WASHINGTON – A pair of key Republican senators expressed satisfaction Thursday with a brand new FBI report, increasing the odds of Senate confirmation this weekend of Decide Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Courtroom nominee who has confronted sexual conduct allegations.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, considered one of three Republicans who had not indicated how they plan to vote, stated Thursday that “it appears to be a very thorough investigation, but I’m going back later to personally read the interviews.”
Shortly afterward, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who requested the investigation, advised reporters that “we’ve seen no additional corroborating information.”
Collins, Flake and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are the essential votes that would guarantee Kavanaugh’s ascension to the nation’s highest courtroom.
On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a red-state Democrat whose vote Republicans have been courting, informed a tv station in her state that she would vote no on Kavanaugh. That leaves Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia as the one Democrat nonetheless undecided on the nomination.
Murkoswki informed reporters that she didn’t but know whether or not the FBI had been thorough sufficient in its investigation or spoken to sufficient witnesses. Requested whether or not she felt she had been given sufficient time to think about her choice earlier than voting this weekend, Murkowski added: “I certainly hope so, yes.”
The feedback got here as main Democrats and Republicans provided dueling assessments of the FBI background examine into allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh, who has confronted a number of accusers, together with Christine Blasey Ford, who says he assaulted her whereas they have been youngsters.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, stated Thursday that the report included “no hint of misconduct,” whereas senior Democrats referred to as it incomplete and advised that the White Home restricted the probe to guard Kavanaugh.
Neither Ford nor Kavanaugh have been interviewed by the FBI for what senators stated was a 46-page report that delayed the roiled confirmation course of by every week. Legal professionals for Kavanaugh’s accusers additionally criticized the probe, saying the FBI had declined to interview witnesses they recommended.
“There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know,” Grassley stated in a press release after being briefed on the FBI report by his employees. “It’s time to vote.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the highest Democrat on the committee, later advised reporters that “the most notable part of this report is what’s not in it.”
Senate Minority Chief Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who appeared beside her at a information convention, blamed the White Home for the restricted scope of the newest probe.
“We had many fears that this was a very limited process that would constrain the FBI from getting all of the facts,” he stated. “Those fears have been realized.”
Schumer stated he disagreed with Grassley’s evaluation that there’s “no hint of misconduct” however declined to elaborate or take questions.
White Home spokesman Raj Shah stated that the FBI brokers had reached out to 10 witnesses – 9 of whom have been interviewed – and that nobody had corroborated the account of Ford, the primary lady to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
“The president, the White House are firmly behind Brett Kavanaugh,” Shah stated throughout an look Thursday morning on CNN. “We believe that all the Senate’s questions have been addressed through this supplemental FBI investigation.”
In an earlier tweet, Shah stated the White Home is “fully confident” that the Senate will affirm Kavanaugh, whose nomination has been roiled by the allegations of three ladies about his conduct greater than three many years in the past.
Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., appeared to acknowledge that there was no corroboration for Ford’s fees within the FBI report, however blamed the scope of the investigation.
“You can’t find what you don’t look for,” he stated, including that “this falls short of my expectations for this investigation.”
The FBI interviewed three individuals who Ford stated attended the gathering the place she stated she was assaulted, in addition to two different pals of Kavanaugh’s who have been listed on his calendar as attending a gathering on July 1 of the identical summer time that Ford stated she believes the alleged assault occurred.
Ford was by no means targeted on July 1 because the date that the assault occurred, a member of her authorized staff informed The Washington Post this week, emphasizing that the FBI would have recognized that if brokers had interviewed Ford.
On Thursday afternoon, attorneys for Ford launched a letter they wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray, ticking off the names of eight witnesses who needed to be interviewed about Ford’s allegation by the FBI. The listing included Ford’s husband, Russell; Jeremiah Hanafin, the previous FBI agent who carried out Ford’s polygraph examination; and pals of Ford’s whom she confided in about her accusation.
“The ‘investigation’ conducted over the past five days is a stain on the process, on the FBI and on our American ideal of justice,” the legal professionals wrote within the four-page letter to Wray.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn, stated that 9 of the FBI report’s 46 pages got here from a three-hour interview with Mark Decide, a former classmate of Kavanaugh whom Ford claims was current on the time of the alleged assault within the early 1980s. Decide has denied her declare.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., stated the report confirmed that FBI brokers had requested “pretty specific” questions, in some instances utilizing a calendar stored by Kavanaugh. “I think they really tried to find out as much as they could, matching up dates and places.”
In morning tweets, Trump decried what he stated was “harsh and unfair treatment” of Kavanaugh, who has undergone earlier FBI background checks for different federal jobs, and accused Democrats of obstructing the confirmation course of.
“This is now the 7th. time the FBI has investigated Judge Kavanaugh,” Trump wrote. “If we made it 100, it would still not be good enough for the Obstructionist Democrats.”
Republicans appeared upbeat and optimistic about Kavanaugh’s confirmation prospects as extra senators learn the newest report.
Throughout a speech on the Senate flooring, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, touted the best way Republicans had rallied round Kavanaugh regardless of an onslaught of unproven allegations.
“Some commentators have called this our Atticus Finch moment,” he stated, referencing the white lawyer within the basic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” who defends a black man accused of raping a younger white lady in Alabama within the 1930s. Regardless of vital proof of his innocence, the black man is convicted and is later killed when he tries to flee his captors.
“We all remember that Atticus Finch was a lawyer who did not believe that a mere accusation was synonymous with guilt,” Cornyn stated. “We could learn from Atticus Finch now, during this time when there has been such a vicious and unrelenting attack on the integrity and good name of this nominee.”
In his assertion, Grassley stated that “this investigation found no hint of misconduct and the same is true of the six prior FBI background investigations conducted during Judge Kavanaugh’s 25 years of public service.”
In tweets beginning round four a.m., Grassley introduced that the panel had acquired the report from the White Home and that he and its prime Democrat had “agreed to alternating EQUAL access for senators to study content from additional background info gathered by nonpartisan FBI agents.”
A number of hours later, senators started submitting out and in of a safe facility on the Capitol to assessment the FBI report.
The FBI’s report is on the market at a delicate compartmented info facility, or SCIF, within the Capitol Customer Middle, a safe room designed for senators to evaluate delicate or categorised materials, two Senate officers stated. Only one bodily copy of the report is accessible, and solely senators and 10 committee staffers are cleared to view the fabric.
To flesh out some key passages, Judiciary Committee staffers have been studying communications between two individuals detailed within the report out loud, so senators might visualize the dialog, Sen Mike Rounds, R-S.D., stated.
The report additionally included particulars concerning the mass of data that flooded into the FBI tip line, Rounds stated – about a number of hundred calls that have been reviewed by the FBI to see whether or not the ideas have been associated to the investigation, Rounds stated.
Even earlier than the report was formally despatched to the Senate, legal professionals for Ford criticized what they seen as an incomplete FBI probe.
“An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony – cannot be called an investigation,” her authorized staff stated in a press release. “We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”
On Thursday, a lawyer for Deborah Ramirez, who has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself whereas in school, despatched a letter to the FBI’s Wray making the identical declare.
The letter famous that Ramirez had been interviewed by the FBI for two hours Sunday in Colorado and later offered an inventory of 20 individuals who may corroborate her account of Kavanaugh’s conduct.
“Fewer than four days, later, however, the FBI apparently has concluded its investigation – without permitting its agents to investigate,” wrote Ramirez lawyer William Pittard. “We are deeply disappointed by this failure.”
The Washington Post’s Emma Brown, Josh Dawsey, Mike DeBonis, Karoun Demirjian, Tom Hamburger, Paul Kane, Gabriel Pogrund, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Erica Werner contributed to this report.