- Former FBI director James Comey wrote in an op-ed Sunday that the FBI’s background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will not be “as hard as Republicans hope it will be.”
- FBI investigators “know that little lies point to bigger lies,” Comey wrote. “They know that obvious lies by the nominee about the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to dig deeper.”
- It’s unclear how deep the FBI will be able to dig, however, because Republicans and the White House have imposed significant constraints on the scope of the background check.
The former FBI director, James Comey, weighed in Sunday on the recent firestorm surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the decision to order an FBI investigation into the sexual-misconduct allegations against him.
In an op-ed published by The New York Times, Comey wrote that “the FBI is up for this,” referring to the background check. “It’s not as hard as Republicans hope it will be.”
Comey continued, “FBI agents are experts at interviewing people and quickly dispatching leads to their colleagues around the world to follow with additional interviews. Unless limited in some way by the Trump administration, they can speak to scores of people in a few days, if necessary.”
But multiple media reports this weekend have suggested that the FBI’s inquiry is far more constrained than previously known.
Initially, Republicans set just two parameters: that the investigation had to be complete in under a week, and that it had to be limited to “current credible” allegations against Kavanaugh.
But on Saturday, NBC News and The Times reported that the White House and Senate Republicans gave the FBI a list of just four witnesses to interview. Investigators are also reportedly barred from pulling records that could be critical to corroborating parts of the testimony given by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week.
Republicans and Kavanaugh’s defenders have argued that because the alleged assault happened 36 years ago, Ford may be remembering it wrong, and that it should carry less weight compared to Kavanaugh’s standing since then.
“But FBI agents know time has very little to do with memory,” Comey wrote. “They know every married person remembers the weather on their wedding day, no matter how long ago. Significance drives memory.”
Comey also alluded to the apparent discrepancy between statements Kavanaugh made to the committee about his drinking habits in high school and college, and what some of his former classmates remember based on their encounters with him.
In particular, Kavanaugh claims that he was not a heavy drinker when he was young and that he never drank to excess or had gaps in his memory. His former classmates, conversely, have said that they recall multiple instances when Kavanaugh was heavily intoxicated and likely blacked out.
Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook also appears to contain multiple references to partying and heavy drinking. But the Supreme Court nominee said under oath that they were innocent references to inside jokes that had nothing to do with what the common meanings of those terms typically are.
FBI investigators “know that little lies point to bigger lies,” Comey wrote. “They know that obvious lies by the nominee about the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to dig deeper.”
It’s unclear how deep the FBI will be able to dig, however, given the additional limits that have been placed on the scope of the investigation.
“There isn’t a finder of fact in the country that would hamstring investigators like this,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago. “It would be comical if it wasn’t so important.”
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