The battle over the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court is happening against more than just the backdrop of the #MeToo movement – it’s also happening in the middle of a midterm campaign season. “Politically charged” doesn’t even begin to describe public concerns over the nominee and the serious allegations brought against him by at least three women.
The New York Times reports Democrats sent a list of two-dozen witnesses to be interviewed, while Republicans have four names on their list. President Donald Trump says the FBI can expand its investigations to anyone, but wait: who’s in charge here, the politicians or the FBI?
Dennis Franks, a former attorney and 22-year veteran of the FBI who is now president of Investigative & Security Global Solutions in Houston, says so far, the investigation is off to an unconventional start. He says the one-week time limit on the investigation is atypical, especially because a regular background check on just one person can take three months or even longer. But he says it’s likely the FBI had already started to prepare for the investigation even before the Senate Judiciary Committee decided on it.
“It’s kind of like creating a mini-task force in which they pull agents and other analysts from other assignments to just focus on this,” Franks says “My take is they’ve done a good job of planning and doing what they can to accomplish this task in a short amount of time.”
While Trump has told the FBI to interview anyone necessary for the investigation, and though the investigation has some parameters, Franks says it’s unusual for someone outside the investigation to determine who should be interviewed.
It’s also a tricky time for the FBI – an agency that is supposed to operate outside of politics, but that has been accused by the president and others of having a political agenda. Franks says FBI officials have to conduct the investigation carefully.
“I feel for those involved because it’s kind of like walking on a fence. They’ve got to be careful about how they’re conducting themselves and the perception,” Franks says.
If the result of the background check is unfavorable to Kavanaugh, it’s possible the FBI could be blamed for an unfair investigation. But Franks says that’s to be expected. He says it wouldn’t be the first time the FBI would be accused of bias, but he’s confident officials will do their job regardless of the political climate.
“They’re gonna ignore the political optics and they’re just gonna do their job of determining the facts,” Franks says.
Ultimately, the FBI is conducting a background check, not a criminal investigation, so it won’t render opinions or recommendations. The FBI is simply finding facts. Franks says when the facts are published at the end of the investigation, readers will be able to determine their own opinions. While some already have their minds made up about Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence, new evidence and statements could come to light during the investigation, and Franks says that could influence people’s opinions.
Written by Caroline Covington.