FBI director defends ‘limited’ Brett Kavanaugh background probe
WASHINGTON — FBI Director Christopher Wray defended his agents’ handling of a background investigation into then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying that it was ‘‘limited in scope’’ and followed standard procedures.
Wray was pressed at a Senate hearing by Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, about how much direction FBI agents received from the White House when they conducted a supplemental background investigation into claims by a California professor that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her when the two were teenagers.
Harris pressed the director to explain why FBI agents never interviewed the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, or Kavanaugh, about her accusations.
Wray replied: ‘‘As is standard, the investigation was very specific in scope, limited in scope, and that is the usual process and that my folks have assured me that the usual process was followed,’’ Wray said.
Harris then asked if the FBI examined whether Kavanaugh may have misled Congress in his public testimony.
‘‘That’s not something I could discuss here,’’ Wray said.
Wray appeared alongside Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a hearing about security threats held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
He could not answer whether White House counsel Donald McGahn played a role in discussions between the White House and the FBI about the investigation, saying only that he was told the FBI’s Security Division coordinated the effort with the White House Office of Security.
The Kavanaugh probe, Wray insisted, was ‘‘consistent with the standard process for such investigations going back quite a long ways.’’
The FBI questioned nine people as part of that follow-up inquiry.
Democrats have accused White House officials of preventing the FBI from conducting a thorough investigation. Harris said in a Senate floor speech last week that the probe was ‘‘not a search for the truth. This was not an investigation. This was an abdication of responsibility and duty.’’
Background check investigations are not like criminal probes, which are conducted independently from administration oversight to decide whether someone should be charged with a crime. Rather, they are an investigation conducted at the direction and specifications of the White House to answer particular questions about a nominee or job candidate.
Kavanaugh was confirmed by a mostly partisan vote Saturday.
At a swearing-in ceremony at the White House Monday, President Trump said that ‘‘what happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process.’’
He told Kavanaugh: ‘‘You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.’’
Lawyers for Ford, the first of three women to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, wrote to Wray directly with their concerns, calling it ‘‘inconceivable’’ that the FBI could conclude its investigation without interviewing either her or Kavanaugh.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Wray said the FBI is engaged in thousands of terrorism investigations.