REPORT: FBI still hasn’t interviewed Kavanaugh or Ford citing lack of White House ‘approval’

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) — The FBI hasn’t interviewed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford because it doesn’t have clear authority from the White House to do so, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Instead, the White House has indicated to the FBI that testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford, who has accused him of attempting to rape her when they were in high school, before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week is sufficient, said the people, who asked to not be identified discussing the sensitive matter.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation is trying to force the issue and seek explicit approval from the White House to interview Ford and Kavanaugh. And it wasn’t clear why the FBI hasn’t yet talked to other people who have been recommended by lawyers or who have voluntarily come forward — or if the bureau would need explicit approval to talk with them as well.

Confusion has now beset the investigation, fed by conflicting signals over what constraints have been placed on the bureau despite President Donald Trump’s comment Monday that “the FBI should interview anybody that they want, within reason.”

In the absence of a resolution about interviewing more people, the FBI could close the probe as early as Wednesday and submit its findings to the White House, the people said. The FBI declined to comment on the investigation or its timing.

A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the White House views the FBI inquiry as a supplemental background investigation, with its scope limited to the sex-assault allegations. That suggests its view is that agents don’t need to go back over ground already covered by last week’s Senate Judiciary hearing or delve into allegations about Kavanaugh’s past drinking habits that may contradict his testimony.

“We’re going to allow the Senate to make the determination of the scope,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday. Officials have said the White House is relying on a request from the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee setting out the terms for the FBI inquiry.

On Monday, three days into the probe, the White House gave the FBI approval to interview more people, but the bureau is still constrained by an initial directive to investigate only credible allegations of sexual misconduct, the person said. Those restrictions are still limiting the number of people the bureau can interview and agents have only talked to a small number of individuals, the person said.

FBI field offices also lack a clear understanding of what they can do when people come forward voluntarily with information that could be relevant to the investigation, the person said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray is documenting what’s happening behind the scenes in order to help ensure the bureau’s activities in the politically charged investigation are captured and perhaps made public one day, the person said.

Among those who have been interviewed by the FBI are Kavanaugh’s high school friends Mark Judge, who Ford said witnessed and encouraged the attack on her, Chris Garrett and Patrick J. Smyth. Agents also have talked with Deborah Ramirez, who claims Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a drunken party when they were freshmen at Yale University.

The bureau hasn’t interviewed Julie Swetnick, who accused Kavanaugh of taking part in efforts at parties during high school to get girls intoxicated so that groups of boys could have sex with them, according to her attorney Michael Avenatti. Kavanaugh has denied all of the allegations of sexual impropriety.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had accurately predicted earlier that Democrats would say that the “supplemental background investigation for which my friends had clamored would suddenly become insufficient.”

“It’s time to put this embarrassing spectacle behind us,” said McConnell, who reiterated his plan to hold at least a preliminary vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation this week.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “We have no idea if the FBI is doing a real investigation or simply preparing a fig leaf at the direction of the White House for Republicans to vote yes.”

Regarding Wray, Schumer of New York said, “If he’s being constrained by the White House, he has an obligation to let us know.”

Bloomberg’s Chris Strohm, Shannon Pettypiece Laura Litvan, and Arit John contributed to the contents of this report.



REPORT: Trump’s travel ban headed for victory at Supreme Court

Washington, D.C. (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Supreme Court appeared poised to uphold President Donald Trump’s travel ban as two key justices used an argument session to aim skeptical questions at a lawyer challenging the policy.

Hearing the last case of its nine-month term Wednesday, the court took its first direct look at a policy that indefinitely bars more than 150 million people from entering the country. Opponents, led at the high court by Hawaii, say Trump overstepped his authority and was motivated by anti-Muslim animus.

Chief Justice John Roberts suggested he doubted that the policy was unconstitutionally tainted by Trump’s campaign call for a Muslim ban at the border. Roberts asked whether those types of comments would prevent a president from taking the advice of his military staff to launch an air strike against Syria.

“Does that mean he can’t because you would regard that as discrimination against a majority-Muslim country?” Roberts asked Hawaii’s lawyer, Neal Katyal.

Another pivotal justice, Anthony Kennedy, suggested he understood Katyal to be asking the court to second-guess the president on whether a national-security emergency warranted border restrictions.

“Your argument is that courts have the duty to review whether or not there is such a national exigency,” Kennedy said with a tone of incredulity. “That’s for the courts to do, not the president?”

The court is considering the third version of a ban that triggered chaos and protests at American airports when Trump signed the first executive order a week after taking office in January 2017. Although two federal appeals courts have ruled against Trump, the Supreme Court let the policy take full effect in December.

The travel policy bars or limits entry by people from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. It also blocks people from North Korea and a handful of Venezuelan government officials, though those aspects of the policy aren’t at issue at the high court. Trump removed Chad from the list of restricted countries earlier this month.

The high court’s decision, likely to come in the final days of June, promises to be a major pronouncement on the president’s control over the nation’s borders. It may also serve as a judgment on an unconventional presidency marked by ad-hoc policy decisions and pointed Twitter comments.

Wednesday’s session offered few reasons to expect that judgment to be anything but deferential. The toughest questions for U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, Trump’s top Supreme Court advocate, came almost entirely from the court’s most liberal members.

One of them, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said Congress had already enacted a visa waiver process that required heightened vetting in some cases. “Where does the president get the authority to do more than Congress has already decided is adequate?” she asked.

Justice Elena Kagan, another Democratic appointee, raised a hypothetical issue of a president who had made anti-Semitic remarks and whose administration found security reasons to recommend a ban on travel from Israel.

“This is an out-of-the-box kind of president in my hypothetical,” she said, drawing laughter from the courtroom. “We don’t have those, Your Honor,” Francisco quickly shot back before saying that he doubted that any national security reasons could justify a ban on such a close ally.

“The question is, what are reasonable observers to think given this context, in which this hypothetical president is making virulent anti-Semitic comments,” Kagan said.

But Justice Samuel Alito noted that Trump’s policy affects only a small percentage of the world’s Muslims.

“It does not look at all like a Muslim ban,” he said. “There are other justifications that jump out as to why these particular countries were put on the list.”

Katyal said the travel ban “does fall almost exclusively on Muslims.”

Kennedy, the court’s most frequent swing vote, asked questions of both sides. He asked Francisco about a hypothetical mayoral candidate who made “hateful statements” during his campaign and then acted on those comments on the second day of his administration.

“You would say whatever he said in the campaign is irrelevant?” Kennedy asked.

But Kennedy aimed his toughest questions at Katyal, the Hawaii lawyer. The justice suggested the travel ban was more flexible than opponents contended, pointing to a provision in the most recent version that he said requires officials to revisit it every 180 days. “That indicates there’ll be a reassessment and the president has continuing discretion,” Kennedy said.

And the Republican-appointed justice scoffed at Katyal’s argument that the policy lacks any clear end point. “You want the president to say, ‘I’m convinced that in six months we’re going to have a safe world,’” Kennedy said.

Francisco ended his argument by offering a defense of Trump’s motives, though the lawyer stumbled slightly over his words.

“He has made crystal clear that Muslims in this country are great Americans and there are many, many Muslim countries who love this country,” Francisco said. “And he has praised Islam as one of the great countries of the world.”

Underscoring the widespread interest in the case, the court posted an audio recording of the argument on its website Wednesday afternoon. It’s the first time this term the court has released same-day audio.

People began lining up days in advance for one of the roughly 50 seats the court typically sets aside for members of the general public.

The case is Trump v. Hawaii, 17-965.



STAYING PUT: Sessions says he will not recuse himself from Trump attorney probe

Washington, D.C. (Bloomberg) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided against recusing himself from the investigation into President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, but will consider stepping back from specific questions tied to the probe, according to a person familiar with the matter.

By contrast, Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that’s now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a decision that angered Trump and left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of the inquiry.

Sessions, who was a top adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, announced in March 2017 that he had decided he should steer clear of “any matters arising from the campaigns” for president. Trump has called Sessions weak for doing so and said he never would have named him as attorney general had he known the recusal would follow.

By staying involved in the Cohen probe, Sessions is entitled to briefings on the status of the investigation, which is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York. That could put Sessions in the position of being asked by Trump, who strongly condemned the FBI raid on his longtime lawyer, to divulge information about the Cohen investigation.

Sessions could also weigh in on specific decisions by prosecutors, including whether to pursue subpoenas and indictments. The attorney general may be asked about his role in the Cohen investigation when he testifies before congressional panels on Wednesday and Thursday.

The investigation into Cohen’s finances and past work was opened based in part on a referral from Mueller.

The Justice Department declined to comment specifically about decisions on recusal in the Cohen investigation, saying only that Sessions follows appropriate procedures.

“The attorney general considers his potential recusal on a matter-by-matter basis as may be needed,” the department said in a statement. “To the extent a matter comes to the attention of his office that may warrant consideration of recusal, the attorney general would review the issue and consult with the appropriate Department ethics experts.”

But Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, has recused himself from the Cohen probe, according to a U.S. official. It’s unclear what triggered his recusal.

Rosenstein, as the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, is responsible for coordinating and resolving any conflicts between the Mueller probe and the Cohen investigation.

In a sign of how senior Justice Department officials can become involved in investigative matters, Rosenstein approved an FBI raid earlier this month on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room that seized a trove of information.

Read more at Bloomberg


ROSENSTEIN: Trump ‘no longer a target’ of Mueller investigation

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Bloomberg) — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Donald Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein, who brought up the Mueller probe himself, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, a development that helped tamp down the president’s desire to remove Rosenstein or Mueller, the people said.

After the meeting, Trump told some of his closest advisers that it’s not the right time to remove either man since he’s not a target of the probe. One person said Trump doesn’t want to take any action that would drag out the investigation.

The change in attitude by the president comes after weeks of attacks on the special counsel and the Justice Department, raising questions about whether he might take drastic steps to shut down the probe.

The shift gives some breathing room for Mueller, as well as Rosenstein, who has been criticized strongly by House Republicans for being slow to comply with requests for classified documents. Last week’s meeting was set up in part to allow Rosenstein to assuage Trump’s frustration with his decisions.

U.S. stocks pared their decline on the news. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 0.5 percent at 3:40 p.m. in New York after an earlier slump of as much as 1 percent.

At the same time, Rosenstein’s message may have been based on a technicality. Trump may not officially be a target, but Mueller hasn’t ruled out making him one at some point in the future, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the unfolding investigation.



MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN: Jobless claims fall to 49 year low

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. jobless claims have fallen to the lowest level since 1969, according to a report published Thursday by Marketwatch (

The new numbers bypassed the expectations of economists surveyed by Marketwatch and Reuters who had expected the claims to total 226,000. The actual four-week average fell by 5,000 to 220,000, states the report.

“The latest decline in weekly claims shows a tight labor market is increasingly pushing employers to hold on to existing staff amid a persistent shortage of qualified workers,” reports Bloomberg ( “Applications for jobless benefits are well below the 300,000 tally that’s typically considered consistent with a healthy labor market.”

The Labor Department also revised the number of unemployment claims reported for the previous week, saying that it was 2,000 lower than had been erroneously reported.

The numbers prompted President Donald Trump to take to Twitter, where he praised the economy.

“Unemployment filings are at their lowest level in over 48 years. Great news for workers and JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! #MAGA,” the president tweeted (

When running for president, Trump vowed to be the “best job creating president of all time”. Many economists say the president has not only met, but exceeded that goal.

“Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal say President Donald Trump has had generally positive effects on U.S. economic growth, hiring and the performance of the stock market during his first year in office,” Town Hall reported in January (”The professional forecasters also predicted 2018 would see solid growth and a continued decline in the jobless rate. One factor: the tax cuts signed into law by Mr. Trump in December, which most economists say will boost the economy for several years at least.”



WASHINGTON, D.C. — As his boss faces increasing backlash over reports of his alleged ties to Russia, Vice president Mike Pence filed papers on Thursday to launch a political action committee of his own.

The announcement comes just one day after the justice department announced it had appointed a special prosecutor to look into whether or not president Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey had anything to do with his investigation into what, if any, role the Russians played in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

In an interview with Bloomberg (, Nick Ayers, Pence’s senior advisor to the “Great America Committee”, downplayed rumors that the VP was capitalizing on the president’s woes by pouncing on the opportunity to slide in to the Oval Office given the remote chance that impeachment should occur, claiming that the creation of the committee was simply another attempt by Pence to boost the president’s legislative efforts.

“The Vice President is playing a leading role in passing legislation on the Hill,” Ayers said. “He wants to support House and Senate members who are helping pass the president’s agenda.”

Despite his denials, Pence is well aware of the rumors circulating on the Hill. On Wednesday, conservative radio show host Michael Savage opened his show by asking his listeners if Trump should resign in order to save the party’s agenda.

Also on Wednesday, Politico ran an opinion piece ( which insinuated that the ultra conservative Pence may be the only hope left in saving the Republican party from collapse.

Once source close to Pence says the rumors of his sharpening the knife to stab the president in the back are “ridiculous”.

“Mike is loyal to the president,” said the source, who wished to speak off the record. “Don’t read anything more into this than his running for re-election as vice president in 2020 and supporting other candidates. This president (president Trump) isn’t going anywhere.”



CHICAGO, IL — Billionaire talk show host Oprah Winfrey says she’s considering giving Donald Trump a run for his money.

In an interview with Bloomberg interviewer David Rubenstein (, the interviewer, actress, producer said she once thought that she was unqualified to run for office, but not anymore.

“I actually never thought that that was – I never considered the question, even a possibility,” said Winfrey. But when outsider Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump beat longtime politician Hillary Clinton, whom she had campaigned hard for, Winfrey said her thought process changed.

“I thought, ‘Oh, gee, I don’t have experience. I don’t know enough. I don’t.’ And now I’m thinking, ‘Oh! Oh!'”

If Oprah should run for president and win, she would
be the first female president in American history.

Winfrey says she likens the challenge to that she face when starting her first talk show in 1984. When made aware that she would be competing for airtime against then talk show king Phil Donahue, Winfrey’s advisers told her she didn’t stand a chance.

“It didn’t matter to me, because I did not think that he was beatable,” she said. But ultimately, “I beat him. I did. I wasn’t trying to, but I did.”