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What we know — and still don’t — about the sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh

There are now possibly three allegations of sexual misconduct.

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Brett Kavanaugh To Be Supreme Court Justice
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Two women have now accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, and attorney Michael Avenatti says that a third has “credible information” as well.

Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto University professor who’s accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, and Deborah Ramirez, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale who’s also accused him of sexual misconduct, both want an FBI investigation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Sunday night for all confirmation proceedings to halt until an investigation can be conducted.

A big reason for this push? The FBI might not be able to weigh in on the credibility of their allegations, but the agency can conduct a fact-finding review that could help shed more light on the alleged incidents, Democrats say. By doing an in-depth probe — something that would include interviews with witnesses — the FBI could provide a better assessment of the evidence surrounding the allegations.

It’s the kind of assessment that’s especially vital in this case, which has become overrun with misinformation and contradictory accounts, argues Vox’s Anna North.

Absent an official investigation, what we have are Ford, Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s own statements, secondhand impressions from other witnesses, and a lot of haphazard character testimony. Here’s what we know so far about what Ford, Ramirez, and Kavanaugh have said, as well as the context that’s come out about their respective backgrounds.

What we know about Ford’s story

  • Christine Blasey Ford first detailed her allegations in a letter shared with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Sen. Feinstein earlier this summer. At the time, she requested anonymity.
  • Ford publicly came forward in a Washington Post story last Sunday; she accused Kavanaugh of forcing himself on her while the two were at a party in high school. She says he pinned her down on a bed, attempted to remove her clothing, and covered her mouth when she tried to scream. Kavanaugh has unequivocally denied these allegations.
  • Ford says she did not talk about the allegations with anyone until 2012, during a couples therapy session with her husband. She provided the Post with notes from therapy sessions in 2012 and 2013 when she described an attempted rape that she experienced while she was in high school.
  • In these notes Kavanaugh is not named, but Ford describes an attack by students from an elite boy’s school. These students are now “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington,” she said.
  • Ford also took a polygraph test, which indicated the veracity of her claims. (It’s worth noting that the reliability of polygraph tests have been heavily scrutinized in recent years.)
  • Ford’s husband confirms that she mentioned the attack in their 2012 therapy sessions. He said he recalled her mentioning Kavanaugh by last name.
  • A friend of Ford’s has said he’s witnessed the lasting trauma the attack has had on her life. Jim Gensheimer told the Los Angeles Times that Ford discussed her struggle to come forward with him in early July.
  • He added that Ford was averse to purchasing a master bedroom that does not have a second exit. “Obviously, something happened that traumatized her so much that she’s afraid of being trapped,” Gensheimer said.
  • Ford admits that there are key details about the incident that she does not remember.
  • She believes the incident took place when she was 15, in the early 1980s — but she’s not clear on the exact ownership and location of the house. She also says that everyone at the party had at least one beer, but notes that Kavanaugh and a classmate named Mark Judge had been drinking more heavily.

What we know about Deborah Ramirez’s story

  • Deborah Ramirez was a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale. She told the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer she was attending a dorm room party as a freshman when Kavanaugh “exposed himself ... thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.”
  • Ramirez said she was wary of coming forward because she had been drinking at the time of the incident and admits there are holes in her memory.
  • She emphasizes, however, that she is certain of the aspects of the allegation that she has detailed.
  • “I remember a penis being in front of my face,” she told the New Yorker. “I knew that’s not what I wanted, even in that state of mind.” She also has a vivid memory of another student yelling, “Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face.”
  • One unnamed classmate of Ramirez and Kavanaugh said he had heard about it secondhand and was 100 percent certain that Kavanaugh was the person who was mentioned. Richard Oh, a second classmate, said he had also heard of the incident secondhand but could not confirm the identities of those involved.

What we know about the account publicized by Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti

  • Michael Avenatti, an attorney who’s recently risen to fame for his representation of Stormy Daniels — a porn actress who alleges that she had an affair with Trump — tweeted on Sunday evening that he was representing a woman who had credible information about Kavanaugh and Judge.
  • “My client is not Deborah Ramirez,” he added.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee quickly reached out to Avenatti for more details about the information he was referencing and he outlined additional allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh and Judge.
  • Avenatti that he’s “aware of significant evidence of multiple house parties” that took place in the DC area in the 1980s, where he alleges Judge and Kavanaugh targeted women with alcohol and drugs and enabled multiple men to gang rape them.
  • In Sunday’s New Yorker story detailing Ramirez’s allegations, Elizabeth Rasor, a woman who had dated Judge for three years, said she wanted to come forward to rebut claims that Judge has made about the culture of Georgetown Prep.
  • She said that Judge had previously confided in her about “an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman.”

What we know about Kavanaugh’s version of events

  • Kavanaugh has denied both Ford and Ramirez’s allegations completely. “This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in a statement relayed by the White House, which responded to Ford’s allegations. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
  • Judge, Kavanaugh’s classmate who Ford has also implicated in the high school incident, has said he has “no recollection” of it. Ford claims that Judge and Kavanaugh were “stumbling drunk” when they pushed her into a bedroom at the party in question.
  • She also says that Judge was in the room while Kavanaugh forced himself on her and intermittently offered his encouragement during the encounter.
  • “Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner that Dr. Ford describes,” Judge has said.
  • Patrick J. Smyth, another individual who Ford named as being at the party, has denied attending as well. Both Smyth and Judge have signaled that they are not interested in providing further testimony.
  • A fourth person who Ford is believed to have said was at the party, a woman named Leland Keyser, said she does not recall attending the event, according to a New York Times report.
  • Keyser informed the Senate Judiciary Committee that she “does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.”
  • Regarding Ramirez’s allegations, Kavanaugh released the following statement: “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name—and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building—against these last-minute allegations.”
  • Two male Yale classmates whom Ramirez has also allegedly implicated in the incident denied involvement or said they had no recollection of the party. “I don’t think Brett would flash himself to Debbie, or anyone, for that matter,” one of the male classmates said.
  • Six classmates of both Ramirez and Kavanaugh from Yale have written a letter offering their support for Kavanaugh: “We can say with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it—and we did not. The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett.”

What we know about Georgetown Prep culture and Kavanaugh’s time at Yale

  • Kavanaugh, Judge, and Smyth were all students at Georgetown Prep, an elite all-boys private high school in Bethesda, Maryland.
  • Former students of Georgetown Prep have described a pervasive culture of heavy underaged drinking. In his senior-year yearbook entry, Kavanaugh referenced drinking multiple times, according to the Post. In those mentions, he said that he was a member of the “Beach Week Ralph Club” and “Keg City Club.”
  • Judge, who is now a writer and filmmaker, went on to pen a memoir about his personal struggles with alcoholism titled Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk. In the book, he describes the party culture at his high school, which he renamed “Loyola Prep.”
  • In Judge’s book, there’s a character named Bart O’Kavanaugh — who purportedly drinks too much and passes out after attending a party.
  • In 2015 remarks, Kavanaugh made passing reference to his time in high school while speaking at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law.
  • “Fortunately, we’ve had a good saying that we’ve held firm to this day, as the dean was reminding me before the talk, which is, ‘What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep,’” he quipped as part of his talk. “That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.”
  • The New Yorker also pointed out that during the Supreme Court nominee’s time at Yale, “Kavanaugh was also a member of an all-male secret society, Truth and Courage, which was popularly known by the nickname ‘Tit and Clit.’” He was also a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, which was known at the time for its “wild and, in the view of some critics, misogynistic parties,” according to student accounts given to the New Yorker.

What we’ve heard about Kavanaugh, Ford, and Ramirez’s characters

  • Friends and classmates of both Kavanaugh and Ford, respectively, have put forth an outpouring of support for their respective characters.
  • Sixty-five women who said they knew Kavanaugh in high school have signed a letter emphasizing their perceptions of his integrity and decency. “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect,” the letter reads.
  • More than 1,000 women who attended Ford’s high school, Holton-Arms, over several decades, have also signed an open letter expressing their support for her and noting that they believe her. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves,” the letter reads.
  • Advocates for Kavanaugh emphasize that he’s an affable family man who is widely liked. In an analysis of reviews he received from students of his Harvard Law School courses, the New York Times finds that many had positive things to say.
  • Ford’s friends describe her as a rigorous and thoughtful academic. “I know her to be an honorable, honest, straightforward, decent person. I can’t conceive of her doing this for any other reason than she is honestly reporting what she’s experienced,” Daniel Spiegel, a Stanford psychiatry professor who’s worked with Ford, told the Los Angeles Times.
  • Multiple college classmates of Ramirez’s have said they see her as credible. “She stood out as being exceptionally honest and gentle. I cannot imagine her making this up,” said James Roche, a roommate of Kavanaugh’s during the time of the alleged incident told the New Yorker.
  • Ford and Ramirez’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh — and his subsequent denial — come in the wake of Democrats’ concerns that he may have perjured himself during his confirmation hearing.
  • Democrats have suggested that he misled lawmakers on a variety of topics including his work on Bush-era detainee policy and controversial judicial nominees — spurring questions about the reliability of his testimony.
  • Kavanaugh has also been under scrutiny for his ties to retired federal judge Alex Kozinski, who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by at least 15 women.
  • Kavanaugh had previously clerked for Kozinski and appeared to consider him an important professional influence. He has since distanced himself from the former judge and said he was not aware of the concerns about Kozinski’s sexual misconduct. He’s also made some other surprising claims about his time with Kozinski, including noting that he doesn’t remember a widely circulated email list of dirty jokes.
  • Republicans have sought to paint Ford and Ramirez as individuals with political agendas. Ford is a registered Democrat, who has donated to progressive groups. She attended a women’s march in California in 2017, according to the San Jose Mercury News. One of her attorneys, Debra Katz, has also publicly protested Trump.
  • Ramirez said she is a registered Democrat and that she “works toward human rights, social justice, and social change.”

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