As part of the confirmation or hiring process for his various positions in the Bush Administration and Circuit Judge seats, Brett Kavanaugh has been through six FBI background checks into his past. According to Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, there’s nothing in any of those reports that relates to alcohol abuse or sexual misconduct. According to Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, that’s not true.
The reason all of this is sketchy is that the FBI background checks are confidential. Both the Republican and Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee have seen the reports, but they can’t talk about what’s on them in public.
Here’s the dispute: on Tuesday, the @SenJudiciary account, which is run by the majority party (the Republicans) sent out the following two tweets:
The Senate Judiciary Democrats, however, immediately called bullshit. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, one of the ranking Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, released an open letter to the Republicans, insisting that they “correct” the second tweet above, for a specific and, well, kinda fishy reason.
From the letter:
Each of us reviewed the confidential background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh before the hearing. While we are limited in what we can say about this background investigation in a public setting, we are compelled to state for the record that there is information in the second post that is not accurate.
The big statement in the Republicans’ second tweet, of course, is that there is nothing in Kavanaugh’s prior background checks that related to alcohol abuse or sexual impropriety. The Democrats, without saying anything specifically (because they can’t) are saying that’s not true.
The Republicans responded quickly on Wednesday, standing by their statement.
Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, including Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party while they were both in high school. He’s repeatedly faced questions about his drinking habits, particularly in his adolescent and college years, which is when the alleged assaults occurred.
The Senate Judiciary Democrats, in the letter, also allege that Committee Republicans have weaponized this confidential information before, using it to attack Blasey Ford’s credibility as a witness. They’ve called for the background investigations to be released to the full Senate before a confirmation vote.
The dispute over Kavanaugh’s background checks raises a number of pretty interesting questions that, at this point, it’s honestly in the public’s interest to know. Were some of these allegations, or other similar incidents, already on the FBI’s radar before Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court? Kavanaugh has, obviously, passed all background checks to this point, as he currently sits on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Senate Democrats clearly think there’s something there that doesn’t sit right with the Republicans’ statements on Twitter.
The FBI has re-opened Kavanaugh’s most recent background check for further investigation into some of his accusers’ claims, but the process has been fraught with confusion and, arguably, obstruction from the executive branch. The department could release the results as early as Wednesday evening.