Trump Says He Wants ‘Comprehensive’ Probe of Kavanaugh Allegations
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he wants the FBI to do a “very comprehensive” investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and lamented the “trauma” the accusations have caused the judge.
Trump insisted Monday that the FBI would “essentially” have free rein in its investigation but also said that he had set the scope of the probe based on the request by Senate Republicans. He added that “it wouldn’t bother me at all” if the FBI interviews all three of the women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct and the judge himself.
“My White House will do whatever the senators want,” Trump said during a Rose Garden news conference. “The one thing I want is speed.”
Trump ordered the FBI to open a new background investigation of his Supreme Court nominee on Friday at the insistence of a handful of Republicans led by Senator Jeff Flake who said they couldn’t vote to confirm Kavanaugh otherwise. The FBI was initially ordered to interview only four people, said a person familiar with proceedings.
Democrats have raised concerns about limits placed on the investigation.
“The FBI should interview anybody that they want, within reason,” Trump said.
Trump did not directly answer when asked Monday whether the FBI would be able to investigate allegations that in Kavanaugh’s sworn Senate testimony the nominee understated his alcohol consumption in high school and college. Several friends from the period have said Kavanaugh drank much more than he indicated to the Judiciary Committee.
The president answered a question about Kavanaugh’s drinking by joking about his own experience as a life-long teetotaler.
“I’m not a drinker. I can honestly say I’ve never had a beer in my life,” he said, joking that it was one of his only good traits.
“Can you imagine if I had, what a mess I’d be? I’d be the world’s worst.”
The FBI probe will be limited in scope in ways dictated by the White House, said the person familiar with the proceedings. That apparently includes not following up on claims of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh from Julie Swetnick, the third woman to come forward, and on information offered about the judge’s history of alcohol use, including on Sunday by a former classmate from Yale University.
Neither Swetnick nor her attorney, Michael Avenatti, had been contacted by the FBI as of Monday morning, Avenatti said.
The FBI was given initial orders to interview only four people, said the person said. They were Kavanaugh’s high school friends Mark Judge and PJ Smyth; Leland Keyser, a high school friend of California professor Christine Blasey Ford; and Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a party at Yale University.
Ford hadn’t yet been contacted by the FBI as of early Monday afternoon, according to a spokeswoman for her legal team. The Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor who questioned Ford on behalf of Republicans on the Judiciary Committee last week filed a memo on Monday calling Ford’s allegation weak because of her inability to specifically recall the date or place of the alleged assault and other discrepancies in her account.
“I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the committee,” the prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, wrote. While Mitchell questioned Ford extensively, she was not able to question Kavanaugh at length before Republicans on the committee began speaking for themselves at a day-long hearing on Thursday.
More American voters now oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation than support it, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday that also shows wide gender differences in views about his nomination.
The survey shows 48 percent of voters say the U.S. Senate reject Kavanaugh, while 42 percent say he should be confirmed. Women oppose confirmation 55 percent to 37 percent, while men support it 49 percent to 40 percent.
Choosing between Kavanaugh and Ford, his accuser, 48 percent of voters most believe Ford, while 41 percent most believe Kavanaugh. But almost half of voters -- 49 percent -- say Kavanaugh “is the target of a politically motivated smear campaign,” while 45 percent say he is not.
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