The FBI's Very Limited Kavanaugh Probe Is Done

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The White House announced early Thursday morning that the FBI has wrapped up its investigation into the accusations surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and that it had sent its findings to the Senate.

On Friday, the Senate will take a first, procedural vote on whether or not to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. If the procedural vote passes, then the Senate will take a second, final vote on Saturday. If confirmed, Kavanaugh will sit on the highest court in the country for the rest of his life, unless he is impeached or retires.

We know that Senate Republicans have little interest in what the FBI has to say because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already filed cloture on Kavanaugh’s confirmation process late on Wednesday evening, before senators even had a chance to review the findings of the investigation.


In a statement, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said that the White House is “fully confident the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House had “found no corroboration of the allegations of sexual misconduct” in the FBI’s latest materials.

Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault or attempted rape in sworn statements or testimony under oath by two women, who each knew him in their youth. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleges that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge pinned her down, covered her mouth, and attempted to strip off her clothes at a party when she was 15. Deborah Ramirez alleges that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her and thrust his genitals in her face during a party at Yale, where they were classmates. A third accuser, Julie Swetnick, said in a sworn statement that Kavanaugh and Judge were both present at a party where she was drugged and raped by multiple men. You know this by now, but it bears repeating. (Kavanaugh has denied all the claims, including in his weeping, ranting opening statement during last week’s Senate hearing.)

The scope of the FBI’s investigation was sharply limited—reportedly, in part, at the behest of the White House. Investigators spoke to a total of nine people. They did not interview Kavanaugh, or Ford, or Julie Swetnick. They didn’t interview Kavanaugh’s college roommate, or his close college friend Chad Ludington, all of whom have spoken to the press and have said they are willing to speak to the FBI. They also did not look into the widely reported accounts of Kavanaugh’s heavy drinking. They have interviewed Ramirez, as well as several friends and people known to both her and Kavanaugh, including Mark Judge.

According to MSNBC, here’s what the Senate will have to work with from the FBI:

What will be delivered, according to aides and senators, are the “302" forms of the FBI interviews, which summarize the contents of the interviews. The FBI, which has spent only a few days on the investigation, will not be submitting a conclusion as to who’s telling the truth in the case.


That means that the 100 sitting members of the Senate will have very little time to consider the contents of the FBI’s report and make their own conclusions as to whether Brett Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court.

It seems to me, and probably to you, that this is not enough time. But for the vast majority of the Senate, the decision has already been made. Republicans will almost all vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Democrats, with the possible craven exception of West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, will vote against him. It benefits Mitch McConnell to call the vote as soon as possible. That has been the plan all along, from scheduling the Judiciary Committee vote barely 18 hours after the hearing to ramming through a full Senate vote a week later.


The choice likely comes down to a handful votes. There are three Republican senators—Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Jeff Flake of Arizona—who may be swayed by the FBI’s report to vote against Kavanaugh, though Flake has said he is looking for a way to confirm Kavanaugh. Manchin, a Democrat who voted for the Trump administration’s last Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, has publicly said he likes Kavanaugh, and seems like the Democrat most likely to cross party lines. There are two other red-state Democrats, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who also voted to confirm Gorsuch. Heitkamp is undecided and under pressure from various special interest groups. Donnelly says he will vote no.


And of course, Donald Trump remains firmly in support of his nominee.


Correction, 9:03 a.m. ET: Due to an editing error, this post initially said that the FBI’s findings had been completed early Friday morning, not early Thursday morning.