Thursday, September 27, 2018

Unraveling The Smear Campaign Against Brett Kavanaugh: Considering the Claims of Julie Swetnick

"A federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure. That is the kind of judge I am and will always be. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. This effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out....the truth is that I have never sexually assaulted anyone—not in high school, not in college, not ever." - Judge Brett Kavanaugh, September 26, 2018

Exploiting Survivors 

Judge Kavanaugh is up for confirmation to the Supreme Court. As we enter the last few days before the vote takes place, political operatives are trying to destroy his reputation by bringing a series of false sexual assault accusations before a national audience.

As those who are watching this spectacle increasingly understand, the aim of Kavanaugh's opponents is not to ensure a better Supreme Court justice is confirmed, but rather to bring the Trump presidency to a grinding halt--sowing chaos, confusion, hatred and fear all along the way.

As a victims' rights advocate, it is painful to challenge the accounts of women who say they were abused by a wealthy, connected young man. It's even more painful as I recognize that  "the underreporting of rape represents one of the most persistent patterns in law enforcement." I don't want to do anything to make that problem worse.

Nevertheless, hanging an innocent man as a kind of sacrifice to the pain that abuse victims feel does not serve the cause of justice. Instead, it creates needless psychological trauma, destroys families, and burdens the courts with cases that should not be tried. From the perspective of recruiting judges with integrity, firing-by-allegation deters otherwise highly qualified candidates from wanting to pursue a career in public service in the first place.

A Burn-It-All-Down Mindset

In reviewing these allegations with a critical eye, I was committed to being open to the possibility that they were true. As this seemed more and more a distant possibility, I shared my conclusions. And while one would think that people with different ways of looking at the world could agree on a rational discussion of the issues, this has not turned out to be the case.

Rather, rational refutation has led only to more frantic and desperate attempts to paint Judge Kavanaugh as a belligerent, abusive drunk.

The Playbook of Destruction

The pattern has persisted. Just as soon as the first alleged victim's story fell apart, a second appeared; when that turned into a "standoff" (because of the notion that the FBI should somehow invent an investigation of such claims at the last minute), a third came forward. When too many questions arose about that one, "coincidentally" yet more wild-eyed last-minute tales were told, which Kavanaugh also flat-out repudiates.

Given all of this, one is forced to conclude that a larger strategy is at work here. The goal is not to seriously consider Judge Kavanaugh's past conduct and attitudes toward women, but rather to trigger all women into hating him as a kind of proxy for the real abusers who have inflicted so much pain and gotten away with it.

The idea, from a public relations point of view, is to repeat the message over and over that "Kavanaugh is an abuser." As a result, his opponents believe, his candidacy will eventually become politically untenable, because the public will have the impression that "at least one of these women must be telling the truth."

Refusal to Back Down

Despite all the pressure, Judge Kavanaugh is steadfast:
"There has been a frenzy to come up with something—anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious—that will block a vote on my nomination. These are last minute smears, pure and simple."
 After watching his interview with FOX News, body language expert Lillian Glass told The Boston Globe: "I did not see one single sign of deception." Another anonymous but well-known expert, known popularly as "Bombard's Body Language," called his reaction to the allegations "pure irritation" at having to deal with these false claims.

Julie Swetnick's Claims

Attorney Michael Avenatti represents Julie Swetnick, who says she observed Judge Kavanaugh behaving in a sexually aggressive manner around the time period that Christine Forward says he attacked her. Specifically, Swetnick claims:
  • "On numerous occasions at these parties, I witnessed Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively and engage in highly inappropriate conduct, including being overly aggressive with girls and not taking 'No' for an answer. This conduct included the fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent."
  • "I observed Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively at many of these parties and engage in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls, including pressing girls against him without their consent, 'grinding' against girls, and attempting to remove or shift girls' clothing to expose private body parts. I likewise observed him be verbally abusive towards girls by making crude sexual comments to them that were designed to demean, humiliate and embarrass them. I often witnessed Brett Kavanaugh speak in a demeaning manner about girls in general as well as specific girls by name. I also witnessed Brett Kavanaugh behave as a 'mean drunk' on many occasions."
  • "During the years 1981-82, I became aware of efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to 'spike' the 'punch' at house parties I attended with drugs and/or grain alcohol so as to cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say 'No.'"
  • "I also witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could be 'gang raped' in a side room or bedroom by a 'train' of numerous boys. I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their 'turn' with a girl inside the room. These boys included...Brett Kavanaugh.
  • "In approximately 1982, I became a victim of one of these 'gang' or 'train' rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present."
Reading this, here are the thoughts that come to my mind with regard to the believability of the claims on their face:
  • Embarrassing, gray-area teenage parties are not a reason to punish someone for sexual assault 35+ years after the fact. Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, at The New Yorker, reported on September 23 that Elizabeth Rasor, a college girlfriend of Mark Judge, "recalled that Judge had told her ashamedly of an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman. Rasor said that Judge seemed to regard it as fully consensual." Rasor added that Kavanaugh's name never came up.  
  • Swetnick lumps Judge and Kavanaugh together in several mentions, even though the statement is supposed to be about Kavanaugh alone. 
  • In the context of a teen high school party where alcohol is being consumed liberally, and boys and girls are getting together for sexual purposes, it is to be expected that the boys will engage in "fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent," "pressing girls against him without their consent," "'grinding' against girls," and "attempting to remove or shift girls' clothing to expose private body parts." Nobody signs a consent form before engaging in such teenage behaviors. 
  • It is not consistent with what I have observed of Kavanaugh's demeanor that he was "verbally abusive towards girls by making crude sexual comments to them that were designed to demean, humiliate and embarrass them." Neither is it believable that he would "speak in a demeaning manner about girls in general as well as specific girls by name." If anything Kavanaugh seems overly restrained in his commitment to politeness.
  • I find it believable that Kavanaugh would lose his restraint and "behave as a 'mean drunk'" because when people are drunk they lose their inhibitions. That said, the New York Times could not find anyone to corroborate the story that Swetnick knew Kavanaugh so it is unclear how she would observe this "on many occasions." Further, per the Times, Swetnick's lawyer "declined to make her available for an interview," which is curious since he clearly wants to help her get her story out. 
  • Even if Swetnick did know Kavanaugh, the claim about drugging the punch at house parties with actual pills is not credible. These were students from elite schools who would have a lot invested in not going to jail.
  • The claim about the boys spiking the drinks to get the girls too drunk to consent is not credible. Both the boys at Georgetown Prep and the girls at Holton Arms looked forward to getting "pass-out" drunk on alcohol. 
Screen shot from Holton Arms yearbook
  • The claim about Judge, Kavanaugh and others trying to get girls to have group sex in an "inebriated and disoriented" state cannot be assessed. In my view, it is likely that the students went to the parties knowing that they might engage in such activities, and it is also likely that some students were victimized and exploited in the process, due to peer pressure or abusive classmates. It is not clear why the term 'gang raped' appears in quotes. 
  • I find it non-credible that Swetnick knows whether Kavanaugh waited to "gang rape" someone or that he was in the room while she was being gang-raped. It is possible that Kavanaugh participated in group sex, but it has not been established that Swetnick knew Kavanaugh, so my question is how would she know that? Additionally, if Swetnick attended so many parties where she saw boys trying to get girls too drunk to consent, why would she continue to attend them, to the point where she then became a victim?

Key Discrepancies

An anonymous person posting to 4Chan shared research showing that Swetnick may not have attended Gaithersburg High School. Indeed, what is available is inconsistent.

On, several different variations of her name were added just on the 26th (when her lawyer broke the allegations), in 1980 and 1981.

Swetnick's name is not in another database listing students at the school.

She is also not in the yearbook. See the "people tagged" section on the left hand side of the graphic. 

Further, the statement refers to Swetnick's work "with" the Federal government, implying that she is a civil servant; the New York Post called her a "decorated U.S. government employee." However, her resume indicates that she was a contractor

To verify this, I searched, a public listing of federal employees. Unless she is in there under another name, it showed no result for "Julie Swetnick" for any of the years the database has information, 2004-2017. 

Implausible Coincidences

Here's another problem: Swetnick was previously represented in a sexual harassment lawsuit by the law firm "run by" Debra Katz, the attorney for the first accuser. As Rebecca Ballhaus noted today, per her article with Aruna Viswanatha in the Wall Street Journal:
"New: A decade ago, Julie Swetnick made a sexual harassment complaint against her former employer, New York Life Insurance. Representing her was the firm run by Debra Katz, who now reps Christine Blasey Ford. She was ultimately paid a financial settlement."

A Key Concern About Credibility

Swetnick claims to be a victim, but multiple news outlets reported that her ex-boyfriend filed a restraining order against her. The ex-boyfriend told POLITICO: “Right after I broke up with her, she was threatening my family, threatening my wife and threatening to do harm to my baby at that time....She’s not credible at all. Not at all.”

Big League Politics found that Swetnick has financial issues. The implicit question is whether those issues somehow prompted her to make this statement about Kavanaugh. (I find it hard to believe that she manufactured this story out of whole cloth.)

Clinton-Soros Takedown Plot?

Judge Kavanaugh played a key role in the Independent Counsel investigation of then-President Clinton, with records spanning a four-year time period from 1994-1998. The connection prompted the Boston Globe to remark that the painful confirmation process "must be putting a smile on Bill Clinton’s face."

George Soros financially supports the anti-Kavanaugh effort, notes the Daily Caller. Through his Open Society Policy Center, Soros partially funds "Demand Justice," which has "vowed to put $5 million dollars behind a multi-platform effort to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation." 

Per its 2016 Annual Report, Soros also provided more than $50,000 of funding in 2016 to the Project for Government Oversight, where Debra Katz serves as Vice Chair of its Board. 

Meanwhile, Ricki Seidman, Senior Principal at TSD Communications, was a Clinton White House adviser (and worked for the Obama campaign as well, supporting Vice President Joe Biden), and her firm lists George Soros as a client.

Consider All Sides

The public benefits greatly from robust, logical inquiry and fact-based debate over the issues that matter. We are harmed when public discourse is deliberately slanted to favor a particular point of view. Hopefully this post has contributed in a productive way to the consideration of Judge Kavanaugh for appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States, one of the most important jobs we can possibly fill as a Nation.

God bless America. 

May God bless everybody involved in this painful situation with a swift resolution and a restoration to normal life, unblemished by public discord.
Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post and my associated Tweets are hereby released into the public domain.