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White House Gives FBI More Freedom in Kavanaugh Probe


President Donald Trump pauses as he takes questions from members of the media about Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Oct. 1, 2018.

The White House has given the FBI authority to talk to anyone it wants to in its probe of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as long as it's done by the end of the week, according to media reports.

The apparent directive comes after Democratic criticism that the White House may have been trying to limit the scope of the investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

Christine Blasey Ford testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in 1982 when they were both in high school. Kavanaugh angrily denied the charges to the committee.

FILE - Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2018.
FILE - Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2018.

Two other women have made similar sex abuse allegations against Kavanaugh.

The New York Times said the FBI has already interviewed four witnesses that the White House and Senate Republicans approved for questioning -- Kavanaugh's friends Mark Judge and P.J. Smith; Ford's friend Leland Keyser; and Deborah Ramirez, one of the other women who has also accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

Urges interviews

While Trump appears to be open to what he calls a "very comprehensive investigation" by the FBI, he said at a White House news conference Monday "the FBI should interview anybody they want within reason, but you have to say within reason."

Trump said it "wouldn't bother me at all" if the FBI questioned all three women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct and also said it would be "fine" if Kavanaugh is questioned.

But the president also said the FBI needs to take directions from Senate Republicans, whose 51-vote majority will determine if Kavanaugh is elevated to the Supreme Court.

FILE - Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell questions Christine Blasey Ford as, from left, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, listen during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sept. 27, 2018.
FILE - Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell questions Christine Blasey Ford as, from left, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, listen during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sept. 27, 2018.

Late Monday, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote on Kavanaugh this week.

"The time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close," McConnell declared. But as of Monday, Kavanaugh lacked the simple majority he needs for confirmation.

It was Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona who stunned the country last Friday by insisting on a one-week delay on a Senate confirmation vote so the FBI could conduct another investigation of Kavanaugh.

Flake said he would have voted against confirmation if Senate leaders rejected the delay.

He told an audience in Boston Monday that he will make sure the FBI does a "real investigation" into Kavanaugh

“The Supreme Court is one of the last bastions of trust. The Senate is having issues as well,” Flake said. “We certainly want the FBI to do a real investigation, and we are working to make sure that that happens. It does us no good to have an investigation that just gives us more cover."

Flake has said he will only vote yes if the latest FBI probe fails to uncover anything else. Two Republican women -- Susan Collins and Lisa Mukowski -- were undecided.

Senate testimony

Ford testified last Friday that she is "100 percent" sure it was Kavanaugh who pinned her to a bed and tried to tear her clothes off at a 1982 party, covering her mouth with her hands to stop her screams. She says Kavanaugh's friend, Mark Judge, witnessed the attack and that two laughed at her.

FILE - Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2018.
FILE - Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2018.

Kavanaugh angrily and emotionally denied the allegations, asserting that he never sexually assaulted anyone at anytime in his life.

Another woman, Julie Swetnick, has alleged Kavanaugh was at high school parties in which she claims to have been gang raped.

A third woman, Deborah Ramirez, charged in a New Yorker magazine report that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party at Yale University, and shoved his penis in her face, forcing her to touch it while pushing him away.

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​Kavanaugh admitted being a heavy drinker as a student and said he still likes beer. But he denies any such behavior and said he never blacked out because of alcohol.

Trump has maintained his support for Kavanaugh, saying that “hopefully at the conclusion, everything will be fine.”

VOA's Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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