ISSUES

Michael Avenatti Arrested for Domestic Violence

The outspoken anti-Trump lawyer is in custody for Domestic Violence against an unidentified woman.

Anti-Trump lawyer Michael Avenatti, best known for representing Stormy Daniels and Brett Kavanaugh-accuser Julie Swetnick, was arrested Wednesday after a felony report of Domestic Violence was filed by an unknown woman.

The incident allegedly took place Tuesday night, with another altercation occurring on Wednesday at a Century City apartment in the L.A. area. The woman in question was reported to be visibly upset and declaring, "I'm going to get a restraining order against you." Her face was "swollen and bruised" with "red marks" when building security escorted her to another area of the building and denied Avenatti access. TMZ reports that a source in law enforcement revealed that the lawyer "kicked her out of the apartment" on Tuesday, and the altercation in the building occurred on Wednesday when she attempted to retrieve her belongings.


After the police intervened, they arrested him over his protests, "She hit me first." He said angrily, "This is bullsh*t, this is f**king bullshit." As of Wednesday night, Avenatti is still in custody.
POLITICS

Key Republicans on Senate Judiciary Committee Condemn Trump's Remarks as Investigation Closes

"To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right," said Arizona senator Jeff Flake.

Lisa Murkowski (AK), called the president's remarks "wholly inappropriate, and, in my view, unacceptable."

The three Senate Republicans holding key swing votes on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination spoke out on Wednesday against comments the president made at a political rally in Mississippi the night before. "The president's comments are just plain wrong," said Susan Collins (ME).

"To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right," said Jeff Flake (AZ).

At the rally, Trump questioned the credibility of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified in front of the Committee last week that Kavanaugh forced himself on her, groped her, and attempted to silence her cries for help when they were teenagers. Mockingly reenacting the questioning, he said, "How did you get home? 'I don't remember.' How did you get there? 'I don't remember.' Where was the place? 'I don't remember.'"

The president's comments are a far cry from the days immediately after Ford's testimony, during which he called her "a very credible witness," and her testimony "very compelling." When asked by the Committee how sure she was that her assailant was Kavanaugh, Ford answered, "100%." Kavanaugh has denied all allegations.

The president then turned his attention to Kavanaugh, echoing the judge's own testimony that the accusations have "destroyed [his] family and good name," claiming, "A man's life is in tatters" and calling the Democratic party's attempts to investigate Ford's claims a smear campaign. President Trump has been vocal about the need for due process, lamenting that the criminal justice system has become one in which someone is "guilty until proven innocent." Rally attendees were enthusiastic about the president's remarks, despite having repeated their 2016 campaign battle cry, "Lock her up," hours earlier.

Ford isn't the only woman who's accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Julie Swetnick alleged that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, who Ford claims to have been present during her assault, were among a group of friends who would target and drug girls at parties and take turns having sex with them. While Swetnick does not accuse Kavanaugh of participating in her own gang rape, she claims that he was at the party where it happened. Deborah Ramirez, in an interview with The New Yorker, said that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when they both attended Yale.

In her opening statement, Ford noted that she was " terrified" to testify before the committee, despite having passed a polygraph test administered by the FBI. Still, both the president, Judge Kavanaugh, and many members of the GOP have dismissed Ford's accusations as false, despite the fact that false rape allegations are very rare.

Collins, Murkowski, and Flake have remained publicly undecided on whether they will vote to confirm Kavanaugh, though Flake called for an expanded background investigation of the nominee and the allegations against him. Controlled closely by the White House, the investigation was closed on Wednesday evening. A single copy of the investigation report was made available to Senate Judiciary Committee members on Thursday morning, and Collins and Flake have said that they were satisfied with the result. However, the FBI never contacted a number of potential sources and character witnesses who may have been able to corroborate such claims. While the agency did speak with Ramirez, they did not follow up with the roughly 20 people whom she said could provide more information. Over 40 people have contacted the agency to offer testimony, including Swetnick and Kerry Bercham, a former roommate of Ramirez's, but federal investigators never responded.

After the investigation was closed, majority leader Mitch McConnell filed a motion to cloture Kavanaugh's nomination, restricting the amount of time to debate before a floor vote to 30 hours and ensuring that a vote will take place this week.


Rebecca Linde is a writer and cultural critic in NYC. She tweets about pop culture and television @rklinde.

POLITICS

Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford Trade Emotional Testimonies

Brett Kavanaugh lacks restraint before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Brett Kavanaugh's open hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee commenced on Thursday.

Christine Blasey Ford, the first of three women to lodge allegations of sexual assault and/or misconduct against Kavanaugh, began testifying at 10 a.m. Republican Senators called upon prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to lead the questioning, hoping to eschew what would have been an imbalanced dynamic if 11 male Senators were to freely question Ford, a female alleging sexual assault by a man. All senators retained the right to interject their own questioning.

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POLITICS

3rd Kavanaugh Accuser Comes Forward Before Trial

According to Michael Avenatti, Brett Kavanaugh's assault of Christine Blasey Ford is just the tip of the iceberg.

The controversy surrounding Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh escalated after a third accuser alleged that the Supreme Court nominee took part in "gang rape" activities while in high school. Julie Swetnick, Washington resident and high school classmate of Kavanaugh, issued a sworn affidavit through her attorney Michael Avenatti alleging that she witnessed "Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively and engage in highly inappropriate conduct, including being overly aggressive with girls and not taking 'No' for an answer. This conduct included the fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent."

The three-page statement enumerates graphic details of inappropriate conduct by Kavanaugh between 1981 and 1982. Swetnick recollects her general impressions of Kavanaugh at the time as a "mean drunk," recalling behaviors including "speak[ing] in a demeaning manner about girls in general as well as specific girls by name." The central grievance of the new allegations, however, detail specific "efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to 'spike' the 'punch' at house parties I attended with drugs and/or grain alcohol so as to cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say 'No.'"

Swetnick asserts, "I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their 'turn' with a girl inside the room. These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh." Unlike Kavanaugh's other accusers, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, Swetnick is not directly accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Rather, she recounts that she did become a "victim of one of these 'gang' or 'train' rapes" in 1982, at which time Kavanaugh and Mike Judge were "present." She reports being "incapacitated" by "Quaaludes or something similar placed in what I was drinking" and "unable to fight off the boys."

Kavanaugh outright rejects the new allegations, stating, "This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone. I don't know who this is and this never happened."

President Donald Trump weighed in on the third allegation on Twitter with an ad hominem attack on Avenatti, calling the attorney, oft-noted for representing Stormy Daniels, a "lowlife" who is "just looking for attention."

Avenatti responded with a spirited defense of Swetnick as a "sexual assault victim" who "risked her life to do the right thing."

Officially, Avenatti has demanded that both the F.B.I. and Senate Judiciary Committee investigate the veracity of Swetnick's claims. One of Kavanaugh's attorneys, Beth Wilkinson, criticized Avenatti when speaking to CNN, "There must be a reason, as a lawyer, that he didn't take these allegations to the police himself," she said. "No one is stopping him."

These new allegations were released one day before Judge Kavanaugh is due in court to address sexual assault accusations by Christine Blasey Ford, who's due to testify against Kavanaugh in an open hearing on Thursday at 10 a.m. A third accuser is sure to heighten the stakes of how Ford's testimony will be received, as Ford is poised to set a powerful precedent for how Kavanaugh's other accusers can affect the appointment of the next Supreme Court Judge.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

POLITICS

Brett Kavanaugh and the Quiet Coup

Amidst the chaos of confirmation, the real force behind right-wing policy is going unnoticed

When a storm hits, it can be difficult to remember everything that came before. After the revelations of the past week regarding allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, the relative calm that was the previous months of the confirmation process seem like hazy half-memories. Yet, in light of where the political gaze of the nation now finds itself directed, perhaps it's time to ask, in the spirit of The Talking Heads, "How did we get here?" How did a man accused of sexual assault end up receiving a lifetime nomination to one of the most powerful institutions in America? Answering that question will require traversing the interconnected and exclusive ranges of the right-wing political machinery, where dark money and faceless groups lay their hands on the scales of our civic life. Yet, in the end, the question of how we got here is one with a relatively simple answer and one that strikes at the heart of a vast range of the illnesses that seem to be ravaging the body politic. We are here, and we are here with Brett Kavanaugh because a small group of wealthy people wanted us to be.

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