Republicans are seizing on a vintage clip of then-Sen. Joe Biden during the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings dismissing the usefulness of having the FBI investigate allegations against the Supreme Court nominee.
It comes as Democrats are calling on the FBI to investigate allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh — a request that has been rejected by Republicans.
“The next person who refers to an FBI report as being worth anything, obviously doesn’t understand anything,” Biden, then Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said at the time. “The FBI explicitly does not, in this case or any other case, reach a conclusion, period. Period.”
Biden presided over Thomas’ confirmation hearings when Anita Hill accused the nominee of making sexually explicit comments to her and unwanted advances while she worked for him. The allegations were briefly investigated by the FBI.
Members of the committee, at the time, called for further FBI investigation into Thomas. But in passionate remarks during the hearing, Biden dismissed those who said the FBI’s report was “worth anything.”
Addressing Thomas, Biden said, “The reason why we cannot rely on the FBI report—you wouldn’t like it if we did: because it is inconclusive.”
“They say ‘he said,’ ‘she said,’ ‘they said,’ period,” Biden explained. “So when people wave an FBI report before you, understand they do not, they do not, they do not reach conclusions. They do not make, as my friend points out more accurately, they do not make recommendations.”
Fast-forward to 2018 and the Senate Judiciary Committee is back in a similar situation as Kavanaugh faces allegations of sexual assault dating back to high school by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. He is also accused of exposing himself at a freshman year dorm party to his Yale University classmate Deborah Ramirez. Kavanaugh has emphatically denied the allegations.
Ford and Ramirez have both called for FBI investigations into their claims. Senate Democrats have also pushed for an investigation, calling for the White House to demand that the bureau open a probe into Kavanaugh.
But Republicans are now citing Biden’s 27-year-old remarks as they push back against these demands.
“My Democrat friends might want to consider this from then-Judiciary Committee Chairman JOE BIDEN (D-DE) In 1991: The ‘FBI explicitly Does Not, IN This Or Any Other Case Reach A Conclusion, Period’,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tweeted.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who also was on the Judiciary Committee during the Thomas-Hill hearings, called the Biden video “valuable.”
“Valuable flashback from then Chairman Biden, presiding over Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings, on the role of FBI investigations in confirmations,” Hatch tweeted.
The FBI conducts background investigations prior to an appointed official’s confirmation to “determine whether the nominee could pose a risk to the national security of the United States,” according to a Justice Department spokesperson.
In an FBI background investigation, the bureau is only responsible for finding information and passing it along, which they have done in the Kavanaugh case, a source told Fox News. The source said the FBI would not “investigate” the information found.”
“The FBI does not make any judgement about the credibility or significance of any allegation,” a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement last week.
According to the Justice Department, on Sept. 12, the FBI received a letter dated from July 2018, obtained by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., alleging that Kavanaugh “engaged in an incident of misconduct in the 1980s.”
“The FBI forwarded this letter to the White House Counsel’s Office,” the spokesperson said. “The allegation does not involve any potential federal crime. The FBI’s role in such matters is to provide information for the use of decision makers.”
An FBI spokesperson, last week, said in a statement that Ford’s Sept. 12 letter was “included as part of Judge Kavanaugh’s background file, as per the standard process.”
The FBI does not plan to launch a criminal investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh, as there are no allegations of a federal crime. The FBI also would only re-open a background investigation into Kavanaugh if the White House requested a “follow-up” inquiry.
The White House has not requested any such investigation, and sources told Fox News that there was “no impetus” for them to do so.
Biden, amid the Kavanaugh accusations, has expressed regret over how he handled the allegations brought by Hill. He also says he thinks the FBI should investigate Kavanaugh.
“I think they should do an FBI investigation. We did that for Anita Hill,” Biden said Friday. “Most importantly, Anita Hill was vilified when she came forward by a lot of my colleagues, character assassination. I wish I could’ve done more to prevent those questions, the way they asked them.”
Kavanaugh, who has vehemently denied the allegations, is expected to testify before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Ford is also scheduled to testify.