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Editorial

The country won’t know the truth about Brett Kavanaugh unless the FBI investigation is a real one

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.(Tom Williams/Pool/AP)

As America’s top law enforcement agency, the FBI has the best tools to determine whether Christine Blasey Ford or Brett Kavanaugh is telling the truth. The question now is: Will it be allowed to use them?

Given that President Trump and the Republicans want to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as soon as possible, the inquiry into his past launched Friday could easily become an exercise in futility. Trump has declared he wants the probe to be limited in scope and take no more than a week.

The New York Times and other media are already reporting just how restricted the FBI exploration could be: Only four witnesses will likely be interviewed and so far the most explosive allegations from Julie Swetnick will not be examined. She alleges that a drunken Kavanaugh mistreated women at parties in high school, where women were gang-raped, including herself. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied all accusations of sexual assault. Those allegations emerged after Ford accused Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her when she was 15 and he was 17.

The FBI must conduct a fully-empowered investigation in what is being characterized as a supplemental background check. If they need more time and want to broaden their review, the White House should allow that. Former FBI director James Comey, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, wrote that “if truth were the only goal, there would be no clock.” Comey described the process as “deeply flawed” but believed the “FBI is up for this.”

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Hanging in the balance is a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and the integrity of a nomination process that everyone agrees has become a circus that would make only P.T. Barnum proud. Here’s a chance to make it right.

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It’s quite possible that the FBI investigation will be inconclusive as to what happened in the summer of 1982. This is essentially a cold case. Memories have faded 36 years later — or maybe witnesses were too drunk to have any recollection in the first place.

But getting to the bottom of what happened between Ford and Kavanaugh should not be the FBI’s only goal. Just as important is to talk to enough high school and college friends to assess the veracity of Kavanaugh’s numerous rebuttals during Thursday’s hearing about his teenage years.

For example, the federal judge asserted he did not drink to excess, he did not know Ford, and that the “Devil’s Triangle” reference in his high school yearbook was not sexual in nature but rather about a drinking game. High school and college classmates who have been interviewed by the media have disputed Kavanaugh’s portrayal of himself, making the FBI’s role even more critical.

Let’s be clear: This is not just about what Kavanaugh did or did not write in his yearbook, whether what he did as a teenager should haunt him as an adult, or even his conservative politics.

For this editorial board, whether Kavanaugh should sit on the Supreme Court hinges on his ability to tell the truth. That’s the least we can expect from a Supreme Court justice.

Even before Thursday’s testimony, Kavanaugh amassed a pattern of lies during his confirmation hearing, such as denying he was involved in a scheme to steal Democratic staff e-mails related to judicial confirmations. E-mails showed he was.

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Ultimately, if Kavanaugh can’t be honest about his own behavior, how can anyone expect him to be the arbiter of anyone else’s truths?