The Biden administration has gotten off to a great start on undoing the worst excesses of both the executive and legislative agendas of the Trump era, but there is still unfinished business to be taken care of in order to address the biggest travesties of the prior administration’s judicial appointments.
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Now, a Democratic senator is forcing the issue by resurrecting the controversy over the investigation into Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process.
With Merrick Garland, Biden’s pick for Attorney General finally confirmed and taking over the Department of Justice, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is asking him to open an investigation conducting “proper oversight” into the FBI’s 2018 inquiry into the multiple sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.
The Rhode Island senator is concerned that the probe conducted by the bureau that was then overseen by Trump’s Justice Department under the prior Attorney General William Barr “appears to have been a politically-constrained [investigation] and perhaps fake,” Sen. Whitehouse said in a letter to Garland.
“In this matter the shutters were closed, the bridge drawn up, and there was no point of entry by which members of the public or Congress could provide information to the FBI,” Whitehouse notes of the probe.
Reminding the new Attorney General that the bureau rejected accepting testimony from numerous available witnesses and ignored the pleas of congress members who asked about those witnesses, Senator Whitehouse also slammed the FBI for their misuse of a public “tip line” that was set up to receive allegations and evidence.
“This ‘tip line’ appears to have operated more like a garbage chute, with everything that came down the chute consigned without review to the figurative dumpster,” Whitehouse said in his letter.
Even worse, FBI Director Christopher Wray never responded to congressional questions about whether the background check was consistent with its documented procedures for conducting such inquiries.
“If standard procedures were violated, and the Bureau conducted a fake investigation rather than a sincere, thorough and professional one, that in my view merits congressional oversight to understand how, why, and at whose behest and with whose knowledge or connivance, this was done,” the Rhode Island Senator wrote.
“It cannot and should not be the policy of the FBI to not follow up on serious allegations of misconduct during background check investigations,” he added.
Neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice has yet to respond to the content of Senator Whitehouse’s allegations.
While the matter of the sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh would need further investigation —given the suspect provenance of the previous probe that didn’t even bother to interview Kavanaugh or his primary accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, there are still other unanswered questions that arose during the beer-loving justice’s confirmation hearing.
For example, the persistent question of where the funds that Kavanaugh used to pay off his considerable debt could use some FBI expertise, as could the issue of whether the then-federal judge committed perjury in earlier testimony before Congress, a point made moot by the refusal of then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to postpone his confirmation hearings until all of the documents relating to his congressional hearing appearances were made available to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Let’s hope that Attorney General Garland uses the newly-restored independence of the Justice Department to go back and hold the most egregious members of the Trump administration accountable for their corrupt and anti-democratic behavior as quickly as possible so that our nation can finally advance beyond the depths reached during the dark ages that Trump ushered in.
Original reporting by Jordan Williams at The Hill.
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