WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly advanced the nomination Friday of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, but Senator Jeff Flake said he only did so with the understanding the FBI would conduct an investigation into the sexual assault allegations embroiling the Supreme Court pick.
“I’ve been speaking with a number of people on the other side and had conversations ongoing for a while with regard to making sure that we do due diligence here,” Flake said. “And I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI to do an investigation limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there and limited in time to no more than one week.”
With the Arizona Republican stipulating that he would not vote for Kavanaugh on the Senate floor without an investigation, the committee followed up with a statement Friday that says it will call on the Trump administration to have the FBI open a “supplemental FBI background investigation” on Kavanaugh.
“The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today,” the statement states.
Assuming that Democrats vote unanimously against Kavanaugh, the judge’s confirmation will fail if Republicans lose more than one senator from their caucus.
Ultimately the decision on whether to delay a vote by the full Senate on Kavanaugh rests with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Kentucky Republican has not issued a statement on the matter today, but he said Thursday he said he looked forward to Kavanaugh’s nomination advancing.
“I will be proud to vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh when the full Senate votes on his nomination in the coming days,” McConnell said.
Flake, who is not seeking re-election, said he has spoken to “a few other” Republicans who are supportive of his plans.
Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said there will need to be “additional discussions” about the scope of what the FBI would look into during the delay. He also said it is possible the bureau will not need a full week to investigate the claims.
A member of the Judiciary Committee, Cornyn said the Senate plans to vote Saturday on a procedural motion that would clear way have the floor vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican who sits on the committee, said he supports the investigation so long as it remains relatively limited.
“I don’t see any problem as long as it’s done quickly and it doesn’t become a continually moving target,” Tillis said. “I think what we’ve done here doesn’t necessarily affect the timeline and I support it.”
This afternoon’s proceedings stretched for hours as senators relitigated the drama of Thursday where emotional testimony captivated the nation as much as it did those on Capitol Hill.
During the Thursday hearing, Christine Blasey Ford described in detail Thursday an assault she claims Kavanaugh committed against her in 1982 when they were both in high school.
As Ford told it, Kavanaugh forced her into a bedroom, pinned her to a bed and covered her mouth with his hand to keep her from screaming as he struggled drunkenly to remove her clothes.
Kavanaugh followed up Ford’s quiet account Thursday with a fiery defense, accusing Democrats of setting a political trap at the last minute to sink his nomination.
On Friday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called Kavanaugh’s demeanor before the committee “unbelievable,” saying she was “shocked to see” a federal judge make such political attacks.
“Candidly, in the 25 years on this committee, I have never seen a nominee for any position behave in that manner,” Feinstein said. “Judge Kavanaugh used as much political rhetoric as my Republican colleagues and what’s more, he went on the attack.”
Democrats launched several protests over the course of the hearing, starting with Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, who each refused to answer when the committee clerk asked how they would vote on a Republican motion to schedule a vote for 1:30 p.m.
Then, Senators Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse and Harris walked out of the hearing room at the same time. A group of Democratic congresswomen who were in the audience of the hearing at one point silently stood at their seats and later filed out of the room.
Since Ford went public with her story, two other women have come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. On Sunday, the New Yorker published the account of Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh drunkenly exposed his genitals to her without her consent at a party in a dorm at Yale.
Julie Swetnick came forward just this past Wednesday to say she remembers Kavanaugh helping to get women drunk at parties and fondling them without their consent. Swetnick, who is represented by attorney Michael Avenatti, says girls at these parties were “gang raped” in side rooms and that she saw Kavanaugh in a line of boys outside these rooms.
Democrats have demanded an FBI investigation into all of these allegations since they became public, saying only the agency is positioned to conduct a full and fair inquiry.
For Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., there is an entry on Kavanaugh’s calendar from 1982 that in particular warrants further investigation.
Though Kavanaugh insists the makeshift diary shows he attended no party like the one Ford has described, there is an entry in the calendar showing that Kavanaugh attended a gathering at a friend’s house with the same people Ford remembers from the night of her alleged assault.
Whitehouse said the FBI could have more completely determined whether that gathering squared with Ford’s allegations. The senator also called out the committee’s failure to subpoena Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh’s who submitted a written letter saying he has no recollection of a gathering like the one Ford describes.
“It is preposterous to anyone who has ever done serious investigation,” Whitehouse said. “Yet this is what we are left with. We have done a botch of an investigation.”
Ford maintains that Judge was in the room when Kavanaugh assaulted her. She described him Thursday as an ambivalent actor in the attack, at times egging Kavanaugh on and other times telling him to stop. She said she was only able to escape Kavanaugh’s grip because Judge ultimately jumped on the bed causing them to topple off.
The calendar entry Whitehouse brought up on Friday was mentioned briefly at the hearing on Thursday, but did not become a major focus of the conversation.
Republicans, meanwhile, faulted Democrats for their handling of Ford’s allegations, noting Feinstein had Ford’s letter detailing her allegations for weeks before they became public.
Undercutting allegations that Ford is a Democratic plant, however, the committee heard evidence Thursday that she took the first steps at making her allegations against Kavanaugh public when he was merely on the shortlist of qualified Supreme Court candidates.
Republicans also tried Thursday to diminish the importance of FBI investigations by saying that they offer no conclusions.
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said if Democrats wanted an FBI investigation, they should have delivered the allegations to the agency earlier in the process.
“Plenty of time, plenty of opportunities to get to the truth,” Graham said. “This has never been about the truth, this has been about delay and destruction. And if we reward this, it is the end of good people wanting to be judges. It is the end of any concept of the rule of law. It’s the beginning of a process that will tear this country apart.”