Supreme Court Nominations

Senate Judiciary Committee advances Kavanaugh nomination; Senate agrees to week delay for FBI probe

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U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh/PBS screenshot.

Updated: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 on Friday afternoon to advance to the Senate the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, a day after emotional testimony by both Kavanaugh and a woman who accused him of sexual assault during a party in the 1980s when they were high school students.

Republicans later agreed to a one-week delay of a vote by the full Senate to allow for an FBI investigation, report the Washington Post and Politico. The Post also reports that Republican leaders plan to move ahead with a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Saturday but postpone a final vote they wanted to take early next week.

President Donald Trump has ordered the supplemental investigation of sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, according to Fox News and Politico.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas announced the delay after three Republican senators—Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa— said they supported a delay for an FBI probe.

Flake, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said before the vote that he had spoken with Democrats, and he believes it would be proper to delay a vote of the entire Senate until the FBI does an investigation that takes no more than a week. He then joined the other 10 Republicans on the committee in voting to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination.

On Thursday, Flake was considered a swing vote, reports the Post, NPR and Politico. But he announced in a statement Friday morning that he will vote yes, NBC reported in a tweet.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz./

“[Thursday], we heard compelling testimony from Dr. Ford, as well as a persuasive response from Judge Kavanaugh,” Flake said in a statement published by the Wall Street Journal. Flake was referring to testimony by Christine Blasey Ford, who said Kavanaugh had jumped on top of her in a locked bedroom during the high school party, trying to take off her swimsuit and covering her mouth when she tried to yell.

“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,” Flake said. “What I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence.”

The committee set the vote for Friday afternoon after defeating a motion to subpoena Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh’s. Ford testified Thursday that Judge was in the room during the sexual assault.

Grassley said Judge sent a letter to the committee Thursday evening saying he does not recall the events described by Ford in her testimony and he never saw Kavanaugh act in a manner she described.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, on Friday morning accused Republicans of “a total railroad job” before walking out of the hearing room with others, the New York Times reported.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday that she thinks Kavanaugh was “incredibly powerful and very clear.” She said she hopes and thinks there are enough votes in the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh.

The ABA released a letter late Thursday night urging the committee to delay a vote until “after an appropriate background check into the allegations made by professor Ford and others is completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The letter, signed by ABA President Bob Carlson, said the association was making the request because of its “respect for the rule of law and due process under law.”

Student Bar Association presidents at 26 law schools sent a letter on Friday supporting the ABA call for an FBI investigation to leaders of the Senate and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Without a neutral investigation, Kavanaugh’s nomination “will be forever tainted in the eyes of a substantial number of Americans, no matter the outcome,” the letter said.

Related articles: “Live blog of confirmation hearings, Day 1: Kavanaugh pledges an open mind in every case” “Live blog of confirmation hearings, Day 2: Kavanaugh answers ‘Purple Party’ president hypothetical” “Live blog of confirmation hearings, Day 3: Kavanaugh won’t say whether president’s character matters” “Live blog of confirmation hearings, Day 4: Yale law prof says Kavanaugh is best choice for Democrats” “Kavanaugh defends himself in TV interview; White House is open to testimony by 2nd accuser” “Kavanaugh was ‘physically aggressive’ at parties where gang rapes occurred: 3rd accuser’s affidavit”

Updated at 9:39 a.m. with additional information and correction of Kavanaugh reference; updates throughout at 1:12 p.m.; adds links to related coverage at 2:06 p.m.; updates throughout at 3:45 p.m.; adds new third paragraph with reaction from Trump at 4:20 p.m.

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