A day after President Donald Trump asked the FBI to reopen its background investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, there are indications the probe will extend beyond allegations made by Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Ford delivered compelling testimony on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh has continued to deny those claims.
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the FBI already has begun contacting potential witnesses and victims involved in the allegations against Kavanaugh, including Deborah Ramirez, who was the nominee’s classmate at Yale.
In a story published last weekend by The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, Ramirez accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct at a dormitory party when the two were freshmen at Yale during the 1983-84 school year. Ramirez said Kavanaugh “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away,” the report said, while Ramirez was inebriated on the floor after playing a drinking game.
Ramirez, now 53, said she remembers hearing Kavanaugh laughing and seeing him pulling up his pants afterward. Some classmates told the magazine they remember being told about the incident at the time, although they were not present when it happened. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the accusations.
Following Trump’s order for a new FBI probe, many questions emerged about how far the agency would go in its investigation. This was prompted largely by Trump’s own statement, which said, “I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”
Trump previously had characterized Ramirez as “totally inebriated” and “all messed up.” “This is a con game,” he added, referring to Ramirez’s claims.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday said the supplemental FBI investigation would focus only on “current credible allegations,” according to the Post. The report said it is not clear whether the FBI has formally interviewed Ramirez.
Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, who Ford says was in the room when Kavanaugh attacked her in 1982, now says he is willing to cooperate with the investigation. Judge had refused to testify before the Senate committee, and was found by Washington Post reporters hiding out at a Delaware beach house.
Early Friday afternoon, however, Judge was spotted at the DC law firm Cozen O’Connor. In a letter previously sent to the committee, Judge’s attorney claimed Judge had no recollection of the party or of the attack.
It is unknown whether the FBI has reached out to a third Kavanaugh accuser, Julie Swetnik, who said in a sworn statement earlier this week that while in high school, Kavanaugh and Judge would intentionally get teenage girls drunk so that others could “gang rape” them at parties.
Swetnik’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted on Saturday that, “We have yet to hear from the FBI. When and if we do, we will promptly disclose to them all information and witnesses in our possession. We continue to request this opportunity as we have been doing for days. My client is telling the truth and deserves to be heard and not shammed.”
Update, Saturday, 5:07 p.m.: According to additional reporting on Saturday, the FBI may not be permitted to investigate Julie Swetnick’s claims, per guidelines established by the White House.
According to NBC News, “A White House official confirmed that Swetnick’s claims will not be pursued as part of the reopened background investigation into Kavanaugh.”
The report added:
Instead of investigating Swetnick’s claims, the White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview, according to several people who discussed the parameters on the condition of anonymity. They characterized the White House instructions as a significant constraint on the FBI investigation and caution that such a limited scope, while not unusual in normal circumstances, may make it difficult to pursue additional leads in a case in which a Supreme Court nominee has been accused of sexual assault.
And who is handling interactions with the FBI on behalf of the White House? White House counsel Don McGahn, who is Kavanaugh’s handler throughout the entire Supreme Court nomination process.
NBC News added: “The FBI had no choice but to agree to these terms...because it is conducting the background investigation on behalf of the White House.”