Senate Republicans and Democrats engaged in angry clashes Thursday over the quickly-completed FBI background investigation into sex assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh – with no new light appearing to have been shed by the rushed probe.
Senate Democrats said their fears had been realized after the FBI turned over documents to the chamber, as they demanded the documents be made public.
They fumed it was ‘limited’ and ‘incomplete’ and accused the White House of constraining agents from questioning both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, whose own attorneys called it a ‘stain on the FBI’.
But Republican leadership and the White House proclaimed it a clean bill of health for Kavanaugh and Trump tweeted: ‘This is now the 7th. time the FBI has investigated Judge Kavanaugh. If we made it 100, it would still not be good enough for the Obstructionist Democrats.’
Key Republican Susan Collins declared the probe ‘very thorough’ in a good sign for the embattled nominee. With Republicans holding just a 51-vote majority, the approval of Collins on how the process was conducted is a pivotal development.
Another key holdout, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, said the FBI reports provided ‘no additional corroborating information’ – a possible indication he could find his way to a ‘yes’ vote, with a final Senate vote due Saturday night.
The fate of Kavanaugh’s nomination now lies in the hands of a quintet of senators: Collins, Flake, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, and North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.
The three Republicans were viewing the report at the same time early Thursday afternoon.
The fast pace of the FBI’s investigation – under terms Democrats charge were set by the White House – led to still more angry recriminations on and off the Senate floor as the Kavanaugh nomination edged toward a vote despite a bitter row over sexual assault allegations.
‘We had many fears that this was a very limited process that would constrain the FBI from getting all the facts,’ said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer just outside his Senate office hours after the documents were first made available for one-by-one review.
‘Having received a thorough briefing on the documents, those fears have been realized,’ Schumer complained.
‘I disagree with Senator Grassley’s statement that there was no hint of misconduct,’ Schumer said, referencing a pronouncement by Judiciary Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, who was the first to get a look at the FBI materials. Schumer did not elaborate on the materials, which are meant to be kept confidential.
But potentially far more relevant than the fury of the minority was the apparent satisfaction by Collins, who Kavanaugh critics have long feared and suspected would provide support for the nominee, despite seeking assurances that the precedent of Roe v. Wade be preserved.
‘It appears to be a very thorough investigation. But I’m going to go back to personally read the interviews,’ Collins said Thursday morning.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who helped demand the additional FBI check, said Thursday morning: ‘We’ve seen no new, credible corroboration – no new corroboration at all.’
Senate watchers took the comment as a sign she was gaining more comfort with voting for the nominee, despite complaints that other potential witnesses who reached out to the bureau had not been contacted.
The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary, Dianne Feinstein, voiced her own concern, as she went back to complaining about document production issues that dominated Kavanaugh’s initial confirmation hearing weeks ago.