WASHINGTON — New guidance giving the FBI an expanded ability to interview witnesses in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct claims against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh could open the question of whether Kavanaugh lied under oath about his drinking habits.
After demands by Democrats for a more in-depth, if only weeklong, expanded background probe by the FBI, the White House issued new guidance to the agency, authorizing it to interview anyone relevant to the inquiry. Earlier guidance limited the scope to four witnesses, causing Democrats to denounce it as a “farce.”
Now the White House is moving to blunt statements from potential new witnesses casting doubt on Kavanaugh’s claim to Senate lawmakers that he did not drink to the point of blacking out.
Former Yale classmate Chad Ludington issued a statement saying he “cringed” at Kavanaugh’s testimony Thursday, adding that Kavanaugh was “a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker” in college, and that “when Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive.” He added that Kavanaugh got into a fight that “ended up with one of our mutual friends in jail.”
If the FBI produces evidence backing these claims, it will not only call Kavanaugh’s credibility into question, but it could open him up to perjury claims.
“Assuming the FBI’s probe is truly going to dive into that issue in depth — and even with the revised guidance it remains unclear if that is the case — then yes, the perjury angle is potentially far more troubling than anything else,” said Bradley Moss, a national security attorney who handles background investigations of federal employees and appointees.
Several members of the Senate, including Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Jeff Flake, have said that if Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee in his testimony, that would be disqualifying.
Clearly the White House realizes this potential. Yesterday, it released statements from Kavanaugh’s former classmates who said they never saw him drink to the point of not being able to remember his actions. Dan Murphy, Kavanaugh’s Yale roommate, said he never saw Kavanaugh black out or act “in a sexually aggressive manner to women.”
Another classmate, Chris Dudley, said in a statement that while “we drank in college,” he “never saw Brett black out.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of moving the goal posts after he and the White House agreed last week to demands to reopen the FBI probe and hold off one week on a confirmation vote.
“Let me make a prediction,” McConnell said yesterday as he warned of an “unbounded fishing expedition. Soon enough the goal post will be on the move once again.”