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Nearly three years after Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s riotous confirmation before 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 it was largely shaped 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 Mr. Kavanaugh’s past has been referred to White House attorneys in the Trump administration whose dealings with them remain unclear.
The letter left it 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.
Ms. Tyson’s letter was in response to a 2019 letter from Mr. Whitehouse and Mr. Coons to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray asking questions about how the FBI had dealt with the FBI’s review of Mr. Kavanaugh.
In an interview, Mr. Whitehouse said the FBI’s response showed that the FBI’s handling of Mr. Kavanaugh’s allegations of wrongdoing was a sham. Ms. Tyson’s letter, Mr. Whitehouse said, indicated that the FBI was running a “bogus line of advice that has never been properly verified, which is believed not even to have been carried out in good faith.”
Mr Whitehouse and six of his Democratic counterparts on the Senate Judiciary Committee responded to the FBI’s letter Wednesday asking for additional details on the White House agreement 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, Mr. Coons, and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.
The FBI declined to comment. Donald F. McGahn II, then General Counsel of the White House, did not respond to requests for comment.
Former President Donald J. Trump has long stood for the endorsement of Mr. Kavanaugh, who was nearly derailed by a California professor’s allegations that Mr. 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 Mr Kavanaugh has consistently denied – Mr Trump steadfastly supported the judge. He used Mr. McGahn to guide Mr. 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 Mr. Kavanaugh were grilled by judiciary senators.
In a recent interview with the author Michael Wolff, Trump clearly formulated his dealings with Judge Kavanaugh 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 Mr Kavanaugh’s past. After Dr. Ford reported, Mr. Trump’s staff attempted to limit the number of people the FBI interviewed as part of the investigation. Only after 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. Dr. Ford and Mr. Kavanaugh themselves were never interviewed by the FBI
Connecticut Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal, who signed Wednesday’s letter to the FBI, described the trial as “an injustice actually orchestrated by the White House under Donald Trump, an injustice that, frankly, has done the FBI a disservice” .
Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, the lawyers who drove Dr. Ford, said in a statement the nation “deserved better” when it came to Judge Kavanaugh’s investigation.