There is an active debate in the halls of the United States Senate about whether to release the FBI background report about President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a document that as of Tuesday evening has yet to arrive on Capitol Hill.
Several Republicans are pushing for public release because they have become convinced it will be exculpatory or, more cynically, they expect it to leak to the public anyway – and it’s safer to have the full thing in view, not just cherry-picked parts that boost one side or another.
But that feeling does not include all Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated on Tuesday afternoon that the report or findings of the FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh would not be made public.
“We will get an FBI report soon,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters during a weekly news conference. “It will be made available to each senator, and only senators will be allowed to look at it. That’s the way these reports are always handled.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican senator and a member of the Judiciary Committee, told CNN he does want the FBI to say something publicly.
“There does need to be some sort of public statement – if not the reports themselves – because since the accusation had been made public it seems to me people are not going to be satisfied until (there’s) some public statement about what the FBI supplemental background investigation shows,” Cornyn said Tuesday before McConnell made his remarks.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who also sits on the committee, is also a proponent of some sort of public statement on the findings, which he told reporters right before McConnell made his comments.
“I personally want it released to the public,” Graham said, adding that it could be a summary or the full report – he doesn’t care either way. “I want you to know what the FBI found and let the facts speak for themselves, and I am ready to vote.”
The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, sided with McConnell, telling reporters at midday that she was concerned about witness confidentiality being breached should the reports be made public.
Feinstein indicated she’s had many women approach her about stories of sexual misconduct and confidentiality, saying it’s “not an easy subject.”
“I think the investigation ought to be closely held,” she reiterated. When asked how the American people will have confidence in the probe if its results are not made public, Feinstein said, “Well, let’s see. … I can’t say, because I don’t know what the investigation will say.”
Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, took a similar position to Feinstein’s, saying the report should be kept Senate confidential so that all 100 senators can see it before they vote.
“I think that the work product of the FBI should be kept confidential to the Senate, but all senators should be able to review it,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “That’s typically what’s the case in any background investigation: The FBI delivers investigatory work – facts, not conclusions – and then senators review those files, but those are committee confidential files, typically.”
The top Democrat in the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, wants to have a briefing with the FBI agent overseeing the Kavanaugh investigation and at some point he wants a version of the report to be made public.
“Within the last few minutes I sent a letter to Leader McConnell, requesting that we have a briefing for all the senators from the agent in charge of the investigation before the vote,” Schumer said.
The New York Democrat later said “there is a growing consensus in the Senate that when the FBI investigation is complete, the findings should be released publicly with any personal information redacted. Why are our Republican colleagues so afraid of making this public?”
CNN’s Kristin Wilson, Sunlen Serfaty and Dominique Robertson contributed to this report.