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If Republicans want to lift the toxic cloud around Kavanaugh, they need to let the FBI do its job

If Republicans want to lift the toxic cloud around Kavanaugh, they need to let the FBI do its job
President Trump gestures as he answers questions about Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in Washington on Oct. 1. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

A toxic cloud of suspicion would have followed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court if the Senate had confirmed his nomination without an independent investigation of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her when he was 17 and she was 15. Fortunately, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) forced a week’s delay in the floor vote on Kavanaugh so the FBI could carefully investigate that and other “current credible allegations.”

Or so it seemed. This weekend came came reports that the FBI had been instructed to interview only four people: Mark Judge and P.J. Smyth, high school friends of Kavanaugh’s; Leland Keyser, a friend of Ford’s; and Deborah Ramirez, who has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her when they were students at Yale University. An investigation that narrow would have been wholly insufficient and an obvious violation of the spirit of the agreement reached by the Senate Judiciary Committee to seek out the facts behind the allegations.

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On Monday President Trump sent mixed messages about the scope of the probe. He told reporters that he favored a “very comprehensive investigation” but then qualified that by saying he hoped to defer to the Republican majority in the Senate. Then the New York Times reported that the White House had authorized the bureau to interview anyone it considers necessary as long as the review is finished by the end of the week. If that’s the policy, it should be announced publicly so there is no ambiguity.

The fullest possible investigation is absolutely necessary given the seriousness of the allegations, the credibility of the accuser and the dearth of hard facts or persuasive corroboration. All we know for sure is that Ford is 100% certain Kavanaugh assaulted her and he categorically denies it.

The four individuals on the FBI’s original list are undeniably important to the investigation. Judge especially, because Ford alleges that he was in the room when she says Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her in the early 1980s. Yet there are others who might be able to fill in blanks and they need to be interviewed as well. As do people who can confirm or refute Ramirez’s allegation. And Julie Swetnick, who says Kavanaugh was present at a house party where she was gang-raped.

When the FBI has completed a thorough investigation — or as thorough an investigation as it can given the arbitrary one-week deadline — it should make its report, free of political influence. At that point, assuming that the president still has confidence in his nominee, the Senate can vote.

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