The FBI is free to investigate any sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the White House said on Sunday, rebuffing reports that the administration has tried to limit the probe, Reuters reported.
“The White House is not micromanaging this process. The Senate is dictating the terms. The FBI, this is what they do. And we’re out of the way and letting them do exactly that,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
President Trump bowed to pressure from moderate Senate Republicans and ordered an FBI investigation after Christine Blasey Ford, a California university professor, detailed her claims at a Senate hearing on Thursday that Kavanaugh tried to rape her in 1982 when the two were high school teenagers.
The Supreme Court nominee has denied Ford’s accusation, as well as those of two other women that emerged afterward. In a stunning reversal on Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the Trump administration to order the FBI to investigate the misconduct allegations – but only after the panel sent Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate for a final vote, Reuters noted.
The move followed emotional testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh at a committee hearing on Thursday that further roiled emotions and outrage surrounding the nomination for a lifetime appointment to the high court.
Senate Republicans, who hold a narrow 51-49 majority, were forced by dissent within their ranks to slow down the confirmation process. As a result, the Supreme Court will begin a new term on Monday with the court ideologically deadlocked with four conservatives and four liberals.
Republicans, who are trying to retain control of the U.S. Congress in November elections, seek to balance their desire to have a conservative judge on the Supreme Court with sensitivity in how they handle the sexual misconduct allegations amid the reverberations of the #MeToo movement.
Many media outlets, including NBC News, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that the White House was controlling the investigation, giving the FBI a list of witnesses and limiting its parameters.