Justice Brett Kavanaugh hasn’t been on the bench of the Supreme Court three weeks yet, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has already started cleaning house.

Working to clear Kavanaugh’s name, Grassley is also working to protect the names of future nominees. It is an effort to reestablish precedent in the nomination process through deterrence.

Grassley just referred Julie Swetnick and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, to the Department of Justice for possible criminal investigation. Swetnick made allegations that Kavanaugh was present at a party where she was “gang raped,” and further that he habitually attended such parties and even had a hand in drugging girls so that they could be assaulted in this way. Although her accusations were so incredible that only a few Democrats dared talk about them at Kavanaugh's hearings, they were brought up — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was among those to mention them as Democrats worked to kill Kavanaugh's nomination and reputation.

But even before the confirmation process had played out, Swetnick was already changing key parts of her story.

After taking care to praise the “well-meaning citizen” who shares relevant and true information with the Senate Judiciary Committee in a statement, Grassley condemned those who “do try to knowingly mislead the committee. That's unfair to my colleagues, the nominees and others providing information who are seeking the truth.”

It is an unusual move, one that Avenatti will use to keep his name in the press and himself on the cable news junket. But keeping that creepy lawyer in front of the cameras a little longer is a small price to pay. Grassley is addressing something bigger than just one self-serving opportunist.

More than control of the court was at stake during the Kavanaugh hysteria. It wasn’t just about the reputation of one man. It quickly became a referendum on what political tactics would and wouldn’t fly in future confirmations. At stake was whether or not Democrats, with their all-out assault on Kavanaugh, would be allowed to rewrite the confirmation playbook for the future.

Grassley and company succeeded in getting Kavanaugh confirmed. But now Grassley is addressing the second issue by meting out consequences. Future nominees, Democrat and Republican both, can expect a crucible of a confirmation. But if Grassley is successful and the DOJ takes action, those nominees can take limited comfort in the fact that witnesses against them will be held responsible for egregious lies.

It is a small step, and it is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to decide what to do next. But it is an important step toward cleaning up the mess that was made of the confirmation process.