FBI winds up Kavanaugh report, dividing senators along partisan lines

In what may finally bring an end to the saga surrounding Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the FBI furnished U.S. senators Thursday with the conclusions of its supplementary probe looking into allegations of sexual misconduct leveled by Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford and Deborah Ramirez against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

In early September, as nomination hearings for Kavanaugh closed, allegations by Dr. Ford surfaced, requiring a day of testimony from Ford followed by a rebuttal by Kavanaugh.

Despite a steady, sometimes wrenching account of the alleged assault during testimony, questions persisted over Ford’s recollection of the attack, and gaps in her memory chipped away at the veracity of her claim. Judge Kavanaugh categorically denied her charges.

Neither Ford, nor Judge Kavanaugh were interviewed by the FBI.

Following the report’s release, under rules set by the Senate, 109 persons, 100 senators, four staffers from both the majority and minority of the Judiciary Committee, and one committee clerk, were able to review the document.

Kept in a vault, only one copy of the report exists and it is not to be removed from the secure facility in which it is stored.

Beginning at 8 a.m. EDT, Republican members of the committee were given one hour to review the document, followed an hour later by Democrats.

During the remainder of the day, GOP and Democratic members of the full Senate alternatively analyzed the report in one-hour intervals.

Following early analysis, GOP senators expressed confidence the findings could not corroborate any allegation against Kavanaugh. Greeting reporters after viewing the report, a Republican coalition gathered address the media.

Approaching the podium with a smile, a relaxed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), opened the briefing by saying:

“What we know for sure is the FBI report did not corroborate any of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. And the second thing we know for sure is there is no way anything we did would satisfy the Democrats. They’ve always got a reason why the goalposts need to be moved further down the field, and nothing we could do would satisfy them; they are dug in.”

After his opening remarks, McConnell turned the podium over to a succession of GOP senators, all of whom expressed satisfaction with the report’s findings and support for Judge Kavanaugh.

“There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know. This investigation found no hint of misconduct,” declared committee chairman, Chuck Grassley.

Grassley returned to the podium to attack the entire nomination exercise and upbraided the media for its coverage of the proceedings and the allegations brought against Kavanaugh.

“What I’d like to do when we get all done, because this is almost rock bottom, I would like to have the future mending things so we can do things in a collegial way that the United States Senate should do and particularly when it comes to a Supreme Court nomination.”

“And you folks can have something to do with this. I would never use the word fake news; I consider you folks policemen for our democratic system of government, but I want to show you where some of you have bias. I’ve had demonstrators in my office for two weeks now, both for Kavanaugh and against Kavanaugh. One time the people that were for Kavanaugh wanted to be interviewed and (media) said: ‘We are only interested in interviewing people against Kavanaugh.’ Now that’s a bias none of you people should be proud of,” Grassley roared.

Shortly after the GOP held its media session, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), held a brief press conference in which both blasted the report for its brevity. Visibly angry, Feinstein said:

“It looks to be the product of an incomplete investigation that was limited by the White House; I don’t know.”

Feinstein later accused the White House of blocking the FBI from a full probe.

Following Feinstein’s remarks, Schumer took aim at the report:

“I disagree with Senator Grassley’s statement that there was no hint of any misconduct.”

Schumer later demanded the report be released to the public.

Others Democrats were equally outraged, notably Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.), who called the investigation a “sham” and complained the committee only provided one copy of the report for members to read.

To-date, 48 GOP senators have made public their intent to vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, leaving Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) the only Republican members still undecided.

In its probe, the FBI interviewed several persons associated with allegations against Kavanaugh, many of whom were acquaintances of Dr. Ford and present during the alleged attack in 1982.

The FBI also interviewed Ms. Ramirez, who claims a drunken Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when the two were enrolled at Yale University.

A third woman, Julie Swetnick, who claims Kavanaugh was present at parties in which gang rapes of teen girls took place, was not interviewed by the Bureau.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited and updated since its original publication.

[New York Times] [NBC News] [Politico] [Newsweek] [Photo courtesy Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images via The New Yorker]