In the early hours of Thursday morning, the Senate announced that the FBI had concluded its background investigation into sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh and that it had received the results.
Here is what we know about that investigation ahead of the Senate vote to confirm Kavanaugh:
The White House has made up its mind about the findings. In a statement issued at about 2:30 a.m., White House spokesman Raj Shah said the White House had taken a look and sent the report to Capitol Hill. “This is the last addition to the most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history, which includes extensive hearings, multiple committee interviews, over 1,200 questions for the record and over a half million pages of documents,” he said. “With this additional information, the White House is fully confident the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House found no corroboration of the allegations. But it’s unclear if it has yet fully reviewed the material. And it’s not much of a surprise. President Donald Trump has maintained his belief in Kavanaugh’s truthfulness, casting doubt on Christine Blasey Ford’s account and going as far as to openly mock Ford at a rally this week.
Senators will begin reviewing the report Thursday. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced less than two hours later that the committee had received the background file and that he and Sen. Dianne Feinstein agreed to “alternating EQUAL access” for the two parties.
So, according to the Washington Post, Senate Republicans will spend an hour with the report, then Democrats will have an hour, and it will rotate throughout the day, and possibly into Friday. Senators and 10 committee staffers cleared to view the material can review it at a secure room in the Capitol Visitor Center, where only one physical copy of the report will be available.
The investigation was limited to two allegations. The investigation only looked into allegations of sexual misconduct made by Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her in high school, and Deborah Ramirez, who accused him of exposing himself to her in college. The FBI apparently did not look into allegations by a third accuser, Julie Swetnick, who is represented by Michael Avenatti. Senate Democrats have not focused on Swetnick’s claims, as she is considered by some to be less credible.
The investigation was also not permitted to question witnesses about Kavanaugh’s drinking habits, which came up in the allegations and in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, and which some who knew Kavanaugh have said the Supreme Court nominee lied about under oath.
The FBI talked to nine people. According to reports from sources who have been briefed on the findings, the FBI contacted 10 potential witnesses and spoke to nine of them. It’s unclear who the 10th person was and why that person wasn’t interviewed.
We don’t know who all nine of those people are, but we do know most of them. Initially, the FBI interviewed the three people Ford said were at the party where she was allegedly assaulted: Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth, and Leland Keyser. The three had said publicly before that they did not remember the party, though Keyser noted that she believed Ford. The bureau also initially interviewed Ramirez.
After Democrats criticized the White House for restricting the FBI to those witnesses, the investigation was allowed to expand, and according to the Journal, two high school friends named in Kavanaugh’s 1982 calendar were also questioned: Tim Gaudette and Chris Garrett, known in the calendar as “Squi.”
The FBI has not explained why it limited itself to nine people.
The FBI didn’t talk to Ford or Kavanaugh. Republicans have contended that an interview would have been unnecessary because the two already were questioned before the Senate, but Democrats have countered that an FBI investigation is different and that it would be considered standard for the FBI to talk to them.
An attorney for Ford criticized the bureau Wednesday, saying an investigation that didn’t include his client and “the witnesses who corroborate her testimony cannot be called an investigation,” according to the Journal. “We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”
Agents did speak to one accuser, though. Ramirez told the New Yorker that last weekend, two agents drove from Denver to Boulder, Colorado, to interview her. She gave the FBI a list of names of people she thought could help corroborate her story, but she says she believes the bureau did not contact them.
Some potential witnesses tried to contact the FBI but couldn’t. NBC News reported that dozens of people who said they had information about Kavanaugh contacted FBI field offices, but agents were not allowed to talk to many of them.
According to a Wednesday night report from the New Yorker, several potential witnesses who wanted to speak as part of the investigation ended up sending unsolicited statements to the FBI and to senators. One former classmate told the New Yorker that he believed that no one who lived in the dorm where Kavanaugh lived and the alleged incident occurred was interviewed.
A former classmate from Georgetown Prep who remained anonymous submitted a signed declaration but told the New Yorker he didn’t hear back from the FBI. In the statement, sent also to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, he described Kavanaugh as a high school bully. He recalled Kavanaugh drinking heavily, boasting about sexual conquests, and inventing a cruel rhyme about a female student, Renate Dolphin. A former classmate of Dolphin’s said in a statement also submitted to the FBI that at a party with Georgetown Prep boys, a friend had “warned me not to go upstairs, where the bedrooms were, cautioning me that it could be dangerous.”
One witness who said he wasn’t interviewed claimed to remember hearing about the incident at Yale. According to the New Yorker, Kenneth G. Appold, who was a suitemate of Kavanaugh’s when the alleged incident at Yale occurred and was quoted anonymously in an earlier New Yorker story, decided to come forward publicly. Appold, now a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, had previously said he heard of the allegation a day or two afterward and that he was “100 percent certain” he was told it was Kavanaugh. He had told his roommate about the incident at the time, and that roommate told the New Yorker he remembered Appold’s account, as they had both been shocked by it.
He also depicted Kavanaugh as sometimes studious and shy, and sometimes belligerent, with a tendency to drink to excess. He tried to reach out to the FBI but instead resorted to submitting a statement through an FBI web portal.
It’s unlikely the public will see the report anytime soon. An agreement between the Judiciary Committee and the White House bans the sharing of contents of a background file by the committee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the report would be kept confidential, and Chuck Grassley agreed on Wednesday, but some senators in both parties said this week that the importance of the background check should allow for some kind of redacted release.
What might more predictably happen, though, is that senators selectively leak parts of the report. Republicans have considered some sort of “public statement” or “summary,” according to Slate’s Jim Newell. There’s also the possibility a senator could try to steal it and read it—or just summarize it—into the Congressional Record on the Senate floor.
A vote is going to happen soon. Late Wednesday, before the FBI report was delivered from the White House, Senate Republicans set up a Friday procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, saying that the timeline would give senators enough time to review the investigation’s findings. A final vote could happen as early as Saturday.
Republican Sens. Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski—all of whom have said the FBI report will factor into their decision—are the votes to watch. If two of them vote against Kavanaugh, along with all Democrats, his nomination would be defeated. In pretty much any other scenario, he gets through.