Here's a piece of muck history unearthed yesterday from deceased Supreme Court justice William Rehnquist's FBI files.
In 1986, the Reagan administration was eager to protect its nomination of Rehnquist to be chief justice the Supreme Court. Officials learned that at his confirmation hearings, Democrats in Congress planned to bring out witnesses who would testify that Rehnquist had intimidated minority voters as a Republican Party official in Arizona.
Intimidation? Now there's an idea. So the administration enlisted the FBI to do background checks on the witnesses -- and pushed the bureau to send special agents to "interview" them prior to their testimony. That's not a usual practice, mind you. At the time, at least one FBI official warned that the Justice Department "should be sensitive to the possibility that Democrats could charge the Republicans of misusing the FBI and intimidating the Democrats' witnesses."
Despite that warning, the order was approved.
Who would have rubber-stamped such a horrendous idea?
Legal Times reports:
[T]hen-Assistant Attorney General John Bolton -- who more recently served as ambassador to the United Nations -- signed off on the request and said he would "accept responsibility should concerns be raised about the role of the FBI."
It wasn't evident by Rehnquist's files whether the interviews ever took place, according to the publication. It's instructive to note that the FBI director at the time was Judge William H. Webster, who later led the CIA. (He's now Vice-Chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council at the Department of Homeland Security.)
According to news reports, Rehnquist's files show that the FBI conducted background checks on witnesses in 1971, when Rehnquist was appointed to be an associate justice.