The FBI hasn’t received any new instruction from the White House about how to proceed with its weeklong investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, NBC News reported Sunday, citing a senior U.S. official and another source familiar with the matter.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he wanted the FBI to interview whoever agents deemed appropriate and officials have claimed that hasn’t changed the limits imposed by the White House counsel’s office on the investigation — including a specific witness list that does not include Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in high school.
Also not on the list are former college classmates who have contradicted Kavanaugh’s account of his alcohol consumption, instead describing him as a frequent, heavy drinker, NBC News reported.
The FBI is also not authorized to interview high school classmates who could shed light on what some people have called untruths in Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony about alleged sexual references in his high school yearbook, NBC reported.
After a contentious hearing last week that saw Kavanaugh’s primary accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testify against the nominee, several Democratic senators, led by California’s Kamala Harris and New Jersey’s Cory Booker, walked out of the proceedings.
“This is a moral moment,” Booker said of the confirmation hearings. “You are either complicit in the evil, you are either contributing to the wrong, or you are fighting against it.”
Booker later walked back the “evil” remarks, saying that he didn’t mean it quite that way.
“I’ve been exuberant in my beliefs and I’ve learned a lot through this process,” he said. “I don’t blame those people for mischaracterizing my comments. I take responsibility and have learned to be more precise.”
The walkout came Friday after an announcement by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, one of the key swing votes, that he plans to vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
After committee Chair Chuck Grassley’s announcement that the committee would vote, Booker and Harris reportedly sat in silence when they were called on to cast their votes.
“They’re not answering because this is so unfair,” Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar told NBC.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee who sat on Ford’s uncorroborated allegations for weeks before handing them over to the FBI days before a scheduled committee vote, promptly painted the Republicans as the ones who have politicized the process.
“I hoped we would do better and show women that our country, our committee, has in fact changed,” Feinstein said, according to ABC News. “This isn’t a political battle for power, as some have said. This is a serious undertaking with serious allegations. While the Republican strategy is no longer ‘attack the victim,’ it is [now] ‘ignore the victim.’ The entire country is watching now how we handle these serious allegations.”
While the FBI will examine the allegations of Dr. Ford and Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of misconduct while in college, the bureau had not been permitted to investigate the claims of Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of engaging in sexual misconduct at parties while he was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in the 1980s, those people familiar with the investigation told NBC News.
A member of Ford’s legal team told NBC News on Sunday that neither Ford nor her lawyers have been contacted by the FBI since Trump ordered a supplemental FBI background investigation Friday.
A White House official had confirmed earlier Saturday that Swetnick’s claims would not be pursued as part of the reopened background investigation into Kavanaugh. The Wall Street Journal had also reported that Swetnick’s allegations would not be investigated, though Trump described that as incorrect in a tweet late Saturday, saying the FBI had “free rein” in the investigation.
“They’re going to do whatever they have to do,” he said. “Whatever it is they do, they’ll be doing — things that we never even thought of. And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine.”
The New York Times reported Saturday night, after Trump’s tweet, that the White House has authorized the FBI to interview four witnesses: Judge; Leland Keyser, a high school friend of Ford’s whom she said attended the party but was not told of the assault; P.J. Smyth, another party guest; and Ramirez, the Yale accuser.
Ford said in Senate testimony Thursday that she was “100 percent” certain that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school.
Ramirez alleged that he exposed himself to her when there were students at Yale. Kavanaugh has emphatically denied all allegations by Ford, Ramirez and Swetnick.