The FBI has been given a list of four witnesses to interview as part of a background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, The New York Times reported.
Those witnesses are Mark Judge, Leland Keyser, PJ Smyth, and Deborah Ramirez.
The investigation comes after Christine Blasey Ford, a northern California professor, alleged that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high school gathering in the 1980s. Ford claims that Keyser and Smyth were present at the gathering when the alleged assault happened, and that Judge was eyewitness to it.
Ramirez, meanwhile, came forward with her own claim against Kavanaugh after Ford’s story was published, accusing the Supreme Court nominee of exposing himself to her at a dorm-room party at Yale during the 1983-1984 school year.
The witness list does not include several of Kavanaugh’s former classmates who have contradicted Kavanaugh’s other claims about his drinking and partying habits in high school and college.
NBC News first reported on some of the limitations the White House has placed on the investigation, but President Donald Trump disputed the report after it was published.
“NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people,” Trump tweeted. “Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!”
NBC had reported that the FBI was barred from investigating claims by Julie Swetnick, the third woman who has come forward publicly with decades-old allegations against Kavanaugh. It also reported that the White House had provided a list of witnesses the FBI was allowed to interview.
The Times report said that while the FBI was not barred from investigating Swetnick’s allegations, it does not plan on questioning her directly. But investigators are looking into aspects of all three women’s claims.
The White House can order investigators to pursue other lines of inquiry and interviews if their interviews with people on the current list of witnesses lead them in that direction, and that may have been what Trump’s tweet was referring to.
The White House counsel’s office put together the witness list and is coordinating the scope of the FBI background check. The administration is said to be working closely with Senate Republicans on the matter, and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Maine Sen. Susan Collins — considered key swing votes — have both said they want Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, questioned by the FBI.
Senate Republicans ultimately drafted the witness list and shared it with the White House, according to The Times, and they did not consult their Democratic colleagues when putting it together.
The FBI has already begun investigating accusations made by Ford and Ramirez, The Washington Post reported Saturday. Ford testified against Kavanaugh in an emotional hearing on Thursday.
Swetnick has alleged in a sworn declaration that Kavanaugh and Judge were present at a party in the early 1980s where she was gang raped. During his hearing to address the allegations on Thursday, Kavanaugh called Swetnick’s claims a “farce,” and Judge also disputed her claims.
Swetnick is represented by the attorney Michael Avenatti, who tweeted on Saturday that neither he nor his client had been contacted by the FBI, and that any restrictions on the investigation from the White House would “undermine the legitimacy” of the entire investigation.
“If true, this is outrageous,” Avenatti tweeted. “Why are Trump and his cronies in the Senate trying to prevent the American people from learning the truth? Why do they insist on muzzling women with information submitted under penalty of perjury? Why Ramirez but not my client?”
President Donald Trump on Saturday told reporters that the FBI has “free rein” to do “whatever it is that they do” in the Kavanaugh investigation.
“Having them do a thorough investigation, I actually think it will be a blessing in disguise,” Trump said. “It will be a good thing.”
White House spokesman Raj Shah also told the Wall Street Journal that the “scope and duration has been set by the Senate,” and the White House was “letting the FBI agents do what they are trained to do.”
The FBI investigation into Ford’s and Ramirez’s claims came after a dramatic showdown in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, in which Flake urged his Republican colleagues to allow a one-week FBI investigation into the Kavanaugh allegations.
Though Flake and the majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move Kavanaugh’s nomination to a full Senate vote, he struck a deal with Democrats to delay the vote for a week while an FBI investigation goes ahead.