WASHINGTON ― The report from the FBI’s background investigation into the sexual assault allegations leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will be shown only to members of the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday.
“We will get an FBI report soon. It will be made available to each senator and only senators will be allowed to look at it. That’s the way these reports are always handled,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill, noting that background investigations are typically added to a nominee’s file for senators to access.
Still, there’s an argument to be made that the extraordinary nature of the current situation merits the public at least being able to view the report’s results.
“There’s a growing consensus in the Senate that when the FBI’s investigation is complete, the finding should be released publicly with any personal information redacted,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
Schumer also called on the White House to authorize the FBI both to release its guidelines regarding the investigation and to hold a briefing for all senators on its results once the probe is completed.
Over the weekend, the FBI moved quickly to interview a number of witnesses who were said to know more about at least three allegations of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump’s nominee to the high court. It’s unclear if the bureau will complete the investigation prior to its Friday deadline, which the Senate Judiciary Committee set last week after hearing from Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women who accused Kavanaugh of assault.
But GOP senators said they expect the FBI to finish its work as soon as Wednesday, meaning that a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination may occur by the end of this week.
The FBI started its investigation after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the Judiciary Committee’s lone swing vote, said he would only support the nominee in last Friday’s committee vote if Republican leaders asked the FBI to take a look at Blasey’s accusation.
Also on Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said she didn’t know if the report should be made public, noting that the FBI likely wouldn’t come to any conclusions about what happened.
“It depends on what is confidential,” she told reporters. “The committee should have the option [to release the report]. On the other hand, I just don’t know what it’s going to be because I’ve never seen a report like this where there’s no conclusion.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, expressed concern to reporters that releasing the report from an FBI background investigation to the public could dissuade people from speaking with investigators in the future.
Not all Republicans agreed that only senators should be allowed to view the FBI report, however. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, said he thought it ought to be made public before the full Senate votes on the nomination.
“They need to see it all,” Kennedy said Tuesday. “I think its contents need to be made available to the American people. I trust them to decide.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) also said he hopes the report will be made public “because I’m afraid it’s going to be selectively leaked out” by members of both parties, causing further partisan rancor amid an already vitriolic confirmation process that seemed to shake the foundations of the Senate.