It’s almost an insult to the word perfunctory to call it perfunctory.
After two and a half years of dragging its feet, the FBI finally opened up about the handful of days in 2018 when the country was told that the Bureau would investigate allegations of sexual misconduct leveled at then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
It turns out the FBI did… nothing.
Well, not exactly nothing. After being hauled to the forefront of the confirmation fight and used as an excuse to delay the proceedings to further look into the allegations, the FBI set up a tip line to collect 4,500 phone messages and emails that may as well have redirected to the North Pole because no one bothered to do anything about what was coming in.
In a letter addressed to Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons, FBI Assistant Director Jill Tyson explained that, despite the public messaging that the FBI would be taking a serious look at the revelations from the hearings, the agency mostly shrugged:
On September 13,2018, the FBI was asked by the Office of White House Counsel to conduct supplemental background investigations, specifically, limited inquiries. A limited inquiry is conducted to resolve a specific issue arising during or after completion of a BI. The requesting entity sets the parameters of a limited inquiry, which may include interviewees and topics to address. Over the course of six days, as part of several limited inquiries, the FBI interviewed ten individuals (not part of the 49 persons interviewed during the BI). Because the FBI was again acting in its role as an ISP and not as a criminal investigative entity, the authorities, policies, and procedures used to investigate criminal matters did not apply. The FBI completed the limited inquiries on October 4, 2018, and provided the results to the requesting entity.
“Golly, we weren’t really doing an ‘investigation’ here because we don’t think that’s neighborly.” Just an astounding concession from an entity that, lest we forget, has the word “investigation” in its name. Most of the letter is dancing around how the FBI is mostly a bystander in these matters — an excuse that would hold up better had “we’ll have the FBI figure this out” not been the crux of the Senate decision to postpone the vote.
So out of 4,500 tips, the Bureau conducted ten interviews. In fairness, after that high-profile hearing, a good number of these tips were probably cranks, but a 1 in 450 relevancy rate strains credulity. Even some percentage of the useless tips would require some follow up before getting written off. The whole thing only lasted a couple of weeks.
As one might imagine, the senators are incensed.
“The admissions in your letter corroborate and explain numerous credible accounts by individuals and firms that they had contacted the FBI with information ‘highly relevant to . . . allegations’ of sexual misconduct by Justice Kavanaugh, only to be ignored,” they wrote in a letter back to the FBI.
“If the FBI was not authorized to or did not follow up on any of the tips that it received from the tip line, it is difficult to understand the point of having a tip line at all,” they said.
Oh, that’s easy. Political theater, my friends. The point of the tip line was political theater to get the heat off for a couple of weeks before using the fact that the FBI never found anything as justification to move forward. That the FBI never bothered to try in the interim is beside the point, the ruse worked.