By GREG SARGENT OCTOBER 1, 2018 Original article published in the The Washington Post

“It would be unprofessional, it would be grossly incomplete, and it would be unfair to the American public.”


The White House appears to be playing all kinds of crafty rhetorical games to obscure the answer to a simple question: Has it deliberately placed limits on the scope of the FBI’s renewed background check into allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, or not?

As of this morning, there are conflicting reports about who will now be interviewed by the FBI. The New York Times reports that the White House directed the FBI to interview only four people: Mark Judge, who is alleged by Christine Blasey Ford to have acted as Kavanaugh’s accomplice in the sexual assault; P.J. Smyth and Leland Keyser, who Ford claims were also in the house; and Deborah Ramirez, who has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at Yale.

Meanwhile, The Post reports that Kavanaugh will also be interviewed, but that a third accuser — Julie Swetnick — will not be. It’s also not clear whether Ford herself will be contacted — she has not yet been, according to her lawyer.

You’ll be startled to hear that instead of providing clarity, White House officials have sown further confusion. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News that the White House is “not micromanaging this process.” Similarly, counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN that, while the investigation will be “limited in scope,” the White House is not setting those limits, which will be “up to the FBI” to set. Conway pointed to President Trump’s weekend tweet saying the FBI should “interview whoever they deem appropriate,” and insisted (somehow without dissolving into giggles at her own disingenuousness) that Trump respects the FBI’s “independence.”

Despite that, Sanders and Conway both also said terms are being dictated — by Republican senators. But the White House has not released the precise directive it gave to the FBI, so we cannot know whether the White House is actively imposing those same limits on those senators’ behalf. CNN reports that the White House and GOP senators together developed those limits with the aim of making them “as narrow as possible.”

Clear now? Of course it isn’t. Because that’s exactly how the White House and Republican senators want it.

How did the FBI shut down and occupy the White House?

Get your copy of In Pursuit: from the streets of San Francisco to Watergate today and get the inside story on the investigation that brought down the Nixon administration.