White House defends FBI investigation into Kavanaugh

White House defends FBI investigation into Kavanaugh
© Pool

The White House on Sunday sought to dispel Democratic criticism and media reports suggesting it is directing the FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

White House officials also expressed confidence that the investigation would clear Kavanaugh's name, but maintained the FBI is managing the details of the probe.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayStephen Miller defends Trump, accuses Democrats of 'witch hunt part two' George Conway, conservative attorneys urge House to move quickly on impeachment George Conway: 'Garbage' White House defense 'virtually guarantees' Trump impeachment MORE conveyed similar messages during Sunday talk show appearances, where they asserted that the White House was staying out of the FBI’s way, and called for Democrats to do the same. 

“I think that we cannot allow the people that have acted in bad faith to determine and allow this to become a total fishing expedition by the FBI,” Sanders said on “Fox News Sunday.”

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“The Senate is going to lay out, Senate Republicans are going to lay out and dictate those terms,” she continued.

She also said the White House expects the investigation to exonerate Kavanaugh, who Sanders noted has undergone six previous background investigations.

The two top White House surrogates appeared on Sunday talk shows the morning after President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Louisiana's Democratic governor forced into runoff Lawmakers focus their ire on NBA, not China MORE disputed a report from NBC News that said the White House counsel’s office provided the FBI with a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview about two of the three claims made against Kavanaugh. 

Asked if the White House counsel’s office had provided a specific list of usable witnesses to the FBI, Sanders responded “not that I’m aware of.”

Conway was similarly noncommittal, saying on CNN's "State of the Union" that she hadn't spoken with White House counsel Don McGahn about the matter.

"I don't think Don McGahn would do that," she said, when asked if the attorney was limiting the FBI's investigation.

NBC News additionally reported on Saturday that the FBI was not given the go-ahead to look into claims from Julie Swetnick, who alleged in a signed declaration last week that Kavanaugh was among a group of young men in the 1980s who routinely sought to intoxicate women so they could be “gang raped."

Kavanaugh has dismissed Swetnick’s allegations as a “farce,” and Trump has attacked her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, as a “lowlife.”

Trump addressed the NBC report directly via Twitter, saying he would like the FBI to interview "whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion."

The White House and Trump have insisted they intend to allow the FBI to conduct a thorough review of allegations against Kavanaugh, while simultaneously noting that the investigation be limited in scope and length.

Trump has framed the call for an investigation as part of a partisan effort to block Kavanaugh’s ascension to the nation’s highest court, although the idea originated with Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAre Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? Jeff Flake calls Trump's language 'authoritarian' Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later MORE (R-Ariz.) and has support from other Republican senators.

Conway, who revealed on CNN that she was a victim of sexual assault, said she believes accusers and perpetrators should both be given the opportunity to state their cases. However, she suggested that politics play a role in the perception of individual cases.

"We do treat people differently who are either the victims or the perpetrators of this based on their politics now, and based on their gender. That is a huge mistake," Conway said.

"If we're going to have a national conversation, let's stop judging the victims and the perpetrators according to their politics," she added.

Broader support for an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh followed a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which Christine Blasey Ford delivered a wrenching account of an alleged incident where she said Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her during a high school party in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh delivered a fiery rebuke of the allegation during his own testimony, where he suggested the allegations made public in recent weeks were part of a “calculated and orchestrated political hit.”

Ford said she was "100 percent" sure Kavanaugh was the man who assaulted her, while the judge said he was "100 percent" confident in his denial.

Multiple individuals on the fringe of the alleged incident have since said they are willing to cooperate with an FBI investigation into the matter, including Kavanaugh's friend, Mark Judge, who Ford has said was present during the attack.

An attorney for Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a college party in the 1980s and thrusting his genitals in her face, has also said Ramirez will cooperate with the investigation.

Avenatti said Saturday that he and Swetnick have not been contacted about the FBI investigation.

Conway said Sunday that the investigation "will be limited in scope, it's meant to last one week" and is "not meant to be a fishing expedition."

Pressed on what the parameters of a "limited scope" would be, Conway said it would be up to the FBI.

Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats on Sunday seized on the reports that the FBI investigation was being limited, and pointed fingers at the White House.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren O'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter MORE (D-Minn.), who sits on the Judiciary Committee, expressed concerns on Sunday on CNN that the White House was attempting to "micromanage" the FBI's assessment of claims against Kavanaugh.

Klobuchar acknowledged that her knowledge of whether the White House has limited the FBI investigation was based on media reports.

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Overnight Energy: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds MORE (D-Hawaii), another Judiciary Committee member, insisted that the FBI be given enough time to "get to the bottom" of the allegations.

"Even if it’s seven days, that’s bad enough. But then to limit the FBI as to the scope and who they’re going to question … that’s not the kind of investigation that all of us are expecting the FBI to conduct," Hirono said on ABC's "This Week."

While Trump — who has himself been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women — has expressed support for the investigation into Kavanaugh, the president was initially resistant to an additional background check for his Supreme Court pick.

Amid early calls for an FBI investigation into Ford's claims, the president asserted that Kavanaugh had already been subject to multiple background checks throughout his career, and said he did not believe the bureau should get involved.

The FBI would not separately open an investigation into the accusations because they do not involve a federal crime.

On Saturday, Trump told reporters as he departed for a rally in West Virginia that the FBI investigation could turn out to be beneficial, suggesting it might even reveal who leaked Ford's allegation to the press prior to the accuser going public.

"Having the FBI go out and do a thorough investigation, whether its three days or seven days, I think it's going to be less than a week," Trump said. "Having them do a thorough investigation, I actually think it will be a blessing in disguise. It will be a good thing."