Susan Collins: I want the FBI to investigate Julie Swetnick's "gang rape" claims too

This story went live last night before 6:30 p.m. ET, when NBC aired its clown-show interview with Swetnick. Did Collins watch it?

Does she still think the feds should devote days of extra investigation to running it down, bearing in mind that reporters from various outfits have spent the past week dumpster-diving to find so much as one witness who can corroborate Swetnick’s claims — with no luck? NBC itself noted on-air before the interview ran that it tried to find supporting witnesses and couldn’t. Of the four names Swetnick provided to them, “One of them says he does not recall a Julie Swetnick. Another of the friends is deceased. We’ve reached out to the other two, but haven’t heard back.”

I think (hope?) this is just a check-the-box thing by Collins. The FBI can and should follow any leads it may uncover as to Swetnick’s claims, she’s saying, but Friday’s hard deadline remains.

Collins and Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska “advocated for the additional background investigation because she believed that it could help the senators evaluate the claims that have been brought to the Judiciary Committee,” Collins’ spokeswoman Annie Clark said in a statement to the Press Herald on Monday. “That would include the allegations that were brought by Julie Swetnick.”

Clark would not say whether including Swetnick’s allegations in the investigation meant that the FBI should interview her. She said Collins thinks the FBI should decide who it wants to interview.

How badly did damage Swetnick her credibility in the NBC interview? Robby Soave counts the ways. We’ve gone from Kavanaugh spiking the punch and lining up with boys to take turns with roofied girls to Kavanaugh hanging out near the punch bowl and congregating around doorways with male friends.

“I did see him giving red solo cups to quite a few girls,” said Swetnick. “I saw him around the punchbowls. I don’t know what he did.”

Swetnick also claimed in her initial statement that the boys at these parties would line up outside bedrooms, waiting their turn to rape the incapacitated women inside. But she told Snow that the boys were merely huddled near the doorways of the rooms.

“I would see boys standing outside rooms, congregated together, sort of like a gauntlet,” she said. “I would see them laughing.”…

According to Swetnick, she was sexually assaulted at one of these parties. She could not say with any certainty that Kavanaugh was involved. She recalled being “shoved into a room” and hearing laughter, and that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were present. These are details that resemble Ford’s story so closely it raises suspicion (of Swetnick, not of Kavanaugh).

It’s a disaster for everyone involved. For Kavanaugh, obviously, as he’s had to endure days of ignominy in seeing his name attached to gang rape; for Swetnick herself, who may end up losing her security clearances or in legal jeopardy after contradicting her own affidavit; for bona fide sexual-assault victims, whose credibility is always unfairly maligned when dubious accusations are made by others; and for President Avenatti, who’s going to get enthusiastically bludgeoned by the right for hyping Swetnick’s claims and quietly bludgeoned by Democrats pissed at him for diluting the potency of Ford’s allegations and annoyed at him for hogging the 2020 spotlight.

Rule one of being the fightin’ populist outsider in politics, though, is to never back down when challenged. You prove your willingness to fight by doubling down. Even if it means giving terrible legal advice to your client in the process:

As anyone who’s followed the Mueller probe now understands, lying to the FBI is a federal offense. Between her dodginess with NBC and her dodginess in other matters, Swetnick may be at real risk of committing a crime in an interview. Presumably Avenatti’s calculating that the politics of charging a Kavanaugh accuser, however dubious she may be, would be so terrible for the DOJ that they wouldn’t pursue her even if they had reason to believe she’s lying. At the end of the day, her core claims are unfalsifiable.

Avenatti told CNN last night that there is a witness who saw Kavanaugh spiking the punch at parties with “grain alcohol and Quaaludes.” But he won’t tell you the name of that witness right now. (She’ll speak to the FBI, he insists.) Collins is going to get jammed up by him due to her own show of good faith in inviting the FBI to investigate Swetnick’s claims: However much the feds produce on Swetnick when the week is up, Avenatti will screech that there wasn’t enough time and thus the investigation is a sham. Collins will have to cast her vote in that environment. It’s a microcosm of the entire dynamic surrounding Flake’s demand for a one-week extension. There are reasons to support it on the merits, but the endeavor is destined to be thankless. If Collins and Flake vote to confirm, they’ll be villains to the left regardless.

Here’s Swetnick’s former boyfriend firing another torpedo at her credibility. By the way: It’s commonly understood that the FBI’s deadline for the probe is Friday, but McConnell wants it to be tomorrow. That’s because Senate procedural rules require a few days of wait time before advancing a nomination. If the Senate’s going to vote for cloture on Friday, McConnell has to move to end debate on Wednesday. And Flake, Collins, and Murkowski might not sign off on that unless the FBI report is finished. On the other hand, Flake was willing to vote the nomination out of committee before the FBI probe had even begun, so maybe he, Collins, and Murky would allow McConnell to proceed for now while they’re waiting for the report. Once it’s in hand on Friday, then they could vote for cloture. Or kill the nomination depending upon what the report says, of course.