The FBI set up a tip line for Kavanaugh during the Supreme Court justice’s nomination process and received over 4,500 relevant tips, FBI Assistant Director Jill Tyson told senators in a June 30 letter made public this week. However, the FBI appeared to merely pass on the information to the Office of White House Counsel, which had requested an investigation and, later, a supplemental probe.
The process rankled Democrat senators, who accused the FBI of being “politically constrained” by the White House under President Donald Trump.
“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,” they wrote in a new letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The senators asked for documents regarding the arrangement, including how the FBI determined a tip was relevant.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said the FBI’s actions showed the tip line was equivalent to a “garbage chute to a White House Counsel desperate to cover up the facts.”
He is demanding answers along with Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
The FBI did not immediately provide a comment.
Kavanaugh did not respond to questions submitted to the court and a lawyer who defended him during the nomination process.
Kavanaugh was close to being confirmed in 2018 when a woman named Christine Ford emerged and claimed he sexually assaulted her while they were both attending high school in Maryland. But three witnesses who she named said they didn’t recall that happening, and she was unable to provide any other corroboration.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who had been unsure whether she would vote to confirm, described the nomination process becoming “so dysfunctional it looks more like a caricature of a gutter-level political campaign than a solemn occasion.” She noted that Kavanaugh was presumed innocent and Ford was unable to give evidence backing her claim.
The White House said at the time that it was not restricting the FBI probe. The Senate Judiciary Committee limited the supplemental investigation to “current credible allegations.”
In a statement reacting to the new developments, attorneys for Ford said the investigation into her allegations “was a sham and a major institutional failure.”
“Not only did the FBI refuse to interview Dr. Ford or the corroborators listed in our letter to FBI Director Wray, it failed to act on the over 4,500 tips it received about then-nominee Kavanaugh,” Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said. “Instead, it handed the information over to the White House, allowing those who supported Kavanaugh to falsely claim that the FBI found no wrongdoing.”