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There’s nothing strange about investigating a Supreme Court nominee’s high school conduct

Background searches generally go to age 18, but they can go further back if there's a pattern of concerning behavior.

by Shawna Thomas and Taylor Dolven
Sep 19 2018, 5:24pm

Christine Blasey Ford said she won’t testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee until the FBI investigates her allegation that Brett Kavanaugh, a federal judge being considered for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, sexually assaulted her when both were in high school in the 1980s.

But what would an FBI investigation of a 36-year-old assault even look like? According to Doug Graham, who vetted nominees in the Obama White House and now works for a private firm that also does background investigations, it is not unheard-of for the FBI to go as far back as age 18 when investigating a nominee. And the FBI can review a nominee’s high school conduct if they they are concerned about a pattern of behavior.

“When you're gathering information about someone's background, you want to grab a totality of what they've done, their experiences, so you can present to the decision-makers a total picture,” Graham told VICE News Tonight on HBO.

Read: Kavanaugh’s accuser had to move out of her home after getting death threats

To determine whether Ford’s claim is credible, investigators would likely try to interview people who attended high school with her and Kavanaugh. This type of investigation is separate from a criminal investigation, as the statute of limitations for misdemeanor assault in Maryland, where Ford says the assault occurred, has long passed. If the assault was deemed a felony, there is no statute of limitations.

“As of now, there are no charges,” said a spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office. “I have been asked to refrain from commenting at this time.”

So far the only other alleged witness to what happened at the party described in Ford's allegation, Kavanaugh’s longtime friend Mark Judge, is denying the assault happened and refusing to testify.

Republicans say Ford’s request is a tactic to delay a vote on Kavanaugh until after the midterms, when they may not have as much political power to get a conservative nominee through. Democrats say a hearing in which senators question Ford and Kavanaugh side by side, without a more thorough investigation, will be nothing more than political theater.

And everyone, including Trump, is trying to avoid overtly shaming Ford the way Anita Hill, who accused then-nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his confirmation process in 1991, was shamed.

Read: Brett Kavanaugh in 2015: “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep”

"If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting, and we'll have to make a decision," President Trump said Wednesday. "But I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened."

Hill said Wednesday on "Good Morning America" that she supports Ford’s request for an FBI investigation.

“Absolutely, it's the right move,” she said. “The hearing questions need to have a frame and the investigation is the best frame for that. A neutral investigation, that can pull together the facts, create a record, so that the senators can draw on the information they receive to develop their question.”

Cover: Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh leaves his home September 19, 2018 in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Kavanaugh is scheduled to appear again before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Monday following allegations that have endangered his appointment to the Supreme Court. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)