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Seven Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats demanded the FBI explain its use of a novel tip line implemented during a supplemental background investigation into then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
In a Tuesday letter to Director Chris Wray, Democratic senators accused the FBI of being “politically constrained by the Trump White House,” demanding to know what extent the agency vetted tips and whether the administration prevented it from doing so.
The letter was written by Sens. Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Chris Coons, Cory Booker, Mazie Hirono, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Richard Blumenthal.
The accusation comes in response to a June 30 letter from Jill Tyson, assistant director for the FBI's Office of Congressional Affairs, addressed to Whitehouse and Coons detailing the agency’s supplemental background investigation into sexual assault allegations levied against Kavanaugh after he was nominated by former President Donald Trump to serve on the Supreme Court.
The supplemental investigation was opened at the request of the White House Office of Legal Counsel on Sept. 13, 2018, after the FBI already completed an initial background investigation into Kavanaugh and provided the results to the White House on June 18, Tyson explained.
Tyson revealed the investigation “was the first time that the FBI set-up a tip line for a nominee undergoing Senate confirmation,” and it ended up interviewing another 10 people, in addition to the 49 interviewed for the initial background investigation.
Investigators received more than 4,500 tips over the course of the investigation, Tyson said, who noted the agency provided “all relevant tips” to the Office of Legal Counsel.
In their letter to Wray, the senators demanded to know how the agency defined “relevant” tips and to explain the White House’s role in the investigation.
“Your letter fails to explain how the FBI reviewed and assessed these tips or whether the bureau conducted any interviews related to information received through the tip line or otherwise pursued the tips,” the letter said. “If the FBI was not authorized to or did not follow up on any of the tips that it received from the tip line, it is difficult to understand the point of having a tip line at all."
Whitehouse separately accused the agency of running a “fake tip line that never got properly reviewed, that was presumably not even conducted in good faith.”
Tyson said the agency relied on a procedure established back in 2010 that outlines how it performs when it becomes involved in a Senate confirmation. The FBI does not operate in the same way as it does during criminal investigations, deferring to the parameters set by the entity that requested the investigation, she said.
In this case, the Trump White House.
The Democrats asked Wray to provide "all documents related to the selection and parameters of the ten interviews conducted as part of the supplemental background investigations," as well as whether the White House directed investigators not to interview Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were teenagers.
Kavanaugh denied those and other allegations brought against him. He was confirmed by a 50-48 vote in the Senate.
All of the Democrats who signed Tuesday's letter were on the Judiciary Committee during Kavanaugh's high-profile confirmation. Tyson's June 30 letter itself was a response to a request sent by Whitehouse and Coons to Wray nearly two years ago in August 2019, requesting information about whether the White House limited the investigation into Kavanaugh.
The FBI declined the Washington Examiner's request for comment on the Democrats' letter.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman