The Slatest

Sen. Grassley Wants Feds to Prosecute Random Guy in Rhode Island for Making False Statement

Chuck Grassley and Orrin hatch in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (right) and Sen. Orrin Hatch during Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing last week.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

The Senate Judiciary Committee takes very seriously when people lie to it. That’s why it referred a man in Rhode Island who told committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse “that in August of 1985, Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a close acquaintance of Mr. [redacted] on a boat in the harbor at Newport, Rhode Island,” for prosecution by the feds.

You may think that Whitehouse, who received the original tip, was outraged about being lied to and brought forward the referral to committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley. But no, it was Grassley, who said in the letter that Kavanaugh had “categorically denied” the claim and that the original tipster had recanted it on social media after the committee released portions of its interview with Kavanaugh last week. Grassley made the referral in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray on Saturday.

“When individuals provide fabricated allegations to the Committee, diverting Committee resources during time-sensitive investigations, it materially impedes our 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,” Grassley said in his letter.

Whitehouse’s spokesman told CNN on Sunday that Grassley’s referral was “meritless” and that the “deliberate outing” of the tipster and the referral itself was “causing a cascade of abuse” and was “meant as a threat to discourage the cooperation of others with the FBI investigation.”

Earlier last week, Whitehouse said in a letter that he had asked the committee staff not to reveal the accuser’s name to Kavanugh in its interview. The committee staff revealed the name anyway, Whitehouse said, and what’s more, they asked Kavanaugh about “unrelated statements on the constituent’s social media account.”

“I was not in Newport, haven’t been on a boat in Newport. Not with Mark Judge on a boat, nor all those three things combined,” Kavanaugh said in his interview with committee staff members. “This is just completely made up, or at least not me. I don’t know what they’re referring to.”

The staffers then said the tipster “appears to have a Twitter account … [that] identifies the account holder as a ‘hippie … from Rhode Island’ ” and asked Kavanaugh, “Are you aware that on June 27th of this year, the account tweeted, ‘A question, when will the United States military decided to do what they have vowed and remove the domestic threat to the Constitution that lives in the White House?’ “

Whitehouse said in the letter last week, “it is not clear what legitimate investigative purpose this served and raises additional concerns that the steps being taken by your staff have been driven by political interests.”

Before Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford testified last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a range of documents from its investigation, including two further claims of Kavanugh assaulting unknown victims, which some people saw as an effort to muddy the water around the claims by Ford and Deborah Ramirez. That same night, the man who called in the Rhode Island tip recanted his accusation on Twitter.