WASHINGTON - A new sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh dating to his college days has a number of high-profile Democrats calling for his impeachment. But also included in a new book from two New York Times reporters is a significant witness in the case speaking out and coming down on Kavanaugh's side.
Leland Keyser was a close friend of Christine Blasey Ford in high school, when Ford says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a small house party. Ford has named Keyser as one of the people who was at the house that night.
Keyser has never corroborated Ford's account or even key details of it, though. Keyser's attorney told investigators during Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings that she couldn't recall the night in question, while adding that she believed Ford.
But in a new interview with the Times's Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, Keyser makes clear that she no longer does.
Some of Keyser's quotes were reported in recent days, first by the Federalist. But with the release of the book Tuesday, we have a fuller picture of what Keyser said in her first public interview since Kavanaugh's confirmation.
Keyser described having many more reservations than she initially let on. She said she tried to assemble the details as described by Ford, but she called her attorney and told him, "You know what, I don't feel good about something."
First, she said she wouldn't have just left Ford at the party without accounting for her ride home. "It would be impossible for me to be the only girl at a get-together with three guys, have her leave, and then not figure out how she's going to get home," Keyser said.
"I've been thinking about who I was at sixteen rather than who Chrissy was at sixteen," Keyser said, saying that although she has dealt with addiction as an adult, she wasn't a heavy drinker then. She added, "That's when I changed."
Ford, in her Senate testimony, said Keyser "was downstairs during the event and I did not share it with her." She also said then of Keyser's lack of corroboration, "I don't expect that . . . Leland would remember this evening."
Keyser said she doesn't remember many small gatherings like the one Ford described, nor does she remember hanging out much with Georgetown Prep students, which Kavanaugh was. She maintains that she didn't even know who Kavanaugh was back then, after reviewing pictures and maps.
"Those facts together I don't recollect, and it just doesn't make any sense," Keyser said. Keyser also said she spoke with many people who "wanted me to remember something different" - suggesting that there was pressure on her to toe the line - and that she told the FBI about that. Some of Keyser's more interesting comments, though, are about Ford and Kavanaugh as people.
Of her friend, she alludes to some kind of "trauma" Ford may have experienced, even as the details of this particular allegation don't add up to her.
"I think something happened, but I don't know what," Keyser said. "And I haven't been close enough to her over the years to know that something went down. I haven't seen her in a long, long time. I do think that something happened to her, and that maybe she is a victim of some sort of trauma."
Of Kavanaugh, she adds that she is impressed by his record, even though she is a Democrat.
"It was totally against my alignment, what went down," she said. She added of Kavanaugh that "the guy has a very impressive record." She repeated: "He has a very impressive record."
And then she concluded of her role in the whole process: "So the bottom line is, you just don't screw with the process here, I don't think. That's my firm belief."
Keyser's lack of public comment in the Kavanaugh matter to date has been one of the biggest missing pieces. (She did talk to the FBI.) Keyser then seemed to want to bolster Ford's account, but she couldn't bring herself to do much besides say she believed it.
It was thought at the time that perhaps Keyser was reluctant because of her own health problems and history of addiction, which made her perhaps less reliable as a witness. In her hearing, Ford attributed Keyser's absence as, in part, to "significant health challenges."
"I'm happy that she's focusing on herself and getting the health treatment that she needs, and she let me know that she needed her lawyer to take care of this for her, and she texted me right afterward with an apology and good wishes, and et cetera," Ford said. "So I'm glad that she's taking care of herself."
This new interview suggests that someone who could have been a star witness for Ford, though, is anything but. And as Democrats go big on calling for Kavanaugh's impeachment - despite a key clarification from the Times that the supposed victim of the newly alleged assault doesn't recall it, either - Keyser's account isn't one they can simply ignore. It's a significant implicit defense of Kavanaugh, from someone with plenty of motivation to be on the other side of this story.
This article was written by Aaron Blake, a reporter for The Washington Post.