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Wray: Trump WH Directed Kavanaugh Background Probe in 2018

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to answer a series of questions about Kavanaugh's one-week, follow-up background investigation.

Published Aug 4, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 06:  Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 6, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy on the court left by retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Image Via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump directed the one-week, follow-up background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, according to sworn testimony from U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray. At the time of the probe, Kavanaugh was in the process of being nominated to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The brief background investigation was conducted after allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault were brought by Christine Blasey Ford, who testified at the time before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh has also faced other allegations.

In testimony given in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Aug. 4, 2022, Wray answered a series of questions about the Kavanaugh investigation that came from U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. During the hearing, which was being held for the purpose of oversight of the FBI, Wray said that Trump's White House directed the investigation into Kavanaugh's past. He also said that this practice was consistent with the way such investigations were held under previous Democratic and Republican administrations.

Esquire published a timestamp for the video recording of the proceedings. We have transcribed the relevant remarks below. These questions and answers begin at the 02:09:49 mark in this video:

Whitehouse: As you know, we are now entering the fourth year of a frustrating saga that began with an August 2019 letter from me and Sen. Coons, regarding the Kavanaugh supplemental background investigation. And I'd like to try to get that matter wrapped up.

First, is it true that after Kavanaugh-related tips were separated from regular tipline traffic, they were forwarded to White House counsel without investigation?

Wray: I apologize in advance that it has been frustrating for you. We have tried to be clear in our process. So when it comes to the tipline, we wanted to make sure that the White House had all the information we have, so when the hundreds of calls start coming in, we gathered those up, reviewed them and provided them to the White House…

Whitehouse: Without investigation?

(long pause)

Wray: We reviewed them and then provided them to…

Whitehouse: You reviewed them for purposes of separating them from tipline traffic, but did not further investigate the ones that related to Kavanaugh, correct?

Wray: Correct.

Whitehouse: Is it also true that, in that supplemental BI, the FBI took direction from the White House as to whom the FBI would question and even what questions the FBI would ask?

Wray: So, it is true that, consistent with the longstanding process that we have had going all the way back to at least the Bush administration, the Obama administration, the Trump administration, and continue to follow currently under the Biden administration, that in a limited supplemental BI, we take direction from the requesting entity, which in this case was the White House, as to what followup they want. That's the direction we've followed. That's the direction we've consistently followed throughout the decades, frankly. You asked specifically about "who" and "what"?

Whitehouse: Yeah. Is it true?

Wray: It is true as to the "who." I'm not sure as I sit here whether it's also true as to the "what questions," but it is true as to the "who" we interviewed.

Near the end of Whitehouse's line of questioning, he requested that Wray provide responses to letters that he and other Democratic members of the U.S. Senate sent to the FBI. He asked for answers to be sent back by the FBI within 30 days. Wray indicated he would attempt to make that happen, notwithstanding any unforeseen roadblocks.

Whitehouse also added, "There's a point at which this simply has to come to an end. This has been years and years of unanswered questions."

Sources:

Burke, Garance, and Martha Mendoza. “Kavanaugh’s Accuser Struggled to Come Forward, Friends Say.” AP News, 23 Apr. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/palo-alto-north-america-ap-top-news-courts-supreme-courts-44f88e604eae493e84d02a13eaa8c1c9.

Cranley, Ellen, and Michelle Mark. “Here Are All the Sexual-Misconduct Allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.” Business Insider, 27 Sept. 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/brett-kavanaugh-sexual-assault-misconduct-allegations-2018-9.

Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation | United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/08/04/2022/oversight-of-the-federal-bureau-of-investigation.

Pierce, Charles P. “FBI Director: White House Guided Probe into Brett Kavanaugh’s Background.” Esquire, 4 Aug. 2022, https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a40811337/fbi-brett-kavanaugh-tip-line/.

Sherman, Mark. “A Look at the Revived Allegations against Justice Kavanaugh.” AP News, 16 Sept. 2019, https://apnews.com/article/impeachments-brett-kavanaugh-christine-blasey-ford-supreme-court-of-the-united-states-deborah-ramirez-0ab183dbb4474c58b2baee739c7d92ae.

Jordan Liles is a Snopes reporter with expertise in investigating misinformation, inauthentic social media activity, and scams.

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