President Donald Trump said Saturday that the FBI has “free rein” to investigate his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
“The FBI as you know is all over, talking to everybody … ” Trump told reporters Saturday in Washington on his way to a rally in West Virginia. “They have been all over it already. They have free rein to do whatever they have to do.”
On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee formally requested the White House instruct the FBI to conduct a supplemental background investigation, saying it should probe “current credible allegations” against Kavanaugh.
Complying with the Senate’s request, Trump directed the FBI Friday night to re-open its background investigation into Kavanaugh with the probe “limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”
Republicans said it would be left up to the FBI to decide which allegations are considered credible. Republican Sens. Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, all key swing votes, set the terms of the investigation, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
The FBI has started investigating Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high schoolers in Maryland.
The law enforcement agency also has reached out to Deborah Ramirez, the second woman to come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh, her attorney, John Clune, said in statement, adding that she has agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Ramirez alleges Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at dormitory party while the two were undergraduate students at Yale.
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the women’s allegations against him.
In a statement to the Judiciary Committee, a third woman, Julie Swetnick, has accused Kavanaugh of attending a party in the early 1980s where she was the victim of a “gang” rape. She did not identify Kavanaugh as one of her attackers. Swetnick said further that over a series of parties, she saw Kavanaugh “consistently engage in excessive drinking and inappropriate contact of a sexual nature with women during the early 1980s.”
Kavanaugh has also denied Swetnick’s allegations, characterizing them as “from the Twilight Zone.”
While the FBI is investigating Ford and Ramirez’s allegations, the full parameters of its probe remain unclear.
Swetnick’s attorney Michael Avenatti, who also represents Stormy Daniels, tweeted Saturday that the FBI has not reached out to him.
When asked Saturday about any White House involvement in determining the parameters of the FBI investigation, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN that “the Senate is determining the scope.”
Trump has called Ford a “credible witness,” but has expressed outrage over the allegations against Kavanaugh and has stood firmly behind the nominee. Trump continued his defense of Kavanaugh on Saturday, calling him a “good man” who’s “one of the most respected” judges.
The President also said that having the FBI conduct a thorough investigation could be “a blessing in disguise” and predicted that the agency would have the probe done in less than a week.
“I would expect it is going to turn out very well for the judge. There’s never been anybody looked at like Judge Kavanaugh,” Trump said, also asserting that he does not need “a back-up plan.”
While the FBI conducts its investigation this week, the first key procedural vote on the Senate floor on Kavanaugh’s nomination would be no later than Friday, a senior GOP leadership aide told CNN.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Dana Bash contributed to this report.