WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The attorney for the second woman to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct said on Saturday that FBI agents assigned to investigate the allegations have contacted her.
The announcement by Deborah Ramirez's lawyer John Clune indicates that the FBI probe of Kavanaugh, ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday, will look beyond separate allegations of attempted rape leveled against the conservative federal appeals court judge by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a dramatic Senate hearing this week.
"We can confirm the FBI has reached out to interview Ms. Ramirez and she has agreed to cooperate with their investigation," Clune said in a tweet. "Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we will have no further comment at this time."
Ramirez alleges that Kavanaugh exposed his penis to her during a drunken party at a Yale University dormitory, when they were undergraduates.
Kavanaugh denies both Ford's and Ramirez's allegations.
Trump on Saturday again backed Kavanaugh, calling him "a good man" and "a great judge."
Asked if he had a backup candidate for the Supreme Court seat, Trump told reporters: "I don’t have a backup plan. I don't need a backup. I think he's going to be fine."
Michael Avenatti, the attorney for a third Kavanaugh accuser, Julie Swetnick, said in an email to Reuters that his client has not been contacted by investigators.
Ford, a California university professor, detailed for the Senate Judiciary Committee her claims that Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a party in 1982 when the two were still high school teenagers.
If confirmed to a lifetime Supreme Court appointment, Kavanaugh would consolidate conservative control of the nation's highest court and advance Trump's effort to shift the American judiciary to the right.
The allegations against Kavanaugh, with the backdrop of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault that has toppled a succession of powerful men, have riveted the country even as they raised doubts about his confirmation chances.
Trump was forced to order the FBI investigation after Republican Senator Jeff Flake threatened to vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation unless Republicans who control the Senate agreed to the new probe. [nL2N1WE0A1]
Flake was supported by two other Republican moderates, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, both of whom have not announced whether they would support Kavanaugh.
Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, making the votes of Murkowski and Collins crucial. Trump can afford to lose the vote of only one senator in his own party if all the Democrats vote against Kavanaugh and Vice President Mike Pence casts a tie-breaking vote.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by John Walcott and Marguerita Choy)