differed from the original handwritten letter in several respects, including punctuation and the omission of a duplicate instance of the word “and.” Committee investigators determined that the text from Munro-Leighton’s email was, however, identical in all respects to the previously publicly released transcript from the telephonic interview, suggesting she copied it from the press. Investigators also examined Munro-Leighton’s background and determined she was a liberal activist who resided in Kentucky, far from the location of the letter’s San Diego postmark. Committee investigators tried to contact her on multiple occasions. On November 1, 2018, MunroLeighton called back and admitted that she was not “Jane Doe” and that her email to the committee “was just a ploy” and that she used it as a way to “get attention.” Investigators asked her if she had ever met Justice Kavanaugh, to which she replied, “Oh Lord, no.”

All Republicans except for Montana Senator Steve Daines (who was out of town for his daughter’s wedding) and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (who would have voted no, but changed her vote to “abstain” as a courtesy to Daines) voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. All Democrats except for West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin voted against his confirmation.

The “no” vote cast by North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp appears to have doomed her already precarious chances at re-election in 2018. Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly’s vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation has also endangered his re-election chances. The furor over Kavanaugh’s bitterly contentious confirmation hearings has likely energized both sides as the midterm elections approach.