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Are Democrats fighting hard enough to get Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers heard?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Be tough to be fair.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The FBI has concluded its investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. As the White House demanded, the investigation lasted only a few days.

Per the White House’s initial guidelines for the investigation, the FBI didn’t interview many witnesses. It also did not interview Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, whose accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school is the centerpiece of concerns about his fitness for the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, several Republican senators have said they’re satisfied with the FBI’s report; Kavanaugh’s nomination will likely be voted on Saturday.

In contrast, Diane Feinstein, the top Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee, disparaged the FBI’s report as “a product of an incomplete investigation.” She also accused the White House of blocking access to “millions of documents” from Kavanaugh. At the same press conference, minority leader Chuck Schumer cast doubt on the report’s limitations.

But have Democratic leaders done enough themselves to make sure Kavanaugh’s accusers are heard?

Democrats have been unwilling to attack the FBI directly—unlike the US president. They could do more to highlight where the FBI’s investigation falls short, former justice department spokesman Matthew Miller, told Quartz, and they “can do a lot to let it be known that they are unhappy with the investigation.”

Although the clock is ticking, Democrats could have asked FBI director Chris Wray to recuse himself from the investigation, due to his personal ties with Kavanaugh. Democrats could still put pressure on the agency by threatening to investigate its conduct, after the November midterms.

Forcing the FBI to acknowledge its limitations in this investigation could prompt a second investigation, though it’s a long shot. Pressuring the FBI could cause it to issue a memo explaining its approach, and perhaps acknowledge the details and sources that agents might have pursued with more time and freedom, says Miller. But, he adds, this will only happen if the Democratic party learns to blame the FBI for its softball investigation, instead of only blaming Republican interference.

Republican legislators have not shied away from criticizing—and even attempting to discredit—the FBI when politically useful. Democrats seem unwilling to do the same, says Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College and author of To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party. But unless they do, she says, Democrats will have little recourse but to “keep hammering on the idea that ‘This is what the game is supposed to be, here are the rules, and these people are cheating.'”

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