Here’s why: Even if Republicans were to agree that the FBI should look into the new charges lodged by Christine Blasey Ford, there are no circumstances under which Trump would ever accept the FBI’s findings — should they cast further doubt on Kavanaugh’s nomination, or even fail to fully exonerate him — as legitimate. That fact is a direct outgrowth of Trump’s corrupt attacks on the FBI and law enforcement as part of of his ongoing campaign of harassment and disruption directed at the investigation into his own conduct and that of his campaign.
Senior Senate Democratic aides tell me they believe there is a 50-50 chance, at this point, that Ford will decline to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, as Republicans have invited her to do alongside Kavanaugh. Ford’s legal team has insisted that the FBI investigate her charges before she appear, to ensure that there is a fuller set of shared facts to operate from as the foundation for a fair hearing. Republicans have declined, and essentially delivered an ultimatum: If she doesn’t appear, the vote will go forward, and most signs indicate Kavanaugh would have the support of 50 or 51 Senate Republicans.
On Thursday, I spoke to Tim Weiner, a historian of the U.S. intelligence services who has written well-regarded chronicles of the FBI and of the Central Intelligence Agency. He contended that the Republican argument against further FBI scrutiny of Ford’s charges is “nonsense.”
Weiner told me it is not just desirable, but “essential,” for the FBI to examine the new charges against Kavanaugh, “not just to determine whether he was a drunken rapey teenager, but to determine whether he is a liar.” Kavanaugh has flatly denied Ford’s charges, and is expected to do the same when he testifies publicly again.
‘What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep’
The FBI conducts background checks on Supreme Court nominees and shares that information with officials who are weighing confirmation. As the New York Times noted on Wednesday, the FBI’s role is not to pass judgment on the credibility of claims such as those made by Ford but, rather, to provide additional information that officials evaluating those claims might find useful.
In that regard, Weiner argued additional FBI involvement right now could be useful. In this case, Weiner said, the FBI could interview “character and material witnesses” to Kavanaugh’s behavior at the time, and talk to “his classmates and her classmates.”
“It would make sure that what happened at Georgetown Prep didn’t stay at Georgetown Prep,” Weiner said, in a reference to Kavanaugh’s joke during a 2015 speech that “what happens at Georgetown Prep” — which he attended — “stays at Georgetown Prep.” In other words, FBI fact finding is supposed to crack through such codes of silence.
Weiner noted that the FBI could interview both Kavanaugh and Ford. It could also interview others who are witnesses of a sort — Mark Judge, who Ford has alleged was in the room, or, say, Ford’s husband, who has said Ford singled out Kavanaugh by name during a therapy session in 2012. Indeed, Weiner pointed out that the process could actually provide information that casts doubt on Ford’s claim.
“A background check could determine that his accuser is lying,” Weiner said. For instance, it could provide lawmakers with additional testimony from classmates attesting to his character or testimony from people sympathetic to her that stops well short of corroboration, thus putting her story on shakier ground.
Trump’s corruption is staining everything
But here’s the real rub of the matter: As numerous former officials told Politico, whether the FBI does this is up to the president — he could simply ask for it. And as Weiner pointed out, Trump essentially sees the FBI as illegitimate. Indeed, earlier this week, Trump blasted the FBI as “truly a cancer in our country.”
Thus, the president is, of course, all but certain not to ask the FBI to look into this further. But the point is that, even if he did, he would not accept any FBI findings if they were not entirely to his liking. And Republicans are so protective of this president that they would not accept them, either, let alone buck the president by calling for the FBI to get involved again in the first place.
The fact that Trump “just called the FBI a cancer,” Weiner noted, confirms that “his hatred for the FBI, and Senate Republicans’ slavish devotion to him, make the question of the FBI’s involvement a nonstarter.”
The bottom line is that a legitimate fact-finding role for the FBI in this process is simply not possible with this president in office, and Trump’s corruption is the root cause of this. Because of it, there could not be such a fact-finding effort in this case even if both parties were to agree that it is desirable. And Republicans — who now claim that testimony from only Ford and Kavanaugh will be sufficient, to keep the dispute shrouded in “he said, she said” uncertainty — are complicit in creating this state of affairs, in which bringing an external, neutral fact-finding effort to bear on this process is essentially unthinkable.
Kavanaugh very well may be entirely innocent, of course, but this only underscores the point further. The absence of that neutral effort to determine the truth — which is the direct outgrowth of Trump’s corruption of the rule of law for his own personal ends — will forever be a question mark over the process, should Kavanaugh be confirmed. After all, if you presume Kavanaugh’s innocence, that inevitably also means this absence leaves doubt lingering over his ascension that should have been dispelled.