In an exclusive interview with WESA on Thursday, attorney Michael Avenatti said that an FBI investigation of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was an “absolute joke,” because agents did not reach out to his client or witnesses who could help corroborate her allegations.
“The FBI investigation I think is an absolute joke,” he said. “Not because of the work done by the FBI but … as a result of the scope of the investigation being controlled by the White House and Senate Republican leadership.”
Avenatti’s client, Julie Swetnick, has claimed that during “house parties" in the 1980s, she saw Kavanaugh drunk and pressing himself against women without their consent. She also alleged that women at those parties were given spiked drinks and gang-raped.
The FBI’s undertook an investigation of Kavanaugh’s behavior late last week, after a Republican Senator, Jeff Flake, said he wanted a review of bombshell allegations of sexual assault that dated back to high school.
Avenatti said he had provided the names of six witnesses who could confirm portions of Swetnick's claims, but the FBI had not contacted them either.
“We never heard from the FBI … and the reason is clear: This was not a search for the truth," he said. "[Neither] Donald Trump nor the Senate Republicans were interested in the truth. They’re only interested in ramming this nomination through as quickly as possible in the interest of politics.”
It was clear from the outset of the FBI investigation that the review would be limited: Republicans pledged to vote within a week on the Kavanaugh nomination. And Democrats have become increasingly critical of the effort’s limited scope. The FBI interviewed 10 people, but not Kavanaugh himself or his initial accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. Agents did speak to a second woman who alleged misconduct by Kavanaugh.
The FBI completed its work Wednesday, and while the report has not been made public, Republicans say it offers no evidence to substantiate the allegations against Kavanaugh. A vote to confirm is likely this week.
Avenatti said he couldn’t predict the outcome, but given the confirmation process, "The Republican leadership and Trump have now impugned the integrity and the reputation of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Supreme Court of the United States, likely for an entire generation."
The White House has said the investigation followed up on requests made by the Senate – which also aggravated Avanatti.
“It’s the FBI’s job to determine whether someone is credible or not,” he said. "It’s not Senate Republicans’ or Donald Trump’s job to determine whether somebody is credible or not and then tell the FBI how to do their job.”
Swetnick has arguably received the harshest criticism of Kavanaugh’s three accusers. Kavanaugh himself said her accusations had come “from the Twilight Zone,” and Republicans have noted that some aspects of her account have shifted. Senate Republicans also took the unusual step of circulating a letter from a man who claimed to have once been involved with Swetnick: The writer claimed she never mentioned Kavanaugh, and that she’d willingly participated in group sex.
Avenatti called the letter “completely unsubstantiated,” and said he was weighing a defamation suit against the writer, Dennis Ketterer. Its release, he said, was “outrageous and despicable conduct,” and “an effort to slut-shame my client [and] effectively call her a whore."
Even before the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, Avenatti had become one of Trump's most visible critics, thanks to his two-fisted representation of Stormy Daniels, the adult-movie actress who has said she had an affair with Trump and was paid to keep quiet about it.
Avenatti was in Pittsburgh on his way to Youngstown, Ohio, where he was scheduled to speak to a Democratic Party gathering Thursday night. He is openly mulling a presidential bid, and sounded much like a candidate already.
It’s his third trip to the area in the past six weeks, he said.
“One of the keys to victory in 2020 for the Democrats is going to be the ability to communicate with voters in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin," – areas where Democrats underperformed with blue-collar voters in the 2016 election.
"There needs to be a focus on good-paying, high-quality stable jobs,” as well as on healthcare and higher-education costs.
Avenatti said he is addressing those issues, but that Democrats first needed to find a candidate who could battle Trump on his own terms.
“Above all else, I think I can beat Donald Trump. And if you can’t beat Donald Trump, you don’t have any business running for the Democratic nomination."
Democrats, he said, may "want to strive to be gentle and kind and classy – all of which I’m for. But at this point in time, this nation can’t afford our gentleness. So my approach is, you’ve got to fight fire with fire, and if they hit you, you’ve got to hit back twice as hard. “
"As this Supreme Court nomination battle demonstrates, the Republicans above all else are concentrating on winning," he said.
In fact, Republican strategists say that the Kavanaugh nomination may pay political dividends for the party in the midterm elections. Polling suggests that outrage on his behalf is solidifying GOP support, and helping to close an enthusiasm gap with fired-up Democrats. Is Avenatti, one of Kavanaugh and Trump's most visible foes, at risk of alienating some of the same voters he hopes to reach in places like Youngstown?
“Regardless of your station in life – how much money you make, wherever you come from – this nation is founded in principal…on this idea of truth and justice," he said. "And I think this process has demonstrated that this was not about a search for the truth. This was about politics. If it was your son or your daughter, you would want all the facts and all the evidence laid out.”