The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has now admitted that it failed to investigate even the most "relevant" of the 4,500 tips it received during an investigation into sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, then a Supreme Court nominee, now a Supreme Court justice. That was in response to a two-year-old letter from Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons. "We apologize for the extended delay in responding," says Assistant Director Jill C. Tyson.
Which is problem No. 1 for the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Whitehouse and Coons are members: the FBI and Director Christopher Wray. Wray was the original recipient of the Aug. 19, 2019 letter from the senators. A letter which was ignored until June 30, 2021. Wray was the person ultimately responsible for how the FBI handled the background investigation with that "tip line," which ended up apparently just being a dumping ground. Whitehouse and Coons first pressed Wray on this in a July 2019 hearing.
"During the hearing, Wray echoed Republican claims that the FBI conducted the investigation 'by the book,' while asserting that supplemental background investigations are less rigorous than criminal and counterintelligence investigations," the senators say in a press release following the revelation that the FBI did nothing more than send the tips to Trump's henchmen.
So the senators fired off another letter Thursday. "The admissions in your letter corroborate and explain numerous credible accounts by individuals and firms that they had contacted the FBI with information 'highly relevant to … allegations' of sexual misconduct by Justice Kavanaugh, only to be ignored," the senators write in a sternly-worded letter. "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." The letter demands more answers, potentially in pursuit of what will possibly be a future oversight investigation by the Judiciary Committee.
Because if it's not, what the hell is the point? There has to be accountability from Wray to explain why exactly the Trump White House called the shots on this. Honestly, Wray's job needs to be in jeopardy here. There's the very real possibility that the FBI director lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2019 when he told the senators that the investigation into allegations against Kavanaugh were "by the book." The committee needs to put all of the heat they can muster on him, and if necessary, on his boss—Attorney General Merrick Garland—until they get some goddamned answers. That goes for all the questions Whitehouse raised in a follow-up demand to Garland in March of this year.
In his follow up letter to Garland, Whitehouse wrote: "If standard procedures were violated, and the Bureau conducted a fake investigation rather than a sincere, thorough and professional one, that in my view merits congressional oversight to understand how, why, and at whose behest and with whose knowledge or connivance, this was done." This follow-up letter to Garland is apparently the impetus for the FBI to dust off its inbox to find and respond to the original inquiry from 2019, but it certainly doesn't answer all of their questions.
While they're at it, Senate Democrats need to start probing again how Kavanaugh managed to pay off hundreds of thousands in credit card debt between May 2017 and his nomination in July 2018, and on top of that pay $92,000 in country club fees, and pay the $10,500-a-year tuition for his two kids in private school, and make payments on the $815,000 mortgage he had for his $1.2+ million home. Because all of that is still very, very hinky.
That leads us to problem No. 2 for Senate Democrats and for President Joe Biden. There is a seated Supreme Court justice who has been credibly alleged to have committed assault, who has not been investigated, and whose finances are questionable, to say the least. First, this:
That's from a former senior aide to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, former Justice Department staff, and now executive director of Demand Justice. So yes, Congress can most definitely conduct the investigation where the FBI failed. The results of these investigations could lead, potentially, to impeachment of Kavanaugh, though that's a long shot and potentially a long way away.
Right now, Kavanaugh is just one of three Trump Supreme Court justices who are there in the most dubious of circumstances. Neil Gorsuch is in a seat stolen from President Barack Obama (hey, Merrick Garland!) by Mitch McConnell. Kavanaugh was not property vetted, no matter how you look at it. Amy Coney Barrett was rushed onto the court just days before the 2020 election—while people were casting their ballots—because Trump thought she would give him the majority that would overturn the election in case he lost. This dubious trio joins the inarguably corrupt Clarence Thomas, whose wife Ginni spent the whole of 2020 amplifying Trumpist conspiracy theories about Biden on social media.
They, with Alito, are the Supreme Court majority. The ones who all but ended voting rights and allowed for even more secrecy in dark money to flood our system. What they have planned for next session is even worse. The Supreme Court is packed with dangerous ideologues, and a few corrupt ones, too.
Now President Biden and Democrats have a chance to, well, unpack it. To dilute the Trump/RNC/Koch/Federalist Society’s malign influence and balance it out with four or six or however many additional justices. It is imperative. It is existential.