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Politics and Government

Everything you need to know about Deborah Ramirez, Brett Kavanaugh and a party at Yale that could change the course of the American judiciary

Ramirez, who lives in Boulder, has accused the U.S. Supreme Court nominee of sexual misconduct while the two were college students

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is sworn-in before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on Sept. 4, 2018. (Andrew Harnik, AP Photo)
  • Credibility:

Deborah Ramirez, a county government worker in Boulder, has accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct while they were students together at Yale University.

The allegations could impact not only Kavanaugh’s chances of making it onto the nation’s highest court but also this year’s midterm elections, the 2020 presidential election and the direction of the Supreme Court for decades to come.

Here is a guide to the allegations: what we know, what we don’t and what happens next.

What’s new

  • Ramirez has been interviewed by the FBI as part of the bureau’s investigation into the allegations made against Kavanaugh. Ramirez’s attorneys have not provided any more information about what she was asked or what she said.
  • Ramirez did not testify at a closely watched Thursday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • As Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault, prepared to testify before committee on Thursday, Ramirez released this statement through her lawyer:
  • During testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Kavanaugh denied sexually assaulting Ramirez or anyone else. “This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he said. That echoed what he told Senate Judiciary Committee staff on Tuesday, when Kavanaugh said specifically of Ramirez’s allegations: “That did not happen.”
  • In a news conference Wednesday, President Donald Trump called Kavanaugh, “one of the highest-quality people I’ve ever met” and said of the allegations against Kavanaugh, “these are all false to me.” Later in the news conference, though, Trump said he could change his mind on Kavanaugh depending on testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Thursday. On Tuesday, Trump said of Ramirez that she was, “all messed up” during the alleged incident. “She admits that she was drunk,” Trump said. “She admits time lapses.”

What’s alleged

  • Ramirez told The New Yorker magazine that she attended a party in a dorm room at Yale University that Kavanaugh also attended when they were both freshmen during the 1983-84 school year. Ramirez said she played a drinking game with other students and was quickly intoxicated.
  • Ramirez said that while she was on the floor and two male students were watching, a third student exposed himself, placing his penis, “in front of my face.” “I knew that’s not what I wanted, even in that state of mind.” She pushed the student away, touching his penis during the shove.
  • As she looked up, Ramirez said she remembers Kavanaugh standing to her right, laughing and pulling up his pants. “Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’ ” she said. “It was his full name. I don’t think it was just ‘Brett.’ And I remember hearing and being mortified that this was out there.”
  • Ramirez was the second woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, following the allegations of his high school classmate Christine Blasey Ford, who said Kavanaugh held her down during a party in high school, groped her and attempted to remove her clothes. A third woman has since alleged that Kavanaugh was part of a group of boys in high school that would attempt to incapacitate girls through alcohol or drugs and then sexually assault them.

How Ramirez’s allegations emerged

  • New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer told NBCNews that Yale alumni had been discussing the incident in emails — which Mayer said she first saw in July, after Kavanaugh had been nominated for the Supreme Court but before he had been publicly accused of sexual misconduct by anyone.
  • When The New Yorker first reached out to Ramirez, she was reluctant to speak with certainty about the incident. “After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections” to air them publicly and on-the-record, Mayer and fellow reporter Ronan Farrow wrote in their article.
  • John Clune, one of Ramirez’s attorneys, wrote on Twitter, “Deborah Ramirez only came forward after being contacted by Ronan Farrow and carefully working through her memories only to ensure her accuracy.”
  • The New York Times was also pursuing the story but could not get an interview with Ramirez or independently confirm her allegations. The Times’ editor told The Washington Post, though, “I’m not questioning their story.”

Witnesses

  • No direct witnesses to the incident have come forward to corroborate Ramirez’s account.
  • The New Yorker interviewed one classmate — whom they did not name — who said he heard about the incident shortly after it happened from another student and that he was, “100 percent sure” that Kavanaugh was the man who exposed himself to Ramirez.
  • The New Yorker interviewed a classmate named Richard Oh who said he remembered hearing one female student tell another female student about a party where a male student exposed himself to a female student. He was not certain about the identities of the students involved.
  • The New Yorker also interviewed two male students who Ramirez said witnessed the incident. Both said they don’t remember the party, with one telling the magazine, “I have zero recollection.” The other said, “I don’t think Brett would flash himself to Debbie, or anyone, for that matter.”

What Kavanaugh says

  • In an interview with Fox News broadcast Monday night, Kavanaugh denied the allegations against him, saying, “What I know is the truth, and the truth is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”
  • Kavanaugh said that he was a virgin throughout high school and for, “many years after.”
  • In the interview with Senate Judiciary Committee staff, Kavanaugh described his relationship with Ramirez at Yale as, “friendly, but not friends.”
  • He said he had no recollection of attending the party she described. Asked if he believed Ramirez had reason to lie about him, Kavanaugh said, “I don’t want to speculate.”

What other students say

  • In a statement to The New Yorker, four classmates who said they were friends with both Ramirez and Kavanaugh on campus said, “We can say with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it — and we did not.” Two additional classmates originally signed onto that statement before withdrawing their names after publication of The New Yorker story, saying that they were not present at the party and, while they had heard nothing about the alleged incident, they also could not directly dispute Ramirez’s version of events.
  • Former professional basketball player Chris Dudley, a friend of Kavanaugh’s in college who belonged to the same fraternity, told The New York Times: “That’s just not Brett. That’s not in his character.”
  • Kavanaugh’s roommate freshman year at Yale, James Roche, released a statement Monday saying, “I did not observe the specific incident in question, but I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.” “Based on my time with Debbie, I believe her to be unusually honest and straightforward and I cannot imagine her making this up,” Roche said in his statement. “Based on my time with Brett, I believe that he and his social circle were capable of the actions that Debbie described.”
  • In his Tuesday interview with Senate Judiciary Committee staff, Kavanaugh said that, while he did drink in college, he was never incoherently drunk. He said he wasn’t close to Roche, whom Kavanaugh described as having a tense relationship with their other roommate. “He didn’t hang out with us much, wasn’t a great situation.”
  • A classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale disputed on Tuesday some of what Kavanaugh told Fox News during his interview. “Perhaps Brett Kavanaugh was a virgin for many years after high school,” Steve Kantrowitz, who is now a history professor in Wisconsin, tweeted. “But he claimed otherwise in a conversation with me during our freshman year in Lawrance Hall at Yale, in the living room of my suite.”
  • Other students have disputed Kavanaugh’s assertion on Fox News that he was never black-out drunk in college. “Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him,” Liz Swisher, a friend from college, told The Washington Post. “I watched him drink more than a lot of people.” Dudley, though, told The Post that Kavanaugh never drank to the point of blacking out.

Who is Ramirez?

  • Ramirez is 53, lives in Boulder, is registered to vote as a Democrat, and works as a volunteer coordinator for Boulder County government, where she connects families in need with resources to help pay their bills, buy food and provide for their children. Boulder County’s elected commissioners released a statement Monday in support of Ramirez.
  • She is a board member at the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, which advocates for violence-prevention and supports those who are victims of violence. The organization also issued a statement in support of Ramirez on Monday.
  • The New Yorker reports that Ramirez was raised as a devout Catholic in Connecticut. According to The New York Times, her parents worked as a telephone company lineman and a medical technician. At Yale, she worked in a dining hall to earn money for tuition.
  • Roche, in his statement, said Ramirez is of Puerto Rican descent, which perhaps explains why she wore a T-shirt with the words “Puerto Rico” on it in her photograph for The New Yorker article.

Who is representing Ramirez?

  • Ramirez was originally represented by former Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, who now is in private practice. Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet helped put Ramirez in touch with Garnett after Democrats in the Senate became aware of her allegations. The Daily Camera reported that Garnett was seen visiting Ramirez’s home on Monday afternoon.
A recycling bin outside of Debbie Ramirez’s Boulder home on Monday. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)
  • Ramirez has switched to being represented by Clune, an attorney in Boulder who is nationally known for representing women in cases involving allegations of sexual assault or misconduct. Clune has previously represented the woman who accused basketball star Kobe Bryant of rape, as well as a woman who accused Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston of rape.
  • Clune is also a former prosecutor, having worked as the chief deputy district attorney in Eagle County. He argued Wednesday on “CBS This Morning” that, from a prosecutor’s standpoint, the gaps in Ramirez’s memory make her more credible. “As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that only helps her credibility because somebody’s not going to falsify a report that has that kind of gap,” he said.
  • Garnett is a Democrat who ran for state attorney general in 2010 and who currently works for a firm that is politically well-connected. On his Twitter page, Clune has frequently spoken out in support of women who have been sexually assaulted and also has been critical of Trump.

Negotiations on testifying

  • Clune said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning” that Ramirez would be willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but she first wanted, “to be able to have this conversation about what this is going to look like, what the process is going to be and if there’s going to be an FBI investigation into what happened in her case.”
  • In opening Thursday’s hearing, committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley said Ramirez’s attorneys did not cooperate with committee staffers’ efforts to interview Ramirez. He said the committee had made eight requests for information from Ramirez’s attorneys without receiving the information requested. “The committee can’t investigate if attorneys are stonewalling,” Grassley said.
  • Clune, on Twitter, denied that he was stonewalling and placed the blame on Republican Judiciary Committee staffers. He released emails between Ramirez’s attorneys and the staffers, arguing, “The committee is creating meaningless hurdles to try to paint Ms. Ramirez as uncooperative.”
  •  On CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” Tuesday night, Clune accused GOP staffers on the committee of derailing efforts for more meaningful contact by frequently changing the terms of engagement. He said a conference call was scheduled for Tuesday evening with committee staffers from both parties, but when the call started only Democrats were on the line.
  • Later on Wednesday, Clune seemed to sour on the idea of Ramirez testifying before the committee, writing on Twitter, “This hearing feels like a setup, designed to obstruct the truth and guarantee a political outcome.”
  • Clune also has said testimony before the committee should not be a substitute for an FBI investigation of Ramirez’s allegations. Tuesday on Twitter, he wrote: “We have officially requested an FBI investigation and our client remains adamant that is the appropriate venue for her to discuss her trauma. Ms. Ramirez is ready to swear to the FBI under penalty of perjury. Why won’t the Senate Judiciary Committee welcome that?”

What’s next?

  • Kavanaugh’s nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote Friday. But Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake asked, as a condition of his support, that the FBI conduct a new investigation on the allegations against Kavanaugh. The FBI investigation is slated to take a week.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, on Tuesday, that the full Senate will vote on Kavanaugh “this week.”
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