Limits to FBI’s Kavanaugh investigation have not changed, despite Trump’s comments


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WASHINGTON — The FBI has received no new instructions from the White House about how to proceed with its weeklong investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a senior U.S. official and another source familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

According to the sources, the president’s Saturday night tweet saying he wants the FBI to interview whoever agents deem appropriate has not changed the limits imposed by the White House counsel’s office on the FBI investigation — including a specific witness list that does not include Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in high school.

Also not on the list, the sources say, are former classmates who have contradicted Kavanaugh’s account of his college alcohol consumption, instead describing him as a frequent, heavy drinker. The FBI is also not authorized to interview high school classmates who could shed light on what some people have called untruths in Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony about alleged sexual references in his high school yearbook.

The sources said nothing would preclude the FBI from asking Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, who is on the witness list, about Swetnick’s allegations, but the sources stressed that this is not a top priority.

Separately, a White House official made clear that the White House is the client in this process. This is not an FBI criminal investigation — it is a background investigation in which the FBI is acting on behalf of the White House. Procedurally, the White House does not allow the FBI to investigate as it sees fit, the official acknowledged; the White House sets the parameters.

Trump announced on Twitter late Saturday that the White House had placed no limitation on the FBI’s ability to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh.

“I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion,” Trump tweeted in response to an NBC News report citing multiple people familiar with the process who said the White House was limiting the scope of the reopened background investigation of Kavanaugh.

While the FBI will examine the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, the bureau had not been permitted to investigate the claims of Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of engaging in sexual misconduct at parties while he was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in the 1980s, those people familiar with the investigation told NBC News.

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A White House official had confirmed earlier Saturday that Swetnick’s claims would not be pursued as part of the reopened background investigation into Kavanaugh. Trump described that as incorrect in a tweet late Saturday. The Wall Street Journal had also reported that Swetnick’s allegations would not be investigated.

Trump said the FBI had “free rein” in the investigation.

“They’re going to do whatever they have to do,” he said. “Whatever it is they do, they’ll be doing—things that we never even thought of. And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine.”

The New York Times reported Saturday night, after Trump’s tweet, that the White House has authorized the FBI to interview four witnesses: Judge; Leland Keyser, a high school friend of Ford’s whom she said attended the party but was not told of the assault; P.J. Smyth, another party guest; and Ramirez, the Yale accuser.

Ford said in Senate testimony Thursday that she was “100 percent” certain that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school. Ramirez alleged that he exposed himself to her when there were students at Yale. Kavanaugh has staunchly denied allegations from Ford, Ramirez and Swetnick.



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