The FBI’s expanded investigation into 36-year-old sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now in the hands of the Senate. It’s locked in a secure reading room available only to Senators and a few key aides, and exists only on a single paper copy.
That might seem odd to some, but it’s actually normal practice for background checks — and for people hoping for a final verdict on the Kavanaugh allegations, that’s the heart of the problem.
Experts in FBI background investigations told VICE News this week that the reopened investigation was always likely to disappoint the general public. That’s because it’s a reopened background investigation — at a time when many people are hoping for a criminal investigation.
The biggest difference: a lack of subpoena powers or search warrants. That means investigators are free to interview whomever they can, but have no way to force them to cough up information or papers if they decline to.
Tom Baker, a former FBI special agent who conducted background checks during his time on the job, told VICE the high profile nature of the charges mean this could be a big problem.
“There’s a possibility that some parties may want to even have their lawyer present and the agents I know doing the investigation won’t like that,” Baker says. “That’s unusual in a background investigation.”
It also means a “finished” report, in a background investigation, doesn’t have to draw any conclusions — it’s only designed to raise red flags that are meant to help the White House, and Senate confirmers, make their own choices.
It’s possible the new report will include new information that wasn’t previously known. But it’s just as likely by the end of the week we’ll be exactly where we were last Friday.
“I don’t think we’ll get closure in this kind of thing for a long long time,” Baker says.
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