Defending the FBI Reinvestigation

Since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the left continues to question the legitimacy of his appointment.  This is based in part upon the claim that the FBI conducted a cursory or even sham reinvestigation of his background, related to Christine Blasey Ford's accusations.  Republicans and conservative pundits generally – and rightly – dismiss this complaint as a Democratic "talking point."  Nonetheless, the push persists, in print, on television, online, and in social media.  So it may be worth clearly articulating why the FBI correctly limited its reinvestigation.

Objections generally focus on three groups of witnesses or potential witnesses, who were not interviewed or were only partly interviewed by the FBI.  First are Ford and Kavanaugh, who were not interviewed.  Second are the two accusers who surfaced after Ford made her allegations, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.  Ramirez was interviewed by the FBI, but not Swetnick.  Third, there is an amorphous group of "volunteer" witnesses and witnesses suggested by Ford's supporters, who supposedly could offer testimony regarding their knowledge of Kavanaugh, Ford, Ramirez, or Swetnick.  Let's address all these in turn.

Blasey Ford

Ford was not interviewed for a number of legitimate reasons.  Most obviously, she had already testified under oath before the Senate to everything she "remembered" about Kavanaugh's alleged assault.  Neither she nor her attorneys have offered anything since to enhance that testimony.  So not only was interviewing Ford unnecessary, but it would have wasted time and complicated matters. 

Had the FBI interviewed Ford, it is highly likely she would have attempted to embellish her testimony.  We know this because she has already embellished her testimony.  In her first version of the incident, supposedly reported to her therapist in 2012, Ford described four anonymous attackers, identified only as students at an exclusive local school.  When she reported the incident in the letter to Senator Feinstein, the account had been significantly embellished.  The four attackers were reduced to Kavanaugh and an accomplice.  Nobody else was mentioned in the letter. 

Subsequently, through her attorneys and in her Senate testimony, Ford embellished her account by adding her friend Leland Keyser and another male student as people present in the house at the time of the attack, making four again, perhaps to keep things more consistent with her original claim.

An FBI interview would have invited further embellishment, and experienced agents would know this.  This would have not only complicated the situation (which, of course, the Democrats wanted), but exposed Ford to criminal liability for making false statements to the FBI.  The FBI, quite reasonably, did not want to create such a situation, in which it might be accused by the right of allowing Ford to spout more unsubstantiated accusations, or by the left if it accused her of false embellishment of her testimony.  That Ford's attorneys invited this speaks volumes as to their true interests in the matter.

Brett Kavanaugh

This would have been the content of a Kavanaugh interview:

FBI agent: Judge Kavanaugh, what can you tell us about Ms. Ford's allegation that you sexually assaulted her somewhere in Maryland about 36 years ago?

Kavanaugh: Nothing.  I have no idea what she is talking about and had no part in any such incident.

FBI agent: Thank you for your time.

Ramirez and Swetnick

The FBI interviewed Ramirez.  It's highly probable she told them what she told the New Yorker, which is that 35 or so years ago, she thinks Kavanaugh exposed himself while drunk at a party.  She has nobody to back up the claim, despite her own efforts to find witnesses.  Ramirez explained to those she spoke with in her search that she didn't remember clearly, either.  After first reporting her suspicions to the New Yorker, and taking a week to talk with her attorneys, she became more certain of her uncorroborated account.  Presumably, the FBI duly noted her account along with her inconstancy, doubts, and lack of corroboration. 

The FBI chose not to interview Swetnick.  The obvious reason is that her allegations were so bizarre and unbelievable that it would have been a complete waste of time.  The FBI is not obligated to run down every wild accusation as part of a background check.  Not only that, but Swetnick publicly recanted much of her claims anyway.

Other witnesses

There are actually no identified witnesses to the attack Ford alleged other than Ford.  Kavanaugh and the other three people Ford identified deny that anything occurred.  If Ford was attacked over three decades ago, it appears that it was by a person she has not identified.

Ford's supporters insist there are other relevant witnesses, but these all fall into the categories of bolstering Ford or Ramirez or impugning Kavanaugh. 

In the case of the former, they are supposedly people to whom Ford at one time or another spoke to about the alleged assault.  They are offered to bolster the case that Ford did not just make this story up a couple months ago.  However, nobody on the Senate Judiciary Committee accused her of this.  Republican senators gave Ford the benefit of the doubt as to her subjective honesty.  As her honesty has not been contested, it would be improper and a waste for the FBI to interview witnesses about it.

As for the latter, for the most part, they are old classmates of Kavanaugh who have come forward to say, nonsensically, that although Kavanaugh admits to occasional heavy drinking in college, his drinking was "more than heavy" and that he must have suffered some memory losses as a result.  This is not probative at all as to whether Kavanaugh committed the alleged offense, nor does it even, as many on the left would like to think, open Kavanaugh to a future charge of perjury.  This is utterly unprovable gossip, which the FBI knows is a waste to pursue.

Moreover, the FBI already has much more contemporaneous accounts of Kavanaugh's social activities thirty years ago.  He first worked for the federal government as a clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit right after law school.  He would have had a background check then.  That almost certainly would have included law school and probably college mates.  I had such a check myself in 1980 when still in college to get a Top Secret clearance for a post-graduation job at the State Department.  Investigators came to my dorm and interviewed my roommate, friends, and nearby students.  My college activities were not really different from Kavanaugh's, and I suppose they noted it.  I got my clearance without any problem.  I'm sure it was not very different for Kavanaugh.  The impressions of those investigators thirty years ago are light-years more probative than the opinions of some of Kavanaugh's disgruntled former classmates today.

I don't expect that anything I've written here will change the mind of a Democrat determined to believe that Kavanaugh is unfit.  But the FBI did not whitewash the reinvestigation – and that's the end of it.

Since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the left continues to question the legitimacy of his appointment.  This is based in part upon the claim that the FBI conducted a cursory or even sham reinvestigation of his background, related to Christine Blasey Ford's accusations.  Republicans and conservative pundits generally – and rightly – dismiss this complaint as a Democratic "talking point."  Nonetheless, the push persists, in print, on television, online, and in social media.  So it may be worth clearly articulating why the FBI correctly limited its reinvestigation.

Objections generally focus on three groups of witnesses or potential witnesses, who were not interviewed or were only partly interviewed by the FBI.  First are Ford and Kavanaugh, who were not interviewed.  Second are the two accusers who surfaced after Ford made her allegations, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.  Ramirez was interviewed by the FBI, but not Swetnick.  Third, there is an amorphous group of "volunteer" witnesses and witnesses suggested by Ford's supporters, who supposedly could offer testimony regarding their knowledge of Kavanaugh, Ford, Ramirez, or Swetnick.  Let's address all these in turn.

Blasey Ford

Ford was not interviewed for a number of legitimate reasons.  Most obviously, she had already testified under oath before the Senate to everything she "remembered" about Kavanaugh's alleged assault.  Neither she nor her attorneys have offered anything since to enhance that testimony.  So not only was interviewing Ford unnecessary, but it would have wasted time and complicated matters. 

Had the FBI interviewed Ford, it is highly likely she would have attempted to embellish her testimony.  We know this because she has already embellished her testimony.  In her first version of the incident, supposedly reported to her therapist in 2012, Ford described four anonymous attackers, identified only as students at an exclusive local school.  When she reported the incident in the letter to Senator Feinstein, the account had been significantly embellished.  The four attackers were reduced to Kavanaugh and an accomplice.  Nobody else was mentioned in the letter. 

Subsequently, through her attorneys and in her Senate testimony, Ford embellished her account by adding her friend Leland Keyser and another male student as people present in the house at the time of the attack, making four again, perhaps to keep things more consistent with her original claim.

An FBI interview would have invited further embellishment, and experienced agents would know this.  This would have not only complicated the situation (which, of course, the Democrats wanted), but exposed Ford to criminal liability for making false statements to the FBI.  The FBI, quite reasonably, did not want to create such a situation, in which it might be accused by the right of allowing Ford to spout more unsubstantiated accusations, or by the left if it accused her of false embellishment of her testimony.  That Ford's attorneys invited this speaks volumes as to their true interests in the matter.

Brett Kavanaugh

This would have been the content of a Kavanaugh interview:

FBI agent: Judge Kavanaugh, what can you tell us about Ms. Ford's allegation that you sexually assaulted her somewhere in Maryland about 36 years ago?

Kavanaugh: Nothing.  I have no idea what she is talking about and had no part in any such incident.

FBI agent: Thank you for your time.

Ramirez and Swetnick

The FBI interviewed Ramirez.  It's highly probable she told them what she told the New Yorker, which is that 35 or so years ago, she thinks Kavanaugh exposed himself while drunk at a party.  She has nobody to back up the claim, despite her own efforts to find witnesses.  Ramirez explained to those she spoke with in her search that she didn't remember clearly, either.  After first reporting her suspicions to the New Yorker, and taking a week to talk with her attorneys, she became more certain of her uncorroborated account.  Presumably, the FBI duly noted her account along with her inconstancy, doubts, and lack of corroboration. 

The FBI chose not to interview Swetnick.  The obvious reason is that her allegations were so bizarre and unbelievable that it would have been a complete waste of time.  The FBI is not obligated to run down every wild accusation as part of a background check.  Not only that, but Swetnick publicly recanted much of her claims anyway.

Other witnesses

There are actually no identified witnesses to the attack Ford alleged other than Ford.  Kavanaugh and the other three people Ford identified deny that anything occurred.  If Ford was attacked over three decades ago, it appears that it was by a person she has not identified.

Ford's supporters insist there are other relevant witnesses, but these all fall into the categories of bolstering Ford or Ramirez or impugning Kavanaugh. 

In the case of the former, they are supposedly people to whom Ford at one time or another spoke to about the alleged assault.  They are offered to bolster the case that Ford did not just make this story up a couple months ago.  However, nobody on the Senate Judiciary Committee accused her of this.  Republican senators gave Ford the benefit of the doubt as to her subjective honesty.  As her honesty has not been contested, it would be improper and a waste for the FBI to interview witnesses about it.

As for the latter, for the most part, they are old classmates of Kavanaugh who have come forward to say, nonsensically, that although Kavanaugh admits to occasional heavy drinking in college, his drinking was "more than heavy" and that he must have suffered some memory losses as a result.  This is not probative at all as to whether Kavanaugh committed the alleged offense, nor does it even, as many on the left would like to think, open Kavanaugh to a future charge of perjury.  This is utterly unprovable gossip, which the FBI knows is a waste to pursue.

Moreover, the FBI already has much more contemporaneous accounts of Kavanaugh's social activities thirty years ago.  He first worked for the federal government as a clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit right after law school.  He would have had a background check then.  That almost certainly would have included law school and probably college mates.  I had such a check myself in 1980 when still in college to get a Top Secret clearance for a post-graduation job at the State Department.  Investigators came to my dorm and interviewed my roommate, friends, and nearby students.  My college activities were not really different from Kavanaugh's, and I suppose they noted it.  I got my clearance without any problem.  I'm sure it was not very different for Kavanaugh.  The impressions of those investigators thirty years ago are light-years more probative than the opinions of some of Kavanaugh's disgruntled former classmates today.

I don't expect that anything I've written here will change the mind of a Democrat determined to believe that Kavanaugh is unfit.  But the FBI did not whitewash the reinvestigation – and that's the end of it.