Whelan, who is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, has since remained cryptically tight-lipped. But his tweet, along with the perception that he is a sober-minded straight shooter, triggered intense speculation among conservatives and even White House aides about whether he had information that could acquit Kavanaugh.

Whelan’s tweet was one of several online posts, rumors and otherwise unverified claims that have thrown Washington into a frenzy over the past 24 hours, as reporters, activists and government officials chased tantalizing leads that alternately seemed to damn and exonerate both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

The rumors and false leads illustrated the intense fascination with the drama surrounding Kavanaugh, as well as the enormous stakes for both the Supreme Court and the credibility of the “Me Too” movement. Some may be the product of misunderstandings and games of telephone; others could reflect efforts by partisans on both sides to steer or muddy the media narrative, or perhaps to intimidate either Ford or Kavanaugh.