The FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has already jumped into action according to a report on CNN.
The network has revealed that the investigators from the bureau interviewed Deborah Ramirez today, the woman whose story of Kavanaugh thrusting his penis in her face at a drunken Yale dorm party was made public in an article in The New Yorker just a week ago.
While Kavanaugh angrily denied the allegations in his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Thursday, claiming that he has never blacked out from drinking, Ramirez—who was admittedly rather drunk herself during the alleged incident—provided the FBI with names of witnesses who could verify her story of heinous frat boy behavior, the best evidence that she could provide for an incident that took place in the era before ubiquitous cell phone cameras.
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The knowledge that Ms. Ramirez has now given the agents the names of specific individuals that they can interview raises the larger and important question of whether the FBI will actually go on to locate and speak with these people or whether their limited investigatory scope, as mandated and controlled by the White House under the supervision of the president and his chief Counsel Don McGahn, will prevent them from pursuing the issue any further.
NBC News reported yesterday that “the White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview” and that “the FBI will also not be able to examine why Kavanaugh’s account of his drinking at Yale University differs from those of some former classmates, who have said he was known as a heavy drinker.”
President Trump denied the allegations of interfering in the inquiry, predictably accusing the network of reporting “fake news.”
NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people. Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2018
The New York Times, however, revealed in an article today that the investigation is still being run by the president’s partisan allies rather than being a truly independent investigation.
They detailed the four witnesses that the FBI would speak with: Mark Judge, the classmate that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has said was in the room with Kavanaugh when her assault took place; Leland Keyser, a high school friend of Dr. Ford’s who she said attended the party but was not told of the assault; P.J. Smyth, another party guest; and Ms. Ramirez, the Yale accuser.
According to the newspaper:
“The White House has asked that the F.B.I. share its findings after investigators complete those interviews, and at that point, Mr. Trump and his advisers would decide whether to have the accusations investigated further, the people said.”
“Led by Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, Mr. Trump’s advisers are helping direct the scope of the background check, according to the senior administration official. Mr. McGahn shared the witness list with the F.B.I. but is working in concert with Senate Republicans, and senators considered key swing votes have had extensive input, the people said. Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona have both said they want Mr. Judge questioned by the F.B.I.”
“The witness list did not extend to high school and college classmates who have said in interviews that Judge Kavanaugh drank heavily, including some who said he went beyond typical consumption.”
If the investigation does proceed along the lines that the paper describes, then it is uncertain whether any of the witnesses provided by Ms. Ramirez during her interview today will ever be contacted by the FBI and have their version of the alleged incident heard. This ambiguity about the scope of the FBI’s mission has led many Democrats to believe that the process is being conducted to achieve a predetermined outcome.
President Trump has already primed his base to inure them from the Democrats’ accusations, sending a tweet preemptively alleging that nothing he could do would ever satisfy the opposition party rather than trying to assure the nation that the FBI inquiry would indeed be deep and fair.
Wow! Just starting to hear the Democrats, who are only thinking Obstruct and Delay, are starting to put out the word that the “time” and “scope” of FBI looking into Judge Kavanaugh and witnesses is not enough. Hello! For them, it will never be enough – stay tuned and watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2018
Democrats, for their part, are beginning to spread the word about what they see as the true reason that Trump and his Republican cronies are so hell-bent on getting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court bench so expeditiously, an upcoming case before the court that could determine whether people can be prosecuted by state governments after having already been tried on the same charges at the federal level.
With questions over whether a sitting president can be indicted in federal courts still undetermined, the chance of still being subject to prosecution on the state level may be the only chance to seek justice against anyone caught up in the Mueller probe who could be pardoned by Trump after any conviction or guilty plea. Having Kavanaugh on the court when the case comes to the docket next month can only make a ruling that favors Trump’s interest more likely.
With so much at stake, it is imperative that the FBI investigation is free from the White House’s political interference. Despite President Trump’s assurances, his limited credibility after two years of constant lying does not inspire confidence in the process.
The next few days will be crucial in determining whether the FBI is allowed to pursue all of the leads at its disposal or whether this entire exercise is simply an elaborate cover to allow Republicans to reach an unpopular and predetermined outcome and vote to confirm Kavanaugh despite his obviously considerable flaws.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Ariane de Vogue and Jeff Zeleny on CNN and by Michael D. Shear, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt at The New York Times