In the roller coaster ride that Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings have become, the days since the testimony of both the nominee and his initial sexual assault accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford have been the part of the trip with hairpin turns, sudden rapid plunges, and equally quick ascents.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation went from virtually assured to completely in question after Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) insisted on securing an FBI investigation into the charges against the nominee before he would commit to voting yes in the final Senate floor vote, a vote that he did agree to advance from the Judiciary Committee.
Over the weekend, NBC News reported that the White House Counsel Don McGahn was overseeing the FBI investigation in coordination with Republican Senators and limiting its scope to interviewing just four hand-selected witnesses rather all of the people who could help determine the truth of the allegations and whether Kavanaugh perjured himself during his testimony.
President Trump immediately denied the reporting from NBC News and tweeted a rebuttal.
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
Despite the president’s denials and his promise that the FBI would have “free reign” in their inquiry, The New Yorker reported on Sunday that several people with information about Brett Kavanaugh and his behavior in high school and college have unsuccessfully tried to contact the FBI to relate their accounts.
“With a one-week deadline looming over the investigation, some who say they have information relevant to the F.B.I.’s probe are suspicious that the investigation will amount to what one of Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmates called a ‘whitewash.’ Roberta Kaplan, an attorney representing one potential witness, Elizabeth Rasor, a former girlfriend of Kavanaugh’s high-school friend Mark Judge, said her client ‘has repeatedly made clear to the Senate Judiciary Committee and to the F.B.I. that she would like the opportunity to speak to them.’ But, Kaplan said, ‘We’ve received no substantive response,'” according to the magazine.
Now it appears as if the public pressure over the severe limitations placed on the FBI has become too overwhelming for President Trump to ignore. According to The New York Times this morning:
“The White House has authorized the F.B.I. to expand its abbreviated investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh by interviewing anyone it deems necessary as long the review is finished by the end of the week, two people briefed on the matter said on Monday,” the newspaper reports.
Still, the president’s statement this morning on the matter during a press conference on the new Canada/Mexico trade deal left plenty of wiggle room in his language to still leave the public uncertain exactly how much the restrictions on the bureau will be lifted.
“The F.B.I. should interview anybody that they want within reason, but you have to say within reason,” Mr. Trump said to reporters in the Rose Garden. “But they should also be guided, and I’m being guided, by what the senators are looking for.”
One positive indication that the FBI probe has been widened is the report from NBC News this morning that Charles Ludington, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s, will be providing information to the FBI today at its field office in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ludington issued a statement yesterday stating that he was “deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterization by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale.”
He goes on to describe Kavanaugh as “a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker” who was “often belligerent and aggressive,” and tells a story about the time Kavanaugh responded “to a semi-hostile remark, not by defusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man’s face and starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail.”
With only a few days left to complete its investigation by the arbitrary deadline imposed by Republicans in the Senate, the FBI now has its work cut out for it. Hopefully, now unshackled, it will be able to speak with anyone with credible allegations against Trump’s nominee. The next few days will provide the evidence, at least as to whether the FBI is being curtailed or not.
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Original reporting by Ken Dilanian, Geoff Bennett, Kristen Welker, Frank Thorp V, Hallie Jackson, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Peter Alexander, and Adam Edelman at NBC News; and by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker, and by Peter Baker and Michael S. Schmidt at The New York Times.