FBI investigators will have free rein when looking into the allegations of sexual assault levied against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Speaking to reporters on September 29th, US President Donald Trump said, "the FBI, as you know, is all over talking to everybody. This could be a blessing in disguise."
"They have free rein. They're going to do whatever they have to do, whatever it is they do. They'll be doing things that we have never even thought of," said Trump. "And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine."
This comes after Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh testified before the Judiciary Committee on September 27. Ford alleges that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers.
One of the other women accusing Kavanaugh is Deborah Ramirez. A statement from Ramirez’s lawyer, John Clune, said Ramirez has agreed to cooperate with the FBI’s investigation. She claims Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party in the early 1980s.
Two other women have also levied accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court seemed assured at one point, but following last week’s hearing with Ford, his future seems less certain now. It was in the wake of this hearing that Trump made the decision on September 28th to order a further investigation into the allegations against his nominee.
While the precise scope of the reopened background investigation into Kavanaugh’s background remained unclear, Trump made it clear that FBI staff will be able to investigate as they see fit. He revisited the question of the FBI's scope in a late-night tweet on Saturday, writing in part, "I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion."
In a separate action involving the FBI, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the Justice Department and the FBI to open a criminal investigation into "apparent false statements". The request concerns statements made to committee investigators alleging sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh in 1985.
An alleged victim contacted the office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI. This person claimed that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted an acquaintance on a boat in Newport, Rhode Island. It was claimed that this took place in 1985. But, according to Grassley, this person then later "'recanted' and apologised for the allegation via social media.
Senate leaders have agree to wait until the latest FBI investigation is completed. Trump has provided one week for the investigation to be conducted. The Judiciary Committee said the probe should be limited to "current credible allegations" against Kavanaugh.
In response, Kavanaugh has denied the allegations put forwards against him. Further to this, Kavanaugh's high school friend Mark Judge who Ford claimed was in the room at the time of the alleged assault, has said he will cooperate with any law enforcement agency’s investigation confidentially. Judge has also denied misconduct allegations.
PJ Smyth and Leland Ingham Keyser are two witnesses named by Ford herself. She insists the two were in the house when she was attacked. Lawyers representing Smyth and Keyser said they are both willing to cooperate with the FBI investigation.
Keyser’s attorney reaffirmed a previous statement from her client in which Keyser said she does not know Kavanaugh and has no recollection of ever being at a gathering or party where he was present. This was revealed in a Judiciary Committee statement on Saturday night.
The third person levelling allegations against Kavanaugh is Julie Swetnick, who accused Kavanaugh and Judge of excessive drinking and inappropriate treatment of women in the early 1980s. These are only some of her allegations. Kavanaugh has called these accusations a "joke" and Judge has said he "categorically" denies the allegations.
Swetnick's attorney, Michael Avenatti, said on Saturday that his client was willing to cooperate fully with investigators. At the time, Avenatti said Swetnick had not been contacted by the FBI.
According to the Associated Press, the FBI conducts background checks for federal nominees. What the agency does not do is make judgments on the credibility or significance of any allegations. The investigators will only compile information about Kavanaugh's past and provide their findings to the White House. These findings will be included with the information in Kavanaugh's background file, which is available to senators.