Donald Trump

Secret FBI report shows no Kavanaugh misconduct, says top Republican senator

But Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee insisted the FBI probe was short-circuited and incomplete

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 12:06am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 3:22am

A top Senate Republican said on Thursday that the confidential FBI report on charges that Brett Kavanaugh sexually abused women three decades ago “found no hint of misconduct” by the Supreme Court nominee.

After an explosive Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on September 27, FBI agents were tasked with performing a supplemental review to help senators determine whether Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto University professor, when they were high school students or exposed himself to Deborah Ramirez at a party when they were classmates at Yale University. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied those allegations.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley made his remarks – and urged his colleagues to confirm the conservative judge – in a written statement hours after the post-midnight delivery of the FBI document to Congress. With Kavanaugh’s uncertain prospects for approval depending in part on the decisions of five wavering senators, lawmakers began viewing the document in a secure room in the Capitol complex.

Watch: When Kavanaugh and Ford testified before Congress

“There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know,” Grassley said, basing his comment on a briefing he said he’d received from committee aides. “This investigation found no hint of misconduct.”

Democrats have complained that the FBI’s reopening of its Kavanaugh background check has been far too limited, leaving out contact with crucial potential witnesses.

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Grassley said the FBI could not “locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations” and said there is “no contemporaneous evidence”.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already started a process that will produce a crucial test vote in his polarised chamber on Friday on Kavanaugh’s fate. Should Republicans get most of the votes they need – and Vice-President Mike Pence is available to cast the tiebreaker, if necessary – that would set up a decisive roll-call on his confirmation, probably over the weekend.

Democrats insisted the FBI probe was short-circuited and incomplete.

“The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters. “It looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation that was limited.”

US President Donald Trump said it would be impossible to appease Democrats. “This is now the 7th. time the FBI has investigated Judge Kavanaugh,” he tweeted. “If we made it 100, it would still not be good enough for the Obstructionist Democrats.”

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FBI background checks usually do not examine events before a nominee turns 18, which is when Ford claims she was assaulted by Kavanaugh. She said in the summer of 1982, when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, he and a friend drunkenly pushed her into a room at a party and he climbed on top of her, covering her mouth when she tried to shout for help.

“Senators ought to wipe away the muck from all the mudslinging and politics and look at this nomination with clear eyes,” Grassley said, echoing accusations against Democrats that McConnell has been making. “It’s time to vote. I’ll be voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

Three women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in separate incidents in the 1980s. Kavanaugh, 53, now a judge on the powerful District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, has denied the claims.

Trump says FBI has free rein in probe, but does not want ‘witch hunt’

While the FBI interviews were to focus on sexual assault allegations, although Democrats have also called into question his drinking habits during high school and college, and dishonest comments they say he made about his background. Kavanaugh has said stories of bad behaviour while drinking are exaggerated.