Senate Democrats on Wednesday urged President Donald Trump to withdraw Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court after a third woman came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Meanwhile, much of the early Republican reaction, including President Trump’s, zeroed in on the involvement of lawyer Michael Avenatti, who represents both Stormy Daniels — who has said she was paid for her silence about an affair with Trump before he became president — and Julie Swetnick, the latest women to come forward alleging misconduct against Kavanaugh.
In a letter, all 10 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called on Trump to either withdraw Kavanaugh from consideration, or order an FBI investigation “into all allegations.”
“The standard of character and fitness for a position on the nation’s highest court must be higher than this. Judge Kavanaugh has staunchly declared his respect for women and issued blanket denials of any possible misconduct, but those declarations are in serious doubt,” the lawmakers wrote.
Moments after the allegations — which NBC News has not independently verified and were firmly denied by Kavanaugh — were made public, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Kavanaugh should step aside. He also implored Republicans to “immediately suspend the proceedings related to” the judge’s nomination.
“I strongly believe Judge Kavanaugh should withdraw from consideration. If he will not, at the very least, the hearing and vote should be postponed while the FBI investigates all of these allegations,” Schumer said.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said he was planning to file a lawsuit to halt Kavanaugh’s confirmation process “due to unconstitutional presidential interference.”
In a statement, Merkley’s office said it would file a suit “arguing that the Trump Administration’s unprecedented withholding of substantial parts of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record has violated the constitutional separation of powers by preventing Senators from fulfilling their constitutional duty of advice and consent on the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
Merkley’s office said the senator would “ask the courts to intervene to prevent the process from continuing until Kavanaugh’s full record is available for public scrutiny.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters that he would launch an investigation into Kavanaugh, even if he was confirmed and made it onto the Supreme Court.
The intensifying responses emerged after a woman accused Kavanaugh of engaging in repeated lewd behavior with women at parties in the early 1980s, and of putting drugs or alcohol in punch to cause women to become inebriated so they could be “gang raped” by a group of male partygoers.
The woman, Julie Swetnick, said that she was the victim of one of these gang rapes in approximately 1982. She did not allege that Kavanaugh participated in the rape, but said he and his friend Mark Judge were present when it occurred, adding that she was incapacitated by a drug placed in her drink without her consent and was unable to fight off her attackers.
Swetnick’s sworn declaration was released by lawyer Michael Avenatti.
“This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone,” Kavanaugh said in a statement given to reporters by the White House. “I don’t know who this is and this never happened.”
Avenatti’s involvement was an early focus of GOP reaction.
President Trump and Avenatti tangled on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, as Trump looked to use the high-profile lawyer’s involvement to discredit the latest allegations. “Avenatti is a third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” Trump tweeted. “He is just looking for attention and doesn’t want people to look at his past record and relationships – a total low-life!”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., echoed the point.
“From my view, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it just did. The lawyer to porn stars has just taken this debacle to an even lower level,” Graham said in a statementadding added that he hoped people would be “highly suspicious” of the “outrageous, internally inconsistent” affidavit.
“[Kavanaugh] is a decent man who has lived an honorable life and is being smeared by the likes of Michael Avenatti,” said Graham. “I very much believe in allowing people to be heard. But I am not going to be played, and I’m not going to have my intelligence insulted by the Michael Avenattis of the world. I will not be a participant in wholesale character assassination that defies credibility.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. — a GOP Trump critic who is considered an essential swing vote — did not address the latest allegations in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon on the upcoming Kavanaugh hearing, striking a measured tone.
“Tomorrow, we have a hearing. Many members of this body, from both parties, have already made up their minds, on the record, in advance of this hearing. They will presumably hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest. One is tempted to ask, why even bother to have a hearing?” he asked.
“…I am not psychic. I am not gifted with clairvoyance. Given these limitations, I will have to listen to the testimony before I make up my mind about the testimony.”