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Trump Says FBI Should Interview Anyone It Wants In The Kavanaugh Probe


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promises that the Senate will vote this week on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court. It's not clear which day. That depends on when the FBI concludes its investigation into claims that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford decades ago when they were both teenagers. Kavanaugh flatly denies the claims. The scope of the investigation is unclear and has been the subject of political haggling ever since the inquiry was announced on Friday. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is here in the studio to walk us through the latest. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, good afternoon.

SHAPIRO: Let's start at the White House. President Trump held another one of those extended unfiltered press conferences today. What did he say about Kavanaugh and where this investigation stands?

DETROW: He said a lot about Kavanaugh. But let's just focus for this moment on what he said about the investigation and Kavanaugh. We've been hearing a lot of reports that the White House had been ordering the FBI to keep the focus very narrow. President Trump today insisted that is not the case.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want them to do a very comprehensive investigation - whatever that means according to the senators and the Republicans and the Republican majority. I want them to do that.

DETROW: And we do know there's been a lot of conversation between the White House and Senate Republicans about this. Jeff Flake is the Arizona senator who forced this weeklong investigation on Friday. He said today he has been having a lot of talks with the White House, as had the other key Republican holdouts here.

SHAPIRO: The Judiciary Committee asked the White House to have the FBI investigate current and credible allegations. President Trump seems to be referring to Senate Republicans on this. So what's our best understanding of how the Senate Republicans define current and credible?

DETROW: Lindsey Graham gave a definition of this over the weekend to ABC News. He said that would involve all of the witnesses that Christine Blasey Ford said were at the party, and it also includes Deborah Ramirez, who made that second claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a college party. Here's the thing that's unclear - it's whether the FBI could or would broaden and talk to college classmates who have come forward saying that Kavanaugh wasn't telling the truth when he testified about his drinking habits and other things like that. Flake was in Boston today. Here's what he said about what he wants the scope to be.


JEFF FLAKE: It does no good to have an investigation that just gives us more cover, for example. We actually need to find out what we can find out.

DETROW: At the same time though, Senate Republican leaders are moving forward. You've seen them and the White House step up their efforts to play up the evidence that undermines what Ford said and backs what Kavanaugh said. And that includes a memo from that prosecutor who did the Republican questioning last week - Rachel Mitchell - saying that, based on the lack of hard evidence, a reasonable prosecutor would not bring this case against Kavanaugh.

SHAPIRO: At this point, how much control do the White House and Senate Republican leaders actually have over this process?

DETROW: Well, here's what we know. We know that they didn't want to be in this position. They didn't want to even have a hearing. And they wanted to have a vote as soon as today or tomorrow on Kavanaugh's confirmation. They didn't do either of those things because Flake and the other Republicans who are on the fence said, we're just not comfortable moving forward with this. And you have to wait for those votes. Those three Republicans have a lot of power right now. And that's why this moment, in a "60 Minutes" interview, was so important.


SCOTT PELLEY: If Judge Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination's over?

FLAKE: Oh, yes. I would think so.

DETROW: So that's Scott Pelley asking Flake - and also Democrat Chris Coons. That's why the scope is so important - if it's just on the incidents that were 36 years ago, or if it gets into some of the broader things that Kavanaugh was talking about last week.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow. Thanks, Scott.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.