Accelerated FBI investigation could lead to Kavanaugh confirmation vote this week

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Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 27, 2018. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP)
Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 27, 2018. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP)

The FBI appears to be preparing to bring the limited investigation of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to a rapid conclusion, limiting the delay negotiated Friday by Sen. Jeff Flake and setting the stage for a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination this week.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said that a floor vote on Kavanaugh would not take place on Monday even if the FBI investigation concludes Monday morning because the Senate’s rules for invoking cloture require several days’ delay. “If the [FBI’s] report comes in today,” Stewart said, “Leader [McConnell] could file cloture, setting up a Wednesday cloture vote, and Thursday confirmation.”

The deal brokered by Flake called for a cloture vote no later than this Friday. But word that the FBI could finish the review by Monday morning — and the Sunday night dissemination of a memo by the Arizona prosecutor who questioned Ford during last week’s hearing — stoked fears among Democrats that a rushed confirmation vote could follow close behind.

The New York Times reported Sunday evening that the FBI’s “‘limited’ supplemental background check of Judge Kavanaugh could be finished by Monday morning.”

Also on Sunday evening, a five-page memo to “all Republican Senators” written by Rachel Mitchell, who was brought in by Republican senators on the judiciary committee to question Ford, appeared in the Washington Post. Mitchell’s memo applies withering skepticism to Ford’s testimony and says, “I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the Committee.”

The previous day, the Times reported that the FBI had only been authorized to speak to four witnesses: Mark Judge, the friend of Kavanaugh’s who Ford had said was in the room during the alleged assault; Leyland Keyser, a friend of Ford’s who she says was a guest at the party where the alleged assault occurred but was not told about it; P.J. Smyth, another guest at the party, and Deborah Ramirez, who has also made an allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party at Yale University. Reportedly excluded from the list were Kavanaugh and Ford; Ford’s husband; Julie Swetnick, a separate accuser; a number of Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates who have come forward to challenge his testimony about his drinking, and any witnesses who could corroborate Ramirez’s or Swetnick’s accounts.

The New Yorker magazine Sunday evening recounted the obstacles that potential witnesses who are not on the list of four witnesses have encountered in their efforts to make contact with the FBI or Senate investigators. For instance, Mark Judge’s ex-girlfriend has hired a lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, and is reportedly seeking to provide information rebutting the account that Judge has provided through the press and written statements to the Judiciary Committee out of “a sense of civic duty to tell what she knows.”

Kaplan told the New Yorker that she has had no response from Senate investigators other than to say her emails had been “received,” and an FBI official suggested that she call a toll-free tip line. An anonymous Yale classmate, whom the New Yorker reports is attempting to corroborate Ramirez’s accusation, after multiple attempts to reach the FBI in Washington, D.C. and at a local field office, was similarly referred to a toll-free number and ended up submitting his information through an online portal.

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