The White House reportedly has placed strict limits on the FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, despite President Donald Trump’s claim on Saturday that the agency has “free reign” to look into the accusations over the next week.
> "I think it's going very well," Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a campaign rally in West Virginia. "The FBI, as you know, is all over talking to everybody."
> Again calling his nominee "a very high-quality person," the president said of the new investigation, "I would expect it will turn out very well."
Trump initially was opposed to instructing the FBI to investigate but changed his tune after Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said a reopening of Kavanaugh’s background check to include the sexual assault allegations would be a condition of his yes vote.
After ordering the investigation, the White House said in a statement that "this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week."
> The FBI began immediately, contacting attorneys for at least one of the three accusers, Deborah Ramirez, that night to set up an interview. Days earlier the New Yorker reported that Ramirez told it that Kavanaugh, when they were freshmen at Yale University 35 years ago, exposed himself and thrust his genitals in her face without her consent during a party.
> The FBI is also examining the first and most prominent allegation, by California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, that he assaulted her at a social gathering when he was 17 and she was 15.
> According to media reports Saturday, however, the White House is not permitting the FBI to pursue the allegation of the third accuser, Julie Swetnick, who said Kavanaugh was present at a party where she was gang-raped when they were teenagers.
Reports also indicated that investigators cannot request employment records from Safeway, the grocery store where Kavanaugh’s alleged accomplice Mark Judge worked during the summer of the alleged assault.
Ford said during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that such records could corroborate the timeline of her claims.
> A White House spokesman, Raj Shah, declined to confirm that the FBI was working under such restrictions, and said the Senate was setting the parameters of the inquiry.
Trump also said Saturday that he hopes the FBI will look into the leaking of Ford’s initial letter sent to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), in which Ford requested her identity remain confidential.
> "Was it Sen. Feinstein?" Trump asked. "Certainly, her body language was not exactly very good when they asked her that question. I would like to find out as part of it who leaked the papers. Which Democrat leaked the papers?"
> Feinstein has adamantly denied leaking the letter, saying she had been honoring Ford's request for confidentiality since July. Several Republicans on the committee say they believe her. The disclosure of the allegation earlier this month prompted Ford to go public with her story, causing the delay in Kavanaugh's confirmation vote and raising new doubts about his likelihood of joining the nation's highest court.