Republicans find no misconduct in FBI’s Kavanaugh report; Democrats see incomplete probe

Republicans find no misconduct in FBI’s Kavanaugh report; Democrats see incomplete probe
In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik/Pool) (Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON, DC (RNN) – The results of a limited FBI investigation into accusations of sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have not alleviated the partisan argument over his qualifications to the lifetime appointment.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that the FBI found “no hint of misconduct” by Kavanaugh in its probe.

The committee’s ranking member, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said the investigation was notable for what it didn’t include, such as interviews with the nominee, accuser Christine Blasey Ford, and multiple other potential witnesses who reportedly were unsuccessful in reaching out to the FBI to give statements.

Grassley made his statement based on a briefing by his staff, which looked over the report the FBI submitted early in the morning, and said the investigators didn’t find anything the committee didn’t already know, including anyone who could attest to the allegations.

Feinstein suggested the investigation on the Trump nominee had been limited by the Trump administration. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined her to call for a public release of the report and paperwork on direction from White House counsel.

The FBI first gave its results to the White House, which transmitted it to the committee overseeing the nomination process. The lone copy has been made available to members of the committee and staff, and it is being kept in a secure room reserved for confidential matters.

No copying of the report is allowed, and Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois said a lack of time slots to view the material may prevent some from seeing it until Friday, the Associated Press reported. Schumer believed a single copy made available for 100 senators was another way the process was being “constrained” by the White House.

Kavanaugh's letter, calendar scrutinized

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joined his Republican colleagues in saying there was nothing corroborating the allegations against Kavanaugh. McConnell filed for cloture early Thursday, shortly after the FBI report was delivered, paving the way for a procedural vote Friday to move the nomination up for a full vote in the Senate.

At a Thursday afternoon news conference, McConnell said the reaction by Democrats to the FBI report makes it clear to him that they can’t be satisfied.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, said Democrats used “shameful intimidation tactics” and a “smear campaign” against Kavanaugh.

“Now’s the time to quit all of these antics,” he said.

In a statement released early Thursday morning, the White House said nothing in the report should prevent Kavanaugh from joining the Supreme Court.

"With this additional information, the White House is fully confident the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” the White House statement said in part.

People were watching centrist senators closely because of a thin 51-49 Republican majority in the chamber. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a Democrat polling behind in her red state re-election battle, announced she would vote “no” on Kavanaugh. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another Democrat fighting to stay in office in a red state, has not announced how he will vote.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, said she found it to be a “thorough” investigation. She, along with Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Jeff Flake, were the perceived undecideds among the GOP, and two “no” votes from them would mean the votes aren’t there to confirm Kavanaugh, if all Democrats stay on party line.

White House spokesperson Raj Shah told CNN the FBI reached out to 10 people and interviewed nine of them as part of its investigation. Those didn’t include Kavanaugh or Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in testimony before the Senate committee.

Grassley said that members will have “alternating EQUAL access ... to study content from additional background info gathered by non-partisan FBI agents.”

President Donald Trump ordered the supplemental background check into Kavanaugh after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11 to 10 along party lines Friday to send his nomination to the full Senate, despite questions of sexual misconduct.

FBI agents spent the last week interviewing witnesses about Kavanaugh’s alleged misconduct in high school and college in the 1980s.

They reportedly interviewed Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh’s, who allegedly witnessed Kavanaugh sexually assault Ford, the first woman to accuse the nominee of sexual misconduct.

Other witnesses in the probe included Deborah Ramirez, the second woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, along with other high school friends of Kavanaugh and Ford.

Agents reportedly didn’t interview Kavanaugh, Ford or Julie Swetnick, who said she saw Kavanaugh behave inappropriately at parties in the early ’80s.

Some of Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates who said they had pertinent information said they had differing degrees of success reaching the FBI as they raced to complete the investigation, they told CNN.

One of the classmates questioned Kavanaugh’s truthfulness when he discussed his drinking during his Senate testimony. Some had reached out to senators and the FBI and had limited success in getting the FBI their information.

A classmate remembered the Supreme Court nominee as frequently drunk.

“My recollection of my experience with him was that he was drunk frequently and that it wasn’t drunk to the point of having trouble getting up every month or two. It was frequently, I would say with some confidence. It was at least once, maybe twice, on the weekends. It may have even been during the week,” said Jamie Roche, Kavanaugh’s roommate at Yale.

Kavanaugh roommate at Yale says he was frequently drunk

Kavanaugh had been cleared in six previous FBI background checks. Trump ordered the latest probe to be limited in scope, focused on current credible allegations, and to last no longer than a week.

Many have eagerly anticipated the FBI’s results. However, they likely won’t be released to the public.

McConnell implied to reporters Tuesday that the FBI findings would be kept within the Senate.

“We will get an FBI report soon,” McConnell said. “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.”

Feinstein seemed to agree with McConnell’s stance on the report, saying the “investigation ought to be closely held.”

Other senators, including Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. John Cornyn, said they’d like to see parts or all of the FBI findings released publicly.

On Wednesday night, before the FBI report reached the Senate, McConnell filed a motion to set up a procedural vote Friday that could move Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate by Saturday.

“Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed on Saturday,” Grassley said Thursday, calling it a “fair and thorough process.”

The report - which the Senate was able to see by Thursday - stemmed from a Friday Judiciary Committee meeting, when Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, voted for Kavanaugh’s nomination to move forward with the caveat that he would not be comfortable voting for Kavanaugh unless there was an additional FBI investigation.

"I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI ... do an investigation,” Flake said.

The GOP leadership soon agreed, and President Trump ordered the probe.

Flake said before the Judiciary Committee meeting Friday that he would support Kavanaugh’s nomination, but was confronted by two sexual assault survivors on his way to the hearing.

Flake looked down as one of the women said to him: “Tell me, I’m standing right here in front of you, do you think he’s telling the truth to the country?”

He stood there with the women for a couple of minutes before the elevator doors closed.

Last Thursday’s testimony riveted a nation as Ford said she was “100 percent” certain she was sexually assaulted by the Supreme Court nominee.

Kavanaugh, 53, decried the process as a “national disgrace” and reiterated his denial that he never sexually assaulted Ford or anyone else.

His nomination came under fire after three women, including Ford, came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Ford said in an interview with The Washington Post on Sept. 16 that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when she was 15.

She alleged that at some time in 1982, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her and tried to take her clothes off during a party.

Kavanaugh allegedly covered her mouth with his hand when she tried to scream, according to The Washington Post.

Ford said the incident occurred at a friend’s house and included Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge.

Trump came under fire Tuesday night after mocking Ford during a campaign rally in Southaven, MS, to the laughter of some rally participants, as he was urging his Supreme Court nominee to be approved by the Senate.

“Thirty-six years ago this happened. I had one beer. Right? I had one beer. Well, you think it was... nope, it was one beer. Oh good. How did you get home? I don’t remember. How did you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was that? I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know...I don’t know! What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember. And a man’s life is in tatters. A man’s life is shattered. His wife is shattered. His daughters, who are beautiful, incredible young kids. They destroy people. They want to destroy people. These are really evil people,” he said.

His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, defended his statements as “facts.”

“I dispute that it wasn’t anything other than the president stating facts - in fact, facts that were laid out in the prosecutor’s memo that she put forward to the Senate,” she said. “Each of the things that he called out were things that were laid out in that memo.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the high court earlier this year, making way for Trump to appoint a second justice. In 2017, Neil Gorsuch was appointed to replace Antonin Scalia.

Kavanaugh is a former clerk of Kennedy and has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the last 10 years.

A President George W. Bush appointee to his current position, Kavanaugh had worked as counsel and staff secretary in the White House before his nomination.

A graduate of Yale and Yale Law, he also was a member of Kenneth Starr's independent counsel team that investigated President Bill Clinton.

Kavanaugh was born in Washington, DC, and attended Georgetown Preparatory School.

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