Friday, October 5, 2018
By David Skolnick
Prominent national attorney Michael Avenatti, who’s exploring a 2020 presidential bid, sharply criticized an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“To call it an investigation is a misnomer because I don’t think it was an investigation at all, frankly,” Avenatti, a Democrat, told The Vindicator during a Thursday interview at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in downtown Youngstown. “It was flawed from the start in that you had politicians telling the FBI how to carry out their investigation. That’s not appropriate. The FBI should have been permitted to investigate the background of Brett Kavanaugh just as they would under any other circumstance. Part of the FBI’s job is to determine the credibility of witnesses and allegations. It’s not for politicians to do that for them.”
Avenatti was in the Mahoning Valley to speak at the Mahoning/Trumbull AFL-CIO Council’s annual dinner. It’s his third visit to the area since mid-July.
In response to Avenatti’s comments, Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe said, “It is the responsibility of the Senate to conduct the investigation and set the ground rules. Brett Kavanaugh has been investigated seven times by the FBI. The [allegations] have been uncorroborated and have been refuted. The Senate decided the standard of review, and they’re ready to proceed.”
Avenatti represents Julie Swetnick, who gave a sworn affidavit last week that Kavanaugh engaged in “excessive drinking and inappropriate contact of a sexual nature with women in the early 1980s.” Swetnick said she was sexually assaulted at a party attended by Kavanaugh, but did not accuse him of assaulting her.
Two other women – including Christine Blasey Ford, who appeared last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee – have accused Kavanaugh of sexually abusing them.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, and specifically said Swetnick’s claims were a “joke.”
Avenatti said Thursday: “I believe that efforts were made to curtail the investigation, significantly curtail the investigation, by forbidding the FBI to hear from multiple witnesses, including Julie Swetnick and six corroborating witnesses.”
That her allegations were dismissed by Senate Republicans, Avenatti said, is “ludicrous. How do you dismiss allegations without actually hearing from the person? It’s ridiculous. They engaged in a smear campaign full of slut shaming and calling my client a whore and disgusting behavior and [soiling] her reputation.”
The Senate is scheduled to have a procedural vote today and then vote to confirm Kavanaugh on Saturday.
Avenatti said he still holds out hope that Kavanaugh won’t be confirmed. But he admitted: “I’m more and more concerned with each passing hour that he’ll be confirmed.” He added: “It shows that politics for the Republican Party trumps the desire to find out the truth and do the right thing. If [Kavanaugh] is confirmed, it will be a sad day for the Supreme Court. It will taint the reputation of the court for a very long time.”
Avenatti is best known for representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits over an alleged affair with President Donald Trump. Trump has denied the affair.
When asked about Trump mocking Ford’s testimony Tuesday at a rally in Southaven, Miss., Avenatti said, “As a father of two daughters, I was disgusted by that behavior. I thought it was a new low for him to stand in front of people as the president of the United States and mock a woman who had the courage to come forward in connection with a sexual assault and seek laughter and applause at her expense.”
Avenatti said he is “very serious” about running for president in 2020.
“I haven’t decided what I’m doing yet,” he said. “I continue to travel, meet people, explore the possibilities. I think this is my fourth trip to Ohio in the last six weeks. That’s not by accident. I think this is an incredibly important state to anyone who is running for the U.S. presidency.”