The FBI’s Kavanaugh Problem

Terry H. Schwadron

July 25, 2021

We’re stuck with conservative-leaning Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, no matter how loud the squealing three years too late.

But it looks like the FBI is also stuck with a lasting self-imposed bias issue, courtesy of Donald Trump’s White House.

The issue du jour: It turns out that the FBI got 4,500 complaints about behaviors by then-nominee Kavanaugh, and though it said it investigated his background, the FBI actually did nothing with them. The agency reported them to the White House, which sat on them.

In an official letter to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, and Chris Coons, D-Del., last week, the FBI disclosed that it received more than 4,500 tips on a phone line in 2018 as part of its background investigation into Kavanaugh and provided “relevant” ones to former President Donald Trump’s White House counsel. Now Democrats and the lawyer for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who said she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh as a young person, are calling the FBI on a “sham investigation” and want it re-opened.

Let’s be realistic here. That’s not going to happen.

The appointment was confirmed, and Kavanaugh is one of the nine justices who decide daily what the law is in this country.

A Rocky Road

But the FBI continues to walk a rocky road here in public perception about what it chooses to investigate and why.

What was clear in this public letter is that the Trump White House carefully controlled the investigations into Kavanaugh’s past after Ford came forward. The White House Counsel’s staff limited the number of people the FBI interviewed as part of that probe.

In her letter acknowledging that a response to Democratic complaints was extremely late, FBI Assistant Director Jill C. Tyson, left uncertain whether the FBI itself followed up on the most compelling leads. The agency was conducting a background check rather than a criminal investigation, meaning that “the authorities, policies, and procedures used to investigate criminal matters did not apply,” the letter said.

So, naturally, Whitehouse and six Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee replied with demands for additional details on the agreement with the White House that governed the inquiry. They also pressed for more information on how incoming tips were handled. “Your letter confirms that the FBI’s tip line was a departure from past practice and that the FBI was politically constrained by the Trump White House,” the senators wrote.

The FBI talked with 10 people, none of them Ford or Kavanaugh. Two other women also said they had been assaulted by Kavanaugh.

FBI Credibility

Here’s the rub. Republicans are chary about FBI Director Christopher Wray over his handling of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, over Wray’s repeated findings of domestic terrorism and white supremacists, and a general belief that the FBI leans to protect the political Left.

Democrats are equally upset over the FBI’s disinclination to look beyond the Jan. 6 actual rioters into the role that pollical figures associated with Trump were involved in the planning and coordination of the attacks, and a string of other incidents throughout the Trump administration.

In short, when it comes to anything resembling political life, both parties find fault with the FBI and the Justice Department more generally,

What has become obvious is that Trump never abided by the protocols that are meant to keep White House hands off the Justice Department and the FBI, not in the beginning days when he fired Director James Comey, and not in the latter days, when he tried to have the Justice Department overturn election results by finding massive fraud.

Biden turned to Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland, who has been trying the patience of all parties by trying to stick strictly by nonpartisan legal judgments. It may prove an impossible task because the Trump White House was lawless in a variety of ways, and any decision that Garland makes regarding positions on a variety of lawsuits and policy complaints about Trump will be seen as political from both parties.

The FBI should have run a real investigation, that much is clear.

That they didn’t carries a larger burden of proving themselves capable of doing so.

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And then this:

Bail Imbalance

Anyone wondering why changes are needed in bail need look no further than the ordered release of billionaire friend of Donald Trump Tom Barrack on posting $250 million for freedom to later face charges that he acted as an agent of the United Arab Emirates, obstructed justice and made material false statements. The guy still sitting in jail in your state this week can’t afford $100 or $200 cash bail to get out to face his misdemeanor charge.

The next time someone blames violent crime rise on bail reform, think about the disparity. It is Justice by income.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer