Democrats apparently intend to keep beating this horse just to make sure it’s well and truly dead. Christopher Wray came to Capitol Hill today to update the Senate Homeland Security Committee on security issues, but Kamala Harris had more pressing issues in mind. She used her time with Wray to try to establish that the White House had somehow limited the FBI in its supplemental background investigation into Brett Kavanaugh. Who told the FBI not to question Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford, and “the list of 40-plus witnesses”?
The FBI director explained that his investigators conducted themselves in a “standard” manner for background checks, as they were tasked to do:
This whole 4-minute clip is worth watching. Kamala Harris grills FBI Director Chris Wray on the Kavanaugh supplemental background investigation, Wray confirms that the investigation was "limited in scope" by the White House. (via CSPAN)pic.twitter.com/bBLrHlrmQH
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 10, 2018
“Our supplemental update to the previous background investigation was limited in scope and that … is consistent with the standard process for such investigations going back a long ways,” Wray said under questioning by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on global security threats.
“I’ve spoken with our background investigation specialists and they have assured me this was handled in a way consistent with their experience and the standard process,” the FBI director said, later adding that the inquiry was “very specific in scope—limited in scope.” …
Wray confirmed that background investigations are handled differently from other FBI probes and that the scope of inquiries into judicial nominees is dictated by the White House. However, he declined to discuss any specifics about what the White House decided should or should not be examined during the brief follow-up investigation conducted following the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.
Wray did note that this background check, like any other, is necessarily “specific in scope — limited in scope.” Some are treating that as an admission that the White House dictated the terms of this check, but Wray said nothing of the sort. He tells Harris that he’s spoken to the agents in charge of the supplemental background check, who assured him that it was handled as all such requests are — as a background check, not an investigation.
Why wouldn’t the FBI have handled it as a criminal investigation? One reason is that there wasn’t a federal crime alleged, and another would be that no complaint has ever been filed. Even so, the FBI used Ford’s sworn testimony to follow up with the leads she provided after testifying that she didn’t know anyone else who might have contemporaneous corroboration. They even extended that to two others who might have been in the vicinity of a party with no fixed date or location, and none of those sources provided any corroboration. The FBI then interviewed Deborah Ramirez and followed up on her contemporaneous leads, only to come up empty on that score too.
Harris’ reference to “forty-plus” other witnesses is entirely disingenuous. Those weren’t “witnesses” to the allegations, but character references for Ford and Ramirez. All they could provide was hearsay years and decades after the alleged incident, not corroboration. That kind of hearsay isn’t useful in a criminal investigation and is even less valuable in a background check, especially when the character to which it testifies isn’t the subject of the background check.
Harris does ask one interesting question at the end, which Wray avoids:
HARRIS: Did the FBI look into allegations as to whether Judge Kavanaugh lied to Congress during his testimony?
WRAY: That’s not something I can discuss here.
First off, that would be the purview of Congress to investigate, not the FBI — and the committee has the resources to conduct such an investigation. Wray didn’t say “no,” though, even though a no wouldn’t compromise any information. If they did check out the supposed “lies,” however, the FBI report must not have mentioned it. The executive summary never even addressed the issue, but if the FBI found material contradictions to Kavanaugh’s testimony and put it in the report, Senate Democrats would have immediately announced it. It seems highly unlikely that Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, and especially Joe Manchin would have voted for confirmation under those circumstances.
So why bring it up? It wouldn’t be the first time that Senate Democrats have left a smear hanging only to find out that they had nothing to back it up. In fact, it wouldn’t even be the first time for Kamala Harris. Remember her scummy little perjury trap about Kavanaugh supposedly discussing the Robert Mueller probe with an attorney at specific law firm? It turned out Harris was bluffing then, too, earning rebukes from Politifact and the Washington Post. This line of questioning is every bit as intellectually dishonest as the rest of her work on the Kavanaugh appointment, and anyone who thinks Wray validated her suspicions today has the same problem.