FBI’s Sham Kavanaugh Investigation

Some 4500 tip line reports were simply turned over to the White House and not investigated further.

Jezebel (“4,500 Tips About Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Were Punted to Trump White House, FBI Director Admits“):

On Thursday, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) that the bureau’s 2018 investigation into sexual assault allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was a sham. The FBI had sent all relevant tips (the FBI’s assistant director, Jill Tyson, said there were about 4,500) to Donald Trump’s White House. From there, Trump’s team then decided whom the FBI could interview as part of its sexual misconduct investigation into Kavanaugh before he was confirmed.

According to the transcript:

WHITEHOUSE: As you know, we are entering the fourth year of a frustrating saga […] regarding the Kavanaugh supplemental background investigation, and I’d like to get that matter wrapped up. First, is it true that after Kavanaugh-related tips were separated from other tips, that they were forwarded to White House counsel without investigation?

WRAY: … When it comes to the tip line, we wanted to make sure the White House had all the information we had, so when the hundreds of calls started coming it, we gathered those up, reviewed them and provided them to the White House—

WHITEHOUSE: Without investigation?

WRAY: We reviewed them and then provided them to the White House.

WHITEHOUSE: You reviewed them for the purposes of separating from tip line traffic but did not further investigate the ones that related to Kavanaugh, correct?

WRAY: Correct.

WHITEHOUSE: Is it also true that in that supplemental BI [background investigation], the FBI took direction from the White House as to whom the FBI would question and even what questions the FBI could ask?

WRAY: So it is true … as to the who. I am not sure as I sit here whether it is true as to the what questions.

Basically, Trump wanted Kavanaugh confirmed, and he was easily able to make sure that no corroborating evidence surfaced that would bolster Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a party when they were teenagers.

Whitehouse previously said in June, when it was first revealed how many tips the FBI actually received about Kavanaugh from its “tip line,” that it was obvious the investigation into Kavanaugh was fully rigged by Trump. “This long-delayed answer confirms how badly we were spun by Director Wray and the FBI in the Kavanaugh background investigation and hearing,” Whitehouse wrote on Twitter.

“I charged that the ‘tip line’ was really a tip dump, with all the tips going straight into the dumpster without investigation,” he wrote in a separate tweet. “In fact it was a tip dump where all the tips went straight to White House Counsel without investigation. Same difference.”

Oddly, while there are plenty of news reports about Wray’s testimony, Esquire‘s Charles Pierce is the only one I found on quick search that was about this casual revelation of gross malfeasance.

Granted, the “investigation” was always going to be something of a sham because the FBI was only given a week to re-open the process to focus on the sexual assault allegations. Further, contrary to normal DOJ procedures, it was the White House, not the Attorney General or FBI Director, who determined the bounds of the investigation.

Still, it would have been one thing for the Bureau to issue a report saying they had 4500 “tips” but not enough time to run them down—presumably, this would have created public pressure to give them that time—and quite another to turn them over to an interested party and not bother to report that fact.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Supreme Court, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kathy says:

    So, the investigation was hampered by an abundance of evidence.

    We now live in Bizarro World.

  2. Tony W says:

    Maybe this will come up at Kavanaugh’s impeachment trial.

  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    I kinda thought that the FBI had directors appointed for 10 year terms to keep this sort of thing from happening.

  4. Jen says:

    *Insert “I am shocked, shocked that there is gambling going on here” meme*

    At this point, are we supposed to care? Republicans got what they wanted. Mitch McConnell got what he wanted.

    Louder, for those in the back: THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT NORMS IF THEY GET WHAT THEY WANT.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    At the risk of repeating myself,

    Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

  6. Scott F. says:


    Louder, for those in the back: THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT NORMS IF THEY GET WHAT THEY WANT.

    To be clear, they don’t care about the law either, if they get what they want. That’s a touch problematic when it comes to members of the highest court in the land, if you ask me.

    Kavanaugh perjured himself in his congressional hearings. But, he couldn’t leave a steakhouse through the front door, so it all evens out.

  7. al Ameda says:

    Who can possibly be surprised?

    In 2016 before the election, I was pretty sure, based on his manifested personality, that Trump would be a terrible president. Well, I was wrong. He was far worse than terrible. He broke as many norms as he could, and wherever laws seems to hem him in and present a guardrail, he just blew threw the red lights and moved on to the next opportunity to do whatever he wanted.

  8. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Jeebus…how is this NOT a firing offense for Wray? I mean, tipsters, like whistleblowers, expect certain protections. And their names and accusations were turned over to the team supporting the person they were accusing?!?!? Does anyone trust that some of those tipsters didn’t face some sort of retaliation? And the FBI flat out lied to Congress about their investigation?!?!

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tony W: This is me not holding my breath waiting for anyone to say “gee, I guess we were wrong about this whole ‘unjustifiable witch hunt–he was fully vetted’ argument” or announce impeachment hearings on Kavanaugh. He’s just as Teflon coated as any other high government official or Supreme (yeah, I’m looking at Justice Thomas) now.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican: It’s not a firing offense because at his level, you don’t get fired, you have to be impeached?

    (Just a guess, you understand.)

    New lesson for all concerned–don’t become a whistle blower unless you wish to blow your whistle in public for Reuters/Asian Free Press/AP/whoever. Even then there are no guarantees anymore. It’s possible that the world will respond–meh, just politics as usual.

  11. Raoul says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I would imagine that Wray would fire any agent who passed “tips” (leads) to the person being investigated for dereliction of duty.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: It’s not a firing offense because at his level, you don’t get fired, you have to be impeached?

    No. trump fired Comey for ethical breach of not being corrupt enough.

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I stand corrected. That leaves me with “nuthin'” for an answer to Ex-Republican, tho.

  14. Tlaloc says:

    I have no doubt the vast majority of those tips were valid. Hell, just for sake of argument let’s assume they were 99% partisan hit jobs, whackos, and nothing burgers.

    That leaves 45 claims against a man being given a lifetime appointment to arguably the most powerful position in the country. A man who proved during testimony he was belligerent and misogynistic and kept screaming he loved alcohol.

    Gosh I wonder why the court’s legitimacy is in the garbage…

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: That leaves me with “nuthin’” for an answer to Ex-Republican, tho.

    Come over here and sit, always plenty of social distancing room on the Group W bench. None of us have an answer for him either.

  16. Hal_10000 says:

    Tip lines are notoriously garbage. Tip lines for human trafficking, for example, produces almost zero useful information. I would especially not take a tipline seriously during a heated debate over a SCOTUS seat. Let’s remember that of the three accusations against Kavanaugh, one never saw his face but decided it was him after praying about it. And her account was “confirmed” by people who heard rumors. The third, coming from the office of now convicted-criminal Michael Avenatti, turned out to be completely made-up. Numerous background checks did not turn up anything like this. He’s not. Going. Anywhere. We’re stuck with him, Gorsuch and Barrett for the next 30-40 years.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tlaloc: Gosh I wonder why the court’s legitimacy is in the garbage…

    I can assure that one justices wife taking part in an attempted coup had no affect on the court’s legitimacy.

  18. tlaloc says:

    Argh, that was “vapid” before auto correct sabotaged it.

  19. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @Hal_10000: The fact that tip lines are mostly garbage does not excuse turning them over to the target (or at least the target’s team) at all, let alone to then direct which should be followed up on. Or lying to Congress about how their investigation was done.

    I’m under no illusions that Kavanaugh or the others will be successfully impeached, my outrage (today) is about how the FBI handled it. Just so tired of how elites are so rarely held accountable in our country for behavior that, as @Raoul pointed out, would be somewhere between a firing offense and outright criminal when a little guy does it.

    At least Alex Jones got some comeuppance (not nearly enough, but it’s something).

  20. Kathy says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    At least Alex Jones got some comeuppance (not nearly enough, but it’s something).

    Take heart. He has other lawsuits pending award judgments.

    And he opened himself up to a perjury charge.