“Well you know at some point there were a lot of folks coming forward making all sorts of accusations,” said Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, when asked about the allegations raised by Avenatti and his client. “It turns it into a circus atmosphere and certainly that’s not where we should be.”

Asked if Avenatti was helpful, Peters said: “I think we should have focused on the serious allegations that certainly appeared very credible to me that would be our best course of action.”

Privately, the assessment was far more scathing.

“Democrats and the country would have been better off if Mr. Avenatti spent his time on his Iowa vanity project rather than meddling in Supreme Court fights,” a senior Senate Democratic aide fumed, referring to Avenatti toying with the idea of seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. “His involvement set us back, absolutely.”