Utah Sen. Lee remains silent on Kavanaugh’s accusers, but a top aide tweets up a storm of skepticism
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and his communications director, Conn Carroll, head to the chamber for a vote, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 20, 2017. Carroll is tweeting up a storm of skepticism about the sexual misconduct accusations against Brett Kavanaugh while Lee is remaining silent. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Washington • Sen. Mike Lee, a member of the Judiciary Committee, has kept relatively silent about accusations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Meanwhile, his communications director has let loose on Twitter, raising questions about the credibility of the two women making allegations and touting an alternative scenario about mistaken identity.
Lee, a Utah Republican whose name is on President Donald Trump’s short list of potential high court nominees, has only spoken out once, through communications director Conn Carroll, to say that the committee would hear from both Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, during a hearing before a vote.
“Senator Lee looks forward to hearing their testimony,” Carroll said.
Carroll has been far less circumspect, issuing a stream of questions, first about Ford’s allegations and, more recently, about those of Deborah Ramirez
“Maybe it was one of these other boys that did what it is alleged Kavanaugh did?” he wrote last week, retweeting conservative pundit Erick Erickson, who said that Democrats had nothing on Kavanaugh other than “trotting out women” to CNN and MSNBC who said other boys had been involved in sexual misconduct but not Kavanaugh.
“It is very very unfortunate that Democratic staff chose to litigate a 35 year old rape allegation in public,” Carroll tweeted another time.
Tuesday, Carroll noted that Ramirez, a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh who has alleged in a New Yorker story that he sexually harassed her during a college party, has refused to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“FYI: giving a false statement to the New Yorker is not a crime. giving a false statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee is," Carroll tweeted
In an interview, Carroll said he wasn’t sure if there was some “Kavanaugh doppelganger”
as he once questioned on Twitter but that it’s something that should be raised.
“I think that's a very real question,” he said, adding, “I would say this is something that allegedly happened 35 years ago and there's no way we're going to know all the facts. We should be trying to find out the few facts we do know to be correct.”
Carroll, who previously wrote for right-leaning news outlets before joining Lee’s staff, said he sees his role as contributing to the public debate to make sure information out there is accurate and to tamp down misinformation.
“My job is to make sure the press is being accurate about what our position is and that’s what I do,” Carroll said.
Lee, though, hasn’t staked out any public position, except wanting to hear from Kavanaugh and Ford.
Carroll said he doesn’t believe his tweets undercut Lee “at all.”
“We want to be accurate about what we know and what we don’t know,” he said, noting that the senator does not approve every one of his tweets.
Carroll stands by that tweet and notes that his story was focused on the Obama White House using a “false statistic” that 1 in 5 women suffer some type of sexual assault on college campuses that isn’t backed up by the Justice Department.
(Carroll’s article, however, notes that the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice acknowledges that “several studies” do “indicate” that “between 18 and 20 percent”
of college women do “experience rape or some other form of sexual assault during their college years.”)
“Rape is a terrible crime,” Carroll noted in his story
. “One that, blessedly, has fallen by 30 percent since 1993. But if the White House want to prevent more rapes, why is it spreading false narratives that college campuses are hot beds of sexual violence, something that the data above shows is patently false?”
While Lee hasn’t publicly addressed the sex-assault allegations, in July he had lauded the nominee as a great choice
“His insight into the current state of the law and the Constitution shows he is just the kind of originalist jurist we need on the court,” Lee said then.
Lee’s silence on the decades-old sexual assault allegations are in stark contrast to his Utah and Judiciary Committee colleague Sen. Orrin Hatch, who has been one of Kavanaugh’s most vocal defenders.
Hatch has said that Ford is “mistaken”
and decried what he says is a “smear campaign” to halt Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
He called the claims of Ramirez “phony accusations”
that were part of a liberal-orchestrated “smear” campaign. Asked how he knew her allegation was “phony,” Hatch, said, “because I know it is, that’s why.”
Hatch, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, participated in the confirmation of all eight justices currently on the high court. He also was a key defender of Justice Clarence Thomas against accusations by Anita Hill in 1991