Charles Cooke asks seven good questions about this morning’s affidavit, including one that I (and everyone else who read it) asked: Why was a college student, an adult under the law, attending parties with high-schoolers for years? And not just any parties but parties at which gang rapes happened repeatedly?
And how the hell did this not come up once in interviews with Kavanaugh’s youthful acquaintances? Those interviews have been going on for many years, bear in mind. He’s passed six background checks, has had numerous news stories written about him since he was a young gun on Ken Starr’s team and later an appellate judge, and has been the subject of electron-microscope scrutiny since he was nominated in July. There must have been dozen of witnesses to, not to mention participants in, the activity Swetnick’s affidavit describes. Not one person spoke up until now?
Another good question from Cooke. How come America’s most media-friendly lawyer didn’t hand this off to one of his media pals for investigation before this morning’s bombshell announcement?
Likewise, why did Avenatti and Swetnick bypass the press? Did anyone in the press look into this story? What did they find? The New York Times confirms that “none of Ms. Swetnick’s claims could be independently corroborated by The New York Times, and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, declined to make her available for an interview.” Why?
Is [it] not a little strange that there are only two details provided, and that they are happen to be public knowledge already? The two names given are Mark Judge’s and Brett Kavanaugh’s. The time given is “BEACH WEEK,” which is listed on the calendar that Brett Kavanaugh released this morning. Why is there nothing new?
If you think the affidavit was a bombshell as-is, imagine if it had appeared in the Times or Washington Post with reporters claiming they’d interviewed, say, five women who corroborated Swetnick’s account. Kavanaugh would be done. Avenatti knows that, too. So why didn’t he alert the papers before going public?
Reporters find his and Swetnick’s attempt to freelance this curious too:
Not a judgment on the underlying claims, but worth noting that unlike the first two allegations against Kavanaugh, this one is not coming through a news story that was reported out and vetted by journalists. https://t.co/St7QfMKc6A
— megan twohey (@mega2e) September 26, 2018
Megan Twohey is an investigative reporter at the Times. She co-wrote the NYT piece last year that blew up Harvey Weinstein and got a Pulitzer for it, which was shared with Ronan Farrow. Farrow retweeted the tweet above. The media itself is quietly, or maybe not so quietly, signaling a little early skepticism about Avenatti’s bombshell. And why shouldn’t they? Collectively they must have spent hundreds of hours interviewing Kavanaugh friends and acquaintances over the last two months. Not one reporter found anything solid enough to print. So far.
Avenatti might have his reasons, though. He may have worried that sharing Swetnick’s story with a paper would have risked her name being leaked and forcing his client out into the public spotlight before she was ready. Or he might have thought, probably correctly, that running to the media would have resulted in the White House and Senate Republicans obtaining Swetnick’s name before it had been formally released, giving them a jump on the process of discrediting her. After all, any reporter investigating her story would have had to call Kavanaugh, Sarah Sanders, and Grassley’s office for comment and might have had to provide the name of the accuser in order to give them a real chance to respond. Avenatti, whether for reasons strategic or theatrical, caught the enemy completely flat-footed by releasing her name today himself.
And of course, the press has a chance to investigate her now. If the idea is that he kept her away from the media to prevent scrutiny of her story, nothing’s keeping them away from it at this point. Both Swetnick and Avenatti have a lot riding on her credibility too: Swetnick has federal security clearances and would stand to lose them if she’s caught perjuring herself, which would ruin her career, and Avenatti’s reputation on the left as some sort of invincible avenging angel against Trump and the right would collapse if Swetnick was exposed as a fraud. She’s going to be vetted by the media one way or another. He probably preferred to let it happen after she’d gone public because of the dramatic potential involved and the (slim) chance that the accusation would lead to Kavanaugh’s nomination falling apart immediately, before anyone took a hard look at her story.
Even Democrats think Avenatti made a mistake by not going to the media first, though:
One unnamed Democratic aide working on Kavanaugh’s confirmation proceedings said that Avenatti’s approach was undercutting other allegations.
“I believe there is a decent chance the person he reps may have a real allegation. But he undercut it. If he had vetted it through a media outlet and had journalists represent it in a well-reported way or have the committee introduce it, it would have been better.”
Avenatti has responded to all criticism from the left by claiming that the people who question his tactics are just wimps who are afraid to “fight,” which sounds familiar. My morbid curiosity about whether this guy stands a real chance in 2020 grows by the day, as I both do and don’t want to believe that Democrats are capable of nominating their own Trump. Is the left as much of a sucker as the right is for unqualified loudmouths whose main qualification is eagerness to brawl with their enemies? It would be bad for the country if they are. But good for the right, insofar as it would show that being seduced by Trumpy figures isn’t a uniquely right-wing weakness. We’ll see!