Sen. Hatch says he’s ‘suspicious’ of latest allegation against Kavanaugh but the Senate should investigate

Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch says he’s “naturally suspicious” of the latest allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, though he says the Senate Judiciary Committee would look into it as it heads into a hearing Thursday with the initial accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

Julie Swetnick, who lives in Washington, said through her lawyer Wednesday that Kavanaugh was present at a high school party when she was the victim of a “gang rape” and that she saw the now-Supreme Court nominee drinking excessively and engaging in “abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls.”

Kavanaugh, who has now been accused by three woman of sexual misconduct, called the latest allegations “ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone” and that he doesn’t know Swetnick and that the incident she described “never happened.”

Hatch, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, has fiercely defended Kavanaugh in the face of each new allegation.

He said that Ford was “mistaken” in charging that the nominee pinned her down and groped her at a different high school party.

He dismissed as “phony” allegations by Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a party and thrust his penis in her face, forcing her to touch it.

On the latest allegation, by Swetnick, Hatch continued raising his concern that these accusations are only coming to light after the committee held hours of hearings and months of reviewing Kavanaugh’s career history.

“The committee is going to look into it and investigate,” Hatch told reporters. “I’m naturally suspicious of these things that come in at the last minute after all the hearings and opportunities we had to examine but we’ll look at everything and move forward.”

Throughout the mounting accusations, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, also a member of the Judiciary Committee, has remained silent. However, as The Tribune reported, his communications director Conn Carroll has expressed deep skepticism of the allegations through a steady stream of tweets and retweets.

Lawyer Michael Avenatti — who also represents former adult film star Stormy Daniels who says she had an affair with President Donald Trump — filed a declaration with the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on behalf of Swetnick.

Trump in response called Avenatti a “third-rate lawyer” in a tweet, saying he is “good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He is just looking for attention and doesn’t want people to look at his past record and relationships — a total low-life!”

The Judiciary Committee is expected to hear from Ford and Kavanaugh during a Thursday hearing, where, according to prepared testimony, the Supreme Court nominee will say that he was “not perfect” in high school or now but never engaged in sexual misconduct with anyone.

The Judicary Committee is scheduled to open its hearing Thursday at 8 a.m. MDT, beginning with testimony from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The only other scheduled witness is Christine Blasey Ford. 

The hearing can be viewed on most broadcast and cable channels. The Salt Lake Tribune also is planning to livestream the proceedings.

“I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now,” Kavanaugh is expected to say.

But, the testimony says, Kavanaugh will denounce sexual assault and call the allegations against him unfounded.

“Over the past few days, other false and uncorroborated accusations have been aired,” Kavanaugh says in written testimony. “There has been a frenzy to come up with something – anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious – that will block a vote on my nomination. These are last-minute smears, pure and simple. They debase our public discourse. And the consequences extend beyond any one nomination. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination — if allowed to succeed — will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country.”

Transcripts of private interviews with committee investigators, released late Wednesday, show they also asked Kavanaugh about two other previously undisclosed accusations received by Senate offices. One came in an anonymous letter sent to Sen. Cory Gardner’s office describing an incident in a bar in 1998, when Kavanaugh was working for the independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton. The other accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in college. Kavanaugh denied them both.

Hatch does not plan to question Ford, his office said, and Republicans have hired Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to quiz Ford to avoid the optics of 11 men asking her about an alleged sexual assault.

As was the case during the Judiciary hearings 27 years ago on Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment by then-nominee Clarence Thomas, there are no Republican women on the Judiciary Committee. Hatch was one of Hill’s most aggressive cross-examiners during the Thomas hearings.