Flake, Murkowski Join Democrats in Calling for FBI Probe of Allegations Against Kavanaugh
September 28, 2018
By Jennifer Haberkorn
WASHINGTON — In a surprise turnaround, Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joined Democrats in calling for a one-week delay in final voting on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to allow for an FBI probe into the sexual assault allegations against him.
“I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but no more than one week,” Flake said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, after huddling with Democrats. Murkowski, who had previously called for an FBI probe, quickly joined him.
The concerns of the two key Republicans likely end hopes by GOP leaders to confirm Kavanaugh by next week.
Flake noted the deep divisions that had been exposed by Thursday’s powerful testimony from Palo Alto, Calif., professor Christine Blasey Ford, who said she was “100 percent” certain that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh emotionally and strongly denied the allegation.
“This country is being ripped apart here, and we’ve got to make sure that we do due diligence,” said Flake, who is retiring from the Senate in January and has frequently butted heads with Trump.
Despite Flake’s new position, the Judiciary Committee proceeded to approve Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday on a party-line vote, 11-10, with strong objections from Democrats.
A preliminary vote by the full Senate was originally planned for Saturday, and Republicans were optimistic of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., must now decide whether to hold the floor vote as planned. Republicans cannot afford to lose more than one of their members, assuming all Democrats vote against Kavanaugh.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., another key undecided vote, announced Friday he supported the call for a short delay.
Asked about developments, Trump said Friday, “I’m going to let the Senate handle that. They’ll make their decisions. I’m sure it will all be very good.”
The president also praised Kavanaugh and, for the first time, Ford. “I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman,” Trump said.
Thursday’s hearing laid bare the deeply divisive politics at stake in Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Democrats accused the GOP of rushing through a nominee under a “dark cloud of suspicion (that) will forever change both the Senate and our nation’s highest court,” according to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.
Republicans blasted Democrats for a “smear campaign” against the nominee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., too, warned it would permanently change the way the Senate treats judicial nominees.
Earlier in the day before he called for an FBI probe, Flake had said he would vote to approve Kavanaugh. He said he left Thursday’s hearing with “as much doubt as certainty.” But, “I believe that the Constitution’s provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well. I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”
After coming under intense criticism in the Capitol from protesters, including some who said they were victims of sexual assault, Flake appeared to have second thoughts about voting this weekend. Later, during the committee hearing, Flake abruptly left with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., to huddle outside the room.
Meanwhile, a key Democrat — Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana — said he would oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. The move by Donnelly, who supported Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil M. Gorsuch, further increased the partisan tone of Kavanaugh’s nomination. It also increases the pressure on key Republican holdouts to support the nomination if it is to be successful on the Senate floor.
“I have deep reservations about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to this lifetime position,” Donnelly said, echoing calls from other Democrats for an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegation. “Only 113 people have ever served on the Supreme Court, and I believe that we must do our level best to protect its sanctity.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has yet to say how she will vote.
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