Christine Blasey Ford’s attorneys on Tuesday implored the FBI to interview her and act on investigative leads they have provided for its inquiry into sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.
“It is inconceivable that the FBI could conduct a thorough investigation of Dr. Ford’s allegations without interviewing her, Judge Kavanaugh, or the witnesses we have identified in our letters to you,” attorneys Debra Katz and Michael Bromwich wrote to top FBI officials in a letter obtained by POLITICO.
The bureau is expected to wrap up its time-limited probe of the allegations against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee as soon as Wednesday, teeing up a final Senate vote on Kavanaugh later this week as planned by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican also said Tuesday that the FBI’s final report will be available to senators only, not the public.
As the time frame for completion of the inquiry draws nearer, Ford’s attorneys sought a call later Tuesday with bureau officials to discuss the investigation. Katz and Bromwich noted in their letter that they had furnished “a series of emails and letters in which we identified witnesses and evidence that would likely assist the FBI in its investigation,” but have yet to hear back.
While McConnell vowed that “only senators will be allowed to look at” the FBI’s final findings, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pressed for the public release of a redacted version of the report. But Republicans are worried about breaking precedent by releasing such information, which will be made available before the Senate votes this week on Kavanaugh’s nomination, according to GOP leaders.
All 100 senators will have access to the report in a secure setting after the FBI releases it. Asked when he expects that report into multiple sexual misconduct claims against Kavanaugh, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said “I think it will be sooner than Friday but I don’t have an exact date.”
Three of Kavanaugh’s former clerks and two of his former Yale Law School classmates who had formerly joined public letters backing the judge sent the Senate letters clarifying the status of their past support. The three clerks said the Judiciary panel had circulated their remarks over the weekend, incorrectly “creating the impression that they were responsive to the serious allegations,” and the former classmates withdrew their support.
The intense level of public interest in the FBI’s findings aside, Republican leaders are chiefly concerned with their own members having access to the bureau’s material before a final vote.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said senators expect to have reviewed the FBI findings before voting.
“People will know what the FBI said before we end up voting,” Cornyn said.
The FBI’s inquiry is largely focused on allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford when both were in high school, and exposed himself to Deborah Ramirez during their time at Yale. However, it remains unclear whether Ford herself will be interviewed — the California-based professor has reached out to the FBI multiple times but not received any response, a member of her team said Tuesday.
The report may leak out regardless given the public interest in the probe.
And some Democrats also have raised concerns about the public release of the FBI’s findings, despite Schumer’s call for a public release of a redacted version. “This is raw information,” Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters.
Schumer also wrote to McConnell on Tuesday afternoon seeking a briefing for all senators on the FBI’s findings, at least 24 hours before the Senate votes to end debate on the nomination.
The FBI conducted an inquiry after Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, elements of which were cited by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) during those hearings.
Whether undecided senators take into account anything other than the FBI report is an open question. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said on Tuesday that Kavanaugh’s testimony last week was at times too pointed and added: “We can’t turn the court into a partisan body that acts like a legislative body. That’s not the purpose of the court.” But he also said that wasn’t enough to make him vote no Kavanaugh.
But Grassley defended Kavanaugh from Democratic arguments that his defiant, politically charged testimony last week showed he lacks the temperament to sit on the high court.
“I don’t know that any resentment [Thomas] had because of” Hill’s harassment allegations against him has affected his actions on the court, Grassley said. “I assume you’re going to find the same thing when Kavanaugh gets on the Supreme Court.”
McConnell is in a precarious situation on timing a final vote on Kavanaugh, which could slip into the weekend depending on when the FBI completes its work.
But the Kentucky Republican dinged Democrats for embracing the allegations of a third woman coming forward with misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh even though Democrats initially hesitated last week. That woman is a client of Michael Avenatti, whom the GOP leader slammed as “a tabloid lawyer.“ The well-known attorney represents adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her suit against the president.
McConnell then mocked a New York Times report centering on police questioning Kavanaugh after a 1985 bar fight.
“Talk about a bombshell,” McConnell said sarcastically on the Senate floor.
Senate Republicans are feeling more bullish on Kavanaugh’s fate as their party digs in behind the nominee, according to two GOP senators. They acknowledged that there is risk in the judge opening himself up to the probe but believe chances are low that the FBI uncovers new damaging information.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a Kavanaugh supporter, said Tuesday that “if something were to come out that was very negative, I think people would reassess.”
If Kavanaugh fails, which Corker emphasized he does not want to happen, “there will be somebody else nominated. They’ll be confirmed probably by the end of the year.”
It’s unclear whether Kavanaugh can win over anyone other than three undecided Republicans and two Democrats no matter what the probe says.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who opposes Kavanaugh, declined to say Tuesday whether the FBI probe could change his mind, while Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has “broader” concerns about Kavanaugh than just the allegations against him, his office said. Both are up for election in states where Trump is popular.
Undecided Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota on Tuesday began facing new ads urging them to confirm Kavanaugh.
Democrats are trying to keep their Kavanaugh fight focused on this week’s FBI inquiry, which they view as their strongest chance to coax Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Flake into the opposition camp. They have refrained from making a specific request for a perjury investigation into Kavanaugh’s statements under oath, instead asserting that the 53-year-old appeals court judge has misrepresented himself enough to demonstrate he lacks the temperament to join the Supreme Court.
“Frankly, Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony was better suited for Fox News than a confirmation hearing for the august United States Supreme Court,” Schumer said Tuesday on the floor.
Before Avenatti’s client, Swetnick, claimed that Kavanaugh was involved in sexual misconduct in the 1980s, Ford and Ramirez came forward with separate allegations of their own. Both Ford’s alleged high school-era sexual assault claim and Ramirez’s college-era misconduct claim are part of this week’s FBI probe.
Republicans have sought to poke holes in the narrative Ford laid out during riveting testimony last week about her allegation against Kavanaugh. But they also have sought to steer the debate around the allegations against Kavanaugh towards those other than Ford’s that have not been subject to a hearing with sworn testimony — such as two anonymous claims that leaked into public view last week, and Swetnick’s.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee released a statement Tuesday from a man who claims to have dated Swetnick, refuting the credibility of her allegation against Kavanaugh, which contained graphic sexual descriptions.
If the FBI finishes its Kavanaugh inquiry before Friday, McConnell could move to end debate on the nomination and tee up a final vote by then. But if investigators don’t complete their investigation into claims against the nominee before the Friday deadline, the Senate could stay in session through the weekend in order to meet McConnell’s time frame for a final vote.