The Slatest

Trump Officially Launches FBI Investigation into Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Allegations

President Donald Trump addresses Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testimony Friday during an Oval Office meeting Sept. 28, 2018 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump addresses Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testimony Friday during an Oval Office meeting Sept. 28, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Pool/Getty Images

Following a dramatic reversal at the conclusion of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s day-long exploration of Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation, the committee, spurred by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s change of heart on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, agreed, in principle, to allow a one-week FBI investigation into the matter. Suddenly lacking the votes to ram through their guy, the GOP Senate leadership acquiesced to the demand. But would Trump, a president accused of multiple sexual assaults order an FBI investigation into a Supreme Court nominee accused of multiple sexual assaults? No matter what course the Senate charted, the executive branch needed to formally request the probe, meaning Trump himself would need to order the investigation by an institution he rails against almost daily in an effort to discredit its investigation into his Russia-links.

On Friday afternoon, the White House had Trump signed off on the investigation and later Friday evening Trump tweeted the investigation was underway.

The exact parameters of the federal inquiry remain vague, although Trump, like his fellow Republicans in the Senate, is calling for an investigation “limited in scope and completed in less than one week.” The Judiciary Committee said the probe would cover “current credible allegations,” which appears to mean the accusations made by Ford and, the New York Times reports, the claims made by former Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, who told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh had exposed himself to her at a party in college. (Here’s a list compiled by Slate of people involved in the incident that any credible FBI investigation would need to interview.)

In response to Trump’s order, the Judiciary Committee voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee by a 11-to-10 party-line vote Friday night. But what comes next remains fluid and the nature of the investigation remains negotiable. Attorneys for Ford, for example, signaled support for the investigation that had originally been part of her conditions for participating in the confirmation hearing, but said that “no artificial limits as to time or scope should be imposed on this investigation.” That seems unlikely with Republicans committed to completing the nomination—one way or another—before next month’s midterms potentially upend the balance of power in Washington. Kavanaugh, as expected, said he would cooperate with what Republicans are calling a “supplemental” background check; Kavanaugh has undergone six FBI background checks as part of his roles in the White House and judiciary. “I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate,” Kavanaugh said.