- The FBI’s supplemental background check on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is far more constrained by Republicans and the White House than previously known.
- Legal experts suggested the restrictions are intended to handicap the investigation and shield Kavanaugh from legal exposure related to sexual-misconduct allegations and a potential perjury charge.
- “There isn’t a finder of fact in the country that would hamstring investigators like this,” said one DOJ veteran. “It would be comical if it wasn’t so important.”
A steady trickle of revelations over the weekend indicates that the FBI’s supplemental background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is far more limited than previously known.
The original parameters, Republican lawmakers said, were that the inquiry should be constrained to “current credible” allegations against Kavanaugh and that it should be completed within one week.
But NBC News and The New York Times reported on Saturday that in addition to those limitations, Republicans and the White House gave the FBI a list of just four witnesses to interview. Investigators have also reportedly not been permitted to scour certain records that could be critical to ascertaining the credibility of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
The FBI will probe aspects of sexual misconduct allegations made by all three women who have come forward against Kavanaugh, but it does not reportedly plan to directly question the third, Julie Swetnick, about her claims.
The White House counsel Don McGahn, who is in charge of guiding Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, is also directing the FBI on the scope of its background check.
“That seems like a clear conflict of interest,” said Carl Tobias, the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond and an expert on federal judicial selection.
Norm Eisen, who served as the Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform under President Barack Obama, said he helped vet “hundreds” of presidential nominees when he worked at the White House.
“Every one got an FBI background check,” he added. “We never told the FBI which witnesses they could and could not interview. It’s not just [Democrats] who want an investigation–so do Flake, Collins & Murkowski. But it must be a real one.”
He was referring to GOP Sens. Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, all of whom have expressed concerns about Kavanaugh’s nomination in light of the allegations against him. All three backed a one-week delay in the final vote in order for the FBI to investigate the claims.
But the way the investigation is currently being conducted, said Susan Hennessey, the managing editor of the national-security blog Lawfare, is a “sham.”
President Donald Trump disputed some of the reporting on Saturday night, tweeting that he wants the FBI “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.”
‘The FBI will do what the committee didn’t’
The four witnesses the FBI has been permitted to question so far are Deborah Ramirez, Mark Judge, Leland Keyser, and PJ Smyth.
Ramirez has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a dorm-room party at Yale during the 1983-1984 school year.
And Ford said Judge, Keyser, and Smyth were present at a high school gathering in 1982 during which she alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Ford said she was pushed into a bedroom from behind and that an inebriated Kavanaugh pinned her down on the bed, groped her over her clothes, and covered her mouth when she tried to yell for help. She said she was able to escape before things escalated.
Ford added that Judge, Kavanaugh’s longtime friend, was an eyewitness to the attack and was also intoxicated at the time. Keyser and Smyth say they do not recall such a gathering. Judge denies the incident occurred, and his and Keyser’s lawyers said this week that their clients are ready to fully cooperate with the FBI.
“The FBI will do what the committee didn’t and work to corroborate aspects of what Dr. Ford said,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago.
One of the first things the FBI will do, Cramer said, is talk to Judge, who was the only other eyewitness to the alleged assault.
Experts said that while the night of the alleged attack is etched in Ford’s memory, for other witnesses, it may have been like any other night, which could be why Judge and others who Ford says were there say they don’t recall the gathering.
But Ford testified to the committee that six to eight weeks after the assault, she ran into Judge at the Potomac Safeway, a local supermarket where he worked, and that Judge was uncomfortable and “looked a little bit ill” when he saw her. She added, during her testimony this week, that she believed she could be “much more helpful” in providing details about her alleged assault if she knew the exact date or time period that Judge worked at the supermarket.
NBC News reported that the FBI has not been authorized to pull Judge’s employment records.
“That is crazy,” Cramer said of the constraint. “If he worked at the store where Ford says she saw him, it would corroborate one part of her testimony. Albeit, that is not a critical element, but it adds to the mix. The flip side is also true: if Mark Judge never worked at the store, then it calls into question one part of Ford’s story.”
Ford’s allegation is at the center of the FBI’s background check, but Cramer said it’s critical for investigators to talk to witnesses in addition to the four people currently on the list, because it would help them establish a fact pattern about Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school and college.
“Drinking habits are something that are regularly explored as part of routine background checks (along with drugs),” said the former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa. “It probably came up in one of his earliest checks, but without indications that it resulted in harm to others would not have been pursued. Now that has changed.”
For instance, if the FBI spoke to multiple witnesses who said they frequently saw Kavanaugh drink heavily or black out, it could undercut a key part of his defense against the allegations. Specifically, Kavanaugh says he is certain he did not assault anyone, and does not ever recall doing so, because he never drank so much that he could have forgotten his actions.
But his high school yearbook appears to contain multiple references to partying and drinking that seem to contradict some of Kavanaugh’s statements, many of which were made under oath.
He said during his testimony that the term “Devil’s Triangle,” which shows up on his yearbook page and is slang for sex between two men and one woman, was a reference to a drinking game. Kavanaugh added that another comment in his yearbook that reads, “Judge — have you boofed yet?” referred to flatulence.
Kavanaugh also faced questions about two other yearbook entries, one that read “Georgetown vs. Louisville — Who Won That Game Anyway?” and another tha read “Orioles vs. Red Sox — Who Won Anyway?”
In both cases, Kavanaugh told Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, he didn’t know which team won each game not because he was drunk, but because he was having too much fun with his friends.
“By explicitly denying under oath that he ever drank to excess, which goes to his veracity and credibility with regard to Dr. Ford, he himself has made it a central issue,” Rangappa said. “Had he been transparent about it, that would likely not be the case.”
Many of Kavanaugh’s former classmates have since come forward to the media and said what Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee does not square with what they witnessed when they knew him in college.
None of those people are on the list of witnesses the FBI has been permitted to question.
Rangappa suggested this was a deliberate move on the part of Senate Republicans and the White House.
“This is why the [White House] doesn’t want the FBI to inquire about [Kavanaugh’s] drinking at Yale,” she said. “[Because] there are classmates ready to directly contradict him, which would open him up to perjuring himself to the Senate (and therefore a disqualifier separate and apart from the Ford allegation).”
“There isn’t a finder of fact in the country that would hamstring investigators like this,” he said. “It would be comical if it wasn’t so important.”
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.