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What to Know About FBI Probe of Brett Kavanaugh

Why is the FBI conducting the probe?

All presidential appointees undergo a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background check — called a Special Inquiry (SPIN) — before their names are sent to the Senate for confirmation.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had undergone six such checks as part of previous government appointments. But after three women came forward last month with accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, Democrats demanded a new FBI inquiry.

President Donald Trump initially balked at the idea, but on Friday he ordered a one-week probe of the allegations. The about-face came after moderate Republican and frequent Trump critic Sen. Jeff Flake threw his support behind the Democratic call for an investigation.

 

What is the FBI doing?

The FBI is conducting a supplemental background check on Kavanaugh, rather than a criminal investigation, in light of the sexual assault allegations.

Pete Yachmetz, a former FBI special agent and security consultant, said an FBI background check is a “complete, detailed, exhaustive inquiry” into a nominee’s suitability to appointment and probes into his or her birth, marital status, employment, bar membership and military service.

Because Kavanaugh has already been investigated several times, he and other witnesses would likely be reinterviewed. In addition, agents will likely conduct face-to-face interviews with two of Kavanaugh’s accusers – Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez.

FBI background investigations typically take 10 days. Yachmetz said the bureau should be able to complete its new background check by Friday and send its findings to the White House. All 56 field offices of the bureau are likely to be involved in the investigation.

Does the Trump administration have control over the investigation?

The White House has denied charges of “micromanaging” the Kavanaugh investigation.

The White House had initially asked the FBI to limit its investigation to the Ford and Ramirez allegations and reportedly provided the bureau with a list of four witnesses to question. But on Monday Trump said he wanted a “comprehensive” probe and that he would not object if the FBI interviewed the third accuser, Julie Swetnick.

Trump has also said he wants the FBI to interview anyone it deems necessary to complete its investigation.

Democrats have called for a much longer list of witnesses to be interviewed and slammed the White House limits on the investigation as a “farce.”

Who determined the scope of the probe?

The White House initially set the terms of the investigation. It instructed the FBI to limit its investigation to the Ford and Ramirez allegations, interview four witnesses and complete its findings within a week. Democrats called the timeline arbitrary and pushed for a more expansive investigation, leading to reverse course.

What will the investigation deliver?

The investigation seeks to determine the veracity of the accusations of sexual misconduct when Kavanaugh was in high school and college.

The FBI has already interviewed several witnesses. Next in line are others with knowledge of the events that allegedly took place over three decades ago.

The FBI’s executive summary of the investigation to the White House will lay out the facts without reaching any conclusion or making any recommendations, Yachmetz said.

“They’re not going to solve the matter,” he said. “They’re not going to vindicate Judge Kavanaugh, they’re not going to prove any crimes or disprove any allegations.”

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