News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

FBI Re-Investigating Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations


Now let's look at what the FBI is trying to find out during its weeklong investigation of Brett Kavanaugh. The president formally asked the Bureau on Friday to reopen its background check of the Supreme Court nominee, and that means we are now three days into the probe.

NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas is here in the studio. Hi, Ryan.


SHAPIRO: Let's start with the big sticking point so far, which has been the question of the scope of the investigation. Do we know what the FBI is looking into exactly?

LUCAS: We don't exactly know what they're looking into, no. Democrats, as we've heard, have complained that the scope of this is kind of being curtailed, reined in by the White House. They say that the administration has put strict limits on what the FBI can investigate. Democrats sent the FBI and the White House today a list of 24 people that they say that the Bureau should talk to. The administration has pushed back against this. They've said that they do want a full investigation. They've made clear that they also don't want a fishing expedition.

Today the president said that he wants what he called a comprehensive investigation. He reiterated again that he wants it done quickly. And it is the White House that has the final say on what the FBI gets to look into in this background investigation. That said, Trump said today that while he has final say, he's listening to what the Senate Republican leadership wants to have checked out, what they want looked into, and then he's directing the FBI based off of what the Senate says.

SHAPIRO: And what has the Senate Republican leadership said they want the FBI to look into?

LUCAS: Well, they initially said that they wanted the FBI to look into what they called credible allegations of sexual misconduct. That was always vague enough, kind of ill-defined enough that the questions about scope were almost inevitable. On this question, a senior Senate GOP aide pointed to comments that Senator Lindsey Graham made over the weekend.

Graham said that the FBI would talk to witnesses that Christine Blasey Ford mentioned in her testimony last week. That includes Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge. Graham also mentioned Deborah Ramirez. She's the second woman who came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. Those allegations date back to their time at Yale in the early, mid-1980s. And those are the only people that Graham mentioned.

SHAPIRO: So as I mentioned, this is day three of the FBI's weeklong investigation. Do you know much about what the FBI has been doing in those three days so far?

LUCAS: Well, the bureau itself has not provided any clarity on this, but NPR has learned that the FBI has interviewed Ramirez. She's given the FBI a list of people that she says either witnessed the alleged incident or heard about it contemporaneously. Beyond that, though, it's pretty much crickets. The Bureau has not reached out to Ford at this point. It also hasn't reached out to a third woman who came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. That's Julie Swetnick.

And then there are a number of possible witnesses who could have information about the various alleged events in question. One of course is Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge. We've talked a lot about him. Judge has said he'll cooperate with the FBI, but his lawyer today declined to say anything beyond that.

SHAPIRO: And at the same time, more of Kavanaugh's high school and college acquaintances are speaking out. Tell us about what they've said most recently.

LUCAS: Well, in the last 24 hours, a former friend of Kavanaugh's at Yale came out and publicly disputed Kavanaugh's representation of his drinking as a young man. This is Chad Ludington. He's a history professor at North Carolina State now. And his comments don't relate to allegations of sexual misconduct but really about how much Kavanaugh drank. And what Ludington says is that he frequently drank with Kavanaugh when they were at Yale, says Kavanaugh was a belligerent and aggressive drunk.

But at the same point in time, the White House has put out statements from two college friends who say Kavanaugh did not behave that way. They don't match - those allegations don't match the Kavanaugh that they knew. It's important for Democrats to talk about Kavanagh's truthfulness about his drinking, his truthfulness in his testimony, that it's something that should be looked into. And the president says, you know what? I believe what Kavanaugh's had to say.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ryan Lucas - thanks, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.