WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is not “micromanaging” a new FBI review of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s background but is leaving it to senators who requested the probe to dictate the parameters of the investigation, advisers close to President Donald Trump insisted Sunday.
Some Democratic lawmakers claim the White House is keeping investigators from interviewing certain witnesses and have questioned how thorough an investigation that must be concluded by Friday can and will be. Trump tweeted that no amount of time “will never be enough” for Democrats, most of whom oppose giving Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, a seat on the nation’s highest court.
Meanwhile, FBI agents on Sunday interviewed Deborah Ramirez, one of three women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to publicly discuss details of a confidential investigation.
Ramirez detailed her allegation that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party in the early 1980s when they were students at Yale University. Kavanaugh has denied Ramirez’s allegation.
The person familiar with Ramirez’s questioning, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said she also provided investigators with the names of others who she said could corroborate her account.
But Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, has not been contacted by the FBI since Trump on Friday ordered the agency to take another look at the nominee’s background, according to a member of Ford’s team.
Kavanaugh has denied assaulting Ford.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said White House counsel Don McGahn, who is managing Kavanaugh’s nomination, “has allowed the Senate to dictate what these terms look like, and what the scope of the investigation is.”
“The White House isn’t intervening. We’re not micromanaging 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,” Sanders said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the investigation will be “limited in scope” and “will not be a fishing expedition. The FBI is not tasked to do that.”
Senate Judiciary Committee member Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., requested an investigation last Friday — after he and other Republicans on the panel voted along strict party lines in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation — as a condition for his own subsequent vote to put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
Another committee member, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday that testimony would be taken from Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, who has been named by two of three women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
“I think that will be the scope of it. And that should be the scope of it,” Graham said.
Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday she is confident in the investigation and “that the FBI will follow up on any leads that result from the interviews.” The Maine Republican supports the new FBI investigation and is among a few Republican and Democratic senators who have not announced a position on Kavanaugh.
Republicans control 51 seats in the closely divided 100-member Senate and cannot afford to lose more than one vote on confirmation.
Collins and Flake spoke throughout the weekend.
Senate Republicans discussed the contours of the investigation with the White House late Friday, according to a person familiar with the call who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had gathered Judiciary Committee Republicans in his office earlier. At that time, the scope of the investigation was requested by Flake, Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart.
Murkowski is not on the committee, but also has not announced how she will vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Republicans later called the White House to discuss the scope of the probe, the person said.
McConnell’s office declined to elaborate Sunday on which allegations would be investigated, reiterating only that it would focus on “current credible allegations.” Stewart said the investigation’s scope “was set” by the three GOP senators Friday and “has not changed.”