Just 24 hours after caving to pressure from the Senate and requesting an FBI probe into the sexual assault allegations against his Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump is reportedly already working to impose strict limitations on the scope of the investigation—a move that has been denounced as a flagrant attempt to further rig the process in Kavanaugh's favor.
"The White House has a list of people the FBI can talk to. This investigation is already a sham."
Citing multiple anonymous officials briefed on the matter, NBC News reported on Saturday that while "the FBI will examine the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, the bureau has not been permitted to investigate the claims of Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of engaging in sexual misconduct at parties while he was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in the 1980s."
Michael Avenatti, the attorney of Stormy Daniels who is representing Swetnick, wrote on Twitter that if NBC's report is accurate, "this is outrageous."
"Why are Trump and his cronies in the Senate trying to prevent the American people from learning the truth?" Avenatti asked. "Why do they insist on muzzling women with information submitted under penalty of perjury? Why Ramirez but not my client?"
Trump has now determined that he and he alone will be the sole arbiter of whether a woman’s claims of sexual assault and misogyny are credible. Why even have an FBI investigation? I thought it was their job to make this determination. He and Kavanaugh are afraid of the truth.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 29, 2018
According to NBC News, the White House counsel's office has also "given the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview," a restriction that "may make it difficult to pursue additional leads in a case in which a Supreme Court nominee has been accused of sexual assault."
Additionally, the FBI will not be permitted to "examine why Kavanaugh’s account of his drinking at Yale University differs from those of some former classmates" or ask the supermarket that employed Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge "for records verifying when he was employed there"—a line of inquiry that could help bolster Ford's account.
This is the most glaring, obvious and telling limitation above and beyond the others. https://t.co/0hWVfccaVn
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 29, 2018
This is outrageous. The WH is playing games. Let the FBI do its job. https://t.co/XUafZFrP7U
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) September 29, 2018
— CREDO Mobile (@CREDOMobile) September 29, 2018
"This is a farce, not an investigation," MoveOn.org declared in a tweet reacting to NBC's reporting. "It insults the intelligence of the Senate and the country and is an act of profound disrespect toward Dr. Blasey Ford and all survivors of sexual violence. No self-respecting senator can pretend otherwise."
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Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler argued that the primary reason the White House is working to "carefully control" the scope of the FBI probe is because "Kavanaugh lied so much on Thursday that if FBI pursues obvious leads, [Kavanaugh] will get referred for lying his ass off."
This is exactly right: the White House has to carefully control scope bc Kavanaugh LIED SO MUCH on Thursday that if FBI pursues obvious leads, Kav will get referred for lying his ass off. https://t.co/2ZRTkDUK3Y
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) September 29, 2018
In a tweet responding to NBC's report late Saturday, Trump insisted that he is not limiting the FBI's probe. But shortly after Trump's denial, the New York Times confirmed that the White House has provided the FBI a list of witnesses it can interview and is restricting the scope of the investigation.
After this tweet, @nytmike reported the exact two things the president is specifically claiming are incorrect: that the white house is limiting the scope of the inquiry and those who will be interviewed. https://t.co/VdXzq4Tjcc https://t.co/KeMYhzXYOO
— Dafna Linzer (@DafnaLinzer) September 30, 2018
Denouncing the reported restraints the Trump White House is reportedly imposing on the FBI's investigation despite the president's vow of no limitations, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote: "This is not how you conduct an investigation. But it is how you do a whitewash."
Immediately after NBC's story was published on Saturday, commentators and activists immediately began sending the story to Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has agreed to vote yes on Kavanaugh as long as there is a full FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against him.
"The White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview" for the Kavanaugh investigation.
Is that the kind of investigation you were promised?https://t.co/zoFBXtWNla
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 29, 2018
— Topher Spiro (@TopherSpiro) September 29, 2018