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Jeff Flake demands FBI investigation into Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault claims

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Jeff Flake
Jeff Flake.
Chip
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  • Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona turned the Senate on
    its head Friday by announcing he wouldn’t vote to confirm Judge
    Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court until the FBI completes an
    investigation into the allegations of sexual assault.
  • Flake did vote to advance Kavanaugh in the committee.
  • Now all eyes are on undecided Republican senators and the
    White House.

In a stunning turn of events, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of
Arizona demanded the delay of a confirmation vote on Supreme
Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for up to one week. Flake said he
wants to allow the FBI to conduct an investigation into the
allegations of sexual assault the judge is facing.

Flake did vote to move Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the
committee, joining the 10 other Republicans on the panel who
voted to advance the DC Circuit Court judge.

Kavanaugh can now be brought before the full Senate for a
confirmation vote. But with Flake’s demand, Kavanaugh’s chances
of being confirmed as soon as Saturday took an immediate dive.

Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate. meaning one
other Republican senator would have to join Flake for the
confirmation to stall. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
and Susan Collins of Maine have yet to say how they will vote.
Neither have Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and
Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Soon after Flake’s announcement, Murkowski told reporters she sided with
his call for a weeklong investigation.

Flake and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, both on the
Judiciary Committee, left the panel for an extended period on
Friday as their colleagues gave speeches. Earlier in the day,
Flake was confronted by protesters in an emotional exchange
during which a woman who said she was raped pleaded with him to
seek more information on Kavanaugh.

Upon Flake’s return, he announced his intention to vote for
Kavanaugh in the committee but not on the floor until the
weeklong investigation took place. Democrats found this to be
palpable, with Coons and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of
Minnesota praising Flake.

“It doesn’t have to be an agreement,” Klobuchar said in
explaining the decision to her colleagues. “It is one senator
standing up.”

The senators agreed that only the current allegations should be
investigated by the FBI.


Brett Kavanaugh
Brett
Kavanaugh.

Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty
Images


There was widespread confusion on the panel as to what exactly
had taken place.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s
ranking member, seemed to incorrectly think a motion was being
voted on as part of Flake’s announcement, according to a
conversation that was caught on microphone.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the panel’s chairman,
said the decision now rests with Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell, who is tasked with scheduling a floor vote. With
Murkowski’s demurral, it seems unlikely McConnell will attempt to
push forward immediately.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a committee
member, told reporters following the vote that he was still
“trying to find out what this is,” adding that he would soon meet
with Flake and McConnell. 

“This was kind of a surprise to all of us,” he said.

At the White House, President Donald Trump was asked about
Flake’s decision. 

“I’m going to let the Senate handle that, and they will make
their decisions,” Trump said, adding the senators “are very
professional.”

Flake’s decision comes a day after both Kavanaugh and professor
Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assaulting
her in the early 1980s, testified before the Judiciary Committee.
Ford said she was “100%” certain Kavanaugh assaulted her while
Kavanaugh emphatically and angrily denied the allegation. 

Democrats had pushed intensely for an FBI investigation into
Ford’s and other accusers allegations, which Kavanaugh and many
Senate Republicans had pushed back against.

Trump said he felt Ford’s testimony “was very compelling,” adding
that Kavanaugh’s testimony “was really something I hadn’t seen
before.”

He said the hearing was an “incredible moment for our country.”

On the senators, Trump said “they have to do what they think is
right.”

“They have to be comfortable with themselves,” he said.

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