Details on FBI Inquiry Into Kavanaugh Draw Fire From Democrats

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh speaks at the Federalist Society's Antonin Scalia Memorial Dinner during the organization's National Lawyers Convention in Washington, November 14, 2019. (T.J. Kirkpatrick / The New York Times)
Nearly three years after Judge Brett Kavanaugh's riotous confirmation in the Supreme Court, the FBI has released further details of its judicial background review efforts, prompting a group of Senate Democrats to question the thoroughness of the review and to conclude that they are largely owned by the Trump White House.
In a June 30 letter to two Democratic Senators, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Chris Coons of Delaware, FBI assistant director Jill C. Tyson said the "most relevant" of the 4,500 leads the agency received during an investigation Kavanaugh's past has been referred to White House attorneys in the Trump administration whose handling of it remains unclear.
The letter left uncertain whether the FBI was investigating even the most compelling leads. The agency conducted a background check rather than a criminal investigation, meaning that "the authorities, policies and procedures used to investigate criminal cases did not apply," the letter said.
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Tyson's letter was in response to a 2019 letter from Whitehouse and Coons to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray asking questions about how the FBI's review of Kavanaugh was handled.
In an interview, Whitehouse said the FBI's response showed the FBI's handling of Kavanaugh's allegations of wrongdoing was hypocritical. Tyson's letter, Whitehouse said, indicated that the FBI was running a "bogus line of advice that has never been properly verified, that is believed not even to have been carried out in good faith."
Whitehouse and six of his Democratic counterparts on the Senate Judiciary Committee responded Wednesday to the FBI's letter asking for additional details on the agreement with the White House that governed the investigation. They also pushed for more information on how to handle incoming tips.
"Your letter confirms that the FBI's line of advice was a departure from previous practice and that the FBI was politically restricted by Trump's White House," the senators wrote. Among those who signed the letter were Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chairman of the committee, Coons and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Donald McGahn, then General Counsel of the White House, and the FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Former President Donald Trump long claimed Kavanaugh's endorsement, which was nearly derailed due to allegations by a California professor that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a high school congregation in the early 1980s.
Despite widespread concern about the allegations - which was followed by other sexual misconduct allegations, all of which Kavanaugh has consistently denied - Trump steadfastly supported the judge. He used McGahn to guard Kavanaugh through the unusually tense confirmation that culminated in a heated, one-day hearing in September 2018.
Both Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who said she was attacked, and Kavanaugh were grilled by judiciary senators.
In a recent interview with the author Michael Wolff, Trump formulated his dealings with Kavanaugh in blatant words and asked: “Where would he be without me? I saved his life. "
But in addition to offering statements of support, Trump's White House has carefully scrutinized the investigation into Kavanaugh's past. After Ford came forward, Trump's employees attempted to limit the number of people the FBI interviewed as part of the investigation. Only after an outcry from Democrats over the president's approach did the government say the agency could conduct a more open investigation.
Ultimately, according to the latest FBI letter, 10 witnesses were interviewed by the FBI. Ford and Kavanaugh themselves were never interviewed by the FBI.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Who signed Wednesday's letter to the FBI, called the trial "an injustice actually orchestrated by the White House under Donald Trump, an injustice that frankly did the FBI a disservice" .
© 2021 The New York Times Company
In this article:
Brett Kavanaugh
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
Sheldon Whitehouse
American politician
Chris Coons
US Senator from Delaware
Donald Trump
45th President of the United States

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