Democrats on Thursday blasted the FBI investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, calling it a "sham" and "a horrific cover-up."
The lawmakers spoke after having access to the report in a secure facility, arguing that the investigation was limited in scope and incomplete, and claiming that the White House directed the FBI's probe, leaving key witnesses off the interview list.
"The whole thing is sham. Five days to do the investigation," said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Kaine noted that many witnesses who may have relevant information about the allegations were not interviewed. He cited Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct while they were students at Yale; possible corroborating witnesses were not interviewed.
"And so, here is what they do. There is now a report. One copy. Only one copy that's available in the Senate SCIF,” he said, referring to a secure location where lawmakers can read the report for a limited amount of time. "So they don't want 100 senators to read it. I'm not allowed to discuss it. The public can't see it. It's a complete sham."
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., had even harsher words.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., questioned the legitimacy of the probe in a tweet after being briefed on Thursday.
“I read the FBI report. This whole thing is a sham. This stunted, strangled investigation was designed to provide cover, not to provide the truth,” he said.
He later told CNN after reading the report: "This is an example of what a horrific cover-up this investigation is."
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Late Thursday, the office of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, released its own "executive summary" of the FBI's findings. It concluded, "There is no corroboration of the allegations" made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford or Ramirez.
The summary included a list of people interviewed: Three named by Ford as having been at the party where she says she was assaulted, Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth and Leland Keyser; two people included on Kavanaugh's July 1, 1982, calendar entry, Timothy Gaudette and Christopher Garrett; and "an attorney for one of the witnesses."
Grassley's office said the FBI interviewed Ramirez, two people she named as eyewitnesses and her "close friend from college."
The summary said 11 people were contacted and 10 were interviewed. "The FBI reached out to all witnesses with potential firsthand knowledge of the allegations," it stated. "The FBI provided to the Senate 12 detailed ... reports summarizing their interviews with the witnesses as well as supporting materials cited by the witnesses during their interviews."
Senators are not allowed to speak publicly about the contents of the FBI background check report, which is standard procedure in such cases.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., set a procedural vote on Kavanaugh for Friday that would put in motion a possible full Senate vote as early as Saturday.
A protest was organized in Washington in front of in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court on which Kavanaugh sits and in front of the Supreme Court. Several groups also planned protests for late Thursday and over the weekend.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., led one of the protests in front of the D.C Circuit Court. Earlier, the Massachusetts lawmaker said in a tweet that the report is evidence the GOP is trying to force Kavanaugh's confirmation process through "no matter the cost."
"Not even a full week for an FBI investigation. ... This is a complete sham,” Warren said in a tweet. "@SenateMajLdr McConnell said he’d plow Brett Kavanaugh through, and that’s exactly what the GOP is doing — no matter the cost."
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., tweeted on Thursday that President Donald Trump "said he wanted a full background check. What he delivered was a whitewash. An investigation isn't legitimate if dozens of key witnesses are never interviewed. The Senate will be committing gross negligence if it confirms this nominee."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” that the FBI report is “woefully incomplete” and suggested that “it smacks of a whitewash, even a cover-up.”
“There are certainly indications of misconduct that should have been pursued,” Blumenthal said. “It really is the story of unfollowed leads, unanswered questions and un-interviewed witnesses. And, It raises more questions than it answers.”
He also said the FBI neglected its duty to fully follow up on claims, but he does not believe that the FBI is wholly responsible.
“I think that the blame lies with White House that straitjacketed this investigation,” he said.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, said after being briefed on the report that there were "hints of misconduct."
"It’s very frustrating that they didn't do a thorough investigation, that they didn't interview all the relevant witnesses, that they didn't interview all the potential eyewitnesses, they didn't interview the corroborating witnesses," Booker said. "I’m actually shocked. I’m actually shocked."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also on the committee, said, "The White House obviously limited what they could look at and the White House obviously controlled the process and that raises questions of credibility in my mind."
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., another Senate Judiciary Committee member, said, "This so-called investigation leaves a lot more questions than answers."
When asked if the report had any new information, she gave answered, "Nope."
Frank Thorp V, Kasie Hunt and Garrett Haake contributed.