The Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh faced a brand new hurdle from a Republican Senator on Friday, even as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 to advance the Kavanaugh nomination to the full Senate, as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) forced GOP leaders to delay floor action on the President’s nominee until the FBI could question some possible witnesses related to allegations of sexual misconduct made against Kavanaugh.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee will request that the administration instruct the FBI to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation,” read a statement issued by the panel on Friday afternoon, making it clear the review should be completed “no later than one week from today,” the release said.
Less than an hour later, President Donald Trump asked the FBI to complete that review.
The supplemental review by the FBI had been championed for days by Democrats, but resisted by most Republicans. But on Friday, just as the Judiciary Committee was getting ready to vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, one GOP Senator suddenly raised red flags about proceeding to a vote early next week.
“This country is being ripped apart here,” Flake said after extensive conversations in a back room with Senators of both parties, as he called for a short FBI investigation, which Democrats have demanded, and Republicans have brushed aside.
“We have got to do due diligence here,” Flake said, as he urged the Senate Majority Leader to delay action on the Kavanaugh nomination for up to a week. “It would be short and limited in scope to the current allegations that have been made.”
But even as Flake was thrusting new uncertainty into the equation for Kavanaugh, the Arizona Republican stuck with his colleagues, as the panel voted 11-10 to send the Kavanaugh nomination to the full Senate, where it could be called up for action as soon as Saturday.
At issue is whether the FBI should interview people identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as having possible knowledge of what she says was a sexual attack by Kavanaugh at a party in the summer of 1982.
Kavanaugh has bitterly denied wrongdoing, but Ford and Democrats complain Republicans have done little to find out the story of Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge, whom Ford says was in the room when Kavanaugh tried to pull her clothes and bathing suit off.
“Only one person has said the sexual assault didn’t happen, Brett Kavanaugh,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), as Democrats had again demanded an FBI investigation.
As events unfolded, a lawyer for Judge indicated that he would cooperate if authorities wanted to ask him questions; Ford alleges that it was Judge who jumped on top of Kavanaugh and Ford, ending what she says was a sexual attack, and allowing her the chance to escape the room.
The original timeline envisioned a vote on Kavanaugh by next Tuesday – but with support from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), GOP leaders had no choice but to accept extra time for a review by law enforcement.
There was little the White House could do.
“I’m going to let the Senate handle that,” President Donald Trump said in a photo op with the leader of Chile. “They’ll make their decisions. They’ve been doing a good job and very professional.”
“I just want it to all work out well for the country,” the President said.
Flake was joined not only by Democrats, but also by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), which meant GOP leaders had no choice but to allow extra time for a review, given their precarious 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate.