Senate Panel Members Begin Reading FBI's Kavanaugh Report

Oct 4, 2018
Originally published on October 4, 2018 10:46 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This morning, inside a secure room in the U.S. Capitol, senators on the judiciary committee are getting a chance to read a single copy of an FBI report. These are the results of the agency's supplemental investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh amid allegations of sexual assault when he was younger. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last night, before reading the report, that the first vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation will take place tomorrow. And let's turn to NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas for the latest.

Hi there, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi, there.

GREENE: All right. So what do we know about this report so far? And have we been getting reaction yet from lawmakers or from the White House?

LUCAS: Well, the White House sent the report to the Senate Judiciary Committee overnight. It arrived around 2:30 a.m. Washington time. There is one report, as you said. All 100 senators will have a chance to review it. Republicans and Democrats, so far, have been doing this in kind of one-hour shifts, alternating hours. And that will continue throughout the day. This is ahead of the procedural vote tomorrow that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set up on Kavanaugh's nomination.

And as for reactions so far, the Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, Chuck Grassley, he says there's nothing in this report that we didn't already know. He says there's no contemporaneous evidence that corroborates the allegations of sexual misconduct that have been made against Kavanaugh. The White House has said that it's confident that the nomination will proceed, that Kavanaugh will be confirmed. Democrats that have come out of the reading room so far have been fairly stone-faced. But there's actually a news conference right now where they are kind of giving their reactions.

GREENE: OK. So we're waiting to hear exactly what Democrats have to say about this. And of course, Democrats, even before this investigation began, were raising a lot of questions about its scope. Right? I mean, do we know a lot about who the FBI actually talked to?

LUCAS: Well, the question of scope really is critical. And that has been a sticking point in this investigation since the White House first announced it. It's the White House that dictates the parameters of a background investigation - can't say that enough. In this case, the president said that his marching orders to the FBI were based off of what Senate GOP lawmakers were asking for.

We don't know exactly what the scope is. But from what we've been able to pin down, it appears as though it was fairly limited. The White House says the bureau spoke to nine people in total. As of now, I've confirmed six of those people. The bulk of the FBI's work appears to have focused on Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. Five of the people the FBI spoke to are high school friends of Kavanaugh's or Ford's. On Kavanaugh's front, there's Mark Judge, PJ Smyth, Tim Gaudette, Chris Garnette (ph) - Chris Garrett, excuse me.

The FBI also spoke to Leland Keyser. That's Ford's friend who Ford says was at the gathering the night of the alleged assault. And then the sixth person that I know that the FBI has talked to is Deborah Ramirez. And she was a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh's who says that he exposed himself to her at a college party.

GREENE: But you know, I'm just monitoring this news conference. Dianne Feinstein of California, Democratic senator, already saying that this looks like the product of an incomplete investigation, which suggests Democrats are not convinced the FBI spoke to enough people. And really, that could be part of the story here, not who the FBI talked to but who they didn't interview. Is that right?

LUCAS: That is right. So Ramirez's legal team, for example, says that she provided the FBI with a list of 20 possible witnesses, people who had heard of the alleged incident contemporaneously. They say the FBI didn't contact any of them. A couple of them have come forward now on the record to say that they heard of the incident that Ramirez alleges at the time. There's been a lot of frustration from former classmates of Kavanaugh's who say that they've tried to contact the FBI. And notably, it's also worth pointing out that the FBI did not talk to Ford or, it appears, Kavanaugh either. And that's something that two former FBI officials who I've spoken to have said normally, you would do an investigation like this.

GREENE: NPR's Ryan Lucas.

Thanks so much, Ryan.

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