Can new FBI probe reach any definitive conclusions?

Now that the FBI has reopened the background probe of Judge Kavanaugh, what will its scope and procedures be, and what can be proved? Two FBI veterans discuss.

Posted: Sep 30, 2018 8:24 PM
Updated: Sep 30, 2018 8:39 PM

Former FBI Director James Comey expressed his approval of the reopening of the bureau's background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, writing in a New York Times op-ed that the assigned deadline is "idiotic."

"It is idiotic to put a shot clock on the F.B.I. But it is better to give professionals seven days to find facts than have no professional investigation at all," he wrote in the op-ed published Sunday.

Comey wrote that he is confident in the FBI agents' ability to sufficiently conduct an investigation into claims of sexual misconduct made against Kavanaugh by several women. The investigation, which was approved last week by President Donald Trump, has temporarily stalled a Senate vote on the judge's confirmation to the high court.

"F.B.I. agents are experts at interviewing people and quickly dispatching leads to their colleagues around the world to follow with additional interviews," he wrote. "Unless limited in some way by the Trump administration, they can speak to scores of people in a few days, if necessary."

CNN has previously reported that a source with knowledge of the investigation said the FBI would take its direction from the White House, not the Senate, and that the agency would interview a handful of people.

Kavanaugh's drinking history, which has come up in the allegations, is not part of the probe being managed by the FBI's security division at the agency's headquarters in Washington, the source said.

Comey wrote that agents will "confront people with testimony and other accounts, testing them and pushing them in a professional way. Agents have much better nonsense detectors than partisans, because they aren't starting with a conclusion."

Indeed, the FBI is not tasked with drawing conclusions, but, Comey wrote, "their granular factual presentation will spotlight the areas of conflict and allow decision makers to reach their own conclusions."

He also suggested that many people whom the agents seek out for interviews will be receptive.

"Of course, the bureau won't have subpoena power, only the ability to knock on doors and ask questions," he wrote. "But most people will speak to them. Refusal to do so is its own kind of statement."

Comey also took aim at the process, calling it "deeply flawed" and reasoning that if "truth were the only goal, there would be no clock, and the investigation wouldn't have been sought after the Senate Judiciary Committee already endorsed the nominee."

He also directly criticized Trump, who fired him from his position at the bureau in 2017, writing: "We live in a world where the president is an accused serial abuser of women, who was caught on tape bragging about his ability to assault women and now likens the accusations against his nominee to the many "false" accusations against him."

Trump has denied the allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him.

The Senate is set to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination after the FBI investigation concludes sometime this week.

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