Report: "Unnerved" Susan Collins concerned about third Kavanaugh accuser, wants Mark Judge subpoenaed

If she’s hellbent on hearing from Judge, she can make it happen. All she’d need is for Flake or Murkowski or literally anyone else in the Republican caucus to say “I’m a no until we hear from Judge” and McConnell and Grassley would have no choice but to comply.

Although … if you’re of the mind that McConnell would rather see Kavanaugh tank right now than drag this out for another month and face an uncertain outcome, maybe he’d call Collins’s bluff. “We’re voting Monday, vote how you like,” he might say. If she caves and votes yes, great, Kavanaugh’s confirmed. If she votes no, Trump and McConnell still have five weeks to nominate a replacement and try to ram that person through, knowing what a fraught pre-midterm dilemma that would be for red-state Democrats.

Just one question: How do they vote on Monday, while the “gang rape” accusations from Julie Swetnick, Michael Avenatti’s client, are still being scrutinized? You can say “f*** Avenatti” all you want but Collins isn’t going to vote to confirm if McConnell’s reaction ends up being “Eh, we don’t need to hear sworn allegations of gang rape from anyone represented by the Creepy Porn Lawyer.”

Multiple sources familiar with the private Wednesday meeting told CNN that Collins appeared unnerved by the latest allegation, citing in particular that it was a sworn statement sent to the panel, which carries with it the possibility of perjury for lying to Congress…

[I]t was made clear to senators inside the [private] meeting that the most recent allegation had resonated with the Maine moderate in a way that others up to that point had not.

The sworn statement, Collins told the senators, brought the allegations to a new level and raised concerns that enough wasn’t being done to address their veracity. Pointing to the affidavit, which she had printed out, Collins said given the weight of the allegations, it made sense to subpoena Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge — an alleged witness to the incidents — and bring him in for testimony.

Reportedly the rest of the meeting involved colleagues trying to convince Collins to let the process play out, with Judiciary Committee staffers reaching out to Swetnick and Avenatti for more information. Richard Burr, head of the Senate’s Russiagate probe, even chimed in that it could take months to subpoena someone successfully. How long is Collins prepared to leave Kavanaugh in limbo, as public approval turns increasingly sour, to hear from one witness?

But let’s be real. There’s a reason why Republicans don’t want Mark Judge before the Committee. Even in the best-case scenario, where he shows up, answers questions, and denies everything, he’ll be grilled by Democrats on his admitted youthful partying and be asked in detail to describe just how dissolutely he and his buddy Brett used to behave. Judge would also face the prospect of his former girlfriend testifying that he and other boys once lined up to have sex with a drunken teenaged girl, which sounds strikingly similar to the story in Swetnick’s affidavit. I don’t think Republicans are primarily worried about Judge admitting to anything or even coming off as shady, though (which is a very real risk). I think they’re mainly worried that if they subpoena him he’ll take the Fifth, which itself would look so shady that it’d probably sink Kavanaugh. Imagine asking the nominee’s teenaged bro if the two ever gang-raped anyone and having him decline to answer so as not to incriminate himself. Good luck getting Collins to vote yes after that.

Is Julie Swetnick even willing to testify before the Committee? Sure thing, said Avenatti last night. But…

Michael Avenatti tells The Associated Press that his client won’t consider the committee’s request until it agrees to his demand for an FBI investigation of the accusation. He says doing the interview today would be “ridiculous.”

Avenatti represents Julie Swetnick. She’s accusing the Supreme Court nominee of sexual misconduct in the early 1980s.

The lawyer says Swetnick wants to be treated like Kavanaugh’s initial accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

I think that might end up being Collins’s compromise position. If they’re not going to subpoena Judge, the alleged third man in the room in Ford’s account *and* the man named by Swetnick as part of the gang rapes, they have to pause for a few days at least and let the FBI talk to her, Ford, Ramirez, Judge, and any other witnesses. Collins needs some sort of cover here to vote yes. “We can’t believe Avenatti’s client!” might cut it in a red state but not in a purple one like Maine. Or in … solidly red Ohio?

Eh, he’s retiring as governor and is positioning for an independent run in 2020. Of course he wants a delay. But Kasich’s thinking as a would-be third-party presidential candidate is a window onto Collins’s thinking as a would-be Senate candidate. Both have to consider the opinion of centrist voters to a degree that GOPers from solidly red states don’t.

Here’s Swetnick’s first TV interview, with John Heilemann of, er, “The Circus.” If she eventually testifies, will her ex-boyfriend be called too? He says she’s “not credible,” claims that “I have a lot of facts, evidence, that what she’s saying is not true at all,” and once obtained a restraining order against her. How many witnesses and character witnesses against those witnesses are we going to have to sit through her before a vote is held?