POLITICS

Sheldon Whitehouse Says FBI Conducted 'Fake' Background Check On Brett Kavanaugh

The bureau is facing allegations it failed to interview witnesses while investigating sexual assault allegations against the now-Supreme Court justice in 2018.

The FBI is facing new allegations that its 2018 background check on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh ― conducted after women accused the then-nominee of sexual assault ― was “politically-constrained and perhaps fake.”

The charge comes from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who outlined his concerns Monday in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. There’s reason to believe the FBI did not properly manage its investigation and overlooked several potential witnesses, the senator argued. 

“If standard procedures were violated, and the Bureau conducted a fake investigation rather than a sincere, thorough and professional one, that in my view merits congressional oversight to understand how, why, and at whose behest and with whose knowledge or connivance, this was done,” Whitehouse wrote. “The FBI ‘stonewall’ of all questions related to this episode provides little reassurance of its propriety.”

Following Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school, multiple witnesses, including some represented by law firms, reached out to the FBI saying they could corroborate her allegations, Whitehouse says. But those witnesses said they couldn’t get through to the bureau and contacted senators asking for help.

Those lawmakers found that the FBI had “assigned no person to accept or gather evidence,” Whitehouse wrote. “This was unique behavior in my experience, as the Bureau is usually amenable to information and evidence; but in this matter the shutters were closed, the drawbridge drawn up, and there was no point of entry by which members of the public or Congress could provide information to the FBI.”

When the FBI offered a tip line for potential witnesses to call in about Kavanaugh, it provided no transparency about how it managed and vetted the calls that came through, Whitehouse wrote.

This is not the first time Whitehouse, a former U.S. attorney, has raised this issue. In 2019, he wrote there was “one warning flag after another” during the FBI’s probe.

Progressive groups applauded Whitehouse for pushing on the matter.

“Senator Whitehouse is right to question the FBI’s rushed probe of Brett Kavanaugh when he was a Supreme Court nominee,” the Center for Popular Democracy Action said in a statement. “The purpose of the probe was never to uncover the truth — it was to present evidence that would advance the Trump administration’s agenda. 

Whitehouse’s letter outlined four other instances of alleged FBI impropriety unrelated to the Kavanaugh investigation. FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump, could be under fire if Merrick decides to proceed with some action on the matter.