Contrary to multiple media reports, the Trump administration hasn’t placed restraints on the FBI’s investigation of the accusations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, according to two White House spokeswomen and President Donald Trump.
“The White House is not micromanaging this process,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
“The Senate is dictating the terms. They laid out the request and we’ve opened it up, as you heard the president say, to ‘do what you need to do.’ This is what they do and we’re out of the way to let them do exactly that.”
Trump ordered the FBI to open a supplementary investigation into the claims by Kavanaugh’s accusers after at least three swing-vote senators indicated that they won’t confirm the judge unless a week-long investigation is conducted by the bureau. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was the first to make that demand shortly before he voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate.
Sanders said she was “not aware” whether White House counsel Don McGahn had given the FBI directions on who to interview or what to investigate. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway also said she hadn’t discussed the matter with McGahn.
Conway told CNN’s “State of the Union” that she was only aware of the parameters the Senate set on the probe. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 28 said the FBI’s supplemental background investigation “would be limited to current credible allegations” and must be completed in a week.
“The White House is not getting involved in the FBI investigation in that way,” Conway added. “They should be looking at anything they think is credible within this limited scope.”
Kavanaugh has already denied four allegations against him in sworn testimony under the penalty of perjury. The judge sailed through confirmation hearings earlier this month before facing a barrage of allegations, none which have yet been corroborated by evidence or witnesses.
Shortly after advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee called on the White House to reopen the probe.
NBC was among the first to report, citing anonymous sources, that the White House placed restraints on the FBI probe. Trump refuted that claim and called on the broadcast network to fix its reporting.
“NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people. Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Democrats on the committee called for an FBI probe throughout the Sept. 27 hearing that featured Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Christine Ford, and the judge himself. Republicans repeatedly dismissed the requests, pointing out that bureau considered the case closed.
In an apparent bid to delay’s Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Senate Democrats withheld Ford’s allegation until after Kavanaugh completed the committee confirmation process, with only a surefire vote left to advance him to the Senate.
The chaos culminated in a Sept. 27 hearing where Ford stood by her account and Kavanaugh refuted the allegation. In an emotional speech before the committee with millions watching on television, Kavanaugh offered a fiery defense of his character and reputation, denied all the accusations against him, and criticized Democrats for destroying his reputation for political gain.
Trump stood by Kavanaugh after the speech, calling it “powerful, riveting, and honest.”
“Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sept. 27.
On Sept. 30, Trump suggested that Democrats are starting to demand that the time and scope of the investigation aren’t enough.
“Hello! For them, it will never be enough – stay tuned and watch!” Trump wrote.
Spokespersons for the FBI and the Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about the Times report.
Reuters contributed to this report.