WASHINGTON ― Explosive new allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh won’t slow down the Senate’s confirmation process, several Republicans said Wednesday.
Julie Swetnick, a Washington, D.C., resident who has spent her career working for the federal government, said Kavanaugh was sexually aggressive at parties in high school. In a sworn declaration released by lawyer Michael Avenatti, Swetnick said she was a victim of a gang rape at a party where Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge “were present” in the 1980s. (She did not allege that Kavanaugh himself raped her.)
Kavanaugh, who is currently a federal judge, denied the allegation in a statement, calling it “ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone.” He added that he doesn’t know Swetnick and that “this never happened.”
Swetnick is the third woman after Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in his youth. Blasey first came forward in a Washington Post story last week and is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, as is Kavanaugh.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said his staff is investigating the new claims but that he thought it would be rude to Blasey if the committee delayed Thursday’s hearing.
“The committee is going to go ahead because I don’t feel that we should disadvantage Dr. Ford any more than she’s already been disadvantaged in the sense of people wondering whether the hearing was going to be last week or this week,” Grassley told reporters on Wednesday.
Several Republicans said committee staff have asked Avenatti to have Swetnick sit for an interview under oath.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a senior Republican on the committee, said the panel will investigate Swetnick’s claims but that he thought they sounded suspicious.
“I naturally have great suspicions about people who suddenly at the last minute are trying to delay this or stop this and I don’t think we should play that game,” Hatch told HuffPost.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is also on the committee, cast doubt on Swetnick’s allegations, telling reporters Swetnick is two years older than Kavanaugh and that her claim that he and his friends would get girls drunk so they could be gang-raped is wildly inconsistent with other testimonials in support of the nominee.
“They’re accusing him of being Bill Cosby as a young man,” Graham said. “It’s not a high school thing, it’s a character flaw. And every woman who has worked for Judge Kavanaugh has said he was nothing but respectful when he was their supervisor.”
Graham also mocked Avenatti as “the lawyer to porn stars.” The flashy and outspoken lawyer has become a cable news celebrity for accusing President Donald Trump of attempting to silence his client, adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels alleged that she had an affair with Trump in 2006.
“It seems to me he wants to protect people who are involved in pornography and that he’s running for president,” Grassley said, adding that he didn’t really know much about Avenatti.
“What’s important here isn’t the lawyer, what’s important here is the person who claims she’s been harmed,” Grassley said.
While Kavanaugh’s allies on Capitol Hill voiced familiar skepticism about the new allegations, it remained unclear Wednesday afternoon how Swetnick’s declaration would affect key senators who are seen as swing votes regarding the nomination.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) derided the vitriolic attacks on both Blasey and Kavanaugh and their families in a speech on the Senate floor, but he declined to comment on the new allegation against the judge because he had not yet read it.
Sen. Susan Collins, meanwhile, noted that Judiciary Committee staff was already in the process of setting up an interview with Swetnick. The centrist Republican from Maine did not, however, address how the new claims would affect her vote.
“Obviously, I take it seriously and believe that it should be investigated by the committee,” Collins said.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.