Democratic Michigan Senator Gary Peters faulted anti-Trump lawyer Michael Avenatti Sunday, saying that his forwarding of a dubious sexual assault allegation against Justice Brett Kavanaugh was ultimately not helpful.
Avenatti's client Julie Swetnick initially claimed that when she attended high school parties with Brett Kavanaugh, she watched the Trump Supreme Court nominee spike punch with alcohol for the intention of partaking in gang rape. She also claimed on multiple occasions she saw Kavanaugh lined up outside a room as part of a "train" to rape women.
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At first Senate Democrats embraced the allegation, saying the FBI should investigate "all credible allegations" including "claims brought forward by Julie Swetnick."
But not long afterwards, Swetnick walked back her claims, now saying she could no longer say for sure she watched Kavanaugh spike punch. "I saw him around the punch…" she told NBC News. "I don’t know what he did, but I saw him by them." She also backtracked on the "train" claims, saying she merely saw boys "congregated" and "I didn't know what was occurring."
Many Republican senators, such as swing voter Sen. Susan Collins, cited the absurdity of the Swetnick allegation to help justify their support of Kavanaugh. "This outlandish allegation was put forth without any credible supporting evidence," Collins said in a Friday speech. "That such an allegation can find its way into the Supreme Court confirmation process is a stark reminder about why the presumption of innocence is so ingrained in our American consciousness."
When CNN asked several Senate Democrats and their aides about the Swetnick in the wake of Kavanaugh's close confirmation, they were open about the fact that it harmed their case.
"Well you know at some point there were a lot of folks coming forward making all sorts of accusations," Peters told CNN. "It turns it into a circus atmosphere and certainly that's not where we should be."
"I think we should have focused on the serious allegations that certainly appeared very credible to me that would be our best course of action," he continued.
Another anonymous Democratic Senator agreed, telling CNN that the allegation was "not helpful at all. I think Susan was always yes, but Avenatti was a useful foil."
"Democrats and the country would have been better off if Mr. Avenatti spent his time on his Iowa vanity project rather than meddling in Supreme Court fights," an anonymous Senate Democratic aide said. "His involvement set us back, absolutely."