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Michael Avenatti’s next move is unclear after Senate agrees to Kavanaugh FBI investigation

Avenatti says if his client isn’t part of the FBI probe, he’ll take his case to the American public.

Lawyer Michael Avenatti outside of a California court in September 2018.
Lawyer Michael Avenatti outside of a California court in September 2018.
Photo by Mario Tama/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.

Since Michael Avenatti and his client Julie Swetnick, who claims she witnessed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assault girls in high school and says he was at a party where she was gang raped, came forward, they have insisted they want an FBI investigation into her claims. Now the FBI is probing “credible allegations” against Kavanaugh — but that appears to leave out Avenatti and his client.

The Senate on Friday agreed to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote to allow the bureau to conduct a “supplemental FBI background investigation” into “current credible allegations” against him. The move came after Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing heavily implied, but did not say outright, that he would vote against the nominee on the Senate floor unless a one-week investigation was opened.

On Thursday, Kavanaugh and Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford testified before the committee about her allegations that he sexually assaulted her in high school. Ford says that while at a party in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh pinned her down, tried to take her clothes off, and put his hand over her mouth as she screamed while one of his friends, Mark Judge, looked on. Kavanaugh vehemently denied Ford’s allegations, and all other allegations of sexual misconduct.

The FBI is probing the claims made by Ford and Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were both drunk at a party in college. But according to reports from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, the agency isn’t reaching out to Swetnick.

What Avenatti’s up to has been a bumpy ride from the start

On Wednesday, Avenatti posted on Twitter a sworn affidavit from Swetnick in which she alleges that Kavanaugh, Judge, and others targeted women with drugs and alcohol to cause them to “lose their inhibitions” so they could be “gang raped” — and says she was a victim of one of these “train” rapes. (She says that Judge and Kavanaugh were present when she was raped but does not accuse them of participating.)

But even before she was named, Avenatti has been tweeting about Swetnick’s claims — and insisting that she sit down with the FBI to tell her story. As the Judiciary Committee was preparing to vote on advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday, Avenatti tweeted he and Swetnick would “thoroughly enjoy embarrassing” Republican members of the panel over the weekend “when her story is told and is deemed credible.” He added that he doesn’t “traffic in nonsense.”

Avenatti’s threat was contingent on the committee advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination, which it did, but with the stipulation of the week-long FBI investigation. It’s not clear whether that’s appeased the combative lawyer, or whether his client will be involved. After Flake’s request became public, Avenatti tweeted another email he sent Friday afternoon reiterating his request that Swetnick be able to speak to the FBI. Over the weekend, he continued to tweet that he was “still waiting for a response” to his email to the judiciary committee and for the FBI to contact Swetnick.

Republicans have been swift to dismiss Avenatti and his claims, using the fact that he also represents Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claims she had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006, to discredit him. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Wednesday characterized him as a “lawyer to porn stars,” and Sen. Chuck Grassley said that Avenatti “wants to protect people that are involved in pornography and that he’s running for president.”

Trump himself has also responded to Avenatti, calling him a “third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations” in a tweet.

Whether Avenatti and his client have more to say — or whether they’ll take part in the FBI’s Kavanaugh investigation — remains to be seen. At the moment, Avenatti appears to be getting at least part of what he’s wanted, including for Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend, to cooperate with the FBI.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s AM Joy on Saturday, Avenatti said that if the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans try to “hide” his clients and witnesses and they aren’t included in the FBI investigation, he’ll keep pushing. “Then we’re going to take our case to the American public,” he said, “and we’re going to let them decide who’s telling the truth and who’s lying to them.”

He tweeted later that he and his client had not yet heard from the FBI and called for the bureau’s investigation to have an “unlimited” scope.

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