Grassley rejects Democratic request to delay Kavanaugh hearing pending investigation

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday formally rejected requests by Senate Democrats to postpone a hearing on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh until the FBI has time to investigate it.

Grassley argued in a lengthy letter that the request for the FBI to conduct additional investigation “demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the FBI background investigation process.” 

The White House provides FBI background checks to the Senate “as a courtesy” to help vet a nominee but the law enforcement agency “does not make a credibility assessment of any information it receives with respect to a nominee,” Grassley wrote.


“The job of assessing and investigating a nominee’s qualifications in order to decide whether to consent to the nomination is ours, and ours alone,” he added.

Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault at a high school party more than three decades ago, asked Grassley in a letter dated Tuesday to allow an FBI investigation to proceed before having their client testify before the committee.

“A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” they wrote.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said he strongly supported the request.

“An immediate FBI investigation is not only consistent with precedent, it is also quite clearly the right thing to do,” he said. 

In 1991, the FBI investigated Anita Hill’s claim that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her, after it had closed its background investigation of him.

But Grassley argues the context of that action was markedly different than the circumstances of Ford’s present allegation against Kavanaugh.

“In 1991, the FBI’s additional investigation into Professor Anita Hill’s allegations occurred when the allegations were still non-public,” he noted, arguing the purpose of the background investigation process is to compile information in a public manner.

Grassley noted that after Hill’s allegations against Thomas became public, “we did not ask the FBI to conduct an investigation.”

“Instead, we reopened the hearings and assessed the testimony that was given,” he wrote. “As in 1991, it is now up to the Senate to gather and assess the relevant information.” 

Grassley wrote that Republican Judiciary Committee staff interviewed Kavanaugh on Monday and that he “candidly and unequivocally answered all questions.”

“We have no reason to doubt the truthfulness of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony,” he said.

Grassley reminded Democrats that they also had the opportunity to have staff ask questions of Kavanaugh but declined. 

He emphasized that he has given Ford several options to testify about Kavanaugh’s alleged assault, either in a public hearing, a private hearing or in a private staff interview. 

“The staff is even willing to fly to California, or anywhere else, to meet her,” he said.

Finally, Grassley faulted Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, for not bringing the allegations to light sooner, something Feinstein says she decided not to do out of respect for Ford’s request to maintain anonymity.

Grassley pointed out that Feinstein did not ask Kavanaugh about the allegation when he testified before the committee publicly earlier this month and she skipped a closed session in which committee members had the chance to ask the nominee about sensitive issues.

“Sen. Feinstein only informed the FBI of the allegations after they were leaked to the media on the eve of the confirmation vote,” Grassley wrote. “The proper course of action would have been to investigate Dr. Ford’s serious allegations as quickly and as thorough as possible, as I did as soon as these allegations were made known to me.”

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination Charles Schumer Chuck Grassley Dianne Feinstein

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