Old wounds were reopened this week when a New York Times article, written by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, focused on Deborah Ramirez — one of the women who, in 2018, accused U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, in a USA Today op-ed published on Friday, argued that Kavanaugh wasn’t adequately vetted as he should have been.
The Democratic senator, a former federal prosecutor who is now on the Senate Judiciary Committee, notes that in 2018, “people reached out to my office to find out where to go in the FBI with information relevant to the allegations against Kavanaugh.”
But according to Whitehouse, the FBI wasn’t helpful.
“We were given the runaround by the FBI,” Whitehouse recalls. “No one was designated to receive information related to Kavanaugh; people trying to help were referred to an FBI ‘tip line.’”
Whitehouse explains that the FBI’s response to the allegations against Kavanaugh were “unusual” because in most cases, “FBI agents want to talk with people who claim to have information and to take statements, often referred to as 302s. A witness interview allows agents to pursue lines of questioning and to evaluate credibility. A tip line may supplement that process, but it ordinarily does not replace it.
Whitehouse adds that another “flag” came when “FBI Director Christopher Wray began to disavow responsibility for the investigation” and “pointed out very publicly that the Kavanaugh investigation was not being run under FBI investigative protocols, but following directions from the White House.”
In 2018, three women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh: Ramirez, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Julie Swetnick. Ford testified before the Senate, but the others did not. Because the 2018 midterms were just around the corner and Republicans feared that Democrats might retake the Senate (which they didn’t), President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were determined to ram Kavanaugh’s confirmation through as quickly as possible.
Ford’s allegations were briefly investigated by the FBI, but according to Whitehouse, that investigation was much too superficial.
“As a U.S. attorney,” Whitehouse explains, “I would have sent the matter back for further investigation. This whole mess has been heavily politicized, but I sincerely doubt any U.S. attorney of any party would have made a decision to prosecute or not based on such a cursory investigative effort.”
Whitehouse concludes his op-ed by stressing that there needs to be a thorough probe of the FBI’s investigation of Kavanaugh.
“It’s now time to investigate the investigation, and to compare it with the gold standard of a real FBI investigation,” Whitehouse asserts. “Every sign points to this having been as much a cover-up as an investigation. That’s not the way America is supposed to work.”