Columns

Judiciary GOPs, Dems Battle Over Details Dripped from Kavanaugh's Past Confidential Background Checks

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) during a break of Brett Kavanaugh's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Sept. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — On the eve of when senators are expected to get a tightly controlled peek at the FBI’s new supplementary background investigation on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Judiciary Committee Democrats formally asked Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to correct a tweet saying none of the judge’s past background checks yielded information on drunken or inappropriate sexual behavior.

The official account of committee Republicans tweeted Tuesday, “As part of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to #SCOTUS, the FBI conducted its SIXTH full-field background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh since 1993. As part of these 6 prior FBI investigations, the FBI interviewed nearly 150 different people who know Judge Kavanaugh personally.”

“Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports, which the committee has reviewed on a bipartisan basis, was there ever a whiff of ANY issue – at all – related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse,” the Judiciary GOP account tweeted.

The letter to Grassley, led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), said the tweets “must be immediately corrected.”

“Each of us reviewed the confidential background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh before the hearing. While we are limited in what we can say about this background investigation in a public setting, we are compelled to state for the record that there is information in the second post that is not accurate,” Durbin wrote. “We urge you to ensure that these Twitter posts are promptly corrected.”

“It is troubling that the Committee Majority has characterized information from Judge Kavanaugh’s confidential background investigation on Twitter, as that information is confidential and not subject to public release,” he continued. “If the Committee Majority is going to violate that confidentiality and characterize this background investigation publicly, you must at least be honest about it.”

Dems reiterated the demand voiced by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that all senators receive an FBI briefing on the results of the latest probe, saying they fear “a similar effort to publicly mischaracterize or selectively leak for partisan purposes” the results. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) denied Schumer’s request, calling it “unprecedented and irregular” and a delay tactic.

“We assume that since the Majority has already tweeted publicly about how many people were interviewed for Kavanaugh’s previous background investigations, the Majority also will permit the public disclosure of the number of people interviewed by the FBI for the supplemental background investigation,” she added.

The Senate Judiciary GOP staff shot back at Durbin in a tweet, “Nothing in the tweet is inaccurate or misleading. The committee stands by its statement, which is completely truthful. More baseless innuendo and more false smears from Senate Democrats.”

Grassley said in a statement Tuesday that he’s “confident that the FBI agents tasked with this responsibility will not succumb to public political pressure or politicians telling the agency how to do its job.”

“Respectfully, the career public servants and professionals at the FBI know what they’re doing and how best to conduct a background investigation,” he added. “The FBI’s business should be carried out independent of political or partisan considerations. I hope my Democratic colleagues do not attempt to interfere in that process.”

In his characteristic Twitter shorthand, Grassley tweeted today, “I hve long history of respecting ppl w courage to step fwd. JudiciaryCmte gave Dr Ford serious consideration she deservd as soon as I learnd abt her-Ppl can decide who to believe But I plead w all: stop personal attacks &destruction of Dr Ford &her family or Jdg Kavanaugh &family.”

In an effort to prevent leaks, each party will be allowed to view the FBI report in one-hour increments, alternating, until all 100 senators — and certain select staffers with security clearance — have been able to read it.

The vote on Kavanaugh could be on Saturday, depending on when McConnell files cloture.