President Donald Trump on Saturday cast the FBI probe into his Supreme Court nominee’s alleged history of sexual misconduct as a potential “blessing in disguise,” appearing optimistic that federal agents would absolve Brett Kavanaugh of the accusations several women have lodged against him over the past month.
“It will be a good thing,” the president said of the bureau’s re-opened background check into Kavanaugh, according to a pool report. Trump authorized the inquiry Friday after a dramatic meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, at which Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) joined the panel’s Democrats in demanding a one-week investigation of allegations by Christine Blasey Ford ahead of a full vote by the chamber to confirm Kavanaugh to the high court.
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The president also said he expects the investigation to be completed ahead of schedule, and emphasized that law enforcement officials “have free rein” to pursue whichever leads they desire to uncover the truth.
“They can do whatever they have to do, whatever it is that they do. They’ll be doing things we have never even thought of,” Trump said. “And hopefully, at the conclusion, everything will be fine.”
Trump’s remarks Saturday follow a report by NBC News — citing unnamed sources — that the White House is limiting the scope of the FBI’s inquiry. Trump moved to rebut that story in a tweet late Saturday evening.
“NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people,” he wrote online. “Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!”
Kavanaugh has faced intense scrutiny after multiple women have come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct. And in a dramatic hearing this week, his accuser, Ford, told senators in powerful testimony that she’s 100 percent certain Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago while the judge vehemently — and at times angrily — denied the accusations.
At a rally Saturday evening in West Virginia, Trump’s invocations of Kavanaugh served more to demonize congressional Democrats than hype the prospect of a majority conservative court.
“The entire nation has witnessed the shameless conduct of the Democrat Party. They’re willing to throw away every standard of decency, justice, fairness and due process to get their way,” Trump said.
“A vote for Judge Kavanaugh is also a vote to reject the ruthless and outrageous tactics of the Democrat Party — mean obstructionists, mean resistors,” Trump added, lamenting attacks on Kavanaugh’s character.
“I will tell you, he has suffered — the meanness, the anger,” Trump said.
White House officials were cautiously optimistic about Kavanaugh’s chances over the weekend, admitting the situation was complicated. While the president was not planning to look for an alternative to replace his first choice nominee, some were realistic about an outcome in which Kavanaugh does not survive the confirmation process following the investigation.
On Friday, Flake shocked Democrats and Republicans alike when, after announcing he was on board with approving Kavanaugh, later told senators that he wanted the FBI to reopen its probe into the judge. When asked Saturday what he thought of Flake’s demand, Trump replied: “Well, I think he’s fine.”
The president has maintained his steadfast praise of Kavanaugh, telling reporters Saturday: “I don’t think there’s ever been any person who’s been under scrutiny like he has. I think it’s been a very tough process. He’s a good man. He’s a great judge. A great judge. Highly respected for many, many years. At the top of the list. I hope that everything works great.”
The FBI’s investigation appears to be broadening beyond just Ford’s accusations. Deborah Ramirez, who earlier this week accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during their time at Yale University in the 1980s, is cooperating with the FBI in its probe of the Supreme Court nominee, Ramirez’s lawyer said Saturday.
“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,” attorney John Clune said in a statement. The New York Times first reported that the FBI was investigating Ramirez’s allegation.
In a report published by The New Yorker on Sept. 23, Ramirez alleged Kavanaugh “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent” during an alcohol-fueled dormitory party at Yale in the 1983-84 academic school year.
Another woman, Julie Swetnick, has alleged that Kavanaugh was present at parties in the early 1980s where women were plied unknowingly with alcohol and drugs at house parties in the Washington area. She claims she was raped by multiple boys at one such gathering. Swetnick is represented by Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels.
Avenatti told POLITICO on Saturday afternoon that his client still had not yet been contacted by the FBI.
“If they do not conduct an investigation into my client’s claims it will cast significant doubt as to the legitimacy of the investigation as a whole,” Avenatti said. “You can’t possibly do an appropriate investigation without talking with her.”
Swetnick submitted a written statement to the committee in which she said she witnessed Kavanaugh spike drinks at parties where girls were then sexually assaulted. In the statement, Swetnick asserts Kavanaugh was present when she was the victim of a “gang rape” by multiple boys at one party. She described Kavanaugh as “a mean drunk” whom she witnessed acting “verbally abusive toward girls, including pressing girls against him without their consent,” and, “Grinding against girls and attempting to remove or shift girls’ clothing to expose private body parts.”
After NBC news reported Saturday that the White House had not permitted the FBI to interview Swetnick, citing multiple sources briefed on the matter, Avenatti responded: “This is an outrage if true. It shows that the investigation is a sham and the White House is terrified of the truth emerging.”
Republicans, including Trump himself, have dismissed Swetnick’s claims as outrageous.
“The Swetnick thing is a joke. That is a farce,” Kavanaugh testified during the hearings.
After Avenatti revealed his client’s identity, the president personally lashed out at Avenatti, who is also mulling a 2020 run.
Kavanaugh categorically denied all allegations against him on Thursday in a combative appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, testifying shortly after Ford presented her account to lawmakers earlier in the day.
“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups,” an emotional Kavanaugh said. “This is a circus.”
Annie Karni and Natasha Korecki contributed to this report.