Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is calling on the Department of Justice to “facilitate proper oversight” into the FBI’s investigation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, alleging in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that the bureau’s probe into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh was “politically constrained and perhaps fake.”
During Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation hearing, the FBI opened an investigation into credible allegations of sexual misconduct against the judge as part of its background check into him, including Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party in 1982 and accusations that he exposed himself to women in college (he has denied all the allegations).
The investigation has been heavily criticized by Democrats as insufficient, and the New York Times reported in 2019 the FBI had not contacted a number of witnesses with corroborating evidence, or looked into another claim referred to the bureau of a separate instance of Kavanaugh exposing himself in college.
Whitehouse wrote to Garland the FBI did not assign anyone to gather evidence in the case—which he said was “unique behavior”—noting, “There was no point of entry by which members of the public or Congress could provide information to the FBI.”
When the FBI did establish a tip line for evidence, Whitehouse said the bureau did not pursue the information that came through it, describing it as a “garbage chute, with everything that came down the chute consigned without review to the figurative dumpster.”
The senator called for congressional oversight over the investigation with Garland’s assistance, noting FBI Director Christopher Wray has “refused to answer” questions from lawmakers about whether the bureau was following proper procedures.
If the FBI’s Kavanaugh investigation “was conducted with drawbridges up and a fake ‘tip line’ and that was somehow ‘by the book,’ as Director Wray claimed, that would raise serious questions about the ‘book’ itself,” Whitehouse wrote. “It cannot and should not be the policy of the FBI to not follow up on serious allegations of misconduct during background check investigations.”
The FBI declined to comment on Whitehouse’s allegations. The Department of Justice has previously defended the investigation and its brevity, saying it was in line with the scope of a traditional background check investigation and was not meant to investigate a federal crime. “The FBI does not make any judgment about the credibility or significance of any allegation,” a DOJ spokeswoman said in a Sept. 2018 statement. “The purpose of a background investigation is to determine whether the nominee could pose a risk to the national security of the United States…The FBI’s role in such matters is to provide information for the use of the decision makers.”
Kavanaugh’s confirmation process became highly fraught after Ford came forward with her sexual assault allegations against the now-justice, which sparked widespread pushback from Democratic critics against him taking the bench. After a confirmation process that Democrats believed to be overly rushed, he was ultimately confirmed by the Senate in a 50-48 vote, the closest Supreme Court confirmation vote since 1881. Some Democrats then called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment after the New York Times uncovered the new allegation against him in 2019, including now-Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who said, “Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”
What To Watch For
A Department of Justice spokesperson told Forbes only that the agency has received and is reviewing Whitehouse’s letter, but his inquiry could put pressure on the department to answer lawmakers’ questions about the investigation as they conduct oversight or look into its shortcomings.
Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not. (New York Times)