The FBI has a one-week window to complete an investigation into sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — and thus far, its witness list has been a subject of scrutiny.
Questions began emerging about the FBI’s review pretty much as soon as the investigation got underway. This past weekend, multiple outlets reported that President Donald Trump was curtailing the number of people the FBI could speak with and limiting the scope of its investigation to allegations brought forward by Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. The White House has since vigorously denied these reports and said it’s giving the FBI free rein to do whatever it needs to do to make sure a review is effectively completed.
Despite the administration’s public statement, however, it remains unclear just how much freedom the FBI really has to conduct a comprehensive probe. As Vox’s German Lopez has written, the FBI is obligated to act on the direction of the White House and that could include a whole host of restrictions when it comes to how it’s handling its probe.
Attorneys for both Ford and Ramirez have raised this concern and noted that the agency has yet to interview Ford or follow up on a list of more than twenty corroborating witnesses that Ramirez has provided. “It is inconceivable that the FBI could conduct a thorough investigation of Dr. Ford’s allegations without interviewing her, Judge Kavanaugh, or the witnesses we have identified in our letters to you,” Ford’s attorneys wrote in a letter to the FBI earlier this week.
What we know about who the FBI has interviewed so far
Based on statements from their respective attorneys and broader media reports, the FBI has talked to a few people relevant to the investigation. We’ll be updating the list as more names are confirmed.
- Mark Judge: Ford, a Palo Alto University professor, has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while they were both in high school. (Kavanaugh has denied this, along with the sexual misconduct allegations against him by Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.)
Ford said that Judge was in the room at the time of the assault. Judge has said he has no recollection of the event and that he’s never seen Kavanaugh behave in this way.
Swetnick has said that Judge was present at parties where he and Kavanaugh would spike drinks so that women could be “gang raped.” Judge has denied these allegations as well.
In addition to having been implicated in accusations by two women, Judge is seen as someone who could provide crucial background about both the culture of Georgetown Prep and Kavanaugh’s drinking habits in high school. Judge has since written a memoir about his own struggles with alcoholism that includes a character named Bart O’Kavanaugh, who passes out after drinking too much at a party.
- Patrick Smyth: Smyth is another Georgetown Prep classmate who Ford has named at being present at the gathering where she was allegedly assaulted. Smyth has said he has no knowledge of the party in question and no information about the allegations that have been levied against Kavanaugh.
- Leland Keyser: Keyser is a friend of Ford’s who she has also named as someone who was at the gathering where the assault allegedly took place. Keyser has said that she does not know Kavanaugh and has no recollection of being at a party where he was present. She has also said, however, that she believes Ford’s account of the assault.
- Tim Gaudette: Gaudette is someone that Kavanaugh has signaled was a friend and classmate from Georgetown Prep. In a July 1, 1982, entry on Kavanaugh’s detailed high school calendars, he lists going to “Timmy’s for skis with Judge, Tom, P.J. Bernie and ... Squi.” “Timmy,” in this case, is referencing Gaudette.
Additionally, during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting last week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) noted that there were some similarities between that July 1 calendar entry and the gathering where Ford says she was assaulted — namely, that a few of the same people were in attendance. Whitehouse had urged the FBI to look into this possible connection.
- Chris Garrett: Garrett is another friend and classmate of Kavanaugh’s who was purportedly in attendance at a July 1, 1982, gathering of friends. He also previously went out with Ford and is listed in the calendar entry by his nickname, “Squi.”
- Deborah Ramirez: Ramirez has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her while the two were in college, an allegation he has denied. She spoke with FBI agents for about two hours this past weekend, according to her attorney John Clune. Clune has said that she also provided more than twenty names of people who could corroborate her account, though he expressed concerns that the FBI had not yet contacted any of them as of Tuesday evening.
“It was a detailed and productive interview, and the agents were clearly motivated to investigate the matter in any way they were permitted,” Clune wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.
Who hasn’t yet heard from the FBI, as far as we know
Notably, Ford and Kavanaugh are both not yet on the list of people that the FBI has interviewed. A spokesperson for Ford’s attorneys said she had still not been contacted by the FBI as of early Wednesday afternoon.
“We have received no response from anyone involved in this investigation, and no response to our offer for Dr. Ford to be interviewed,” Ford’s attorneys emphasized in a Tuesday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. “This afternoon, we learned of media reports that the FBI does not intend to interview either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh. We hope that this reporting is inaccurate.”
There could be a crucial reason for their omission from the investigation. Sources have told Bloomberg that the FBI has not done interviews with Ford or Kavanaugh because the White House hasn’t granted it the authority to conduct them. A source has also told NBC News that the White House felt that the testimony Ford offered under oath last week was sufficient. Experts have said that there could be more information gleaned in a direct interview with investigators that’s not captured in broader Senate testimony.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back on the Bloomberg report during a press briefing on Wednesday, noting that the White House was allowing the Senate to determine the scope of the FBI’s investigation. “The president has indicated that whoever the FBI has deemed necessary to interview, he’s fine with that,” she said. “He’s also asked that the Senate be the ones that determine the scope of what they need to make a decision on whether they vote Kavanaugh up or down.”
Her statement obscures the power the White House has over the FBI, however. As former FBI agent Asha Rangappa told Vox’s Sean Illing, the White House is the one with the final say over this review. It’s not the Senate but the White House that ultimately determines the parameters of the investigation.
The White House appears to want that onus to fall somewhere else.