Grassley defends his investigation of Kavanaugh during confirmation process

The former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said the probe into allegations was "incredibly thorough."
Image: Chuck Grassley
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks to reporters at the Capitol on Oct. 5, 2018.J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

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By Leigh Ann Caldwell and Heidi Przybyla

WASHINGTON — With new questions arising about the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Monday defended his committee’s investigation of allegations against the then-nominee, calling it an “incredibly thorough review” into Kavanaugh’s personal and professional life.

Grassley, who oversaw the confirmation process as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee last fall, made the remarks after new allegations arose over the weekend, calling into question the scope and extent of the committee’s work and the FBI’s investigation of Kavanaugh.

“My team spoke with 45 individuals and took 25 written statements.” Grassley said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. “In the end, there was no credible evidence to support any of the allegations.”

During the confirmation process, Kavanaugh was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault while they were in high school. Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale University, also came forward with an allegation that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her in college. He has denied both allegations.

On Saturday, the New York Times published an opinion piece from a forthcoming book that alleges a second incident at Yale told by a possible eyewitness, Max Stier, where Kavanaugh exposed himself to a woman and forced his penis into her hand. The Times further reported on Monday that the woman, the target of the exposer, did not remember the incident.

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Grassley says that Stier never contacted his office with claims.

“This person, Mr. Stier, did not reach out or provide information to the committee’s majority,” Grassley said.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a member of the Judiciary Committee wrote to FBI Directory Chris Wray, copying Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on October 2 of last year, asking him to look into the allegation, specifically made by Stier.

“The reason I took the unusual step of sending a specific letter was I know this individual, Max Stier, and I thought it was important that he actually be questioned by the FBI and that his allegations be heard,” Coons told reporters Monday. Grassley spokesperson Taylor Foy told NBC News that the letter from Coons "contained no details on any claim" in specific.

Stier, who runs a good governance non profit in Washington D.C., went to Yale with Kavanaugh. He was also suite mates with Dave White, one of three eye witnesses Debbie Ramirez identified to the FBI in her incident, NBC News was told. Stier also was on President Bill Clinton’s defense team in the Ken Starr investigation into Monica Lewinsky. Kavanaugh worked for Starr.

The White House mandated the scope of the supplemental investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct during the confirmation process. The FBI didn’t speak to dozens of potential witnesses, NBC News reported at the time.

Six presidential candidates as well as some Democrats in Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, called on Kavanaugh to be impeached. And Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said Monday that she intends to file a resolution to begin an impeachment inquiry.

Three other presidential candidates called for an opening of an investigation into Kavanaugh.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said that he doesn’t have time to open an impeachment investigation into Kavanaugh because he’s too busy looking at impeachment of the president.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and presidential candidate who sits on the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, asking about the scope of the FBI investigation.

Republicans have jumped to Kavanaugh’s defense. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it felt like Groundhog Day of “Senate Democrats reopening the sad and embarrassing chapter they wrote last September.”

“This is just yet another reason why I think President Trump will win,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Frank Thorp V and Haley Talbot contributed.