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Senate panel advances Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, but FBI probe may come before final Senate vote

Friday - 28/09/2018 15:33
Earlier in the day, Flake had announced his support for Kavanaugh and was confronted in an elevator by a sexual assault survivor.

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Friday to move Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate, but called for an FBI investigation into sexual assault accusations against him.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who had been undecided on Kavanaugh, agreed to advance the nomination, but said the FBI should be given up to one week to investigate the charges against Kavanaugh, as Democrats have demanded. 

“This country’s being ripped apart here,” an emotional Flake said after a flurry of back-room negotiations outside the committee room. “We can have a short pause and make sure that the FBI can investigate.”

Earlier in the day, Flake had announced his support for Kavanaugh and was confronted in an elevator by a sexual assault survivor.

Another undecided Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said she supported Jeff Flake's calls for an FBI probe. 

Only the White House can force the FBI to undertake such a probe. But if Flake, Murkowski and other Republicans demand it, President Donald Trump may have no choice, since the GOP holds a narrow majority in the Senate and can't afford to lose two votes.

"Someone's got to explain this to Trump," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said after the committee vote.

The president told reporters he's open to a delay and that senators should do “whatever they think is necessary" to reach a final vote on Kavanaugh.

Earlier, the Republican-controlled panel had turned aside Democrats' effort to subpoena Mark Judge, a potential witness to the alleged assault of Christine Blasey Ford, who gave wrenching testimony Thursday about allegedly being attacked by Kavanaugh when she was 15.

More: Protesters shout at Sen. Jeff Flake in elevator: ‘Tell me it doesn’t matter’

More: Judiciary Committee Democrats walk out of Kavanaugh hearing in protest

The committee's action came less than a day after it heard from Kavanaugh and Ford, who alleges the nominee pinned her to a bed and tried to remove her clothes at a party in 1982, when the federal appeals court judge was 17.

Kavanaugh, now 53, vehemently denied the allegations.

“We should not rush to judgment,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the panel. She said it was wrong to listen to "a credible, poised and brave witness and simply ignore what we heard.”

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Democrats simply want to "beat Judge Kavanaugh into submission."

“We can’t allow more time for new smears to damage Judge Kavanaugh," he said. "We've reached a point where it's time to end the circus.”

The nomination now goes to the full Senate, where a final up-or-down vote had been anticipated by Tuesday. Now that vote could be delayed for up to a week. 

More: The top moments from Thursday's emotional testimony by Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Ford

More: Analysis: On Kavanaugh vs. Ford, a Supreme Court showdown hinges on whom you believe

More: Senate panel to vote Friday on Brett Kavanaugh after assault testimony but his fate uncertain

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Friday to move Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate, but called for an FBI investigation into sexual assault accusations against him.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who had been undecided on Kavanaugh, agreed to advance the nomination, but said the FBI should be given up to one week to investigate the charges against Kavanaugh, as Democrats have demanded. 

“This country’s being ripped apart here,” an emotional Flake said after a flurry of back-room negotiations outside the committee room. “We can have a short pause and make sure that the FBI can investigate.”

Earlier in the day, Flake had announced his support for Kavanaugh and was confronted in an elevator by a sexual assault survivor.

Another undecided Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said she supported Jeff Flake's calls for an FBI probe. 

Only the White House can force the FBI to undertake such a probe. But if Flake, Murkowski and other Republicans demand it, President Donald Trump may have no choice, since the GOP holds a narrow majority in the Senate and can't afford to lose two votes.

"Someone's got to explain this to Trump," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said after the committee vote.

The president told reporters he's open to a delay and that senators should do “whatever they think is necessary" to reach a final vote on Kavanaugh.

Earlier, the Republican-controlled panel had turned aside Democrats' effort to subpoena Mark Judge, a potential witness to the alleged assault of Christine Blasey Ford, who gave wrenching testimony Thursday about allegedly being attacked by Kavanaugh when she was 15.

More: Protesters shout at Sen. Jeff Flake in elevator: ‘Tell me it doesn’t matter’

More: Judiciary Committee Democrats walk out of Kavanaugh hearing in protest

The committee's action came less than a day after it heard from Kavanaugh and Ford, who alleges the nominee pinned her to a bed and tried to remove her clothes at a party in 1982, when the federal appeals court judge was 17.

Kavanaugh, now 53, vehemently denied the allegations.

“We should not rush to judgment,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the panel. She said it was wrong to listen to "a credible, poised and brave witness and simply ignore what we heard.”

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Democrats simply want to "beat Judge Kavanaugh into submission."

“We can’t allow more time for new smears to damage Judge Kavanaugh," he said. "We've reached a point where it's time to end the circus.”

The nomination now goes to the full Senate, where a final up-or-down vote had been anticipated by Tuesday. Now that vote could be delayed for up to a week. 

More: The top moments from Thursday's emotional testimony by Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Ford

More: Analysis: On Kavanaugh vs. Ford, a Supreme Court showdown hinges on whom you believe

More: Senate panel to vote Friday on Brett Kavanaugh after assault testimony but his fate uncertain

"They were having fun at my expense," she said. "I was underneath one of them while the two laughed."

In testimony that was both fiery and at times tearful, Kavanaugh said the sexual assault allegations had harmed his family and his name. He accused Democrats of orchestrating a "political hit" and repeatedly professed his innocence. 

"You will not drive me out," he said. 

Democrats denounced the judge's temperament Friday, noting he blamed his predicament on Trump's election and revenge on behalf of the Clintons, presumably for his work investigating President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

“It’s hard to make this stuff up," Sen Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said. "That amounts to conspiratorial madness.”

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., characterized the situation as "not a partisan moment. This is a moral moment in our nation.”

Confirming Kavanaugh would be an important milestone for Republicans and the president, as it would tilt the balance of power on the high court to conservatives. 

Contributing: Christal Hayes and Deborah Berry

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