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Senators Follow Up With DOJ: What Happened to Our Criminal Referrals for People Who Lied About Kavanaugh?

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Last year then Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley referred a number of individuals to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution after they lied to congressional investigators about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Two of those individuals were Julie Swetnick and disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti. 

"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," Grassley's office released on October 25, 2018. "The obvious, subsequent contradictions along with the suspicious timing of the allegations necessitate a criminal investigation by the Justice Department."

Now Grassley, in addition to a number of Republican Senators, has sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Bill Barr asking for an update on the status of the referrals and whether the individuals who lied under oath will face consequences. 

"A full year has passed since the Judiciary Committee completed its investigation into allegations of decades-old misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh in the course of its consideration of his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.  During its investigation, the Committee interviewed numerous individuals claiming to have relevant information.  While most of those individuals appear to have contacted the Committee in good faith, some did not.  The Committee referred four individuals to the DOJ and FBI for investigation of potential violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 (materially false statements) and 1505 (obstruction), for false statements made to the Committee during the course of its investigation.  It also referred two of those same individuals for potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy).  We seek information about what actions DOJ and FBI are taking in response to these referrals," the letter states. 

 "These criminal referrals were not made lightly.  In each of the aforementioned cases, the referred individual(s) made false allegations against then-Judge Kavanaugh.  These allegations were taken seriously and carefully investigated by Committee staff, resulting in the diversion of significant resources," it continues. 

The letter details four specific referrals made to the Department and stresses the importance of accountability for violations in order to prevent false allegations in the future. The Senators also argue consequences are necessary to protect the confirmation process. It was signed by Grassley, current Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, John Cornyn, Mike Crapo, Thom Tillis and John Kennedy. 

"As the Committee stressed in each of the referrals issued during and after the investigation into allegations against then-Judge Kavanaugh, investigations in support of the judicial nomination process are an essential part of the constitutional role in confirming judges.  As Committee members, we are grateful to citizens who come forward with relevant information in good faith, even if they are not entirely sure about the accuracy of that information.  But, when individuals intentionally mislead the Committee, they divert important Committee resources during time-sensitive investigations and materially impede its work. Such acts are not only unfair; they are potentially illegal.  It is illegal to make materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements to Congressional investigators.  It is illegal to obstruct Committee investigations," the letter states. 

"It is important to protect the constitutional process from being hijacked by bad actors involved in insidious partisan operations.  The Committee can bring bad actors to the attention of law enforcement and the American people by being as transparent as possible about its investigative findings.  However, it is up to the FBI and the Justice Department to hold those who mislead Congress accountable for the criminal aspects of their behavior," it continues. 

The Senators reminded Barr and Wray that the Department has prosecuted individuals in the past for lying under oath, including Martha Stewart, Rod Blagojevich, Scooter Libby and others. They have asked for a response by October 21. 

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