Earlier this afternoon, President Donald Trump held a rare press conference where he allowed media to ask him questions. When asked about the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Trump resorted to his old, familiar playbook of attack, attack, attack. Trump attacked the media, attacked the Chinese government, attacked the women who have accused him of sexually harrassment and/or assault, and attacked the Democratic Party.
This came on the heels of a third accuser, Julie Swetnick, coming forward to share the most harrowing story yet of Kavanaugh engaging in acts of sexual assault. And shortly after Trump’s press conference, two more accusations of sexual assault emerged.
Who is Julie Swetnick, and what is she saying about Brett Kavanaugh?
This morning, famed attorney turned media personality Michael Avenatti released a sworn declaration from Julie Swetnick that stated Brett Kavanaugh and his teenage best friend Mark Judge were present at a house party in 1982 that resulted in her being gang-raped. In her sworn statement, Swetnick also stated that she witnessed Kavanaugh and Judge engage of acts of sexual assault against other young women, including other house party gang rapes.
This new allegation dropped amidst growing doubts of Brett Kavanaugh’s account of what he claims he never did to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. On Fox News just two days ago, Kavanaugh suggested he was focused on his “academics, athletics, and service projects” at Georgetown Prep and Yale, that hardly ever consumed alcohol at that time, and that he was a virgin until long after he graduated high school. Yet since then, multiple classmates have challenged his assertions and noted his binge drinking at numerous house parties, and one Yale classmate has even tweeted that Kavanaugh boasted of his sexual conquests in that classmate’s dorm suite.
Though Republicans have been quick to attack Avenatti for his media hounding ways, they have yet to come up with an explanation for the many holes in Kavanaugh’s story, as well as the common threads of wild partying, excessive drinking, and sexual misconduct that have materialized in Dr. Blasey’s story, Ramirez’s story, Swetnick’s story, and the accounts of third-party witnesses who have corroborated Dr. Blasey’s and Ramirez’s respective stories.
“They want to destroy his reputation. […] They know it’s a big fat con job.”
– President Donald Trump, ranting about Democrats’ opposition to Kavanaugh
Amidst this latest self-induced firestorm to consume the White House, Trump held a press conference to put his best spin on this series of events. When asked by Fox News’ John Roberts about why he won’t allow the reopening of the FBI’s background check investigation into Kavanaugh, Trump declared, “There was nothing for them to investigate. […] They didn’t find anything.”
Trump then blamed all of his and Kavanaugh’s problems on the Democrats: “It’s not going to change any of the Democrats’ minds. They’re con artists. They want to destroy his reputation.” He then added, “They know it’s a big fat con job.”
Trump refused to answer later questions of whether he believes Dr. Blasey, Ramirez, and Swetnick are lying. Instead, he proceeded to attack U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), and all the other Democrats who have announced they will not vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
“The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out.”
– Padma Lakshmi, for The New York Times
Minutes later, another reporter asked Trump why he doesn’t understand why these and other women are afraid to report cases of sexual assault. Trump essentially proved the reporter’s point with his response: “36 years. No charge, no nothing. […] All of a sudden, the hearings are over and the rumors are starting.”
Strangely enough, Trump’s comment came hours after Top Chef host and judge Padma Lakshmi penned a New York Times op-ed that explained why she remained silent about being molested as a young child, then being raped as a teenager. As Lakshmi wrote, “Shortly after I told my mother and stepfather [about being molested], they sent me to India for a year to live with my grandparents. The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out.”
Padma Lakshmi is far from alone. According to a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report, about three of every four people who have endured sexual harassment never report it to the authorities. There are a variety of reasons for this, including shame, denial, trauma, and fear. Trump briefly seemed to acknowledge this himself, but he then proceeded to attack everyone who’s calling for a halt to Senate Republicans’ rush to confirm Kavanaugh before the election.
“I was accused by four women. You can check with Sean Hannity. You check with Fox.”
– President Donald Trump
Eventually, the conversation turned to why Trump nearly always sides those accused of sexual assault, such as Kavanaugh, Rob Porter, and Roy Moore. From there, the conversation turned to Trump himself.
Trump complained, “I was accused by four women. You can check with Sean Hannity. You check with Fox.” He then mocked the rest of the media present in claiming, “People know that a lot of the news here is fake, and that a lot of the people here are fake.”
Trump never provided any evidence to counter the stories of the multiple women who have accused Trump of sexually harassing and/or assaulting them, but he did continue to attack the Democrats and the media: “These are con artists. The press knows it, but the press doesn’t write about it.” And when pressed why he’s calling these accusations against Kavanaugh a “con job”, he declared, “I’ve used worse language in my life than con job.”
In this one moment, Trump was actually speaking the truth… Just not in the way he intended. In the now infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape, Trump boasted of his attempt to seduce a woman: “I moved on her like a bitch.” He later added, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. […] Grab them by the pussy.”
What’s in the fourth allegation against Kavanaugh? And where do Heller and Cortez Masto now stand on his nomination?
During the press conference, Trump insisted that he will hear out Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick: “They’re going to have a major chance to speak. And it will be tomorrow, I assume.” He later added, “They’re going to have a big shot at making their case.”
And yet, the Senate Judiciary Committee will only accept testimony from Dr. Blasey. Thus far, Republicans on the committee have rebuffed offers from Ramirez and Swetnick to testify under oath. And only tonight are we learning that the committee has been alerted to a fourth allegation of sexual assault, one that originates from 1998. Though Kavanaugh had long since graduated college, the accuser has said he was inebriated when he physically attacked her, which is another key detail this report has in common with the other three accusations against Kavanaugh.
Though he referred to Dr. Blasey’s accusation as a “hiccup” in reaffirming his support for Kavanaugh last week, Senator Dean Heller’s (R) office is now refusing to state whether or not Heller is still committed to vote for Kavanaugh. In contrast, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) not only explained to CNN yesterday her decision to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but also demanded a fairer process, one that includes the Trump administration reopening the FBI background check investigation: “A key to us getting this information, all this information, is a background check, a background check the FBI always does for [judicial] nominees.”
And yet, Trump still refuses to reopen that FBI investigation. Instead, the Senate Judiciary Committee will probably only hear from Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey tomorrow morning. The committee is then scheduled for an executive meeting Friday morning, one that might include a vote on Kavanaugh.
6:10 PM UPDATE:
Since the initial publishing of this story, Bloomberg News’ Jennifer Epstein and Raw Story are reporting on a fifth allegation that’s surfacing tonight. In this case, a person wrote to tell Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) of a rape that occurred on a boat in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1985. Like the other four stories, the accuser says Kavanaugh and Mark Judge were inebriated when they attacked this woman. Thus far, Kavanaugh continues to deny committing any of these five assaults.
In the meantime, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has released her written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. She is scheduled to testify in person around 7:00 AM PT tomorrow.