The FBI has begun contacting people as part of an additional background investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, including a second woman who alleges that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her, according to people familiar with the unfolding investigation.
The bureau has reached out to Deborah Ramirez, a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh’s who alleges that he shoved his genitals in her face at a party where she had been drinking and become disoriented, her attorney said Saturday.
“She has agreed to cooperate with their investigation,” Ramirez attorney John Clune said in a statement. “Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we will have no further comment at this time.”
President Trump ordered the new background investigation of his nominee on Friday under pressure from key members of his party.
The FBI also is following up on allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, who testified to the Senate this week that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when they were in high school in suburban Washington, D.C.
Ford recounted in detail how Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge allegedly attacked her in a bedroom during a small gathering at a house when the teen boys were both drunk. Ford said the alleged attack had caused her lasting trauma, and she was visibly anguished as she recalled the events Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Following Ford’s testimony, Kavanaugh vigorously denied the allegations before the committee and accused Democrats of launching a last-minute attempt to derail his nomination. He decried the confirmation process as a “circus.”
On Friday, Republicans on the committee voted to proceed to a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, but a series of back-room negotiations led to a surprise twist in what has already been a wrenching confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee, among the most polarizing in recent memory.
Recognizing that Flake and a handful of other senators’ votes appeared contingent upon the investigation, Republican leaders and the White House relented. Later that day, Trump ordered the investigation and that it be limited in scope and completed by next Friday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday afternoon said the supplemental FBI investigation would be limited to “current credible allegations.” Committee spokesmen did not return a request for comment to elaborate on what specifically those allegations are.
Lawmakers and Trump administration officials had few expectations that the FBI would settle Ford and Kavanaugh’s dueling accounts. A background investigation is, by its nature, more limited than a criminal investigation, and FBI agents will not be able to obtain search warrants or issue subpoenas to compel testimony from potential witnesses. The FBI’s interviews, which will take a few days to conduct, won’t turn into a sprawling inquest of everyone Kavanaugh went to a party with in high school, said a person familiar with the investigation.
But already, two potentially crucial witnesses have said they will cooperate with the FBI, raising the possibility that at least more statements and recollections will be added to the record, even if they’re not ultimately definitive.
An attorney for Leland Keyser, a friend of Ford’s who Ford says was at the party, said Keyser also was willing to cooperate with the FBI investigation. But the attorney emphasized that Keyser has no recollection of the party where Ford alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her.
“Notably, Ms. Keyser does not refute Dr. Ford’s account, and she has already told the press that she believes Dr. Ford’s account,” the attorney, Howard J. Walsh III, wrote in an email to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “However, the simple and unchangeable truth is that she is unable to corroborate it because she has no recollection of the incident in question.”
Ford told the Judiciary Committee that some weeks after the alleged assault, she ran into Judge at a local grocery store where he was working for the summer.
“I said ‘hello’ to him,” she said. “His face was white and very uncomfortable saying ‘hello’ back.”
Ford continued, “He was just nervous and not really wanting to speak with me, and he looked a little bit ill.”
The FBI’s findings will not necessarily become public. When investigators have completed their work, anything they’ve discovered will be turned over to the White House as an update to Kavanaugh’s background check file. The White House would then likely share the material with the Senate committee.
At that point, all senators, as well as a very small group of aides, would have access to it.
The White House or the Senate would decide what, if anything, should be released publicly. The bureau’s work will likely consist mostly of reports of interviews with witnesses and accusers. The bureau will not come to a conclusion on whether the accusations are credible and will not make a recommendation on what should become of Kavanaugh’s nomination.
In addition to Ford and Ramirez, another woman, Julie Swetnick, who said she knew Kavanaugh in high school, alleged in a sworn statement this week that Kavanaugh and Judge got teenage girls drunk at parties, where the girls were sexually assaulted, sometimes by groups of boys.
Swetnick claimed that she was raped by such a group at a party where Kavanaugh and Judge were present. She hasn’t accused Kavanaugh of raping her. Swetnick described Kavanaugh as a “mean drunk” in high school who was physically and verbally aggressive with girls.
Swetnick’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said that she had not yet been contacted by the FBI but that he hopes to hear from investigators.
“I don’t know how this investigation could be called complete if they don’t contact her,” Avenatti said.
Kavanugh has denied the accusations from Ramirez and Swetnick and has said emphatically that he never abused or assaulted anyone. He has also pointed to half a dozen other background checks the FBI conducted on him for other federal positions over the years, none of which surfaced evidence or allegations of sexual assault.