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Supreme Court starts new term as Kavanaugh, lawmakers await FBI inquiry

The White House says the FBI and Senate have full authority over the investigation of President Donald Trump's high court nominee.

By Ed Adamczyk
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Supreme Court starts new term as Kavanaugh, lawmakers await FBI inquiry
Members of public gather outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Monday on the first day of its new term. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Amid controversy, the FBI is moving quickly with an expedited investigation into sex assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh -- an inquiry former director James Comey said the bureau is well-suited to handle.

The Senate judiciary committee agreed last week to investigate claims made by Christine Blasey Ford before the full chamber votes on Kavanaugh's appointment. But the FBI has only a week to complete the probe.

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Kavanaugh testified Thursday that claims of misconduct and sexual assault from 1982 are untrue. His testimony followed that Ford's.

The one-week break will allow the FBI to investigate Kavanaugh's behavior as a teenager. Ford's emotional testimony that she was sexually assaulted by a drunken Kavanaugh at a party proved adequately credible to the committee to call for a postponement of the Senate vote. An FBI report, although not a conclusion, will be given to the White House, which ordered the investigation after the committee finished its Thursday session.

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As Kavanaugh and the Trump administration hopes confirmation will come this week, the Supreme Court began its new term Monday. The White House said, though, it is not micromanaging the FBI probe.

"The Senate is dictating the terms. They laid out the request, and we've opened it up," press secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday.

Sanders added, though, "This can't become a fishing expedition like the Democrats would like it to be. But this isn't about emotion, it's about facts, and all the facts end on Brett Kavanaugh's side. Clearly something happened to [Ford]. I don't think there's anybody in America who would condone that. The big question is: Was that Brett Kavanaugh?"

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It remains unclear if the White House provided the FBI with limits to the probe of Kavanaugh's alleged actions, 36 years ago.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Sunday, "I'm very concerned about this, because the White House should not be allowed to micromanage an FBI investigation."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the committee, agreed.

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"FBI's hands must not be tied in this investigation. We need the facts."

President Donald Trump said Saturday the FBI has "free rein" in the probe.

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"Whatever it is they do, they'll be doing things that we've never even though of," Trump said. Ford's testimony mentioned the name of Mark Judge, who she said was in the room when the alleged assault occurred. Judge has said he has "no memory" of the incident but will cooperate with investigators. She also named P.J. Smyth and Leland Ingram Keyser as guests at the party. Both said in statements that they had no recollection of being at the party.

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Comey said Monday in an op-ed in The New York Times the FBI is up to the task, even with a deadline.

"If truth were the only goal, there would be no clock, and the investigation wouldn't have been sought after the Senate judiciary committee already endorsed the nominee," he wrote. "Instead, it seems that the Republican goal is to be able to say there was an investigation and it didn't change their view, while the Democrats hope for incriminating evidence to derail the nominee.

"Although the process is deeply flawed, and apparently designed to thwart the fact-gathering process, the FBI is up for this. It's not as hard as Republicans hope it will be."

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Three women have made accusations against Kavanaugh while he was a high school and college student. Ford was the first. The second, Deborah Ramirez, is cooperating with the FBI. A former Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh's, Ramirez said the judge exposed himself to her at a 1983 party while she and friends were playing a drinking game, a claim Kavanaugh denied.

A third woman, Julie Swetnick, has also accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

"This investigation is only as good as the scope," Michael Avenatti, Swetnick's lawyer, told USA Today. "If the scope doesn't include my client and the others who have accused Mr. Kavanaugh, how can it be a credible investigation?"

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, considered a potential swing vote, said Sunday Kavanaugh's nomination would almost certainly die if it was discovered he lied to the committee.

"I would think so," Sen. Chris Coons, D-Conn., agreed.

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