The FBI has launched a new investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
President Donald Trump ordered the investigation at the request of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Trump posted on Twitter Friday night:
Trump said in a statement the updated investigation, which follows sexual misconduct allegations, “must be limited in scope” and “completed in less than one week.”
The decision is a reversal for the administration, which had argued that Kavanaugh had been vetted.
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Earlier Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court to the full Senate after securing a vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination from Republican Jeff Flake, who requested a delay and investigation.
The committee of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted along party lines to move the nomination forward.
“This country is being ripped apart here, and we’ve got to make sure that we do due diligence,” Flake said.
Another Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, said Friday she agrees with Flake in wanting an FBI investigation. Because Republicans hold a slim 51-49 margin in the Senate, they have little choice now but to slow down the process to confirm Kavanaugh.
Republican leaders said Friday they still plan to move ahead with a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Saturday.
Kavanaugh to cooperate
Kavanaugh said in a statement released by the White House that he will continue to cooperate with the FBI and the Senate.
“Throughout this process, I’ve been interviewed by the FBI, I’ve done a number of ‘background’ calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the senators and their counsel asked me. I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate,” he said.
The developments come one day after dramatic testimony by Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who has accused him of sexual assault when they were teenagers in 1982. Both told their stories to the Senate Judiciary Committee separately in lengthy hearings.
Kavanaugh has angrily denied the allegation that he sexually assaulted Ford at a gathering at a home in suburban Washington.
Kavanaugh needs at least 50 votes to be confirmed by the 100 member Senate. Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote if the Senate is evenly split. If all Democrats vote against Kavanaugh, two Republicans would also have to do the same to block his confirmation.
In another development Friday, a high school friend of Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, says he is willing to cooperate with any FBI investigation. Judge is likely to figure prominently in any inquiry by the FBI as Ford claims he was present when Kavanaugh allegedly attacked her at a party. Judge has denied being at any party with Ford when an attack took place.
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How key senators will vote
Also Friday, several Democrats from states that Trump won announced they would vote against Kavanaugh.
Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly from Indiana said he would vote against the appellate court judge. Donnelly said Ford’s sexual assault accusation against Kavanaugh was “disturbing and credible” and repeated a Democratic call for the FBI investigation.
Senator Doug Jones, a first-term Democrat from Alabama, a state in which President Donald Trump won by a wide margin, said Thursday he is voting ‘no’ on Kavanaugh’s bid for the Supreme Court.
“The Kavanaugh nomination process has been flawed from the beginning,” he said, adding that Ford was credible and courageous.
Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of swing state Florida also said Thursday he would vote against Kavanaugh. Republicans are trying to gain the vote of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state that Trump won comfortably, along with Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, also said she needs time to decide how she will vote. She is running for re-election in a state that voted heavily for Trump.
Bar association request
The American Bar Association late Thursday called on the Judiciary committee and the full Senate to delay the vote until the FBI has time to do a full background check on the claims made by Ford and other women.
“We make this request because of the ABA’s respect for the rule of law and due process under law,’’ the ABA letter to committee leadership said. “Each appointment to our nation’s highest court [as with all others] is simply too important to rush to a vote.”
Earlier Friday, committee Chairman Charles Grassley flatly dismissed the ABA’s request, saying, “I’ve explained many times an FBI investigation is not necessary. The ABA is an outside organization like any other that can send us letters and share their advice, but we’re not going to let them dictate our committee’s business.”