Predictably, the FBI's Brett Kavanaugh Investigation Has Turned Into a Depressing Mess


On Friday afternoon, after much handwringing, Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake asked the White House to order the FBI to investigate Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “Asked” is the operative word here: despite his stated reservations, Flake cast the Senate Judiciary Committee’s deciding vote in support of Kavanaugh without any guarantee that such an investigation would actually occur. But later that same day, the White House did agree to a “limited” investigation.

The process has been a total mess since then.

On Sunday night, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, who helped convince Flake to call for a delay pending the FBI investigation, told 60 Minutes that if the investigation found Kavanaugh had lied under oath, his nomination would end.

We already know that Kavanaugh claimed, falsely, that he drank legally as a teen; Maryland changed its legal drinking age from 18 to 21 when Kavanaugh was in high school. He also said under oath that he has never been black-out drunk, or belligerent while drinking, statements at odds with the characterization of several former classmates who are hoping to talk to the FBI during the investigation process.

However, many of the people who say they can offer relevant testimony about Kavanaugh’s truthfulness have not been contacted by the FBI, according to the New Yorker, and Democrats say they are in the dark about the scope of the investigation.

According to the New York Times, the White House and Senate Republicans have asked the FBI to interview only four witnesses—Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a party at Yale; Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, who Ford says was present at the party and who has written about his own binge drinking in high school, P.J. Smyth, another friend of Judge and Kavanaugh’s; and Ford’s friend Leland Keyser, who says she does not recall the party Ford describes but believes her allegations against Kavanaugh. (Though the New York Times counted four witnesses, they also wrote that Ford was on the list. Other outlets have reported that Ford has not yet been contacted by the FBI.)

Sources told the Times that Republicans drafted “the list of four potential witnesses for the F.B.I. to interview, and shared it with the White House” and that the limited background check could wrap up as early as Monday morning.

On Sunday, prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, hired by Republicans to represent them at the hearing, concluded that she did not believe Ford—who is, as a reminder, not on trial here—had a credible allegation against Kavanaugh. In a memo to Republicans, she wrote that a “‘he said she said’ case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that.”

Meanwhile, multiple witnesses willing to come forward have been stonewalled, according to the New Yorker:

With a one-week deadline looming over the investigation, some who say they have information relevant to the F.B.I.’s probe are suspicious that the investigation will amount to what one of Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmates called a “whitewash.” Roberta Kaplan, an attorney representing one potential witness, Elizabeth Rasor, a former girlfriend of Kavanaugh’s high-school friend Mark Judge, said her client “has repeatedly made clear to the Senate Judiciary Committee and to the F.B.I. that she would like the opportunity to speak to them.” But, Kaplan said, “We’ve received no substantive response.”

“She feels a sense of civic duty to tell what she knows,” Kaplan said. “But the only response we’ve gotten are e-mails saying that our e-mails have been ‘received.’ ” At one point, she said, an F.B.I. official suggested she try calling an 800-number telephone tip line.

Another Yale classmate told the New Yorker that he was “one-hundred-per-cent certain” of hearing an account nearly identical to Ramirez’s and attempted, numerous times, to contact the FBI. The Washington, DC, bureau directed him to his local field office, where he was “referred to a recording,” and, after several failed attempts to talk to someone, an official was not helpful. He later left a tip on the FBI’s website.

“I thought it was going to be an investigation,” the man told the New Yorker, “but instead it seems it’s just an alibi for Republicans to vote for Kavanaugh.”

Michael Avenatti said that his client, Julie Swetnick, also has not heard from the FBI. “How difficult is it for a couple of FBI agents, or even one, to call me on the phone and ask to speak to my client for an hour or two? That’s not a lot of resources,” Avenatti said on MSNBC on Sunday. “They don’t want to talk to my client because they’re afraid of what she may say.”

Another Yale classmate and former Yale basketball player, Chad Ludington, came forward over the weekend to say that Kavanaugh lied under oath about his drinking behavior. Ludington, who says he drank regularly with Kavanaugh in college, recalls that he had seen Kavanaugh become “belligerent and aggressive” when drinking and that, on one occasion, “I witnessed him respond to a semi-hostile remark, not by defusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man’s face and starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail.”

“I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking, and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth,” Ludington wrote in a statement responding to Kavanaugh’s testimony. “I have no desire to speak further publicly, and nothing more to say to the press at this time. I will, however, take my information to the F.B.I.”

Ludington, a professor at North Carolina State University, told the Times that the F.B.I.’s DC field office directed him to a field office in Raleigh if he wished to speak with agents on Monday. Ludington said that he intended to do so and “tell the full details of my story.”

The White House denies limiting the scope of the investigation. According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House counsel Donald McGahn “has allowed the senate to dictate what these terms look like, and what the scope of the investigation is” and added, “The White House isn’t intervening. We’re not micro-managing this process. It’s a Senate process. It has been from the beginning, and we’re letting the senate continue to dictate what the terms look like.”

Another Times report suggests that senators seen as swing votes—Susan Collins of Maine, for one—are aware of, and apparently comfortable with, the scope of the investigation: “Mr. McGahn shared the witness list with the F.B.I. but is working in concert with Senate Republicans, and senators considered key swing votes have had extensive input, the people said.”

So far, the FBI investigation is shaping up to be more of the same from Republicans, who remain focused on one thing: confirming Brett Kavanaugh, no matter what the cost.

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