The White House and Republicans have announced that the FBI’s reopened background check investigation into new accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh has been delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Individual senators will now be able to review summaries of the FBI’s interviews under weirdly restrictive conditions, and it remains unclear whether the findings will ever be publicly released.
You’ll be shocked to hear that the White House has already pronounced the FBI report entirely exonerating for Kavanaugh, claiming that it is now “fully confident” Kavanaugh will be confirmed.
But a lot of new reporting has now emerged that starkly illustrates just how much about the new allegations was not investigated by the FBI. It’s important to note that this probably was not a failing on the FBI’s part but rather was the result of restrictions the White House placed on the probe, a process that itself remains shrouded in disingenuous rhetorical games.
The New York Times reports that as part of the inquiry, the FBI interviewed nine people, and The Post reports that it could confirm interviews with only six people. It appears clear that the FBI did interview Mark Judge, who was named by Christine Blasey Ford as an accomplice in the alleged sexual attack; Patrick Smyth and Leland Keyser, who may have been present downstairs; Chris Garrett, who may have dated Ford at one point; and Tim Gaudette, whose house was the site of a July 1982 gathering noted on Kavanaugh’s calendar.
Here’s a list of the people who we know have not been interviewed:
- A suitemate of Kavanaugh’s has now told the New Yorker he remembers hearing at the time about the incident Deborah Ramirez has recounted. Ramirez, who has been interviewed, had claimed that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a dorm party at Yale. The suitemate, Kenneth G. Appold, now says he is “one-hundred-per-cent certain” that he was told the culprit was Kavanaugh. He does say he never discussed this with Ramirez, but he claims an eyewitness described the episode to him at the time. Appold has tried to share this story with the FBI, but there’s no indication the FBI is willing to hear from him.
- A classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep now strongly challenges one of Kavanaugh’s assertions under oath. The person told the New Yorker that he heard Kavanaugh talk repeatedly about Renate Dolphin as someone “that everyone passed around for sex” (the witness’ words), and even heard Kavanaugh singing a rhyme that included the words “you wanna get laid, you can make it with REE-NATE.” Kavanaugh (and many others) described themselves in their yearbook as a “Renate Alumnius,” but Kavanaugh has denied under oath that this was a sexual reference, claiming, ludicrously, that it was intended to show “affection.”
- This classmate is not named by the New Yorker. But he put his name on a statement to the FBI and Judiciary Committee that makes this claim, and he is prepared to talk to the FBI. There is no indication this happened.
- James Roche, one of Kavanaugh’s roommates at Yale, has written a piece for Slate that claims Kavanaugh lied under oath about his use of slang and his drinking. Roche claims that Kavanaugh “regularly” blacked out. Roche has offered to talk to the FBI, but there’s no indication this happened.
- Roche also pointedly added of Kavanaugh: “He said that ‘boofing’ was farting and the ‘Devil’s Triangle’ was a drinking game. ‘Boofing’ and ‘Devil’s Triangle’ are sexual references. I know this because I heard Brett and his friends using these terms on multiple occasions.” Roche concluded that Kavanaugh “has demonstrated a willingness to be untruthful under oath about easily verified information.”
- NBC News reports that the FBI has not contacted dozens of people who could potentially corroborate the allegations against Kavanaugh or testify to his behavior at the time. This includes many people who knew either Ford or Ramirez at the time, and people who actually approached the FBI offering information.
- The Post reports that Ramirez’s lawyers provided the FBI with a list of more than 20 people who might have relevant information, but “as of Wednesday, Ramirez’s team had no indication that the bureau had interviewed any of them.”
- Blasey Ford’s legal team today put out a list of additional people who have not been contacted by the FBI, some of whom were prepared to corroborate that she had in the past discussed being the victim of a sexual assault by a federal judge.
- Neither Ford nor Kavanaugh have been interviewed by the FBI. As the Brookings Institution’s Susan Hennessey points out: “It is inconceivable they could close a real investigation without re-interviewing Kavanaugh.”
We’ll have to wait to hear from individual senators to learn what the FBI findings, such as they are, tell us about the sexual assault allegations. But whatever that is to be, are the undecided senators — Republicans Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, and Democrats Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp — really going to brush off all these new claims, and the restrictions the White House placed on the FBI, lightly?
Kavanaugh’s bad-faith defenders have tried to frame the question about Kavanaugh’s drinking as: Are you really saying his youthful excesses are disqualifying? True, many of those excesses are trivial. But that’s not the right question. Rather, it’s whether Kavanaugh has shown a level of candor in the present about all this stuff (never mind the angry partisanship and openly displayed contempt for the critical role that opposition lawmakers play in this process) that we expect in a Supreme Court justice.
Kavanaugh defenders who have addressed that question point out that he admitted to drinking “too many beers” at times and to doing things that now leave him “cringing.” But this doesn’t get Kavanaugh off that particular hook: All of this new information, on top of other things we’ve already learned, credibly indicate that he blatantly falsified multiple aspects of his conduct in a highly specific way. An admission of general cringeworthiness doesn’t mitigate that. Undecided senators need to decide whether Kavanaugh has really demonstrated the integrity — and respect for the vetting process — that this position, with all the influence it wields over American life, and all the judiciousness and deliberative qualities we expect from those on the high court, demands.
Hundreds of law professors have now added their names to a letter arguing that he has not. And then there’s the process itself. When Flake courageously insisted on a reopened FBI inquiry, he stated that this was necessary to prevent the country from tearing itself apart. The threshold for Flake, then, is that treating these allegations with a seriousness of purpose commensurate with the gravity that millions of Americans across the country accord to sexual assault — many of them being survivors themselves — is the necessary precondition for healing the country, and thus for getting his vote. In this, he was joined by Collins and Murkowski.
But given everything we’ve seen so far — and given what we now are learning — about this process, can any of these undecided senators really claim with a straight face that this standard has been met? If not, how can they vote for Kavanaugh, without betraying their own declared standard to be a lie?