WASHINGTON – As elements of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing recently returned to the news cycle, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today pressed the FBI and Justice Department for an update on any investigations into the false allegations made to Congress about Kavanaugh in violation of federal law.
 
The FBI’s longstanding role in the nomination process is to supplement the Senate’s own fact finding, not to reach a conclusion. Kavanaugh underwent six FBI full-field background investigations prior to his nomination, and an additional supplemental background investigation at the request of several senators.
 
Though the FBI is not tasked with reaching conclusions in its background investigations, it is responsible for comprehensively investigating potential violations of federal law, including false statements to Congress. Following then-Chairman Grassley’s investigation into allegations made during the course of the confirmation process, the committee referred several apparent false statements to the Justice Department for investigation. Grassley led colleagues in seeking a status update in 2019, but the FBI and Justice Department failed to respond.
 
In a letter today to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Chris Wray, Grassley renewed his request for an update on any action taken by the Justice Department to investigate these potential criminal violations.
 
Full text of the letter follows.
 
March 23, 2021
 
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
The Honorable Merrick Garland
Attorney General
Department of Justice
 
The Honorable Christopher Wray
Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
 
Dear Attorney General Garland and Director Wray:
 
On October 8, 2019, several colleagues and I wrote a letter to Attorney General Barr and Director Wray requesting an update concerning their handling of criminal referrals made by the Committee following its investigation into allegations of decades-old misconduct by then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh.[1]  To date, the Justice Department and FBI have failed to respond to our letter and have failed to apprise the Committee whether, and to what extent, any steps have been taken to investigate and hold accountable those individuals who criminally interfered with the Committee’s investigation.
 
These failures are entirely unacceptable.  As my colleagues and I stressed in our previous letter, the Committee’s four criminal referrals, dated September 29, 2018, October 25, 2018, October 26, 2018, and November 2, 2018, were not made lightly.  Those referrals highlighted serious cases in which individuals made materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements to Committee investigators.  
 
For example, one of the referrals related to an individual from Rhode Island who falsely alleged to Congress that Judge Kavanaugh had assaulted a friend on a boat, only to later admit on social media that he lied about the event.[2]  Two referrals related to allegations made by Mr. Michael Avenatti and his client, Ms. Julie Swetnick, who accused Judge Kavanaugh of being involved in gang rape activities.  The Committee identified no verifiable evidence to support the allegations.  The Committee found that Mr. Avenatti, who has since been convicted on felony extortion charges, and his client, Ms. Swetnick, had a long history of credibility issues and may have criminally conspired to mislead the Committee regarding those allegations and obstruct its investigation.[3]  A final referral related to Ms. Judy Munro-Leighton, a woman who claimed to be the author of an anonymous letter stating that Judge Kavanaugh and a friend raped her “several times each” in the back seat of a car.  Ms. Munro-Leighton later admitted that she falsely claimed that she was the author of the letter and its allegations and only claimed authorship of the letter “as a way to grab attention.”[4]  These false allegations materially impeded the Committee’s work and diverted important Committee resources during its time-sensitive investigation.
 
As Chairman, I rigorously performed my constitutional oversight role to vet Judge Kavanaugh, instructing my Committee investigators to investigate each and every serious allegation.  My office later released a 414 page report of those investigative findings which did not include so much as a shred of evidence to support any of the allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh. 
 
The FBI background checks – two of them – didn’t uncover any such evidence, either.  Both of those investigations followed the normal process for FBI background checks of judicial nominees.   As then-Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Joe Biden remarked in 1991, in a background investigation the FBI “do[es] not reach conclusions” and “do[es] not make recommendations.”[5]   It is the Senate’s responsibility to weigh the information that it collects from the background investigations and from its own investigative work and make a fully informed decision.  That’s what happened here.  In the end, the Senate weighed evidence assembled by the FBI and by veteran congressional investigators and fulfilled its Constitutional responsibility by confirming Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
 
It is, however, the responsibility of the Justice Department and FBI to hold those who mislead and obstruct Congress accountable for their criminal behavior.  Accordingly, I ask that you provide a response to the questions posed in the October 8, 2019, letter no later than April 6, 2021.  Your response should include a full explanation of the steps the Justice Department and FBI have taken to investigate the Committee’s four criminal referrals for investigation of potential violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 (materially false statements), 1505 (obstruction), and 371 (conspiracy).  If no actions have been taken in response to those referrals, please explain why not.
 
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member
Senate Judiciary Committee
 
Enclosures:
(1)  Letter from U.S. Senators to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray (October 8, 2019)
(2)  First Criminal Referral Letter (September 29, 2018)
(3)  Second Criminal Referral Letter (October 25, 2018)
(4)  Third Criminal Referral Letter (October 26, 2018)
(5)  Fourth Criminal Referral Letter (November 2, 2018)



[1] Letter from Senators Grassley, Graham, Cornyn, Crapo, Tillis, Blackburn, Lee, Kennedy and Cruz to Hon. William P. Barr, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, and Hon. Christopher Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (October 8, 2019).
[2] Letter from Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, to Hon. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, and Hon. Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (September 29, 2018). Available at: https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2018-09-29%20Grassley%20to%20DOJ,%20FBI%20-%20Referral%20for%20Criminal%20Investigation.pdf.
[3] Letter from Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, to Hon. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, and Hon. Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (October 25, 2018). Available at: https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2018-10-25%20CEG%20to%20DOJ%20FBI%20(Swetnick%20and%20Avenatti%20Referral)_Redacted.pdf.  25%20CEG%20to%20DOJ%20FBI%20(Swetnick%20and%20Avenatti%20Referral)_Redacted.pdf; Letter from Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, to Hon. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, and Hon. Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (October 26, 2018). Available at: https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2018-10-26%20CEG%20to%20DOJ%20FBI%20(Second%20Avenatti%20Referral)%20-%20with%20enclosures_Redacted.pdf.
[4] Letter from Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, to Hon. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, and Hon. Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (November 2, 2018). Available at: https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/download/grassley-to-justice-dept-fbi_-munro-leighton-referral-.
[5] Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary U.S. Senate One Hundred Second Congress First Session on The Nomination of Clarence Thomas to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (October 11, 12, and 13, 1991), Part 4 of 4 Parts at 268.