Previous FBI background checks should have determined whether Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had a substance abuse problem, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey told reporters Tuesday.
Senate Democrats initially called for an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh. After that update of six previous background investigations commenced, however, many of the same senators insisted it be expanded to look into Kavanaugh’s drinking habits.
“Background investigations generally determine the suitability of a nominee for public office and inquire into several subjects that includes questions about substance abuse and other relevant matters,” Mukasey said in a conference call with reporters.
The current probe is the seventh FBI background investigation on Kavanaugh since 1993, conducted for various federal jobs, including working for President George W. Bush’s White House and serving on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006.
More than likely, if Kavanaugh had a drinking problem, as some have charged in recent weeks, it would have emerged by now, Gregg Nunziata, former chief nominations counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, said.
“There have been half a dozen FBI investigations,” Nunziata said on the press call. “This is a standard question for every witness. Questions about alcohol and substance abuse would have been asked of hundreds of people who know the judge.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., convinced the Senate Republican majority Friday to ask for a seventh FBI investigation of Kavanaugh, a review to be limited in scope and wrapped up in a week.
President Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh, said he instructed the FBI to conduct the update of his file.
In the supplemental investigation, the FBI will interview individuals who have credible information regarding alleged sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh during his high school or college years, the legal experts said.
The FBI normally would provide the information to the Senate Judiciary Committee without drawing conclusions on the credibility of witnesses.
Only senators and certain Senate staff would have access to the FBI’s information under standard rules, Mukasey said.
“The content of what the FBI finds in background investigations is to be treated the same way that classified information is treated,” the former attorney general said.
Mukasey, a former federal judge, was Bush’s third and final attorney general.
Nunziata, while serving as a lawyer for the Senate Judiciary Committee, was involved in the confirmation process for Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005 and Justice Samuel Alito in 2006.
Asked about actions by the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Nunziata said they were unusual.
Feinstein received a confidential letter July 30 from Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford. However, Feinstein didn’t share the information with the committee, including Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Nor did she ask for an FBI inquiry until Sept. 13, after the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings seemingly had concluded.
In addition to Ford’s allegations, the FBI reportedly is investigating allegations from two other accusers, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.
Kavanaugh has strongly denied the accusations of all three women.
Ford’s high school friend, Leland Ingham Keyser, told the FBI that she has no knowledge of Ford’s accusation, her lawyer told The Washington Times. Keyser also had no memory of the gathering of six teens where Ford claimed Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.
Keyser previously said the same thing in a sworn statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In both cases, lying would be a felony.
The others Ford said were at the gathering, which she eventually said occurred in 1982, also said in sworn statements to the committee that they didn’t recall it.
Had Feinstein asked the FBI for an inquiry earlier, Ford likely would have maintained her requested anonymity. Instead, Ford’s letter to Feinstein somehow leaked to the media.
“Certainly, this is a massive violation of standard operating procedure,” Nunziata said. “When I was there [on the Judiciary Committee], the chairman and the ranking member worked hand-in-glove on background investigations.”