WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the FBI to open a “supplemental investigation” into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, hours after Senate Republicans said they would not vote to confirm the nominee until the agency looked into allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him.
“I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file,” Trump said in a statement Friday. “As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”
The order comes after a dramatic moment in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday afternoon when Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he would vote to send Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the committee, but with the understanding that a limited FBI investigation would take place before a full confirmation vote.
Flake had been absent from long stretches of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Friday meeting to vote on Kavanaugh. Senators of both parties shuttled in and out of the small room attached to the larger committee chamber during the meeting, whispering to each other and receiving messages from staff.
Soon after Flake’s announcement, Senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, each issued statements saying they too believed the FBI should conduct an inquiry into the allegations before a final vote on the Senate floor.
Given the slim Republican majority in the Senate, the unified opposition of Flake, Collins and Murkowski meant GOP leadership would be all but assured defeat if they brought Kavanaugh’s nomination up for a final vote without accommodating the request for an investigation.
Shortly after Flake’s announcement from the dais, Republicans met in a room down the hall from the main Senate chamber, emerging with a statement from the Senate Judiciary Committee requesting the Trump administration direct the FBI to open a background investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.
After the meeting, Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the committee, told reporters he is satisfied with the progress made on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday.
“We’ve had a good day today by moving the nominee,” Grassley. “A good day. We’re very happy with the progress we made.”
The request from the Judiciary Committee specified the investigation would last no more than a week and would be limited to “current credible allegations” that have come out against Kavanaugh.
Three women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in the past weeks, including Christine Blasey Ford, who on Thursday told the committee in emotional testimony about her claims. Ford says when they were both in high school, Kavanaugh forced her into a bedroom, pinned her to a bed and tried to remove her clothes at a party in 1982.
Meanwhile, Deborah Ramirez has accused Kavanaugh of putting his genitals in her face without her consent at a dorm room party at Yale and Julie Swetnick has accused the nominee of in high school spiking punch and helping get girls drunk at parties, where he also fondled and harassed them. Swetnick also claims girls were “gang raped” in side rooms at these parties and that she saw Kavanaugh standing in lines of boys outside such rooms.
Kavanaugh has denied all of the allegations against him, including in fiery remarks to the committee Thursday, and in a statement on Friday said he will cooperate with further investigation.
“Throughout this process, I’ve been interviewed by the FBI, I’ve done a number of ‘background’ calls directly with the Senate and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the senators and their counsel asked me,” Kavanaugh said in a statement. “I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate.”