Senators get FBI report on Supreme Court nominee

Demonstrators at a rally in front of a Brooklyn courthouse calling for a "no" vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The rally on Wednesday in New York City drew over 100 men and women.
Demonstrators at a rally in front of a Brooklyn courthouse calling for a "no" vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The rally on Wednesday in New York City drew over 100 men and women.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Senate Majority Leader presses ahead with move for vote today

WASHINGTON • US senators prepared to view the FBI's completed report on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which the Senate Judiciary Committee announced it had received yesterday.

The White House said it is "fully confident" that the Senate will confirm President Donald Trump's nominee, whose confirmation process has been roiled by three women's allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr Kavanaugh while he was in high school and college.

In anticipation of the report's arrival, the Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, teed up a key vote to advance Mr Kavanaugh's nomination today, US time.

Until that vote, senators will be rushing in and out of a secure facility at the Capitol to review the sensitive report that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has compiled, looking into the allegations of sexual misconduct.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley, a Republican, tweeted he and the committee's top Democrat had "agreed to alternating EQUAL access for senators to study content from additional background info gathered by non-partisan FBI agents".

Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah said the report, which Democrats have denounced as hasty and incomplete, marked "the last addition to the most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history, which includes extensive hearings, multiple committee interviews, over 1,200 questions for the record and over a half million pages of documents".

The Democratic senator who helped initiate the FBI probe said yesterday that investigators might not have questioned a number of vital witnesses, and that lawmakers need to consider whether Mr Kavanaugh was truthful in his testimony before Congress.

"In the end...there are a number of vital witnesses who were not questioned," said Senator Chris Coons in an interview with CNN hours before members of both parties were set to review the FBI report.

Adding further pressure, more than 1,200 law professors have signed a letter saying that Mr Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial restraint at a Senate hearing last week - behaviour that would disqualify any court nominee.

The report will be available at a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF, in the Capitol Visitor Centre, a secure room designed for senators to review sensitive or classified material, two Senate officials said.

Just one physical copy of the report will be available, and only to senators and 10 committee staffers cleared to view the material.

But even before the report was formally sent to the Senate, lawyers for Dr Christine Blasey Ford - the first woman to accuse Mr Kavanaugh of sexual assault - criticised what they viewed as an incomplete FBI probe.

"An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr Christine Blasey Ford - nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony - cannot be called an investigation," her legal team said in a statement.

The reopened FBI investigation was prompted by reservations expressed by Republican Senator Jeff Flake about moving forward on a full Senate vote without further examination of the claims of Dr Ford and other "credible" accusers.

Adding further pressure, more than 1,200 law professors have signed a letter saying that Mr Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial restraint at a Senate hearing last week - behaviour that would disqualify any court nominee.

Even as the White House gave the FBI permission to broaden its examination, it continued to hold the bureau to a strict timeline.

Moreover, the inquiry focused mainly on the account of Dr Ford, a research psychologist who alleges that a drunken Mr Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high school students in the Washington suburbs.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the White House had restricted the FBI from scrutinising the nominee's drinking habits, as well as possible disparities between his alcohol consumption as a young man and what he told the Senate about his drinking.

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2018, with the headline 'Senators get FBI report on Supreme Court nominee'. Print Edition | Subscribe