I used to vet judicial nominees. Here’s why Kavanaugh needs the FBI

By | September 25, 2018

Mike Zubrensky writes:

From August 2010 to January 2017, I served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy. In the role, I supervised the vetting of about 300 judicial nominees and reviewed the FBI’s background investigation report for each nominee.

We initiated a supplemental investigation of a judicial nominee on numerous occasions. These would occur after the FBI had already conducted basic background vetting, but when there were factual discrepancies in an FBI report or when new information came to light. We would typically launch them when we received a request from the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The requests for supplemental investigations involved far less grave and consequential allegations than the ones against Kavanaugh—everything from minor drug use to questions about a nominee’s temperament. The FBI conducted an investigation of Anita Hill’s allegations against Clarence Thomas in 1991, and such investigations remain routine today. In fact, it has been reported that 10 have been conducted over the past three months alone on other pending judicial nominees.

Based on my experience initiating these investigations, Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegation alone is sufficient basis for the FBI to launch a supplemental investigation into Kavanaugh. The nature of the allegation is extremely serious, and it would be beneficial for senators to have an impartial fact-finder take statements under oath in a non-adversarial setting from the accuser, the accused and individuals who may have witnessed or heard about the incident. The same goes for the second allegation, from Ms. Ramirez, and especially so because it suggests a pattern of misconduct. And the fact that Kavanaugh was 18 years old at the time of the alleged incident raises questions about whether he was truthful when he testified “no” at his hearing in response to Senator Hirono’s question: “Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?”

These are just the kinds of issues that FBI professionals are taught to get to the bottom of. The FBI employs nonpartisan, career professionals with the training and investigative experience necessary to ask the right questions and solicit relevant information on a neutral basis. Special training is particularly important when interviewing sexual assault survivors and those who may have knowledge about these serious allegations. In conducting interviews, the FBI permits interviewees to speak either on the record or as confidential sources, which allows witnesses the option of telling their story with the guarantee that their identity will not be disclosed to the Senate. Although the FBI is headed by a Republican, Christopher Wray, the agency has the experience to conduct background investigations in a fair, impartial and nonpartisan manner. [Continue reading…]

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