Sen. Susan Collins spoke about Brett Kavanaugh’s record as a judge for nearly 30 minutes on the Senate floor Friday afternoon before getting around to the multiple allegations of sexual assault against him.
While she said she found the testimony from Christine Blasey Ford “sincere, painful, and compelling,” it was another allegation against Kavanaugh that seems to have convinced her that he could not possibly be the sexual predator his critics were making him out to me.
“Some of the allegations levied against Judge Kavanaugh illustrate why the presumption of innocence is so important,” Collins said. “I am thinking in particular not of the allegations raised by Professor Ford, but of the allegation that when he was a teenager, Judge Kavanaugh drugged multiple girls and used their weakened state to facilitate gang rape.”
Without mentioning names, it was clear Collins was referring to the allegation brought by lawyer Michael Avenatti on behalf of his client, Julie Swetnick.
In an initial affidavit and subsequent TV interview, Swetnick could not say for sure that Kavanaugh was among the teenage boys who she says raped her at a house party in the early 1980s. But she did say that she witnessed the judge grope girls at previous events and suspected that he may have spiked their drinks.
“This outlandish allegation was put forth without any credible supporting evidence and simply parroted public statements of others,” Collins added. “That such an allegation can find its way into the Supreme Court confirmation process is a stark reminder about why the presumption of innocence is so ingrained in our American consciousness.”
It was this allegation, and the media coverage it received, Collins said, that helped her get to “yes” on Kavanaugh.
During the early portion of the speech, Avenatti tweeted his dismay at Collins’ position, accusing her of “channeling” President Trump and vowing to “never forget” her decision. He grew even more impassioned when his client was invoked, writing that Collins “should be ashamed of herself for attacking my client and Dr. Ford.”
The FBI declined to interview Swetnick or investigate her claims as part of its additional background check of Kavanaugh.
Last week, speaking to The Daily Beast, Democrats warned that Avenatti may have been inadvertently helping to ensure that Kavanaugh ended up on the Supreme Court.
“Mr. Avenatti has a tendency to sensationalize and make his various crusades more about himself than about getting at the truth,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said. “This moment calls for the exact opposite.”
Earlier in the day on Friday, after Sen. Jeff Flake indicated his support for Kavanaugh, Avenatti shifted into campaign mode, telegraphing his potential strategy for a 2020 run. “What just transpired is the clearest example yet of why the old approach of the Dem party is not working,” he wrote on Twitter. “If we continue on this path, the values, principles and rights that matter most will be lost forever. We must fight fire with fire. And when they go low, we must hit harder!”
Now, thanks to Collins, he may share some blame for getting Kavanaugh confirmed, perhaps making his prospects in the Democratic Party even more of a long shot.