Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee but the floor vote is delayed a week as the FBI investigates “current credible” sexual assault claims.
The Republican-led committee wrapped a crucial vote on advancing the nomination to the full Senate — a day after nearly nine hours of emotional and at times wrenching testimony from the judge and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, on her allegation of sexual assault when they were teens.
Here’s how the day unfolded:
6:25 p.m.: Ford “welcomes” FBI investigation of claims
Christine Blasey Ford’s attorney, Debra S. Katz, said her client welcomes the FBI probe.
“A thorough FBI investigation is critical to developing all the relevant facts,” Dr. Christine Blasey Ford welcomes this step in the process and appreciates the efforts of Senators Flake, Murkowski, Manchin and Collins – and all other senators who have supported an FBI investigation – to ensure it is completed before the Senate votes on
Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination,” Debra S. Katz said in a statement. “No artificial limits as to time or scope should be imposed on this investigation.”
6:15 p.m.: Senate passed measure advancing Kavanaugh nomination
The Senate passed by voice vote Friday advancing the Kavanaugh nomination, ABC News’ Ali Rogin reports.
That means the next vote on Kavanaugh will be next Friday.
5:15 p.m.: So what’s next?
The day’s committee drama produced a deal for the way ahead.
ABC News’ Hill team reports that there will be a procedural vote in the Senate on Saturday on Kavanaugh’s nomination – a so-called “motion to proceed” …meaning the wheels are in motion.
But, there’s one big caveat.
No longer is the plan to finish this up early next week. Instead, Republicans have agreed to allow for a seven day FBI investigation (beginning Friday) before they vote again.
It’s also very likely that because everyone involved seems to be on the same page, Saturday’s aforementioned Senate vote will happen by voice vote.
Now, the pressure is on the FBI to do its job and produce an updated background report to the White House by next Friday.
4:55 p.m.: Trump orders FBI supplemental probe
President Donald Trump has ordered an FBI supplemental probe of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“I’ve ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file,” he said in a statement provided White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah passed along a statement from Judge Brett Kavanaugh:
“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.”
4:19 p.m.: The state of play with key undecided votes
In the last few hours, some of the key undecided lawmakers have all announced they are in support of Sen. Jeff Flake’s decision to delay a Kavanaugh vote pending an FBI investigation: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Republicans couldn’t push tomorrow’s procedural vote through even if they wanted to, ABC News’ Mariam Khan reports.
The ball is now in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s court on how to proceed on tomorrow’s vote.
4:15 p.m.: Sen. Susan Collins says she supports Sen. Jeff Flake
Sen. Susan Collins, a key vote in Kavanaugh’s confirmation, says she supports Sen. Jeff Flake’s push for an additional FBI probe of sexual assault claims.
However, she ignored a question when asked if she was leaning toward voting for Kavanaugh:
“This is an important development and I believe this will let us move forward,” she said.
4:14 p.m.: What Trump has said in the past when asked about an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh
As we await the White House’s response to the committee’s request for an additional FBI probe into sexual assault claims, ABC News’ Meridith McGraw and Alex Mallin have compiled how the president has answered questions on this very subject over the past 10 days.
Those answers have varied from:
– “The FBI said they really don’t do that”
– The FBI has already investigated
– Why didn’t someone call 36 yrs ago?
– “Look at what Joe Biden said”
3:54 p.m.: Senate Judiciary to ask administration to direct additional FBI investigation of Kavanaugh
The Senate Judiciary Committee said Friday afternoon that it will ask the administration to instruct the FBI to do a supplemental background investigation on Kavanaugh.
The probe would be limited to “current credible” claims against Kavanaugh and be completed within a week.
3:35 p.m.: Mark Judge says he will cooperate with any confidential law enforcement investigation
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee leadership, Mark Judge wrote that he will cooperate with any confidential law enforcement investigation into the claims that he witnessed sexual assault decades ago.
“I will cooperate with any law enforcement agency that is assigned to confidentially investigate these allegations,” Judge wrote.
Julie Swetnick of Washington, D.C., claims she observed Kavanaugh and Judge at numerous parties decades ago when they were all in high school in suburban Maryland.
She alleges Kavanaugh was drunk and engaging in what she called “highly inappropriate conduct,” including “fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent.”
Judge calls Swetnick’s claims “outlandish” and denies them.
He calls the allegations “so bizarre that, even while suffering from my addiction, I would remember actions so outlandish. I categorically deny them.”
2:49 p.m.: Manchin, Murkowski, Booker support Flake’s call for an FBI investigation
Two of the outstanding undecided senators, Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, both voiced their support for Flake in the aftermath of the Judiciary Committee vote.
Spotted on her way into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office, Murkowski informally voiced her backing of the Arizona senator’s actions to reporters as she walked by, according to ABC News’ Ali Rogin.
In a statement, Manchin wrote that he applauded “Senator Jeff Flake’s decision to rise above the partisan circus on display during this entire process.”
“It took courage to take a stand and call for a one-week FBI investigation to get to the bottom of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh,” Manchin continued. “This has been a partisan and divisive process. The American people have been pulled apart by this entire spectacle and we need to take time to address these claims independently so that our country can have confidence in the outcome of this vote.”
Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, who had previously left the meeting room in frustration with Republicans, later tweeted that he was “encouraged by the good faith discussion” with committee colleagues – especially Flake.
2:38 p.m.: Flake speaks to ABC News after vote
Minutes after a dramatic vote on moving Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination out of committee, Sen. Jeff Flake strode quickly past Sen. Susan Collins’ office in the Dirksen building.
He ignored shouted questions until just before getting on an elevator, ABC News’ Sarah Kolinvosky reports.
“Did you initiate these conversations with Democrats or did they come to you?”
Flake: “I’ll speak about it a little later
on the floor.”
2:26 p.m.: Avenatti tweets post Flake announcement
Following the Flake announcement – attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted an email he says he sent to the committee’s counsel – saying his client, Julie Swetnick, is prepared to meet with the FBI.
2:25 p.m.: Judiciary members meeting with McConnell
ABC News’ Mary Bruce reports that the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are on their way to meet with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
2:07 p.m.: Trump weighs in
Responding to Sen. Jeff Flake’s indication that he is uncomfortable moving forward to a floor vote until the FBI does an investigation, President Donald Trump said: “Whatever they think is necessary.”
When asked if he has a replacement for Kavanaugh, Trump stood by his nominee, telling reporters in the Oval Office, “Not a little bit.”
Pressed on if he has a message Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who are key swing votes when the full Senate takes up Kavanaugh’s confirmation, he said, “There’s no message. They have to do what they think is right.”
“She was a very credible witness,” the president said of Christine Blasey Ford who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both in high school decades ago. “She was very good in many respects.”
The president also lauded Kavanaugh’s testimony.
Trump also mused about: “an incredible moment I think in the history of our country.”
Adding, “I don’t know if this is going to continue onward or are we going to get a vote? Again, I’m here so I’m not out there watching because I can’t be, out of great respect.”
1:53 p.m.: The Judiciary Committee sends Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate floor
The committee voted 11-10, along party lines, with the support of every Republican member on the committee.
“This country is being ripped apart here. We’ve got to make sure that we do due diligence,” Flake said. “I think this committee has done a good job but I do think that we can have a short pause and make sure that the FBI can investigate.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had previously pushed for a planned vote to begin full Senate debate on Saturday at noon. It is a procedural vote, ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports.
The leader could ignore his request and move ahead with the vote but if other Republicans stand with Flake, McConnell may not have the votes to get Kavanaugh confirmed without him, according to ABC News’ Mary Bruce.
1:47 p.m.: Flake suggests delaying the floor vote
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, suggests delaying the floor vote.
1:46 p.m.: The behind the scenes drama continues
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, came back into the meeting room momentarily and then called California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat, back out with him.
The meeting has resumed.
1:32 p.m.: An intense huddle near the hearing room
At one point earlier, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, a key vote, – after Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, spoke of taking just another week to investigate – walked over to Coons and motioned for him to go toward the anteroom, ABC News’ Trish Turner and Mariam Khan report.
Coons reentered – solemn-faced and is sitting speaking privately with Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the hearing room.
All Democratic members are now in the anteroom.
Flake has yet to speak. He had an opportunity to address the meeting but passed it up.
1:23 p.m.: Sen. Collins constituent meeting reaction
What’s Sen. Susan Collins’ mindset, according to the constituents who just met with her?
“There’s no predicting but I’m hopeful that she will do the right thing and take this opportunity to just slow the process down. Yeah, she listened,” said one woman, according to ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky.
The group of constituents said Collins mostly listened to their stories and didn’t give any evaluation of yesterday’s contentious hearings.
One thing is for certain: Collins would lose the support of these women if she supports Kavanaugh.
“I told her the most intimate details of my sexual assault today,” one woman said, “and she sat there and she listened, she seemed to have an open heart, open eyes, and we hugged on the way out. I felt there was an intimacy about it, and I would feel shocked and incredibly betrayed as an American woman and a woman from Maine.”
1:05 p.m.: Committee stands ‘at ease’
Ahead of the roll call at 1:30 p.m. to vote Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee, Chairman Chuck Grassley announced, “We will stand at ease until the call of the gavel.”
12:54 p.m.: Blumenthal makes one last appeal to delay the vote
A moment of bipartisanship arose in a tense room when Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked for more time to make a final appeal to delay the vote, Grassley granted him additional time, as Kennedy offered the Connecticut Democrat the remainder of his time.
In a last-ditch effort to halt the confirmation process, Blumenthal, a former law clerk, asked the committee chairman to “avoid a rush to judgment.”
“We have a responsibility together to do the business of the United States Senate and Mr. Chairman, I know you may not agree with me, but I think in the spirit of working together, a delay in this vote would be appropriate,” Blumenthal said. “I’m here to make a last appeal that we avoid a rush to judgment with great respect for your position.”
Blumenthal, D-Conn., should be the last member to speak, ABC News’ Trish Turner reports. The committee will take up the vote at 1:30 p.m. It is unclear what Grassley does until the vote.
12:47 p.m.: Louisiana’s Kennedy: ‘No winners in this room’
Republican Sen. John Kennedy had some forceful for his colleagues, a day after he asked Kavanaugh to “swear to god” that he did not commit the assault against Dr. Ford.
“There were no winners in this room,” he said. “ All I saw were two people, two human beings in pain.”
“This has been an intergalactic freak show,” he added. “As far as I’m concerned Congress hit rock bottom and started to dig.”
He continued: “This is no country for creepy old men. Or young men. Or middle-aged men. But this is no country at all.”
12:29 p.m.: Booker praises Feinstein’s ‘decency’
Sen. Cory Booker, D- New Jersey, delivered an impassioned defense of Feinstein, as the ranking member contends with criticism from all sides over how she handled Dr. Ford’s allegation of sexual assault.
“I have such respect for the ranking member,” he said. “I was in the room when we discussed literally hours after I was aware that the letter existed about what her motivations were. It was a private room and forgive me for speaking out of if the ranking member believes I am, but her entire sense of decency and honor had nothing to do with politics. Politics was not mentioned. Her entire concerns were about the dignity and the humanity and the respect for Dr. Ford.”
Booker ends saying a seat on the Supreme Court is not an entitlement and that the country is watching how Congress handles credible allegations of assault.
Then he left to room and said he cannot participate if the committee does not investigate further.
12:25 p.m.: Tester will vote against Kavanaugh
ABC News’ Mariam Khan dispatches from the Hill:
Another red state Democrat up for re-election, Montana Sen. John Tester, said: “I have concerns about Kavanaugh’s record.”
“I have deep concerns about the allegations of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh. Unfortunately, Judge Kavanaugh couldn’t find time to discuss these concerns with me in person, so the only information I have is from what he said in his hearings,” Tester said in a statement.
“I’ll be voting against him.”
12:19 p.m.: Demonstrator gather outside the Supreme Court
Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court protesting the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh ahead of today’s expected vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee
12:11 p.m.: Sen. Collins meets with five anti-Kavanaugh constituents
Sen. Susan Collins, a potentially pivotal vote, is about to take a meeting inside the Capitol with five women from her home state of Maine opposed to Kavanaugh, some of whom are sexual assault survivors, ABC News Sarah Kolinovsky reports.
The protesters came to her office to link up with staff before walking to the Capitol for the 15-minute meeting.
Their message: “We believe the women and we will hope she will too,” Diane Russell, an organizer told cameras.
“I believe that she will do right by women… hopeful that she will stand strong with a legacy of strong Maine women,” Russell said before listing notable Maine women in history. “I think she’s going to go down as one of the greatest senators in US history.”
11:59 a.m.: Grassley speeding things up
ABC News’ Trish Turner reports that in the middle of a lengthy soliloquy from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked the senator to wrap it up.
“This is not about substance. This is about smears,” Cruz said before Grassley interrupted.
“Can I ask the senator to sum up,” Grassley posed. “The reason is because I’d like to give everybody a chance to speak.”
Cruz continued: “This committee has given Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh full and fair opportunity to lay out their views.”
11:49 a.m.: Kavanaugh’s law school alma mater calls for an FBI investigation
ABC News’ Dominick Proto reports that the dean of Yale Law School, where Kavanaugh earned his law degree, is joining the American Bar Association in calling for an “additional investigation.”
“I join the American Bar Association in calling for an additional investigation into allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh,” Dean Heather Gerken said in a statement. “Proceeding with the confirmation process without further investigation is not in the best interest of the Court or our profession.”
11:31 a.m.: Partisan back and forth continues
Hoping to propel Kavanaugh’s nomination forward, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said, “Our job now is to vote. Today, we’re going to do that.”
Minutes after, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., panned her Republican counterparts, asserting, “There was a lot of chest beating that went on yesterday. On the other side. And it was pretty effective, I guess, if the goal was to distract the American public from what they had heard in the morning, to distract and deflect from the moving, powerful testimony we heard.”
11:23 a.m.: The New York Times’ editorial board weighs in: ‘Why Brett Kavanaugh Wasn’t Believable’
“Where Christine Blasey Ford was calm and dignified, Brett Kavanaugh was volatile and belligerent,” the editorial begins.
Amid the tensions spilling over inside the halls of Capitol Hill over Kavanaugh’s nomination, the editorial board for the New York Times is certain, as it urges the Senate to vote “no.”
“Her description of the attack, which she said occurred in a suburban Maryland home on a summer night in 1982, was gut-wrenchingly specific,” the newspaper continues.
“On Thursday, he gave misleading answers to questions about seemingly small matters — sharpening doubts about his honesty about far more significant ones. He gave coy answers when pressed about what was clearly a sexual innuendo in his high-school yearbook.”
Ultimately, the editorial board says the American public needs “to know the truth.”
“The Senate and the American people need to know the truth, or as close an approximation as possible, before deciding whether Judge Kavanaugh should get a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court,” the editorial states. “If the committee will not make a more serious effort, the only choice for senators seeking to protect the credibility of the Supreme Court will be to vote no.”
Read the full editorial here.
11:33 a.m.: A pivotal red state Democrat will vote ‘no’
One of the key votes for Kavanaugh’s confirmation on the full Senate floor, which will come after the committee moves forward with a vote, red state Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana announced in a statement he will vote “no” on the judge’s nomination, ABC News’ Alisa Wiersema reports.
“While I would gladly welcome the opportunity to work with President Trump on a new nominee for this critically important position, if Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination comes before the full Senate for a vote under these circumstances, I will oppose it,” he said.
11:16: Whitehouse calls Kavanaugh’s calendar possible ‘corroborating evidence’
The Rhode Island senator called into question Kavanaugh’s detailed calendar from the summer of 1982, suggesting that the July 1 gathering includes many of the people Ford said were at the gathering on the night she said Kavanaugh assaulted her.
Sen. Whitehouse references Kavanaugh calendar entry. “This may—may—be powerful corroborating evidence that the assault happened…But with no FBI investigation, we can’t tell.”
“You investigate. It’s the least thing a sexual assault victim is entitled to when she comes forward.” pic.twitter.com/NVbfWhkGv9
— ABC News (@ABC) September 28, 2018
“Here’s Kavanaugh’s calendar,” he began. “Dr. Ford said that Kavanaugh and judge and P.J. And at least one other boy were all at a house. Well, we know Brett Kavanaugh was there because it’s his schedule. And here’s judge, and here’s P.J. Here are all those three named boys and others at a house together just as she said.”
“She said Kavanaugh and judge were drunk. And that she had a beer. Skis is brewskies, beers. They were drinking, just as she said,” he added.
“Now, I will concede that the two girls aren’t mentioned,” he affirmed. “But spot me this. If you had just sexually assaulted one of the two girls, would you add the girls’ names to your calendar? I doubt it. This may, may be powerful corroborating evidence that the assault happened. That it happened that day. And that it happened in that place.”
“But with no FBI investigation, we can’t tell,” he said.
11:08 a.m: More members make their exits, for now
ABC News’ Trish Turner reports from inside the hearing room that senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dick Durbin of Illinois have left. It is unclear which members will return at this point. They will have to return for the vote set for 1:30 p.m.
11:07 a.m: Graham on presumption of innocence: “God help us all”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has left the committee room, but not before delivering a strong rebuke of the allegations against Kavanaugh.
“God help us all,” he said. “If the new standard for the committee is that there’s no presumption of anything, that you have to prove why somebody would accuse you, not just say I didn’t do it and here’s why I didn’t do it, but you have to prove the motives of your accuser. God help us all.”
“This has never been about the truth,” he added. “This has been about delay and destruction and if we reward this – it is the end of good people wanting to be judges.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, added to that chorus of criticisms, repeating comments he made Thursday, “I think this is one of the darkest days for the United States Senate since the Mccarthy hearings that occurred back in the ’50s.”
“Cruelty. Recklessness, indecency. Toward the people we should be treating with respect and dignity.”
11:04 a.m.: Texas Senate debate this Sunday between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke postponed due to Kavanaugh votes
The highly anticipated showdown between Sen.Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O’Rourke has been postponed due to the Kavanaugh votes, the University of Houston announced.
This was slated to be the second debate between Cruz and O’Rourke in this high-profile midterm race, ABC News’ Johnny Verhovek reports.
There had been rumblings in recent days that Cruz wanted to postpone due to the ongoing Kavanaugh battle and uncertain vote schedule.
10:54 a.m.: Durbin calls out Graham for ‘problem’ remark
Invoking the words Graham said during his Fox News interview, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., challenged the South Carolina Republican, demanding, “Last night on a TV show, one senator said, and I quote, ‘Ms. Ford has got a problem in destroying judge Kavanaugh’s life won’t fix her problem.’
“How could you listen to her honest and direct testimony and draw that conclusion,” he posed.
“This undertaking is deeply personal, and there is humanity to reconcile on both sides of the ledger,” he added.
10:38 p.m.: Graham aims to be a ‘voice’ for South Carolina today
Amid high tensions, Sen. Lindsey Graham offered a few observations on the current state of affairs.
“I would like to tell him that you had a choice to make for the Supreme Court vacancy of Justice Kennedy,” he said. “I think you did a good job, Mr. President. For somebody who supposedly is crazy and there’s chaos everywhere, he did a good job here.”
Despite admonishing Democrats’ tactics, claiming “Y’all want power” the day before, the South Carolina Republican said, “You lost the election. And that does have consequences.”
He continued his ardent defense of Kavanaugh, telling the committee, “I have never heard a more compelling defense of one’s honor and integrity than I did from Brett Kavanaugh.”
10:23 am: Leahy: ‘It feels like Alice in Wonderland around here.’
“It’s almost surreal,” Leahy said, admonishing the committee. “This Judiciary Committee is no longer an independent branch of government. And we’re supposed to be. The Senate is supposed to be an independent, equal branch of government. We’re no longer that. We are an arm and a very weak arm of the Trump White House. Every semblance of independence has just disappeared. It’s gone.”
10:05 a.m.: Highlights from the Democrats’ presser on the sidelines
Upon walking out of the committee room, the Democrats marched up together before a microphone and spoke alongside protesters to a gathering of reporters.
“I have never seen such a display of vengeful, partisan conspiracy theory behavior from somebody seeking any judgeship,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island said.
“The real facts, the real story here has not been told,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., added.
Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, added: “This is a failure of this body to do what it has always said it’s about.”
She also launched a petition, sent to supporters, to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination
9:53 am: Democrats briefly walk out
Democratic senators Kamala Harris of California, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Patrick Leahy of Vermont walked out of the meeting in protest.
Staff for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey left the room, signaling he might walk out too. Eventually, two of the Democratic members that walked out, Leahy and Whitehouse, returned to the Dirksen room.
The others – Harris, Hirono, Blumenthal – have not.
Ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein seemed to sum up her colleagues’ frustration as she underscored the severity of their task and actions of Republicans on the committee.
“I hoped we would do better and show women that our country, our committee, has in fact changed,” the ranking member said. “This isn’t a political battle for power, as some have said. This is a serious undertaking with serious allegations. While the Republican strategy is no longer attack the victim, it is ignore the victim. The entire country is watching now how we handle these serious allegations.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chairman, responded to the mostly absent minority during the meeting, asserting, “I regret that my Democratic colleagues again failed to timely bring this relevant information to his attention.”
With the committee closely split between 11 GOP members and 10 Democrats, if one Republican votes “no” or “present” on the recommendation, the nomination won’t have the endorsement of the full committee.
9:36 a.m.: Flake confronted by a protester
Moments after announcing his support for Judge Kavanaugh, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona was cornered in an elevator by a protester about his pending ‘yes’ vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violating a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable,” one unidentified woman told Flake.
Flake repeatedly, quietly thanked the woman but did not directly address her questions.
Tense moment as Sen. Jeff Flake is confronted in an elevator on Kavanaugh nomination: “You have power when so many women are powerless…How can you be speechless?” https://t.co/N1moIMiYeU pic.twitter.com/kDovWnS2G8
— ABC News (@ABC) September 28, 2018
9:20 am: Kavanaugh could still get confirmed, here’s why
But Kavanaugh could still get a full Senate confirmation by being referred out of the committee without a recommendation, as happened with now-Justice Clarence Thomas.
It’s not clear at this point if all Republicans on the panel will vote to recommend the nomination. But it seems more certain after GOP Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake announced minutes before the meeting is set to begin that he will vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
“After hearing more than 30 hours of testimony from Judge Kavanaugh earlier this month, I was prepared to support his nomination based on his view of the law and his record as a judge,” he said in a statement. “In fact, I commented at the time that had he been nominated in another era, he would have likely received 90+ votes.”
One Republican committee member, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he’s “optimistic” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the votes, but he did not express certainty.
Another, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., broke from the GOP’s measured strategy to have prosecutor Rachel Mitchell ask the questions for them, and launched into a tense and indignant five minutes during the hearing on Thursday.
“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” Graham said. “I hope that the American people will see through this charade.”
After the hearing, Graham told Fox News’ Sean Hannity: “I am now more convinced than ever that he didn’t do it, that he’s the right guy to be on the court, and that Ms. Ford has got a problem and destroying Judge Kavanaugh’s life won’t fix her problem.”
Shortly after Thursday’s hearing ended, several Senate moderates — the key votes in the Kavanaugh nomination — met privately in the Capitol.
In the huddle was one Republican member of the Judiciary Committee — Flake along with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Sources told ABC News that all four members left the conversation still undecided.
All eyes are now on those other key swing votes, including Manchin, who remained undecided as of Friday morning.
Sen. McConnell, when asked if he had the votes to put Kavanaugh on the high court, declined to answer, instead telling reporters on Capitol Hill, “You guys don’t need to follow me. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Friday’s vote will come hours after the American Bar Association, which had earlier given Kavanaugh its highest rating of “well-qualified” for the Supreme Court, sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee calling for the FBI to reopen the background check.
“The American Bar Association urges the United States Senate Judiciary Committee (and, as appropriate, the full Senate) to conduct a confirmation vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States only after an appropriate background check into the allegations made by Professor Ford and others is completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” ABA president Robert Carlson wrote.
The White House is hopeful that Republicans will deliver for the president.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” Friday, “I certainly hope so, and I certainly think so.”
Ford, a California university professor, told a captivated dais of lawmakers at Thursday’s hearing that she is “100 percent” certain her assailant was Kavanaugh.
Asked what is her strongest memory of the incident, she said, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter.”
“The uproarious laughter between the two. And their having fun at my expense … They were laughing with each other,” she said.
Mere hours later, Kavanaugh, sitting in the same seat before the Judiciary Committee, categorically denied the allegation and angrily accused Democrats of smearing his “good name.”
“This is a circus,” he said. “This grotesque, character assassination will dissuade confident and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country, and as we all know in the political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around,” Kavanaugh said.
President Donald Trump urged Republicans to head to a vote minutes after the hearing wrapped.
Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2018
Barring any last-minute developments, Kavanaugh is expected to receive a final Senate floor vote by Tuesday.
ABC News’ Adam Kelsey, Trish Turner, Alisa Wiersema and Ali Rogin contributed to this report.