As attorneys for Christine Ford Blasey demanded an FBI investigation over the last two weeks, the Wall Street Journal reports that her allies were pressuring one witness to change her story. Ford named Leland Keyser as one of four potential witnesses to the Washington Post, but once her name became public, Keyser issued a statement through her attorneys that she cannot recall ever being at a party with Brett Kavanaugh.
Almost immediately, a Ford friend began pressing her to modify her first statement — and that friend just happened to be a former FBI agent:
A friend of Christine Blasey Ford told FBI investigators that she felt pressured by Dr. Ford’s allies to revisit her initial statement that she knew nothing about an alleged sexual assault by a teenage Brett Kavanaugh, which she later updated to say that she believed but couldn’t corroborate Dr. Ford’s account, according to people familiar with the matter.
Leland Keyser, who Dr. Ford has said was present at the gathering where she was allegedly assaulted in the 1980s, told investigators that Monica McLean, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and a friend of Dr. Ford’s, had urged her to clarify her statement, the people said. …
On Thursday, a day after sending to the White House the report on its investigation into the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, the FBI sent the White House and Senate an additional package of information that included text messages from Ms. McLean to Ms. Keyser, according to a person familiar with the matter.
McLean’s name might be familiar to readers. Ford’s ex-boyfriend submitted a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee contradicting Ford’s testimony in the hearing. Ford had claimed that she “never” assisted anyone in preparing for a polygraph exam, but the ex-boyfriend recalled her providing such assistance to her roommate at the time — Monica McLean, who went into the FBI. McLean vehemently denied receiving any such assistance, and that line of inquiry went dead.
McLean denies this story through her attorney. However, if McLean did put pressure on Keyser to change her story (and if the texts support that claim), that raises questions about McLean’s credibility across the board, including whether she’s changing her own history on the polygraph issue. Pressuring Keyser to change her statement might cross the line from lobbying to witness tampering, theoretically anyway, especially once the FBI got involved — in no small part due to demands from Ford’s attorneys. Ford and Kavanaugh (and Deborah Ramirez, for that matter) lobbied friends from that period for support as character references, but what the WSJ describes from the texts involved sounds as though Keyser was being pressured to change testimony already given to the Senate under jeopardy of 18 USC 1001.
If so, that sounds more like witness tampering than lobbying — morally, anyway, but not legally. The federal statute on witness tampering (18 USC 1512) in subsection (e) provides for an affirmative defense against such a charge. If a defendant can prove by “a preponderance of the evidence” that the intent was “to encourage, induce, or cause the other person to testify truthfully,” emphasis mine, then it doesn’t apply. McLean might have a problem with that if pressed, since she wasn’t anywhere near that party and had no evidence that Ford was being truthful in that recollection. It doesn’t seem likely that the Department of Justice will follow up on this, however; they and the White House would be better off letting this fade away, regardless of what happens to Kavanaugh. The last thing the administration needs is a narrative of wreaking revenge on Ford and her allies, at least in the short run.
In the end, Keyser did add that she “believed” Ford but still couldn’t recall being at any party with Kavanaugh. Ford didn’t appear very grateful for her amended statement. Ford suggested during her testimony that Keyser was withholding, saying that she understood why her health issues would make her unwilling to step forward. That was a rather stunning slap at someone Ford pulled into a public maelstrom without any warning. That might be why Keyser shared those texts from McLean and felt free to discuss the pressure she got to buckle under and lie about her own memories … or lack thereof.