As he angrily denied allegations of sexual misconduct on Thursday, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said some accusations — including one stemming from Rhode Island — were “last-minute smears” that had destroyed his family and his good name.
“Crazy stuff. Gangs, illegitimate children, fights on boats in Rhode Island,” Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. “All nonsense. Reported breathlessly and often uncritically by the media.”
Now, the groundless accusation a Rhode Island man made against Kavanaugh of a sexual assault in Newport has been recanted, but it still won’t go away as the Senate grapples with truth and lies in the Supreme Court confirmation process.
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, on Saturday referred the case to the Department of Justice for potential criminal investigation of the Rhode Island man who made the allegation. It’s illegal to make false statements to congressional investigators, or to obstruct their investigations, Grassley said in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The Rhode Island senator who first flagged the issue for the committee, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, said it’s his constituent — a “regular guy” — who is owed an apology.
“They’re trying to throw him under the bus, I think as a demonstration that other people who come forward will be treated very roughly,” Whitehouse told reporters after Joe Biden’s visit to the Rhode Island Convention Center on Sunday.
Before the Rhode Island man came forward, Kavanaugh had been accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault at a gathering in suburban Maryland in 1982, when they were in high school. Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate, has also accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Ramirez said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, but after prodding from Democrats and a request from Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, the FBI is now doing a weeklong, limited-scope investigation of credible claims against Kavanaugh — and has reportedly reached out to Ramirez.
Some claims are not believed to be credible: The Rhode Island man — who, based on details from his Twitter account, has been identified as Jeffrey Catalan, of Tiverton — contacted Whitehouse’s office last week about a sexual assault of a female friend that he said had occurred in 1985, in Newport. A fight then ensued, leaving the assailant with significant injuries, according to the man.
Whitehouse also alerted the FBI and gave a reporter’s contact information to Catalan, according to a letter from Whitehouse released by the committee. He did so at the constituent’s request, a spokesman for Whitehouse said Monday. No media reports ever came out of it, Whitehouse said. A spokesman for Whitehouse would not identify the constituent.
Republican committee staff asked Kavanaugh about the Catalan allegation the next day, and he said it was simply not true. The committee released transcripts of the interview and redacted the man’s name.
Catalan could not be reached for comment.
Whitehouse, talking to reporters on Sunday, called it a “very unfortunate situation,” and said he was not the one who “outed” the man or his allegations.
“This is a stunt pulled by Republican committee staff,” Whitehouse said. “I hope when things calm down a little bit, there will be appropriate apologies made to our constituent.”
Whitehouse’s Republican rival in the upcoming Nov. 6 election, former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders, called Whitehouse’s conduct “completely irresponsible.”
“By referring that constituent to a reporter, Senator Whitehouse showed that he was more interested in fomenting a media feeding frenzy than in ascertaining the veracity or credibility of the allegation,” Flanders said. “Indeed, within hours of Senator Whitehouse referring his constituent to a reporter, the same constituent recanted his allegations about Judge Kavanaugh. This type of partisan hatchet work indicates that Sheldon Whitehouse cares more about stopping the elevation of Judge Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court than he does about fundamental fairness, due process, and the integrity of the United States Senate.”