Brett Kavanaugh will be investigated by the FBI over allegations he sexually assaulted Christine Ford after a sensational twist Friday in the Senate as two key Republicans said their votes for him depended on a probe.
Jeff Flake voted him through the Senate Judiciary Committee in return for asking for the probe, and told colleagues he had the support of at least two key votes, Republican senator Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Joe Manchin.
John Cornyn, the second most senior Republican in the Senate, said the investigation would happen and take up to a week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee formally asked for the FBI probe into ‘current credible allegations’ against Kavanaugh on Friday afternoon, after voting for Kavanaugh to go to a full floor vote with Flake’s caveat.
The phrase still fails to make clear whether all three women who have publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault – Ford, Debbie Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick – will have their claims investigated.
‘The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today,’ according to the committee.
The phrase ‘current credible allegations’ is language Republicans insisted on to keep at bay new accusations they feared may come out of the woodwork.
Cornyn confirmed the stunning development just hours after Senate Judiciary panel members had used speeches to denounce the idea of bringing in the FBI at this stage.
At the White House Donald Trump appeared to give it his approval.
The Republicans’ hand was forced by a power-play undertaken by holdout Republican senators who the leadership needs to try to install President Trump’s nominee on the high court.
And Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s high school friend who Ford alleges took part in the attack, said that he would co-operate with any law enforcement agency that investigates ‘confidentially.’
He had claimed this week that he had depression and anxiety so did not want to testify in public, and was then Friday morning revealed to be available for public speaking engagements, in one of the more farcical turns of the Kavanaugh saga.
Key moment: A woman who said she is a survivor of a sexual assault (R) confronts Republican Senator from Arizona Jeff Flake (L) in an elevator after Flake announced that he vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington
Mark Judge (l), Kavanaugh’s high school friend (pictured in Kavnaugh’s yearbook) who Ford alleges took part in the attack, said that he would co-operate with any law enforcement agency that investigates ‘confidentially’
Judge’s only participation so far has been in the form of a brief letter signed by his lawyer and a letter carrying his own signature. He was spotted at a Delaware beach parking lot as allegations against Kavanaugh exploded.
The plan to quickly patch together an FBI investigation came after the Senate Judiciary Committee dramatically voted to advance the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh – but only after a deal involving Sen. Jeff Flake who demanded to a one-week FBI probe of the nominee’s background.
HOW JEFF FLAKE ROCKED THE SENATE
Here is how Jeff Flake’s day of drama unfolded:
9.30a.m.: Jeff Flake’s office releases a statement announcing he will ‘vote to confirm’ Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court
9.31 a.m.: Cameras capture Flake cornered in an elevator as two female protesters urges him to vote ‘no’ and tell him they are sex abuse victims. Ana Maria Anchilla tells him: ‘You have children in your family. Think about them.’ The lengthy confrontation goes on with the other woman, recent college graduate Maria Gallagher telling him: ‘I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. You’re telling all women that they don’t matter.’
9.50 a.m.: As senators gather, Flake appears downcast.
10 a.m.: Four Democratic senators walk out in protest when a motion to subpoena Mark Judge is voted down.
12.16 p.m.: Flake – who turned down the chance to speak – walks out of the committee room with Chris Coons, the Delaware Democrat with whom he is close friend.
1.30 p.m.: The time of the scheduled vote, but it is clear something is happening behind the scenes, with Flake and most of the Democrats not present.
1.49 p.m.: The committee is seated in full.
1.51 p.m.: Committee chairman Charles Grassley says he will let Flake speak. Flake says he will vote yes, if there is to be an FBI investigation.
1.53 p.m.: The committee votes 11-10 to send Kavanaugh to the floor for a full investigation.
2.10 p.m.: At the White House Trump says he will do whatever the Senate decide to do.
2.30 p.m.: Lindsey Graham says on CNN: ‘Somebody’s got to explain this to Trump. So I guess that will be my job.’
3.38 p.m.: John Cornyn, the Senate’s second-most powerful Republican, says there will be a delay of up to a week to allow a fresh background check.
4.28 p.m.: Senate Judiciary Committee formally ask for FBI probe of ‘current, credible allegations’.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who had announced just Friday morning he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, told committee colleagues he would vote to advance the bill, but only after saying there should be a week for an FBI investigation.
He told colleagues he had the support of at least two key votes, Republican senator Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Joe Manchin. The position of the third moderate Republican, Lisa Collins, was unknown.
On their own, Flake and Murkowski would be enough to torpedo Kavanaugh’s nomination, while Manchin, a Democrat whose state, West Virginia, voted for Donald Trump by 42 points, is the only Democrat to whom Republican leaders could have turned to force Kavanaugh through.
Key senators were still learning the details of the agreement – which did not yet have an official sign-off from leadership or the White House – but Flake and holdouts appeared to have the leverage to enforce it.
And panel chair Sen. Charles Grassley was caught on a hot mic describing how it would hold together.
At the White House Trump was questioned just as the deal came together and appeared to give it some approval – while after Kavanaugh was voted through with the caveat, Republicans gathered in Mitch McConnell’s office to work out what to do next.
Trump, who was in the Oval Office, said: ‘I’m going to let the Senate handle that. They’ll make their decisions and they do a good job, very professional.
‘I’m just hearing a little bit about it because I’ve been with the president of Chile and we’re talking about some very important subjects but I’m sure it will all be very good. I guess the vote was a positive vote but there seems to be a delay. I’ll learn more about it as the day goes on. I just heard about it because we were together.’
He also spoke publicly of Christine Ford for the first time since her dramatic and emotional testimony in which she said Kavanaugh tried to rape her, saying: ‘I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me, a very fine woman.’
The FBI move came in a sudden and dramatic change of plan for the Senate Judiciary Committee, and after Flake was caught in an elevator by two women who said they were victims of sexual abuse.
When they first met this morning, a vote was scheduled for 10.30 a.m., but then put off until 1.30 p.m. to allow senators to have their say.
Just after that, four Democrats walked out, and when it reached Flake’s turn to speak, he demurred.
The senators were supposed to sit in the room for the vote by 1.30 p.m. but as that time came and went it became clear that backroom talks were going on.
Finally, Grassley gaveled in the committee, and started with a statement that he was deferring to Flake, who outlined how he would vote to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate if there was a week-long FBI probe.
Amid confusion, Kavanaugh’s nomination was voted through, and then when Grassley adjourned the meeting, an open microphone caught Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat, asking if there was actually a deal.
‘This is all a gentleman and women’s agreement,’ Grassley told her on the hot mic. ‘But I’m committed …’ he added, before being cut off.
The maneuvering indicate Senate Republicans don’t yet have the votes to confirm Kavanaugh.
Sen. Jeff Coons of Delaware called it a ‘one week pause’ and said he was hopeful a report would be delivered and the committee could ask questions of bureau agents. He said there was enough ‘doubt raised’ by Ford’s testimony that further investigation was justified.
Senate Judiciary Committee member Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) (C) speaks with colleagues after a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 28, 2018, on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. – Kavanaugh’s contentious Supreme Court nomination will be put to an initial vote Friday, the day after a dramatic Senate hearing saw the judge furiously fight back against sexual assault allegations recounted in harrowing detail by his accuser
Approval: At the White House Donald Trump, who was meeting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in the Oval Office, signaled he would follow whatever the Republican Senate leadership demanded
Reporters crowd Senators including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., right, at the conclusion of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing
Senate Judiciary Committee member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) (C) reacts during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 28, 2018, on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court
Republicans had grim faces before the start of the meeting. They had argued vigorously against the need for an FBI inquiry of sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh
‘This is democracy. Am I mad at Jeff? No,’ said Graham
Flake said he would only be ‘comfortable’ moving the nomination on the floor until such a probe had occurred. ‘We owe them due diligence,’ he said.
Flake helped broker the deal after getting dramatically confronted by activists through the propped-open door of a Senate elevator. Two women told Flake they had suffered sexual assault and that he was ignoring their and other women’s stories by his vote. The retiring Republican was virtually trapped in an elevator while getting lambasted on live television during the experience.
Senate GOP leadership had yet to way in on the fluid situation. President Trump appeared willing to go along with what the Senate needed, but wasn’t asked specifically whether he would authorize the FBI to probe the latest Kavanaugh allegations.
Immediately after the hearing, Flake and Sen. Dianne Feinstein could be seen in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Capitol office. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she backs Flake’s delay, the Washington Post reported.
Trump said he found Christine Ford’s testimony ‘compelling,’ even as he cheered his nominee, who directly contradicted her allegations that he sexually assaulted her at a party decades ago.
‘I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me, a very fine woman,’ Trump said.
‘And I thought that Brett’s testimony likewise was really something that I haven’t seen before. It was incredible It was an incredible moment, I think, in the history of our country. But certainly she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects and I think that — I don’t know if this is going to continue onward or are we going to get a vote?’ Trump continued.
‘But again, I’m here so I’m not out there watching because I can’t be, out of great respect. Although maybe we’ll go watch together. We’ll watch together. But I think it will work out very well for the country. I just want it to work out well for the country. If it happens, i’m happy,’ the president concluded.
Murkowski had also expressed interest in having the FBI be involved. Howerver, the bureau is part of the executive branch, meaning any deal requires White House buy-in.
‘I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week,’ he said.
Said Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said: ‘You can do a lot if you have the whole FBI looking into things in one week,’ CNN reported.
President Trump, who noted he was meeting with the president of Chile, indicated he was caught off guard.
‘There seems to e a delay. I’ll learn more about it as the day goes on,’ Trump said.
With Flake’s support and with support of an additional senator, Democrats had leverage to force the sudden U-turn.
Before the dramatic turn of events, Republicans had planned for a procedural vote as earlier as Saturday afternoon to speed the nomination to the Senate floor.
Panel Republicans spent much of the day vociferously arguing against the need for more FBI investigation. Republicans were caught off guard and revealed in comments they did not know the substance of the deal.
Republicans including Trump-backer Lindsey Graham said there was nothing to be learned from further FBI investigation. Kavanaugh and Republicans have repeatedly argued that Kavanaugh has already been through six background checks.
But the FBI would have had no way to know about the assault allegations that leapt to center stage as the nomination steamed toward the floor.
It said it was important to show members have ‘bent over backwards’ to do due diligence.
The panel then quickly took a vote. ‘The nominee will be reported to the floor,’ said panel chair Charles Grassley. The nomination advanced on an 11-10 party-line vote after a day of debate filled with recriminations.
Republican members looked on with grim faces as Flake announced his decision to join a key Democratic demand.
Nevertheless, it was not yet clear that a plan for an FBI probe had been worked out.
Democrats including Sen. Kamala Harris of California stormed out of the hearing room as the Judiciary Committee prepared to vote out Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination
‘I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side … I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI do an investigation, limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there,’ said Flake, speaking at the top of a hearing,’ said Flake.
‘I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding. And I’ve spoken to a few other members on my side of the aisle that maybe support it as well …’ he said.
Trump commented on the dramatic development, but hadn’t yet been read in on the details.
‘I’m going to let the Senate handle that. They’ll make their decisions and they do a good job. very professional. I’m just hearing a little bit about it because I’ve been with the president of Chile and we’re talking about some very important subjects but I’m sure it will all be very good,’ Trump said.
‘I guess the vote was a positive vote but there seems to be a delay. I’ll learn more about it as the day goes on. I just heard about it because we were together,’ the president added.
Angry Senate Democrats stormed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee after the panel met Friday morning to vote out the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court hours after hearing sexual assault allegations against him – as his vote was delayed further to allow hours of speeches.
The out-voted Democrats abruptly left the hearing after the dramatic late-breaking development that retiring Sen. Jeff Flake would fall in line with other Republicans and vote to move Kavanaugh’s nomination ahead, and after a motion to subpoena testimony from Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge.
‘I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,’ Flake said in a brief statement, arguing that ‘fairness and due process’ applied to the apply’ to his situation.
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told reporters that they were enraged by the Republicans’ refusal to put the Kavanaugh hearings on hold while the FBI conducts a new investigation into a sexual assault allegation.
The four left a hearing room to hold their own press conference in a hallway, dueling for TV exposure with the hearing.
Republicans, Harris said, were ramming Kavanaugh’s nomination through as an exercise in ‘raw power.’
A committee vote on Kavanaugh’s fate is expected to proceed along party lines at 1:30 p.m.
But the morning hearing gave senators from both sides another chance to stemwind and restate their positions a day after Dr. Christine Ford publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during a high school party in 1982.
Asked how much effort Democrats had put into coordinating their demands for the FBI’s intervention, Hirono laughed. ‘You don’t think that an FBI investigation is at the core of all of this?’
Blumenthal vowed to ‘use every tool available’ to stop Kavanaugh.
Hirono said she hopes the few remaining undecided senators are ‘searching their souls and will do the right thing.’
Flake’s support makes it virtually certain Kavanaugh’s nomination has the votes to clear the committee with a favorable recommendation, as GOP leaders pursue a strategy of advancing the nomination as quickly as possible following a dramatic hearing where the nominee emphatically denied committing sexual assault.
‘We are an arm and a very weak arm of the Trump White House,’ complained Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who stayed behind inside the hearing room
Flake listens during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee shortly after announcing his decision
The development came hours after Kavanaugh testified during an emotional Judiciary panel hearing, after accuser Christine Blasey Ford delivered emotional testimony accusing him of a decades-old sexual assault. Kavanaugh issued his own tearful and emotional denial, then attacked panel Democrats of being part of a conspiracy to bring his nomination down.
Democrats, outnumbered on a committee and helpless to stop the pace of the nomination, inveighed against Kavanaugh’s testimony – where he accused Democrats of running a ‘search and destroy’ mission against him.
Even with Judiciary approval, which now appeared nearly certain on a party-line vote, a handful of Republican and Democratic centrists hold Brett Kavanaugh’s fate in their hands after an electrifying day of testimony which saw him fight for his professional life and Christine Blasey Ford repeat her detailed claim that he once sexually assaulted her.
The White House still would not say Friday it has the votes to prevail on the floor.
‘AGGRESSIVE AND BELLIGERENT’: DIANNE FEINSTEIN ATTACKS KAVANAUGH
‘This is someone who was aggressive and belligerent,’ Feinstein, the senior panel Democrat said at the hearing.
In the 25 years on this committee, I have never seen a nominee for any position behave in that manner. Judge Kavanaugh used as much political rhetoric as my Republican colleagues. And, what’s more, he went on the attack,’ she said.
‘I have never seen a nominee for any position behave in that matter,’ Feinstein said, defending herself against charges that she or her staff were involved in the leak of Ford’s allegations, something she denied at Thursday’s hearing.
Furious Democrats walked out of the hearing while it was still ongoing, delivering angry denunciations of the majority and its decision to sprint ahead.
Among those walking out were Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Kamala Harris, Mazie Hirono, and Sheldon Whitehouse. The protest created a televised split screen, while senior panel Republicans sang Kavanaugh’s statements in prepared statements, while Democrats delivered finger-pointing attacks on the majority outside.
Republican senators say the Judiciary Committee plans to vote Friday morning on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court
‘He volunteers in the community,’ said senior Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, while Democrats fumed outside the room.
‘I’m sure a lot of people are irritated right now and I’ll let express that irritation, said Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committee chairman.
‘We are an arm and a very weak arm of the Trump White House,’ complained Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Harris tweeted: ‘Setting a vote on Kavanaugh less than 24 hours after yesterday’s testimony shows what a sham this process has been. I just refused to vote and walked out.’
During the final hours before the Friday afternoon vote, senators took turns saying their piece.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: I WILL NOT SHUT UP
After an explosive intervention on Thursday, Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, doubled down.
‘I know I’m a single white male from South Carolina, and I’m told I should shut up, but I will not shut up, if that’s OK. Because I got here the same way anyone else did,’ he said.
‘I’m going to vote yes, and I’m going to tell his two daughters that I’m proud of your dad, and I really, really believe he’s a good man. And I’m going to tell Dr. Ford I am sorry you had to go through this, too.’
He added: ‘I do believe something happened to her. I don’t know when and where, but it wasn’t Brett Kavanaugh.’
Graham called the allegations against Kavanaugh a case which would be impossible to prosecute ‘in Maryland or anywhere else’, saying it ‘wouldn’t get out of the batter’s box’.
And he called the handling of the allegations ‘the beginning of a process that will tear this country apart..
‘And if I am chairman next year, if we keep the majority and Senator Grassley moves over, I’m going to remember this,’ he added.
‘If you try to destroy somebody you will not get away with it.’
REPUBLICAN JOHN CORYNYN: RIGHT NOT TO CALL MARK JUDGE
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas defended the decision not to call Mark Judge to testify.
‘He submitted his statement under penalty of felony,’ said Corynyn.
‘He admits to being a recovering alcoholic as well as a cancer survivor. He said he struggles with depression and anxiety, so much that he avoids public speaking. And our colleagues across the aisle believe that the appropriate course of conduct is to drag Mr. Judge into this circus-like atmosphere and to subject his battle with alcoholism and addiction to public investigation and scrutiny and ridicule.’
‘That is cruel, that is reckless. That is indecent,’ said Corynyn.
DEMOCRAT SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: ‘PARTISAN SCREED’
Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse brought up his interrogation of Kavanaugh about his high school yearbook entry, suggesting the nominee provided less than truthful explanations.
‘His partisan screed yesterday was telling,’ said Whitehouse.
‘As to yesterday, let me be frank. I believe Dr. Ford. I may be wrong but I believed her. And I believe Kavanaugh dodged and dissembled, ranted and raved, filibustered and prevaricated. I did not find him credible. I don’t believe ‘boof’ is flatulence, I don’t believe the ‘Devil’s Triangle’ is a drinking game and I don’t believe calling yourself a girl’s ‘alumnius’ is being her friend. And I think drinking til you ‘ralph’ or fall out of the bus or don’t remember the game or need to piece together your memory the next day is more consistent with dr. ford’s and others’ testimony than his own,’ Whitehouse said.
‘If Dr. Ford’s testimony is true I hope we can all agree Kavanaugh has no business on the court and I for one believed her. But set aside my own belief.
‘As a prosecutor, I am horrified at what the committee has done. Terminating the FBI background investigation before these new allegations were even considered. Doing partisan interviews by partisan staffers declaredly determined to force the nominee through.
‘Letting Kavanaugh’s alleged accomplice in the assault, the guy in the room with him when it happened, get away with a lawyer’s letter and no testimony, no cross examination?’ Whitehouse added.
The news comes after a nearly 8-hour day that saw both Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh take the stand in what was an emotional hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee
U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) holds up a letter from Mark Judge, longtime friend of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as members of the Judiciary Committee meet to vote on the nomination of Kavanaugh to be a U.S. Supreme Court associate justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2018
JEFF FLAKE – I WILL VOTE FOR KAVANAUGH (BEFORE HE ISSUED KEY CAVEAT)
Flake issued a definitive statement after leaving both sides guessing with his vague speech at Thursday’s tense hearing.
‘After hearing more than 30 hours of testimony from Judge Kavanaugh earlier this month, I was prepared to support his nomination based on his view of the law and his record as a judge. In fact, I commented at the time that had he been nominated in another era, he would have likely received 90+ votes,’ Flake said.
He then referenced Ford’s allegations of sexual assault.
‘When Dr. Ford’s allegations against Judge Kavanaugh surfaced two weeks ago, I insisted that she be allowed to testify before the committee moved to a vote. Yesterday, we heard compelling testimony from Dr. Ford, as well as a persuasive response from Judge Kavanaugh,’ Flake said.
‘I wish that I could express the confidence that some of my colleagues have conveyed about what either did or did not happen in the early 1980s, but I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty.’
‘What I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence. That is what binds us to the rule of law. While some may argue that a different standard should apply regarding the Senate’s advice and consent responsibilities, I believe that the constitution’s provisions of fairness and due process apply here as well,’ Flake said.
‘I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,’ Flake concluded.
As the panel met Friday, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal immediately moved to subpoena Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge. Blasey Ford claims Judge was present during the alleged assault. Judge never appeared before the panel or met with the FBI, although panel chair Charles Grassley of Iowa read a letter by Judge’s lawyer.
‘The ram job continues,’ said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
Blumenthal said of Judge as the tense hearing began: ‘Evidently he has never been interviewed by the FBI. He has never been questioned by any member of our committee. He has never submitted a detailed account of what he knows.’
‘He has submitted a cursory, conclusory 6-sentence letter,’ Blumenthal complained. ‘We cannot in good conscience, vote without hearing at least from Mark Judge … We should hear from the other sexual assault survivors who have come forward with incredible and powerful stories.’
Within minutes of the conclusion of the riveting Senate hearing, Republicans announced that the Judiciary Committee would meet Friday morning for a vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Kavanaugh is expected to clear a committee roll call. But even if he doesn’t, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will start turning the Senate’s wheels with a procedural floor vote as early as Saturday.
Key holdouts huddled in the Capitol on Thursday evening, including SusanCollins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, facing a difficult re-election fight in a deep-red Trump state, has sent signals that he could vote with Republicans.
If not, Republicans could withstand just a single defection if they want to confirm Kavanaugh, who has emphatically denied Ford’s allegations.
Other Democrats sitting on the fence as of Friday morning included Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida. All three are looking to avoid alienating Republican voters in advance of the midterm election just weeks away.
Flake, a retiring Arizona lawmaker who has crossed swords with Trump, failed to question wither Kavanaugh or Ford during Thursday’s Judiciary Committee hearing – instead delivering an equivocating speech.
‘I’m sorry for what’s happened to you and your family. I’m sorry for what has happened to hers. This is not a good process, but it’s all we’ve got,’ Flake said.
After the hearing Flake said it was a ‘tough call’ on whether he would support Kavanaugh, saying Ford’s account was ‘compelling’ but lacked ‘corroboration from those who were there.’
Asked how he would vote, Flake only said ‘let me process it.’
‘There have been no decisions,’ Manchin reportedly said outside the hearing room. ‘There are some concerns that people have, and we’re going to try to close the loop.’
While Flake is the only senator among the four who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, all are considered key to determining Kavanaugh’s ultimate fate if his nomination were to reach a full vote in the Senate.
They talked for around 30 minutes before Thursday night’s GOP conference meeting.
Former President George W. Bush personally reached out to all four senators, including Manchin, hoping to help sway them to Kavanaugh’s side, according to The Washington Post.
The former president has a long history with Kavanaugh, who worked for him during the crucial Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election. Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2003.
Meanwhile, moderate Democratic Sen. Doug Jones revealed Thursday night that he would oppose Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court bid.
The Alabama senator, who defeated right-winger Roy Moore in a bellwether special election last year, called the nomination process ‘flawed from the beginning’ and said he found Ford to be both credible and courageous.
Jones added that he was concerned voting ‘yes’ on Kavanaugh’s nomination would send a bad message to sons, daughters, and victims of sexual assault.
Several Senate Republicans likewise acknowledged Ford’s ‘credibility.’ But GOP leadership from still scheduled a Judiciary Committee meeting and Friday vote immediately after the end of Kavanaugh’s testimony.
Three Republicans (Collins, Murkowski and Flake) and five Democrats (Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, Nelson and Tester) are thought to be ‘in play’ and could switch sides when a final Kavbanaugh vote is called on the Senate floor
Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, hold hands as they leave a holding room after the hearing on Thursday
Trump tweeted his support for Kavanaugh just minutes after the 8-hour hearing came to an end on Thursday night
But partisans on both sides were already rallying factions in the brutal fight over replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was the critical ‘swing vote’ on the high court for years, following a hearing where Kavanaugh tore into Democrats for what he claimed was merely a conspiracy to bring him down.
‘I will never personally or professionally support any Democrat who votes to confirm Kavanaugh,’ tweeted Guy Cecil, head of the liberal superpac Priorities USA.
Kavanaugh himself lit partisan fires during his angry pushback on the assault charges, accusing panel Democrats of a ‘calculated and orchestrated political hit’.
Judiciary Republicans rallied around Kavanaugh after his emotional appearance, which followed Ford’s vivid description of her own suffering during an attack she says happened at a house party decades ago.
Graham tore into Democrats for what he called an ‘unethical sham’ saying: ‘Boy, y’all want power and I hope you don’t get it.’
But panel Democrats blasted the charge, saying they believed Kavanaugh’s accuser or at least wanted the FBI to investigate to discern more information and interview Mark Judge – a witness to the alleged attack.
‘We believe her,’ Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted, joining the likes of Judiciary Committee members Kamala Harris and Richard Blumenthal, who both told Ford during they hearing that they believed her.
Warren called for a full FBI investigation on Thursday, while fellow Democratic Sen Patty Murray said Kavanaugh should ‘withdraw immediately’.
‘I watched with tears as Dr Ford bravely shared her experience with the Senate,’ Murray tweeted on Thursday.
‘Judge Kavanaugh, who didn’t demonstrate honesty or temperament, is asking senators for a seat on the highest court in the land – which he did not deserve today.’
‘Kavanaugh should withdraw immediately. If GOP leaders continue to rush this nomination, women & men across the country will stand up & fight back. The Senate failed Anita Hill & all women in 1991. 27 years later—we must do better.’
Like Murray, several Democrats found Kavanaugh’s combative testimony to be disqualifying.
‘Judge Kavanaugh exhibited temperament Americans do not want in fair judges,’ said Democrat Sen Sheldon Whitehouse.
‘He was discourteous, lashing out at senators raising legitimate questions, and made unfounded conspiracy allegations about imagined plots by political enemies.’
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also questioned why Republicans weren’t demanding the White House order the FBI to reopen their background investigation if they were ‘so certain’ of Kavanaugh’s story.
‘Hold off on a vote for several days so all the facts can come out,’ he proclaimed.
The American Bar Association has likewise demanded a full FBI investigation, calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to halt the vote until one is completed.
ABA President Robert Carlson wrote a letter to both Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein in which he said it was crucial that the FBI investigate Ford’s claims.
‘The basic principles that underscore the Senate’s constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI,’ he wrote.
‘Each appointment to our nation’s Highest Court (as with all others) is simply too important to rush to a vote.’
‘Deciding to proceed without conducting additional investigation would not only have a lasting impact on the Senate’s reputation, but it will also negatively affect the great trust necessary for the American people to have in the Supreme Court.’
Carlson’s letter came just hours after Kavanaugh himself noted during his hearing that he had received the ABA’s highest rating of unanimous ‘well-qualified’ for the Supreme Court before Ford’s sexual assault allegations came to light.
But Kavanaugh’s angry denials, as well as his tearful account of the threats and harassment against his family, seemed to unite and energize Republicans.
‘I don’t know how you can listen to him and not realize that he’s what he says he is,’ Sen Orrin Hatch said, adding that he believes Kavanaugh will be confirmed.
News of Friday’s vote comes after Kavanaugh delivered a fighting end to his Senate testimony Thursday when asked directly if he was innocent of claims he tried to rape Ford or had any doubts about his integrity.
‘100 per cent. Not a scintilla. Swear to God,’ he said.
The forceful declaration capped an angry and emotional afternoon in which Kavanaugh fought for the Supreme Court seat – and got immediate approval from the president.
‘Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him,’ Trump tweeted just moments after the hearing ended.
‘His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!’
The embattled nominee began with a 45-minute, 5,200-word opening statement, throwing away a far briefer statement he had already submitted as he instead launched into conspiracy theories that the hearing was the Democrats’ ‘revenge for the Clintons’.
‘This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election,’ Kavanaugh claimed.
‘Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.’
But that testimony was challenged head-on by Democratic senator Cory Booker, who later asked if Kavanaugh believed Ford was a political operative and if he wished she had ‘never come forward’.
‘Are you saying Dr Ford’s efforts to come forward to prepare for the difficult testimony she gave today, have all been part of an orchestrated hit? Are you calling her a political operative?’ the senator asked.
‘All allegations should be taken seriously…I don’t know her, but I also said [my family and I] have no ill will towards her,’ Kavanaugh said.
‘Do you think that people who believe Dr Ford are legitimizing despicable things?’ Booker continued. ‘Do you think we’re somehow engaging in something that’s despicable?’
‘She is not a political pawn, she is not part of the Clinton’s effort to get some kind of revenge,’ the senator went on in a rousing defense of Ford. ‘She’s a woman who came here with corroborating evidence to tell her truth.’
Kavanaugh later admitted at the end of the hearing that he did not watch Ford’s testimony.
The judge choked up and took deep, heaving breaths in his opening statement as he talked about what his youngest daughter told his wife the night before he testified.
‘Little Liza said to Ashley, we should pray for the woman. That’s a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old,’ he said.
Kavanaugh was emotional again when talking about his yearbook. ‘For one thing, our yearbook was a disaster,’ he said, in reference to the reports of what was written inside.
‘Some people wanted the yearbook to be a combination of Animal House, Caddyshack, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which were all recent movies at that time,’ he noted, adding ‘many of us went along with the yearbook to the point of absurdity.’
He added: ‘This past week my friends and I have cringed when we talked about it to each other.’
Kavanaugh specifically referenced – without mentioning her name – Renate Schroeder Dolphin, who The New York Times reported on earlier this week, noting a ‘Renate’ reference appeared 14 times in Kavanaugh’s yearbook with Kavanaugh listed as a ‘Renate Alumni.’
‘It was not related to sex,’ he said bluntly. ‘I’m so sorry for her for that yearbook reference,’ he added, choking up as he proclaimed: ‘She was and is a great person.’
Sen Richard Blumenthal brought up the yearbook statement again later in the hearing, referencing Dolphin’s own quote to the Times that the ‘Alumni’ joke was ‘horrible, hurtful, and simply untrue’.
‘Renate Alumni clearly implied some boast of sexual conquest,’ Blumenthal added.
Kavanaugh became agitated at the senator’s suggestion, instead trying to claim it was Blumenthal who was doing ‘great harm’ to Dolphin, despite the fact he was referencing her own direct quote regarding the yearkbook.
‘You’re just dragging her through the mud,’ Kavanaugh said.
What was not addressed during the hearing was the fact that Kavanaugh’s lawyer claimed he shared a kiss with Dolphin after an event, to which she specifically told the New York Times never actually happened.
On Thursday Kavanaugh also reiterated a claim he made during his Fox News interview on Monday that he was a virgin in high school and for years afterward.
‘This is not a topic I ever imagined would come up in a judicial confirmation hearing,’ he said. ‘I never had sexual intercourse or anything close to it during high school or for many years after that.’
Kavanaugh also admitted he liked beer and still likes beer, but added it doesn’t mean he sexually assaulted anyone.
‘I liked beer. I still like beer. But I never drank beer to the point of blacking out and I never sexually assaulted someone,’ he said.
He then issued a warning that attempted to tie his sexual assault allegations to the fate of any young American who enjoys beer.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin exits after meeting privately with Republican Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski following the hearing. The four are considered the key holdouts that could block Kavanaugh’s nomination
‘If every American who drank beer in high school is suddenly presumed guilty of sexual assault we are in a new place in this country,’ he proclaimed.
Whether Kavanaugh had ever blacked out from drinking was a frequent topic of discussion during the hearing, as he continued to claim he was far too focused on his football practice to ever do such a thing on weekdays in the summer.
Yet later in the hearing, Kavanaugh had to concede to Booker that on July 1 – a weekday – he had ‘brewskis’ with his friends after a football practice. The proof was in his much-discussed calendar.
‘You drank on weekdays, yes or no?’ Booker asked.
‘Well, yes…on July 1,’ Kavanaugh replied.
Blumenthal also brought up how Kavanaugh had once described needing to ‘piece things back together’ after ‘falling off the bus on to the front steps of the Law School at 4.45am’ while he was a law student at Yale.
Her voice quavered as she described her trauma following the house party where she claims Kavanaugh attacked her as Judge watched.
‘I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to,’ she said. ‘But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.’
‘When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me.’
‘I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming,’ she recalled.
‘This was what terrified me the most and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.’
She added: ‘Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time.’
Ford also addressed questions in her opening statement about why she did not report the assault at the time.
‘For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details. I did not want to tell my parents that I, at age 15, was in a house without any parents present, drinking beer with boys,’ she said.
‘I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened.’
Since Ford has come forward, both Julie Swetnick (left) and Deborah Ramirez (right) have accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Ramirez claims that Kavanaugh placed his penis in front of her and caused her to involuntary touch it during a party