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No Details Are Released In FBI's Confidential Kavanaugh Report


OK, so much anger from Democrats right now focusing on this FBI report - this FBI supplemental background check that was ordered after Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault when he was younger. Democrats are saying the FBI was constrained. The agency was prevented from doing a real investigation here. And let's talk with former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who has been on our program before. Thanks for coming back.


GREENE: So how useful was this FBI report?

MARIOTTI: Well, we can't know for sure because, obviously, the public does not know exactly what was in the report at this point.

GREENE: Right.

MARIOTTI: I think, certainly, it would have been better if the FBI report was the result of an investigation that both sides agreed was comprehensive and thorough so that this way, whatever the results were could be accepted by both sides.

GREENE: I mean, Democrats are suggesting that the White House may have been directing the FBI not to pursue certain leads and dictating this. Is that possible? Could the FBI have - could the FBI have either allowed the White House to dictate it or had no choice but to allow it?

MARIOTTI: Well, they would have had no choice because this is a background check. So one thing that listeners should understand is that this is not a criminal investigation in which the FBI is going to be pursuing whatever leads it has and, you know, essentially doing whatever it can to make sure that it finds who committed a violation of a criminal law. Here, the FBI is essentially conducting a background check of an individual who has been nominated for high office at the request of the White House.

So they're essentially following leads that the White House is giving to them. And the White House has broad discretion to direct the FBI to follow certain leads or not follow certain leads. And really, the question here is, you know, what was the scope of the FBI investigation? The president, at one point, suggested the FBI was permitted to do whatever it would like, but there has been numerous, you know, press reports from various sources suggesting that that was not the case.

GREENE: I mean, James Comey, the former FBI director, did this op-ed days before this investigation suggesting, like, this was a moment. I mean, the FBI was limited in terms of time and scope, but he said the FBI can do this, suggesting it was this independent agency that would rise up in this moment. I mean, if indeed the White House was really dictating a lot of this, how uncomfortable might that have been for people inside the agency?

MARIOTTI: Well, that certainly could have been uncomfortable. I think agents, you know, may have been telling themselves, well, this is - you know, we're only - we're doing our job in the sense that this is a background check, and we're following whatever leads we're being told to follow. But, you know, there certainly may have been some discomfort, and I think that may be the result of - or that may have resulted in the leaks that we saw. So throughout the course of the investigation, it became apparent from various news sources that certain individuals were not being interviewed, that the FBI investigation was very limited, that they had been instructed not to follow certain leads and so on. At least some of those pieces of information may have appeared to have come from people within the bureau.

GREENE: So if, for example, you know, there were witnesses who were put forward by Christine Blasey Ford, the first Kavanaugh accuser - the FBI did not talk to them. If that is true, and if, as you say, the White House was sort of dictating how this happened, what was credible about this report?

MARIOTTI: Well, certainly, the FBI - I have no doubt that the FBI did their job in interviewing the individuals that they were tasked with interviewing. And so, you know, we have an idea of some of the people that - at the very least, who were interviewed by the FBI - for example, Ms. Ramirez, Mark Judge and so on. And I have no doubt that the FBI did their best to interview those people within the best of their ability. And, frankly, that does move the ball forward because, for example, until this FBI investigation, Mark Judge had not been interviewed by anyone. He had just written - had his attorney write a short statement to the committee.

So this does move the ball forward. But it is, I think, to everyone's detriment that it doesn't resolve all of the questions that we have - that everyone wasn't interviewed within the week, which could have happened because the FBI has very considerable resources and presumably could have done so - and certainly could have interviewed Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, who were not interviewed.

GREENE: Let me just ask you - Judge Kavanaugh wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal yesterday defending his record, also defending what he described was his - in his own words, I mean, very emotional testimony. What did you make of that?

MARIOTTI: Well, first of all, it is very unusual for a judicial nominee to write an op-ed. I can't recall it ever occurring in my lifetime. So that's the first thing. It's certainly quite a moment. It was - I think it - I was pleased that this has become an issue because I think for - to me, it should have been a nonpartisan issue - that both sides should have felt that it was inappropriate for a judge to make the sort of partisan comments that he did during the hearing. That said, he suggested that he was emotional and so on, and those were his prepared remarks. So I thought that rung hollow.

GREENE: Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, thanks as always.

MARIOTTI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.