One of the key Republican senators undecided on whether to support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is standing by his call to see the results of an FBI investigation before making a decision, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s commitment to holding a vote this week.
Asked if he supports having a vote on Friday, Sen. Jeff Flake said, “Depends on where we are with the FBI investigation.”
“The agreement was that we wouldn’t have a cloture vote until the report was filed,” Flake told CNN at a Washington airport Tuesday morning after returning from a trip to Manchester, New Hampshire.
Flake has emerged as a crucial Republican decision-maker whose last-minute stance Friday to push for an FBI investigation brought the relatively quick-moving nomination to a pause after an emotional day of testimony from both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in the 1980s when they were both teenagers.
McConnell, accusing Democrats of moving the goalposts on the Kavanaugh nomination, said from the Senate floor Monday that the time for “delay and obstruction” has come to a close.
“We will be voting this week,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Last Friday, Flake agreed to vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee for a favorable recommendation for Kavanaugh – effectively advancing his nomination toward a final Senate floor vote – if the FBI agreed to investigate some of the allegations against Kavanaugh.
“I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week,” Flake said Friday. “We ought to do what we can to make sure that we do all due diligence with a nomination this important.”
Flake said at the vote should not be delayed more than one week though it’s not entirely clear at this time what the exact parameters of the investigation are. The FBI has interviewed witnesses related to Ford’s allegation as well as accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior alleged by Deborah Ramirez in a report from The New Yorker. Kavanaugh has denied all allegations against him, including those of Ramirez and Ford.
Asked if he would be comfortable with the investigation wrapping up on Friday no matter where the inquiry stands, Flake said, “I don’t want to talk about that. … I think they can be done so I’m not going to address that hypothetical.”
Flake said that Kavanaugh’s relationship to alcohol “wasn’t the main focus” of the investigation and Flake said he hasn’t paid much attention to the conflicting accounts on Kavanaugh’s alcohol use from those who know him.
Asked if he’s been updated on the investigation, Flake said “We believe a report should be coming soon.”
Later, while speaking at an event hosted by The Atlantic, Flake suggested he didn’t believe the Department of Justice should investigate Julie Swetnick, who told the Judiciary Committee in a statement that Kavanaugh was present at a high school party where she was the victim of a gang rape. She did not identify Kavanaugh as one of her attackers.
“The compromise that we struck, that we would have something limited by time,” he said while speaking on stage later Tuesday morning. “The scope being limited to current, credible allegations. And we didn’t want to throw something open for allegations to come out like the Rhode Island boat thing that was out and then retracted. Or some of the more outlandish ones out there. We checked with the DOJ and they assured us this was within the timeframe they could do it.”
He also said he was very “troubled” by the way Kavanaugh presented himself during last week’s hearing, saying the Supreme Court “can’t” have that.
“I was very troubled by the tone of the remarks,” he said later, adding, “And I tell myself, you give yourself a little leeway because of what he’s been through, but on the other hand, we can’t have this on the court. We simply can’t.”
Flake is one of three key undecided GOP senators who could make or break Kavanaugh’s nomination in the Senate that is controlled by Republicans with just a 51-49 margin. Sens. Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine – the other two undecided Republicans – have backed Flake’s call for an FBI investigation.