The White House imposed limits on the FBI’s background investigation into the sexual assault allegations against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the bureau’s director said Wednesday, explaining that the limited scope was “consistent with the standard process for such investigations.”
The White House, not the Senate Judiciary Committee, ordered the investigation into Kavanaugh, FBI Director Chris Wray told Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) in response to a question on the bureau’s process.
Harris then asked Wray to clarify whether the White House limited the FBI’s investigation.
“Our investigation here, our supplemental update to the previous background investigation, was limited in scope,” Wray said.
Wray explained that for background investigations, the FBI typically follows guidance set by whatever entity orders the investigation.
“In this case, it’s the White House,” he said.
Wray’s comments contradict claims from the White House that the Senate Judiciary Committee controlled the investigation.
“The White House is not micromanaging this process,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Sept. 30, while the investigation was ongoing. “The Senate is dictating the terms.”
Trump told reporters on Oct. 1 that the investigation would be “within the bounds of what the Senate wants.”
“We don’t want to go on a witch hunt, do we?” he said, adopting his preferred phrase.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), whose call for the investigation forced a delay in Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, pushed for a wide-ranging investigation into the credible claims against Kavanaugh.
“It does no good to have an investigation that just gives us more cover, for example. We actually need to find out what we can find out,” he said.
When the White House and Senate Republicans announced the FBI’s findings after less than a week, Democrats criticized the limited probe as a sham and part of Republicans’ plans to rush through Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Many key people were not interviewed, including Kavanaugh himself. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, was also not included.
The FBI did speak to Deborah Ramirez, who said that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were students at Yale University. But the bureau did not follow up with dozens of other classmates and acquaintances who publicly refuted Kavanaugh’s claims under oath that he did not drink excessively in his youth. Many of them said that they received no response after reaching out to the bureau.
Wray declined to say Wednesday if the bureau’s investigation covered whether Kavanaugh had lied to Congress during his testimony.