In response to NBC News and Wall Street Journal stories claiming that the White House Counsel’s office, led by Don McGahn, has been “micromanaging” the FBI’s “limited” background check probe into Trump SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh, two White House spokeswomen disputed the reports, claiming that the Senate and the FBI – not the White House – have full discretion over the probe, and that the FBI will investigate whatever “credible” allegations arise.
As Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway took to the Sunday Shows, Trump denied the NBC and WSJ reports, saying on Twitter that he wanted the FBI to interview anyone they deemed appropriate.
NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people. Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2018
As a reminder, on Saturday lawyer Michael Avenatti complained that the FBI had not contacted his client, Julie Swetnick, over her allegations that federal judge Brett Kavanaugh participated in the “gang rape” of girls at drunken high school parties, and shortly thereafter reports surfaced that the White House had asked FBI investigators to focus on only the first two named women who came forward with allegations against Kavanaugh.
According to the New York Times, the FBI is also planning to question Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, as well as Leland Keyser and P.J. Smyth, who Ford alleged also attended the party where Kavanaugh allegedly pinned her down, tried to remove her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream for help, per Reuters.
The White House has reportedly asked the FBI to share its findings after it interviews Ramirez and Ford and Kavanaugh’s high school associates. After that, the president and his advisers will decide whether the accusations should be investigated further.
During an interview with Fox News Sunday, Sanders said the Senate is dictating the terms of the probe:
“The White House is not micromanaging this process,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
“The Senate is dictating the terms,” she said. “The FBI, this is what they do. And we’re out of the way and letting them do exactly that.”
Meanwhile, Conway said on CNN’s State of the Union that the investigation is “not meant to be a fishing expedition” but that investigators should be looking at anything “credible”.
“The White House is not getting involved in the FBI investigation in that way,” she said. “They should be looking at anything they think is credible within this limited scope.”
Watch clips from the interview with Sarah Huckabee Sanders…
On potential meeting between President Trump and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, @PressSec tells Chris: A date for that hasn’t been set. It could be this week. I could see it pushing back another week given all of the other things that are going on with the Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/vGszXB6diE
— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) September 30, 2018
…and the full interview with Kellyanne Conway on SOTU, during which she also shocks Jake Tapper by revealing that she was a victim of sexual assault:
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham on on ABC’s “This Week” that the three Republican senators who pushed for the probe specifically asked that it be “limited in scope” and focus on the “credible allegations” from those who haven’t testified (which suggests that Ford will largely be left out of it).
To be sure, investigators in the background check probe aren’t obligated to share their findings with the public, but it’s possible that Trump or members of the Senate Judiciary Committee could openly share them (or more likely leak them) to the press. Despite the White House’s denials, we imagine the Senate, wary of perceptions that the probe is a sham so close to the midterms, will come forward with its own denial, saying that the FBI is free to conduct its investigation as it sees fit.
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