FBI opens back­ground recheck of Ka­vanaugh

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Shane Har­ris, Matt Za­po­to­sky, Tom Ham­burger and Se­ung Min Kim The Wash­ing­ton Post

WASH­ING­TON — The FBI has again been thrust to the cen­ter of the day’s big­gest po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Repub­li­can Se­nate lead­ers agreed to al­low the bureau to con­duct an ad­di­tional back­ground check of Brett Ka­vanaugh, whose nom­i­na­tion to the Supreme Court hangs in the bal­ance over al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

The probe is con­sid­ered a part of Ka­vanaugh’s back­ground check be­cause the al­le­ga­tions are from Ka­vanaugh’s teenage years and the ac­tiv­ity does not in­volve any fed­eral crimes, of­fi­cials said.

That is im­por­tant be­cause, un­like in a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ad­di­tional work had to be re­quested by the White House, which is al­lowed to im­pose pa­ram­e­ters on the scope, of­fi­cials said.

The FBI also is fol­low­ing up on al­le­ga­tions by Chris­tine Blasey Ford, a psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Palo Alto Uni­ver­sity in Cal­i­for­nia, who tes­ti­fied to the Se­nate last week that Ka­vanaugh sex­u­ally as-

saulted her in the early 1980s when they were in high school in sub­ur­ban Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Ford re­counted in de­tail how Ka­vanaugh and his friend Mark Judge al­legedly at­tacked her in a bed­room dur­ing a small gath­er­ing at a house when the teen boys were both drunk.

Af­ter Ford’s tes­ti­mony, Ka­vanaugh vig­or­ously de­nied the al­le­ga­tions be­fore the com­mit­tee and ac­cused Democrats of launch­ing a last-minute at­tempt to de­rail his nom­i­na­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the un­fold­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the FBI has also be­gun con­tact­ing other peo­ple.

The bureau has reached out to Deb­o­rah Ramirez, a Yale Uni­ver­sity class­mate of Ka­vanaugh’s who al­leges that he shoved his gen­i­tals in her face at a party where she had been drink­ing and be­came dis­ori­ented, her at­tor­ney said Sat­ur­day.

“She has agreed to co­op­er­ate with their in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Ramirez at­tor­ney John Clune said in a state­ment.

The al­le­ga­tions against the Supreme Court nom­i­nee are decades old, and his ac­cusers say their mem­o­ries — some­times of dates and lo­ca­tions — are hazy. A back­ground check is not like a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion; in­ves­ti­ga­tors would not use tools such as grand ju­ries, sub­poe­nas and search war­rants, mean­ing po­ten­tial wit­nesses could sim­ply de­cline to be in­ter­viewed.

The FBI will ul­ti­mately re­port its find­ings — which, in Ka­vanaugh’s case, will prob­a­bly be mostly re­ports of in­ter­views — to the White House. The bureau will not con­clude whether the ac­cusers are be­liev­able or not, or tell the White House whether it should with­draw Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion.

The FBI’s find­ings will not nec­es­sar­ily be­come pub­lic. When in­ves­ti­ga­tors have com­pleted their work, any­thing they’ve dis­cov­ered will be turned over to the White House as an up­date to Ka­vanaugh’s back­ground check file. The White House would then likely share the ma­te­rial with the Se­nate com­mit­tee.

At that point, all sen­a­tors, as well as a very small group of aides, would have ac­cess to it.

The FBI’s in­ter­views, which will take a few days to con­duct, won’t turn into a sprawl­ing in­quest of ev­ery­one Ka­vanaugh went to a party with in high school, said a per­son fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But al­ready, two po­ten­tially cru­cial wit­nesses have said they will co­op­er­ate with the FBI, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that at least more state­ments and rec­ol­lec­tions will be added to the record.

Judge, the high school friend of Ka­vanaugh who Ford says was in the room dur­ing the al­leged as­sault, has also agreed to co­op­er­ate with the FBI. His ac­count has been sought af­ter be­cause, un­like Ka­vanaugh, Judge has not de­nied Ford’s al­le­ga­tions but has said he has no mem­ory that such an as­sault oc­curred.

“They’re not go­ing to crack the case,” said Ron Hosko, a for­mer as­sis­tant FBI direc­tor. “The best they can hope to do is find the facts.”

That is not to say an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion will not yield new in­for­ma­tion. Wit­nesses who have pro­vided only brief state­ments to Congress might be more will­ing to co­op­er­ate with law en­force­ment.

Judge and oth­ers will have a strong in­cen­tive to tell the truth. Ly­ing to the FBI is a fed­eral crime. FBI agents are also trained specif­i­cally to in­ves­ti­gate such mat­ters. Their de­tailed in­quiries will prob­a­bly re­veal an­swers to ques­tions in a way that par­ti­san con­gres­sional hear­ings can­not.

Once the White House gives Congress the FBI’s re­port, law­mak­ers might de­cide to hold a hear­ing or change their vote. If in­ves­ti­ga­tors un­cover ev­i­dence that Ka­vanaugh lied to law­mak­ers dur­ing hear­ings or on his back­ground-check forms, that could spark a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion in which law en­force­ment could use the full ex­tent of its le­gal pow­ers.

In ad­di­tion to Ford and Ramirez, an­other woman, Julie Swet­nik, who said she knew Ka­vanaugh in high school, al­leged in a sworn state­ment last week that Ka­vanaugh and Judge got teenage girls drunk at par­ties, where the girls were sex­u­ally as­saulted, some­times by groups of boys.

Swet­nik claimed that she was raped by such a group at a party where Ka­vanaugh and Judge were present. She hasn’t ac­cused Ka­vanaugh of rap­ing her. Swet­nik de­scribed Ka­vanaugh as a “mean drunk” in high school who was phys­i­cally and ver­bally ag­gres­sive with girls.

Ka­vanugh has de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions from Ramirez and Swet­nik and has said that he never abused or as­saulted any­one.

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