It’s an easy question to mock when coming from Dianne Feinstein, but not quite so easy when it comes from former Bush official Fran Townsend. Feinstein had plenty of opportunity not just to get the FBI involved when it made sense to depose Christine Blasey Ford, but also to question Ford herself in the hearing a week ago rather than puff up over her “courage.” Townsend, a former prosecutor, told CBS This Morning that it’s tough to credit the FBI’s probe without an interview with Ford:
"I personally don't believe, as a prosecutor, you can have a credible and complete investigation without an interview of Dr. Ford" — @FranTownsend on FBI's Kavanaugh inquiry pic.twitter.com/YV58glPDr9
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) October 4, 2018
The problem with this argument is that the process got it backward. As a prosecutor, did Townsend ever have a case where law enforcement interrogated a witness after they testified under oath about his or her allegation? After testifying in some detail, thanks to Rachel Mitchell’s under-appreciated thoroughness, what more was the FBI going to get in a voluntary interview? If she added anything, it would contradict her earlier testimony, which in some ways contradicted her earlier statements to Feinstein and Rep. Anita Eshoo. Since Ford testified and repeatedly asserted that she couldn’t recall any other potential witnesses to the incident, any new leads suddenly coming from an interview after 36 years would be highly suspect.
To her credit, Norah O’Donnell mentions that Ford and Kavanaugh had already testified under oath, which Townsend acknowledges, but says the FBI could have gotten more. “You don’t get out of that the therapists notes, which you could have asked her for permission to get,” Townsend says, referring to a response from Ford’s attorneys this week. “You don’t get the polygraph, which you could have asked her for.”
That, however, ignores the fact that the Senate Judiciary has been asking for both for more than two weeks, and Ford has refused to turn them over. Her attorneys made the offer yesterday to exchange them for an FBI interview as an obvious strategy to delay the process further, just as they did when they claimed Ford couldn’t fly to Washington because of trauma-related phobias — a claim demolished during the hearing last week. Those materials should have been produced at the hearing when Ford relied on them for her claims against Kavanaugh, not as a bargaining chip to get a sit-down with FBI agents later. Her refusal to cooperate is not an indication of an inadequate FBI background check but of a flawed and perhaps false allegation. If either of these truly corroborated Ford, would she have withheld them at all? Especially the polygraph recordings?
Finally, Townsend accuses the White House of limiting the FBI’s scope to keep Ford locked out, but deputy press secretary Raj Shah denies it. The scope of the background check was set by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had already given three hours to Ford for her testimony under oath:
About those complaining they were not contacted by the FBI to provide new information, @RajShah45 says the scope of the supplemental FBI inquiry was set by the Senate Judiciary Committee. And it was not meant as a probe of high school drinking practices. pic.twitter.com/IcN1oHB8nn
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 4, 2018
Townsend is a more serious person than the Senate Democrats who are lining up to slam the FBI, and her question deserves a more serious response. But that doesn’t make this question any more relevant.