The Slatest

FBI Director: Kavanaugh Background Investigation “Was Limited in Scope” by the White House

FBI Director Christopher Wray.
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Almost as soon as the White House announced that the FBI would do a supplemental investigation of sexual assault claims against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats in the Senate were worried that the bureau’s agents would be limited in what they could look into.

While Trump said that the FBI could interview whomever it wanted, reports quickly emerged of people who wanted to speak with the FBI but were not able to. The bureau would end up interviewing nine people, not including Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford. The investigation was completed in less than a week.

Under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate committee, “our supplemental update to the previous background investigation was limited in scope,” but he said it was “consistent with the standard process” for those investigations. He said it was “specific in scope, limited in scope.”

Wray would not say if White House counsel Don McGahn spoke to the FBI, despite reports that he was a key figure in guiding the investigation. The New York Times reported that McGahn had to get Trump to back down from a request to let the FBI investigate anything because “a wide-ranging inquiry like some Democrats were demanding—and Mr. Trump was suggesting—would be potentially disastrous for Judge Kavanaugh’s chances of confirmation.”

Wray would not say if the investigation looked into whether Kavanaugh lied to the Senate in his testimony, but the Times reported that “McGahn instructed the F.B.I. to do an additional background check focused exclusively on the sexual misconduct charges leveled by three women.”

Trump had said on the Sunday after the investigation started that “the FBI should interview anybody that they want within reason, but you have to say within reason,” and that he was taking guidance on the scope of the investigation from the Senate, which had made the request to the White House following Kavanaugh’s and Ford’s testimonies. The White House and Senate had also made it clear they wanted the investigation to be done in a week or less.

After the investigation was finished, Susan Collins and Jeff Flake, two Republican senators who had requested it, pronounced it to be “thorough,” and on Saturday, Kavanaugh was confirmed.