President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that one of the people who accused now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct had “just admitted she was lying.”
The woman in question is not Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez — it’s probably not even the “Jane Doe” behind a letter sent to lawmakers with allegations about Kavanaugh. Instead, it’s Judy Munro-Leighton, who once claimed to be Jane.
Here’s what Trump’s talking about: Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Friday sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray referring Munro-Leighton to the Justice Department and FBI regarding “fabricated allegations” about Kavanaugh. It detailed a bizarre series of events where senators received an anonymous letter with claims about Kavanaugh, Munro-Leighton said she wrote the letter, and then said she had not.
On September 25, staffers for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) referred to investigators an undated handwritten letter signed “Jane Doe” that the office had received from Oceanside, California. The letter claimed that Kavanaugh and a friend had raped her “several times each” in a car, but the letter had no return address, timeframe, or location.
The committee set out to investigate the claims and asked Kavanaugh about them — he vehemently denied them. On September 26, they released the transcript of the interview with Kavanaugh and the full text of the letter.
Days later on October 3, Munro-Leighton emailed the committee claiming to be Jane Doe and included a typed version of the letter. The committee found her, and Grassley’s letter says she was a “left-wing activist” who is “decades older than” Kavanaugh and lives in Kentucky. On November 1, investigators spoke with Munro-Leighton about her allegations and she said that she hadn’t been assaulted by Kavanaugh and, in fact, didn’t write the letter at all. She said she sent the email as a way to “grab attention” after seeing the letter online.
This is not the only Kavanaugh accuser Grassley has referred to the Justice Department: He also referred attorney Michael Avenatti and Julie Swetnick, who claimed Kavanaugh targeted women with drugs and alcohol in high school so they could be susceptible to gang rape, to the department. And in September he referred a man to the department who made and recanted a story about Kavanaugh.
Trump’s tweet implies these incidents might mean none of Kavanaugh’s accusers should be believed. That’s not the case.
“What about the others?” Trump asked on Saturday in his tweet regarding Munro-Leighton, seeming to imply that because she made a false claim means that the other women who came forward with allegations against Kavanaugh had, too.
A vicious accuser of Justice Kavanaugh has just admitted that she was lying, her story was totally made up, or FAKE! Can you imagine if he didn’t become a Justice of the Supreme Court because of her disgusting False Statements. What about the others? Where are the Dems on this?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2018
But that’s not the case. It may not be clear who wrote the Jane Doe letter Munro-Leighton laid claim to, but Ford and Ramirez came forward with credible allegations they put their names to.
Ford alleges that Kavanaugh held her down, tried to take her clothes off, and covered her mouth as she screamed while they were at a party in high school. She testified about them to the judiciary committee, and the FBI investigated her allegations after some lawmakers demanded a short probe before voting on Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. Ramirez alleges that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her and thrust his genitals in her face while they were at a party in college.
Kavanaugh has denied all of the allegations against him, and his nomination was confirmed.
False sexual assault allegations are rare; as Vox’s Anna North notes, experts say that between 2 and 8 percent of sexual assault reports are false. And some of those claims are made against a “made-up stranger,” meaning false allegations against a specific, named individual are even more rare than false reports generally.
Trump, who has faced multiple sexual misconduct allegations of his own, initially offered a measured response to the claims against Kavanaugh, but he has become increasingly aggressive about them over time. He mocked Ford at a rally in Mississippi in October and told reporters it was a “very scary time for young men in America.” He also said that the allegations were a “hoax set up by the Democrats.”
The president’s Saturday tweet is an attempt to use one woman’s false claims to discredit all of the others. It shouldn’t work.