Shrouded FBI Kavanaugh Investigation is Only Fueling More Controversy

Oct 2, 2018

By Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

There is a new Kavanaugh investigation controversy brewing in real time under our congressional noses.  An FBI investigation is not a “check the box” step or a bump in the road on the way to confirmation.  As it is, the new investigation has been off to a confusing start with continuing controversy about differences between what President Trump is saying about a comprehensive investigation and Senate Republicans indicating a narrower or limited scope.  The current FBI investigation is not the usual background check, which reports to the executive.  This FBI investigation is unique.  Its origin is the Senate, not the President (although he ultimately ordered it).  Its purpose is not to assess qualifications, but to allow senators to test conflicting evidence about the nominee.

Yet, there is no apparent plan of action for what to do with the FBI investigation, except that Members of the Senate will receive the results.  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has just created a new controversy by saying that the FBI’s findings will be not made public.  The delivery of the FBI findings to the Senate, followed immediately by a vote, jumps over the point of an investigation in the first place—to enable the Senators to digest the findings and ask questions based on them to satisfy Senators about the issues that have been raised.

The FBI was brought in to help the Senators to settle issues, not create new issues based on the use of the FBI findings.  Senate Republicans agreed to the FBI investigation only under pressure. A secret FBI report, not used by the Senate except in enabling them to vote, has just generated new controversy.  To avoid making this process even more controversial, the Judiciary Committee needs to announce a process for considering the findings and acting on them in public deliberations.