Trump says no FBI probe needed on Supreme Court pick
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that there is no need for FBI involvement in the scandal threatening to derail his pick for a coveted place on the US Supreme Court.
“I don’t think the FBI should be involved because they don’t want to be involved,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh appeared set to sail through Senate confirmation for the vacancy on the nation’s top court until a California professor publicly accused him of having sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers almost four decades ago.
Trump repeated earlier statements that he is in favor of allowing both the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and Kavanaugh to speak before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The dueling testimony had been expected to take place Monday in a piece of blockbuster Washington theater, putting both Trump’s bid to tilt the Supreme Court to the right and political momentum ahead of November midterm congressional elections into play.
However, Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Republican-dominated judiciary committee, said Tuesday that Ford’s presence was not confirmed.
“We have reached out to her in the last 36 hours three or four times by email, and we’ve not heard from them, so it kind of raises the question do they want to, do they want to come to the public hearing or not?” he told political blog hughhewitt.com.
Through her lawyers, Ford said Tuesday night that she wants the FBI to investigate before she testifies, The New York Times reported.
She said this should be the first step before she is put “on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.” Ford thus all but ruled out testifying Monday.
Kavanaugh has strongly denied the incident in which Ford says he pinned her down and covered her mouth while trying to undress her when he was 17 and she 15.
‘Speak up and speak out’
Trump, who has repeatedly brushed off allegations of his own sexual misconduct, has so far stood by the judge and on Tuesday he again called him “outstanding.”
He added that Kavanaugh was “anxious” to answer the accusations against him, while acknowledging that the testimony would hold up his confirmation.
“We will delay the process until it’s finished out,” Trump said. “We want to get to the bottom of everything. We want everybody to be able to speak up and speak out.”
Debra Katz, a lawyer for Ford — who only came forward publicly on Sunday after trying to keep her name hidden for more than a month — had said earlier she was ready to speak under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Expectations of a showdown have led to comparisons with the lurid and high-stakes 1991 Senate hearing on Clarence Thomas, the conservative Supreme Court justice accused of repeated sexual harassment by a former assistant, Anita Hill.
Thomas was eventually confirmed to the court.
On Monday, the FBI explained that it had been made aware of the allegation against Kavanaugh, but said it had not taken action because it did not involve “any potential federal crime.”
“The FBI’s role in such matters is to provide information for the use of the decision makers.”
The agency’s exhaustive background checks into Kavanaugh, as a Supreme Court nominee, were aimed at checking “whether the nominee could pose a risk to the national security of the United States,” the FBI said.