Kavanaugh news: Key Democrat Heidi Heitkamp announces ‘no’ vote
"I urged him to nominate a different individual. I urged the president to nominate a woman."
Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who is facing a difficult re-election in a state President Trump won by 36 percentage points, told a local ABC news affiliate she would be voting "no" on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.
"This isn't a political decision. If this were a political decision for me, I certainly would be deciding this the other way," Heitkamp told WDAY News. "I can't get up in the morning and look at the life experience that I've had and say 'yes' to Judge Kavanaugh."
Heitkamp expanded on her reasoning in a lengthy statement shared on social media, in which she cited concerns with Kavanaugh's "current temperament, honesty, and impartiality." She also credited the "heartfelt, credible and persuasive testimony" given by Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party during high school.
"She had nothing to gain and everything to lose," Heitkamp said. "When I listened to Dr. Ford testify, I heard the voices of women I have known throughout my life who have similar stories of sexual assault and abuse."
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations of Ford and two other women — Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.
Heitkamp, who voted in favor of Trump's previous Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was just one of two Democratic senators considered possible swing votes on Kavanaugh's nomination. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, also facing a difficult re-election fight, remains publicly undecided.
Republicans, who control the Senate with a slim 51-49 majority, can only afford to lose one Republican vote if they hope to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and no Democrats support him.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a procedural vote for Friday morning that will enable the full Senate to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination as early as Saturday morning.
Here are the latest developments:
Two key Republicans signal satisfaction with FBI’s inquiry
Two of the three Republican senators considered swing votes on Kavanaugh's nomination signaled they were satisfied with the FBI's additional investigation of sexual assault claims against President Trump's Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who made his vote for advancing Kavanaugh's nomination contingent on the FBI's additional investigation, told reporters after being briefed on the report, "Thus far, we've seen no new, credible corroboration — no new corroboration at all."
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who also called for the additional FBI background check, told reporters, "It appears to be a very thorough investigation, but I am going back later today to personally read the interviews. That's really all I have to say right now."
As of Thursday afternoon, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has not commented to reporters.
Accuser’s lawyer criticizes FBI investigation
While Republicans have touted the finding of the FBI inquiry, Democrats have complained that bureau's investigation appears to have been curtailed by the White House. In an interview on CNN on Wednesday, White House spokesman Raj Shah said the FBI contacted 10 individuals over the past week, and interviewed nine of them. The FBI didn't interview either Kavanaugh or Ford,
Shah's comments drew criticism from William Pittard, the attorney for Ramirez, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh's who claims he exposed himself to her during a college party. On Thursday morning, Pittard wrote a letter to the FBI director Chris Wray claiming the bureau failed to investigate more than twenty witnesses who likely had relevant information about her allegations.
"We can only conclude that the FBI – or those controlling its investigation – did not want to learn the truth behind Ms. Ramirez's allegations," Pittard wrote.
Top Democrat: ‘I disagree … that there was no hint of misconduct’
After reviewing the FBI's documents, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York called the investigation "constrained" and suggested it contained information about Kavanaugh's past.
"Having received a briefing on all of the documents, I disagree with Sen. Grassley's statement that there was no hint of misconduct," Schumer told reporters.
Schumer also criticized the process involving in reviewing the report itself.
"The fact that there's only one document in there for 100 senators is another example of constraining the ability of all senators and the American public to see the whole truth and nothing but," Schumer said.
Scope of FBI investigation appears limited
As senators read the FBI's new report, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC News and the New Yorker are all reporting that the bureau's investigation appears to have been limited, despite Trump's instance he ordered the bureau to do a "very comprehensive investigation."
In an interview on CNN on Thursday, White House spokesman Raj Shah said the FBI contacted 10 individuals over the past week, and interviewed nine of them. Among those are Yale classmate accuser Deborah Ramirez, who claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a college party, and Mark Judge, Kavanaugh's friend whom Ford identified as being in the room when she was sexually assaulted.
The FBI also doesn't appear to have contacted Kenneth Appold, a Yale classmate of both Ramirez and Kavanaugh, who told the New Yorker he first heard about the incident either the night it occurred or a day or two later, and that he was "one-hundred-percent certain" he was told it was Kavanaugh who was the male student who exposed himself to Ramirez.
On Thursday morning, Ramirez's attorney's wrote a letter to the FBI director Chris Wray claiming the bureau failed to investigate more than twenty witnesses who likely had relevant information about her allegations.
"We can only conclude that the FBI – or those controlling its investigation – did not want to learn the truth behind Ms. Ramirez's allegations, William Pittard, Ramirez's attorney, wrote.
Pittard attached sworn statements from individuals he feels the FBI should have interviewed, including Dr. Richard Oh, another Yale classmate of both Ramirez and Kavanaugh who claimed he overheard a female student talking about the incident to another student.
Republican committee chairman: FBI report shows no corroboration of sexual assault allegations
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R, Iowa) said Thursday the FBI's new investigation into allegations of sexual assault did not uncover any new information that would corroborate the claims made by three woman against Kavanaugh.
"I've now received a committee staff briefing on the FBI's supplement to Judge Kavanaugh's background investigation file. There's nothing in it that we didn't already know," Grassley said in a statement, adding the FBI did not locate any individuals or contemporaneous evidence that would back claims of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
"Now it's up to senators to fulfill their constitutional duty and make a judgment," Grassley said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, declined to comment to reporters after reviewing the document.
Republican Ben Sasse questions Kavanaugh nomination in emotional speech
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska gave an emotional speech Wednesday night on the floor of the Senate where he questioned the decision to pick Judge Brett Kavanaugh, praised the #MeToo movement, and claimed he had urged President Trump to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court.
"Although I've said many complimentary things about Judge Kavanaugh and his 12 years of record on the D.C. Circuit court, I will say that I urged the president back in June and early July to make a different choice before he announced this nomination," Sasse said. "I urged him to nominate a different individual. I urged the president to nominate a woman."
Sasse, a member of the Judiciary Committee who voted in favor of moving Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate for a vote, decried the circus surrounding the confirmation process and the "politicized culture" that's being fueled by breathless cable news coverage and biased social media posts. He also spoke about the epidemic of sexual assault, choking up while telling the story of two "dear friends" who told him they were victims of rape.
"There is some academic literature that suggests that very few allegations of sexual assault in the broader culture are fabricated, or stated conversely, the hefty majority of sexual assault in our broader culture are probably true," Sasse said, adding, "Far too often many girls and women have been told that they're meat, they've been told this in word and in deed that they are parts to be consumed rather than God's children to be cherished and respected and partnered with."
Sasse also used his speech to blast Trump for mocking Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party while the two were still in high school. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied her allegations and the claims made by two other women — Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.
"We all know that the president cannot lead us through this time. We know that he's dispositionally unable to restrain his impulse to divide us," Sasse said. "His mockery of Dr. Ford in Mississippi was wrong, but it doesn't really surprise anyone. It's who he is."
Sasse, who didn't indicate he would oppose Kavanaugh's nomination, echoed comments made by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who made his Judiciary vote on Kavanaugh contingent on allowing the FBI to investigate the claims of sexual assault and report their findings back to the Senate.