Even before the new accusations, Democrats in Washington reacted with anger Sunday as the narrow scope of the new FBI background inquiry became clear, warning that it threatened to become a sham.
WASHINGTON — A Yale classmate of Judge Brett Kavanaugh accused him Sunday of a “blatant mischaracterization” of his drinking while in college, saying that he often saw Kavanaugh “staggering from alcohol consumption.”
The classmate, Chad Ludington, who said he often socialized with Kavanaugh as a student, said in a statement that the judge had been untruthful in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he denied any possibility that he had ever blacked out from drinking.
Ludington said that Kavanaugh had played down “the degree and frequency” of his drinking, and that the judge had often become “belligerent and aggressive” while intoxicated. Other former classmates have made similar claims.
Ludington, a professor at North Carolina State University who appears to have made small political contributions to Democratic candidates, said to The New York Times on Sunday that he had been told by the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office that he should go to the bureau’s Raleigh, North Carolina, office on Monday morning. He said he intended to do that, so he could “tell the full details of my story.”
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It was unclear whether the FBI would add Ludington’s accusations to the newly reopened background investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, which has been limited in scope and time by the White House and Senate Republicans.
Even before Ludington’s statement, Democrats in Washington reacted with anger Sunday as the narrow scope of the new FBI background inquiry became clear, warning that it threatened to become a sham.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week” that any investigation that limits whom the FBI can interview and which leads agents can follow would be a “farce.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is also on the committee, described what she said was micromanaging from the White House: “You can’t interview this person, you can’t look at this time period, you can only look at these people from one side of the street from when they were growing up.”
“I mean, come on,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The White House agreed Friday to order the FBI to conduct a “limited” one-week, supplemental background check of Kavanaugh after a small number of Republicans joined Democrats in demanding an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct.
White House officials have asked the FBI to interview four witnesses, a typical request in a background check.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied Sunday that the White House was playing any improper role in the process, saying that Don McGahn, the White House counsel, had “allowed the Senate to dictate” the terms of the investigation, and that Trump would stay out of it.
“The Senate is dictating the terms. They laid out the request, and we’ve opened it up,” she said, adding, “This can’t become a fishing expedition like the Democrats would like to see it be.”
In a tweet Sunday, President Donald Trump accused Democrats of playing politics and said they would never be satisfied with any inquiry.
“Wow! Just starting to hear the Democrats, who are only thinking Obstruct and Delay, are starting to put out the word that the ‘time’ and ‘scope’ of FBI looking into Judge Kavanaugh and witnesses is not enough,” he wrote. “Hello! For them, it will never be enough.”
Democrats have cast the initial list of those to be interviewed as falling short of a full examination of the allegations. The four witnesses are Mark Judge and P.J. Smyth, high-school friends of Kavanaugh; Leland Keyser, a high-school friend of one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford; and Deborah Ramirez, another of the judge’s accusers.
A lawyer for Ford, who Thursday recounted before the Judiciary Committee what she said was a rape attempt by a drunken Kavanaugh when they were in high school, said Sunday that she had not been contacted by the FBI.
“We have not heard from the FBI despite repeated efforts to speak with them,” Debra Katz, the lawyer, said in a phone interview Sunday.
Ford testified this past week that she was willing to cooperate with authorities. Kavanaugh has strenuously denied the accusations by Ford and other accusers.
Critics have insisted on a wide-ranging examination of his drinking and sexual habits as a high-school and college student.
Officials said FBI agents were not making the kind of broad efforts that journalists have engaged in over the past several weeks to talk to anyone who might have information about Kavanaugh’s sexual conduct or drinking habits as a young man.
Instead, they said, the inquiry had been designed to examine the allegations of Ford, a California university professor, and the assertion by Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh at Yale University, that he had exposed himself to her.
While agents are free to follow up if they find evidence of criminal activity, the rules for background checks require that agents ask the White House if they want to expand the scope of their investigation or interview other witnesses.
Left off the list for interviews are former classmates of Kavanaugh who have publicly disputed his testimony about his drinking and partying while a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, an all-boys Catholic school in suburban Maryland, and later at Yale.
Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Maine Republican whose vote could determine Kavanaugh’s fate, said Sunday that “I am confident that the FBI will follow up on any leads that result from the interviews.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whose highly charged defense of Kavanaugh turned heads this past week, dismissed the need to question witnesses about Kavanaugh’s youthful drinking.
Instead, he called for an inquiry into Senate Democrats’ interactions with Ford, accusing lawmakers across the aisle of betraying her trust by recommending that she hire a particular lawyer, leaking the existence of a letter she had written and disclosing the existence of an additional unrelated anonymous accusation against Kavanaugh.
“I think you’re trying to portray him as a stumbling, bumbling drunk gang rapist who, during high school and college, was Bill Cosby,” Graham said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Six FBI background checks over the years would have uncovered this.”
Graham said the parameters of the probe are based on the wishes of three wavering colleagues — Sens. Collins; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — for a “limited review.”
“They wanted … the FBI to talk with the witnesses that Dr. Ford named,” he said Sunday. “They want to talk to Ms. Ramirez, because she refused to talk to the committee. They’re going to Mark Judge — ‘Did you ever see Brett Kavanaugh drug women or engage in gang rape?’ I think that’s going to be the focus of it.”
Flake, who prompted the new FBI probe by threatening to withhold his vote to confirm Kavanaugh, said in a “60 Minutes” interview set to air Sunday that he found Kavanaugh’s testimony Thursday to be “partisan” at times and that “his interaction with some of the members was a little too sharp.”
But, he said, he understood his anger. “If I was unjustly accused, that’s how I would feel, as well,” Flake said.