The confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was delayed by at least a week when President Trump ordered an investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving Kavanaugh. The attack is alleged to have happened some thirty-six years ago. The investigation will not be broad and will be concluded in a week the President announced Thursday.
“I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week,” a statement issued by the White House read.
The developments surrounding the call for an investigation were fast moving and may have forced the President’s hand. The President had previously resisted calling on the FBI to open a probe into Kavanaugh’s past, laying the responsibility for any inquiry at the Senate’s feet instead.
“I would let the senators take their course. Let the senators do it. They’re doing a very good job. They’ve given tremendous amounts of time. They’ve already postponed a major hearing. And, really, they’re hurting somebody’s life very badly,” the President told reporters last week.
By Thursday the President’s position had changed. That change was precipitated by a dramatic development earlier in the day during vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Kavanaugh’s nomination. A nomination to the Supreme Court must pass out of that committee before heading to a full vote on the Senate floor.
Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican from Arizona, was seen largely as a reluctant vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the committee. Prior to the committee vote, Flake stood up from his chair walked across the dais and tapped Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware on the shoulder. He motioned for him to follow him out of the committee room.
The two then retired to an anteroom just outside the main room. Flake remained outside of the committee room for more than an hour. As the minutes wore on, Flake’s fellow Republican Senators became increasingly concerned that he had changed his mind on the vote and had decided to vote Kavanaugh’s nomination down.
The Committee was set to vote at 1:30 P.M. ET but couldn’t because Flake was not in the room. Shortly thereafter Flake returned to the Committee room and was recognized to speak.
“I have been speaking with a number of people on the other side, we’ve had conversations ongoing for a while with regard to making sure that we do due diligence here and 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 continue to do an investigation limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there…limited in time to no more than one week,” he said.
“I will vote to advance the bill to the floor with that understanding. And I’ve spoken to a few other members who are on my side of the aisle that may be supportive as well, but that’s my position. I think that we ought to do what we can to make sure that we do all due diligence with a nomination this important,” Flake continued.
Immediately after, Kavanaugh’s nomination advanced out of the Committee. Soon after the vote however, several other Senators, mostly Republicans, announced that they too would only vote for Kavanaugh’s nomination in the full vote if an FBI investigation into the allegations were conducted.
At about 4 P.M. ET Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee formally asked the White House to order an investigation. Within the hour the President had made his announcement.
The White House, along with Senate Republicans, reiterated several times that the investigation will be narrow in purpose, focusing only on the accusations made last week by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University. Ford trains graduate students in clinical psychology.
Ford claims one day in the summer of 1982, Kavanaugh and a friend, described by Ford as both being “stumbling drunk,” lured her into a bedroom during a get together of teenagers at a home. Ford says she knew Kavanaugh and the friend, a man by the name of Mark Judge, as “friendly acquaintances” in the private-school circles they both were a part of in suburban Maryland.
Ford says Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and got on top of her, attempting to pull off her clothes and grope her, all while Judge watched. When Ford attempted to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth, she says.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford told The Washington Post. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
Judge falling on top of the two and sending all three teenagers stumbling to the floor allowed Ford an opportunity to escape. She briefly locked herself in a bathroom before fleeing the house, she says.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. “Judge Kavanaugh ‘categorically and unequivocally’ denie[s] this allegation,” a statement released by the White House after the accusations became public read.
Kavanaugh, during congressional testimony last week attempted to characterize the accusations as part of a conspiracy to undermine his nomination as well as Mr. Trump’s presidency.
“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, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record and revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” Kavanaugh said.
Senate Republicans, while agreeing to the delay and the investigation, remained adamant that the inquiry will not be expansive, either in focus or in duration.
“I think what Jeff is trying to do is end this the best he possibly can, to accommodate some people on the other side, and to bring the committee together if possible. This is democracy,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
“A week is enough time…maybe less. We’re not playing this game of opening this up and it goes on forever,” Graham added.
That sentiment was echoed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s decision it will to call any final vote on Kavanaugh.
“Let me make it very clear,” McConnell said. “The time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close. Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is out of committee. We’re considering it here on the floor. We’ll be voting this week.”
Photo by the Office of Senator Orrin Hatch via Wikimedia Commons