The limited scope of Kavanaugh’s seventh and final background investigation, ordered by President Donald Trump last week under pressure from Flake, was freely acknowledged by the White House deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, on Thursday morning. Background investigations of this kind are inherently limited, he said, and “the Senate has set a scope on what they are interested in.” As of Thursday, according to Shah, the FBI had spoken with nine witnesses. Five of them—Mark Judge, Patrick J. Smyth, Leland Keyser, Tim Gaudette, and Chris Garrett—were interviewed about the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who testified last week that Kavanaugh had assaulted her at a high-school party in 1982.
Agents also interviewed Deborah Ramirez, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s who alleged that he exposed himself to her when they were undergraduates at Yale. Unlike Anita Hill and the then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, however—both of whom were interviewed by the FBI, albeit less than thoroughly, as part of its investigation into Hill’s sexual-harassment allegations—the FBI did not speak with Ford or Kavanaugh directly. A third Kavanaugh accuser named Julie Swetnick was not contacted, either, according to her lawyer Michael Avenatti. “It now appears that the White House blocked the FBI from doing its job,” Feinstein told reporters after reading the report. “Democrats agreed that the scope should be limited. We didn’t agree that the White House should tie the FBI’s hands.”
White House Counsel Don McGahn, who shepherded Kavanaugh through the confirmation process and has been serving as a liaison between the FBI and the White House, reportedly told Democratic Senator Chris Coons this week that the background investigation was being done “by the book.” That does not mean it was appropriately comprehensive, however—Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, cautioned against putting any weight on claims that this is a “standard” investigation. Standard background probes, he told me, are typically conducted before any derogatory information has been presented about the person being investigated.
Indeed, Coons told the Post that he “came away from” his conversation with McGahn realizing that agents would not be expanding their investigation to include witnesses they learn about in the course of their initial interviews who might be able to corroborate specific claims. A lawyer for Debbie Ramirez, John Clune, echoed that concern in a series of statements this week. On Tuesday, he tweeted that “we are not aware of the FBI affirmatively reaching out to any” of the more than 20 witnesses Ramirez identified in her interview who may have corroborating information. And in a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray on Thursday, Clune said “we can only conclude that the FBI—or those controlling the investigation—did not want to learn the truth behind Ms. Ramirez’s allegations.” Ford’s attorneys wrote their own letter to Wray on Thursday, claiming that, to their knowledge, the bureau hadn’t contacted the more than 20 witnesses they’d suggested, either.