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Here’s how the FBI could probe the Kavanaugh allegations

Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault in high school, now says she might be willing to testify next week, but not on Monday as Senate Republicans want. Amna Nawaz reports, then William Brangham and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss the fallout on Capitol Hill and what could be gleaned from an FBI investigation.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The drama swirling around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has taken a new turn. The woman who was accusing him of sexual assault in high school now says she might be willing to testify next week after all, but not Monday, as Senate Republicans want.

    Amna Nawaz begins our coverage.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    They protested today in the halls of Congress, supporters invoking the name of Christine Blasey Ford, spurred by her sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, that as Debra Katz, a lawyer for Ford, sent an e-mail to the Senate Judiciary Committee to negotiate the terms of any potential testimony.

    In that e-mail, the text of which was obtained by the "NewsHour," Katz said Ford — quote — "wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety." The lawyer indicated that could be next week and reiterated that Ford — quote — "has been receiving death threats."

    The committee, chaired by Republican Chuck Grassley, previously invited Ford and Kavanaugh to testify next Monday, a date Ford's lawyer now says is — quote — "not possible."

    Today, Republicans stayed largely out of public view.

  • Question:

    Do you believe Dr. Ford, sir?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Even President Trump ignored reporters' questions while departing the White House early this evening for a Las Vegas rally.

    But on Capitol Hill, Democrats echoed Ford's request for an FBI investigation.

  • Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii:

    You have the entire force of the presidency and all of the supporters of Judge Kavanaugh in the Senate arrayed on one side, and on this other side, you have Dr. Ford, who doesn't even have the benefit of an FBI — FBI investigation, as we all have called for.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Republicans have downplayed the need for further investigation.

    In today's e-mail, Dr. Ford's lawyer reiterated that Ford's — quote — "strong preference continues to be a full investigation prior to her testimony."

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And with that, we turn to our own Lisa Desjardins for more on the fallout from Capitol Hill and William Brangham on what more, if anything, could be gleaned from an FBI investigation.

    Hello to both of you.

    So, William, can the FBI investigate this?

  • William Brangham:

    Absolutely.

    There's nothing precluding the FBI from looking into this, provided — and this is the big provided — that the White House request it. That's the barrier here. The White House needs to say, reopen this background investigation into Kavanaugh. And then, once they do that — I talked to a retired senior official in the FBI today.

    And he said, if that request comes in, there is nothing off-limits. The FBI can look into any of these allegations as they see fit.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, what is it exactly that Democrats want to get from the FBI investigation?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, they're actually asking something new of the FBI.

    In just the past few minutes, Senator Patrick Leahy, who is on the Judiciary Committee, sent this e-mail saying he wants the FBI to investigate crimes against Dr. Blasey Ford. He says that includes hacking of her e-mail, as well as death threats against her. So there's an investigation into things happening with her that the Democrats are requesting.

    As to the background investigation that we have been talking about all week and that William was talking about, Democrats in particular would like the FBI to interview Mark Judge. He's the other person that Professor Ford says was there. And they think he needs to be under oath and accountable for what he says.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's the one other name we have of who she says was at that party at the home that night.

    William, how long does it take, do we know, to conduct this kind of an investigation?

  • William Brangham:

    As with any investigation, it depends on the complexity of the investigation.

    A lot of Democrats in the last few days have been pointing out that Anita Hill's investigations back in the early '90s against Clarence Thomas were also investigated by the FBI, and that took just two days to do.

    Many people have said that that was somewhat cursory investigation. But there's really no determining. It really depends how deep the Democrats — I mean, how deep the FBI wants to go into this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, what are Republicans saying? How do they see this latest turn?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, we're waiting to see what they come out with publicly. But, right now, they are not yet backing down about the Monday here.

    However, privately, I think that we're hearing from some key Republican offices they feel that they will need to accommodate Dr. Ford. If she's saying she can meet next week, they don't think it's good for Republicans to force a Monday hearing without her.

    Now, at the same time, we're also seeing that on the campaign trail pressure is mounting, protesters throughout the Capitol, as Amna reported, but we're also seeing some Republicans, like a man who used to be Republican, now the independent governor of Alaska, has come out and said that he opposes the Kavanaugh nomination.

    That's important, of course, because Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is a swing vote. She determines her own vote, but if the man running for reelection as governor of that state is now a formal no on Kavanaugh, it's something she's thinking about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That sounds like they're beginning to feel some political blowback.

    William, Republicans, though, are saying, even if the FBI goes and investigates this, that they can't make a judgment call, so what value is it?

  • William Brangham:

    This is true. This is what the FBI's protocol is for all these cases, not just in this case, that they gather the evidence and simply put it forward. And then it's to whoever receives that report — in this case, it would be the White House — to determine what to do with it and what to make of the assessments.

    In fact, I talked with C. Boyden Gray, who was in the Bush White House back during the Anita Hill allegations, and he said — made this very same argument, that the FBI can't really render a judgment, so what would we learn that we don't already know?

    Supporters of Dr. Ford, including Janet Napolitano, who I spoke with today, said there are so many other threads to this. They could interview Mark Judge, as Lisa mentioned. They could interview the other students who might have been at that party. They could interview the therapist that Dr. Ford allegedly told this to.

    So they argue that this timeline set forward by the GOP is completely artificial and that there's no reason why it couldn't take days, perhaps weeks, to reopen this and really get to the facts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meantime, Lisa, we said we wait. The Republicans are in control of this.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Stay tuned.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, William Brangham, thank you both.

    We will hear from the congresswoman with whom Blasey Ford first raised her accusation and from a woman who clerked for Judge Kavanaugh. That will be right after the news summary.

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