The Senate investigation into Brett Kavanaugh’s assault allegations contained serious omissions

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A 2018 Senate investigation that found there was “no evidence” to support sexual assault claims against US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh contained serious omissions, according to new information from the Guardian.

The 28-page report was published by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It prominently featured an unsubstantiated and uncorroborated claim that one of Kavanaugh’s accusers — a Yale grad named Deborah Ramirez — was “probably” wrong when she claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm party because another Yale student allegedly did known for such acts.

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According to an unredacted copy of a 2018 email obtained by the Guardian, the suggestion that Kavanaugh was the victim of mistaken identity was sent to the Judiciary Committee by a Colorado-based attorney named Joseph C. Smith Jr. Smith was a friend and former colleague of then-Judiciary Committee chief counsel Mike Davis.

Smith was also a member of the Federalist Society, which strongly supported Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, and appears to have a professional relationship with Federalist Society co-founder Leonard Leo, whom he thanked in the acknowledgments for his book Under God: George Washington and the question of church and state.

Smith wrote in the September 29, 2018 email to Davis that he was in a class behind Kavanaugh and Ramirez (who graduated in the class of 1987) and believed Ramirez was probably wrong in identifying Kavanaugh.

Instead, Smith said it was a classmate named Jack Maxey, who was a member of Kavanaugh’s fraternity and allegedly had a “reputation” for self-embarrassment, having once done so at a party. To back up his claim, Smith also included a photo of Maxey baring himself in his fraternity’s 1988 yearbook picture.

The claim that Ramirez was probably wrong was included in the Senate committee’s final report, although Maxey – who was described but not named – was not at Yale at the time of the alleged incident.

In an interview with the Guardian, Maxey confirmed he was still in high school at the time of the alleged incident and said he was never contacted by any of the Republican staffers conducting the investigation.

“I didn’t go to Yale,” he said. “I was a high school graduate then. I haven’t been to New Haven.” He added, “These people can say whatever they want and there are never consequences.”

The revelation raises new questions about apparent efforts to downplay and discredit allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh and to exclude evidence supporting claims made by an alleged victim.

A new documentary – an early version of it premiered at Sundance in January, but will be updated ahead of its release – includes a never-before-seen recording of another Yale grad, Max Stier, describing a separate alleged incident in which he said he saw Kavanaugh stripping himself at a party at Yale .

It has previously reported that Stier wanted to anonymously tell the FBI during the confirmation process that he allegedly witnessed Kavanaugh’s friends hand the future judge’s penis to a classmate at a party. While Republicans on the Senate committee were reportedly alerted to his desire to provide information to the FBI, he was not questioned by the committee’s Republican investigators.

The committee’s final report claimed there was “no verifiable evidence to support” Ramirez’s claim.

It’s not clear how the film’s director, Doug Liman, got hold of the recording or who Stier was talking to when it was recorded.

Stier, the executive director of a nonprofit in Washington who formerly served in the Clinton administration, declined to comment to the Guardian.

He is married to Florence Pan, a prominent judge at the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington. Pan is sitting in the seat vacated by US Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and is considered a possible future US High Court nominee.

Maxey adamantly denied any allegation that he exposed himself to Ramirez at any point. When asked if he had ever visited Yale at the time of the alleged incident, Maxey said he had visited his older brother Christopher, who was a senior student at Yale, on a limited number of occasions when he was a senior in high school was, but that they hadn’t attended any freshman parties.

Maxey, a Republican activist, has gained notoriety in conservative circles for sharing a portable hard drive containing data from Hunter Biden’s laptop with members of the media, including the Washington Post. When reached by the Guardian, Maxey said he was in Europe and claimed he had “just given” the hard drive to Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary.

Related: Ethical no man’s land: Can the US Supreme Court be trusted to police itself?

Maxey said he received the hard drive from Rudy Giuliani. He previously worked as a researcher for Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, but the two have had a falling out ever since.

While Maxey appeared upset in his interview with the Guardian that Smith – who he said he didn’t know or remember interacting with – named him in an accusatory email, he also defended himself separately Kavanaugh acting like a “choirboy” while attending Yale.

Smith’s email arrived in Davis’ inbox six days after the New Yorker first published details of Ramirez’s allegation. In the article, Ramirez described how Kavanaugh allegedly exposed himself while drunk at a dorm party and shoved his penis in her face in such a way that she touched it without her consent to push it away. Ramirez, who was raised a devout Catholic, described feeling shamed, humiliated and embarrassed after the alleged attack and recalled how Kavanaugh allegedly laughed as he pulled up his pants.

Kavanaugh has denied the incident took place.

Ramirez declined to comment through a spokesman.

Smith did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

It’s not clear if Smith, a Denver-based partner at Bartlit Beck, knew Kavanaugh or had a relationship with Kavanaugh while or after they were both undergraduates at Yale, or what prompted him to email Davis what one apparent attempt was to clear Kavanaugh’s suspicions.

According to his online biography, after graduating from Yale, Smith attended law school at the University of Chicago and—like Kavanaugh—was part of the legal team that represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida presidential census.

Redacted emails show that Smith also appears to have shared his allegations against Maxey with federal investigators. While the names of the accuser and the defendant have been redacted, records released by the FBI show that an individual made the exact same allegation that Smith made to Davis to the FBI shortly after the email was sent to Davis. In it, the person wrote, “I provided the same information to a Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, Mike Davis, because I know him, and he suggested that I provide it to you as well.”

Davis declined to comment. The Republican staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee declined to respond to a request for comment.

The FBI was involved in its own investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh at the time. The investigation, conducted under FBI Director Christopher Wray, another Yale graduate, was widely derided as a “sham” by Democrats led by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Whitehouse office is expected to release a report on the FBI’s handling of the Kavanaugh investigation by the end of this year.

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