White House Eases Limits on Kavanaugh Investigation, Allowing the FBI to Interview Anyone Necessary

In response to increasing pressure from Democrats and some of the more moderate Republicans, the White House has decided to ease limits set in place by President Donald Trump on Friday for the FBI’s investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, allowing the bureau to interview anyone it deems necessary, as long as the probe is finished by the end of the week.

At an event on Monday celebrating a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, Trump said he instructed his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, over the weekend to reach out to the FBI and inform them to carry out an open investigation, but added the caveat that the probe should accommodate the wishes of Senate Republicans.

Trump said Monday that he wanted a “comprehensive” FBI investigation and had no problem if the bureau expanded who they questioned. The president said his only concern was making sure the investigation was completed quickly, and that it take direction from Senate Republicans.

Speaking to reporters in the Rose Garden, Trump said, “The FBI should interview anybody that they want within reason, but you have to say within reason. But they should also be guided, and I’m being guided, by what the senators are looking for.”

While the bureau is now authorized to interview anyone it wants, the scope of topics still remains the same. The investigation will focus on two claims of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh raised separately by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. The week-long deadline still stands.

However, according to ABC News, claims of sexual misconduct raised by a third woman, Julie Swetnick, will not be included in the FBI background investigation.

On Friday evening, Trump ordered an FBI probe into Kavanaugh’s background, after Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a key swing vote in Kavanaugh’s confirmation, called for an investigation into the allegations before he committed to voting for Kavanaugh.

As a result, Trump called on the FBI to “conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh's file.” Trump had said that he wanted the investigation to be “limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”

Flake expressed concern on Monday that the FBI background investigation not be limited and said he had pushed to make sure it happened. “It does no good to have an investigation that gives us more cover, for example,” Flake said during a public appearance in Boston. “We actually need to find out what we can find out.”

Senate leaders have made it clear, however, that they did not expect the investigation to deter them from confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would take a procedural vote on so it could move quickly to a final confirmation by the weekend or early next week, The New York Times reports.

The White House and Senate Republicans had initially set parameters on what topics could be explored and who the FBI could conduct interviews with, including: Ramirez, and Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth and Leland Keyser, three people who Ford identified as being at the house party where she said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

ABC News confirmed that the FBI has already spoken with Judge, Smyth, and Ramirez.

Smyth’s lawyer said on Monday that he told the FBI “that he has no knowledge of the small party” that Ford described nor of “any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled.”

A source with knowledge of Ramirez’s interview told ABC News that she provided the FBI with a list of witnesses.

On Saturday, Ramirez’s attorney, John Clune, confirmed that the FBI had reached out to her, saying, “We can confirm the FBI has reached out to interview Ms. Ramirez and she has agreed to cooperate with their investigation. Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we will have no further comment at this time.”

The broadening inquiry has brought forward a plethora of friends and classmates from Kavanaugh’s past that has painted contrasting portraits of a good-natured student incapable of hurting a woman to a stumbling drunk that could have easily blacked out and forgotten any inappropriate and aggressive behavior towards women.

Dan Murphy, who lived in the same suite as Kavanaugh during their time at Yale University, said that descriptions of Kavanaugh as a drunk were “simply wrong” and incompatible with his recollection. “I never saw Brett black out or not be able to remember the prior evening’s events, nor did I ever see Brett act aggressive, hostile or in a sexually aggressive manner to women,” Murphy said.

Charles “Chad” Ludington, another Yale classmate, told reporters that he saw Kavanaugh so drunk, he could have easily forgotten his actions. Even though he did not think that uncouth behavior of an 18 or 21-year-old should condemn a person for the rest of their life, he did say that lying to the Senate at the age of 53 did matter. “There were certainly many times when he could not remember what was going on,” Ludington said.

Trump’s announcement regarding the investigation came as Senate Republicans released a five-page report challenging Ford’s allegations.

“A ‘he said, she said’ case is incredibly difficult to prove,” Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona sex crimes prosecutor hired by Senate Republicans to question Ford during the hearing on Thursday, wrote. “But this case is even weaker than that.”

Noting that the other people who Ford claimed were in the house when the assault occurred did not corroborate her claims, Mitchell added, “I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the committee.”