Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona appeared pleased with the FBI’s supplemental background investigation of sexual misconduct allegations levied against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, placing Kavanaugh in a stronger position for confirmation as compared to recent days.
Though neither lawmaker has committed to supporting Kavanaugh, they did not seem troubled with the scope of the inquiry or disturbed by its contents, while Democrats were unmoved in their opposition to the judge’s confirmation. Flake, Collins and GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska hold the decisive votes on the Kavanaugh nomination.
“It appears to be a very thorough investigation but I’m going back later to personally read the interviews,” Collins said.
Flake went somewhat further than Collins, and discussed the investigation’s findings in general terms.
“We’ve seen no additional corroborating information,” Flake told reporters.
A single copy of the report was delivered to the Senate in the small hours on Thursday. Lawmakers and a handful of senior aides are reviewing it in a secure room inside the Capitol called a SCIF. Access to the report alternates between Republicans and Democrats by the hour.
Terms for Senate review of FBI background checks on judicial nominees was set by a 2009 “memo of understanding” between the Judiciary Committee and the White House. Per this memo, the report may not be photocopied, and must be returned to FBI custody within five days of final action on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Notes and memos deriving from the report must be destroyed in a timely manner. (RELATED: Kavanaugh Fight Leaves Supreme Court Shorthanded For New Term)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, spoke in somewhat different registers about the report in a joint appearance Thursday. Feinstein did not speak to the substance of the investigation, instead decrying its unspecified omissions.
“The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” Feinstein said. “It looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation that was limited, perhaps by the White House.”
Schumer disputed an earlier statement from Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, who said the report contained no new information.
“I disagree with Senator Grassley’s statement that there was no hint of misconduct,” Schumer said.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who brought the first allegation against Kavanaugh, was not interviewed by federal investigator, though the second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, met with FBI agents for several hours in a Colorado law office.
As of 12:45 p.m. on Thursday, Collins, Murkowski, and Flake were scrutinizing the report together in the SCIF.
Should Kavanaugh’s nomination fail, a second confirmation is unlikely before the end of the year.
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