Yale Classmate Accuses Kavanaugh of ‘Blatant Mischaracterization’ of His Drinking

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F.B.I. investigators looking into sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh will conduct interviews with only four people, at least initially.CreditCreditErin Schaff for The New York Times
Sept. 30, 2018

WASHINGTON — A Yale classmate of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s accused him on Sunday of a “blatant mischaracterization” of his drinking while in college, saying that he often saw Judge Kavanaugh “staggering from alcohol consumption.”

The classmate, Chad Ludington, who said he frequently socialized with Judge Kavanaugh as a student, said in a statement that the judge had been untruthful in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he had denied any possibility that he had ever blacked out from drinking.

Mr. Ludington said that Judge Kavanaugh had played down “the degree and frequency” of his drinking, and that the judge had often become “belligerent and aggressive” while intoxicated. Other former classmates have made similar claims.

“It is truth that is at stake, and I believe that the ability to speak the truth, even when it does not reflect well upon oneself, is a paramount quality we seek in our nation’s most powerful judges,” Mr. Ludington said, adding that he planned to “take my information to the F.B.I.”

Mr. Ludington, a professor at North Carolina State University who appears to have made small political contributions to Democratic candidates, said to The New York Times on Sunday that he had been told by the F.B.I.’s Washington, D.C., field office that he should go to the bureau’s Raleigh, N.C., office on Monday morning. He said he intended to do that, so he could “tell the full details of my story.”

It is illegal to lie to Congress. But it was unclear whether the F.B.I. would add Mr. Ludington’s accusations to the newly reopened background investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh, which has been limited in scope and time by the White House and Senate Republicans.

The White House had no immediate comment about Mr. Ludington’s accusations.

Even before Mr. Ludington’s statement, Democrats in Washington reacted with anger on Sunday as the narrow scope of the new F.B.I. background inquiry became clear, warning that it threatened to become a sham.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week” that any investigation that limits whom the F.B.I. can interview and which leads agents can follow would be a “farce.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is also on the committee, described what she said was micromanaging from the White House: “You can’t interview this person, you can’t look at this time period, you can only look at these people from one side of the street from when they were growing up.”

“I mean, come on,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The White House agreed on Friday to order the F.B.I. to conduct a “limited” one-week supplemental background check of Judge Kavanaugh after a small number of Republicans joined Democrats in demanding an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct.

White House officials have asked the F.B.I. to interview four witnesses, a typical request in a background check. No evidence has emerged that the White House has forbidden any investigative steps, and President Trump has said he wants agents “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.”

In a tweet on Sunday, Mr. Trump accused Democrats of playing politics and said they would never be satisfied with any inquiry.

“Wow! Just starting to hear the Democrats, who are only thinking Obstruct and Delay, are starting to put out the word that the ‘time’ and ‘scope’ of FBI looking into Judge Kavanaugh and witnesses is not enough,” he wrote. “Hello! For them, it will never be enough.”

Democrats have cast the initial list of those to be interviewed as falling short of a full examination of the allegations. The four witnesses are Mark Judge and P.J. Smyth, high school friends of Judge Kavanaugh’s; Leland Keyser, a high school friend of one of Judge Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford; and Deborah Ramirez, another of the judge’s accusers.

A lawyer for Dr. Blasey, who riveted the nation on Thursday as she recounted before the Judiciary Committee what she said was a rape attempt by a drunken Judge Kavanaugh when they were in high school, said on Sunday that she had not been contacted by the F.B.I.

“We have not heard from the F.B.I. despite repeated efforts to speak with them,” Debra S. Katz, the lawyer, said in a brief telephone interview Sunday morning.

Dr. Blasey testified last week that she was willing to cooperate with the authorities. Judge Kavanaugh has strenuously denied the accusations by Dr. Blasey and other accusers.

The inquiry set in motion last week is aimed at resolving the fierce national debate over Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness to sit on the Supreme Court. But its abbreviated nature appears likely to disappoint his critics, who have insisted on a wide-ranging examination of his drinking and sexual habits as a high school and college student. Even Democratic senators who had acknowledged that the background check would be limited said on Sunday that they were disappointed.

Officials said F.B.I. agents were not making the kind of broad efforts that journalists have engaged in over the past several weeks to talk to anyone who might have information about Judge Kavanaugh’s sexual conduct or drinking habits as a young man.

Instead, they said, the inquiry had been designed to examine the allegations of Dr. Blasey, a California university professor, and the assertion by Ms. Ramirez, a classmate of Judge Kavanaugh’s at Yale, that he had exposed himself to her.

The process of interviewing the four witnesses could be completed by as soon as Monday. While agents are free to follow up if they find evidence of criminal activity, the rules for background checks require that agents ask the White House if they want to expand the scope of their investigation or interview other witnesses.

Left off the list for interviews are former classmates of Judge Kavanaugh’s who have publicly disputed his testimony about his drinking and partying while a high school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, an all-boys Catholic school in suburban Maryland, and later at Yale.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied on Sunday that the White House was playing any improper role in the process, saying that Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, had “allowed the Senate to dictate” the terms of the investigation, and that Mr. Trump would stay out of it.

People familiar with the investigation said Republican senators had developed the list of four potential witnesses for the F.B.I. to interview, and shared it with the White House.

“The Senate is dictating the terms,” Ms. Sanders said on “Fox News Sunday.” “They laid out the request, and we’ve opened it up. And as you heard the president say, do what you need to do, the F.B.I., this is what they do and we are out of the way and letting them do exactly that.”

In a

, Mr. Trump insisted that he had not put any limits on the witnesses the F.B.I. could interview. While he did not dispute the small number of initial interviews, he appeared to suggest that the White House would not stop the F.B.I. from pursuing leads on the two allegations of misconduct.

Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Maine Republican whose vote could determine Judge Kavanaugh’s fate, said on Sunday that “I am confident that the F.B.I. will follow up on any leads that result from the interviews.”

But as Democrats tried to sound alarms that the White House may be constraining the F.B.I.’s work, one key member of the party indicated that if the Democrats won control of the House in November and Judge Kavanaugh made it through the Senate, he would have no choice but to more fully investigate the claims against him.

“If he is on the Supreme Court and the Senate hasn’t investigated, the House will have to,” the lawmaker, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said on “This Week.” “We would have to investigate any credible allegations, certainly of perjury and other things that haven’t been properly looked into before.”

The Judiciary Committee is the body where impeachment inquiries for judges and other officials begin, and with the Democrats favorites to retake the House in November, Mr. Nadler could well be the panel’s chairman come January.

“We can’t have a justice on the Supreme Court for the next several decades who will be deciding questions of liberty, and life and death, and all kinds of things for the entire American people who has been credibly accused of sexual assaults, who has been credibly accused of various other things that — wrong things, including perjury,” Mr. Nadler said.

As acrimony among Republicans and Democrats seemed to only grow on Capitol Hill, a Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said his party should open an investigation of its own.

Mr. Graham, whose highly charged defense of Judge Kavanaugh turned heads last week, dismissed the need to question witnesses about Judge Kavanaugh’s youthful drinking. Instead, he called for an inquiry into Senate Democrats’ interactions with Dr. Blasey, accusing lawmakers across the aisle of betraying her trust by recommending that she hire a particular lawyer, leaking the existence of a letter she had written and disclosing the existence of an additional unrelated anonymous accusation against Judge Kavanaugh.

“I think you’re trying to portray him as a stumbling, bumbling drunk gang rapist who during high school and college was Bill Cosby,” Mr. Graham said on “This Week.” “Six F.B.I. background checks over the years would have uncovered this.”

Erin Schaff for The New York Times
Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press
Erin Schaff for The New York Times
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