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The Parameters Of The FBI Investigation


So what exactly does a limited FBI investigation mean? We're joined now by Peter Zeidenberg, a former assistant U.S. attorney who worked in the Justice Department's public integrity section. Mr. Zeidenberg, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: What is a limited investigation, and who defines credible?

ZEIDENBERG: Well, that's a good question - how they're going to confine this. I think the presumption is that they would be investigating the allegations that have been publicly made so far and were discussed to some extent during the hearings, so that would be Ford and Ms. Ramirez and the woman that submitted an affidavit through Avenatti earlier in the week.

So I would assume they're going to start with those individuals and see if they can corroborate or refute the testimony that was advanced during the hearing the other day.

SIMON: So this is not a criminal investigation, right?

ZEIDENBERG: Correct. So they don't have ability to compel people to testify. And they don't have the ability to compel people to produce documents. On the other hand, people are generally, in these types of things, they're generally cooperative. I mean, if the FBI comes and says, look; we're just trying to get background information, most people are going to be cooperative in that circumstance.

SIMON: What can the FBI, if I might put it this way, dig up in a week because they do have to be scrupulous?

ZEIDENBERG: They could find information that either, as I said, corroborates or refutes what was advanced at the hearing. I mean, there were a lot of leads that could be followed. There were four people who were at this party in 1982, apparently, and they have not really been interviewed. As far as I can tell, they had lawyers who submitted letters and said, you know, my client doesn't remember that party. I mean, that is not what an investigator would find a satisfactory process to get at the truth. So there's that.

There's the - Judge Kavanaugh's former roommates, classmates at Yale and at Georgetown Prep who maybe - if they don't even remember that particular party, and they probably won't, but they may remember other incidents that were similar to, which could gain - or not.

SIMON: And if they remembered other incidents, does that become part of the investigation? Or...

ZEIDENBERG: Well, I think it would be part of it in the sense that it might tend to corroborate a version of events advanced by Ms. Ford. So if she said, no, I don't remember that party, but I remember others where similar type of things happened, then I think a lot of people would say, well, that tends to corroborate what she said, and it refutes his image that he's advanced of being someone, you know, who always treated women with respect.

SIMON: And once the investigation is finished, who gets it? What do they do with it?

ZEIDENBERG: It would go to the White House initially, then it would be shared with the Judiciary Committee. And then the question would be, what do they do with it? Do they call these witnesses in and ask to hear them - you know, their testimony? So at that point, it's a political question, not really a law enforcement or legal question.

SIMON: They could conceivably just take the report and say, thank you very much.

ZEIDENBERG: They could take a report, they could say there's nothing new here, or others could say, look; there's clearly something new here, and we need to hear from this witness. Obviously, Mark Judge is someone that people are going to want to hear from. And most - I think would be hard to conclude this as thorough without hearing from him and letting - in public and letting people cross-examine him.

SIMON: Thank you so much, Peter Zeidenberg, former official with the U.S. Justice Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.