Trump denies restricting FBI investigation into Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations

Trump denies restricting FBI investigation into Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations
FBI contacts Kavanaugh accuser with allegations from university
WASHINGTON — The FBI has contacted Deborah Ramirez, whos accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when he was a Yale student, as part of the bureaus investigation of the Supreme Court nominee, her attorney said Saturday.

Ramirezs lawyer, John Clune, said agents want to interview her and she has agreed to co-operate. Ramirez has said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party in the early 1980s when they were Yale students.

Ramirez, a former Yale University classmate of Kavanaughs, alleged that he exposed himself to her at a dorm-room party during the 1983-4 school year. And Ford testified to the Senate earlier this week that when they were in high school, the 17-year-old Kavanaugh pinned her down, put his hand over her mouth, and groped her while his friend watched at a Bethesda, Maryland, party in the early 80s.

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the FBI on Friday to reopen Kavanaughs background investigation after several women accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

Senate leaders agreed to delay a final vote on Kavanaughs nomination to allow for a one-week FBI investigation. The Senate Judiciary Committee has said the probe should be limited to "current credible allegations" against Kavanaugh and be finished by next Friday.

The Los Angeles Times reported late Friday that FBI agents began to zero in on potential witnesses immediately after President Donald Trump authorized the agency to conduct a supplemental background check on Kavanaugh, looking to schedule an interview “as early as tonight.”

Next battle in war over Kavanaugh: FBI probe

Leaving the hearing Friday, Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said it was his understanding there would be an FBI investigation of "the outstanding allegations, the three of them," but Republicans have not said whether that was their understanding as well.

The Washington Post, citing sources familiar with the investigation, reported that it was not clear if Ramirez had been interviewed yet. The report confirmed the agency was also following up on a sexual-assault allegation from California professor Christine Blasey Ford.

While the precise scope of the investigation remained unclear, Trump told reporters Saturday that "the FBI, as you know, is all over talking to everybody" and said "this could be a blessing in disguise."

Federal investigators were have been given one week to complete their investigation, and several other witnesses, like Judge and Fords friend Leland Keyser, have indicated that they are willing to cooperate fully with law enforcement.

"They have free rein. Theyre going to do whatever they have to do, whatever it is they do. Theyll be doing things that we have never even thought of," he said. "And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine."

The FBI has contacted Deborah Ramirez, one of three women who have accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, as part of a background investigation into Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation vote.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said the Senate set the scope and duration of the investigation and that the White House is "letting the FBI agents do what they are trained to do."

Ramirez said she was reluctant to come forward because she was drinking at the time of the incident and there are gaps in her memory, though she said she could recall key details.

The FBI conducts background checks for federal nominees, but the agency does not make judgments on the credibility or significance of allegations. The investigators will compile information about Kavanaughs past and provide their findings to the White House and include the information in Kavanaughs background file, which is available to senators.

Fords previously anonymous account was first published in The Washington Post, a week before The New Yorker published an article detailing Ramirezs allegation.

Kavanaugh and another of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers, testified publicly before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The bureau has reportedly targeted at least four people to question. Three of those people are tied to Christine Blasey Fords claim Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s when they were in high school. Mark Judge, Leland Keyser, and P.J. Smyth were allegedly at the party in Maryland where Fords attack occurred. Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week she was able to escape from underneath Kavanaughs bodyweight when Judge jumped on the bed they were on.

Kavanaughs high school friend Mark Judge, who Ford says was in the room when a drunken Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, said that he will co-operate with any law enforcement agency that will "confidentially investigate" sexual misconduct allegations against him and Kavanaugh. Judge has also denied misconduct allegations.

Lawyers for P.J. Smyth and Leland Ingham Keyser, two others who Ford said were in the house when she was attacked, have said their clients are willing to co-operate "fully" with the FBIs investigation.

“Given the seriousness of the allegations before the Senate, I am writing to request that you provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with a copy of the written directive sent by the White House to the FBI,” ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote Sunday to White House counsel Don McGahn and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

A third woman, Julie Swetnick, accused Kavanaugh and Judge of excessive drinking and inappropriate treatment of women in the early 1980s, among other accusations. Kavanaugh has called her accusations a "joke" and Judge has said he "categorically" denies the allegations.

The fourth person of interest to the FBI is Deborah Ramirez, the woman who has accused the judge of thrusting his penis in her face at a party during his freshman year at Yale University. The FBI has reportedly already contacted her.

Swetnicks attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Saturday afternoon that his client had not been contacted by the FBI but is willing to fully co-operate with investigators.

On Saturday, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asked the Justice Department and the FBI to open a criminal investigation into "apparent false statements" that were made to committee investigators alleging sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh in 1985.

“In addition, if the FBI requests any expansion beyond the initial directive, please provide the names of any additional witnesses or evidence,” Feinstein continued.

A constituent contacted the office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted an acquaintance on a boat in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1985, but Grassley said the person later "recanted and apologized for the allegation via social media.

In the letter addressed to White House counsel Don McGahn and FBI Director Christopher Wray and dated September 30, Feinstein wrote: “Given the seriousness of the allegations before the Senate, I am writing to request that you provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with a copy of the written directive by the White House to the FBI.”

Separately on Saturday, Whitehouse, a Democrat, said he expects the FBI would provide adequate staffing for Kavanaughs background investigation, with teams working in parallel to investigate separate allegations. Agents should get support from the Judiciary Committee for rapid immunity and subpoena decisions, he said.

“NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people,” Trump wrote on Saturday. “Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!”

Last week, Trump tweeted that "if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed" with local police. On Thursday night, he attacked Democrats, saying they have a "search and destroy strategy" and said "this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct and resist."

“Wow! Just starting to hear the Democrats, who are only thinking Obstruct and Delay, are starting to put out the word that the time and scope of FBI looking into Judge Kavanaugh and witnesses is not enough. Hello! For them, it will never be enough – stay tuned and watch!”

After Ford appeared before the Judiciary Committee, Trump said her testimony was "very compelling" and that she appeared to be "certainly a very credible witness."

Wow! Just starting to hear the Democrats, who are only thinking Obstruct and Delay, are starting to put out the word that the time and scope of FBI looking into Judge Kavanaugh and witnesses is not enough. Hello! For them, it will never be enough – stay tuned and watch!

In the last week, Trump has spoken repeatedly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has scolded Trump about comments that appeared to cast doubt on Fords claim, according to two Republicans familiar with the discussions but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

McConnell urged Trump to support Kavanaugh but to avoid attacking his accusers, warning that he was in charge of counting votes and those kinds of disparaging remarks could cause him to lose Republican senators whose votes could be key to confirming Kavanaugh, including Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, they said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has sent a letter to the White House calling for the release of the directive related to the scope of the FBI’s probe of Brett Kavanaugh.

McConnell also strongly warned Trump against firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein following reports that Rosenstein had discussed possibly secretly recording the president and using the Constitutions 25th Amendment to remove him from office, telling him it could lead to "a bloodbath," according to the Republicans familiar with the conversations. The Kentucky senator feared it could not only heighten the tension around the delicate Kavanaugh proceedings but could endanger Republican control of the Senate.

McConnell has repeatedly stressed to Trump that he should not act on Rosenstein or his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, until after the midterm elections.

Trump has responded to both the media reports limiting the scope and the Democrats concerns about scope of the probe via Twitter.

McConnells office declined to discuss the leaders calls with the president, but spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier said the two "speak regularly and have had good conversations."

Republican senators and the White House have agreed to the investigation after California professor Christine Blasey Ford testified at a Senate hearing that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona sough the investigation and asked that it be limited in scope and last no more than a week.

Longtime McConnell adviser Scott Jennings said it wouldnt surprise him that the Senate leader would be giving the president his best advice on how to be most helpful, even in direct terms.

In an interview with agents on Sunday, Ramirez detailed her allegation that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party in the early 1980s. The person familiar with the matter said Ramirez also provided the agents with names of others who she said could corroborate her account.

"Ive never known McConnell to be anything other than candid and honest," said Jennings, who did not have direct knowledge of the conversations with the White House.

President Donald Trump has ordered the FBI to reopen Kavanaughs background investigation. While the scope of the investigation remains unclear, Trump says the FBI “has free rein” and that he wants agents to interview whomever they deem appropriate.

Taking stock of the week, Jennings noted that the president, by weeks end, "has been pretty helpful." Rosenstein wasnt fired. Trump didnt lash out at Sen. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who forced the delay of Kavanaughs confirmation with the FBI probe. And Trump signed a bill to fund the government and avoid a federal shutdown without "making a stink" about extra money for his border wall with Mexico.

Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON—A Yale classmate of Judge Brett Kavanaugh accused him Sunday of a “blatant mischaracterization” of his drinking while in college, saying that he often saw Kavanaugh “staggering from alcohol consumption.”

Deborah Ramirez, whos accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were students at Yale, has spoken with FBI agents as part of the bureaus investigation of the Supreme Court nominee.

The classmate, Chad Ludington, who said he frequently socialized with Kavanaugh as a student, said in a statement that the judge had been untruthful in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he had denied any possibility that he had ever blacked out from drinking.

Ludington says he plans to speak to the FBI, which has reopened its background investigation of Kavanaugh in light of allegations of sexual misconduct brought against the Supreme Court nominee.

Ludington, a professor at North Carolina State University, said Kavanaugh had played down “the degree and frequency” of his drinking, and the judge had often become “belligerent and aggressive” while intoxicated. Other former classmates have made similar claims.

A lawyer for the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were students at Yale says she has agreed to cooperate with an FBI investigation.

“It is truth that is at stake, and I believe that the ability to speak the truth, even when it does not reflect well upon oneself, is a paramount quality we seek in our nation’s most powerful judges,” Ludington said, adding that he planned to “take my information to the FBI.”

1 / 4Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Tom Williams/Pool Image via AP)WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI agents on Sunday interviewed one of the three women who have accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct as Republicans and Democrats quarreled over whether the bureau would have enough time and freedom to conduct a thorough investigation before a high-stakes vote on his nomination to the nations highest court.

It is illegal to lie to Congress. But it was unclear whether the FBI would add Ludington’s accusations to the background investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, which has been limited in scope and time by the White House and Senate Republicans.

Before Ludington’s statement, Democrats in Washington reacted with anger Sunday as the narrow scope of the new FBI background inquiry became clear, warning that it threatened to become a sham.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said on ABC’s This Week that any investigation that limits whom the FBI can interview and which leads agents can follow would be a “farce.”

In a statement released Sunday, a Yale classmate of Kavanaughs said he is “deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterization by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale.” Charles “Chad” Ludington, who now teaches at North Carolina State University, said he was friend of Kavanaughs at Yale and that Kavanaugh was “a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker.”

The White House agreed Friday to order the FBI to conduct a “limited” one-week supplemental background check of Kavanaugh after some Republicans joined Democrats in demanding an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct.

In speaking to FBI agents, Deborah Ramirez detailed her allegation that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party in the early 1980s when they were students at Yale University, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to publicly discuss details of a confidential investigation.

White House officials have asked the FBI to interview four witnesses. No evidence has emerged that the White House has forbidden any investigative steps, and President Donald Trump has said he wants agents “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.”

Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday she is confident in the investigation and “that the FBI will follow up on any leads that result from the interviews.” The Maine Republican supports the new FBI investigation and is among a few Republican and Democratic senators who have not announced a position on Kavanaugh.

WASHINGTON—A Yale classmate of Judge Brett Kavanaugh accused him Sunday of a “blatant mischaracterization” of his drinking while in college, saying that he often saw Kavanaugh “staggering from alcohol consumption.”

Speaking to the issue of the scope of the FBIs investigation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said White House counsel Don McGahn, who is managing Kavanaughs nomination, “has allowed the Senate to dictate what these terms look like, and what the scope of the investigation is.”

The classmate, Chad Ludington, who said he frequently socialized with Kavanaugh as a student, said in a statement that the judge had been untruthful in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he had denied any possibility that he had ever blacked out from drinking.

Ludington, a professor at North Carolina State University, said Kavanaugh had played down “the degree and frequency” of his drinking, and the judge had often become “belligerent and aggressive” while intoxicated. Other former classmates have made similar claims.

“It is truth that is at stake, and I believe that the ability to speak the truth, even when it does not reflect well upon oneself, is a paramount quality we seek in our nation’s most powerful judges,” Ludington said, adding that he planned to “take my information to the FBI.”

It is illegal to lie to Congress. But it was unclear whether the FBI would add Ludington’s accusations to the background investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, which has been limited in scope and time by the White House and Senate Republicans.

Before Ludington’s statement, Democrats in Washington reacted with anger Sunday as the narrow scope of the new FBI background inquiry became clear, warning that it threatened to become a sham.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said on ABC’s This Week that any investigation that limits whom the FBI can interview and which leads agents can follow would be a “farce.”

The White House agreed Friday to order the FBI to conduct a “limited” one-week supplemental background check of Kavanaugh after some Republicans joined Democrats in demanding an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct.

White House officials have asked the FBI to interview four witnesses. No evidence has emerged that the White House has forbidden any investigative steps, and President Donald Trump has said he wants agents “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.”