Grassley refers Swetnick, Avenatti to Justice Dept. for investigation

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee Avenatti arrested over alleged domestic violence: police Trump throws support behind criminal justice bill MORE (R-Iowa) announced Thursday that he is referring Julie Swetnick and her lawyer Michael Avenatti to the Justice Department for a potential criminal investigation into whether they made false statements to Congress about Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughVermont Democrats cancel events with Michael Avenatti his arrest for domestic violence Avenatti arrested over alleged domestic violence: police Washington politics may change, but Donald Trump will stay same MORE.

Grassley said that in addition to making false statements, he is asking for the Justice Department to look into whether the two sought to obstruct his panel's investigation of the allegations against Kavanaugh.

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"The law prohibits such false statements to Congress and obstruction of congressional committee investigations. For the law to work, we can’t just brush aside potential violations. I don’t take lightly making a referral of this nature, but ignoring this behavior will just invite more of it in the future," Grassley said in a statement.

Avenatti quickly fired back in a tweet, saying it was "ironic that Senator Grassley now is interested in investigations."

"He didn’t care when it came to putting a man on the SCOTUS for life. We welcome the investigation as now we can finally get to the bottom of Judge Kavanaugh’s lies and conduct. Let the truth be known," he said.

Avenatti added in an email to The Hill that "Grassley has just made a major mistake. Let the investigation into Kavanaugh and his lies begin.”

Swetnick alleged in a sworn declaration released by Avenatti during Kavanaugh's confirmation process last month that Kavanaugh was at a party where she was gang raped. Kavanaugh vehemently denied the allegation, as well as claims from two other women who accused him of sexual misconduct stemming from his days in high school and college in the 1980s.

In a letter sent on Thursday to Attorney General Jeff Session and FBI Director Christopher Wray, Grassley wrote that he was referring Swetnick and Avenatti for an investigation on "materially false statements they made to the Committee during the course of the Committee’s investigation."

"In light of the seriousness of these facts, and the threat these types of actions pose to the Committee’s ability to perform its constitutional duties, I hope you will give this referral the utmost consideration," Grassley wrote in the letter.

Grassley, in the letter to Sessions and Wray, said that Swetnick's allegation created a "diversion of committee resources" and there were "subsequent contradictions" to the allegation.

"In light of Ms. Swetnick’s and Mr. Avenatti’s own statements to the media, information obtained from Committee interviews of her associates, and publicly reported information about her and Mr. Avenatti, it has become apparent that the statements Mr. Avenatti and Ms. Swetnick submitted to the Committee likely contained materially false claims," Grassley wrote in the letter.

Grassley's request does not guarantee that the Justice Department will open an investigation.