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Trump Agrees to Open ‘Limited’ F.B.I. Investigation Into Accusations Against Kavanaugh

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Senator Jeff Flake asked for a one-week delay before the full Senate holds a vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh so that the F.B.I. could investigate accusations of sexual assault against the Supreme Court nominee.Published OnSept. 28, 2018CreditCreditImage by Erin Schaff for The New York Times

By Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg

  • Sept. 28, 2018
    • 3628

WASHINGTON — President Trump, ceding to a request from Senate Republican leaders facing an insurrection in their ranks, ordered the F.B.I. on Friday to reopen a background investigation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, his nominee to the Supreme Court, and examine the allegations of sexual assault that have been made against him.

The announcement plunged Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination into new turmoil after a tumultuous week on Capitol Hill, and will delay, by as much as a week, a final confirmation vote. It came only 24 hours after the judge and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, each gave emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that led many Republicans to think Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation was inevitable.

Republican leaders had little choice but to ask Mr. Trump to order the F.B.I. inquiry after Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, first announced he was supporting Judge Kavanaugh, and then, in a stunning reversal, said he would not vote to confirm him without an F.B.I. investigation first. With a handful of allies in a closely divided Senate, Mr. Flake, a conservative but an outspoken critic of the president, could determine the future of the Kavanaugh nomination, and that gave him leverage over Senate Republicans as well as the president.

“We ought to do what we can to make sure we do all due diligence with a nomination this important,” Mr. Flake told his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee after extracting a promise from Republican leaders to delay the final vote on the nomination until after the F.B.I. investigation. “This country is being ripped apart here.”

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Mr. Trump, who had hoped Judge Kavanaugh would be sworn in by the time the Supreme Court opens its next term on Monday, said he was ordering the F.B.I. to conduct what he called a “supplemental” investigation that he said “must be limited in scope and completed in less than a week,” as the Republican Senate leadership had asked for.

Image
Senators on the Judiciary Committee gathered Friday to discuss Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

The F.B.I. has already completed a background check on Mr. Kavanaugh, and it is unclear what the parameters of the new inquiry would be. But according to a person familiar with the matter, the allegations made by Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale classmate of Judge Kavanaugh’s, will be investigated along with those made by Dr. Blasey.

Judge Kavanaugh said in a statement on Friday that he would continue to cooperate with investigators to clear his name. Debra S. Katz, a lawyer for Dr. Blasey, said her client welcomed the development but not the “artificial limits” imposed by senators. Mark Judge, a friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s identified by Dr. Blasey and another accuser at the scene of the episodes, said through a lawyer that he would cooperate with investigators.

The delay cast a cloud over what Republicans expected to be a triumphant day, but they still had reason to be optimistic: Despite adamant Democratic opposition, they were able to muscle the nomination through the Judiciary Committee with an 11-to-10 vote and send it to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.

ADVERTISEMENT

[Watch: Mr. Flake is confronted by sexual assault survivors.]

Mr. Flake had already announced his intention to vote in favor of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Friday morning when, on his way to the committee meeting room, he was confronted by protesters who tearfully told him that they had been sexually assaulted. Then, after the committee chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, set a 1:30 p.m. vote, he began to waver, and retreated into an anteroom with colleagues of both parties.

After nearly an hour of hushed conversations, as well as calls to law enforcement officials and other undecided Republicans, Mr. Flake emerged to ask for an investigation that would be “limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there,” siding with Democrats who have repeatedly requested an inquiry.

With that stipulation, the committee quickly voted along party lines to recommend to the full Senate that Judge Kavanaugh be confirmed.

Video

Senator Jeff Flake initially announced his support for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, leading to protests in the Capitol over the sexual assault accusations against the judge. Mr. Flake later proposed a shift in course.Published OnSept. 28, 2018CreditCreditImage by Reuters

After the vote, the panel’s Republican members, looking somber, streamed into the Capitol suite of Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. Mr. McConnell, of Kentucky, voiced the frustration shared by other Republicans on the committee: More accusations — false ones, they said — were all but certain to surface, he said, according to a senior Republican official familiar with the conversation. And with Democrats bent on opposing Judge Kavanaugh, there would be no tangible benefit from an investigation.

But holding only the narrowest of majorities, 51 to 49, Mr. McConnell had little choice but to agree.

Mr. Grassley put on a good face for reporters after the meeting, saying it had been “a good day today by moving the nominee.”

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Even before an investigation was reopened, it appeared that Republican fears could be founded. Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for one of the accusers, announced Friday on Twitter that Julie Swetnick, one of his clients, would tell her story “directly to the American people” this weekend because Republicans have not allowed her to testify under oath.

Still, Republican senators who had insisted for days that no F.B.I. investigation was necessary said on Friday that they were confident the F.B.I. could work quickly and that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination would go forward.

“I’ve never felt better about it, quite frankly,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, citing Judge Kavanaugh’s performance on Thursday.

Image

Judge Kavanaugh testifying Thursday.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

The bureau has looked at Judge Kavanaugh six times in the past, but it has never investigated the specific accusations raised in recent weeks.

The president alluded to those previous investigations on Friday night in a tweet, saying that he had “Just started, tonight, our 7th FBI investigation,” and declaring that Judge Kavanaugh would “someday be recognized” as a great Supreme Court justice.

ADVERTISEMENT

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump said he found Dr. Blasey’s testimony credible and “very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me.” He had no message for the senators considering the nomination. “They have to do what they think is right and be comfortable with themselves,” he said.

After days of pleading for an F.B.I. investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct raised by Dr. Blasey and Ms. Ramirez, as well as by a third woman, Julie Swetnick, whom knew Judge Kavanaugh when he was in high school, Democrats said they were pleased by the president’s announcement.

“What it comes down to is the Senate always reminds you, in these critical moments, that one or two senators can make a difference,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and a member of the Judiciary Committee. “And in this situation, Senator Flake realized that something was important to him, and if he put his vote on the line, he could get a result.”

[Four key takeaways from the hearing.]

But elsewhere, passions were running high. Anti-Kavanaugh protesters roamed the halls of the Senate, and there was a heavy police presence. More than two dozen Democratic women — and a handful of men — from the House of Representatives marched arm in arm to the committee’s hearing room, mimicking a similar march during the 1991 confirmation hearings of Judge Clarence Thomas.


After Kavanaugh’s Testimony, Three Inconsistencies the F.B.I. Investigation Could Address

The Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, the man she alleges assaulted her while they were in high school, revealed several details in their stories that do not match up.

Sept. 28, 2018

Inside the room, in a repeat of Thursday, emotions were raw, even by the standards of a highly partisan Senate. Mr. Graham, a former military prosecutor whose angry outburst on Thursday made headlines, delivered a blistering encore.

“This has been about delay and destruction, and if we reward this, it is the end of good people wanting to be judges,” Mr. Graham said. “It is the end of any concept of the rule of law. It’s the beginning of a process that will tear this country apart.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Democrats on the panel pointedly accused Republicans of a cover-up — and mocked Republicans’ assertions that they had been respectful to Dr. Blasey, who also goes by her married name, Ford.

“I don’t want to hear about respect for Dr. Ford when we’re not giving her the respect of having an investigation,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota.

That animosity seemed to dissipate after the last-minute wrangling with Mr. Flake.

Mr. Flake had given few hints in recent days about how he would vote. He pushed hard behind the scenes for Thursday’s hearing, telling party leaders he could not vote yes without hearing from Dr. Blasey and Judge Kavanaugh. But his public remarks had primarily focused on the dignity that had been stripped from the nomination process, and he declined to question Judge Kavanaugh on Thursday, using his brief remarks in the hearing room to chastise colleagues for their maximalist positions.

“There is doubt,” Mr. Flake said. “We’ll never move beyond that.”

Behind the scenes, the White House and the Judiciary Committee Republicans were working Friday to reassure wavering senators allied with Mr. Flake. They were increasingly confident that they would have the votes of Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, one of a number Democratic incumbents running for re-election in November.

One Democrat facing a difficult re-election battle, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, announced Friday that he would vote against Judge Kavanaugh, saying that he would “gladly welcome the opportunity to work with President Trump on a new nominee.”

Catie Edmondson, Michael S. Schmidt and Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting.

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A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 29, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: President Orders a ‘Limited’ Inquiry Into Kavanaugh. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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Trump Agrees to Open ‘Limited’ F.B.I. Investigation Into Accusations Against Kavanaugh

Video

Senator Jeff Flake asked for a one-week delay before the full Senate holds a vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh so that the F.B.I. could investigate accusations of sexual assault against the Supreme Court nominee.Published OnSept. 28, 2018CreditCreditImage by Erin Schaff for The New York Times

By Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg

  • Sept. 28, 2018
    • 3628

WASHINGTON — President Trump, ceding to a request from Senate Republican leaders facing an insurrection in their ranks, ordered the F.B.I. on Friday to reopen a background investigation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, his nominee to the Supreme Court, and examine the allegations of sexual assault that have been made against him.

The announcement plunged Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination into new turmoil after a tumultuous week on Capitol Hill, and will delay, by as much as a week, a final confirmation vote. It came only 24 hours after the judge and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, each gave emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that led many Republicans to think Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation was inevitable.

Republican leaders had little choice but to ask Mr. Trump to order the F.B.I. inquiry after Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, first announced he was supporting Judge Kavanaugh, and then, in a stunning reversal, said he would not vote to confirm him without an F.B.I. investigation first. With a handful of allies in a closely divided Senate, Mr. Flake, a conservative but an outspoken critic of the president, could determine the future of the Kavanaugh nomination, and that gave him leverage over Senate Republicans as well as the president.

“We ought to do what we can to make sure we do all due diligence with a nomination this important,” Mr. Flake told his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee after extracting a promise from Republican leaders to delay the final vote on the nomination until after the F.B.I. investigation. “This country is being ripped apart here.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Mr. Trump, who had hoped Judge Kavanaugh would be sworn in by the time the Supreme Court opens its next term on Monday, said he was ordering the F.B.I. to conduct what he called a “supplemental” investigation that he said “must be limited in scope and completed in less than a week,” as the Republican Senate leadership had asked for.

Image
Senators on the Judiciary Committee gathered Friday to discuss Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

The F.B.I. has already completed a background check on Mr. Kavanaugh, and it is unclear what the parameters of the new inquiry would be. But according to a person familiar with the matter, the allegations made by Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale classmate of Judge Kavanaugh’s, will be investigated along with those made by Dr. Blasey.

Judge Kavanaugh said in a statement on Friday that he would continue to cooperate with investigators to clear his name. Debra S. Katz, a lawyer for Dr. Blasey, said her client welcomed the development but not the “artificial limits” imposed by senators. Mark Judge, a friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s identified by Dr. Blasey and another accuser at the scene of the episodes, said through a lawyer that he would cooperate with investigators.

The delay cast a cloud over what Republicans expected to be a triumphant day, but they still had reason to be optimistic: Despite adamant Democratic opposition, they were able to muscle the nomination through the Judiciary Committee with an 11-to-10 vote and send it to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.

ADVERTISEMENT

[Watch: Mr. Flake is confronted by sexual assault survivors.]

Mr. Flake had already announced his intention to vote in favor of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Friday morning when, on his way to the committee meeting room, he was confronted by protesters who tearfully told him that they had been sexually assaulted. Then, after the committee chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, set a 1:30 p.m. vote, he began to waver, and retreated into an anteroom with colleagues of both parties.

After nearly an hour of hushed conversations, as well as calls to law enforcement officials and other undecided Republicans, Mr. Flake emerged to ask for an investigation that would be “limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there,” siding with Democrats who have repeatedly requested an inquiry.

With that stipulation, the committee quickly voted along party lines to recommend to the full Senate that Judge Kavanaugh be confirmed.

Video

Senator Jeff Flake initially announced his support for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, leading to protests in the Capitol over the sexual assault accusations against the judge. Mr. Flake later proposed a shift in course.Published OnSept. 28, 2018CreditCreditImage by Reuters

After the vote, the panel’s Republican members, looking somber, streamed into the Capitol suite of Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. Mr. McConnell, of Kentucky, voiced the frustration shared by other Republicans on the committee: More accusations — false ones, they said — were all but certain to surface, he said, according to a senior Republican official familiar with the conversation. And with Democrats bent on opposing Judge Kavanaugh, there would be no tangible benefit from an investigation.

But holding only the narrowest of majorities, 51 to 49, Mr. McConnell had little choice but to agree.

Mr. Grassley put on a good face for reporters after the meeting, saying it had been “a good day today by moving the nominee.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Even before an investigation was reopened, it appeared that Republican fears could be founded. Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for one of the accusers, announced Friday on Twitter that Julie Swetnick, one of his clients, would tell her story “directly to the American people” this weekend because Republicans have not allowed her to testify under oath.

Still, Republican senators who had insisted for days that no F.B.I. investigation was necessary said on Friday that they were confident the F.B.I. could work quickly and that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination would go forward.

“I’ve never felt better about it, quite frankly,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, citing Judge Kavanaugh’s performance on Thursday.

Image

Judge Kavanaugh testifying Thursday.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

The bureau has looked at Judge Kavanaugh six times in the past, but it has never investigated the specific accusations raised in recent weeks.

The president alluded to those previous investigations on Friday night in a tweet, saying that he had “Just started, tonight, our 7th FBI investigation,” and declaring that Judge Kavanaugh would “someday be recognized” as a great Supreme Court justice.

ADVERTISEMENT

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump said he found Dr. Blasey’s testimony credible and “very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me.” He had no message for the senators considering the nomination. “They have to do what they think is right and be comfortable with themselves,” he said.

After days of pleading for an F.B.I. investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct raised by Dr. Blasey and Ms. Ramirez, as well as by a third woman, Julie Swetnick, whom knew Judge Kavanaugh when he was in high school, Democrats said they were pleased by the president’s announcement.

“What it comes down to is the Senate always reminds you, in these critical moments, that one or two senators can make a difference,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and a member of the Judiciary Committee. “And in this situation, Senator Flake realized that something was important to him, and if he put his vote on the line, he could get a result.”

[Four key takeaways from the hearing.]

But elsewhere, passions were running high. Anti-Kavanaugh protesters roamed the halls of the Senate, and there was a heavy police presence. More than two dozen Democratic women — and a handful of men — from the House of Representatives marched arm in arm to the committee’s hearing room, mimicking a similar march during the 1991 confirmation hearings of Judge Clarence Thomas.


After Kavanaugh’s Testimony, Three Inconsistencies the F.B.I. Investigation Could Address

The Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, the man she alleges assaulted her while they were in high school, revealed several details in their stories that do not match up.

Sept. 28, 2018

Inside the room, in a repeat of Thursday, emotions were raw, even by the standards of a highly partisan Senate. Mr. Graham, a former military prosecutor whose angry outburst on Thursday made headlines, delivered a blistering encore.

“This has been about delay and destruction, and if we reward this, it is the end of good people wanting to be judges,” Mr. Graham said. “It is the end of any concept of the rule of law. It’s the beginning of a process that will tear this country apart.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Democrats on the panel pointedly accused Republicans of a cover-up — and mocked Republicans’ assertions that they had been respectful to Dr. Blasey, who also goes by her married name, Ford.

“I don’t want to hear about respect for Dr. Ford when we’re not giving her the respect of having an investigation,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota.

That animosity seemed to dissipate after the last-minute wrangling with Mr. Flake.

Mr. Flake had given few hints in recent days about how he would vote. He pushed hard behind the scenes for Thursday’s hearing, telling party leaders he could not vote yes without hearing from Dr. Blasey and Judge Kavanaugh. But his public remarks had primarily focused on the dignity that had been stripped from the nomination process, and he declined to question Judge Kavanaugh on Thursday, using his brief remarks in the hearing room to chastise colleagues for their maximalist positions.

“There is doubt,” Mr. Flake said. “We’ll never move beyond that.”

Behind the scenes, the White House and the Judiciary Committee Republicans were working Friday to reassure wavering senators allied with Mr. Flake. They were increasingly confident that they would have the votes of Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, one of a number Democratic incumbents running for re-election in November.

One Democrat facing a difficult re-election battle, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, announced Friday that he would vote against Judge Kavanaugh, saying that he would “gladly welcome the opportunity to work with President Trump on a new nominee.”

Catie Edmondson, Michael S. Schmidt and Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting.

Be the first to know about big news. Sign up here for New York Times email alerts.

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 29, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: President Orders a ‘Limited’ Inquiry Into Kavanaugh. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
READ 3628 COMMENTS

Related Coverage

 

 

 

Jeff Flake Is Confronted on Video by Sexual Assault Survivors


Sept. 28, 2018

Image

 

 

 

4 Key Takeaways From the Blasey and Kavanaugh Hearing


Sept. 27, 2018

Image

 

 

 

Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford Duel With Tears and Fury


Sept. 27, 2018

Image

SHOW ALL

More in Politics

Image by Reuters

Jeff Flake Is Confronted on Video by Sexual Assault Survivors

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Al Drago for The New York Times

Jeff Flake, a Fierce Trump Critic, Will Not Seek Re-election for Senate

Oct. 25, 2017

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On Politics: This Week’s Biggest Stories

1h ago

Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Judge Denies Trump’s Request to Dismiss Foreign Payments Lawsuit

9h ago

Pool photo by Saul Loeb

At Times, Kavanaugh’s Defense Misleads or Veers Off Point

9h ago

Trending

ADVERTISEMENT

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THIS IS WHT I MEANT I CULDNT HAVE SAID BETTRER SO HERE IS HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR If there is a red flag here, it is not only Kavanaugh’s failure to maintain composure during a tense and extraordinary hearing. It is, rather, the ris k that the process itself, which Democrats and Republicans seem to agree has been a disaster, has been so damaging to Ka vanaugh’s psyche that partisan bitterness and rage will shape his temperament and his orientation to judicial work for a lifetime. It is unfortunate, if not tragic, that perhaps the most consequential unfairness of the process may be that his reaction to it has left him unfit to serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court. But, then again, Kavanaugh the politi cal operative may have understood, far better than we did, that his abandonment of judicial performance was precisely th e kind of gripping reality television that would lock in the support of his President and his base. Jeannie Suk Gersen i s a contributing writer for newyorker.com, and

If there is a red flag here, it is not only Kavanaugh’s failure to maintain composure during a tense and extraordinary hearing. It is, rather, the risk that the process itself, which Democrats and Republicans seem to agree has been a disaster, has been so damaging to Kavanaugh’s psyche that partisan bitterness and rage will shape his temperament and his orientation to judicial work for a lifetime. It is unfortunate, if not tragic, that perhaps the most consequential unfairness of the process may be that his reaction to it has left him unfit to serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court. But, then again, Kavanaugh the political operative may have understood, far better than we did, that his abandonment of judicial performance was precisely the kind of gripping reality television that would lock in the support of his President and his base.


https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/brett-kavanaughs-damaging-revealing-partisan-bitterness-supreme-court-confirmation

GOP asks White House to order FBI investigation of Kavanaugh The probe, if authorized by Trump, would look into allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senate-judiciary-committee-postpones-kavanaugh-decision-friday-afternoon-n914676

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/28/us/politics/brett-kavanaugh-senate-judiciary.html

 


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In a surprise turnaround, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) joined Democrats in calling for a one-week delay in final vo ting on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to allow for an FBI probe into the sexual assault alle gations against him.

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http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-congress-kavanaugh-vote-20180928-story.html