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Brett Kavanaugh & the FBI Background Investigation: How Will the FBI Investigate the Allegations Against Him?


On Friday, President Donald Trump ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental background investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, ultimately attempting to get to the bottom of the sexual assault allegations that are holding up the Supreme Court pick’s confirmation. With the FBI entering into “uncharted territory” with the reopening of this background investigation, the FBI is now likely “organizing their resources to ensure that every field office and every agent is available to conduct” the investigation within the week timeframe the agency has been given, according to ABC News contributor and former FBI Special Agent in Charge Steve Gomez.

Here is what you need to know about Kavanaugh and the newly reopened supplemental background investigation.

The Order for the FBI Investigation

After the Senate Judiciary Committee heard explosive testimonies from Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, on Thursday, the committee decided to hold a vote on whether Kavanaugh’s confirmation would proceed to the Senate floor.

On the Senate floor Friday afternoon, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona pushed for a delay of a full Senate vote, saying it was "proper" for the Senate to wait on the vote until the FBI completed a “limited scope” investigation on the allegations against Kavanaugh. The motion came hours after the senator was confronted by sexual assault survivors and protestors in a Capitol Hill elevator after he had announced that he would vote in favor of Kavanaugh.

“What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violating a woman to sit on the Supreme Court,” one woman told Flake. “This is not tolerable.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee requested that the president make the request that the FBI conduct a “supplemental” background investigation with a week-long deadline. Friday evening, after Kavanaugh passed the committee vote 11-10 along party lines, Trump ordered an FBI probe into Kavanaugh’s background.

“I've ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh's file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week,” Trump said in a statement.

According to ABC News, the attorney representing Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school, said they appreciate the efforts of the senators who have pushed for an FBI investigation to be completed before a full Senate vote.

“A thorough FBI investigation is critical to developing all the relevant facts,” Debra Katz, Ford’s attorney, said in a statement.

Katz, however, did appear to take an issue with the week-long deadline, saying “no artificial limits as to time or scope should be imposed on this investigation.”

How Will the FBI Investigate the Allegations Against Kavanaugh?

According to the statement from the Senate Judiciary Committee, the investigation will be limited to the “current credible allegations.” That classification would fall under “any kind of allegation where there are witnesses that can be interviewed and any kind of information that can be gathered to determine whether the allegations are true or false,” Gomez said.

The investigation will likely fall into the hands of the FBI’s Washington-based team responsible for conducting background investigations for high-profile appointees, CNN reports.

“You're basically knocking on doors and doing neighborhood canvasses and looking at the suitability and fitness for office of future FBI agents, of people who are undergoing a five-year re-investigation to maintain a top secret clearance, and for judicial nominees, like Kavanaugh,” CNN law enforcement analyst and retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent James Gagliano said.

Agents will likely conduct interviews, complete database checks and research people’s criminal histories, according to Gomez, who said that the investigation will be like a “special operation.” The interviews will be confidential and conducted by individuals who are experts with these types of allegations.

“They are going to pursue every lead, every bit of information possible that comes up in the interviews so they are not going to stop until it’s done because this will now be raised to the highest priority category of investigation,” Gomez said, adding that these sorts of background investigations are a “very high priority” for the FBI.

According to The New York Times, the investigation will also look into an allegation made by Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself and thrusting his genitals in her face while at a party when they were both students at Yale University. Kavanaugh has denied those allegations.

The FBI has not commented on this newly opened investigation, but a background investigation of this nature will likely have some sort of oversight from the highest levels of the FBI, and, according to former agents, senior agents could be brought in to bolster the investigation and assist with some of the more sensitive interviews, CNN reports.

The FBI will likely put their full attention to this investigation.

“They could just about drop everything else they're doing, every other background check for generals to get the next star, and cabinet secretaries and US attorneys,” Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director and senior CNN law enforcement analyst, said. “They could wrap everything. If they want to put 500 agents on this tomorrow they could do that.”

Key to Ford’s testimony was the fact that witnesses were present at the party on the night of the attack.

In her testimony on Thursday, Ford alleged that Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, was present in the room when Kavanaugh pinned her to the bed, attempted to remove her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream. Judge has denied that the incident took place.

Judge, In a statement through his lawyer Friday, said he would “answer any and all questions posed to him” if the FBI requested an interview.

During her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ford admitted to a gap in her story: the date of the attack. She claimed to have seen Judge at the local Safeway grocery store six to eight weeks after the attack, and that knowing the exact timeline of when Judge worked at the store would help her to determine when the attack took place.

“It would be helpful with anyone's resources if — to figure out when he worked there, if people are wanting more details from me about when the attack occurred,” Ford said during the hearing.

Ford also claimed that two other people were present at the party: Patrick J. Smyth and Leland Ingham Keyser. Both have said they do not remember being at a party with Ford and Kavanaugh. Both Smyth’s and Keyser’s lawyers have said that their clients are willing to cooperate with the investigation, CNN reports.

FBI officials will try to questions all, or at least some, of the potential witnesses.

Still, 36 years remain between now and the night that attack took place, which means that FBI agents have their work cut out for them.

“You're going to be dealing on fading memories, you're going to be dealing on neighborhood canvasses where the accuser is not sure where that neighborhood was. It's going to be an uphill, daunting task,” Gagliano said.

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