clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Republicans dismiss Avenatti as “lawyer to porn stars” after his client comes forward with more Kavanaugh claims

Republicans rush to defend Kavanaugh as more allegations come to light.

Sen. Lindsey Graham talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in September 2018.
Sen. Lindsey Graham talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in September 2018.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Republicans are rushing to discredit the allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh brought about by Julie Swetnick, Michael Avenatti’s client. Their target? Stormy Daniels.

Avenatti represents porn actress Daniels — who alleges she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep silent about it — and on Wednesday revealed the identity of another of his clients, Swetnick. A resident of Washington, DC, Swetnick claims that in high school, Kavanaugh, his friend Mark Judge, and others targeted women with drugs and alcohol to cause them to “lose their inhibitions” so they could be “gang raped.” She claims that she was a victim of one of these “train” rapes, and that Judge and Kavanaugh were “present” during the assault, but does not directly accuse them of participating.

Republicans have stood by Kavanaugh, despite allegations of sexual assault from Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford and sexual misconduct allegations from Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham reacted to the mounting allegations against Kavanaugh in a scathing statement on Wednesday. He dismissed Avenatti as a “lawyer to porn stars” and said the allegations about Kavanaugh are “outrageous.”

“If Republicans bail out on this good man because of the smears and character assassination perpetuated by Michael Avenatti, we deserve our fate,” he said in Wednesday’s statement.

Graham also questioned why Swetnick — who in a sworn affidavit said she attended at least 10 parties with Kavanaugh and Judge in which she witnessed their troubling behavior — would keep going to the parties and, if there was “gang rape” occurring, not say anything.

“Why would any person continue to put their friends and themselves in danger?” he asked. “Isn’t there some duty to warn others?”

Graham has been one of Kavanaugh’s most vocal defenders in the Senate, on Twitter, and on television, pushing back on calls to slow the nomination process and forcefully echoing Kavanaugh’s denials.

In an interview on Fox News Sunday over the weekend, before Ramirez’s and Swetnick’s allegations came to light, Graham, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he wanted to listen to Ford and felt “sorry for her” for being “used” by Democrats — but that he still planned to vote for Kavanaugh. “Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this,” he said.

The judiciary committee is slated to hear testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh on Thursday.

Lindsey Graham isn’t the only one backing Kavanaugh

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, seemed to open the door to the possibility of a second hearing for Kavanaugh after the latest allegations came to light, according to the Washington Examiner. “We’re going to take this step-by-step, and you’ll have to ask me that question Thursday night,” he said when asked about a potential second hearing.

Grassley’s office has said that committee lawyers are in the process of reviewing Swetnick’s allegations, but the Iowa Republican emphasized that the attention is on Swetnick, not Avenatti, and then alluded to his ties to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

“It seems to me he wants to protect people that are involved in pornography and that he’s running for president,” Grassley said.

This isn’t the first time Republicans have tried to dismiss Avenatti over his ties to Daniels, whose work is completely legal. During an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News earlier this month, a chyron on the screen read, “Creepy porn lawyer toying with 2020 run.”

President Trump, who has up to now largely ignored Avenatti publicly, also invoked the lawyer’s involvement with Daniels in his reaction to Swetnick’s claims. In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump called Avenatti “a third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh.” Trump said Avenatti is “just looking for attention.”

Avenatti is representing Daniels in her legal battles with Trump and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, over their $130,000 payout to silence her from talking about Trump’s alleged affair.

According to the White House press pool, when Trump was asked about the latest allegations during a meeting at the United Nations General Assembly, he said the situation was “ridiculous” and “a con game.” He called Avenatti a “low-life.”

After Swetnick’s allegations came to light, the White House released a statement from Kavanaugh in which he called the new allegations “ridiculous” and “from the Twilight Zone.”

“I don’t know who this is and this never happened,” he said.

All 10 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have called for Trump to “immediately withdraw” Kavanaugh’s nomination or direct the FBI to reopen its background investigation into him. Thus far, Republicans appear determined to barrel ahead.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.