The FBI is currently facing questions regarding their investigation into Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after a senator suggested that the background check on him was possibly "fake." In a March 11 letter to new Attorney General Merrick Garland, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse requested congressional oversight into the Kavanaugh case, writing that the investigation into allegations of sexual assault and misconduct was "politically-constrained and perhaps fake." Whitehouse cited an overall lack of transparency and refusal to speak with certain witnesses, also arguing that the FBI gave senators restricted access to their collected materials, and that FBI Director Christopher Wray still has not answered congressional questions about whether the investigation was "consistent" with policies and protocol.
In September of 2018, Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, accused Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed and sexually assaulting her at a party in the early 1980s. They both testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee just a month before Kavanaugh was sworn in. Kavanaugh denied the allegations.
However, Whitehouse points out that this was not an isolated incident. "The nominee disputed [Blasey Ford's] testimony, so there were questions of fact to resolve," Whitehouse wrote. "Furthermore, other allegations were brought against Judge Kavanaugh, requiring their own investigation." Deborah Ramirez, a second accuser, alleged that Kavanaugh exposed his penis to her when they were both in college at Yale University. Kavanaugh has also denied this accusation.
So, how could the FBI have neglected so much information? Although the Bureau spoke to Ramirez, they notably did not interview Kavanaugh or Blasey Ford — a decision that was criticized by Blasey Ford's legal team and raised questions about whether Donald Trump limited the scope of the investigation. The FBI also failed to follow up with over 20 people who Ramirez said could corroborate her story, including Partnership for Public Service President Max Stier. Now, Whitehouse is saying that witnesses "tried in vain to reach the FBI on their own," but were blocked from sharing their testimonies.
"This was unique behavior in my experience, as the Bureau is usually amenable to information and evidence," Whitehouse said. "But in this matter, the shutters were closed."
Whitehouse's claims aren't exactly surprising, though, since there has always been a lack of clarity surrounding Kavanaugh's rushed investigation. Since he was confirmed to the Supreme Court, Democrats have questioned whether the probe was thorough and accurate; House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has called the investigation a "whitewash" and a "sham," and pledged to push for impeachment. But that didn't happen, with Nadler later telling WNYC that his committee had their "hands full" with Trump's first impeachment. Vice President Kamala Harris, then a California Senator, urged Nadler to take action, writing that it was imperative to "pursue a legitimate search for truth" regarding the accusations against Kavanaugh and the scope of the FBI's investigation.
"I understand the House Judiciary Committee has limited resources and many other responsibilities," Harris wrote in a letter. "However, in the past, congressional committees have dedicated resources and established structures to pursue serious cases of misconduct — including by creating a task force and retaining outside counsel to help lead impeachment inquiries."
As The Guardian reported, it's uncertain whether Whitehouse's letter could propel the FBI to reopen their investigation. However, Garland could make the Department of Justice answer questions about the breadth and legitimacy of the background check.
"If standard procedures were violated, and the Bureau conducted a fake investigation rather than a sincere, thorough and professional one, that in my view merits congressional oversight to understand how, why, and at whose behest and with whose knowledge or connivance, this was done," Whitehouse wrote.