Senate Republicans are pushing for a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination now that his reopened FBI background check has closed. Unfortunately, political interference by the White House has prevented the FBI from conducting a thorough look into the allegations against Kavanaugh.
If Republicans are hoping that simply going through the motions of reopening Kavanaugh’s background check will give political cover to a handful of undecided senators, they are dead wrong. This process has been exposed as a sham. It will NOT satisfy the public’s deep concerns about Brett Kavanaugh.
Based on what we know, there are at least three problems with the FBI’s background investigation:
1. The investigation did not interview many relevant witnesses who could corroborate the allegations against Kavanaugh.
- The normal FBI background check process dictates that the White House allow the FBI to follow any and all leads. But Trump has provided a narrow witness list of who the FBI is allowed to interview.
- Originally the White House tried to limit the FBI’s interviews to just four witnesses. After a public backlash, the FBI was reportedly allowed to widen the circle of witnesses. But there is still no transparency about who was selected for interviews and how. For all we know, the White House may have pre-screened potential witnesses before clearing the FBI to talk to them.
- There is a long list of individuals who have not been interviewed by the FBI.
- Dr. Blasey’s Ford’s husband, friends, therapist, and polygraph examiner — all of whom could further corroborate her claims;
- Witnesses identified by Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s who alleged that he exposed himself to her at a party;
- Kenneth Appold, a suitemate of Kavanaugh’s at the time who is “one-hundred-per-cent certain” that he was told that Kavanaugh was the male student who exposed himself to Ramirez;
- Julie Swetnick, the woman who submitted a sworn statement alleging that she saw Kavanaugh at parties where women were sexually assaulted;
- James Roche, Kavanaugh’s roommate who said he was “a notably heavy drinker”;
- Chad Ludington, Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate who was present when Kavanaugh started a bar fight;
- Liz Swisher, who said “it’s not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess;
- And many more.
For that matter, the FBI has not even talked to Dr. Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh. No investigation could possibly be considered complete without interviewing them.
2. The White House also limited the FBI’s ability to determine whether Kavanaugh made false statements under oath.
- One of the major concerns about Kavanaugh’s nomination are the apparent lies he told to the Senate, under oath, both in prior confirmation hearings and last week. But by limiting the scope of questions that agents can ask, the White House has impeded the FBI’s ability to determine if Kavanaugh lied.
- For instance, the White House has reportedly declared that Kavanaugh’s drinking habits — and whether Kavanaugh testified about them accurately under oath — will not be within the scope of the FBI’s investigation.
- This is not right. The FBI ought to have been allowed to ask witnesses whether Kavanaugh testified truthfully before the Senate Judiciary Committee. They should seek corroboration for his factual claims — from his experiences with alcohol to the references in his yearbook.
- The question is not whether Kavanaugh’s yearbook page was vulgar or whether he drank to excess in high school or college. The question is not even necessarily whether he committed perjury in his testimony. The question is whether Kavanaugh can be trusted to be honest and forthcoming. If he casually lies about small things, he can’t be trusted about big things.
3. Republicans plan to conceal the FBI’s findings from the public.
- Multiple senators have stated that they will base their decision on Kavanaugh on the FBI’s findings, yet Senate Republicans have announced they’ll shield these findings from the public.
- This is unacceptable given the unique circumstances and high stakes surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination. Republicans have not shied away from making FBI investigative material public in the past, as they did in 2016 in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
- Republicans have a track record of mischaracterizing FBI background check material that is kept confidential. This week, for instance, Senator Dick Durbin was joined by seven Judiciary Democrats in publicly correcting Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans’ claims that past FBI background checks into Kavanaugh revealed no hint of sexual impropriety or alcohol problems. Durbin could not speak further because of the confidentiality of the material, but the incident shows Republicans cannot be trusted to accurately represent the FBI’s findings if they are kept hidden from public view.
- Republicans like Chuck Grassley and Susan Collins are already suggesting that the investigation shows “no corroboration” and “appears to be very thorough.” If they truly believe the FBI’s findings will appear complete, and exonerate Kavanaugh, they should be eager to release them to resolve the doubts about his nomination. If not, the public will be right to ask: What are they hiding?