by Kevin Daley
Anxiety and confusion prevailed in the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday, as GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona struck a tentative deal with Democrats providing for an FBI probe of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Wasting no time following a day of emotionally wrought testimony, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Kavanaugh to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation on a party line vote, though Flake provided his “yes” vote on the condition that the FBI would briefly investigation Blasey Ford’s claim.
Early Friday, Flake committed to supporting Kavanaugh, but appeared to equivocate as the morning went on. Flake retreated to an anteroom off the hearing chamber with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, where he remained secluded for nearly an hour.
The Arizona Republican emerged from the anteroom and addressed the committee, where he announced that he will vote to forward the nomination to the floor with the understanding that the FBI conducts an investigation of the allegations of sexual misconduct brought against the judge before the final confirmation vote. Flake indicated that he does not want the investigation to span longer than one week.
“Our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence,” Flake said in his initial statement supporting Kavanaugh. “That is what binds us to the rule of law.”
Before the committee voted on the Kavanaugh nomination, it also voted down a motion to subpoena Mark Judge, the other individual Blasey Ford says was present during the alleged assault. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut made the motion, arguing Judge’s testimony was essential for the committee to make an informed decision. His motion failed on a 10-11 party line vote.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the panel, rebutted claims that her office leaked Blasey Ford’s original letter conveying the allegations.
“Dr. Blasey Ford asked that her information be kept confidential, and it was,” Feinstein said. “I only referred her letter to the FBI after it was leaked and reporters were knocking on her door. I don’t know who leaked the information, but it wasn’t my office.”
A number of Democrats refused to participate in a vote, delivering speeches denouncing the judge and the confirmation process before leaving the chamber.
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