FBI Chief Says Kavanaugh Check Was ‘Limited’ but Met Standards

 wsj.com  10/10/2018 4:01:02 PM  2  ron Tau

Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mr. Wray distinguished a background check conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from a criminal inquiry, and said that the bureau’s only authority to investigate Justice Kavanaugh came at the direction of the White House.

“Our supplemental update to the previous background investigation was limited in scope, and I think that is consistent with the standard process for such investigations going back quite a long ways,” Mr. Wray told senators in response to questions from Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California.

In a background investigation, “our only authority is as requested by the adjudicating agency, which in this case is the White House,” Mr. Wray said.

At the swearing-in ceremony for new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump apologized to for the “terrible pain and suffering” he was “forced to endure” during the confirmation process. Photo: AP

The FBI conducted an initial background check of Justice Kavanaugh as a routine part of a Senate nomination after he was tapped in July as President Trump’s pick to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

The background check was then reopened after Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor, came forward on Sept. 16 to allege that Justice Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, which he categorically denied.

Her accusation came as the Senate was considering whether to confirm him to a lifetime appointment as a Supreme Court justice. The allegations disrupted his confirmation process, delaying a final vote while the charges were investigated further.

The FBI’s renewed investigation found no corroborating information for the assault, which was alleged to have occurred in 1982 in suburban Maryland. But Democrats on Capitol Hill said it had been limited in scope and rife with political interference.

Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in a 50-48 vote at the conclusion of the investigation, after winning the support of a handful senators. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat to support him, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the sole Republican opposing him.

Dr. Ford wasn’t interviewed as part of the FBI’s renewed investigation, nor was Justice Kavanaugh. Some friends and acquaintances of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh said they were willing to testify but weren’t contacted.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he wanted the FBI “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.” Mr. Wray said that the FBI and the White House had been in contact throughout the process.

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com

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