White House Hasn’t Asked FBI to Vet Kavanaugh Allegations, Sources Say

(Bloomberg) -- The White House hasn’t asked the FBI to investigate the allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a woman when they were in high school, a request required for the bureau to take further action, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The FBI’s initial background investigation into Kavanaugh was completed before Christine Blasey Ford came forward with the allegation. Kavanaugh, who has denied the allegation as “completely false,” and Ford have both said they’re willing to testify before Congress.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have said they want the FBI to investigate the allegation. But FBI background investigations are conducted under specific procedures and through requests from government agencies -- which in Kavanaugh’s case would come from the White House, said the two people who asked not to be identified discussing the sensitive matter.

Further investigation by the FBI could be politically volatile, thrusting the bureau into the middle of a tense battle over the future lineup of the Supreme Court. While there appears to be limited evidence for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to work with, the bureau is accustomed to doing professional background investigations, even when the evidence is thin.

"There’s a very large political chess match being played out," said Ronald Hosko, a former senior FBI agent who’s now president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. "Both sides have very clearly staked out positions on this candidate."

Hosko said it makes sense for the FBI to vet the allegation, probably by first interviewing Kavanaugh and Ford, searching for more witnesses and trying to find any corroborating information.

The FBI said it was first informed of the new allegation on Sept. 12 and included it as part of Kavanaugh’s background file under a standard process.

Hosko said it’s up to the White House to define the parameters of any additional investigation, which should insulate the bureau from attacks that it’s overreaching.

“I don’t see the FBI as necessarily being at risk from the politics of this,” Hosko said. “The FBI is basically working for the White House. Their job is to dig into the details and let the White House counsel know if there is derogatory information.”

“You can go get yearbooks and start interviewing high school classmates,” he said. “For creative-minded FBI people, they can generate leads all day long.”

President Donald Trump won’t withdraw the nomination and the administration is gearing up for a counteroffensive, a White House official said. The Trump team plans to try to discredit the charges for surfacing late in the confirmation process and to question the credibility of the accuser because she didn’t tell anybody about the incident at the time, the official said.

The official said the White House wants to avoid a public hearing on the allegations -- a risky drama that could build sympathy for the accuser -- but is willing to accept a confidential inquiry. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters Monday that the accuser’s allegations should be heard by the Senate.

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