Kavanaugh investigation should be limited by time — but nothing else

On Saturday, President Donald Trump attempted to “correct” reports on NBC News that the investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s background and behavior prompted by last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into allegations of sexual assault was somehow being limited in scope and interview subjects by the White House. Taking to his favorite medium, Twitter, President Trump made it clear it would be entirely up to the FBI to decide to whom they should be speaking.

“NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people,” he tweeted. “Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!”

Given how few opportunities Mr. Trump has given us to praise his actions, let this one not go unnoticed. He even repeated it Monday at a Rose Garden news conference calling for a “comprehensive” investigation. So you heard him, FBI Director Christopher Wray, you may be limited by time — a product of that last-second willingness of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake to actually respect (and not just wring hands over) the troubling allegations raised by Christine Blasey Ford and others — but there’s no earthly reason why the nation’s premier investigative organization should be stitching Kavanaugh camouflage. That’s not just disrespectful to Ms. Ford and the courage she demonstrated by coming forward to discuss the alleged assault that took place when she was just 15 years old, it’s disrespectful to the nominee who should want a full and fair review of events and a disservice to the American people who deserve to know the truth — or at least as much of the truth as can be uncovered by a team of skilled investigators in a week’s time.

We don’t know what conversations have been taking place behind the scenes, but if President Trump wants a no-holds barred inquiry, it’s now on the FBI to saddle up and throw the best and brightest at the challenge. And what about those reports that, in fact, the White House wants the agency to interview just four people? Should Americans worry that it hasn’t released the language of the actual directive sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation? Well, if such things were ever said or written, they obviously no longer apply. President Trump made it clear. Placing restrictions on the FBI is not the same as having the agency talk to “whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.” Case closed. Mr. Trump has spoken plainly on this.

Let’s make it even plainer. That means not just talking to Mark Judge, the alleged witness to the assault. It means talking to everyone with credible knowledge of Mr. Kavanaugh’s behavior from his days at Georgetown Prep and at Yale University. One presumes, for example, the FBI will also be looking into Mr. Judge’s tenure at the Safeway at the intersection of Falls and River Roads in Potomac where Ms. Ford says she saw him a few weeks after the alleged attack and he was unable to look her in the eye. If it requires running down the people mentioned in the judge’s calendar or those who say he’s seriously understated his high school and college drinking habits, so be it. There were any number of details in Mr. Kavanaugh’s testimony last week — from the definition of a “devil’s triangle” to what being a “Renate alumnius” involved — that bear scrutiny, too.

The FBI should not just be looking at what happened at a particular party in 1982, it should be looking at those instances where Judge Kavanaugh might have perjured himself during his Senate testimony. And interviewing a subject once isn’t enough. They’ll likely have to track down people that aren’t even on the radar screen at the moment to either corroborate or refute what they find out. This isn’t anything extraordinary, it’s the kind of police work (and investigative journalism, incidentally) that happens every day.

Sadly, whether the inquiry turns up much of note, Senate Republicans may end up ignoring it all. The partisan train may have already left the station with last Friday’s committee vote sending Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the floor. Ms. Ford may ultimately find herself victimized a second time (in the manner of Anita Hill), which, of course, is why she was reluctant to step forward in the first place and why her experience has struck such a chord in the #MeToo awakening. But don’t let that happen because the FBI had its hands tied — at least beyond the arbitrary time limit imposed by Senator Flake. Don’t let FBI agents become accomplices to a cover-up. That just adds more disgrace to a process already thoroughly debased by an administration with its own misogynistic leanings.

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