Senate Republican leaders have agreed to delay a final vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to allow time for an investigation by the FBI of the sexual misconduct allegations against him. (Sept. 28)
WASHINGTON – After a week of high drama surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the days ahead in the nation’s capital promise more to come after President Trump bowed to pressure late Friday and re-opened an FBI background investigation of Kavanaugh in light of the sexual assault allegations leveled against him.
That probe is supposed to be “limited in scope” and “completed in less than one week,” the president said in a statement.
He did not specify exactly what would be in or out of bounds, but agents in the coming days likely will seek to question anyone who accuser Christine Blasey Ford said attended a gathering in 1982 where she alleged Kavanaugh assaulted her.
That includes Kavanaugh’s high school friend, Mark Judge, who Ford claims was in the room when he allegedly held her down, tried to take her clothes off and put his hand over her mouth to silence her. Judge previously said in a statement that he has “no memory” of such an incident, but FBI agents likely will probe deeper to determine anything he does remember.
Judge has said he would “cooperate with any law enforcement agency that is assigned to confidentially investigate these allegations.”
Agents also will likely pursue P.J. Smyth and Leland Ingham Keyser, who Ford said also attended the party. Both have also issued statements indicating that they no recollection of the gathering.
What’s not clear is whether agents will investigate two other allegations raised against Kavanaugh dating to the 1980s – former Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez claimed he exposed himself at a drunken party, and another woman, Julie Swetnick, alleged he and Judge attempted to ply teenage girls with alcohol at wild parties where girls were sexually abused.
Kavanaugh has denied all of the allegations. He said Friday that he has been interviewed by the FBI, answered questions in private and public under oath from senators. “I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate,” he said in a statement issued by the White House.
Former FBI officials told USA TODAY the agency has considerable resources to dedicate to special investigations like this.
“They could knock this thing out in a couple of days,” said Jim Davis, a former agent who participated in at least 50 such background inquiries.
The results then will be handed over to the White House, which would be responsible for turning it over to senators for review. The FBI typically does not make judgments on credibility or significance of findings, but rather just gathers information and leaves assessments up to recipients.
There will be considerable pressure on the White House to turn over the complete file as soon as possible.
Focus will then turn once again to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially started debate on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday but did not have the votes necessary for final passage.
A last-minute agreement struck with Sen Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to get the votes necessary to pass the nomination out of committee Friday means a full Senate vote will not happen until later in the week, ostensibly after senators receive the results of the FBI investigation.
The results, if supportive of Kavanaugh’s denials, could provide cover for the few Republican swing votes he needs in the Senate to move forward. They include Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Flake, a frequent critic of Trump who is not seeking re-election.
But the results could also raise more questions about Kavanaugh, and trigger enough opposition to sink his nomination. Kavanaugh himself said Thursday that he wouldn’t voluntarily withdraw.
“You may defeat me in the final vote,” he said. “But you’ll never get me to quit. Never.”
Trump did not speak to reporters on Saturday as he left the White House and headed to his golf club in Virginia. He was slated to appear at a rally in Wheeling, West Virginia, on Saturday evening.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY and Associated Press
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