The White House ties the hands of the FBI, severely limiting the scope of the Kavanaugh investigation

Remember how we were talking yesterday about how, thanks in large part to Republican Senator Jeff “I Think I May Have Located My Vestigial Backbone” Flake, there was going to be an FBI investigation into the charges of sexual abuse against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh? Well, the more time that passes, the more it looks as though the investigation may in fact be a sham. NBC News is now reporting that White House counsel Don McGahn has intervened to severely limit the scope of the investigation. In fact, it’s looking now as though the FBI is only planning to interview four people, and Christine Blasey Ford isn’t even on the list.

This, for what it’s worth, directly contradicts what President Donald Trump said to reporters this morning on the South Lawn of the White House. “The FBI is all over,” Trump said, “talking to everybody.” He then added, “They have free rein, they’re going to do whatever they have to do.”

But, it would seem, that’s simply not the case. And this isn’t just Democratic fear-mongering intended to rile up the base. Sources inside the White House are saying that McGahn is “trying to make (the investigation) as narrow as possible.”

Here’s an excerpt from the NBC News report about what that means in practice.

…Investigators plan to meet with Mark Judge, a high school classmate and friend of Kavanaugh’s whom Ford named as a witness and participant to her alleged assault.

But as of now, the FBI cannot ask the supermarket that employed Judge for records verifying when he was employed there, one of the sources was told. Ford said in congressional testimony Thursday that those records would help her narrow the time frame of the alleged incident which she recalls happening some time in the summer of 1982 in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Two sources familiar with the investigation said the FBI will also not be able to examine why Kavanaugh’s account of his drinking at Yale University differs from those of some former classmates, who have said he was known as a heavy drinker. Those details may be pertinent to investigating claims from Ramirez who described an alleged incident of sexual misconduct she said occurred while Kavanaugh was inebriated. Ramirez’s lawyer said Saturday that she had been contacted by the FBI and would cooperate.

The conditions under which the FBI’s reopened background check are occurring appears to differ from the one envisioned by Flake, who used his leverage as a swing vote to pressure the Trump administration to order the FBI investigation…

As you might imagine, this isn’t exactly sitting well with Democrats, who were assured that this would be a real and thorough investigation. First, the White House stepped in, demanding that the investigation be limited to one week, and now they’re restricting the scope significantly, telling the FBI who they can speak with, and what they aren’t allowed to explore. Congressman Adam Schiff, demanding that the White House not dictate who the FBI can and can’t speak with, called the investigation a “whitewash.” Senator Mazie Hirono said earlier this morning that the investigation was shaping up to be a “farce.” And Senator Kamala Harris, as you can read below, called this latest development “outrageous.” The question I have, is what does Jeff Flake think? Is this what he had in mind when he demanded an FBI investigation? And, if not, can we expect him to speak up, vote “no” on Kavanaugh, etc.? Or was this part of his plan all along?

As for the four people to be interviewed, word is that they are Kavanaugh high school friends Mark Judge and PJ Smyth, Blasey Ford friend Leland Keyser, and Deborah Ramirez, the Yale classmate of the Kavanaugh’s who just recently came forward with new allegations of sexual assault. Here’s video from MSNBC.

If you’re as upset about this as I am, please call the offices of your Senators today, and, if they haven’t already, demand that they speak out in favor of an independent and thorough FBI investigation into the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. And, while you’re on the phone, maybe also mention that, even putting aside these serious allegations of sexual assault, Kavanaugh has still proven himself to be unfit for the lifetime appointment. As the editorial board of Maine’s largest newspaper, the Press Herald, said today, “The man who testified Thursday can’t control his temper, he is overtly partisan and he doesn’t always tell the truth,” and he should not be on the bench. [Did you hear that, Senator Collins?]

update: An update from Maine.

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  1. LUMOS
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Jeff Flake needs to immediately announce that unless the FBI is given free rein to conduct a proper investigation he will be voting no Kavanaugh.

  2. wobblie
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    The FBI investigation has always been about providing cover to Flake, Murchowski, Heitkamp, Collins, and Manchin. They will get the two Democrats and call it a bi-partisan confirmation. We call it an “investigation”, but it is just another back ground check. Absent forensic evidence they will get him confirmed. Look at the guy running the FBI check. Yale graduate, ran in the same type of social circles as Kavanaugh at Yale.They would not being doing this if it was going to be anything other than a White Wash. The hope is that after a week, folks will have forgotten Ford’s testimony and Kavanaugh’s melt down. We can probably count on some major event happening on about Wed. or Thurs. to distract the media.

  3. Jean Henry
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    My dad, a lawyer who has served in varying capacities for the PA and American Bar Association, is most upset about the partisanship (and partisan paranoia) Kavanaugh displayed. He applies fundamental principals of law gage to judicial nominations. Unproven allegations of sexual assault would not enter his scope of concern but should be thoroughly investigated. However, expressing partisanship is just an absolute disqualifier in his mind. (He was upset with RBG for the same, even though that was about Trump and so he was more sympathetic.) He thought the nomination should have been denied on that basis alone.

    These kinds of basic constitutional and democratic principles are being lost in the rough seas of partisan political games and hyperbole. I always thought they just re-enforced the status quo but now see how necessary they are. Our nation can survive a few terms of hyper-conservative governance, but we can’t survive the undermining of our democracy as encoded in the constitution. It’s interesting how few people talk about the Kavanaugh nomination the way my dad does.

  4. Jean Henry
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Wobblie is right on this one, I suspect. Jeff Flake has been consistently and deeply pro-life from the get-go. He’s not up for re-election, but he is unlikely to vote no to Kavanaugh– on conservative principles. The FBI investigation would have to turn something damning up to counterbalance Flake’s desire to restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

    Voted YES on banning federal health coverage that includes abortion. (May 2011)
    Voted NO on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
    Voted NO on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
    Voted YES on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
    Voted YES on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
    Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life. (Oct 2003)
    Voted YES on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)
    Voted YES on funding for health providers who don’t provide abortion info. (Sep 2002)
    Voted YES on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (May 2001)
    Voted YES on federal crime to harm fetus while committing other crimes. (Apr 2001)
    No federal funding of abortion, but no litmus test. (Dec 2000)
    Rated 0% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record. (Dec 2003)
    Rated 100% by the NRLC, indicating a pro-life stance. (Dec 2006)
    Prohibit federal funding for abortion. (May 2011)
    Prohibit federal funding to groups like Planned Parenthood. (Jan 2011)

  5. wobblie
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    JH, I’ve litigated 1000’s of cases. If Kavanaugh did what he did in a court room he would be toast. Contempt for the process, the hearing panel, evasion of straight forward simple questions. Only class bias will get Kavanaugh confirmed. Every female attorney before the SCOTUS should begin every motion with a request that Kavanaugh recuse himself. They should be doing this with Thomas as well.

    For your Dad’s sake, RBG did appologize for her comments within a couple of days of making them. These were also comments she made to a reporter, rather than statements made under oath during a fact finding process. Big difference in my mind.

  6. M
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Feinstein calls on White House, FBI to release scope of Kavanaugh investigation

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Wobblie– I agree with you re Kav’s conduct in the inquiry. Throwing back the question about excessive drinking to the female Senator was also egregious. My dad probably does too, but the partisan speech was the disqualifier for him. He agrees with you re RBG, but I felt it was worth mentioning. My dad was President the PA Bar Association disciplinary board for a good while and so lawyers crying and expressing anger about potentially losing their privileges is not new to him. They were part of my childhood memory as they would call (one even came by the farm) in great distress after losing their licenses. To see a SCOTUS appointee act that way is beyond the pale. But judges can be much worse than lawyers as we all know. They shouldn’t rise to this level though. Our system is broken.

    It’s interesting to me that you are a lawyer, Wobblie. I guess that explains your dark view of institutions and humanity.

  8. Jean Henry
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    My dad seemed as upset as a lawyer as I was as a woman after watching the Senate hearings. Trump and co are breaking his spirit. I hope the midterms give him something to cheer. And I hope you will be voting Dem this time Wobblie. iRobert has already said he may not. I know it’s a compromise. To my mind, every vote, even Obama who I liked a lot, has been a compromise. I guess I can’t imagine why anyone would imagine otherwise in a democracy.

  9. Jean Henry
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    People attempting to reach the FBI to corroborate accounts are being stonewalled.

    “A Yale classmate attempting to corroborate Deborah Ramirez’s account that, during her freshman year at Yale, Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face at a drunken party, said that he, too, has struggled unsuccessfully to reach the F.B.I. The classmate, who asked to remain anonymous, recalled hearing about Ramirez’s allegation either the night it happened or during the following two days. The classmate said that he was “one-hundred-per-cent certain” that he had heard an account that was practically identical to Ramirez’s, thirty-five years ago, but the two had never spoken about it. He had hoped to convey this to the F.B.I., but, when he reached out to a Bureau official in Washington, D.C., he was told to contact the F.B.I. field office nearest his home. When he tried that, he was referred to a recording. After several attempts to reach a live person at the field office, he finally reached an official who he said had no idea what he was talking about. At this point, he went back to the official at the F.B.I.’s D.C. headquarters, who then referred him, too, to an 800-number tip line. (He eventually left a tip through an online portal.)

    “I thought it was going to be an investigation,” the Yale classmate said, “but instead it seems it’s just an alibi for Republicans to vote for Kavanaugh.” He said that he had been in touch with other classmates who also wanted to provide information corroborating Ramirez’s account, but that they had not done so.”

  10. M
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I agree that it’s looking like this was all nothing more than a fig leaf for the likes of Collins, Murkowski and Flake to hide behind. We have to make this known. We have to force them to weigh in and demand that the FBI be allowed to pursue a real investigation.

  11. M
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering if Kavanaugh, if he is seated, could be impeached at a later date on the grounds of perjury.

  12. wobblie
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    JH, I practiced law without a license for many years (you do not need to be a licensed attorney to practice many areas of law-I practiced administrative law (unemployment, immigration, social security, labor). Yes it did make me much more pessimistic about people. Gave me the qualifications to be appointed to the MES Board of Review.

    Just re-listened to Flake’s committee vote. He specified that the “investigation” be limited in time and scope to the allegations currently before the committee. The only allegation before the committee was the Ford allegation. The Democrats demanding an FBI “investigation” rather than presenting a contempt of Congress motion (his basically calling Klobuchar a black out drunk is the definition of contempt) was there way of letting him off the hook. Let the Republicans say it is ok to calling a sitting US Senator a drunk in a public hearing. The Democrats are spineless. It is when you have no power that Truth must be your weapon, instead they seem to be complicit.

    JH, I vote Dem in state and local elections and when the race is in question. Every poll issued the week before the 2016 election had Clinton winning Michigan (most exceeded the margin of error, some by as much as 20 points). If Clinton had been anything but a corporate sell-out she would have demanded a recount (Stein gave her the perfect opportunity). Gore would also have been President if he had not capitulated (he should have continued to demand that every vote be counted, instead he went to court and lost before a Republican dominated SCOTUS-as if there would have been any other result before that court).

  13. Meta
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Salon: “Jeff Flake vows he won’t vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh if FBI finds he lied to Congress: The Arizona Republican admitted he could not have called for the FBI investigation if he had been up for reelection”

    Read more:

  14. Michael Avenatti by proxy
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Michael Avenatti:

    Still no word from the FBI. Ramirez was questioned despite never submitting a sworn stmt. Ford was permitted to testify despite never submitting a sworn stmt. My client submitted a sworn stmt and has security clearances, & yet Trump will not allow her to be questioned or testify.

  15. Jean Henry
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I can’t decide if you are more optimistic or more pessimistic about the potential for political change, Wobblie.

    I don’t think any vote for Stein was made on her qualifications, ideological or political or in terms of her personal integrity and capacity to govern. Whatever Clinton’s issues, Stein was worse. A vote for her was a protest vote and a personal attempt at exemption for responsibility for outcome (since she couldn’t win). Evading responsibility is the opposite of principle. It could not have been made from principle. That’s too incongruous.

    All that said, I’m glad you don’t throw away all your votes.

    I think it’s cool you practiced law without a license. Most legal practice has predetermined outcomes. It’s silly that it costs so much for what amounts to advice on bureaucratic processes, legal language translation and filing forms.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Your blog post worked!

    From the New York Times: “The White House told the F.B.I. to interview anyone it wants in the Kavanaugh inquiry after criticism of its scope. Agents must finish by Friday.”

  17. Alyssa Milano quoting the WaPo
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Charles Ludington, a former basketball player and friend of Kavanaugh’s at Yale, told Washington Post on Sunday that he plans to deliver a statement to the FBI field office in Raleigh on Monday detailing violent drunken behavior by Kavanaugh in college.

  18. iRobert
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Lindsay Graham has a serious crush. He’s really fallen hard for this one. He should just go ahead and ask him out. His family is “destroyed” already anyway.

  19. wobblie
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    JH, if the Democrats are not pressured from the left they will continue to move inexorably to the right. The 2 party duopoly/single corporate party must be challenged. This is particularly necessary given the increasing reliance of the Democrats on large donors to finance their electoral efforts. The Democrats pro-carbon energy policies are a case in point. Another of course is there pro-war policies. Absent the influence of large donors the Democrats would abandon these positions since they are minority positions within the party.

    Stein has as much or more integrity as the other Presidential candidates. I always try to vote strategically. It is only Democratic ineptness and cowardliness that has resulted in Trump, just as with Bush.

  20. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    You actually want the FBI to interview Swetnick? Ookaaayyy…

  21. iRobert
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I want the FBI to interview me. I’m a witness. Thursday, I watched a guy who I am certain was Brett Kavanaugh behaving bizarrely and inappropriately, and crying like an insane baby. Seeing how everyone is still acting like he should be a judge, I can only assume I was the only person who witnessed it.

  22. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    If I was innocent I’d be emotional too. Imagine: a life’s work threatened by a lie. You wouldn’t be? That is totally relatable I think.

  23. iRobert
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    No offense, HW, but I’m not sure you’re Supreme Court material either.

  24. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see the problem with Justice Kavanaugh spitting a little fire in self defense. Nothing wrong with that at all. If you see a baby maybe that has to do with you. I mean who had the baby voice really? Come on, think a tiny little bit before you type.

  25. iRobert
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Alright, HW. He’s a basket case. The founding fathers didn’t set up the Supreme Court as a charity project for fucked up little boys who want to feel important.

  26. iRobert
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    One of the many qualities the Senate is looking for in a nominee is mental health. Your freak didn’t clear that little hurdle.

  27. iRobert
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    I’m certain that it comes as a surprise to no one that you don’t recognize emotional and mental health as a requisite for serving in public office.

  28. iRobert
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    You’re clearly not alone in that though, HW.

    EOS wouldn’t have a problem putting a person suffering from multiple personality disorder into public office, as long as all the personalities were Republicans.

  29. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I thought what he did was courageous. It might have been a sign that something was off with him if he felt no emotion.

  30. Meta
    Posted October 3, 2018 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    The Atlantic: “This Is No ‘Standard’ FBI Background Investigation”

    Four former FBI officials told me that, while background investigations are typically assigned to the newest special agents in a particular FBI field office, the Kavanaugh investigation is undoubtedly an “all hands on deck” moment. Newer agents are not necessarily confined to low-profile probes, according to the former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi, who recalled doing a background investigation “as a brand new agent” for “a very high-level White House appointment.” But the Kavanaugh investigation is in a league of its own. “I don’t think there’s a first-office agent anywhere within spitting distance of this,” James Gagliano, a retired FBI supervisory special agent, told me, referring to newbie agents. “Because this is likely a special inquiry, senior officials are going to handpick agents” out of the Washington and Baltimore field offices, which have jurisdiction over the areas where the alleged incidents occurred, Gagliano said. The former FBI agent Manny Gomez emphasized that when it comes to FBI background investigations, “it doesn’t get more high-profile than this,” and added that he would expect senior agents to have been dispatched to conduct the relevant interviews.

    Figliuzzi agreed. “This isn’t for the rookies,” he said. “Whoever the best interviewers and fact-finders are, they’ll be pulled” from their ordinary roles and placed on the Kavanaugh investigation. In the Kavanaugh case, the bureau’s security division is “running the show, likely with lots of input from the ‘seventh floor’—the director’s office,” Frank Montoya Jr., a former FBI special agent who led the Seattle field office until 2016, told me. “It will go right up to [Deputy FBI Director] David Bowdich, who’s got to be all over this and briefing FBI Director Wray three times per day,” Figliuzzi said. The FBI will ultimately report its findings to the White House and the Senate.

    As of Monday afternoon, the FBI had interviewed three potential witnesses—Mark Judge, Patrick J. Smyth, and Leland Keyser—to the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who testified last week that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a high-school party in 1982, according to The Washington Post. Agents also interviewed Deborah Ramirez, a former classmate of Kavanaugh who alleged that he exposed himself to her when they were undergraduates at Yale.

    Read more:

  31. iRobert
    Posted October 3, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I’m certain if anyone behaved like he did in his courtroom, or any other, it would not be considered courageous. It would be considered contempt, and a psychiatric examination would be ordered.

  32. Posted August 13, 2020 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Kamala Harris is a nasty woman for making Kavanaugh cry like that.

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