President Donald Trump passed the buck to the Senate on Monday on the reported limitations his White House has set on the FBI’s background investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“I want them to do a very comprehensive investigation, whatever that means according to the senators, and the Republicans, and the Republican majority,” Trump told reporters Monday, during a press conference primarily focused on his administration’s proposed trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. But those Republicans have the same goal as Trump: confirming Kavanaugh.
The White House is the FBI’s “client” requesting the background investigation — albeit at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s request — and therefore the White House, not the Senate, has set the ground rules.
According to multiple reports, the White House has restricted the FBI from interviewing a third woman who’s accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, in addition to prohibiting the bureau from interviewing former classmates of Kavanaugh’s who dispute his sworn statements about his drinking, among other things. Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has requested that the White House share a copy of the limits it set for the FBI.
Trump on Monday indicated he believed those reported restrictions were sensible, saying “we don’t want to go on a witch hunt;” that he understood Kavanaugh’s third accuser, Julie Swetnick, “has very little credibility;” and that it was “very unfair” to bring up Kavanaugh’s drinking.
“However, whatever the senators want is okay with me,” he said. Several Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans have mocked Democrats’ focus on Kavanaugh’s drinking.
Trump’s pinning the probe’s limitations on the Senate fails to address his own responsibility for removing those limitations, when necessary. At one point, he acknowledged that “it is up to me” to instruct the FBI regarding the boundaries of the probe, but added that “I’m instructing them as per what I feel the Senate wants.”
“My White House will do whatever the senators want,” Trump said, stipulating that he wanted “speed.”
And later: “I’m guided by the Senate. I want to make the Senate happy, because, ultimately, they’re making the judgement.”