Michael Avenatti

Chuck Grassley Asks the Justice Department to Investigate Michael Avenatti and Julie Swetnick for False Statements

"The obvious, subsequent contradictions along with the suspicious timing of the allegations necessitate a criminal investigation."


Kristin Callahan/ACE Pictures/Newscom

The Senate Judiciary Committee has referred Julie Swetnick and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, to the Justice Department for investigation.

Chairman Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) would like the feds to determine whether Swetnick and Avenatti engaged in a conspiracy to make false sexual misconduct allegations about Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

"While the Committee was in the middle of its extensive investigation of the late-breaking sexual-assault allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Avenatti publicized his client's allegations of drug- and alcohol-fueled gang rapes in the 1980s," said Grassley in the statement. "The obvious, subsequent contradictions along with the suspicious timing of the allegations necessitate a criminal investigation by the Justice Department."

This request does not amount to a formal charge of wrongdoing—that's for the Justice Department to decide. But it's not hard to see why Grassley decided to take this step: Swetnick subsequently contradicted her sworn statements about Kavanaugh's alleged misbehavior when she discussed the matter with NBC News.

As I wrote at the time, Swetnick jumbled the timeline of her decision to come forward, changed her mind about whether she actually saw Kavanaugh spiking girls' drinks, and could not state that Kavanaugh was involved in her own assault. Swetnick provided names of people she believed would back up her account, but these leads did not pan out—alleged witnesses either couldn't be reached, or didn't remember Swetnick at all.

Whether anything will come of this matter remains to be seen. I tend to think false allegations, when made in an official or formal capacity, ought to be punished if they can be definitively disproven. I don't know if that's the case here—and it may be difficult to determine that the things Swetnick alleged absolutely never happened—but we'll see.

Of course, there's a political angle: Avenatti, who also represents Stormy Daniels, is a well-known critic of President Donald Trump, and he may even run for president in the 2020 Democratic primary. If he does, he will be the gift that keeps on giving, at least for Republicans.