The battle over accusations goes on as Kavanaugh nomination advances
Kavanaugh classmates ignored by the FBI speak out, reveal new text message.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh depart after testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 27, 2018.J. Scott Applewhite / AP file
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WASHINGTON — As Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, closed out his executive summary of allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, his staff called a former roommate of Deborah Ramirez, the Yale classmate who has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her.
Jen Klaus, the former roommate, told NBC News that committee staff members called her at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, put her on speakerphone and asked about Ramirez’s drinking habits, whether there was a Yale student known for dropping his pants and the party culture at Yale. She says they suggested the allegation was a case of mistaken identity.
“It just gave me the impression they were suggesting perhaps it was (another classmate) who threw his penis in her face instead of Brett. Why would they be asking me this?” said Klaus, who now resides in Brookline, Massachusetts.
In a statement to NBC News, the committee's press secretary, George Hartmann, said that "no suggestion of mistaken identity was made. The committee has received numerous tips and asked Ms. Klaus for information she could provide one way or the other."
"To say otherwise would not only be inaccurate, it would also call into question the motivations of the individual doing so," Hartmann added.
The FBI's supplemental background investigation into allegations against Kavanaugh included interviews with nine individuals and the results were sent to the White House and Senate Thursday morning. Grassley's summary said that committee staffers talked to 35 individuals.
Kavanaugh has strongly denied the allegations and his confirmation appears to have the votes to pass on Saturday after Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said they would support him late Friday afternoon.
Two former Yale classmates say they have made several attempts to share text messages raising questions about whether Kavanaugh tried to squash the New Yorker story that made Ramirez's accusations public — and say the FBI did not respond to their calls and written submissions to its web portal.
The text messages involve one potential eyewitness to the incident and the wife of another potential eyewitness.
The texts are a conversation between Kathy Charlton and a mutual friend of Kavanaugh's who, NBC has confirmed, was identified to the FBI by Ramirez as an eyewitness to the incident. NBC News has received no response to multiple attempts to reach the alleged eyewitness for comment.
The story detailing Ramirez’s accusation was published in The New Yorker on Sept. 23. Charlton told NBC News that, in a phone conversation three days earlier, the former classmate told her Kavanaugh had called him and advised him not to say anything "bad" if the press were to call.
Then on September 21, according to the texts, that same person sent Charlton a text accusing her of disclosing their conversation to a reporter. “Hellllllooooo. Don’t F****** TELL PEOPLE BRETT GOT IN TOUCH WITH ME!!! I TOLD YOU AT THE TIME THAT WAS IN CONFIDENCE!!!”
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“From the content and all capital letters of the text (the alleged witness) seemed to feel that there was a great deal at stake for Brett if Brett’s fears of exposure ever became public,” Charlton wrote in a statement to the FBI shared with Grassley’s office on Oct. 4.
Charlton is not the only former Yale classmate of Kavanaugh's to indicate the nominee and his team were active in reaching out to their social group ahead of publication of The New Yorker story. NBC News has reported that a memo to the FBI, drafted by Kerry Berchem, questioned whether Kavanaugh “and/or” his friends “may have initiated an anticipatory narrative” as early as July to “conceal or discredit” Ramirez.
Both women stressed that they don't know the whole story and are drawing no conclusions but are baffled as to why they were never interviewed by the FBI or Judiciary staff.
Both say they have made numerous attempts to reach the FBI. Thursday night, after Grassley pronounced the investigation complete, Berchem sent her third email to Mike Davis, the chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, pleading for him speak with her. Similar to his responses to previous emails, Davis noted that her information was forwarded to the investigative staff. Berchem shared the exchange with NBC News.
Hartmann, the committee press secretary, said "it would be a lie to say committee investigators did not interview Ms. Berchem. Committee investigators spoke at length with Ms. Berchem on Oct. 3. Committee investigators also extensively reviewed information provided by Ms. Berchem."
Berchem told NBC News that she has had one call with a committee staff member to whom she gave a brief overview of her concerns but was not interviewed.
Hartmann also said the committee received correspondence from Charlton. "In her letter, Ms. Charlton asked the committee to review her exchange, which the committee did, and said the committee should feel free to contact her if there were any questions," Hartmann said. "After evaluating the information provided, the committee’s professional investigators did not see a need for a follow-up call."
The efforts by the two women have continued even as Republicans like Grassley insist that the investigation of the accusations against Kavanaugh is complete.
Berchem sent to the FBI some of 51 screen shots of text messages she exchanged with her friend, Karen Yarasavage, the wife of Kevin Genda, another alum Ramirez identified as an eyewitness, to explain why Kavanaugh and his friends should be asked whether they anticipated a story about Ramirez as early as July.
Ramirez identified to the FBI Dave Todd, Kevin Genda and Dave White as eyewitnesses who were in the room during the alleged incident, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
In July, as the Washington Post quietly researched a story on a woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct while they were in high school, Berchem said she received what she presumed was a misfired text from Yarasavage.
The text suggests that Kavanaugh’s closest Yale friends and those Ramirez later identified as witnesses were searching for an old 1997 wedding party photo that includes themselves, as well as Ramirez and Kavanaugh, all smiling together.
The July 16 text notes that “Whitey,” or Dave White, sent a 1997 wedding party photo to the Washington Post. Berchem is not friends with White and assumed it was mistakenly sent to her. The text came 10 days after Dr. Ford sent an anonymous tip to the Washington Post’s confidential tip line, according to her testimony before the Senate.
“Why was the 1997 photo retrieved and distributed to the Washington Post at that time? Debbie's allegations against Brett do not become public until September 23rd,” writes Berchem in her memo.
The Post did not publish its piece identifying Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the accuser until September.
In July, Yarasavage also began texting about an old classmate whom neither was or is close to, Rick F. On July 16, Yarasavage texted Berchem noting she found a “box of college photos. Rick (F) etc.”
"Neither of us knew him well in college. Does she actually have photos of him?” Berchem asked in her memo.
On Sept. 23, the day the New Yorker published Ramirez’s story accusing Kavanaugh of exposing himself, Yarasavage returned to Rick F.: “I thought I heard (he) pulled out his unit once. Could she be so wildly mistaken??”
The subject, Rick, hadn’t been at Yale in the 1983-84 school year. “She concludes by appearing to insinuate that Ms. Ramirez's memory may have been adversely impacted by problems with her father,” writes Berchem.
On the same day, Yarasavage also texted Berchem that she was being contacted by “Brett’s guy” and that “Brett asked me to go on the record” regarding the New Yorker piece.
“I believe that these September 23rd texts raise factual issues, such as the contents of the conversation if it occurred between Judge Kavanaugh and why (Yarasavage) seemed to be encouraging a false ‘mistaken identity’ theory involving someone who wasn't at Yale at the time of the alleged incident – that might merit the FBI’s further investigation,” wrote Berchem. NBC News has received no response to attempts to contact Yarasavage.