News, Culture & Society

How the FBI will conduct its one-week investigation into Ford’s allegation against Kavanaugh

On Friday, President Donald Trump ordered the FBI to complete a one-week investigation into the Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were both in high school, which he strenuously denies.

The FBI probe into the allegations is not a criminal investigation, but rather an expansion on Kavanaugh’s background check, and will thus not involve search warrants or subpoenas.

Within the FBI, such investigations are known as ‘special presidential inquiries’, and they typically consist of voluntary interviews of the primary subject and any relevant potential witnesses.

In this case, Trump was forced to order the one-week investigation, which was highly sought by Senate Democrats, after Republican Senator Jeff Flake announced he would not back a full Senate vote to confirm Kavanaugh until the probe took place. 

The FBI has one week to complete an investigation into Christine Blasey Ford’s (above) claim that Kavanaugh held her down and tried to remove her clothes in 1982

Kavanaugh (above) strenuously denies Ford's claims and has agreed to cooperate with any law enforcement investigation into the allegations 

Kavanaugh (above) strenuously denies Ford’s claims and has agreed to cooperate with any law enforcement investigation into the allegations 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said on Friday night that the expanded background investigation will be limited to ‘current credible allegations’ against Kavanaugh.

Although a week may not seem like much time, experts believe that given the probe’s limited scope will allow the FBI to complete its investigation within the deadline.

‘There’s going to be a lot of overtime work by these agents, and there’s going to be a lot of late nights at FBI headquarters to put this whole report together, but it will get done within the timeframe the President has stated,’ David Gomez, who retired from the FBI after serving 27 years, told KOMO. 

The work will begin with the assignment of a ‘case agent’, likely in the Washington Field Office. Given the highly politicized nature of the probe, the task is likely to be considered an unpleasant one for whomever draws the assignment.

The case agent will begin by generating a list of leads for potential interviewees, and send the list out to field offices close to the homes of the the various interview subjects.

‘I’ve been involved in FBI background investigations both for myself and as someone who’s a witness for others, like judges, Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan Law professor and former US attorney, told Slate. 

‘Frequently what will happen is that I’ll get a call from an FBI agent who will say, ‘I’m conducting an FBI background investigation of Person X. Could I come talk to you tomorrow, because they’ve only given me two days to do this investigation.”

The interviews could take place at the person’s home, the FBI field office, or even a coffee shop, McQuade said. 

Mark Judge, who Ford claims was in the room and participated in the alleged attack, will likely be considered a key interview subject by the FBI.

Judge has denied any knowledge of Ford’s allegations, and has said he is willing to speak to the FBI for their probe.

Agents may also want to speak with two men who contacted the Judiciary Committee independent of each other claiming that they were the person who attacked Ford in 1982.

Republicans revealed that they had conducted interviews with the men on the eve of Thursday’s blockbuster hearing, but did not bring up their claims in the hearing, a likely signal that they did not find the men credible.

Mark Judge is seen on Monday outside of a friend's home on the Delaware shore. He has said he will participate in the FBI interview

Mark Judge is seen on Monday outside of a friend’s home on the Delaware shore. He has said he will participate in the FBI interview

Mark Judge (left) and Kavanaugh are seen together in high school. Ford claims they were together during the alleged attack, which both men strongly deny

Mark Judge (left) and Kavanaugh are seen together in high school. Ford claims they were together during the alleged attack, which both men strongly deny

As well, Ford named two other individuals who she says were present in the house in suburban Maryland. Both have said they don’t recall any such gathering, but the FBI will likely seek further information in interviews with them. 

From the interviews, FBI agents will generate what are known as 302s, named after the form used.

The 302s will contain summaries of what each interview subject told the FBI agent who interviewed them. They will not include any analysis or conclusions about the veracity of the person’s statements – although lying to the FBI is a crime.

In addition to the interviews, agents could attempt to seek documents and records that might corroborate Ford’s allegation or Kavanaugh’s denial.

Ford said in her testimony that she saw Judge several weeks after the alleged attack working at a Safeway, so the agency by try to get employment records from Judge or the supermarket chain.

They could also ask the Columbia Country Club, where Ford says she swam on the day of the alleged attack, if any visitor logs still exist from the summer of 1982.

The agents could also review the calendars that Kavanaugh submitted to the Judiciary Committee to see if there are other interview subjects listed in them who might provide further information. 

Since Ford is unable to specify where she alleges the attack took place, FBI agents may also examine housing records to determine where individuals connected to the allegation lived at the time, and whether floor plans of those houses match her description.

‘It’s unlikely that there’s any physical evidence remaining from a sexual assault attempt that may or may not have happened over 30 years ago,’ said McQuade. 

‘Although it’s been suggested that Judge Kavanaugh should submit to a polygraph test, I think that would be highly unlikely and highly unusual. Polygraphs are used to assess the credibility of witnesses and defendants, but to ask him to do that strikes me as something they probably won’t do,’ she said. 

The 302s and any other evidence gathered will be delivered to the White House no later than Thursday, and transmitted from there to the Judiciary Committee.

Trump has expressed confidence that nothing revealed in the investigation will impact Kavanaugh’s nomination.

‘He will someday be recognized as a truly great Justice of The United States Supreme Court!’ Trump tweeted on Friday night.

The confirmation vote could be scheduled on Friday, over the weekend, or sometime over the week of October 7.

‘This is a nomination that deserves to move forward – and that is precisely what is happening,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said on the Senate floor on Friday. ‘Now we will keep the process moving.’