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James Comey weighs in on Kavanaugh FBI probe in NYT op-ed

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James Comey
James Comey.
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  • Former FBI director James Comey wrote in an op-ed Sunday that
    the FBI’s background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett
    Kavanaugh will not be “as hard as Republicans hope it will be.”
  • FBI investigators “know that little lies point to bigger
    lies,” Comey wrote. “They know that obvious lies by the nominee
    about the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to
    dig deeper.”
  • It’s unclear how deep the FBI will be able to dig, however,
    because Republicans and the White House have imposed significant
    constraints on the scope of the background check.

The former FBI director, James Comey, weighed in Sunday on the
recent firestorm surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett
Kavanaugh and the decision to order an FBI investigation into the
sexual-misconduct allegations against him.

In an op-ed published by The New
York Times, Comey wrote that “the FBI is up for this,” referring
to the background check. “It’s not as hard as Republicans hope it
will be.”

Comey continued, “FBI agents are experts at interviewing people
and quickly dispatching leads to their colleagues around the
world to follow with additional interviews. Unless limited in
some way by the Trump administration, they can speak to scores of
people in a few days, if necessary.”

But multiple media reports this weekend have suggested that the
FBI’s inquiry is far more constrained than previously known.

Initially, Republicans set just two parameters: that the
investigation had to be complete in under a week, and that it had
to be limited to “current credible” allegations against
Kavanaugh.

But on Saturday, NBC News and The Times reported that the
White House and Senate Republicans gave the FBI a list of just
four witnesses to interview. Investigators are also reportedly
barred from pulling records that could be critical to
corroborating parts of the testimony given by Dr. Christine
Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982,
to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week.

Republicans and Kavanaugh’s defenders have argued that because
the alleged assault happened 36 years ago, Ford may be
remembering it wrong, and that it should carry less weight
compared to Kavanaugh’s standing since then.

“But FBI agents know time has very little to do with memory,”
Comey wrote. “They know every married person remembers the
weather on their wedding day, no matter how long ago.
Significance drives memory.”

Comey also alluded to the apparent discrepancy between statements
Kavanaugh made to the committee about his drinking habits in high
school and college, and what some of his former classmates
remember based on their encounters with him.

In particular, Kavanaugh claims that he was not a heavy drinker
when he was young and that he never drank to excess or had gaps
in his memory. His former classmates, conversely, have said that
they recall multiple instances when Kavanaugh was heavily
intoxicated and likely blacked out.

Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook also appears to contain multiple
references to partying and heavy drinking. But the Supreme Court
nominee said under oath that they were innocent references to
inside jokes that had nothing to do with what the common meanings
of those terms typically are.

FBI investigators “know that little lies point to bigger lies,”
Comey wrote. “They know that obvious lies by the nominee about
the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to dig
deeper.”

It’s unclear how deep the FBI will be able to dig, however, given
the additional limits that
have been placed on the scope of the investigation.

“There isn’t a finder of fact in the country that would
hamstring investigators like this,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a
longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago. “It would be
comical if it wasn’t so important.”

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