Less than 24 hours after President Trump bowed to pressure from Senate Republicans and ordered the FBI to conduct a one-week long “supplemental background investigation” into allegations of sexual misconduct facing SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the federal judge’s second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale with Kavanaugh in the early 1980s, has already agreed to cooperate with the probe after being contacted by the bureau, the Washington Post reported.
The FBI is also investigating allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, whose tearful dramatic testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week nearly derailed Kavanaugh’s nomination – that is, until he stepped up and delivered an impassioned denial that satisfied President Trump and Senate Republicans. Ford claims that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when they were in high school in Maryland. Ramirez told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh pulled out his penis and shoved it in her face during a drunken dorm room party during their freshman year at Yale.
Ramirez’s lawyer confirmed that she would cooperate with the investigation, but declined to comment further.
“We can confirm the FBI has reached out to interview Ms. Ramirez and she has agreed to cooperate with their investigation,” the attorney, John Clune, said in a statement. “Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we will have no further comment at this time.”
In addition to at least two of Kavanaugh’s named accusers (two women more women have anonymously accused him of misconduct though their claims are widely viewed as not credible), several of the alleged witnesses whom Ford said also attended the party where the assault allegedly occurred have agreed to cooperate.
But already, two potentially crucial witnesses have said they will cooperate with the FBI, raising the possibility that at least more statements and recollections will be added to the record, even if they’re not ultimately definitive.
An attorney for Leland Keyser, a friend of Ford’s who Ford says was at the party, said Keyser also was willing to cooperate with the FBI investigation. But the attorney emphasized that Keyser has no recollection of the party where Ford alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her.
“Notably, Ms. Keyser does not refute Dr. Ford’s account, and she has already told the press that she believes Dr. Ford’s account,” the attorney, Howard J. Walsh III, wrote in an email to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “However, the simple and unchangeable truth is that she is unable to corroborate it because she has no recollection of the incident in question.”
Judge, the high school friend of Kavanaugh who Ford says was in the room during the alleged assault, has also agreed to cooperate with the FBI. His account has been particularly sought after because, unlike Kavanaugh, Judge has not denied Ford’s allegations but has said he has no memory that such an assault occurred.
Ford told the Judiciary Committee that some weeks after the alleged assault, she ran into Judge at a local grocery store where he was working for the summer.
As WaPo reminds us, the FBI’s investigation is merely a background check, not a criminal probe. Notably, sex crime prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who questioned both Kavanaugh and Ford on Thursday, said she wouldn’t be able to pursue an investigation or even request a search warrant given Ford’s testimony.
A background investigation is, by its nature, more limited than a criminal probe, and FBI agents will not be able to obtain search warrants or issue subpoenas to compel testimony from potential witnesses. The FBI’s interviews, which will take a few days to conduct, won’t turn into a sprawling inquest of everyone Kavanaugh went to a party with in high school, said a person familiar with the investigation.
The paper also reminded readers, perhaps with a dash of tongue-in-cheek irony, that the results of the investigation would only be shared with a small group of senators and would not become public (though we imagine they will almost inevitably leak).
The FBI’s findings will not necessarily become public. When investigators have completed their work, anything they’ve discovered will be turned over to the White House as an update to Kavanaugh’s background check file. The White House would then likely share the material with the Senate committee.
At that point, all senators, as well as a very small group of aides, would have access to it.
The White House or the Senate would decide what, if anything, should be released publicly. The bureau’s work will likely consist mostly of reports of interviews with witnesses and accusers. The bureau will not come to a conclusion on whether the accusations are credible and will not make a recommendation on what should become of Kavanaugh’s nomination.
While Democrats heralded the probe as an unmitigated win for their stalling strategy, there’s still a solid chance that it could backfire. As Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs revealed, high school friends of Ford and Kavanaugh say the investigation could uncover some “fairly unpleasant things” about Ford’s behavior.
A person who knew both Kavanaugh and Ford in high school tells me:
“This FBI mini investigation is going to uncover some fairly unpleasant things about the witnesses. I hope that stuff stays private.”
Friends from back then aren’t talking with one another about it — too toxic. https://t.co/mkEIJXPVfw
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) September 29, 2018
Despite the dramatic footage teased to the media by Showtime, which recorded an interview with Michael Avenatti client Julie Swetnick, the third woman to publicly accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct (she claimed that Kavanaugh and Judge participated in the “gang rapes” of disoriented young women at parties back in high school), NBC News and the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday afternoon that the White House has limited the FBI investigation to Ramirez and Ford, and has not permitted the FBI to interview Swetnick. While some accused the White House of “micromanaging” the FBI probe, and a spokesperson for the White House said the parameters of the investigation were actually set by the Senate, which said it wanted to limit the probe to only “credible” accusers, NBC reported that it isn’t unusual for the White House to set these types of boundaries for background-check investigations, since the FBI is conducting the investigation on behalf of the White House.
Avenatti was, understandably, less than pleased.
“I don’t know how this investigation could be called complete if they don’t contact her,” Avenatti said.
Here’s the teaser of the Swetnick interview, which is set to air Sunday night:
Regardless of what Ramirez tells the FBI – whether it’s stunningly revelatory or utterly mundane – we imagine it will leak to WaPo or the New York Times by mid-week.
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