the kavanaugh hearings

Are Republicans Releasing Anonymous Kavanaugh Claims to Discredit Legitimate Ones?

Brett Kavanaugh returns to the Senate for another round of questions on Thursday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

With Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford hours away from testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a bombshell dropped Wednesday afternoon. The committee released the transcript of a call between GOP staffers and the Supreme Court nominee that included two new allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. The dam, it appeared, had broken.

But the claims quickly drew skepticism, largely because they were made anonymously, unlike the first three allegations made against Kavanaugh, in which Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick went on the record to tell their stories of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct.

One of the new claims came in the form of an anonymous letter sent to the office of Colorado senator Cory Gardner. It said that in 1998 Kavanaugh assaulted a woman he was dating in Boulder while he was working for Ken Starr’s investigation into Bill Clinton. “It’s ridiculous. Total Twilight Zone. And no, I’ve never done anything like that,” Kavanaugh told staffers when he was asked about the story.

The other allegation arose from a phone call made to the office of Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse. The man making the call said a friend of his was sexually assaulted on a boat in 1985 by “men she referred to at the time as Brett and Mark.” After seeing a picture of a high school-aged Kavanaugh on TV, the man said he realized he was looking at the same Brett from 33 years ago.

“No,” Kavanaugh said when asked about this story, which also implicated his childhood friend Mark Judge. “I was not in Newport, haven’t been on a boat in Newport. Not with Mark Judge on a boat, nor all those three things combined.”

So why would GOP staffers bring up these two flimsy allegations about Kavanaugh? One theory is that they’re trying to muddy the waters and discredit all of the accusations against him.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee said themselves that the letter from the person in Colorado was useless. “We have no reason to assign the letter credibility, and even if we did, we’d have no way to investigate the allegation as it was made anonymously and cannot be corroborated,” they said. So why question Kavanaugh about it at all?

Then there was the odd choice of asking Kavanaugh about several tweets from the man who called Whitehouse’s office. One of the tweets called for President Trump to be overthrown. Another asked the Pentagon to “save my country from the parasite that occupies the White House.” The staffers asked Kavanaugh if he was aware of these tweets. He said he wasn’t, of course.

The decision to ask Kavanaugh about the tweets seems less about his answer and more about the eventual publication of the transcript. GOP staffers knew Kavanaugh wasn’t aware of the tweets, but they wanted to make public an accusation of sexual misconduct that came from a Trump hater with an egg avatar. On Wednesday night, the man recanted his story in another tweet.

If Republicans are in fact trying to discredit all of Kavanaugh’s accusers, there are early signs that it’s working. Breitbart is blaring bright red headlines about a “flood of anonymous discredited accusations,” while The Federalist is highlighting the off-the-wall tweets of the man in Rhode Island.

Democrats, for their part, seem to be seeing through this gambit. One senior Democratic aide told Politico reporter Elana Schor that Republicans are “releasing anonymous allegations in an effort to make all allegations look frivolous. We’re focusing on the ones that have names attached.”

Is GOP Leaking Wild Kavanaugh Claims to Discredit Others?