FBI di­rec­tor de­fends in­quiry on Ka­vanaugh

‘Usual process’ fol­lowed, Wray states

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - COM­PILED BY DEMO­CRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE RE­PORTS

WASH­ING­TON — FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Wray on Wed­nes­day de­fended his agents’ han­dling of a back­ground in­ves­ti­ga­tion into then-Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh, say­ing it was “lim­ited in scope” and fol­lowed stan­dard pro­ce­dures.

At a Se­nate hear­ing, Wray was pressed by Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, D-Calif., about how much di­rec­tion FBI agents re­ceived from the White House when they con­ducted a sup­ple­men­tal back­ground in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions by a Cal­i­for­nia pro­fes­sor that Ka­vanaugh sex­u­ally as­saulted her when the two were teenagers.

Har­ris pressed the di­rec­tor to ex­plain why FBI agents never in­ter­viewed Ka­vanaugh or the woman, Chris­tine Blasey Ford, about her ac­cu­sa­tions.

Wray replied: “As is stan­dard, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was very spe­cific in scope, lim­ited in scope, and that is the usual process and that my folks have as­sured me that

the usual process was fol­lowed,” Wray said.

Har­ris then asked whether the FBI ex­am­ined whether Ka­vanaugh may have mis­led Congress in his pub­lic tes­ti­mony.

“That’s not some­thing I could dis­cuss here,” Wray said.

Wray ap­peared along­side Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen at a hear­ing about se­cu­rity threats held by the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity and Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee.

Wray could not an­swer whether White House coun­sel Don­ald McGahn played a role in dis­cus­sions be­tween the White House and the FBI about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, say­ing only that he was told the FBI’s Se­cu­rity Di­vi­sion co­or­di­nated the ef­fort with the White House Of­fice of Se­cu­rity.

The Ka­vanaugh in­quiry, Wray in­sisted, was “con­sis­tent with the stan­dard process for such in­ves­ti­ga­tions go­ing back quite a long ways.”

The FBI ques­tioned 10 peo­ple as part of that fol­low-up in­quiry.

Democrats have ac­cused White House of­fi­cials of pre­vent­ing the FBI from con­duct­ing a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Har­ris said in a Se­nate floor speech last week that the in­quiry was “not a search for the truth. This was not an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This was an ab­di­ca­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity and duty.”

Repub­li­cans have de­fended the sup­ple­men­tal FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion, say­ing it was ex­ten­sive and did not un­cover any new ev­i­dence to cor­rob­o­rate al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct. Sen. Su­san Collins, R-Maine, who was seen as a key swing vote, said that “there was a lack of cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence no mat­ter where you looked.”

Back­ground-check in­ves­ti­ga­tions are not like crim­i­nal in­quiries, which are con­ducted in­de­pen­dently from ad­min­is­tra­tion over­sight to de­cide whether some­one should be charged with a crime. Rather, they are in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­ducted at the di­rec­tion and spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the White House to an­swer par­tic­u­lar ques­tions about nom­i­nees or job can­di­dates.

Ford al­leged that Ka­vanaugh sex­u­ally as­saulted her at a house gath­er­ing in the Mary­land sub­urbs when she was a 15-year-old high school stu­dent in the early 1980s.

Now a pro­fes­sor in Cal­i­for­nia, Ford tes­ti­fied be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Sept. 27 about the al­leged as­sault but con­ceded she could not re­mem­ber key de­tails.

Tes­ti­fy­ing later at the same hear­ing, Ka­vanaugh, 53, de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions. The next day, the FBI opened a lim­ited in­quiry into the mat­ter af­ter Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., sug­gested he would not vote to con­firm the judge un­less the bureau con­ducted such an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Repub­li­can se­na­tors pro­vided McGahn and Wray with a list of peo­ple to in­ter­view and re­quested that the in­quiry be com­pleted in a week. Demo­cratic se­na­tors coun­tered by ask­ing the FBI to “per­form all log­i­cal steps re­lated to th­ese al­le­ga­tions.”

The nom­i­na­tion was put on hold while the FBI in­ter­viewed 10 peo­ple, in­clud­ing those whom Ford named as hav­ing at­tended the house gath­er­ing. The bureau also in­ter­viewed Deb­o­rah Ramirez, who al­leged that Ka­vanaugh ex­posed him­self to her and thrust his gen­i­tals in her face when they were fresh­men at Yale Univer­sity.

Se­na­tors were per­mit­ted to re­view re­ports of those in­ter­views be­fore vot­ing.

Ka­vanaugh was con­firmed by a mostly par­ti­san vote Satur­day. At a swear­ing-in cer­e­mony at the White House on Mon­day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said that “what hap­pened to the Ka­vanaugh fam­ily vi­o­lates ev­ery no­tion of fair­ness, de­cency and due process.”

He told Ka­vanaugh: “You, sir, un­der his­toric scru­tiny, were proven in­no­cent.”

Lawyers for Ford, the first of three women to pub­licly ac­cuse Ka­vanaugh of sex­ual mis­con­duct, wrote to Wray di­rectly with their con­cerns, call­ing it “in­con­ceiv­able” that the FBI could con­clude its in­ves­ti­ga­tion with­out in­ter­view­ing ei­ther her or Ka­vanaugh.

Sep­a­rately, Chief Jus­tice John Roberts is re­fer­ring ethics com­plaints against Ka­vanaugh to fed­eral judges in Colorado and neigh­bor­ing states.

The com­plaints deal with state­ments Ka­vanaugh made dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings. They were filed orig­i­nally with Ka­vanaugh’s old court, the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Dis­trict of Co­lum­bia Cir­cuit.

Roberts took no ac­tion on them while Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion was pend­ing. He re­ceived the first three of 15 even­tual com­plaints on Sept. 20, a week be­fore Ka­vanaugh’s tes­ti­mony be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

The ju­di­ciary’s rules al­low mem­bers of the pub­lic to lodge com­plaints about fed­eral judges. They typ­i­cally are dealt with by ex­pe­ri­enced judges in the court­house or re­gion where a judge serves. Judges who re­ceive com­plaints have a va­ri­ety of op­tions that in­clude dis­miss­ing them out of hand, hav­ing lo­cal judges in­ves­ti­gate them or ask­ing Roberts, in his ca­pac­ity as head of the fed­eral ju­di­ciary, to as­sign the com­plaints to judges in a dif­fer­ent part of the coun­try.

Roberts as­signed the com­plaints to the ethics coun­cil of the Den­ver-based 10th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter posted Wed­nes­day on the D.C. Cir­cuit’s web­site.

The first pub­lic word of the com­plaints came Satur­day when D.C. Cir­cuit Judge Karen Hen­der­son ac­knowl­edged that com­plaints about Ka­vanaugh had been filed. The com­plaints only “seek in­ves­ti­ga­tions … of the pub­lic state­ments he has made as a nom­i­nee to the Supreme Court,” Hen­der­son said in a state­ment. De­tails of the com­plaints have not been made pub­lic.

Mer­rick Gar­land, the chief judge of the D.C. Cir­cuit, typ­i­cally deals with ethics com­plaints, but he ap­par­ently stepped aside from com­plaints against Ka­vanaugh. Gar­land had been nom­i­nated to the Supreme Court by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, but Se­nate Repub­li­cans never acted on the nom­i­na­tion.

Roberts’ let­ter was sent to Judge Tim­o­thy Tymkovich, the 10th Cir­cuit’s chief judge. Tymkovich was on Trump’s list of pos­si­ble Supreme Court nom­i­nees.

AP/ALEX BRAN­DON

“That’s not some­thing I could dis­cuss here,” FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Wray told Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, D-Calif., when asked Wed­nes­day at a Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing if the bureau ex­am­ined whether Brett Ka­vanaugh may have mis­led law­mak­ers in pub­lic tes­ti­mony on his Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion.

The New York Times/ERIN SCHAFF

Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris ques­tions FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Wray on his agency’s han­dling of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Brett Ka­vanaugh dur­ing a Se­nate hear­ing Wed­nes­day.

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