After a chaotic and confusing Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Friday afternoon, Senate Republicans agreed to delay a full vote on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination so that the FBI can investigate the sexual assault allegations that have surfaced against him. Although it's not yet clear that this will actually happen, here's what an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh might look like.
Update: President Trump approved an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh on Friday evening. Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted a statement from him that said, "I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week."
Earlier: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and two other women have accused Kavanaugh on-the-record of sexual assault and other misconduct. Kavanaugh denies the allegations, but his accusers and Senate Democrats have demanded that the FBI investigate the claims before the Senate holds a full vote on his nomination to the highest court in the land. Until Friday, it looked as if those demands would fall on deaf ears, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to move ahead with Kavanaugh's confirmation process without an investigation. He said they would hold a final vote as early as Tuesday.
However, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake threw a wrench into those plans on Friday when he suggested that the final vote should be delayed to allow for an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski soon joined him in this request, and McConnell subsequently agreed to delay the vote to make way for such an investigation.
If the FBI does investigate Kavanaugh, it could shed light on the allegations against him. Bustle has reached out to the FBI for comment; in the meantime, the process by which the FBI would investigate Kavanaugh is relatively clear-cut.
NBC News reports that, if the FBI were to investigate Kavanaugh, it would be in the form of a background check. This means that the bureau would research Ford's allegation against Kavanaugh and dig up any information on it that it can. This would involve agents interviewing potential witnesses and gathering any other kind of evidence they can to shed light on Ford's claim.
But the FBI won't conduct a criminal investigation, and as such, won't come to a conclusion as to whether or not Kavanaugh assaulted Ford. That's because, according to the Department of Justice, Ford has not accused Kavanaugh of any federal crimes.
However, an investigation could still yield new and potentially crucial information regarding Ford's claims against Kavanaugh, because it would involve the FBI interviewing potential witnesses under oath for the first time. Take Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge, who Ford claims was present during the alleged assault. Although Judge has issued public statements via his lawyer denying any recollection of the event, he hasn't spoken about the matter under oath. Lying to the FBI is a crime, however, so an FBI interview of Judge — or anybody who potentially has knowledge of the alleged incident — could possibly yield different answers than would otherwise be obtainable.
(Judge, for his part, agreed Friday to be interviewed by the FBI if they choose to do so, according to the Washington Post.)
To be sure, the FBI has already conducted several background checks on Kavanaugh — six, to be exact, according to NPR. However, it hasn't done so since the early 2000s, according to NPR, when he was being considered for a post in the Bush administration. Ford says that she didn't tell anybody of the alleged assault until 2012, meaning that reopening the FBI's background check into Kavanaugh could potentially uncover different information than it did a decade and a half ago.
There's one big caveat to all of this: Because Kavanaugh is a presidential nominee, only President Trump can order the FBI to conduct the investigation. Although Senate Republicans have asked the White House to do so, Trump is under no obligation to comply. The president has previously said, falsely, that the FBI can't conduct an investigation on Kavanaugh, so it's possible that he'll simply ignore Senate Republicans' request and hope that they just plow through with Kavanaugh's nomination.
Regardless of whether Trump orders an FBI investigation, Friday's developments made it abundantly clear that Kavanaugh's fate is as uncertain as it's ever been.