Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Kavanaugh confirmation: Trump orders FBI to launch investigation

The president says the investigation must be completed in less than a week.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.Read moreTom Williams/Pool Image via AP

President Trump has ordered the FBI to launch an investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, following calls from Sen. Jeff Flake (R, Ariz.), several other Republicans, and Democrats to open an inquiry.

The investigation "must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week," Trump said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had voted along party lines earlier Friday to advance Kavanaugh's nomination to the full Senate — but, in a surprise move, Flake called for a week-long FBI investigation into the allegations. The Judiciary Committee said later Friday that it would ask the Trump administration to instruct the FBI to "to conduct a supplemental FBI background investigation" into Kavanaugh that "would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee."

Flake's surprise announcement, just before the vote to advance Kavanaugh's nomination, came after he met with Democratic senators in a side room, delaying the committee vote and prompting speculation about what was occurring.

The full Senate was expected to vote on Kavanaugh's nomination as early as Tuesday, but the investigation could push that back. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R, Alaska) supported opening an investigation, and Sen. John Cornyn (R, Texas) said Republican leaders would allow up to a week for an investigation before a final vote.

Democrats were hoping other Republicans would support Flake's call for an investigation. Had other Republicans not supported it, and there were still enough votes to confirm Kavanaugh without Flake, there would have been nothing stopping them from pressing ahead, Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tamari noted.

Flake had said Friday morning that he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, citing the presumption of innocence. Later in the morning, he was confronted by survivors of sexual abuse in an elevator. Prior to the vote Friday afternoon, Flake walked out of a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee and asked to speak with Sen. Chris Coons (D, Conn.).

The drama came less than 24 hours after Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford offered emotional and explosive testimony in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ford testified Thursday she was "100 percent" certain it was Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge who sexually assaulted her at a party during high school. Kavanaugh told senators later in the day that "I am innocent." The committee refused to call any witnesses, including Judge, who was allegedly the only other direct witness to the incident.

Following the hearing, the American Bar Association took the unusual step of calling on the Senate to delay a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination until the FBI could investigate the claims of Ford and two other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct — Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick. Law school deans made similar calls.

"We make this request because of ABA's respect for the rule of law and due process under law,"ABA president Robert Carlson told committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R, Iowa) in a letter sent Thursday evening. "The basic principles that underscore the Senate's constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI."

Kavanaugh cited the ABA's support during his testimony: "For 12 years, everyone who has appeared before me on the D.C. Circuit has praised my judicial temperament. That's why I have the unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association."

>> READ MORE: Philadelphia-area experts react to Kavanaugh's defiant defense

Here's a recap of what else happened Friday surrounding Kavanaugh's nomination:

Trump orders FBI to launch investigation

Following the calls of Flake and others to launch an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh, the president instructed the FBI to conduct the inquiry.

Trump speaks about delay, calls Ford’s testimony ‘very compelling’

The president told reporters on Friday afternoon that Ford's testimony was compelling.

"I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me," he said.

He also spoke about the potential delay in the full Senate confirming Kavanaugh and told reporters he hadn't thought of a replacement.

Flake votes yes — on the condition the FBI conduct a week-long investigation

Flake said he had had conversations with other senators "with regard to making sure that we do due diligence here." He said it would be proper to delay the floor vote up to one week, but not more than that, for the FBI to investigate.

Senators talking to Flake in side room

Flake has been in talks with both Coons and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Calif.).

Booker walks out of hearing, calls the upcoming vote a ‘dark moment’

Republican senator says confirmation process has been an ‘intergalactic freak show’

Sen. John Kennedy (R, La.), who has supported Kavanaugh, decried the process.

Flake meets in side room with Democratic senators

Flake, who was confronted earlier in an elevator by survivors of sexual assault, passed on his turn to speak and asked to meet with Sen. Chris Coons (D, Conn.).

About 15 minutes later, Coons and other Democratic senators returned. Flake did not.

Coons had said voting Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would put the fairness of the court into question.

Widely shared tweet suggesting prosecutor told Republicans that Kavanaugh lied about calendar is false

The tweet was sent out by a man named Alan Covington and retweeted thousands of times times, including by members of the media.

Covington's tweet said the Wall Street Journal had reported that Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor who questioned Ford at Thursday's hearing, had told Republicans that Kavanaugh lied about a calendar entry.

No such story from the Wall Street Journal exists.

Yale Law School dean calls for further investigation into allegations against Kavanaugh, a Yale alumnus

"Proceeding with the confirmation process without further investigation is not in the best interest of the court or our profession," Dean Heather Gerken said in a statement, echoing the American Bar Association's calls for additional investigation.

Collins still undecided on Kavanaugh; red-state Democrat says he will vote against the nominee

Sen. Susan Collins (R, Main), who could be a swing vote, has remained quiet about whether she will vote for Kavanaugh.

Another potential swing vote, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D, Ind.), said he would vote against Kavanaugh. Some had wondered whether Donnelly would vote in favor, since he was one of the few Democrats to vote to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Senator says Kavanaugh ‘wasn’t credible,’ points to entry on calendar

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island told the Judiciary Committee that he didn't find Kavanaugh's denials  credible.

"I believe Dr. Ford. I may be wrong, but I believed her," Whitehouse said. "And I believe Kavanaugh dodged and dissembled, ranted and raved, filibustered and prevaricated. I did not find him credible."

Whitehouse also held up Kavanaugh's calendar and pointed to July 1, 1982, telling the committee it "may be powerful corroborating evidence" that backs up Ford's allegations. The entry includes a party attended by Kavanaugh, Ford, and Patrick Smyth — three men whom Ford alleges were at the party where she was assaulted. Smyth previously told the Senate Judiciary Committee he "has no knowledge of the party in question."

"But with no FBI investigation, we can't tell," Whitehouse said. "It's the least thing a sexual assault victim is entitled to when she comes forward."

Lindsey Graham calls allegations ‘a bunch of garbage’

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — whose outburst during the Thursday's hearing boosted support for Kavanaugh among Republicans, according to many pundits — said Friday morning that the allegations against the Supreme Court nominee were "a bunch of garbage."

"All I can say about Mrs Ford — I feel sorry for her and I do believe something happened to her and I don't know when and where. But I don't believe it was Brett Kavanaugh," Graham said.

Graham also claimed he didn't do anything wrong when he participated in blocking Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, from even getting a hearing in front of the committee.

"[Antonin] Scalia dies in the election year, the last year of the term of President Obama. The primaries are already underway. Not in 100 years has anyone been nominated under that circumstance, so I don't think I did anything unfair with Garland," Graham said.

Democratic senator’s response to hearing Flake would vote for Kavanaugh

Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons was told that Sen. Flake would vote in favor of Kavanaugh's nomination by CNN national correspondent Sunlen Serfaty. Coons, who is good friends with Flake, choked up trying to respond.

Democrats walk out of hearing room

Four Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee — Kamala Harris of California, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — walked out of the hearing room during Grassley's opening remarks, in which he called Kavanaugh's nomination "the most thorough and transparent confirmation process of all."

Key Republican confronted after saying he’d vote for Kavanaugh

Sen. Jeff Flake stood silently as he was confronted on an elevator Friday morning by several woman angry over his decision to support Kavanaugh. CNN covered the exchange, which went on for nearly five minutes, live.

"I think it's just the beginning. We're on the brink of what is likely to be the most divisive vote in our lifetime," said CNN senior political analyst David Gergen. "This is going to sharply divide the American people."

Two former Yale classmates speak out

Following Kavanaugh's testimony on Thursday, two former classmates from Yale spoke out that the nominee wasn't being truthful when it came to his drinking habits in college.

"I'll tell you, Chris, I watched the whole hearing, and a number of my Yale colleagues and I were extremely disappointed in Brett Kavanaugh's characterization of himself and the way that he evaded his excessive drinking question," Lynne Brookes told CNN's Chris Cuomo Thursday night. "There is no doubt in my mind that while at Yale, he was a big partier, often drank to excess, and there had to be a number of nights where he does not remember."

Another classmate, Elizabeth Swisher, a Seattle physician, told ABC News that Kavanaugh ran with the varsity basketball crowd in college and drank hard with them, often getting loud and slurring his words.

"I feel like he's perjured himself, and that's extremely problematic," Swisher said. Swisher has previously told the New York Times that "Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him."

Both women were roommates of Deborah Ramirez, who accused an inebriated Kavanaugh of pulling down his pant and waiving his genitals in her face at a drunken college party. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied her allegations.

>> READ MORE: Kavanaugh creates #MeToo moment for accused men | Christine Flowers

Judge responds to Ford’s accusations

Judge, Kavanaugh's high school friend, wrote in a letter on Thursday that he does "not recall the events" described by Ford during her testimony, where she claimed Judge was in the room as Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party.

"I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes," Judge wrote in a letter sent to Grassley.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee argued Judge's testimony was necessary in order to gain a better understanding of the In the letter, Judge referred to himself as "a recovering alcoholic and a cancer survivor," and wrote that he didn't want to testify before the committee due to his struggles with depression and anxiety.

Other overnight developments

• Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said in a statement Thursday night he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh. "I found Dr. Ford's testimony to be sincere and moving, but lacking important specifics," Toomey said in the statement.

• In a tweet sent Thursday night, President Trump called Kavanaugh's testimony "powerful, honest and riveting" and called on the Senate to vote on his nomination. He didn't mention Ford's testimony.

>> READ MORE: Rutgers Law School students, professors rapt as Kavanaugh accuser testifies during hearing

>> READ MORE: Have young men's attitudes toward sexual violence changed since Kavanaugh's youth?