Good question, especially since this happened two and a half years ago. Will the Department of Justice enforce false-statements laws consistently, or only when special counsels are involved? Thanks to Senate Democrats’ sandbagging in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process, a number of people came out of the woodwork to make clearly false allegations to the Senate as a way to derail his appointment to the Supreme Court.
Grassley wants to know when they will face charges — and it’s not the first time the ranking Senate Judiciary member has asked (via John Hawkins and Dan Bongino):
On October 8, 2019, several colleagues and I wrote a letter to Attorney General Barr and Director Wray requesting an update concerning their handling of criminal referrals made by the Committee following its investigation into allegations of decades-old misconduct by then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh. To date, the Justice Department and FBI have failed to respond to our letter and have failed to apprise the Committee whether, and to what extent, any steps have been taken to investigate and hold accountable those individuals who criminally interfered with the Committee’s investigation.
These failures are entirely unacceptable. As my colleagues and I stressed in our previous letter, the Committee’s four criminal referrals, dated September 29, 2018, October 25, 2018, October 26, 2018, and November 2, 2018, were not made lightly. Those referrals highlighted serious cases in which individuals made materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements to Committee investigators.
For example, one of the referrals related to an individual from Rhode Island who falsely alleged to Congress that Judge Kavanaugh had assaulted a friend on a boat, only to later admit on social media that he lied about the event. Two referrals related to allegations made by Mr. Michael Avenatti and his client, Ms. Julie Swetnick, who accused Judge Kavanaugh of being involved in gang rape activities. The Committee identified no verifiable evidence to support the allegations. The Committee found that Mr. Avenatti, who has since been convicted on felony extortion charges, and his client, Ms. Swetnick, had a long history of credibility issues and may have criminally conspired to mislead the Committee regarding those allegations and obstruct its investigation. A final referral related to Ms. Judy Munro-Leighton, a woman who claimed to be the author of an anonymous letter stating that Judge Kavanaugh and a friend raped her “several times each” in the back seat of a car. Ms. Munro-Leighton later admitted that she falsely claimed that she was the author of the letter and its allegations and only claimed authorship of the letter “as a way to grab attention.” These false allegations materially impeded the Committee’s work and diverted important Committee resources during its time-sensitive investigation.
Note well that while Grassley names names, there is one name missing from this letter. The Judiciary Committee never referred Christine Blasey Ford for prosecution, for the same reason that her testimony shouldn’t have been offered at all — there is no evidence to either corroborate it or disprove it. The witnesses Ford cited in her allegation all deny ever witnessing any such assault or even recalling Ford and Kavanaugh together at the same party. Ford’s allegations are too vague to credit and also to challenge in any legal form.
What about the others? It seems quite strange that nothing has been done about Avenatti. The now-disgraced attorney went waaaaaaay out of his way not just to represent Swetnick and her absurd rape-gang allegations, but to use those to promote himself into media celebrity-hood and a brief moment of being a potential Democratic presidential contender. The other false-testimony suspects apparently admitted to lying for their own purposes, which should make for easy prosecution, if the DoJ was so inclined.
Why weren’t they so inclined for the last two years? After all, this period comprises the entire second half of Donald Trump’s term, a president not exactly known for letting bygones be bygones. William Barr got savaged by Trump’s political opponents for being Trump’s wingman — er, political flunky — but Barr tried to do as much as possible to restore a sense of professionalism as Attorney General. Barr may have felt that pursuing these cases would look too much like political payback against nutcases, perhaps especially with Avenatti, who made himself into the Great Trump Slayer for a few months. Avenatti had much more serious state and federal charges already coming at him too, which would have made these charges an afterthought … and perhaps another excuse for Avenatti’s claim to be the victim of Trump’s revenge.
Still, Grassley’s correct in demanding action. First, the Senate made these referrals, and the DoJ owes them an answer. Second and more importantly, the act of disrupting confirmation processes with deliberately false testimony needs to carry some cost, pour encourager les autres. Prosecuting the trolls who took part in character assassination of a Supreme Court nominee would send a salutary message to the rest of the trolls in the woodwork.