For a former Attorney General and a sitting US Senator, Kamala Harris (D-CA) has a lot of trouble grasping basic concepts such as jurisdiction. Norah O’Donnell asked Harris on CBS This Morning whether the Senate Judiciary Committee would really put a “survivor” under public scrutiny in a hearing, as Chuck Grassley plans to do by inviting both Christina Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh to address her allegations. Harris replies that the FBI should be “compelled to do its job” by opening an investigation into the claim, as part of its background check on Kavanaugh:
"I believe that the FBI… should be compelled to do its job in terms of completing their background investigation and that's not being done." — Sen. @KamalaHarris on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh pic.twitter.com/JPqQFxdFXf
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) September 18, 2018
Actually, the Department of Justice answered this question last night by pointing out the obvious. The FBI does not investigate local crimes:
The Justice Department says the sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh “does not involve any potential federal crime” for the FBI to investigate.
Not only does it not involve a federal crime, it doesn’t have enough specificity to warrant a local police investigation either. At least from the reporting so far, Ford doesn’t have a specific time or place where this occurred, and the only other named person in the allegation — Mark Judge — denies it ever happened at all. Plus, the statute of limitations would have long ago passed on an aggravated assault, especially when committed by a minor. But even if Ford remembered the specific date, time, and provided the names of potential witnesses, and it had happened within the statute of limitations, it still wouldn’t be the FBI’s jurisdiction. It’s a local crime, and the local police would have to investigate it.
One would think that a woman who served as a state’s top law-enforcement officer would remember that. And for that matter, Harris seems confused about the purpose of the background investigations the FBI performs:
The department said in a statement Monday night that the FBI’s role during background investigations is to evaluate whether the nominee could pose a national security risk and then provide that information “for the use of the decision makers.”
The department says it’s not the job of the FBI to judge the significance or the credibility of an accusation.
Anyone who has gone through an FBI background check would grasp the difference. It entails plenty of interviews, referrals, and records checks and more, all of which end up in a raw file which contains everything dug up. Analysts then pore through the material and assess the credibility of each piece of data and assertion, determine whether the person represents a security risk, and reports those findings to the requesting agency. It’s not a criminal investigation, although it might spark one if the FBI uncovers evidence of violations of federal crimes. But what they don’t do is settle he said/she said questions; they just refer that back to the requestor to handle.
As a former prosecutor, Harris might well be inclined to believe the alleger, but she should also know that doesn’t settle the matter. Accusations require evidence — witnesses, physical evidence, and at a minimum enough specifics to fix the date and place of the alleged crime. That’s even more true when someone waits 35 years to make the accusation, which raises questions as to whether a crime occurred at all. Either Harris needs to get the local PD to get those answers out of Ford, or the Judiciary Committee will have to do it, thanks to Democrats leaking the story to the press and making it all public. If Harris finds it insulting to have an accuser answer questions, especially under these circumstances, then the only other moral option is to drop it altogether, not to proclaim the accused guilty without any evidence at all.
The state of California is very lucky not to have Harris in charge of law enforcement if this is how she perceives the administration of justice. Unfortunately, they stuck the rest of us with her.
Update: Just in case anyone’s forgotten this, Dianne Feinstein forwarded Ford’s allegation to the FBI, which added it to the background investigation and updated the requestor (the White House) on the addition. That’s already been done, and that’s as much as the FBI can do.