Trump orders FBI probe into Kavanaugh

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the White House agreed to a one-week delay so that the FBI can investigate sexual assault allegations facing President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Posted: Sep 30, 2018 5:19 PM
Updated: Sep 30, 2018 5:26 PM

Now that President Donald Trump has ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental background investigation into Brett Kavanaugh, the job of getting to the bottom of the explosive allegation of sexual assault that is holding up the Supreme Court nominee's confirmation may fall into the hands of the bureau's Washington-based team responsible for conducting background investigations for high-profile appointees.

Concentrated in the bureau's DC field office and supported by field offices across the nation, these agents routinely carry out the gumshoe probes that help elevate public servants into positions of power.

"You're basically knocking on doors and doing neighborhood canvasses and looking at the suitability and fitness for office of future FBI agents, of people who are undergoing a five-year re-investigation to maintain a top secret clearance, and for judicial nominees, like Kavanaugh," said retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent James Gagliano, a CNN law enforcement analyst.

On Friday, Trump directed the law enforcement agency to re-open the background investigation of his nominee after Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, sided with Democrats who had asked the FBI to look into allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when the two were teenagers in Maryland.

The investigation will also look into an allegation made by Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a party when they were students at Yale University. Kavanaugh and the White House have denied the allegation.

The FBI has reached out to Ramirez and she has agreed to cooperate, her attorney told CNN in a statement.

"We can confirm the FBI has reached out to interview Ms. Ramirez and she has agreed to cooperate with their investigation. Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we will have no further comment at this time," John Clune said.

"I've ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh's file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week," Trump said in a statement.

The FBI has not commented on the President's order, but a background investigation for a presidential appointee, like Kavanaugh, would also likely have a layer of oversight from the highest levels of the FBI's headquarters in Washington, and senior agents could be brought in to bolster the background investigation squad for the most sensitive interviews, former agents said.

Given the unprecedented situation, the FBI could also employ novel tools, or create a "special" investigative team that exists across agency divisions, the former officials said.

While background checks typically take days of on-the-ground investigation, in a case this closely scrutinized, FBI leaders could decide to go full bore, assigning a slew of agents from multiple squads to wrap the probe in short time.

"They could just about drop everything else they're doing, every other background check for generals to get the next star, and cabinet secretaries and US attorneys," said Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director and senior CNN law enforcement analyst. "They could wrap everything. If they want to put 500 agents on this tomorrow they could do that."

The scope of the investigation that FBI agents will undertake now is unclear. Ford divulged the details of her charge in a nationally televised hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, and two more women have come forward publicly claiming episodes of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh. He has forcefully and categorically denied them.

Key to Ford's charge, which dates back to a party in 1982, are a handful of witnesses that the California psychologist says were present on the night of the alleged attack.

Mark Judge, who Ford says was in the room with Kavanaugh when he pinned her to a bed and covered her mouth while trying to remove her clothes, has also denied the incident took place. In a statement through his lawyer Friday, Judge said he would "answer any and all questions posed to him" if the FBI requested an interview. Two other people who Ford says were present the night of the incident -- Patrick J. Smyth and Leland Ingham Keyser -- have said they do not remember being at a party with Ford and Kavanaugh.

A lawyer for Smyth also said Friday that he is "happy to cooperate fully with this FBI investigation," and Keyser's attorney said in a letter to the committee that his client would also cooperate with the investigation.

FBI officials will likely try to question some or all of the potential witnesses, in addition to Ford and Kavanaugh. The FBI, however, cannot force interviews in background check investigations, or in criminal investigations for that matter. While witnesses in a criminal case can be subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, witnesses to a background investigation don't face a similar law enforcement tool to get them to talk.

In addition to the people said to be at the party, investigators may seek out witnesses who can attest to the credibility of Ford, including her parents, the former agents said. Evidence of any substance abuse problems could color a claimant's accusation, but the FBI notably does not make any conclusions about the credibility or significance of an allegation in a background investigation report.

"They could interview someone who says I saw Judge Kavanaugh get beamed down from a UFO -- he's an alien. They would put that in the 302," said Chris Swecker, a former FBI assistant director, referring to the form in which agents will memorialize their interviews. "They wouldn't say 'we disproved this, they didn't disprove this.'"

A supplemental background check into Ford's allegations could also widen beyond witness interviews to include an investigation into a gap that Ford has admitted to in her story: the date of the party.

In her Senate appearance Thursday, Ford lamented her foggy memory but offered up a clue -- an encounter with Judge at a supermarket he worked at an estimated six to eight weeks after the alleged attack.

"It would be helpful with anyone's resources if — to figure out when he worked there, if people are wanting more details from me about when the attack occurred," Ford said.

Safeway, the chain that Ford testified seeing Judge arranging shopping carts at, did not respond to CNN's request for employment records. The FBI may have better luck.

Still, with 36 years between the night of the alleged attack and the forthcoming background investigation, the agents in this background check have their work cut out for them.

"You're going to be dealing on fading memories, you're going to be dealing on neighborhood canvasses where the accuser is not sure where that neighborhood was. It's going to be an uphill, daunting task," Gagliano said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 728811

Reported Deaths: 13405
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion996911740
Lake53548966
Allen40529675
St. Joseph35596550
Hamilton35536408
Elkhart28470441
Tippecanoe22375218
Vanderburgh22293396
Porter18701307
Johnson17923378
Hendricks17199315
Clark12943191
Madison12612339
Vigo12437246
Monroe11873170
LaPorte11856210
Delaware10667186
Howard9895216
Kosciusko9390117
Hancock8260140
Bartholomew8058155
Warrick7777155
Floyd7653178
Wayne7035199
Grant7032174
Boone6687101
Morgan6557139
Dubois6150117
Marshall6016111
Dearborn580077
Cass5794105
Henry5699103
Noble559883
Jackson501172
Shelby490696
Lawrence4522120
Harrison435072
Gibson434792
DeKalb427185
Clinton427053
Montgomery423688
Whitley395239
Huntington390080
Steuben385557
Miami381166
Knox371890
Jasper364747
Putnam359660
Wabash353479
Adams341054
Ripley339170
Jefferson329281
White313554
Daviess296299
Wells291381
Decatur284792
Fayette279562
Greene277885
Posey271333
Scott265653
LaGrange265570
Clay259447
Washington240332
Randolph239781
Spencer232131
Jennings229849
Starke215953
Fountain212046
Sullivan211442
Owen198756
Fulton194840
Jay193630
Carroll188520
Orange182654
Perry182637
Rush173025
Vermillion168843
Franklin167835
Tipton162845
Parke146116
Blackford134632
Pike133734
Pulaski116645
Newton107734
Brown101941
Crawford99514
Benton98514
Martin88615
Warren81815
Switzerland7858
Union71010
Ohio56511
Unassigned0414

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1082815

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1258081400
Cuyahoga1119722115
Hamilton799721205
Montgomery514061014
Summit47145945
Lucas42119788
Butler38338584
Stark32273906
Lorain24997481
Warren24274298
Mahoning21546588
Lake20653369
Clermont19761238
Delaware18512133
Licking16418212
Fairfield16176199
Trumbull16032468
Medina15268264
Greene15063244
Clark13983299
Wood13080189
Portage12839203
Allen11639232
Richland11349199
Miami10670217
Muskingum8803133
Wayne8793211
Columbiana8778229
Pickaway8564121
Marion8523135
Tuscarawas8473244
Erie7888154
Hancock6914127
Ross6846155
Ashtabula6805170
Geauga6686148
Scioto6406101
Belmont5881167
Union570848
Lawrence5549102
Jefferson5525151
Huron5430119
Darke5355123
Sandusky5347120
Seneca5282121
Athens519158
Washington5155109
Auglaize490784
Mercer480385
Shelby469293
Knox4486110
Madison435661
Putnam4278100
Fulton422469
Ashland421789
Defiance419697
Crawford3975107
Brown394157
Logan381676
Preble379598
Clinton372163
Ottawa366679
Highland355062
Williams339275
Champaign331658
Guernsey315653
Jackson312551
Perry294950
Morrow284939
Fayette281950
Hardin270864
Henry268666
Coshocton265257
Holmes2603101
Van Wert243463
Adams237852
Pike237634
Gallia235349
Wyandot231055
Hocking215362
Carroll191547
Paulding172640
Meigs144840
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108423
Harrison108137
Vinton83115
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 27°
Angola
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 27°
Huntington
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 30°
Decatur
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 27°
Van Wert
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 32°
Rain moves in overnight into Sunday morning and looks to hang around much of the day, likely forcing Mother's Day plans indoors
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events