President Donald Trump on Monday sought to quell criticism over the White House’s involvement in the FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as critics questioned whether it set limitations on the probe.
Senate Republicans and the White House on Friday agreed to an investigation lasting no longer than a week into sexual misconduct allegations, delaying a Senate floor vote. It came after dramatic, emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday from Kavanaugh and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford.
But confusion has erupted about the specifics of the FBI investigation, especially in terms of which allegations are being investigated and who’s being questioned. Judiciary Committee Chairman Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley on Friday said the investigation will focus on “current credible allegations.”
What we know about who’s been contacted by the FBI
Kavanaugh is accused of sexual misconduct by three women: Ford, college classmate Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick, a client of the high-profile lawyer Michael Avenatti.
- Ford alleges Kavanaugh attempted to force himself on her at a party when they were teenagers, at times covering her mouth with his hand to prevent her from screaming. She claims a friend of Kavanaugh’s, Mark Judge, was in the room and aided in the alleged assault.
- Ford had not been contacted for an interview by the FBI as of Sunday, according to The Washington Post. Her attorney, Debra Katz, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on Monday.
- Meanwhile, Ramirez, who alleges Kavanaugh shoved his penis in her face at a party when they were both college students at Yale University, reportedly spoke with the FBI on Sunday.
- In a sworn declaration, Swetnick alleges Kavanaugh and Judge present at high-school parties at which gang rapes occurred. There are few signs the FBI is looking into Swetnick’s allegations.
Judge’s lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, recently told Business Insider he does not recall the incident Ford described, but has also said he will cooperate with the FBI. Van Gelder on Monday reiterated Judge’s willingness to cooperate but would not say whether he’s been contacted by the FBI as of yet.
“Mr. Judge has said he will cooperate with the FBI and that is all we are going to say,” Van Gelder told Business Insider via email. “As a former federal prosecutor, I respect the confidentiality of the FBI investigative process.”
On Monday afternoon, however, NBC News reported a senior US official said Judge had been interviewed by the FBI. Van Gelder subsequently confirmed to Business Insider that Judge had been interviewed by investigators, but said his interview “has not been completed.”
An ex-girlfriend of Judge’s, Elizabeth Rasor, who has challenged his recollections, has offered to cooperate with the FBI but reportedly hasn’t been contacted.
And Charles Ludington, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s who’s challenged the Supreme Court nominee’s statements on his drinking habits, told The Washington Post on Sunday he planned to deliver a statement to the FBI detailing Kavanaugh’s “violent drunken behavior” in college.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn and FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding that the FBI interview 24 people in connection with the allegations.
What Trump has said about the investigation
Over the weekend, reports began to surface that FBI investigators were looking into the allegations from Ford and Ramirez, but not Swetnick. The reports also suggested that the White House was limiting the list of witnesses.
“We ask that you confirm that the FBI background investigation will include the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick and that the FBI will perform all logical steps related to these allegations, including interviewing other individuals who might have relevant information and gathering evidence related to the truthfulness of statements made in relation to these allegations,” the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats said in their letter.
Trump has rejected in recent days the notion he’s “limiting” the investigation.
“Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
When questioned about the status of the investigation by reporters on Monday, Trump suggested he’s open to having the FBI interview anyone with relevant information, including Swetnick.
“The FBI should do what they have to do to get to the answer,” the president said.
“I want it to be comprehensive,” Trump said, while also adding he wants it to be done “quickly.”
The president said it “wouldn’t bother” him “at all” if the FBI interviewed all three of Kavanaugh’s accusers, while also adding he’d heard Swetnick has “very little credibility.”
Though the FBI takes its orders from Trump, he said he’s being “guided” by senators on the investigation’s scope.
The president also suggested Kavanaugh should potentially be interviewed.
“They should interview anyone they want within reason. You have to say within reason,” Trump said.
Avenatti says the investigation is ‘a farce and is being run by Donald Trump’
Avenatti, who represents Swetnick, on Monday told Business Insider the Trump administration is “afraid” of what his client might say and rejected the notion her allegations aren’t credible.
“The investigation is a farce and is being run by Donald Trump. They obviously are afraid of what my client might say, which is why they are avoiding her,” Avenatti said.
He added: “There are many witnesses that can support her allegations and we are prepared to provide those names to the FBI as we have been saying for a week.”
Avenatti, who’s perhaps best known for his representation of adult-film star Stormy Daniels and is considering a 2020 presidential run, said both Senate Republicans and the president are standing in the way of a truly comprehensive investigation.
Reacting to Trump’s claim that senators need to provide him guidance on who should be interviewed as part of the investigation, Avenatti said that “Trump is talking out of both sides of his mouth.”
“It’s part of the con he is running,” he said.