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The FBI is facing new scrutiny for its 2018 background check of Brett Kavanaugh, the supreme court justice, after a lawmaker suggested that the investigation may have been “fake”.
Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator and former prosecutor who serves on the judiciary committee, is calling on the newly-confirmed attorney general, Merrick Garland, to help facilitate “proper oversight” by the Senate into questions about how thoroughly the FBI investigated Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.
The supreme court justice was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford and faced several other allegations of misconduct following Ford’s harrowing testimony of an alleged assault when she and Kavanaugh were in high school.
Kavanaugh denied the claims.
The FBI was called to investigate the allegations during the Senate confirmation process but was later accused by some Democratic senators of conducting an incomplete background check. For example, two key witnesses – Ford and Kavanaugh – were never interviewed as part of the inquiry.
Among the concerns listed in Whitehouse’s letter to Garland are allegations that some witnesses who wanted to share their accounts with the FBI could not find anyone at the bureau who would accept their testimony and that it had not assigned any individual to accept or gather evidence.
“This was unique behavior in my experience, as the Bureau is usually amenable to information and evidence; but in this matter the shutters were closed, the drawbridge drawn up, and there was no point of entry by which members of the public or Congress could provide information to the FBI,” Whitehouse said.
He added that, once the FBI decided to create a “tip line”, senators were not given any information on how or whether new allegations were processed and evaluated. While senators’ brief review of the allegations gathered by the tip line showed a “stack” of information had come in, there was no further explanation on the steps that had been taken to review the information, Whitehouse said.
“This ‘tip line’ appears to have operated more like a garbage chute, with everything that came down the chute consigned without review to the figurative dumpster,” he said.
He also criticized FBI director Chris Wray, who Joe Biden has elected to remain in place, for not answering questions about the investigation.
The FBI did not respond to a request for comment. The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment.
While it is unclear whether the FBI would re-open an investigation into Kavanaugh, who is now one of nine justices on the supreme court, the letter could push Garland to force the DOJ to respond to questions about the investigation into Kavanaugh.
Whitehouse said he is seeking answers about “how, why, and at whose behest” the FBI conducted a “fake” investigation if standard procedures were violated, including standards for following allegations gathered through FBI “tip lines”.