The Federal Bureau of Investigation will only interview two of three women who have publicly accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, a directive handed down by the White House that could make it difficult for agents to conduct a thorough probe.
According to reports by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, the investigation into Kavanaugh’s background ordered by the White House on Friday will be limited in scope solely to the accusations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. The accusations of Julie Swetnick, who says she was drugged and gang raped at a party where Kavanaugh was present, will reportedly not be investigated.
The probe will also exclude former classmates who have disputed Kavanaugh’s testimony about his drinking habits as a student, according to The New York Times. While Kavanaugh testified that his drinking was limited to sometimes having “too many beers,” though never drinking “to the point of blacking out,” at least two former classmates have come forward to claim those statements are inaccurate.
Lynne Brookes, who attended Yale with Kavanaugh, said he had “grossly misrepresented and mischaracterized his drinking.” Another former Yale classmate, Liz Swisher, told CNN that Kavanaugh's testimony on his former drinking habits was not “credible” and that he was a “sloppy drunk.”
The White House counsel’s office reportedly gave the FBI “a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview.” Sources told NBC News that the parameters given to the FBI are a “significant constraint on the FBI investigation” that “may make it difficult to pursue additional leads” in the probe.
The president took to Twitter Saturday night, saying that “NBC News incorrectly reported” that he was limiting the FBI's investigation to certain people. “Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion,” the president said, telling NBC to “Please correct your reporting!”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice, somewhat tellingly, referred comment to the White House.
White House spokesperson Raj Shah said the investigation’s “scope and duration has been set by the Senate,” and claimed that the White House was “letting the FBI agents do what they are trained to do.”
Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday morning, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway denied that the White House was getting involved in the FBI’s investigation.
“The president has said he very much respects the independence of the FBI and feels, as he said last night, that they should look into anything that is credible within that limited scope,” Conway said, adding that the investigation is “not meant to be a fishing expedition.”
Swetnick’s lawyer Michael Avenatti—who had expressed concerns about his client being left out of the during a visit to New Hampshire on Saturday— tweeted that the exclusion of his client’s claims was “outrageous.”
“Why are Trump and his cronies in the Senate trying to prevent the American people from learning the truth?” he wrote. “Why do they insist on muzzling women with information submitted under penalty of perjury? Why Ramirez but not my client?”
The White House ordered the FBI to reopen a background check after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said he would only support Kavanaugh's confirmation vote in the full Senate if an investigation took place before the vote. In a statement Friday, the Senate said the probe would “be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today.”
Flake’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on whether the White House selecting witnesses comported with how the senator envisioned the investigation. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice referred comment to the White House.
President Donald Trump, speaking at a rally in West Virginia on Saturday, nevertheless told supporters that the FBI would have “free rein” in the investigation.
“They can do whatever they have to do, whatever it is that they do,” Trump said.
In a sworn declaration delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week, Swetnick claimed she was raped by a “by a train of numerous boys” at a party and Kavanaugh was “present” at the time. She also accused Kavanaugh and the other boys present of spiking her drink with “Quaaludes or something similar.”
At a Thursday hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh called Swetnick’s claims a “joke” and a “farce.” He also said under oath that he had never had a threesome or “more than a threesome,” and attested that he has never been at a party where a gang-rape occurred.
Ford also testified in front of the same committee Thursday to share the story of her alleged assault that took place at a high school party. She accused Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed and attempting to remove her clothes. In the New Yorker, Ramirez claimed that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a Yale University dorm party. Kavanaugh also denied both of these allegations.
Ramirez’ attorney, John Clune, told the Wall Street Journal that the FBI requested an interview on Saturday and his client “agreed to cooperate.” Ford's attorneys declined to comment to the newspaper.