Senate delays Kavanaugh vote to allow time for FBI probe

By Nicholas Sakelaris and Danielle Haynes
Senate delays Kavanaugh vote to allow time for FBI probe
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., listens as the Senate Judiciary Committee meets to debate the nomination of Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 28 (UPI) -- The Senate on Friday agreed to delay a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to give time for an FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against the judge.

Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas told CNBC the delay would last no longer than a week, though the Senate still plans to hold a procedural vote Saturday.


"There's going to be a supplemental FBI background investigation," he said.

A short time later, President Donald Trump ordered an investigation.

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"I've ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh's file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week," he said in a statement issued by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.


Kavanaugh also issued a statement saying he would cooperate with the 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. I've done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate," he said.

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The announcement came hours after the Senate judiciary committee voted to send Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate for a vote. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., asked for a delay and probe.

The committee voted 11-10 along party lines in favor of confirming Kavanaugh.

Flake, who had been considered a swing vote, approved Kavanaugh on the condition that the main vote in the Senate be delayed for up to one week for a limited FBI probe. An FBI investigation has been sought by Senate Democrats, as well as Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who testified Thursday that Kavanaugh attacked her in 1982.

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"This country is being ripped apart here. We've got to make sure that we do due diligence," Flake said.

Flake suggested the probe be limited to the current allegations against Kavanaugh.


Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters she supports Flake's call for an investigation, but said "it has to be limited in time and scope."

If Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell moves forward on a vote without an investigation, Flake said he would vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation to the high court.

Without both Flake and Murkowski, Republicans wouldn't have enough votes to confirm Kavanaugh.

At the White House, President Donald Trump said that though he found Ford's testimony "compelling" and "credible," he was pleased with what Kavanaugh said at the hearing. On the vote, the president said senators "have to do what they think is right" and "be comfortable with themselves."

"I'm sure it will all be very good," he told reporters.

Earlier, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called on the committee to subpoena Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh's who Ford said witnessed her assault by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers decades ago. The motion failed down party lines on an 11-10 vote.

Blumenthal said he was riveted by Ford's testimony and wanted to hear from the other person alleged to have witnessed the assault.

"We heard her provide details in that story that can be corroborated and other facts that can be uncovered if we hear from other witnesses," Blumenthal said. "I believe we have a responsibility to subpoena at the very least Mark Judge before we move to vote."


Democrats, advocacy groups and non-congressional politicians called on the committee to delay its Friday vote so sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh can be vetted.

Four Democratic senators walked out of the hearing in protest after the Republicans voted to set a specific time for the committee to vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Kamela Harris of California stormed out with Hirono yelling, "I strongly object. This is totally ridiculous. What a railroad job. My answer is no, no, no!"

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who chairs the committee, worked to restore order after the ruckus, saying the silent roll call breaks their rules.

"I'm sure a lot of people are irritated right now," Grassley said.

Ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said many Republicans had their minds made up before Ford's testimony.


"Dr. Ford provided powerful testimony that deserves to be considered and not dismissed as a partisan smear campaign, which it is not," Feinstein said. "She was poised. She was credible and she should be believed."

American Bar Association President Robert Carlson wrote a letter to ranking members on the panel calling for an FBI investigation.

"We make this request because of ABA's respect for the rule of law and due process under law," Carlson wrote. "Each appointment to our nation's highest court [as with all others] is simply too important to rush to a vote."

Flake, R-Arizona, was confronted by sexual assault survivors in an elevator on his way to Friday's hearing. The women said they had been raped and asked if that mattered to him. Flake had just announced that he would cast the deciding vote for Kavanaugh's nomination.

Besides Ford, two other women have made similar allegations of misconduct.

The editors at America magazine withdrew their support for Kavanaugh's nomination following Ford's testimony.

"The nomination of Judge Kavanaugh has become a referendum on how to address allegations of sexual assault," the editors wrote.

Some Republicans say they have heard enough.

Cornyn said he doesn't think Ford's testimony Thursday met the burden of proof and that it's time to vote.


"The longer that the nomination remains open, we know that more and more of these scurrilous, anonymous and uncorroborated allegations will be made," Cornyn said. "Unfortunately, that's part of the 'search and destroy' process that, frankly, I think is an embarrassment to the Senate."

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