Row breaks out over FBI report on Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh

Row breaks out over FBI report on Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A row between Republicans and Democrats has broken out over a confidential FBI report about allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted women three decades ago.

Republicans have claimed investigators found “no hint of misconduct” while Democrats accused the White House of putting crippling restraints on the report.

The arguments broke out as the Conservative Jurist’s prospects for winning Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court remained with five senators, with a critical vote on Friday.

It followed the FBI's early-morning release of its investigation, which President Donald Trump reluctantly ordered under pressure from a handful of wavering Republican senators.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley said in a written statement: "There's nothing in it that we didn't already know.”

The Republican said he based his view on a briefing from committee aides and added: "This investigation found no hint of misconduct."


'We did not agree to tie the FBI's hands'

Democratic US Senator Dianne Feinstein speaks during a press briefing about the FBI investigation

Top Democrats hit back after getting their own briefing.

The judiciary panel's top Democrat Dianne Feinstein said it appeared that the White House had "blocked the FBI from doing its job".

She said that while Democrats had agreed to limit the probe's scope, "we did not agree that the White House should tie the FBI's hands".

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already started a process that will produce a crucial test vote in his polarised chamber on Friday on Mr Kavanaugh's fate.

Ms Feinstein complained that agents had not interviewed Mr Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford, who has testified that he sexually attacked her in a locked bedroom during a high school gathering in 1982.

She also said lawyers for Deborah Ramirez, who has alleged Mr Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when both were at Yale, had no indication the FBI had reached out to people she had offered for corroboration.

Mr Grassley said the FBI could not "locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations", and he said there is "no contemporaneous evidence".


'Neverending fishing expedition' 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats' fears that the "very limited process" laid out for the investigation would restrain the FBI "have been realised".

He also said: "I disagree with Senator Grassley's statement that there was no hint of misconduct."

Neither side provided any detail about what the report said, constrained by years-old arrangements that require the results of FBI background checks to remain confidential.

Earlier, White House spokesman Raj Shah rebuffed Democrats' complaints, saying: "What critics want is a neverending fishing expedition into high school drinking."

He said the FBI reached out to 10 people and interviewed nine, including "several individuals at the request of the Senate, and had a series of follow-up interviews ... following certain leads".

While the FBI interviews were to focus on sexual assault allegations, Democrats have also questioned Mr Kavanaugh's drinking habits during high school and college and dishonest comments they say he has made about his background.

Mr Kavanaugh has said stories of his bad behaviour while drinking are exaggerated.


'Despicable Democrats' 

Three women have accused him of sexual misconduct in separate incidents in the 1980s.

Mr Kavanaugh, 53, now a judge on the powerful District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, has denied the claims.

The White House received the FBI report at around 3am on Thursday.

Mr Trump weighed in hours later in a tweet in which he denounced what he called "the harsh and unfair treatment" of Mr Kavanaugh.

"This great life cannot be ruined by mean" and "despicable Democrats and totally uncorroborated allegations!" he said.