UPDATE: The Department of Justice is not commenting on whether prosecution of Avenatti and Swetnik will be pursued.
Infamous porn lawyer Michael Avenatti and his client Julie Swetnik have been referred for criminal prosecution after making a series of false claims to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"While the Committee was in the middle of its extensive investigation of the late-breaking sexual-assault allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Avenatti publicized his client’s allegations of drug- and alcohol-fueled gang rapes in the 1980s," Chairman Chuck Grassley's office released in a statement Thursday. "The obvious, subsequent contradictions along with the suspicious timing of the allegations necessitate a criminal investigation by the Justice Department."
Avenatti and Swetnik are being referred for the federal criminal offenses of conspiracy, false statements and obstruction of Congress. The recommended charges are detailed in a 29-page letter issued by the Committee.
After issuing a sworn statement to the Committee, Swetnik changed her story dramatically during an interview with NBC News. Avenatti also contradicted the claims.
“When a well-meaning citizen comes forward with information relevant to the committee’s work, I take it seriously. It takes courage to come forward, especially with allegations of sexual misconduct or personal trauma. I’m grateful for those who find that courage,” Grassley said in a statement. “But in the heat of partisan moments, some do try to knowingly mislead the committee. That’s unfair to my colleagues, the nominees and others providing information who are seeking the truth. It stifles our ability to work on legitimate lines of inquiry. It also wastes time and resources for destructive reasons. Thankfully, the law prohibits such false statements to Congress and obstruction of congressional committee investigations. For the law to work, we can’t just brush aside potential violations. I don’t take lightly making a referral of this nature, but ignoring this behavior will just invite more of it in the future.”
In September, Grassley referred an unnamed man for criminal prosecution after he made false statements to the Committee by accusing then Judge Brett Kavanaugh of assault on a boat in Rhode Island. After the man made the claim, he issued a full retraction.