Avenatti orchestrates coverage while unveiling third Kavanaugh accuser

Michael Avenatti managed to make it all about him.

What a shock.

The way he handled the third accuser against Brett Kavanaugh yesterday undercut his client and damaged her case. By teasing this on Twitter, by not making Julie Swetnick available, and by phoning into talk shows instead, Avenatti turned the whole thing into a spectacle.

Kavanaugh quickly shot back that he doesn't even know the woman: "This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone." And President Trump, calling it a "disgrace," took aim at the attorney, calling Avenatti "a lowlife."

Now I'm not prejudging Swetnick's allegations, and no one else should, either. Her affidavit is quite chilling. But it does raise certain questions that he hasn't answered.

Unlike Christine Ford, who wrote to members of Congress, Swetnick has spoken only through Avenatti. Unlike Deborah Ramirez, who spoke to the New Yorker, which acknowledged issues with her account, Swetnick hasn't talked to a journalist or any outside investigator.

Swetnick, who has a security clearance and worked for Treasury and the IRS, makes a series of stunning charges in her declaration.

She says she saw Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge at numerous house parties in the early 1980s, where she says the Supreme Court nominee engaged in "abusive behavior." Swetnick says Kavanaugh drank excessively, made "crude sexual comments," and engaged in "fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent ... grinding against girls, attempting to remove or shift their clothing to expose private body parts."

She says Kavanaugh and Judge spiked the punch with alcohol and drugs, and recalled seeing them among boys lined up "waiting for their 'turn' with a girl inside the room."

And then she gets to her own alleged assault, saying she was incapacitated without her consent, "unable to fight off boys raping me." Swetnick says Kavanaugh and Judge were present during this alleged gang rape but does not say they participated.

She also says she told at least two people about this shortly afterward but does not name them. If Avenatti had corroborating statements from them, I'm sure he would have released them.

What I, or any other journalist, would ask Swetnick:

If girls were being groped, drugged, verbally abused and even raped by Kavanaugh and his friends at these parties, why did you keep going to them?

And since such horrendous conduct would have been witnessed by many students at these house parties, why has no one else corroborated either what you say or what Ford has said?

Avenatti succeeded in one respect, generating intensive coverage of Swetnick's account. And it will obviously be brought up at today's Judiciary Committee hearing, which originally was going to be devoted to just the two witnesses, Christine Ford and Brett Kavanaugh.

The fact that there are now three accusers could be seen as bolstering the case against Kavanaugh. But I suspect it's having the opposite effect, coming at the last minute: conflating all the claims (even involving his yearbook) and neutralizing the strongest allegations by making them seem part of a giant pile-on.

I do think the Senate Republicans made a tactical misstep by announcing the vote on Kavanaugh would be Friday. That made it sound like they're just going through the motions with today's hearing and will vote to confirm the judge regardless of what Ford says.

As the pols and pundits continue their partisan attacks — either saying he's a liar or the women are lying — it almost seems like the details no longer matter, only who's got the political muscle.